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Welcome to my blog!

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This blog was my online wordsmith workshop, where you'll find notes on my writing experiences, excerpts from my fantasy and science fiction novels, and essays of a more homeworld flavor.  Some of the advice therein may still be of interest to new writers so I have left it here but due to technical difficulties, I no longer post here regularly.  You can look me up on Dreamwidth, although I do not post frequently. 

Feel free to share a link to this site. If you opt to download it or share content, please give due credit to this website and the author: Emmalyn N. Edwards. Thank you--Emmalyn

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Friday, August 23, 2013

A shift in relationships
It has come up repeatedly in discussions with fellow writer's lately and of course my non-writing sister again came up with an excellent answer: The difference between a "real publisher" and a vanity press or related service. self-publishing aid, etc. is that a real publisher's business is NOT helping authors "in any way, shape, or form". A publisher's business is selling books (or stories), serving a customer who is a reader or someone who's business it is to sell books to readers. An author is not a customer to a publisher, an author is merely a supplier, who gets paid for supplying something to the publisher, i.e., a draft story or book. The author benefits as any supplier does, by getting reasonable pay for what they wrote if it is a good and wise publisher. Because a publisher's livelihood depends on selling a lot of copies, they provide quality control, editing, cover art, distribution, and at least some sales effort: because they are the primary beneficiary.

The e-book paradigm shifted some of the foundations of that process, making it at least easier on the surface for an author to be their own publisher in some respects: if they are willing and able, they can do more of their own distibution, they can hire and editor, they can do their own sales pitches. In the publisher-author relationship, the author has usually been smart to make sure the cover conveyed the appropriate message to the reader about the book. The author could help the sales department in several ways. But the primary seller was still the publisher and the supplier was the author. The publisher may supply a bit less but still can supply credibility through quality control, vetting, editors, artwork, distribution and sales: and will if they are the beneficiaries of sales. However, if the author is the one doing most of that, benefiting the most, controlling all, then the author is no longer the supplier. They are the publisher, they are the customer of whatever (limited or extensive) services they are receiving from the press, publicist, software formatter, or whatever title the organization or individual is using to supply a service to their customer, the author, and if the author/publisher can successfully sell books to the readers, then the supplier may get some benefit, too, or maybe not. Both relationships have their place, but as author, I better know what that relationship really is before signing anything, and a press or other service provider would be wise to know who their customers are, too.

Writer's prompt: shine, reflect, shift, glow, turn, wrinkle, curve, point, roll, blossom, eye, stand
23 aug 13 @ 9:37 pm

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Workplace practices
We were discussing the problems of our various workplaces and what has caused other people to get in trouble inadvertently. The alternatives make for a good "how to keep your job" list.

Don't volunteer to be the one that goes home early if they need to cut hours: if you haven't been told what to do, find or make up something but offer to do something else if that's what management needs. Keep busy any way you can.

Don't ask bosses what to do next if you can help it: ask co-workers, team leads, and do your own review of tasks that have been assigned in the past. At most, ask "Is it alright if I do this or do you have something else more important that I can work on?"

Don't stop and chat with coworkers for more than a few minutes, and don't stop and chat even for a second if managers are wandering around: work steadily while you chat or work steadily and turn your back on overly chatty co-workers. On the other hand, if bosses want to chat, indulge, even if you are uncomfortable with it.

Much the same applies to writing and crafts, even if the workplace is the home: Keep busy: write, revise, edit (or design, cut, and sew). Don't let chatty family or friends keep you overly long from writing (or quilting, or whatever). If your editor or publisher or customers want you to be more sociable: oblige for awhile.

Writer's challenge: what is your world's idea of good employee behavior (head down and "yes, sir"? Following orders? Independent action (keeping busy)? Making suggestions and generating ideas? What is your world's idea of bad employee or manager behavior? Is it different or the same as expected of good and bad social/volunteer teams?

Writer's challenge2: A character gets fired, with or without cause. The opposition gets fired. How do they spend the weekend?

Writer's prompt: "Take a number. Everyone wants to talk to xx today."
20 aug 13 @ 7:41 pm

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Try 2
Wrote a long post about education and housing economics and indirect learning/teaching through side comments, assumptions, and internal story lessons, but lost it in a flaky button push and fumble finger key stroke, so this will be short.

