Archive for 'ask me anything'

What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Up to my Neck

In work work work, oh yes. I plan to have Downside 4 finished by the beginning of next week, hopefully sooner. I’d actually expected to have it done already, but a plot twist came out of nowhere and necessitated some more words and some changes. This is a really twisty one, which is fun; I’m hoping everyone thinks it’s fun, at least. BFF Cori is enjoying it, so I’m trying to reassure myself with that, because she wouldn’t like it if it was awful.

I got an email this morning letting me know that A GLIMPSE OF DARKNESS, the story-in-the-round from the Suvudu blog (me, Lara Adrian, Harry Connolly, Kelly Meding, Lucy Snyder) is up for Kindle pre-order on Amazon now.

Which reminds me, BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET has been out on Kindle for a while now and still has zero reviews, even though it’s been selling. Won’t someone please give it a little love? *whine whine*

And one other little link, to an interview with me done by Apex Magazine. The interview is here. I was given the questions a couple of months ago, and was frankly rather stunned by that first one, but after some discussion, myself, my editor, and my publicist decided it must have just been badly worded, because the interviewer seemed so nice and friendly, and had been quite enthusiastic about the series when speaking to my publicist. Fool me once, shame on me; I’ve certainly learned my lesson in that. I’ve never before had an experience like that, where I take considerable time away from my writing to do what I think is a nice thing, and have it turned on me so roundly; I haven’t been set up like that, and I don’t care to have it happen again.

This isn’t about the review, of course; you all know how strongly I feel everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and to the expression of that opinion. I’m not remotely bothered by hers. I am, however, bothered by the fact that I was blindsided like that, and that I answered those questions with a view towards helping someone out, being nice to them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, only to find out that there was an agenda there. This has happened to me once before, you may remember; I did a podcast interview with several other people (including my friend Jackie Kessler; this is also how I met Simon Wood, who is a really cool guy) about the Harlequin Horizons thing, and found out after it aired that the host’s questions weren’t as innocent as they seemed, and that he turned around and reamed Jackie, Simon, and I because we were “elitists.”

But again. A lesson learned is a lesson learned. Next time I get an interview that starts with a question that makes me feel slapped, I’ll cancel the interview instead of assuming the interviewer didn’t mean to be so harsh; clearly she did mean to be just that harsh, and clearly there is a degree of amusement there in being that way to my face and making it appear as if I don’t understand what’s happening.

The only reason I’m mentioning this at all is because I often get interview requests through the site, and I try to accommodate them; in fact, I’ve never turned down an interview request, or a guest blog request, I don’t think. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to be so open with them anymore, especially if I don’t know you.

So from now on, if you want an interview with me, please submit your questions along with the request, and let me know what if anything will be appearing along side it (a review, a discussion, whatever). If you have submitted such a request in the last couple of months and haven’t yet gotten a reply, please re-submit. I’m trying to catch up on emails but with the book in the final stretch I’ve barely had time for anything else; I’ve been doing around 5k per day, plus edits etc.

The good news is I’m pretty pleased with how it’s shaping up, and I’m hoping you all will be too, since your opinions are the important ones.

And here’s a snippet! A snippet which will hopefully make you smile, in which Chess and Terrible are about to do some nocturnal investigating for her latest case. Remember it’s just a tiny snippet!:

Her car rattled and bumped its way over every little rock and patch of uneven ground, banging Terrible’s head on the ceiling once. “Shoulda brung my car.”

“No we shouldn’t have, and you know why we didn’t.”

He sighed. Heavily. “’Stoo small.”

“Every car is too small for you.” Her smile this time was genuine.

“Mine ain’t.”

Instead of answering, she slid the car up to the door and shoved it into Park. “Come on.”

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
It’s that time again!

As I think most of you know–I am stunned by the number of birthday messages I’ve gotten on Twitter and Facebook, I can’t thank you all enough!–today is my birthday. My Faerie, who is five, has decided I’m twenty-seven today, and I have told her she’s exactly right. So I’m sticking to that.

Anyway. Every year on my birthday I ask for those who lurk but never comment to just say hello. Of course you’re not obligated to in any way, but it’s fun for me to see who’s out there aside from the group who comments (not that I don’t adore them too). I just get a kick out of it, basically. And it’s even more fun if you leave a little message saying why you read here, or what types of posts you enjoy the most, or whatever–stuff I can use to make sure I’m giving you guys the types of posts you like to read. Remember, my job here on the blog is to entertain you, and make it something you enjoy reading. Yes, it’s mine, and I rant and stuff at times too, but in general, if I’m ranting I want it to be about things that interest you in some way.

