Speed: How Important is Writing Fast?

 

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In my quest to get a handle on this Indie Publishing thing I listen to a few interesting podcasts. I prefer listening to reading because it allows me to learn while keeping the house clean or getting ready for work and all the routine stuff of life. One of the most common ingredients for Indie Author success, which for me would be to make a full time income with writing, seems to be speed.

I figure this has a lot to do with rising above the competition by sheer number of books as well as the speed with which the publishing world is changing. Traditional authors who have been around for a long time are also self publishing their backlists, getting lots of books out there in the process. That’s shelf space is what that is.

The key word in Internet Marketing is Dominate and this a way to do it.

The boys over at the hilariously entertaining Self Publishing Podcast, Johhny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright released an excellent book at the end of 2013, Write, Publish Repeat in which they talk about writing really fast first drafts. Given that they are a team, they wrote a million words in one year and got several series of books out fast. This has indeed paid off for them. They are making a full time income writing fiction.

On Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, the charming Simon Whistler interviews highly succesful Indie Authors. It seems those who can write full time out of the gate and have substantial financial resources hit the big time in around one year’s time. Simon asks the best questions and really brings out the author’s deeper insights so the rest of us can learn. He has some fantastic podcast interviews! Some of the authors can be very daunting if you are looking for direction, but are inspiring as well. Lots of famous authors are interviewed on here, so if you want to hear from your favorites, Simon may have an nterview with them.

The famous author and nice guy, Hugh Howie. is the one success story I have heard where he took his time and kept writing according to his ten year plan, then hit it big with Wool.

Joanna Penn at the brilliant blog, The Creative Penn, has published fiction at a pace I can relate to, but also does a huge amount of blogging and speaking. If you dont’t already know about her, she’s a brillaint business woman and inspiration. She does great podcast interviews as well—-the first ones I found when I was trying to figure out this Indie Publishing thing.

The main advatange to writing super fast is that by having sheer numbers of books available, you make more money. Selling small numbers of several different books brings in more cash than relying on one or two books to sell a lot.

Gothic author, Virginia Coffman is an example of this. In her lifetime she sold over 5 million books, but had published over one hundred. All those sales add up over the years.

Get books by the authors mentioned above here:

 

Don’t Let the Hares Crush You!

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Or: The Virtues of Slowness

I write slowly. I have been forced by all the advice out there to think about why I am such a slow writer. I have discovered some answers:

1. I do not have the gift of the gab. I relaized this one from Anne Rice and her thirty pages a day. She loves to talk. So do some of these others and they write as they talk, without taking a beat. I wish I had this gift but I don’t.

2. I don’t think my stories, I feel my way through. Once I have an outline, the thinking part is over. It still takes a while to get going because I go so deep. I sink deep into my characters’ psychology and emotions. Creating drama at this level is a slow process and sometimes so intense that at the end of three hours, I’m emotionally exhausted.

3. As a frustrated visual artist, bailing out when I discoverd how cut throat the art world can be, even at the student level, it is important to me that my descriptions be highly visual for the reader. I want to transport you to another place and time. It is easier said than done to paint accurate pictures with words.

4. When I began this Indie thing, I published a couple of novellas prematurely. Luckily they attracted some good reviews, but they all said I should develop the stories more. I stayed very much under the radar while I did that and am living proof that even when you strive to be invisble, there are people who will find you.

4. B. The point of this step is that Self Publishing is like email. You can be blind or impatient or too speedy and put your book out there before it’s  ready. Readers are quick to complain about plot holes and other evidence of immature work. Patience wins out here because going back to revise an already published book takes more time than you might think.

5. The best books are multi-layered. Novels in my genre, Dark Fantasy, tend to be deeply layered because they deal with psychological and moral, if not religious themes, and explore the agonies of the human heart. Its still genre fiction, but leans toward literature. This stuff ain’t writ in a day.

6. Even with my slowness and determination to resist hitting the upload button too fast, I have had a reviewer complain that the ending of one my books seemed “rushed.” This is not because I rushed through it, I can tell you that. I’ve read reviews of other books complaining of the book being “rushed”. Maybe they are trying to get the next book out in the much lauded schedule of every three months. This might work for some authors, for others it could be artistic suicide.

This is a subjective issue in many cases, but as a writer, I prefer not to rush. I want the full sensuality of langauge and story to pentrate the psyche of the reader. I, for one, have to go slowly to achieve this.

