Research as a writer

So. Research, we all know we need to do it, right?

I mean… we DO know we need to do some, when we’re writing, right?

Nope. We all really don’t seem to know this.

I read a book this past weekend that was a historical and it was very, very obvious that a lot (or maybe any) research hadn’t been conducted.

The story premise was good, but it lacked the depth that research could have given it.

I honestly can’t think of any genre of writing that you can get away with NOT doing research for. Picture books, maybe? But I did a ton of research for my Ace Shark picture book, so maybe not even that?

Some genres are heavier on research than others, I do the MOST research for Historical and Science Fantasy, but even for my paranormal titles, I still do a ton of research.

For my Ilavani series, I did so much research into genetic modification, quantum physics and historical power structures including the history and structures of indentured service that I could probably write at least a master’s level thesis on any of those subjects.

For my upcoming Bloodbound from NineStar Press I did massive amounts of research into the Mabinogian, Welsh Folklore, and supernatural critters.

Now. How do I do research?

It varies? That’s as helpful as mud, isn’t it?

So. I have a couple degrees in research related stuff. So I know how to do high-brow research.

But honestly? I start with Wikipedia.

Not so much for the articles, though some of them are surprisingly good, but for the links leading out from the articles.

Even if you JUST read the Wikipedia articles about the subjects you’re writing about, it’s probably enough for a lot of mainstream fiction.

But you can also find pages like this one (here on my site) where I add interesting links that I’ve found while I’m doing research for my books.

You can follow the links from Wikipedia to find further information. You can google search a specific topic (most of the links on my resources page were found doing one of those two things).

If it’s a topic? There is someone who geeks out about it. Find the geeks talking about it and listen to them. Many of them are very interested in consulting (waves at the lovely people helping me with long-range sniper rifles right now) in order to get the info RIGHT in books.

Cause getting it right kind of matters. Very little will throw me out of a story faster than a fact that I know to be untrue.

Because then I have to go look it up to remind myself that it is, in fact, untrue.

If I find it’s not factual, I will very likely never pick the book up again. Not everyone is as fussy as I am about things being authentic, but I very much am.

Why should I waste my valuable time in reading your words if you didn’t waste YOUR time looking up the information to get it freaking right?

I also use TV Tropes a lot (I spent probably weeks on this site while I was developing the world for the Ace Assassin World. (Bloodbound April 30th, 2018, and OMG that’s getting close!)

Just type in what you want to know about in the search bar and browse to your heart’s content. You’ll likely be surprised at all the questions you didn’t know you didn’t know to ask that you suddenly have when you do that.

Fair warning, it’s a HUGE rabbit hole. You could get lost. Take some carrots as a snack.

Where can you find the geeks? Internet. Most of us have blogs where we obsess about our interests. For those of us who don’t have blogs, we go to group meetings about the topic that we love.

IE: Beekeeping, look for a local beekeepers/apiarists association. They are in most towns, but it’s one of those things you probably have to go looking for to find.

Same with Blacksmithing, or genealogy, or spinning, or weaving, or, or, or, or…

Twitter is a fantastic resource cause many of us geeks do threads about topics we’d like people to get right.

If it’s a historical topic, you could look for historical reenactment groups. They exist for most areas of history, and trust me, you’ll find history geeks there.

Libraries are a fantastic resource if you can get to one. Librarians will often help you find books about any subject you need because that’s what they both love and get paid to do.

So. There is my two cents on research.

 

 

 

 

A reaction to The Last Jedi, from a die hard SW fan who hated Rogue One.

TL;DR is…

I fucking loved it so hard. You hate Frumplestiltskin, the GOP, and maybe even rich peeps?

See it, IN THEATRE.

Spoiler free review.

I’m not going to go into detail. I don’t usually review movies, I bitch about or laud them on twitter instead.

I reviewed Rogue One, but only cause I loathed it with every fiber of my being.

S’okay, you can disagree with me and I can judge your taste until the end-point of my being.

Lolz, we can still be friends. You’ll just get a side-eye from me about the movie, is all. (Seriously, my best friend completely adores it, we just look at each other weird about it.)

That review can be found here. I wasn’t kind, or nice, the movie was shite.

I’m someone who grew up on these movies, (I’m old, seriously, these movies were my childhood, I’m utterly unreasonable about them. I don’t CARE).