And this year I thought we’d make it more fun–although I don’t actually think anyone is going to take me up on it, since you usually don’t–if you want to leave me a question in the comments, or whatever, and I’ll answer it as best as I can.

Again, you’re not obligated to comment, of course. Not at all. If you do comment you’re not obligated to tell me why you read here, or what types of posts you like the best, or what your favorite post was, or anything of that nature. You’re not obligated to ask a question in any way. But if you wanted to, that would be cool, and I would enjoy it.

So if you like, and if you feel comfortable, and if you want to, it would be great to hear from those of you I don’t usually hear from, in addition to those I do.

And just in case any of you lurkers are people who’ve emailed me, or if any of you who’ve emailed me stop by, I WILL reply, I’ve just not had a chance yet.

Also, again, huge apologies, I forgot to bring my notebook with the entry counts for the Name a Character Contest, so I’ll be announcing the winner on Monday, and I’m so sorry! Duh, I could have sworn I packed it.

So de-lurk away, if you like! And thanks again, everyone!

What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
…and still more stuff!

Well! Last night (or actually early this morning) I sent Frauke at Croco Designs, the lady who designed this fabulous site and still does the more complicated updates for me (which is most of them, frankly), a very very long list of updates. Included in those are a bunch of interview links, and bunch of guest blog links (mostly about different aspects of the Downside books), some new sidebar links, the Downside playlists with buy links, and a bunch of other stuff. I also sent her a separate file with four or five deleted scenes from UNHOLY MAGIC, with commentary explaining why they were deleted. I don’t actually have any deleted scenes for UNHOLY GHOSTS, to be honest, but there are a few for CITY OF GHOSTS as well, and those will go up a couple of weeks after that book’s release. Which is Tuesday! Ack!

(One thing about the deleted scenes that I think will be really fun: I wrote a scene for UM that ended up getting cut. But I really really liked the scene, so I rewrote a little bit of it–the intro part, basically–and stuck it in CITY OF GHOSTS. But as I edited CoG, I decided the scene still didn’t work as written, so I rewrote it again, extensively this time. So there will be a few versions of that scene, and you’ll be able to compare them all, if you’re the type of person who enjoys stuff like that.)

So look for all of that soon. I’m really excited about it.

Another thing I’m quite excited about is the fact that my blog series “Be a Sex-writing Strumpet,” with which I know some of you are familiar, is now available on Kindle! So you can buy a paperback from Lulu, or an ebook from Lulu, or a Kindle version from Amazon. And of course, as always, the series is free here on the blog; just click the “be a sex-writing strumpet” tag in the sidebar.

I offer the series as an actual book because I had a lot of requests to do so, and I charge for it in those formats because people convinced me to do so by saying they wanted to pay me something for it, but you absolutely do not have to buy the book to read and enjoy the series. You don’t and you never will have to. I wrote it as a blog series, and it will remain a blog series. The book formats are just there to make it easier for people if they like, and so they don’t have to keep clicking all over my blog if they want to read it. I still get website hits for that series almost every day, which just stuns me; if you type “be a se” into google the second auto-finish term it offers is “be a sex-writing strumpet.” It’s just insane, it really is. I never imagined when I wrote it that people would enjoy it so much and find it so useful, and that’s amazingly gratifying. Also, having it on Amazon offers people a chance to write a review for it, which would be fantastic; it’d be really cool to see some feedback on it after all this time! And of course you could all review all of my books if you want, heh.

Also exciting to me is the Name a Character Contest! I’m thrilled at how enthusiastic you all are! Thank you so much! I did want to let you know that I am checking the #cityofghosts tag on Twitter regularly, and keeping track of the entries there, as well as the emails and blog post links I’m getting. If at any time you want to double-check the number of entries you have, feel free to email either the Downside Army email address or me, or use the contact form here on the site (which of course also comes to me). Make sure you include your Twitter name, if you have one, or whatever other information I might need to identify you.

Tomorrow evening sometime I plan to post a new snippety excerpt from CITY OF GHOSTS, so be on the lookout for that!

I know I say this a lot, and you guys are probably tired of hearing it, but I really honestly am amazed by how enthusiastic the response has been to the series. I never expected it, I really didn’t, and it’s absolutely amazing. I can’t thank you all enough.

