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What Stace had to say on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
The More Things Change…

Well. Things totally do change, don’t they? I certainly have changed, and I will prove that now.

Over the weekend, the hubs and I were looking for something. We couldn’t find it. We tore the house apart hunting for it, and in the process came across a lot of old pictures and a stack of my old report cards from first, second, and third grade. At my elementary school, you got one of three grades, basically, and then there was a space for the teacher to write a comment.

You’ll see how very, very different I am. Maturity has taken me in its grip and made me its bitch.

This is another very photo-heavy post.
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What Stace had to say on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
CHECK THEM OUT

Tomorrow I’m going to do what I think will be a really fun post, hee. This weekend the hubs and I were looking for a specific document and so ended up going through a bunch of boxes we haven’t looked at in quite some time. And in one of those boxes were several of my elementary-school report cards, which I have scanned (well, he scanned them, as our scanner hates me and never wants to work for me) and cropped and will be posting tomorrow, just for giggles. Some of my teachers’ comments are pretty interesting.

But today, it’s all about stuff you need to check out!

First. Some of you know I hang out on io9 sometimes, although now that they’ve changed their format I’m not there as much as I used to be. I did make some good pals there, though, and one night on Twitter we started talking about what a shame it was that io9 didn’t do more “girl geek” news.

So my pals decided to do something about it. Stellar Four is a blog for all things ladygeek; it has a special focus on things like jewelry, clothes, make-up, crafts, etc., but is of course still devoted to all things sci-fi/fantasy/comics/etc. I highly recommend you check it out, and leave some comments and all of that; I’m hoping to find time to write an article or two for them myself, because I think the idea behind the site is such a great, exciting one.

Second. Last week my dear friend Caitlin Kittredge‘s first YA novel was released: THE IRON THORN. I got to read this a long time ago–I actually got to read the proposal before she sent it to her agent–and I have to tell you I was sooooo excited, and so filled with writer-envy over the absolutely stunning world/characters/writing. It was not a surprise to me that the trilogy sold in like a day. I of course ran out to buy the book the minute it was released, because I need to own it–it’s so good–and I highly recommend you all do the same. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this one.

We had some other releases last week, too! In fact, we had so many that I’m going to link you to my friend Carolyn Crane’s page on them all. Jackie Kessler, Dakota Cassidy, Richelle Mead, Jaye Wells, Anton Strout, Michelle Bardsley…there’s a whole bunch of them, so go check them out.

Still hard at work on the fifth Downside book, and still pleased with it. We’re just over 30k at the moment and things are starting to get really crazy. Hee!

Oh, one other thing. The other night on Twitter a discussion was started (okay, by me) about whether or not the Contact email on a writer’s website should be labeled as for “Fan Mail.” Like, “Send Fan Mail to…”

I personally think it sounds a bit…well, not great, honestly. It sounds kind of egotistical. Like, “Oh, all of my fans will want to email me.” It’s not an issue when other people refer to them as fans so much, but for me to do so feels kind of wrong. I prefer “readers.” I do have readers (and I love and am grateful for them, as you all know) but I don’t think of them as “fans.” That implies to me a sort of subordinate level, if you know what I mean, like I consider myself above those “fans.”

But that could be just me. What do you guys think?

Anyway. Check in tomorrow to have a look at my childhood. I think it’ll be fun.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
Write What You Know

You guys know I think a lot of writing advice is total crap. And really, that’s because it is. “Kill your darlings?” My ass. Yes, if you have to, you have to, and I know what the line is supposed to actually mean, but it sounds like you’re supposed to machete your way through your book chopping up anything you think is especially good. Um, why, exactly, would I want to do that? Were I to have “killed [my] darlings,” there would certainly be no Abominable Snowpimp. Although maybe that’s a bad example, because I was actually worried that it was too funny for the tone of the rest of the book. But my agent and editor and everyone else loved it so much I left it. The point still remains: You have to cut things that need to be cut, but really, if the good lines stand out with that much contrast in your work, maybe your work just isn’t good enough in general. (Sure, I have a few lines etc. I’m more proud of than any others. Every writer does. But I’d like to think they aren’t so much better than the rest of my lines that the reader stumbles over them.)

Personally I think most of those rules are crappity-crap-crap. And I’m sick of them all being passed around like Moses brought them down from the mountain. The fact is, if you write well and have a strong, stylish, commercial voice you can get away with just about anything.

But here’s one I agree with; in fact, one I believe in strongly. And I feel that it’s sadly, sadly misunderstood by many, which is why I’m going to discuss it.

See, I think there’s a belief out there, especially amongst beginning writers, that “write what you know” means that if you’re a farmer you should write about farming, or if you’re an office manager you’re not going to be able to write about the life of a wizard.

That’s not what it means.

“Write what you know” means write what you know emotionally. It means write what you understand and feel. It means write from the inside.

Great stories are important, yes. Great writing–or at least good writing–is important, yes. But what involves readers, what really makes them understand, identify with, and care about your stories–your characters–is making sure your characters are three-dimensional, fully developed people, with feelings. Your characters have to have emotional lives, because your readers have emotional lives. Your characters have to let their emotions color how they see the world, because your readers’ emotions color how they see the world. And your characters’ feelings and emotions, and their emotional desires and needs, have to be real and important to them, because your readers have emotional desires and needs that are very important to them.