Standardizing education when it is combined with badly written books, misdirected tests, and no understanding of the many different ways children learn is like trying to teach reading and writing without first bothering to teach the alphabet: it can be done, but don't expect it to go well. Nor can math be effectively taught to students who haven't memorized the basic tables and rules, except badly and slowly.

Social activism works and is a good thing: if people are paying attention to what they are active about and not following along mindlessly for the fun and adrenaline of the crowd.

The best teacher might be the who lets students learn, but they first have to give students the thought-provoking material and occasional guidance regarding what lesson they are supposed to be learning.

Writing and story telling can teach a lesson, but it can't do so effectively by being about the lesson, it needs to be about the story.

Writer's challenge: watch or read something nonfiction. What lesson would you like to share?

Writer's prompt: "Really, you think that can help?"
18 aug 13 @ 9:16 pm

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thunder on the Horizon
I wrote that I was "back in the swing" but see on reviewing my own postings that I have continued to be somewhat erratic and certainly not achieving my goal of two posts per week. With the conclusion of summer and some of its irregular activities, I am hopeful of settling into a pattern again, but am not there yet. I am home due to insect bites for at least a day and am hoping that it enough to bring the selling down and get active again. Meanwhile, I am enjoying a bit of quiet and the rumble of thunder. I spent some time looking for upcoming conventions to attend (writer's, SF/F), schedule and interest permitting but most of the ones that I am interested in I have already missed this year or are far enough into the future that they have no (or too little) information on line. I'm considering one but it depends on whether I and the registrar can find a mutually acceptable payment method.

One of these days I should try online banking or PayPal again but the last time I tried, the mega graphics, maze of poorly labeled informational subpages, and pages requiring the latest and greatest software upgrades defeated my patience and my computer's capabilities. Computers seem to be one of those things that are out-of-date on delivery but so long as it does the main things I need - like a keyboard with buttons so I can touch type - the rest I can do without if I must. The rest is a luxury I don't feel the need to spend money on.

There has been much discussion lately about what people do and do not spend money on, and its impact on the economy, especially things like houses. My sister and I have been discussing why the next generation might choose not to buy, or might not see the value of it. For one, the last many years, houses have lost some of their appeal as "good investments" as they can be difficult to sell, especially at the exhorbitant profit that some people want. There have been occasional periods of time when you could expect to get more out of a house than you put into all the payments, including interest and "improvements" and such, but that it not now and hasn't been for many years. Still, you can usually get out of it enough to make it worth the purchase, if you can reasonably afford the payments (and still afford, food, power, heat, vacation, school, medical care and all), if you compare it to the option of rent. Even if you sell at the price you paid, the "lost" taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and "improvements" will normally still add up to less than the rent you would have paid if you stay put for a few years.

Of course, that last has become a bigger caveat than it used to be. used to be companies realized that loyal employees were more valuable employees than those that were passing through, and also that the company had to return the favor by being loyal to its past and present employees. With that forgotten and neglected, job jumping is common and can often entail more movement. In that case, a house may be less valuable as an investment unless you can afford to pay house payments for more than one house for awhile, while waiting for the last one to sell.

Altogether, the decisions people make, their choices, their priorities are based on a lot of factors. if a writer can think through the culture of their worlds - whether past, future, or fantastical - to include those kind of motivational issues, they can build the kind of worlds that stand on their own and make great places for stories that readers can fully relate to.

Writer's challenge: consider for your main characters: Would they buy or rent? Would they seek a place they could walk or buy a monthly transit pass or provide their own transportation for long distance and short? Would they consider the home psychologically important, or just a place to sleep? Would getting food today, next month, or next year be a concern? What trends have they seen growing up? How sure are they of a source of income tomorrow? For their children? How does that impact their choices in every scene?

Writer's prompt: He dug in his pocket, sure he had at least one coin left-
12 aug 13 @ 1:19 pm

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Journaling notes
One of the things I was somewhat neglecting during Camp NaNoWriMo was journaling (have I mentioned lately than I am a writer? Not all of it is intended for publication, ever). I managed a little, mostly in the form of clippings.