There’s a format to them.

You can scoff all you want at me but I’m actually an editor in real life, like, it’s my JOB to do this stuff.

Rogue one failed on pretty much every aspect except that it was sorta… not really… not even close… to being Star Wars Shaped.

It failed the format, it failed the canon, it failed everything, including the fucking romance.

Blech.

I’m thinking of torturing myself through it again, since it’s on netflix, to see if it was REALLY as bad as I thought. Preeeeety sure it was.

I’m a masochist. Don’t sue me, I’m broke.

The Last Jedi? I was actually terrified to go see it, because R1 made me hate Star Wars. People who LOVED R1 kinda made me look at the fandom in a WTAF sorta way.

Shrugs.

I had edits for The Last Jedi, if you know me AT ALL you know I’ve got edits on EVERYTHING. Including life.

The Last Jedi didn’t disappoint. I loved it. I loved every aspect of it.

I cried, I sobbed. I just. THAT IS STAR WARS!!!

THAT is what people who kept saying in 2016 that R1 ‘was the movie they needed to see’ (with regards to the resistance and a message of hope and the election and gahhhh)… nope.

No.

The Last Jedi carried that message, and then some.

Choice, Action, Consequences, Results, Lives lived on the edge, Heroic Sacrifice, Balance between light/dark, Space Battles, HOPE AGAINST THE DARK.

Yeah. THAT is Star Wars.

Also, I really want a Vulptex, (crystal fox) ridden by a Porg, followed by a Fathier, cause OMFG SQUEEEEEEE!

Okay. Stopping now. So I don’t spoil it. I loved it. It brought Star Wars back to me.

And after the godsfucked year a queer, autistic, mixed-race, pagan, expat American has had in 2017?

I needed THAT movie.

Go on now.

See it.

 

 

 

New Book Review: WALKING ON WATER by Matthew J. Metzger

LGBTQIA+, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling (Little Mermaid)

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BLURB

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

REVIEW

Read it. Hie thee hence to a place to buy this book (ideally the publisher) and READ IT NOW.

I’m picky AF about books, those that I give an unreserved five-star score to and want to leap up and down on the top of a building for? Yeah. They’re GOOD.

I’d like to say I’m without words at how wonderful this book is, but it’s honestly just that I have SO MANY positive words about it that I’m having trouble expressing myself.

This book wrecked me in all the best ways possible.

It made me curse the author, it made me so flipping MAD, I cried, sniffly sort of crying and the ugly sobbing sort of crying. I laughed, snickered, and snorted a few times too, and at the end? I hugged my tablet to my chest and I’ve been walking around with the goofiest grin on my face since.

I loved it so much.

Even if reading it did make me forget to eat two meals and I forgot to drink my tea.

It gave me many things I didn’t know I needed to see on-page until I read them.

Trans rep– there is a whole chapter about one of the MCs that so clearly echoes exactly how I feel about my physical form some days that I cried to read it. I needed that. I needed a happy ever after kind of story for a trans person who had to choose not to be in contact with their family because of not being loved for who I am. I needed this book so very much and I didn’t know HOW MUCH I needed it until I read it.

Ace rep– I’m a sex-positive ace, but it’s rare as hen’s teeth to find ace rep of any kind, (thank goodness this is changing) and seeing the way the author deals with a sex-repulsed ace was still healing to me because she was there, on page, and her needs were respected and met. (There IS sex in this book, on page, erotic sex, but it’s not for the ace side character.)

Pain rep/cane use– I have chronic pain and use a cane and the way pain is handled in this book is so accurate, it’s perfect. (It’s pain from an injury, but the way the MC deals with it is true to my experience.)

Fat positivity Fat characters are also spoken of in a positive light. I liked that too.

Bisexual representation!– On page bisexual representation. Bisexual GUY on page rep and the story isn’t ABOUT being bi, they just are. Love to see that.

World building- Very gritty, realistic historical fantasy type world building.

The story itself and the author’s voice is enveloping, powerful, beautiful, and lyrical.

I especially enjoyed the unique descriptive qualities to the characters, unusual choices of words can be so lovely if used well.

In dual PoV books, it can be hard to nail the two different character voices, the author nailed it in this one. I loved the very different feeling to each of the two PoV MCs, side characters were as well developed and written as the MCs.

