Author Archives: Nancy

About Nancy

I'm a mommy, writer and lawyer. I've been a lawyer for over 20 years and live on a horse farm in Virginia with my Hubby and two boys. A "normal day" starts at 5 am and doesn't end until 11 pm during which I take care of farm animals, run a law practice, get a bit of writing in and spend time with the boys. When I say I have a normal life, people look at me funny. I'm not sure why.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image16834236

It’s that time of year again in the United States, the start to the holiday season, Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year when we gather friends and family together to count our blessings. And, to fully disclose all relevant facts, to eat far too much turkey and trimmings and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and football. Okay. I don’t do that last one, but I get that others do.

What are we thankful for here at Fictorians? Well, I can’t answer for the group, but I can tell you a few things that I’m thankful for.

Wizard of Oz reruns. In fact, I’m watching the movie as I write this post. I’m not sure how The Wizard of Oz became associated with the lineup of more usual holiday specials – maybe because Dorothy learns to be grateful for home and what she has – but watching the movie has been a holiday tradition for as long as I can remember. I got to stay up late to watch it. Really, what more was needed to endear the movie to me? I’ve watched the movie over 40 times and it remains a favorite.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up, I’d wake up to the smell of roasting turkey and know it was only a matter of time before Mom would take a break from cooking to watch the parade with us. The Parade was family time.

The Superstars Writing Seminar. Without the seminar there would be no Fictorians. The members probably wouldn’t know each other or have met so early in our writing careers. We’re more than friends, we’re tribe, we’re family.

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta who invited me to be part of the Superstars staff and help them share the experience with others.

Flash Fiction Online for giving me the opportunity to hone my writing skills and give other writers a chance at publication.

The clients who stuck with me as I changed firms twice within a seven month period. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to serve.

My friends and all their support over the years. Their refusal to let me crawl into my shell and become a hermit crab.

My family.

– The many many sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and I and for the person they helped me become.

– I am eternally grateful to my brother for what he does for our parents, and his long-term employment with Disney so we can get into the parks for a lot less than we would otherwise. I am sure my sons echo that last point.

– My ever supportive sons and husband and the opportunity to return the favor for my husband as he works on a large appeal due on December 16.

– I’m grateful that my boys feel comfortable coming to me to ask those questions we all have when we start to grow up. I’m a romance writer, right? I should be able to field those questions. Right?

I am humbled by all of you who spend a little bit of your week with us on this blog.

So, while 2013 has been full of challenges there was a lot of good too. I hope life is kind to you and your family and your life is full of things to be thankful for. And thank you for spending your time with us.

 

 

Conventions as Marketing, Part II, or Every Day is An Interview

I wanted to follow-up on Quincy Allen’s great post of October 15, 2013 about the value of active convention attendance on your marketing plan. The post is particularly timely as I’m packing my bag for World Fantasy which will be held in Brighton, England from October 31 – November 2. Quincy shared how his career had been enhanced by his decision to attend conferences. Like Quincy my successes in writing can be traced back to my decision to attend a conference. But that’s only a part of the story. Showing the is the easiest part. What Quincy did, and I recommend you do, is he was an active participant in the conferences.

Taking a convention from being a fun event to being a professional marketing tool is hard work. We attend writers’ conferences or seminars, to market our writing, and to meet other writers, agents, publishers and editors. For ease of reference, I’ll refer to agents, publishers and editors collectively as “agents.” You cannot sit in the seminars and only interact with the group of people you came if you are marketing. Every day of a convention is an interview. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for you to help or hurt your career. So how do you ramp up your marketing potential at a Con?

Before the Con: do your homework.

One of the things I love about World Fantasy is it posts a list of attendees or “members” so I can see if my dream editor or agent is going to attend. This year WFC also has a separate list of attending publishers so if you don’t know that Jane Doe is with XY Literary you can see that XY Literary is attending and investigate further. Conventions are often crowded. Decide in advance who you’d like to make a connection with, why, and how.

I wanted to talk to Peter Beagle because I love his stories and since he was a Guest of Honor that year . How was I going to meet to him? Because he was scheduled for a reading, an interview session, and to attend the banquet I knew where and when I could find him, but I also asked my friends if anyone knew him. One of the founding Fictorians did and she introduced me. Ask your friends and colleagues if they know the person you want to meet. Chances are that one of them does. A personal introduction will usually take you a lot further than cold calling on someone. If the person you want to speak with is not giving a lecture or otherwise booked to be in a specific place be prepared to check the Con Bar – regularly.

If you are planning to pitch a story make sure it’s finished. “Finished” does not mean the first draft is complete. It means you have done everything you can to make the story as compelling and as free from typos as you can. Prepare your pitches. Ace Jordyn attended last year’s WFC with a list of the people she wanted to meet, and pitches prepared for each work and each person. Amazing, really.

At the Con: Be professional and bold.