I think I mentioned in an interview once that what really struck me about the responses to the Downside books was the way readers seem to either violently identify with and understand Chess, or violently dislike and not understand Chess at all. And I find the differences in those people, and the comments of the few I’ve seen who dislike her, are pretty interesting (to me, at least), in that their outlook on the world and the way they present themselves is one I often don’t understand or care for, either. That’s not to say it’s wrong or they’re a bunch of assholes; it’s also not to say that the only reason someone might not like my books or characters is because they’ve never felt that kind of alienation/loneliness/insecurity/dislike of self-satisfied people/aversion to being “normal” or whatever else. But it is something I’ve noticed.

When I started writing UNHOLY GHOSTS one of my main goals was to write a heroine I could identify with and understand, because I hadn’t seen any out there, really. I mean yeah, of course I wanted to write the most kick-ass different type of UF I could, but the reason why I cared about the book and the reason why the characters in it mean so much to me is because I worked really hard on giving them the feelings and emotions and outlooks that matter to me, that are what I understand. I know those feelings, and I know that outlook on the world, and I believe that’s why they were able to come across as clearly and strongly as they apparently did; it’s why those books are, frankly, deeply personal to me.

In other words, I wrote what I know.

I’ve been asked before what sorts of things I can’t/couldn’t write and I’ve always said I can’t really write happy people. I mean, of course I can write people who have found some happiness, or who have fun sometimes; no one wants to read a book where all the MC does is sit around moping and contemplating suicide. I’ve been unfortunate enough in the past to know a few truly negative people, the kinds of people who when I finally got away from them I was an absolute mess because just being around them was like being trapped inside a life-sucking black cloud of misery. That’s not good, and that’s something we all have to be careful with; certainly I find myself editing out some rather depressing little rambles on occasion.

Everyone has emotions and feelings. Everyone has their own unique way of looking at the world. You have to dig deep inside yourself and really feel those emotions, really think about how they affect the way you look at things. That’s what you put into your characters, and that’s what makes them real. If you’re giving your characters emotions or reactions you don’t understand or simply haven’t really thought about, the reader will know it. It will feel false, because it will be false. And false work means nothing to anyone; lies don’t resonate in the mind or the soul.

No, you might not know what it’s like to walk on the moon. But if you think about it, you probably do know how you felt when you achieved something amazing, or saw something that filled you with awe and wonder–even if it was something as simple as telling someone you love them or seeing Lord of the Rings for the first time. Those are the feelings you know. Those are the feelings you use.

“Write what you know” isn’t about the outside stuff, the plot or setting. “Write what you know” doesn’t mean your character has to do the same job as you, live the same life as you, and look like you. What it does mean is that your character has to feel–and have feelings–like an actual living person. It means those characters have to behave and react the way real living people would, and do.

Does it mean your character has to be just like you? No. But it does mean that if your character isn’t like you, you’re going to have to figure out how you differ and how you’re the same, and adjust your feelings accordingly, because they still have to be strong and real.

“Write what you know” means write from the heart. It means don’t be afraid to expose what needs to be exposed. Don’t be afraid to share something truly important, something truly meaningful, with your readers. Writing and reading should be about sharing; it should be about a universal experience the writer and reader share. It should be about feeling something, no matter what that something is. And if you aren’t feeling it, neither will your readers; if you’re lying they’ll know it, and it will at first confuse and then turn them off. They didn’t pay good money for something that rings false to them, that feels like manipulation, that feels like the writer didn’t think they were important enough to really work for. They didn’t pay good money to be fobbed off with something fake.

Writing fiction is telling a story, yes. But writing characters is telling a truth, and it’s your truth; the truth you know. You have to tell it as strongly, as deeply, and as well as you possibly can.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Movie Milquetoasts

The other night the hubs and I were watching GONE WITH THE WIND. Well, we didn’t watch the whole thing, just part of it. He took me to see it in the theater, though, when they did that reissue a while back. That was when I stood in line at the concession stand behind Dan Marino. He was BIG. And then a few minutes later as I was getting on the escalator, I saw him, and pointed at him like a moron, and he looked right at me to see me standing there gaping at him. It was a proud moment. I digress.

So we’re watching GWTW, and it’s one of those scenes where Rhett Butler is being all take-charge-y, and hubs says, “You don’t see men like Clark Gable anymore in movies.”

It’s something I’ve actually thought about for a while; a few of you who’ve been with me for years might remember “Macho Week” 2007. (Those of you who go back and look at them might find the first glimmerings of inspiration for a certain character in a certain series I write there, too.)

Why don’t we see men like that anymore? Why are we constantly given these irresponsible, semi-effeminate little boy-men? Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate good-looking men, and I see the charm of a lot of these characters. But seriously. Is this what we want to teach our daughters to expect and appreciate? Men who run from any sort of responsibility, men for whom calling when he says he will is just too big a damn commitment for him? Men who use “products?”