What do you think about this issue? Can you tell when a book has been written quickly of if the author grew the story gradually?

When I was in the theater the teachers used to tell inexperienced actors, “Take your time….”

 

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Victorian Spiritualism in The Lady in Yellow

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In my Victorian Gothic novel, The Lady in Yellow, young governess, Veronica Everly, has rooms in Belden House that include a family treasure room. It isn’t long before she discovers it contains a dreaded Ouija Board:

 

Flickering firelight turned the room from intriguingly haunted to downright ghastly. The wallpaper was covered with white camellias with black leaves. The furniture, all dark wood upholstered in red velvet, was full of uncomfortable twists and turns like medieval torture devices. There was a cushioned settee and a few French chairs, including an elaborate hooded porter’s chair, set around a table holding a square board and a downturned glass. On the board, the large white letters of the alphabet curved in a bold arch above the words oui and non, while on the left side, a horned devil with a long, snaky tail cavorted, tipping his hat like a cartoon master of ceremonies.“—The Lady in Yellow

 

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The discovery of a room such as this in the remote Yorkshire home of a wealthy noble woman who had the time and resources to explore what she wanted, might not have been unusual in Victorian England. The services of Trance Mediums were sought after by many people who, bereaved in a age of high child mortaility and general early death, sought contact with loved ones who had passed beyond the veil. This was also an age of religious faith, when most people firmly believed in the Afterlife.

 

That didn’t mean that there were not lots of pragmatic tyes who saw Spirtualism as nothing more than a hoax. This was an age of science, after all.

 

 

 

Spiritualism in Victorian England

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This excerpt is from an interesting article on the history of Spirtualism on The Victorian Web.

 

Go here for the entire article: http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/spirit.html

 

“What I can’t accept about spiritualism is the idea of millions of dead people (there must be standing room only on the Other Side) kept hanging about just waiting to be sent for by some old girl with a Ouija board in a Brighton boarding house, or a couple of table-tappers in Tring, for the sake of some inane conversation about the Blueness of the Infinite. I mean at least when you’re dead you’ll surely be spared such tedious social occasions.” — John Mortimer’s barrister in “Rumpole and the Dear Departed” (1981)

“Spiritualism, the belief that the dead communicate with the living, became a fad throughout America and Europe during the 1850s. Spiritualism, which owes its beginnings to Emmanuel Swedenborg‘s writings on the spirit world, received additional stimulus from Anton Mesmer’s experiments in what he called “animal magnetism” (hypnotism) that he believed involved the influence of celestial bodies upon terrestrial. Many Victorians, particularly those who had begun to abandon conventional religion, fervently believed in spiritualism, Elizabeth Barrett Browning among them (much to the dismay of her husband).

 

Although the Victorian era is often associated with scientific and technological progress, many Victorians were prone to the paranormal, supernatural and occult, of which the most popular forms in the late Victorian period included mesmerism, clairvoyance, electro-biology, crystal-gazing, thought-reading, and above all, Spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like many late Victorians, was fascinated by the possibility of

communication with the departed souls….”

Ectoplasm

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The Lady in Yellow is about a noble family suffering under a curse of Lycanthropy. Veronica begins to find out that there is much more going on at Belden House then the mere sighting of the odd wolf in the garden. She discovers a set of photographic plates in which the heads of etheric wolves have been formed around the heads of the participants in Lady Sovay’s séances.

In the box was a file of glass plates. She pulled one out. They were photographic negatives. Etched on the glass in golden sepia tones, was an image of Sovay de Grimston. Her eyes were hypnotic, her hair loose in long waves of shadowed light. At the level of her throat was a cloud, a mystic vapor that seemed to spread out beyond the edges of the frame. The negative vapor looked so dark that the real one must have been like a blast of snow….”—The Lady in Yellow

The appearance of ectoplasm could be faked. (See the picture above!) But as a lifetime psychic, I know that there is a reality to this exudation of force.  If you concentrate hard enough, you can emit a white misty light around the body, but it is most likely only visible to those who have the ability to see such things. That makes it very hard to verify.

 

Spiritualism Begins with Little Foxes

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The rest of if this fascinating article on the History of Spiritualism can be found at Steampunk Opera!

Click here to read it: The Rise of Spiritualism

 

“While Spiritualism became huge in Victorian Britain, it actually started in the US, in upstate New York with 3 teenage girls.