I’ve written about this before so I’m not going to delve too deeply here. Appearances matter. If you want to be taken as a professional be dressed as one. Does that mean you have to wear a suit? No – unless that’s your brand. Look at just about any New York Times best-selling author’s website and you’ll see what I mean. Lisa Scottoline, a retired lawyer and writer of legal thrillers, wears suits. She wore one when she was instructing at the Seak, Legal Fiction for Lawyers convention where I met her. Because of who she is and what she writes the suit is part of her brand. Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson don’t wear suits. In fact, I would guess that the bulk of professional writers don’t wear suits. Still, they all look professional. You should too.

Act professional. Don’t interrupt, don’t be rude. Enough said about that.

Go boldly. Follow-up on your plans. Go to the places the people you are looking for are likely to be. Talk to them when you find them. If you can’t find them, ask other people if they might know where Jane Doe is. You must approach strangers at a convention. You must ask friends to introduce you to people you don’t know, but want to. At least one agent has said that she only signs people she’s met at a convention, and the agent doesn’t wear a name tag. She, like every other agent, wants to see you’ve done your research and that you’re passionate about your work. After all, if you’re not excited about and willing to sell your work, why should she be? Sitting in a corner watching the con go by will not result in publication.

Strike while the iron is hot. If you are engaged in a genuine conversation and someone asks what you are working on. Tell them.

After the Con: Follow-up.

Oh lucky day! You spent three hours talking to your dream editor at the Con Bar. So, now what? Follow-up with that person just like you would do at any other networking event. Send her an e-mail saying you enjoyed meeting her at the Con. Make the e-mail specific so that if you drinking a purple girly drink remind the editor so she, who met hundreds of people at the Con, has the opportunity to place you. If you were asked to submit to the editor do so now. It not, just thank her for her time. At minimum, follow the editor’s twitter feed or friend her on Facebook. Comment honestly on posts. If she posts something you find interesting you should comment on it. If not, you shouldn’t. You are trying to maintain and forge a genuine connection with her.

Don’t forget your friends. Remember all those people who helped you research and introduced you around? Thank them as well.

Conventions are one of our most powerful marketing tools if used correctly. Meeting someone at a convention may make the difference between a polite “no, thank you” and a sale. Treat every convention like an extended job interview because that’s what it is. Your primary goal is to form honest and lasting connections with the people you meet. Succeeding at that goal leads to success.

 

Calling back to the familiar when starting new: Star Trek: Into Darkness

 

resonance Whether we know it or not, we all respond to resonance in story telling. “What’s resonance?” you ask. To borrow from David Farland’s wonderful novel, Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing,

All successful writers use resonance to enhance their stories by drawing power from stories that came before, by resonating with their readers’ experiences, and by resonating within their own works.

Farland, David (2012-12-09). Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing (Kindle Locations 79-82). . Kindle Edition.

We feel powerful emotions when we read a book that somehow resembles other works that we love.

Farland, David (2012-12-09). Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing (Kindle Locations 100-101). . Kindle Edition.

 

trek into darkness

So, what are you going to do when you want to start fresh for one of the most popular franchises ever? Tell your own story, but make sure it resonates with what came before. Star Trek: Into Darkness excels at this.

SPOILER ALERT: THIS POST TALKS IN DETAIL ABOUT STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS THERE WILL BE SPOILERS SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW, STOP READING NOW. I’LL FORGIVE YOU. GO WATCH THE MOVIE AND COME BACK.

You have been warned.

Love or hate the rebooted Star Trek, you have to admire the talent that went behind creating it. The first movie set the franchise on its head. Star Trek: Into Darkness continues this seeming disregard for the prior Star Trek universe, but if you dissect the movie, you can tell that isn’t the case.

Let me start with an apology. Because Into Darkness is still in theatres, I’m sure I didn’t catch all the references. For some reasons, the people in the seats near mine objected to my flashlight and incessant note taking. But I think my barely legible notes will do well to illustrate the masterful use of resonance in this movie.

Star Trek: Into Darkness starts with a scene that could have been left on the cutting room floor from Raiders of the Lost Arc. Kirk and Bones have stolen a cultural icon, one they aren’t even sure what it is, and are being chased by angry spear wielding natives. See, the similarity to Raiders? No? Substitute Trek’s white-skinned natives for the dark-skinned ones in Raiders and the scroll from Trek with the little gold statue Indy steals before the rock comes rolling down. While Kirk and Bones don’t jump into a plane and fly away. they do swim down to the Enterprise and fly away.

What does director J.J. Abrams get from starting like this? A couple of things. He’s setting himself apart from the Trek movies that have come before. He’s also promising us that this Trek will be an action adventure movie in space. Abrams resoundingly delivers on this promise.

Even with his apparent disregard for the prior Trek universe (you know, the one he blew up), Abrams constantly refers back to it. One of the challenges Abrams has with his reboot is giving us characters that resemble, at least at first, the ones we know and love from the original Star Trek, and then developing them in a new direction based on the universe changes. But some truths remain constant. Kirk remains a womanizer. Bones isn’t keen on transporters.

When Kirk, Spock and Uhura need to go to Cronos, the Klingon home world, they take two security officers. Those officers happen to be the bullies who beat up Kirk in the first reboot before Christopher Pike convinces Kirk to join Star Fleet. The ship they take is from the “Mudd incident.” Harry Mudd, of course, featured heavily in the original series. In Season 1, Episode 6, Mudd’s Women, and Season 2, Episode 8, I, Mudd, the irrascable conman, Harry Mudd plagues Kirk and his crew. The quick one line encompasses two of the original Trek episodes.