Yeah, I know, the metrosexual thing has been done to death, and that’s not what this is about. It’s more about the fact that as our lives become more and more consumed with computers and video games and stuff like that, as we hide from the real world more and more as a society, as we cut out manual jobs and refuse to give them dignity anymore, as we become more and more fixated on money and material things, as we grow lazier and lazier…our men become more and more childish. Why should they have to take care of anyone when they grow up/get married?

I’m not saying real men don’t exist. I’m sure they do. But…where are they?

In the 60s and 70s, you could see real men in movies anytime you wanted. Lee Marvin. Steve McQueen. Paul Newman. Clint Eastwood. Charles Bronson. John Cassavetes. Gene Hackman. Sean Connery. Burt Reynolds (of course). Jack Nicholson. George C. Scott. James Garner. James Coburn. The list is endless. These were men. They drank hard and fought hard and played hard. They were commanding and decisive. They knew what had to be done, and they did it.

Where do we see men like that anymore? When is the last time you saw a man like that in a movie, seriously?

I suppose you could say Hugh Jackman is sort of manly, or at least he was in the first X-Men movie. Then he showed up doing cabaret on TV and the cloud of testosterone just disappeared. Nicholas Cage looked promising in the 80s and 90s, but now he spends all of his time doing silly B movies. You could mention Liam Neeson, but he keeps getting shoved into second-fiddle type roles; men have gotten younger, just like women. By which I mean, where a leading man might once have been in that 35-55 range (which I personally have always believed are a man’s sexiest years, when he’s all confident and authoritative but not knee-jerk-y or too set in his ways, when he’s wise but still youthful) now it seems they’re all in their early 20s. Movies aren’t about men doing manly things now, they’re about men running away from manly things so they can just hang out with each other.

I’m not saying some of those movies aren’t good, and/or funny. I like Judd Apatow movies. I thought OLD SCHOOL was hilarious. And sure, people just don’t go see westerns so much anymore, or action dramas like THE FRENCH CONNECTION. And yes, at the same time those men were on the screen, we also had the first glimmers of the child-man, the sensitive man who expected to be petted, in Woody Allen movies and Alan Alda and Dustin Hoffman.

(Incidentally, while hunting around the internet for names and examples I found this article by Tracy Quan. Quite interesting, and speaks to my point, so it’s worth a read. So is this NYT story from 2004.)

A while ago I talked about TWILIGHT, and why I think the book and movie have become such phenomena. For those of you who missed it, I think–I believe pretty strongly, in fact–that a big part of the reason is because TWILIGHT is a book which tells young women that love, and being in love, is a worthy goal on its own and that it’s important, instead of being something they should just sort of have in their lives while they achieve whatever lofty ambitions they may have–and if they don’t have lofty ambitions, there’s clearly something wrong with them. TWILIGHT tells young women they have every right to expect a man to pursue them, to protect them, and to commit to them. (NOTE: This is *not* me saying I approve of the particular methods used by the character in that book, or that I don’t see the way that relationship moves beyond caring and into controlling, or anything like that. I do see it. But I believe it is–or at least it was–the only book out there that condoned teenage girls putting love first, so all of that is less important to readers than that main message, which is that it’s okay to expect a man to be responsible and it’s okay to want love and romance instead of being focused on a career.)

Where else do we see that message anymore? Where else does anyone tell young women that they have a right to expect young men to stick around and behave responsibly, and where do young men see the massage that they should behave that way? (It always makes me laugh in a sad way when I think of that Salt n Pepa song from a while back, the “What A Man,” song, remember it? And the line “He spends quality time with his kids when he can.” Because apparently the idea of finding a man who hasn’t already impregnated someone–or more than one–is impossible; we assume he has children somewhere, because all men do, I guess.) Where do we tell young women they should expect commitment, and they should expect romance and love?

Instead it seems like everyone is on a treadmill–a hamster wheel–spinning faster and faster to stay a teenager as long as they can. We don’t demand responsible behavior from our young men anymore (and lest you think I’m being sexist here, we don’t demand it from young women anymore, either, which I think is just as bad), and we don’t show them role models like that anymore, either. We don’t teach them to be men; they grow up without fathers, and when they look to the media they don’t really see men there, either. All they see are millions of variations on the emo boy who needs a cuddle. Or maybe, if they see a manly man, he’s some sort of sexist caricature or violent maniac, a cautionary tale. In our entertainment today, you can either carry all of the responsibility of the relationship so your man can stay home playing with his Wii, or you can be beaten and locked in the bedroom because you have too much eyeshadow on. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

I know there are some movies out there, yes. But actors these days…they’re delicate. They’re almost feminine-looking, it seems. They’re not very tall. They’re not hairy. They’re not gruff. They cross their legs at the knee and drink cocktails, if they drink at all, which they probably don’t. We used to have men like Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, whose wild exploits were legendary and who’d rather curl up and die than swear off drinking because it wasn’t good for them. These days it seems you have to have floppy hair and slight features if you want to be on-screen as a man, and be in bed by eleven. You’d never see Clark Gable now; Clark was manly and sexy, but he wasn’t exactly handsome, was he, with those big sticky-out ears?