In the township of Arcadia lived the Fox sisters. In 1848, 15 year old Maggie and 12 year old Kate discovered that when they clapped their hands, raps would sound back. They demonstrated this to neighbors and eventually a system was worked out where a spirit could rap Yes, No or the letters of the alphabet to communicate. The spirit claimed to be Charles Rosa, a peddler who had been murdered by the previous owner of the house, John Bell. Later examination did indeed find human remains buried in the cellar…”

 

(Sounds like the dreaded Trench Sisters in Rosemary’s Baby!)

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Family Secrets

Of course, in The Lady in Yellow, practices like these were meant to be kept secret. Lady Sovay had a public image to maintain! As Veronica discovers more evidence of black magic at the de Grimston house, she is targeted by the wicked spirits she is determined to expose.

“The books were old and fine, but their spines were difficult to read in the dark. On one of the lower shelves she found a flat folder wrapped around a sheaf of rag-edged parchments. That looked interesting. She took it into her bedchamber, and under the light of the candelabrum, rifled through the parchments.

Some of the pages were yellow with age, others looked quite new. They were notes, written in a neat, precise, masculine hand that gave them an air of great importance.

Perusing one of the sheets, a strange word jumped out at her: Ectoplasm.

Tonight Our Lady successfully drew forth an astonishing quantity of Ectoplasm within which a spirit began to take form. We queried it via the Ouija Board but the message was garbled, or perhaps communicated in a language unknown to us.

“That must be the mist oozing out of their throats,” Veronica said aloud. Ectoplasm

A dark mood fell over Veronica. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know these things. Why was she, a girl raised in a convent, sent into this godforsaken house?” —The Lady in Yellow

 

 

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Indie Publishing in Fiction: Who Upped the Ante?

Is the Amanda Hocking Era Over?

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I don’t mean Amanda’s career. She’s a natural story teller, the most talented YA author I have read on my Kindle.  I hope she goes on to the heights.

No, I mean the Amanda Hocking Kindle Era.

Like Amanda, I’ve been writing all my life and have a considerable backlog of books to polish up and publish. But I could never produce the way she did when she first began on Kindle and rose to fame.

According to her, weeks of Red Bull-fueled nights of relentless writing resulted in three series that were released on demand by her growing number of fans. Sleep was the enemy and she pushed through it.

I, on the other hand, have not got this ability. I am quite a bit older than 26 – the age she was when she performed this feat – and my mind would refuse to cooperate with such extreme conditions.  So more power to her!

She did inspire me to self publish on Amazon and Smashwords though. Being a DIY kind of gal, this appealed to me, I haven’t made much money at this stage, and am daunted at the work required to get my books noticed in the ever-growing Amazon slush pile, but I know my stories are worth the effort. I chose to start small and move incrementally, which is what this blog post is about.

But Why is it the End of an Era?

The thing about Amanda’s pace of writing books, and I have heard her discuss this, so I’m not being catty, is that her books were not edited. At all. But she was selling to teenagers, who seem to be much more forgiving about this sort of thing if they like the story. Todays teenagers are the generation who do not know of a time when computers did not exist and who got the first Kindle Readers in their hot little hands. They bought Amanda’s books for their Kindle readers, loved them and the story goes on.

When I decided to try this e-book thing out, I published a few short stories that had been published elsewhere. It was a beta test. It takes me a while to get the hang of technology so I needed a chance to play around with Kindle and Smashwords and see what it was all about. My stories went public. Then, in the interests of science, I published two novellas: a very old story (2004) Memento Mori and a newer piece The Lady in Yellow. People downloaded The Lady in Yellow in droves from Smashwords. I was shocked! It attracted good reviews with one major complaint: it should be developed into a novel. (This is what I am doing, along with Memento  Mori. Being an early experimental work written when I was coming out of my Poet phase, Memento Mori has always had problems. But I love it and so do a few other people.)

My reviewers have been adults. They are a lot harder on an author than teenagers. Had I not had the ease of self publishing — had I contemplated sending the novellas out to agents and publishers — these would not yet have seen the light of day. I just wanted to see what would happen. Lucky, so far—no disasters.

Too many authors have been throwing their novels up there when they are not finished or  developed. I am shocked when a writer says they will produce four novels in one year to keep their sales funnel pumping. Maybe they have the time and the talent I don’t have but I don’t think they will be able to get away with that for much longer.

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The E-Book Ante has been Upped.