So let’s see, what else? I’m going to be popping down to the RWA convention in Orlando next week for a couple of days. I know, I know, it’s RWA, but I’m not actually registering/paying for the convention, I’m just hanging out in the bar, really. I’d decided–and basically committed to–doing so when it was supposed to be in Nashville, which is only like two hours away. Of course, tragic floods intervened, and now it’s in Orlando which is considerably farther, but like I said, I’d already committed. And it’s not a bad drive. I like driving by myself. I mean, I like to drive, period, but I especially like driving by myself. I can turn the music up loud and sing along, I can flip through the radio stations all I want, stop or don’t stop as I please…whee! I’m almost more excited about the drive than the con itself, much like I was when I drove to Massachusetts to see Caitlin before we went to RT. Of course, I was excited about the convention, but that really was an awfully fun drive.

Anyway, I think this post is unfortunately a bit dull. Too much news and stuff to keep track of. I’ll try to be more fun again shortly. For now my head is so full of nervousness (over CoG’s release; what if you all hate it? What if nobody buys it?), projects I’m working on (loosely mentally plotting the 4th Downside book, and lots of stuff for the new WIP/series I’m working on), netbooks (hee, I am totally getting one asap!), our trip to Florida to see my BFF next month–we’ll be there for my birthday–and of course the usual family things. So forgive me, please. I’ll be more interesting next time. Anything you want me to blog about? Feel free to ask!

Oh! And speaking of questions, I wanted to let everyone know that this Saturday the 24th at three pm, I’ll be participating in Twitter’s first #UFChat! You can find a bit more info about it here. Either way, come and hang out, follow the hash tag, and please ask any questions you want, as many as you want! I’m hoping it’s going to be a lot of fun (and, you know, that people actually participate).

What Stace had to say on Friday, October 16th, 2009
I know, I know

I came in here before with a big cheery post about how I would totally be around, and then I wasn’t. Here’s what happened (sort of):

Found out while in Baltimore that I am going to LA next week, leaving Monday. No, it’s not big Film Deal stuff or anything like that, so don’t get excited. I’ll tell you about it after I return.

Tried to upload photos of Baltimore–the few I took (I’m terrible at taking pictures, or rather, I never remember to take pictures)–and couldn’t get the camera to work with the Mac. So I needed to go to the old laptop, where the camera software is installed, and it’s just slow and frustrating and blah blah blah. I wanted to do a nifty photo post but it will have to wait. Also, the Poe body was indeed a wax effigy, which frankly pissed me off. Also, Baltimore is a cool city.

Hubs left for NY yesterday. He returns Sunday. I leave for LA Monday. Wednesday my MIL arrives and I’ll be back in Atlanta Thursday. So the family time is pretty limited this month and we were trying to do Family Things.

Last month my pal Pepper Espinoza emailed to ask if I’d be interested in contributing a short Halloween story (very short, less than 2k) for her new webmag, The Spooky Elephant. I, being me, said of course, and promptly semi-forgot until I was in Baltimore. I didn’t have time to work on it there so wrote it after I got back. I’m fairly pleased with the result, actually. You all know shorts aren’t my forte at all but this was just a little thing, so go see what you think. The story is called “What’s Below,” and it’s especially notable, for me at least, in that it’s written in (gasp) first person POV and segments of it are present tense. I know! Crazy, man. It’s also pretty much straight horror. And I liked a couple of the elements enough that I may revisit them in another project.

Speaking of short stories, my longtime pal Writtenwyrdd is having , which you should totally check out and enter. First prize is a stuffed Cthulhu, which is just awesome.

Oh, and since I’m linking to stuff, my eye was caught this morning–as I giggled at all the Gawker commenters’ comments about the balloon boy stuff–by a headline there about an advice columnist who pissed off a whole bunch of people. (It’s this story here.) And it occurred to me that I’ve always wanted to have an advice column. And it occurred to me that for quite a while I’ve been planning to do a funny publishing advice column over at the League blog. So. Here’s what I’m suggesting. Ask me advice in comments, anonymously if you like. Any publishing-related questions I will answer humorously at the League in the next few weeks (it may be after Halloween as we are of course doing Big Things there for the holiday); the publishing questions will get stupid and silly answers, just a warning ahead of time!!! Any others I’ll answer here. Just for fun, really, it won’t become a regular blog feature or anything like that, but we’ll give it a go and see.