The only one I’ve seen is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who I looooove, but who never seems to get work. Who doesn’t seem to get work despite the fact that every woman I know loves him, but whatever. He’s not pretty, I guess, and he’s not boyish, so he wouldn’t be appropriate for any of the tee-hee-let’s-stay-children movies we put men in these days (unless they’re comic book heroes, of course. Comic book movies are the only place men get to be men anymore, and even then they’re sensitive and motivated not by honor or what’s right but by their feelings).

It just bothers me, and I think it’s sad. It bothers me that we don’t encourage men to be responsible and we don’t encourage women to expect men to be responsible. And I think it’s time we started changing the message of our popular culture. Because I’m sick of paying money to see a bunch of fifteen-year-olds in men’s bodies running around on the screen.

What Stace had to say on Monday, February 14th, 2011
Title! News! Stuff like that!

This is just a quick update today; I’m knee-deep in a bunch of stuff–not least of which, of course, if the fifth Downside book, which crossed the 13k mark last night and which is (touch wood) going really well so far. Dastardly deeds already abound, and we’ve so far had injuries and creepiness and corpses and blood all over the street.

And of course I have edits for Downside 4, as well, which you may or may not have heard now has an official title!

SACRIFICIAL MAGIC

I’m excited about it; it fits the book really well, and yes, that is sort of a hint, but you’ll never guess the big thing it’s hinting at/referring to, trust me.

I’m also working on a new project, which a few people have asked me about. I’m not saying anything about it, really, because I don’t want to jinx it. It’s something I’ve actually been sort of fiddling with for a while, but have had a bunch of false starts on, so I’m hoping this is the one that will stick. Keeping my fingers crossed, anyway. It’s called DREADFUL THINGS. Only about 7k words so far, but words I’m really pleased with. Lots of worldbuilding, which is tons of fun, and hints of Dark Doings in my heroine’s past, and murders and magic and rooftops and sewers and all those things that make books worth writing. So we’ll see where it goes, anyway.

Let’s see, what else. I was going to blog today about why we don’t get real men in movies/TV anymore, but I was so busy playing with the WIPs last night I forgot to write it. Or rather, by the time I got around to it, it was 4 am, and that’s my bedtime (I have started forcing myself to go to bed at 4, because otherwise I’ll never go to bed at all). Of course, since I go to bed so late, I also sleep late, which is why I try to do my blog posts the night before, which is why I didn’t do the Man one. So look for that on Wednesday, and then the long-promised Write What You Know post will be along very soon too, and I’m looking forward to that one.

Anyway. Since this is rather short and all, here’s a snippet from Downside Five, just for fun. I’m making the print white, because it does contain a very minor spoiler; it may be important to the plot or it may not, but just in case you don’t want even a hint of what sorts of things may happen in the fifth book, you can skip it.

This is from the second chapter, and Lex was waiting for Chess when she got home.

He walked the few more steps into her living room, plunked himself down on her new couch. Well, maybe not exactly new—she’d had it about two months—but it still seemed new.

Without asking she grabbed a beer from the fridge and handed it to him.

He nodded his thanks. “Coursen…now you mentioning it, could be maybe I got a favor you could do me.”

Uh-huh. She let the totally-not-fooled expression sit on her face another few seconds. “Really. Like what?”

“Thinking maybe you ain’t mind working me up a chatter with Terrible.”

If she’d had any liquid in her mouth she would have sprayed it everywhere in shock; as it was she just sort of sputtered. “What—but—why? Why would you want to talk to him?”

“Got my reasonings, I do.”

Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day and all of that if you’re into that sort of thing.

What Stace had to say on Friday, February 11th, 2011
Expert Advice

Ah, the internet. It’s such a big place, isn’t it? (Yes, I realize the internet isn’t actually a physical place. Just go with it.) So full of people from all walks of life, all levels of intelligence, all sorts of different opinions and thoughts and advice and knowledge and jobs and…well, all that stuff.

It’s funny how the internet has really become such a go-to place for information. I mean, it’s not funny ha-ha, but funny in that as little as fifteen years ago, nobody really even knew what an internet was. I remember my ex telling me about how somebody showed him this really cool site online called Ebay, where you could actually buy all sorts of stuff from all over the world, and you might get it really cheap!

Anyway. The things that make the internet so great–accessibility,* information, multiple viewpoints, etc. etc.–are the things that make it so dangerous. We all know the stories about women or young girls who’ve gone to meet an internet boyfriend and ended up murdered or raped. We all know about internet stalkers and all of that stuff.

But there’s another danger on the internet, one that’s a bit more…sly. And granted, it’s a lot less dangerous, in that you won’t be raped or murdered. You’ll be robbed, sure, but it’s kind of willingly, so there you go.

Here’s the problem. Anybody can be an expert online. Anybody. All you have to do is call yourself an expert, and people will believe that you’re an expert. This is how writers fall for PublishAmerica’s scam all the time; PA claims it’s a big publisher, look at our happy authors, we publish lots of books, we don’t want your money! So they submit their books (and PA will famously accept anything) and then discover that no, actually, PA does want their money very badly, and will do just about anything to get it (and treat the writers like shit along the way; they don’t even get a reach-around). Why do PA authors fall for it? Because PA has a big website, and pats themselves on the back, and because these writers don’t think to do the single most important thing they could do for research: Go to the bookstore and see if any of that publisher’s books are on the shelves.