I want more books out in the world like this and I want it now.

Content warning on graphic battle scenes, graphic shape change scenes. (I loved them, but I love gore in book/movies.)

Content warning on a (very few, I wasn’t counting, but like three, I think) usages of ableist language for self-labeling.

SCORES

Readability: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920 Though I pre-ordered this book, I waited to read it until I knew I’d have time to finish in one sitting. I’d heard it was really good, and I know what I’m like with a good book. I wasn’t wrong, life pulled me away the first two times I tried to read this (over the past two days) but I managed to read from about chapter 3 to the end today and OMG. What a freaking amazing ride. This is not the kind of book that you’ll be able to read just a chapter a night, it’s just that great.

Arcs: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920 It’s a little mermaid retelling, so I knew sort of what would happen, the author stuck true to the tale as far as the details, but brought a completely unique and fresh perspective to it. The tension leading up to the first turning point and then again to the climax were so masterfully done that my heart was in my throat in both places. The climax itself had me cussing out the author. SERIOUSLY. YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO BREAK MY HEART. But I’m glad you did, cause you sewed it up again, better.

Craft: 5 of 5 star-1586412_1920  I need more stars for rating Ninestarpress’s books. I caught ONE typo, that’s it. I would’ve liked to see a little less passive voice, but there were really only maybe four sentences I caught it in that could’ve been more strongly worded (and as y’all know, passive voice is my Achilles heel in reading (writing too) so I have an unreasoning hatred for it. Four sentences of passive voice is far and away better than anything big 5 is putting out these days (barring some few authors who I will sell a kidney to buy their work if needed). This book is excellent, and it’s one I’m so happy I bought and own cause it’s definitely going to go into the re-read often pile. I might even buy a second bound-copy, because I want one.

Go on now, I wouldn’t steer you wrong, go buy the thing!

Remember if you buy directly from the publisher, the pub and author both get more money so the can keep bringing you more books.

Ninestar Press 

Amazon

Don’t forget to review! Reviews sell books for authors. 🙂

Add it to your TBR on Goodreads here.

As an extra, Matthew was kind enough to give me a character interview for one of my favorite side characters, Doktor Karl Hauser, you can read that here.

 

Ghost Writers

I think I need to get back to writing, I’ve blogged more this past week than in a while. It’s usually a sign that I need to be working on a book.

IN any case, what I want to talk about is ghostwriting.

So, if you go to Upwork, you can see all sorts of advertisements for ghostwriting. I’ve even made a small amount of money, once or twice, ghostwriting short pieces.

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I stopped because it felt so unethical.

I mean, people who are buying words/books… if it’s for a big name… they’re buying THAT PERSON’S words and stories. They want that author’s voice! Or at least I do.

I’m a mimic, I can mimic most writer’s voices in any genre I write in pretty closely, especially if I’ve read them before.

And I’m an editor, author and autistic.

I CAN BLOODY TELL WHEN IT’S A GHOSTWRITER!!

Please, for the love of the very little money I have to spend on books, don’t do this to me.

I get it, maybe most people aren’t going to be able to tell the difference, but *I* can and I’m not the only one by far.

The big5 pubbed book I preordered because it’s one of my favorite authors hit my kindle yesterday and I was excited to read it. I love this character and I love the world the author has created.

I do not love this book, and I have not yet found a book by this author I hated, nor even disliked.

I love this authors work (or whichever ghostwriter she’s had working for her for a while now). I love the worlds, characters, and stories.

I do NOT love what this new ghostwriter is doing with them.

There is something missing from this authors words that I’ve never seen in the name before.

I’m not a big name in publishing, I’m an outsider, probably always will be, so I don’t actually know how often a big name author hires a ghost writer.

Often enough I’d think. In the past year, two big names that I usually read have felt extremely off when I was reading the books.

I may keep a running list of things I’ve never seen this particular author do in her work, just to keep it straight in my head and to use as supporting examples for this post.

Things I’ve NEVER seen this author do in any of her 30 some books I’ve read that I’ve seen MORE THAN ONCE in this one.

Racial slurs

Description of her black character as ‘sun-bronzed’

Geek slurs

Extreme heavy handedness on reconciliation of ‘happy families’ (one of the reasons I’ve loved this author is that she DOESN’T do that.)