I may do some answers tonight and tomorrow night (if I get any of course). But again, next week I’ll be on the other side of the country so won’t be blogging much if at all. And since the good juju y’all sent for my Baltimore flights was so good, if you have more I’d appreciate it.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
A novel in three acts: Act One

So, first, sorry. I didn’t post on Monday. It was a Bad Day. I’ve been having a lot of those lately, but Monday was particularly Bad and I honestly just couldn’t get my head around anything well enough to blog. So, sorry about that.

Seriously, is this month over yet? It’s been AWFUL. One of the worst months I’ve ever had; I feel bruised all over from the beating it’s given me. Part of it might be the Mercury retrograde; part of it might just be that it’s January and the weather is a neverending stream of miserable (and has been for two years.) Whatever it is, I just want to go crawl under the covers and hide.

But of course I cannot. :-) I have kids to raise and a novel, a short story, and a proposal to write. So, no hiding for me. And actually, although it’s been a slow month, the novel is coming along and so is the proposal (haven’t started the short yet) so I feel good about that; I’m 25k or so into the third Downside book, which I’m calling CITY OF GHOSTS for now (although I’m not sure how unique that is, so we’ll see if I get to keep it. It might end up being something like UNDERGROUND GHOSTS or maybe GHOSTS UNBOUND. Don’t know. Reminder to self: Google “City of ghosts” and see what you get.) Shame, really, as it’s the perfect title for what I think is going to be a kickass book; I’m actually extremely pleased with it so far, which is nice. I have a couple more clues to drop in this first third and my subplots are simmering along nicely.

See, here’s what I do. I separate the novel, in my head, into three parts; assuming a 90k book, which of course it won’t be exactly–the final version of UNHOLY GHOSTS is about 98k; UNHOLY MAGIC before edits is about 101k. So we’ll see. Anyway.

It occurred to me that this particular way of structuring a book might interest some of you, so here’s what I’m going to do. This Thursday and the next two I’m going to outline my basic method; feel free to ask questions at the end of each post and I’ll answer them the following Thursday, and we’ll do a little summary at the end.

So. Why would you want to do this? Why would you want to structure your books this way? What is the benefit of it?

I can only answer what the benefit is for me, and how it helps me organize my thoughts and work, and the ways in which I feel it’s improved my writing. Honestly I think most of you probably do this anyway, either consciously or unconsciously.

I’m not an outliner or planner. I start my books with a couple of characters and a problem which needs solving. Occasionally I’ll have a couple of ideas for Big Scenes in my head, but that’s really it. An idea excites me and I start writing, period. If you are an outliner or planner, this may not be necessary for you or, again, you probably already do this. And as with any other writing advice I give, this is my way and only mine; it’s not in any way a “You must do it this way” or “This is the best way”. But I mentioned my little structure elsewhere and a few people really liked it, so I thought why not share it a little more widely.

Also keep in mind that if your projected word counts are shorter, you will of course need shorter thirds, and especially remember this is not set in stone. Every book is different. Every book will have its own needs. You do not have to do this the way I do in order to write well, not at all, not remotely.

So. Here is what this does for me:

**It improves pacing. Separating the book into three 30k chunks, and knowing basically what purpose each chunk has to serve, gives me a structure on which to hang my wild imaginings (hee). Also, because of the way each “Act” is set up, it draws the reader into the story at a predictable pace and keeps the flow of information steady.

**It gives me a much stronger first draft. You pantsers know exactly what I’m talking about here. By the time our book is finished we have so many clues we need to go back and add, so many changes that need to be made, it’s like rewriting the book. But keeping the structure in mind makes it easier for me to fit in anything I might need; I know where the additional info needs to go or from where it needs to be removed.

**It means I’m not cramming to fit things in at the end, or left with too many loose ends.

**It eliminates the problem of the “sagging middle”. I believe the sagging middle is a pacing/information problem; sagging middles occur when too much information is given in the beginning of a story. By structuring my books this way I make sure there’s plenty of action throughout.

Assuming a book is 90k words, by the end of the first third–or 30k–I need to have all my basic information in place:

*Who the major players are. The bad guy needs to be introduced here, even if–as is usually the case–the reader is unaware that s/he is the bad guy. Hell, I’m not usually aware at this point who the bad guy is, especially given how much I enjoy my red herrings. So I usually set up two or three likely suspects here. I can always edit later to strengthen or remove the connections, once I figure out who the Baddie really is. We also need, of course, the main characters.