This is something I see a lot. I’m sure it’s prevalent in all industries, but of course I see it in the writing community because that’s the one I’m part of and the one I pay attention to. I see all kinds of people shilling their “How to Get Published” guidebooks and classes, their conferences and workshops, their critiques and edits. All for a fee, of course. Often for a pretty high fee. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Edits 2: Proofs Suck

You’d think I’d like proofs, since I love copyedits so much. You’d be wrong. I hate proofs.

I’m not sure why, really. They’re just…lame. And rather dull. And I don’t like ’em.

Proofs are standard sheets of paper, on which the pages of the book are laid out side-by-side, full-size (that is, mmp [mass market paperback] size, or trade size, or hardover size if you have a hardcover, or whatever). So really, when you very first see your very first proof, it’s exciting. I was all kinds of thrilled when I got my UNHOLY GHOSTS proofs and saw the awesome font Del Rey used for my chapter heads (Chapter One, etc.) and the brackets around the epigrams. It was exciting to see the book as a real book, real book pages and all.

But after that initial excitement…sigh.

This is a page proof from UNHOLY MAGIC. (Again, you have to click it, then click again to view it full-size, sorry. It’s too big for the blog.)

And here’s a close-up of some proof edits from that same set of proofs:

The photocopy sent to me for UM was cut off just a bit at the top, so here’s the upper left corner of the CITY OF GHOSTS proofs:

So. Copyedits were originally done on the printed manuscript. I go through them, and two editors–the CE and my own–go through them.

Then the ms is laid out as a book–I believe those Keebler-elf-type folks in the Production Dept. handle that, presumably sneaking out of their hidey-holes under cover of darkness, dancing and waving around little elf-sized flagons of mead, singing happy little work songs as they sprinkle Magic Book Dust on the ms, and leaving the finished product there on a spotlessly clean table for the other employees to discover in the morning. I believe two copies are printed, and one goes to me and another to another copyeditor. But it may be that the proof goes to another CE, his or her changes are implemented, and another proof is made which comes to me. But I’m pretty sure we get proofs at the same time.

Now. Many of you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, I’ll mention it. Major changes are not supposed to be made in proofs. The deletion of a sentence here and there, removing or adding punctuation, fixing typos or other errors, fine. Deciding you want to add a new section of dialogue? Not so fine.

It’s not happened to me, but it’s my understanding that if an author makes over a certain amount of changes to their page proofs–major changes–they have to pay for the additional typesetting/conversion/whatever it is (those elves require a LOT of mead to keep them happy and productive). I don’t believe that’s a canard along the lines of “If you don’t earn out your advance you have to give part of it back,” which people who have no idea what they’re talking about like to trot out and parade in front of aspiring writers, usually in order to sell them on a vanity press. I believe that making major changes at this stage is actually something we have to pay for.

So we need to be damn sure everything is the way we want it before we mail those copyedits back.

Changes are made much like in CEs, though:

or:

and here’s one where the editor who went over the proofs or the data entry/whatever made an error (or we all missed it in CEs, which does happen. It’s harder than you think to catch every single mistake, because you tend to see what it’s supposed to say rather than what it does):

So. I make my changes, and send the proofs back. I have now “signed off” on the book, which means no further text changes should be made at all.

There is at least one additional proof, however, which is done in-house. I believe another CE goes over it, and I know my editor goes over it, but I don’t see it. That’s the proof during which they make sure that all of the necessary changes have been implemented, that the book is ready to be printed, because that final proof is exactly how it will be printed.

Why do I hate page proofs so much? I don’t really know, honestly. After that initial excitement fades, really, they’re just…tedious. Which sounds bad, because it is after all my own book(s), which I love and worked hard on and believe in and am so proud of. But actually physically reading them in book form enthralls me (at least once; I don’t read them repeatedly, no, but going through and reading them as actual books is pretty exciting), so I don’t believe that’s the problem.

I think the issue is what I said above: you have to make sure you see what’s there, now what you think should be there. So you’re not just reading for pleasure, enjoying the story and the sense of accomplishment and all of that. You’re inspecting every word and every line. You’re paying very close attention. You’re seeing a bit here and there you should have worded differently, now that it’s too late to change it (this is always a problem in reading my own finished books). And you’re–at least I am–afraid you’re going to miss something, and your book will have–gasp!–a typo.

Seriously. I mock, but I loathe typos. I hate them. Just like I make it a point of pride to turn in my mss as typo/error-free as possible, so I am with the finished product; even more so, for obvious reasons. I seriously live in fear of getting one of those “There’s a mistake in your book” emails a certain type of person apparently likes to send out. I get annoyed when I see them in other books, and would have a fit to find one in mine.

Because the book is it, you know? It’s all people have to judge me by. And I hate the idea that it’s going out into the world as one of those “But I see typos in books from the Big 5 all the time” type of novels that some people seem to think justifies their own lack of care and attention to spelling/grammar etc.