She’s also a WoC so I’ve trusted her to get the descriptions of her mixed race characters done in a sensitive way. This book? It’s so white I can’t even.

Graphic words (I don’t mind graphic words, but this author doesn’t have a history of using them).

… and there is just something missing from this book that the previous ones had.

It’s very unhappy making.

I suppose I could be wrong, that it could just be the author trying something new, but I sincerely doubt it.

So much so that I’m not buying the next book.

And I loved this author.

Look, I get it. We writers/authors are in a dog-eat-dog world, but this particular ghost writer just lost my custom for this author.

It’s close, but it’s nowhere near close enough.

As far as those of us who do the ghostwriting? I get that too, we’re most of us hand to mouth, but no.

Just say no. Please.

New Book Review: ASSASSIN’S FATE by Robin Hobb

Dark Adult Fantasy

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BLURB

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The stunning conclusion to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which began with Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest

“Every new Robin Hobb novel is a cause for celebration. Along with millions of her other fans, I delight in every visit to the Six Duchies, the Rain Wilds, and the Out Islands, and can’t wait to see where she’ll take me next.”—George R. R. Martin 

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.


REVIEW

First, I’ve been reading this series since not long after it first came out. Fantasy has always been my first and most enduring love. You do have to read the series to understand this book.

The blurb calls this a stunning conclusion to the series.

It’s right.

Robin Hobb is one of the very few (Less than five now) established authors I still auto-buy. Price of books and my anemic book buying cash and all. But I always buy the books about Fitz.

I bought this one release week and I’ll be completely honest, I had trouble getting into it. Passive voice. It’s my Achilles heel in reading and it will always throw me out of the story. So when I first picked up this story, hoping to escape, it irritated me enough to put it down when I caught several instances of passive voice in the first few pages.

I’m glad I finally got around to picking it back up again.

Man, when it finally grabbed me by the throat it pinned me down and held me almost unable to breathe for an entire weekend.

By that I mean I got NONE of my chores done, my hubs brought me dinner because I kept forgetting to eat and I forgot to make coffee one day because I was SO ENTHRALLED by the story. COFFEE people, I forgot COFFEE!

Now. I read fast, but this book is almost 900 pages long, I started it late at night on Friday and just finished it. A little before midnight on Sunday.

I didn’t do much of ANYTHING except read all weekend because I had to know what happened to Fitz and Beloved.

Had to.

It’s really good. I cried. A lot. Ugly, messy, cry, and I’m still content with how the story ended. I wish it hadn’t HAD to, because these were the only characters by this author that I connect with, but it’s still a fantastic conclusion. Even though my heart aches.

I’ll miss these characters, miss looking forward to new books with them. Badly. Sadly, Bee doesn’t do it for me as a character.

Somehow, I had also missed that Beloved is gender-fluid throughout the whole series, and though they aren’t named that way, it’s quite clear when I think about it. I suppose I could be coding it, but I really doubt it. Probably one of reasons I’ve loved these books, and reread them so many times for so many years.

I will say: Content Warning on a deliberate mis-gendering by Fitz for Beloved. That stung a bit to read. It worked for the characters, story, and world though, so it’s not a complaint. Just a warning.

SCORES

Readability: 5/5 star-1586412_1920 It’d be around 9 or 10 if I could rate that high on my system. I didn’t quite drop my tablet on my face, but that’s only because I’m trying to discipline myself into actually SLEEPING at night.

Arcs: 5/5 star-1586412_1920As I finished this last installment, I have to wonder if Ms. Hobb had this entire series planned from the get go. The series arcs, relationship arcs, and multiple trilogy arcs are so masterfully done. SO well done. It’s amazing. Truly.

Craft: 4/5: star-1586412_1920 I wish I could give it a full on five-star rating, but I did have trouble getting into it because of the passive voice. I found a couple of sections dragging and would’ve advised the author cut a few scenes to speed pacing. Still loved the book and the sheer scope of this story… it’s freaking phenomenal. Hobb carries well her laurels of being one of the best fantasists in the genre.

 

 

Work/Life balance as a writer/editor/publisher.

I want to say something snarky here, like… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

But…

I’ll admit. It’s a struggle to find some sort of balance while being an author, an editor AND running a boutique publishing house.

I often feel like I need to work ALL the time.

It doesn’t help that this is my calling. Anyone with a calling will tell you it’s often harder to make yourself STOP working than it is to make yourself start.