Like Facebook, originally created to attract teens, Kindle readers are falling into the hands of adults. Adults who READ. Educated, READING adults who have zero tolerance for bad grammar, sloppy execution and typos. Serious, sophisticated READERS who will cut you a new one on your Review Page for producing books that fall below traditional publishing standard.

If you want a career, it would be a good idea to take this change very seriously. Too many bad reviews citing shallow characters, plot holes, bad pacing, bad grammar, and those demonic typos, will not only sink that book, but any books that come after. Short of changing your pen name, you won’t be given much grace for changing your ways.

Thank you Amanda Hocking for opening this door. But as she has breezed through it, those of us who have followed have found a thorny path that may lead back to traditional publishing where the serious readers find their serious, even on Kindle, books.

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The New Gothic Revival

The New Gothic Revival

I grew up an organic time, close to nature. Mothers stayed home to take care of the children. We played outside, ran through the woods, played games in the streets, stayed out until twilight when we were called in for supper. Television only came in black and white. I remember my grandparents on my father’s side, rather medieval French Canadians who took my brother and I to a cathedral to attend High Mass sung in Latin — well they had the first color TV I’d ever seen. At Christmas we gathered around it to watch the Wizard of Oz waiting in breathless anticipation for the moment when Dorothy opened the door to Oz, seen in full technicolor for the first time.

I’m not sure about other kids, but I was a voracious reader. My father encouraged me, giving me all the classics as well as the new phenomenon The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I spent my whole 10th summer reading it. For me that book paled in comparison to Titus Groan and the much more Gothic Gormenghast Trilogy. I loved fairy tales especially and not only read them, but began making up my own, writing them in pencil on lined paper while sitting in the shade of our mock orange tree. Like Jo in Little Women, II dreamed of writing books. There was a large field behind my best friend’s house with an enormous oak tree. There I would sprawl on a large branch with a book and bag of apples and spend hours reading and munching away.

When I got older, I would spend my whole allowance on books. There was a drug store in my very small town with a rack full of pocket paper backs, including collections of weird tales. They were a bit adult and disturbing for me, but I was quickly addicted. In our small local library — I might have read every book working my around the shelves — I found interesting collections of fairy tales re-tellings, and ghost stories  like The Haunted Looking Glass, including stories by Wilkie Collins, Algernon Blackwood, M.R.James, Robert Louise Stevenson, all illustrated by Edward Gorey. I never forgot the tale of The Monkey’s Paw with its warning to careful what you wish for.

Then came the years of Jane Eyre and Wuthering heights, Great Expectations, Edgar Allen Poe, and all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson… always the dark overcast, the ancient ruins, stately tombs, castles and inbred aristocratic families. There were the wild and fated romances of the Brontes and Daphne DuMaurier’s haunting Rebecca. I read Dracula every winter for years.

When I finally completed my BA degree, it was in English Literature/ Creative Writing. I was publishing poetry and won a couple of prizes for my weird creations, full of witchery and earth magic. I wanted to write fiction, but my professors taught us to be snobs and I had no desire to write mainstream fiction about failed relationships, addicts, disease and death, or being crushed by society. I began to dread expressing the ‘mood’ I was always accused of filling my poetry with. (Now I know that’s ‘atmosphere’.)

I had to move to London to find my stories. Because of my love of the British Gothic Mystery and Romance stories, I suppose it was a kind of coming home.  Living in the land of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, I was amazed to discover that they weren’t making that stuff up!

Anne Rice revived the Gothic Tradition in the 1970s with her classic Interview with a Vampire. Her books had a huge following and a powerful impact on popular culture. Lately we have had Twilight, but though Stefani Myers uses Gothic monsters like vampires and werewolves, I’m not sure her books are Gothic. What do you think?

In the 1980s I found a copy of The Bloody Chamber in a bookshop and was electrified. I wanted to write like her. In England I found Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood and I wanted to write like her. I have done so and all of the short stories I wrote under the influence of these modern Gothic authors have been published. I am unknown, so those Gothic Faery Tales are yet to be collected under one cover. Someday… Brides of Darkness shall be brought out to my dedicated fans… :)

Now I am releasing the novels I have been working on over the past 13 years. I aim to reignite the old Gothic style of atmosphere and suggestion, dark shadows (I used to RUN home from school to watch that!) lurking menace, doomed love and sorcery.

I do not wish to glamorize the darkness, but rather peer behind the spangled veil. What one finds there, is the essence of the Gothic thrill that has such sway in some of our imaginations.

