Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodbye (For Now)

Sorry I've gone dark again, but life's been one nightmare after another, and because of this, I have some sad news to share.

T.A.A. will be on indefinite hiatus from regular updates until May 2012. 

The reasons are multiple, but all I can share is that I did everything in my power to avoid this decision, but I can't, and it's not fair to those of you who follow T.A.A. and gave me such support to string you along with my being unable to commit to this blog like I always meant to from the beginning.

Without getting whiny about it, my writing's at a standstill, I can't read without feeling intense rivalry, and I suck at the business aspects of this career, it's just not my nature, and nothing I've learned can make that change, and I tried.

I can't be a kid again, but I'm not an adult either, I just look like one, but a beard and dreams alone do not an independent soul make.

Allyn, Kelly, and Cat, I know I owe you prizes from this month's giveaways and I will still give them to you as I promised, please be patient as money's going to be tighter than I first anticipated.

This isn't goodbye for good, but I don't know when I'll really be ready to return, but this blog will remain up and I'll update now and again, but I can't promise regular daily or weekly updates at this time.

I apologize for those I disappoint with this decision, but it's the only sensible way I know to do this.

Until next time, whenever that may be,
May the fantastical fauna be with us all,
This is your literary rat signing off,


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Poll Results and Giveaway Updates

EDIT - 8.23.11: Poll results error fixed, first of two new weekly polls up!

This will be a short update today, but I've got some really cool stuff planned, and now with WriteOnCon behind us (I still have many transcripts to read) I will be more active in the blogosphere, 

New Polls will be up soon, I had some computer hiccups that have ironed themselves out.

Here are the results from last week's polls-

Writer's Only Poll Results
I asked you what age group tries your soul the most, or to be less dramtic, what's harder or scarier for you to write with the skill you have, or lack, depending...We were split down the middle!
Young Adult 25%
Middle Grade 25% 
Picture Books 25% 
Chapter Books/Easy Readers 25%

It would've been more thrilling had more than one person voted per category....(Sigh)....Anyway, hopefully this is a good reminder that what's fun for some is frustration to others, and I sure need weekly reminders as I'm easily frustrated.Thankfully, my other poll saw more diversity-

Poll #2: Exotic Pets!
In the second weekly poll, I asked what exotic pet you'd LOVE to have if life, the law, and family weren't instant deterrents, and I'm glad there were varied answers here-

Tied for 1st Place!
Horse or Pony (If your home's on the range, well, it never hurts to ask, right?)
2 Votes (33%)
Parrot (Treat them well and they could outlive you! Some parrots can live nearly 100 years, the same as some turtle species. Besides, they can talk!)
2 Votes (33%)

Tie for 2nd Place!
Pot-Belly Pig (How can you not love their natural Mohawk? Works better on them than me)
 1 Vote (16%)
 Ferret (As close to a weasel a non-vet can get)
1 Vote (!6%)

Tied for 3rd with 0 Votes, Sorry Guys-
Snake (Any kind that can be legally a pet)

Skunk (Smell concerns aside, they really are cute, Mother Nature thew us a paradox in a big way with this one!)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WIPs (Works in Progress) and Writer Cons on My Mind Today

I haven't gone dark again, I've really been busy with two important events-

WriteOnCon, and making headway on my new WIPs, and also fine tuning more posts for the coming days. 
(Those interested in WriteOnCon, go check it out!!)
I try to take the time to make the topics I cover have heart, and aren't solely a rant on my part, which admittedly I have issues with at times. 

But sometimes a no-frills rant is a good way to spark discussion, and not just get my dander up, but things will progress as they're meant to I guess.

Anyway, those of you who didn't hear or took part in last year's first WriteOnCon, there's still time to get in on the action, and as someone who's unable to travel to the big in-person events, this is the only way I get access to certain info and have the chance to network, though that's still a weak skill of mine, it's better than not getting the chance to use it at all.

But this leads perfectly into something I've wanted to talk about on T.A.A. for ages, how do you feel conferences, particularly the in-person events, helped better your emerging or eventual writing careers.
If you haven't yet the chance to go, do you want to? Is it worth going? Why or why not?

Many people advised I go to conferences for advice and insight on aspects that still cripple me, and more often than not, those are the big (Expensive!) events in either NYC or California, often L.A., and as much as I may want to, I can't afford the in-person events, and those are the ones that have the "One on One" workshops I need that add to the overall cost of registration, and the tiny local ones don't have them at all, and never have speakers discussing what I need to learn more about. The topics are either things I already learned "The Hard Way" or things WAY beyond my reach at my current level of understanding.