I work far more than I should because I enjoy my work.

Whether it’s the act of writing, the act of reading potential books sent by hopeful authors, or whether it’s deciding how best to market stuff, I love it all. The only thing I don’t love is wrestling with contracts, but I feel like I’ve been given a gift to HAVE this wonderful calling. That of words.

As far as the balance part, that’s where it gets a bit murkier.

I try to stick to eight-hour workdays for the press/editing side of the business. It’s hard, especially when the book I’m reading for that aspect of my life is a good one.

I care, too, about the authors waiting to hear back from me on whether it’s a yes/no on the eternal question of do *I* love their book enough to publish it. I don’t like to make people wait too long. It bothers me. I’m picky, so I often don’t love the books enough. That’s because it’s a freaking nightmare to wrestle with the publishing process, and I only want to do it for books I LOVE.

I tend to read for pleasure only after I’ve written my daily word goal (if I’m drafting, if I’m in the editing phase for my own books after I’ve hit my daily editing goals).

I’m trying to read more for pleasure lately. I miss it terribly, but I find it incredibly hard to do of late because I haven’t quite figured out how to turn the ‘editor’ part of my brain off so that I can just read a story.

I mean, it has to be freaking amazing these days to suck me in and let me just read.

So, in a nutshell, I try to stick to a 9-5 schedule for the press, then switch to my own writing ’til I hit goal, then read for review/pleasure (pretty much only reading review books that ARE a pleasure to read these days, life is far too short to read books I don’t want to or that don’t catch me up).

Is it any wonder I have no idea who movies stars are and what TV shows are current? I live within the pages of books.

I’m happy there.

 

 

 

Reviews

Yeah, yeah, we all know we need to review books.

I mean… we DO know that right?

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Backing up, just a bit in case you DON’T know.

Reviews sell books for authors. There is NOTHING you can do more to support an author (other than buying the book in the first place/asking your library to buy the book) that will help them more.

Because people read reviews, they look at the star ratings on Amazon/Goodreads/B&N etc.

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They decide whether to buy a book based on what other people have said.

Even as something as simple as I LOVED IT with a 5 star rating can help sell a book to the next person who might enjoy it. It doesn’t need to be a long paragraph on why.

Those help, of course, (if you look at the reviews section of my website, I go to great length to tell my readers why I liked/didn’t like something).

But that very fact of ‘how books get sold’ is why I RELIGIOUSLY review everything I read. Even if it’s something I didn’t like, or wasn’t a ME book.

I still review it.

As far as algorithms go on places like Amazon and Goodreads, reviews count for visibility too. The more reviews an author has on a particular book, the higher their rating on Amazon, meaning it’ll show to more people who might be looking for THAT kind of book. I assume it works the same on non-amazon sites.

But, that’s just background to what I really wanted to say.

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I wanted to say thank you.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has left me a review, anywhere.

I read my reviews, I mean, we as authors are told we shouldn’t, but honestly? I want to know if I’ve fecked up somehow, so reading reviews is the best way to do that.

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I… don’t yet have a bad one. For which I feel incredibly fortunate.

I know… the first bad one is gonna sting like blazes.

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BUT… right now, as I’m sitting here proofing my next release, ILAVANI, for July sale, reading reviews, (some which were new to me) from my author central page, and seeing the OVERWHELMING support for my work. The sheer hunger for the kinds of things I write…

Y’all give me faith.

That what I’m doing is really needed. That my voice has worth in a world where I can’t land a publishing contract.

That my words, my work, my writing… is wanted.

That, it’s so important.

My critique partners and betas tell me they love my words. By and large they know me though, lol, my beloved CPs have the unenviable job of thumping me over the head with my own stubbornness…

I’m stubborn. Trust me on that.

Betas have the thankless job of reading something before publication… so, their words are incredibly important and I absolutely could NOT do this without my CPs and Betas.

Hearing from strangers, who have bought my book(s), read it, loved it, and then taken the time to review it for me?

That’s yet another level of gratitude.

I have so, so much gratitude for everyone who helps me in this writing journey.

I’m never going to be one of those authors who doesn’t appreciate those who read their words.

‘Cause without you all? I’d be nothing more than a writer telling stories to myself over my keyboard.

Thank you. So very much.

Edited half smile