A typo in my finished book is a big piece of literary spinach between my front teeth. It’s embarrassing.

So I really go over those proofs; I mean, I read them slowly and focus hard on every word to make sure it really is spelled right and punctuated correctly and reads correctly and all of that. This is the last chance I’ll have to correct any errors, at least unless and until the book goes into a second printing. Errors can be fixed for the new print run, but generally only if they’re deemed important enough (which a single typo is not) or, I guess, if the error was with an editor or data person or whatever who made changes after I signed off on the book. And the books with the mistake are still out there, of course; they can’t be recalled or something. (Books do get pulled and pulped, but generally only if a significant error was made, it’s plagiarized, or somebody sues/someone important threatens to sue.) So my typo is obviously not cause to do such a thing.

So I find proofs tedious, and unnerving, because I’m always worried that I might have missed something, I probably did miss something, damn it what if I miss something? It’s just me, some paper, and a pencil; I could very well miss something. And then the typos or other errors would be my fault.

It’s possible not everyone gets this many proofs, and a lot of people get digital proofs, which I hate. My PERSONAL DEMONS proofs were digital. PDFs, actually, which meant I had to make a separate list of errors (I did that for DEMON INSIDE, too, but that’s because the paper proofs came during RT and I didn’t have time to get them back, so just emailed the document).

So. Those are page proofs, and they’re the last I see of my book until I get ARCs in the mail–if I get them–and my author copies, which come around release time.

Once again, any questions? And does anyone have something else about the editing process they’d like to know?

What Stace had to say on Monday, February 7th, 2011
Edits: Working With Trolls

Since I didn’t do a lot of planning for this particular little series, I’m not actually sure what I’m going to cover. Should I talk more about the working-with-my-editor process, or…?

So what I’m going to do today, anyway, is discuss copyedits. (This is a long, image-heavy post, FYI.)

After edits are complete–often several rounds, including line edits–the ms is printed, and the printout heads to a mysterious, homicidal, troll-like basement-dweller* known as a copyeditor. I always picture them chained to a floor, wearing rags and snarling over desks held together by Duct tape and rage. The copyeditor’s job is to inspect each and every word with a magnifying glass, using at least one grammar reference book, nitpick the hell out of your ms. with the Pencil of Doom, and examine everything with “What if I were a totally stupid person?” and ask questions thusly.*** (For more on this, check out my series from August about the publishing process: How Babies are Made parts one and two.) People often think copyeditors use a red pen; nope. They use a pencil, not always red, and you have to respond in pencil, too. But not a #2 pencil. A colored pencil. As a result, I have colored pencils and artgum erasers all over the place. I digress.

The copyeditor focuses their nasty little eyes on the pages, and starts marking it up with odd and obscure lines and squiggles–some of which I suspect are made up just to fuck with writers–while giggling maniacally.**** They’d rub their hands together if they weren’t so busy drawing bizarre alchemical symbols on the ms.**** Once they’ve sufficiently scribbled all over the book, they send it to the editor, who sends it to the writer.

So. Here are some of my actual copyedited pages. These are from UNHOLY MAGIC (which, as you’ll see on the first page, was originally titled DOWNSIDE GHOSTS. Then we decided to find a new title, and they started calling the series that, but there you go). This is the ms that was sent to me, that I went through page-by-page, printed from my original file–the one I emailed my editor and she approved (I write my books in 12-pt. Dark Courier, so that’s what you’ll see; they don’t even change my font). The copyeditor fixes any minor grammar issues I may have, clarifies things, suggests minor changes,points out factual errors or mistakes, stuff like that.

I had the hubs scan these and send them to me as jpegs, so if you click them twice they’ll go full-size and be very easy to read. You’ll be better able to see them that way, and I’ve added comments to each one to explain what everything is. Sorry, but there are so many images I really need to keep them smaller. I hope it’s not too much of an inconvenience.

Title page (my explanatory comments are in blue, and any explanations of my responses are in red): Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Some Quick Notes

This is just a quick one, everyone, a few little tidbits of tidbittiness.

1. I turned in my story for the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE. I’m fairly pleased with it, although writing romance really isn’t my forte, necessarily, and you all know sorts definitely aren’t. Plus, it’s a Downside story–or more accurately, a Chess/Terrible Triumph City story–so writing a happy ending was a bit weird, ha. But I think it’s a fairly sweet little tale, and I think there’s enough this-love-thing-kinda-sucks in there to make it work. Plus, kinky hippies.

2. Working on edits for Book 4, and plan to start Book 5 tonight. At some point these books need titles, although I admit the idea of simply titling them “4” and “5” has its own ascetic appeal.

3. Working on New Project too. Still pleased with it 3,000 words in, which is nice, since usually the “This sucks” sets in after the first few pages.

4. I will be doing the “Write What You Know” post soon.

5. Also…it occurred to me last week, I think, that I never did get around to doing my Editing posts, and the editor interviews. So look for those in the next month or so, I think, because I totally don’t have enough on my plate and need to pile more work onto myself.

6. My good friend Yasmine Galenorn had a book release yesterday! BLOOD WYNE, the latest in her Otherworld series.

7. Oh, shit! I forgot to mention, I got my Dragon*con Guest Agreement letter the other night, so failing a major problem, I will once again be a guest this year.