When they arrive at Cronos. we see that the moon. Praxis, has already exploded. Even though Abrams has foreclosed a remake of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered County by already having the moon explode, he references the prior movie. The audience already knows why the moon exploded, and Into Darkness doesn’t have to delve into that bit of history.

The Klingons themselves call back to the Star Trek Next Generation ones. There is a similarity in design, but makeup designer Neville Page takes them up a level. These Kilngons are even more kick butt, not that I had thought that possible until I saw these. The gold accents to the skull ridges makes them an edgier version.

Bones experiments on a dead tribble. Who can forget the tribbles and the trouble they caused in The Trouble with Tribbles, Season 2, Episode 15? Because this is a reboot, rather than the plague the tribbles were in the original series, a tribble saves the day, sort of.

Of course, the biggest reveal and resonance in the story is…

BONUS SPOILER ALERT: Really if you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t read past this point.

…that the villain, thought to be a rouge Star Fleet member, is actually Khan Noonien Singh. Khan is probably the most love nemesis from the original series and movies. Khan first appeared in Season 1, Episode 22’s Space Seed, and who could forget the movie: Star Trek, Wrath of Khan?

 Once Khan’s identity is revealed there is a logical and inevitable progression to a scene that could have been twisted right out of Wrath of Khan. Twisted, but still almost beat for beat the same.

Kirk faces the Kobayashi Maru situation when the Dreadnaught class ship pounds Enterprise. His ship is crippled and his crew about to be exterminated. It’s a scenario he’s cheated in both the original Trek and the reboot. This time he doesn’t get to cheat. He loses.

Abrams doesn’t let you forget that this is an action adventure movie in space. The dying Enterprise’s engines finally rebooting, the ship falls through the clouds. You can hear the squawk of chatter as Spock tries to get Enterprise airworthy again. The camera stays above the cloud bank. Then a triumphant Enterprise roars through the clouds and gains altitude. While Abrams didn’t have the ship silhouetted by the moon, like they did with the Batplane in Batman, the resonance rings true. We know what’s coming. A kick butt fight between the hero and villain. Again, Abrams delivers.

Even the final moments of the movie refers to other ones. There’s a paraphrasing of a The Princess Bride quote, though I was really hoping for the actual quote; “You’ve been mostly dead…” Still, Bones came close enough. And of course, the movie ends with the Enterprise starting its 5 year journey to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Abrams’ careful interweaving of elements of the prior Trek Universe into his reboot has me looking forward to the next installment of the new franchise.

The Take Home:  Resonance matters. It is probably the most compelling tool we have in our writer’s tool box. So, how do you successfully retell a classic? By paying intentional homage to what came before. If the story is too “new” your audience will reject it. By carefully weaving elements of what came before into the new story, you give the readers a frame of reference, make them certain promises, and give them a comfort zone from which to relax and launch themselves into your retelling of a classic.

Greek Myths and Legends

When we decide to make Myths and Legends the month’s topic, I wanted to write about tWEB_N Greene-1he Greek myths and legends. Why? Because these stories are part of my cultural backbone. I even had to study them in high school.

Man has a powerful need to explain the unexplainable. We attribute human qualities to things that aren’t us. We do it often enough that the tendency has its own name – anthropomorphism. Ancient Greeks and Romans tried to control and understand the world around them by making natural phenomenon, and complex concepts like justice, medicine and war, into people. Well, more than people. Gods who were as flawed and petty as their hapless worshipers. The world around them was big and scary. Attributing the whims of the weather, or the path of your life to superior beings made the world understandable and brought some comfort. After all, if the Fates or the Furies were rearranging the thread of your life, how much were you really to blame for the bad things that happened? Even Hercules was the Furies’ play thing.

Our world was forever changed by these myths. Writers still look for our Muses.

Retellings – putting a new spin on a classic- are popular in just about every genre right now, especially the YA and fantasy markets. I think part of the reason is that we are still asking the same questions, and for lots of the same reason. Millionaires played fast and loose with other people’s money and destroyed their financial well-being. Companies traded paper as if it was gold, and the world economy shuttered and nearly collapsed when people stopped believing that paper had value. Seems a bit like the Fates and Furies messing with us. Natural disasters abound.

In one of my Greek Myth retellings, Apollo asks, “You call them earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados. I call them Titans. Does it really matter? The point is the world’s in upheaval.”

Does it really matter?apollorising-final galley

Probably not.

So, why the love affair with Greek myths?

They are part of who we are. They show us where we came from and, maybe, where we’re going.

As writers, the Greek myths give us inspiration. By referring to them, we build resonance. By rewriting them, we remake the world we live in. Myths and legends let us tell stories about people and events that are greater than we are. They allow us to explore the world in a way we couldn’t otherwise. We can explore real problems with the veneer of that other place, another time. It’s safe to question how the world works in a myth. And it’s entirely human.