WriteOnCon isn't perfect, but it's free, and the closest thing to the big live events I heard legends about, and it doesn't require me to beg, borrow, or you know, to be part of something bigger than me, with the goal of making me a better informed writer for having done it, since live and in person events are few and far between for us Midwesterners. Did I mention expensive for those of us who don't have a spare 5-10 Grand to register? That's not even counting travel costs and hotel fees since they're rarely included in the registration price, and that's still not counting the extra costs getting into critique and pitch sessions, or the craft panels and workshops.

I know these events costs tons to put on and when you really think about it, the prices charged for these services isn't unreasonable, I just wish there were ways to break it down so those of us with limited incomes aren't left out in the cold.

What's your take on this subject?

Are their writer events you'd attend if they weren't cost prohibative? Do you think they're really worth it as we often hear?

For those who've been to in-person events, did you learn anything worth the time and money it took to go there?

I know I'm not the only one on the fence about this kind of thing. So share your thoughts in the comments. The first three who reply (On topic, spammers are not eligible!) will each receive a mystery prize I'll only reveal when three great on-topic replies are in the comments, and there's still a prize from Monday's giveaway that's yet to be claimed!

Stay tuned tomorrow for new weekly polls and final tally results of this week's polls.

I hope to get another post up today, but if not, 
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You!
Until next time,

P.S. I know I haven't done as much genre-specific how-tos as I meant to, but since my own writer-centric focuses have changes drastically in recent months, I had to re-think some of my ideas, but I hope to balance the general with the genre-specific articles and features very soon.

P.P.S. I'll update my future headlines to better flow with my new direction soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quantity over Quality

UPDATE (8/18/11): Edited for clarity. 

No, I'm not saying quality should take a backseat to quantity in general, because no one's getting far these without turning in polished work as competition gets fiercer.

But you can't improve what's not there.

By that I mean we can't improve writing we haven't written.

So many stories stay stuck inside writer's noggins and never see the page, or computer screen, because we let fear of writing another dud stifles our output and the joy that only comes from just doing it.

While chances are much of what we write isn't publishable, it can be hard to go from project to project, not unlike an assembly line, because in order to write our best work, we have to invest our passion as well as the time to physically produce it.

When projects don't sell or improve, even after years of refining and tweaking, it can just be da** frustrating and scary to begin again, for fear of the same outcome. While I agree with the countless number of writers who've told me that this shouldn't stop me from writing entirely, it's vital to let ourselves know it's OKAY. We can't let these fears rule our lives, and stop us from writing, but for the sake of our artist's sanity, we must acknowledge they exist.

Admitting your pain doesn't make you weak, just don't let it warp your mind, or rule your life from the shadows, both of which happened to me many times. Only until I hit rock bottom do I see the mess I put myself in.

This year, I will get back much of the diligence and joy I'd lost, when I let what frustrates me about writing get in the way of actually writing, and to do that, I must relearn a skill I had at the beginning. Something I lost when things got tough. Just writing my story.

Not thinking about agents, editors, query letters and the like until I've written the story from beginning to end, no matter how rough it will be, because I can only improve by having something to improve. For me, my writing output is more important right now than overall quality.

Fear can't take hold of a writer who blazes his temples on the keyboard.
(Or for those of you who write early drafts in longhand: Gripping tight to one's pencil, or pen, as the writer scribes with sharp, and almost rhythmic precision)

Charging in replaces Worry with Work!

That said, once daily (Or consistent) writing has become a natural part of you routine, you will feel good about having things out of your head and in plain sight on the page, and yes, it will be rough, and feel like you're just setting yourself up for nightmarish edits or rewrites down the line, but remember, the point at the beginning is to have your story on the page, and finding joy in that alone.

If you're a writer who's more comfortable with thinking analytically, you can adjust the flow of drafting to meet your needs, or the needs of a particular project.

But for writers who are too petrified to write for fear of not improving, like me, just start typing now!
Longhand drafters, pen or pencil it out, without looking back!

Right now, you need to get a draft your eyes can see, and only then can you edit, remove, and revise as needed.

I know many writers who are quite comfortable with planning out the story as best they can before writing a draft, to lessen errors that come about from being too in the dark about the plot and motivations of the characters involved, but sometimes, or for some writers, just diving in's the best way.