Valentine’s Day is coming up; I went to the grocery store a few minutes ago (I know! Can you believe I left the house? Crazy!) and they have all of their heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and pink-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses and stuff out. Which is all very cute, but I hate Valentine’s Day. I always tell the hubs to ignore it, and he always says he will then feels guilty at the last minute and gets me something, and it’s usually something I get annoyed by because if he was going to spend the money why couldn’t it be on something I actually wanted (I’m a big proponent of “Stick to the list!”) and we end up, if not fighting, then at least grumpy.

Oh, and one year he got us these Valentine’s Day crackers, like Christmas crackers? Where you pull the ends and there’s a little paper hat etc. inside? Anyway. These had little shiny red hearts inside them. I swear we found hearts in the couch/on the floor for the next year and a half. It’s like glitter, where one person uses glitter in the house and for the next ten years odd bits of glitter keep sticking themselves to you for no reason at all. It’s like it gets in the air shafts.

Anyway. Valentine’s Day sucks, so let me be the first to go one record with my “It Sucks” post. (Although some of you might be very interested to know that the rooftop scene in UNHOLY MAGIC took place on that day. No, it’s never mentioned outright–and the holiday no longer exists in that world, of course–but in my head, given the timeline, I realized early on that it was the early-middle of February in dramatic time, so it fit very well.)

I can’t remember the last time I had a really good Valentine’s Day, actually. I think it was in early elementary school? For a long time, like all through high school, I was sick on Valentine’s Day. I used to get respiratory infections every year in October and February.

Oh, and the really fun one? In junior high our school did a fundraiser where you could send your friends flowers–carnations–in their classrooms. Because that’s a really good idea when you’re dealing with junior-high-age kids: give them another chance to openly measure and compare at a glance how many friends everyone has, and a perfect excuse for them to be even nastier to one another.

Anyway. In seventh grade I was sick the whole week before, and so no one sent me any flowers (of course, they might not have had I been there, either; I didn’t have a lot of friends, and the few I had didn’t have a lot of money, and neither did I). So I got to walk around the whole day with bitchy little soc girls asking me where my flowers were, and hadn’t anyone sent me any? with extremely pleased grins on their faces. I was twelve. That shit matters when you’re twelve. It was pretty awful.

Ah, glorious childhood memories. So anyway, yeah. I’m happy to buy the candy, because I love candy (I’ve managed to cut back on my peanut-butter cup dependency, btw. I’m down to four a night), but the rest of it? Meh.

Got any bad Valentine’s Day memories to share?

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
More on What we Say

Yesterday’s post netted me quite a few comments.

A few of those were from reviewers and aspiring writers who disagreed with me, to which I say, hey, do whatever you like. I’m not repeating an iron-clad rule of publishing; I’m giving advice based on my experience and the experiences of my friends/people I know. You can take it or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do. Your career isn’t my problem. And yes, you may very well find a writer who didn’t see your negative review or whatever. It’s a chance you’re perfectly welcome to take. I just think you have to be either a writer or a reviewer, and not both.

A few wondered if agents/editors would really turn down a good book because the author put down one of their other books. I have no idea. I am neither an agent nor an editor. What I am is someone who watched two agents and an agency intern say it would have a definite effect on their decision to request more, or whatever. Many others may very well disagree. Not all agents are tuned into the internet or give a fuck what happens on it. Again, it’s a risk you’re perfectly welcome to take. I have no dog in that fight; I’m just the messenger when it comes to agents/editors.

And yes, it is different outside of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers don’t have the same issues, because they don’t–I believe–have the same sort of community (although I still think saying something bad about someone’s book pretty much erases your chances of getting help from that person later). And as I said, established writers are more free to talk about the work of others. What’s good for the goose may well not be good for you, though. I just wanted people to think about it, and to be aware of what they might give up, because it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.

But that brings me to another point. Much to my chagrin, at least one person yesterday took my comments to mean it’s wrong to say things about publishers. That’s not the case, or at least not really, or rather, it depends. Publishers are not writers, and the dynamic is a bit different.

No, you don’t want to run around yelling “Random House are a bunch of sleazy-ass motherfuckers!!!!” at the top of your lungs (and I used RH because they’re my current publisher and I think everyone knows I love working with them a huge big amount and have loved everyone I met there). There is such a thing as discretion, and it is important. I know things about some editors or publishers that would give you serious pause; the odds of me repeating those things–especially to anyone not a close friend/not a writer–are pretty much zero. That’s why people tell me things, see, is because they know I won’t blab them all over the place.

But there’s discretion and there’s discretion, and there are publishers and there are publishers. And, frankly, there are careers and careers. Let’s be honest here; without sounding like Miss Braggy McBraggerton, I can speak my mind about certain things more freely than an aspiring writer can, or one just barely starting a career. For instance, I often ask questions of those who decide, after self-publishing a couple of their own books, that they are totes qualified to start a publisher because all you need is some software. I do this because I know a lot of newbie writers can’t ask those questions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so.