Angela Carter werewolf image found at www.bluebeany.com

Get my novel The Roses of the Moon I: Mara on Amazon Kindle Books

The Roses of the Moon I – Mara

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The Importance of Imagery in the Gothic Genre

The Importance of Imagery


My Victorian Gothic werewolf novella, The Lady in Yellow was recently reviewed by Readers Den. Although this review overall was favorable, and the reviewer said she really enjoyed the book, she made a comparison that threw me for a loop, and I’m afraid may had readers scurrying. Why was that an issue for me?

It wasn’t a bad comparison, but was out of genre and therefore misleading for my audience.  Let me elaborate.

Genre is Imagery

All genre fiction is built out of iconic images that are a bot like Tarot cards. The writer uses the familiar tropes and arranges them in surprising new ways and creates distinct characters to explore this maze. In the case of Gothic Romance – for this genre comes out of the Romantic Movement of the 18th century – the reader expects darkness, moonlight, haunted mansions, ruins. castles, abbeys, graveyards, a few monsters like vampires, werewolves, witches. In my case I like to take an innocent, a child or a sheltered young adult, and put them into a mysterious, alluring yet ambiguous environment and let them figure it out.

You can see by the headers and tone of this website that Gothic imagery is what I work to convey in my stories. Its what my target audience expects. These are signals and sign posts of what i aim to deliver, a promise I hope they will be able to count on.

Governess in Britten's Opera The Turn of the Screw

Governess Stories

When I wrote The Lady in Yellow I was inspired by a few things. A photo by Simon Marsden of a medieval mural in a French chateau that was called The Lady in Yellow. There was also my love for Henry James‘s The Turn of the Screw and Charlotte Bronte‘s Jane Eyre. Beauty and the Beast. I also have thing for twins and china dolls – I own a few that are over 200 years old, and the old English/ Celtic folk music such as Green Grow the Lilies that the twins sing in the story.

Both Turn of the Screw and Jane Eyre feature governesses, as does The Lady in Yellow. A governess is the perfect outsider: working class entering the world of the wealthy, single therefore vulnerable, often young, and isolated. Perfect for Gothic Romance. Mystery or Horror. My reviewer, perhaps not knowing of these older stories, compared The Lady to The Sound of Music based on the governess factor and the nuns.

That’s OK. That’s a classic and good story. But it is not Gothic. The iconic images of The Sound of Music are lots of wholesome singing children, bright mountain meadows, a love triangle. It does get dark once the Nazis show up.Nuns are Gothic but not nuns who sing show tunes. Then there is the phenomenon of the Sing Along Sound of Music with all its silliness and fun.It definitely does not have werewolves or the paranormal atmosphere to support them. Not only that—it has a happy ending!

People died young in Victorian times. In England, the power structure forced farmers off their lands into the coal darkened cities of the Industrial Revolution condemning them to lives of poverty, toil and sickness. As a result Spiritualism was born. The bereaved flocked to seances. Ghost stories thrived and ultimately Dracula was written and we’ve never looked back. The lurking  presence of death is the underground stream of Gothic fiction.

It would have been more apt to compare my book to Rocky Horror Picture Show even there is no governess in that.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. A review is a review and I love them. It was food for thought. Imagery is everything. Your genre should appear in all of your marketing and be so clear that no one can mistake what you’re about.

Hitchcock's Easy Virtue:A Victorian Beauty and the Beast

The Power of the Audience

In the end everything used in genre fiction has to appeal to the readers who love the genre and expect certain things. The tone, the atmosphere, the sense of dread, supernatural elements, power struggle, darkness and mystery—-there are all kinds of elements, but they are distinct. The images used to create crime novels may be similar, but the difference is apparent. Westerns, Romances, Cozy Mysteries, all have their stamp, even though some types of images are shared. I think Gothics are the most similar to Fairy Tales, vaguely supernatural, disturbing but familiar.

Anyway That’s my 2 cents. I would love for you to give The Lady in Yellow and leave a review – let me know if I’ve pulled it off. Comment on this blog and get a free digital copy.

You’ve heard of “The Woman in White” and
“The Woman in Black” now meet “The Lady in Yellow”.
When young Veronica Everly takes a position as governess to a pair of identical twins, she did not expect to join a family of werewolves, or to fall in love with her handsome employer, Rafe de Grimston. When Rafe makes her promise to redeem them all, she is faced with an agonizing choice. First she must uncover the mystery of the Lady in Yellow.

 

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