I clip junk mail, advertizing, club and association articles, comic strips: anything that generated a reaction, such as "that's stupid" "that's just what I thought", "useful information" and "I could do something like that if I had time". Sometimes I just scribble my reaction in the margins or across the page. Other times I might clip a single very small tidbit and write at length. The smaller clippings get put in the journal writing pages (usually a five-subject notebook) and tape it in or tape the top and writer under it. Bigger ones go in the pocket dividers in the notebook and I might or might not comment on them in my entry at the time.

One of the magazines this week had an article describing the ten "benefits" of the affordable care act, mostly the requirement for what the Insurance companies have to supply as part of insurance packages. I laughed at some of it. It describes "ambulaory patient services" as what most of us consider outpatient care: you come in, you go in the same day. No where does the article admit that hospitals and insurance companies may label a three day stay (or a longer stay if two procedures turn out to be necessary) as "outpatient", but being at a hospital means the usual doctor's office copay doesn't apply: the patient is currently stuck for potentially tens of thousands of dollars even with "good" insurance. The upper limit seems to be better, but that they didn't address that kind of "outpatient" makes me wonder.

The other thing I noted was that nowhere in the article did it even suggest how this was "affordable", or why we should expect anything except that the rates go up until well past the point when those on a shoestring budget can better afford the penalties for not having insurance than they can afford the insurance, just like the companies that have already made that choice for their part time employees, and maybe their full-time employees, too. A useful article, but I'll be keeping an eye out for more.

Writer's challenge: Take an article that generates a question in your mind and answer it the way you would like it be answered. Answer the same question the worst way you can think of. Put both answers as a opposing sides in a story.
7 aug 13 @ 7:20 pm

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back in the swing
Reached my goal and am now going through and cleaning up, filling a few gaps, fixing some things that I noticed needed fixing... and hopefully will get back to writing up my conference notes.

I thought I'd get back into the blogging swing by commenting on my experiences with the historical short story. For one, I wrote many daft scenes for it that were never used, including the "premise"-building scene, a possible conclusion, and part of an argument. Like the novel I was working on for CampNaNoWriMo, I deleted at least a third of what I wrote, or, for those when I wrote on paper initial notes on paper, I didn't type in more than half of what I wrote. But that doesn't mean it was wasted effort. It all helped me separate what i wanted from what I didn't, gave me ideas for where to go, helped me define and develop characters. I outline in scenes, I think with my hand, my brain or my soul is in my hand, as many in Medieval Europe might say it.

With the historical fiction/speculative fiction, even my mistakes helped a lot. I didn't pay attention at first that the guidelines specified 14th century, and I had some ideas for earlier, eleventh century, I thought, so I started reading up on that. I got some ideas for my fantasy characters based on superstitions of the time, then found out both that I needed a later setting and that some of my remembered history was from the fourteenth/ fifteenth century, so I could still use many of my ideas. And the ones that came from earlier I might have missed if I'd gotten it right from the start!

Incorporating real history was an interesting challenge. It offered constraints but also helped me develop what I think are some interesting characters, because history is full of very interesting characters, for whom there are hints of personality but not so much as to prevent creativity. And earlier history will have a few specific dates, even dates in the lives of individuals that tie them to a place. This can help frame the story (one less decision to make), but need not be limiting. Authors (and screenwriters) do adjust dates and ages and sequences for the story. Just make sure you know what you've changed and what you haven't, in case you decide to change it back or make a different change in rewrite: also, historical fiction readers like to know what's real and what's not and might ask. Of course, if you are a history buff like me, the hard part with researching characters and events is first finding what you need, then stopping the reading and research in order to write.

Writer's challenge:
science fiction writers, research a scientific discovery of the past, the people, the circumstances, and use it as a framework around a future discovery.
Fantasy writers: find an old superstition and make it real or replace a science with magic and give it a twist.
Nongenre writers: research an event in the past that is similar to the circumstances in your story, especially circumstances that you are having difficulty with writing.
5 aug 13 @ 8:47 pm

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Be sure to get in touch so I know you're out there! See contacts page or e-mail wyverns(at)earthlink(dot)net.

Every word should be an experience