That has not always made me popular with those hey-hang-let’s-start-a-publisher people. I don’t give a fuck. They threaten me with “She better watch herself if she wants to make it in this business,” or whatever, to which I pee myself laughing because frankly, the odds of me needing to work with a brand-new epublisher with no experience or knowledge are, well, nonexistent. Sure, I’m totally going to decide I’m done with Random House and Pocket and all those other NY houses, oh, or any of the big ehouses where I’m friends with editors who I know would love to work with me, and rush out to Amateur Love epress begging them to publish my book. I don’t even write romance anymore (although like I said, I do have that one dark erotic I’m going to do, but it isn’t my focus at all). I’ve been moving away from romance for years, because it just doesn’t suit my voice/the stories I want to tell.

If they’re so unprofessional as to get upset about a few questions, why in the world would I want to work with them anyway?

Let’s look at an example. I was emailed a month or so ago by Celia Kyle. Celia sought me out because she knows I try to help new writers as much as I can (and indeed have been doing so for years). Celia is starting a new epublisher; well, it is and it isn’t a publisher. I think it’s actually a very clever idea, actually. It’s making covers and providing a marketplace and some distribution for authors who wish to self-publish. The house is called Summerhouse Publishing.

Celia contacted me because she’d been working on answering all of the questions asked on Writer Beware and wanted to know what other questions I might think of to ask; in other words, she wanted to make sure she had everything covered, and actively sought input on that. When a thread started about her publisher on Absolute Write, as they usually do, Celia popped in to answer questions in a calm, professional manner. Celia expected questions and wanted to answer them. Celia was glad we asked questions because she wanted to present her business in the best possible way. In doing so, Celia made her house look impressive and under control, a good choice for someone interested in what she’s doing.

Contrast that to a new house that gets pissy when asked questions and starts flinging insults and threats. Which do you think is more professional? Which do you think has a better chance at lasting?

And more importantly, which would you rather work with?

See, any house I would want to work with is going to respond to questions the way Celia did, because they know it’s just a part of doing business. They know, as the famous line goes, it’s not personal. It’s business.

Just like the author who responds calmly to reviews or doesn’t respond at all is the one you’d rather read or work with, because that’s the one who’s able to keep a professional distance (and understand that really, the number of readers involved in the online community is a tiny portion of readers overall), so it goes with publishers.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if they’re going to have witch-hunt hissy fits because I asked a few questions, I wouldn’t be caught dead working with them anyway.

And neither should you.

Yes, I have a few more options on the table, because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am lucky enough to have made some friends. That still doesn’t mean you’re forced to go with Amateur Love if you want to “get your foot in the door.” Please don’t, actually. If your work is good enough it will sell.

It also doesn’t mean that if you ask the owner of Amateur Love what her experience is, and her response is to get nasty and threaten you with the old “blacklist” canard, you should take it seriously. Because all those pros at other houses? They know Amateur Love’s owner is Amateur Hour, too. They don’t talk to her. If she does somehow contact them they shrug because they know she’s not a professional, too. Nobody cares what Amateur Hour’s owner says or thinks, so you don’t need to either. A house who’ll get grumpy over legitimate questions isn’t a house anybody wants to work with. Repeat it after me, and keep repeating until it sinks in.

If you’re treated badly at some amateur publisher, especially if it’s because you asked a few questions or whatever, for fuck’s sake speak up. Tell somebody, at least, somebody you trust. Register at AW under a pseudonym and tell your story there. Let people know, because you don’t deserve that. And don’t be scared of these people, either. They have no power over you. You will move on. (And if you don’t, well, maybe the trouble is you, to be honest.)

Questions are not critiques. Questions are not negatives; they are not criticisms. Yes, you need to watch what you say; what I’ve said above is not license to scream from the rooftops that your editor is a moron because she wants you to change a line of dialogue or whatever. Discretion is and always will be important. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat shit from some publishing bottom-feeder because you think if you don’t they’re going to call up very other publisher in the world and tell them to strike your name off their lists FOREVA.

There is nothing unprofessional about asking questions. Professionals know that. There’s a difference between asking legitimate questions and being truly unpleasant; learn it.

Any publisher worth working with? They already know. Be careful, yes. But don’t be scared.

A few other things: I’m very, very happy to let you all know that my editor has read Downside 4 and loves it! I have a few edits to do here and there-some her suggestions, some things I’ve come up with, as is usually the case–so I’m going to be working away on that, and hopefully I’ll have a release date soon. And a title!

On that subject, I’ve done a guest blog with a contest for signed copies of the three Downside books over at Book Lovers Inc. It’s about how hard it is for writers to wait for releases, too, so go check it out and enter the contest, which lasts until Feb 4th.

I’m about to start Downside 5, and another project, so busy busy busy.

Last night on Twitter the subject of a UF convention came up. I would love to go to one. I think someone should do one. Someone who, say, doesn’t have a bunch of books to write. Hint hint. I can’t believe nobody out there would want to get together with some pals and do this.

So to summarize:

*Feel free to ignore my advice if you don’t like it

*Discretion is the better part of valor, unless you’re being treated badly by someone totally unprofessional

*You could win books

*I’m very busy

*Someone needs to do a UF con