Tag Archives: Kim May

Book Signing Crisis Management

Book signings are a lot of fun! They’re fun for the readers, they’re fun for the authors, and they’re fun for the stores hosting them…most of the time. As the event coordinator for an indie bookstore I’ve learned that with book signings, like any public event, there are many things that can go wrong. Most of them are minor and are easily dealt with. Others, like the time an author cancelled at the last minute because they had to attend a relative’s murder trial, are not so little. Whether it’s a minor problem or not, knowing what to do can prevent it from becoming an embarrassing incident for everyone involved.

The first thing to keep in mind is don’t panic. Book signings are organized chaos. Event coordinators (which I’ll refer to as EC for the rest of the post) and event staff are usually really good at mitigating the chaos so all the author has to do is sit back and enjoy their time with their readers. Here’s some of the more common problems and how to deal with them:

Problem: life forces you to cancel.

Illness happens, injuries happen, and deaths in the family are an unfortunate part of life. It’s okay to cancel. Let the EC know as soon as you can. If you live within driving distance or know you’ll be in the area in the near future ask if you can reschedule. After you’ve talked to the EC spread word on social media that the event has been cancelled. Similarly if you’re stuck in traffic and are going to be late, let the EC know and all will be well.

Problem: the store runs out of books.

As far as problems go this one isn’t that bad. Yeah, the fans that aren’t able to buy a signed copy that day will be upset but the situation is out of your control. If you want to appease fans you can offer to send signed bookplates to the store that they can insert into books when they have stock again but I want to emphasize that it’s not your responsibility to rectify the situation. It’s the store’s. Anything you choose to do to make fans happy is good PR for you.

Problem: fans who won’t walk away.

Sometimes a fan is so excited in the moment that they forget that there are people in line behind them. They want to talk to you about all the things. If the EC or a staff member is helping with the line let them usher the chatty person on. If there isn’t but you can discretely signal one, do that. If that’s not an option then politely ask the person to step aside so you can see to the rest of the line. If the person who won’t go away is being rude or doing/saying things that make you uncomfortable/feel unsafe, don’t worry about being polite or discrete. Get a staff member to remove them immediately.

Problem: no one comes.

Sadly despite the store’s and your best efforts there are events where it’s just you and the staff. Don’t take it personally. I’ve seen this happen to NYT bestsellers. (Seriously, I have!) The last thing you want to do is to dink around on your phone or whip out the laptop to write. Say hi to customers that you pass and tell them about your books. You could also start reading your work aloud.

Don’t go to your book signing expecting something to go wrong. Most of the time everything goes smoothly, and as I said at the beginning, everyone has a lot of fun. If it doesn’t, remember that the EC and their staff are there for you. Long before you arrive they’ve been hard at work to make sure that the space is ready, the event has been publicized, and your books are in stock. They’ve got your back. Taking care of you is their job.

 

Find out more about Kim here: http://www.fictorians.com/the-fictorians/kim-may/

Adding Depth Without Adding Words

Short fiction is short. I know, that’s not an earth shattering revelation. But when I’m writing short stories it’s almost a mantra. Almost like a vertically challenged version of Keep It Gay from The Producers.

Maintaining depth and progressing the plot while being economical with words is really really hard. I’ve often heard it said that when writing short your words have to multi-task; and it’s true that they do. But I’ve found that there are a few little tricks that can, depending on the story, maintain depth without adding to the length.

Sticking to One Point of View:

It’s simple math. It takes time, and words to introduce each character to the reader. The fewer characters your story has, the fewer words there will be. By sticking to one point of view you can use the words that you would have spent on developing another character on delving a little deeper into the one. Or if you’ve already delved deep into the character’s mind you can use this trick to cut down the overall length.

No Room in the Wings:

When I was still acting, every theater I performed in had space issues backstage. Some of them had fairly large wings but once you added the moving set pieces — some of which were quite large — furniture, 10-20 actors, props, the stage manager and their crew, and dressers there was barely enough room for air. Even Noah would be hard pressed to fit all of that into such an ark.