*The basic plot. What is the mystery or problem we’re solving? A lot of people will tell you this should be in the first chapter, and they’re not wrong. The sooner the better. But I’m also a fan of the Indiana Jones opening, whereby the first chapter is an intro to character and action that clears up events which occurred before the book’s opening. So I feel that as long as we introduce the issue in those first three chapters, we’re good.

*At least one subplot, hopefully two. They don’t have to be delved too deeply into in the first 10k or so, but by the end of 30k they should be (and we’re going to go into the structure of each act itself as well). But the basic stage needs to be set early, in this first act. For example, in PERSONAL DEMONS, Megan’s interview with Brian. We also met our Ultimate Baddie in those first chapters and added our little subplot with the vision of the Yezer’s house on the astral plane. And of course we met our romantic lead as well and (hopefully) had a nice little attraction/irritation vibe going fairly quickly, at least by the end of that 30k.


This doesn’t mean at all that by the end of the first act the mystery would be solvable. Oh, no. Not at all. But everything that comes later has to build on what’s already in those first 30k words. No deus ex machinas for us; we need to lay our groundwork.

For example, let’s say we’re writing a murder mystery. It can be set in any world, from “normal” to total fantasy.

For example, let’s say we’re writing a murder mystery. It can be set in any world, from “normal” to total fantasy.

So, in the first 10-15k words we want to introduce:

Our main character
Sidekicks, if any
The mystery itself
The bad guys
The world we’re in
Our basic clues

Is the murderer out for revenge? Then we might want to mention, in that first section, how many people loved (or hated) the victim. Out for money? Then we mention how rich (or poor) the victim was. We might introduce some physical clues here; the bloody knife or gun, say. Or there may be no obvious cause of death, and we introduce the cause at the very end of this act (we may even wait until the second act, but if that’s the case we should have a lot of other stuff going on.)

And in the second 15k or so we want to start exploring the word, pick up a few additional clues, and get to our first Major Complication (beyond the basic plot-laying one).

Every act ends with action and deepening conflict.

Well, technically, every sentence, ever scene, every page, needs to deepen conflict, of course. But for the sake of our structure we’re going to focus on Major Conflict.

To go back to our murder mystery, let’s say our MC is Jennifer, a private detective. The subject of one of jennifer’s investigations turns up dead, and she decides to work with the police–or behind their backs, perhaps–to solve the crime for whatever reason.

It’s a pretty basic plot and one I think we’re all fairly familiar with.

So our first act is the dead body, the introduction of Jennifer and her frenemies on the force, the world, whatever. And we pick up info here and there, and perhaps we learn that Jennifer is debating whether to put her grandmother in a home, and Jennifer’s just broken up with a lover, and Jennifer needs a new car, or whatever.

We’ll probably have some excitement in those chapters, and some uncoverings. But it’s right around the end of that first act that things go from bad to worse. Jennifer is attacked at her home. Or a witness is found dead. Or she’s kidnapped. Or the police tell her in a very shady way to get the heck out of their investigation.

Whatever the plot is, the end of the first act is where you generally put:

*A major action scene
*A major complication

Preferably at the same time. That first 30k has to encourage the reader to keep going; you want the end of that act to be an “Oh crap” moment, you know what I mean? I tend to think of those, and of those major action scenes, as “beats”, and each act should end with or right around a beat.

This isn’t to say at all that you shouldn’t be having those moments as you go, because of course you should. But the end of that first act is where everything rolls on its side; it’s where the MC finds him or herself in jeopardy somehow or where someone else is put in jeopardy (like, for example, the kidnapping of Catherine Martin in Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs, to pull an example out of my–ahem–hat. The abduction, in fact, occurs on page 104 of my copy [I just went upstairs and grabbed it], which is 352 pages long, and is especially masterful there as just a few pages before Harris showed us the autopsy of a Buffalo Bill victim. Thus at the end of that book’s “first act” we have a graphic representation of how different this killer is; we have a significant clue in the throat larvae; and we have the abduction–so we know exactly what is waiting for that girl.)

The end of the first act is where the stakes jump higher. It’s not just an investigation anymore; this time it’s personal, if you know what I mean. Something Bad Has Happened. It’s going to happen again, unless we stop it. There’s often–again, as in Silence–a time factor introduced here too. Either way, this is where everything that’s come so far raises to a fever pitch, and the reader is (hopefully!) left breathlessly anticipating the second act, where everything gets deeper and more complicated.

Remember, none of this is set in stone. All stories are different. It’s just a guideline.

So. Any questions? What do you think; is this a structure you use? Do you keep these things in mind as you work?