Often the solution to this is to do the play with a smaller cast and crew. Some of the chorus and supporting cast members are given two, sometimes three minor roles to play. One of the dressers might double as a stage hand. The stage manager might help move set pieces. It can be a bit crazy and hectic but really it’s an efficient use of resources. There’s never a dull moment. Everyone is busy.

I do realize that it’s not that easy to make characters play multiple roles like that. Not obvious roles anyway. If your protagonist needs a foil to make them more likable then why can’t their best friend play that part too? It’s also possible to trim a few side characters whose presence doesn’t move the plot.

Writing in First Person:

I know some of you cringed. Believe me, I LOVE writing in third. But first person when done well can open up a character to the readers. Part of this I think is because of the word I. I believe that it makes everything that happens to the viewpoint character more personal. It may only be a subconsciously but that’s enough. Should you write all of your short stories in first person? Heck, no. If you feel it’s going to be better in third then write it in third. But if it’s the kind of story where you want the reader to really feel the character’s plight then try writing it in first person.

Wordplay:

I’m not talking about clever quips or prose. I’m talking about the associations that certain words have. For example: Lisa walked through the neighborhood. Vs. Lisa walked through the ghetto. The first one is pretty neutral and nondescript. The second brings an image of dilapidated buildings and cracked sidewalks to the reader’s mind. It also makes the reader concerned for Lisa’s safety since there’s always danger lurking in ghettos. All of that just by changing one word. Not only is it a more specific word, it has a negative connotation that gives is extra power.

By having an understanding of the imagery, and associations that you won’t find in a dictionary you can use those words to greater effect. It’s hard, and it takes a good deal of study so it’s definitely a skill to develop over time.

 

These aren’t hard and fast rules. They simply tricks that I’ve found useful. It takes some practice, and possibly a few drafts to really get the hang of it but once mastered they can definitely add depth to your short fiction.

 

Kim May

You Can Ride My Rocket…(Wink Wink)

There are some people who cringe at the idea of combining science fiction and romance. I suspect that these same people also don’t like Firefly so their opinions don’t really matter anyway. Personally I like a spoonful of romance in my steaming cup of science.

Science fiction is a genre that romance plays well with. Okay, I’ll be honest. If romance was a person they would be a double-jointed omnisexual gymnast. Romance can be easily adapted to satisfy everyone’s needs and plays well with every genre. But when it’s combined with science fiction it gives the story a lot of *ahem* unexplored territory in which to boldly go where Kirk has gone before.

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 (Bondage night with Lady Gaga?)

At its heart, science fiction is about exploring new possibilities. Sometimes it’s a new scientific theory, sometimes it’s a new planet, and sometimes you’re running from Shai-Hulud. Regardless of the territory it’s still all about exploration and all of the joy, fear, trepidation, and danger that goes with it. If you boil romance down to its very essence it’s about the same thing. Seriously. What’s more exciting and terrifying than exploring a space cave and nearly getting mauled by a Gorn? What can be more explosive than the Tothian minefield? Relationships!

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(I’m pretty sure the odds of not starting an argument when you suggest that your partner stop and ask for directions is 3,720:1)

Yes, there are a lot of novels where the romance is merely a time slot on the holodeck or a green skinned Mary Sue. But it isn’t limited to that. In fact, it can be a lot more.

When done well, romance can compound a story’s major conflict (cue Ted and Robin salute). In Babylon 5 the romance between Capt. Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn made it a lot harder for them to take necessary risks during the Shadow war. It also made things very awkward when (Spoiler alert) it turned out that Sheridan’s wife wasn’t dead. On the other side of the spectrum, Marcus’ final sacrifice wouldn’t have brought a tear to many viewers eyes, including mine, if his love for Ivanova wasn’t unrequited. The fact that they hadn’t so much as kissed turned what would have been just a noble act into the most romantically tragic moment in the entire show.

Let’s not forget that The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t be the same without Han and Leia’s love spat or heartbreaking farewell. (Odd that both were in very cold climates.) But that’s enough examples from TV and movies. Let’s turn to books!

Linnea Sinclair writes some of the best sci-fi romances I’ve read. In fact, her novel, Shades of Dark made me cry. Some of hers are exactly what you would expect a sci-fi romance to be. However, in Shades of Dark the protagonist couple’s relationship become strained to the point of breaking when one of them starts learning how to use their latent alien abilities. They realize, almost too late, that their ignorance and folly not only hurt their relationship but put their partner in very real danger. It’s this last twist that for me makes this romantic conflict real. I mean we probably all know someone or were with someone who became so obsessed with something that it almost destroyed, or did destroy, a happy relationship.

In The Postman by David Brin the protagonist falls in love with an idea more than an actual person. When he stumbles upon a quiet, and safe community the idea of staying and building a life there rather than taking on the mantle of responsibility of being a postman is incredibly appealing. In some ways it’s strange to think of an idea as being romantic. Think if it this way: when you’ve been up late working on a manuscript and have to get ready for work at the crack of dawn, the idea of calling in sick has a lot of appeal. This is the same thing except their desire for comfort and ease is so idealized that it takes on a romantic quality.

Dara Joy is an amazing romance writer whose stories sometimes has a sci-fi twist. She has a duology, High Energy and High Intensity, that’s set in the real world but uses science in an… interesting way. The main character’s love interest is a sexy physicist who decides to teach them the basics of physics through sex. I know. It sounds super cheesy but take my word for it. It’s hot! Besides, who wouldn’t want to go to that physics class?

Okay. I’ll admit that last one was a traditional romance. While it doesn’t use romantic elements in a creative was she does get bonus points for including science in a creative way. This partnership does work both ways after all.

Whether you use a little or a lot, use more romance or use more science, or use a romanticized idea is up to you. It’s also by no means a requirement that there be romance in every science-fiction story. Rather, it’s another tool that can perform more than one task. It’s entirely up to you whether or not to use it, as well as how you want to use it.

A Hero That’s Not a Hero…But Still Is

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Hero is exactly what the title and poster suggests. It’s about a hero and his incredibly difficult quest that will bring joy to the masses. What isn’t depicted here is that there isn’t one hero, but two — each with their own quest.

It took multiple viewings for me to figure this out. At first I was so blown away by the amazing fight sequences and gorgeous scenery. It’s clearly Zhang Yimou’s masterwork. They didn’t spare any expense or effort and the results were worth it. It’s the most stunning piece of cinema I’ve ever seen. Here’s a taste:

The story is told from the hero’s point of view as he recounts to the emperor the events that earned him an audience and the sizable reward for eliminating the emperor’s enemies. Each stage of his journey is shown in a different color and each color has a corresponding emotional theme — red for passion and anger, blue for logic and sadness, green for fear and desperation, black for resolve, and white for hope and mourning. Each stage of the tale bring another level of depth to the story, makes us care about the hero as well as the assassins he brought down. However the emperor knows the assassins well and sees through all this as an elaborate plot to kill him.

Which it is.

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This is where it becomes clear that the man we’ve been led to believe is the hero is actually the villain. The real hero is the emperor. The emperor, who is a warmongering self-appointed ruler, deserves the enemies that he’s acquired. However everything he did was for the greater good, not for that generation but for all those to follow. When the hero/now villain realizes this he has a change of heart and despite being given the opportunity to kill the emperor, chooses to spare his life. When he leaves the palace the emperor’s guards execute him.

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Death by pincushion. Ouch!

This is why I find this film so fascinating. Only in the East would they think to make the hero a villain, who then redeems themselves in the end by becoming the hero at great sacrifice. The additional twist of making the villain a hero once we’ve learned more about them is a powerful storytelling tool; one that I think is often overlooked. It also provides a deep moral that can be interpreted many ways. It keeps the audience thinking long after the story is over… and lures them back again, and again.

As writers isn’t that what we want to accomplish? To write a story that’s so unexpected and compelling that the readers return to it and discuss it many times? To create something that changes the way they see the world around them?

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It’s something to meditate on.

You can find out more about Kim May here.