I tried outlining many times, and truthfully I did learn many things worth learning, but often it made me a paranoid coward who barely wrote a few paragraphs, and while I do agree that knowing what you can in advance will make you less likely to stall finishing a draft of your story or novel, sometimes going in blind's the only way if you know dawdling's an issue for you.

Remember, the point of this exercise is to keep fear and self-doubt from having the chance to keep us from doing much of anything, the fear won't go away, but tell yourself you refuse let it add to the problem.

Now once you've finished a draft of your story, novel, or query letter (Hate those letters!) take the time to shift gears so editing is just another step in the process, and feels less like barbarism, and let's be honest, sometimes it does, positive as we try to be.

This is also the time to call back the Quality Control Cops. now that you've finished a draft of your manuscript, they're input in the form of beta-readers, writer's groups, and even your homicidal inner editor, will help you, not just hurt your resolve.

If I can do it, nearly anyone reading this now can as well, so do your creativity a favor. Finish the story already!

Until Then, to loosely quote Nike,
Just Write it!

Write For Yourself - You First Must Acknowledge The Fall, And Why You Fell, Before You Can Get Up Again

(Details for giveaway below...)

Last week, I began my comeback to the blog scene with touching on the main reason above others why I was M.I.A. so long.

Writing became frustration devoid of fun.

Now for writers like myself who want to get published,  I know full well there are times we must slog through things we find neither pleasurable, or simple to execute as they are to advise, but we also didn't start writing to torture ourselves either.

Remember, we started writing because we each had stories to tell.

We all kept writing, even when times got tough, agonizing over dozens of countless rewrites, revisions, and restructurings of our manuscripts to get them in top form.

We put in the blood, sweat, tears and time to achieve short and succulent query letters that at best, showcase our balance between craft and commercial appeal.

We endured learning more about publishing than we sometimes want to know.

Because we believe so much in our stories, real or imagined, we will do anything in our power to make it happen, no matter long and uncertain the road getting there may be, 

However, there comes a time, even for the most committed and serious writers, when persistence wained, and feelings of jealousy or inferiority creep in, hard as you try to keep them out. It's important to note here that while it's vital you don't let these negative thoughts poison your mind as well as your passion, you're not a heartless hypocrite if you've felt this surge of envy for other writer's success, especially if you know them personally on some level.

But keep in mind that the same writers you feel in the shadow of, once and sometimes still, feel the same as you, and if you know them personally, might still wish they could improve at X writing or marketing skill that YOU do better than THEM! Without even realizing it.

While I've read many articles and how-to guides that do their best to break down the steps needed to achieve your writing goals, too often these how-tos treat you more like a soulless, robotic army grunt, than someone who doesn't learn well under pressure, and I'm in this camp for sure.

It's not just kids and teens who have unique learning styles, be they autistic or not, adults also face similar issues, but often I feel we sometimes unfairly treat fellow adults like flakes who simply can't "Get Tough" the same way, especially among their same age or generational peers.

These people are not self-pity freaks. Nor are they lazy slobs who'd rather waste time "complaining" than make good use of it, we just don't learn well when we're forced to be faster, and speaking for me here, when I'm forced or feel pressured to pick up the pace, my clumsiness and short temper set me up for a fall, figuratively and even literally on the really bad days.

But we're just people who are trying every day to be better than yesterday, as I'm sure many who follow blogs like this strive to do all the time, you may just simply recover slower than most from many of life's ills, be it about education, religion, and other facets of daily living that can get on top of anyone. 

Don't feel alone here. 

I live this struggle too, and even if you don't, chances are you know one writer or two who meets some or all of the following symptoms above.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of tips and strategies that nearly any Non-Type A writer can benefit from. The only pre-requisites are in the following quote below-

"I want to be a better writer than I am right now. Am I tired of housing a jaded vagabond in my heart day after day? Am I finally ready to evict him?"

For those of you who who've been through similar struggles, I urge you to share some highlights from your experience, it may help other writers overcome what's blocking their comeback trail.

The first two who comment to this post will win the following-

Reply Prize #1:  $20 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card*
Reply Prize #2: $10 iTunes gift card*

(*Prizes can only be awarded to residents in U.S. or Canada)
-Hawaii and Alaska are eligible-

Another giveaway's coming this week so keep your eyes sharp for another chance at winning some fun prizes. 

Keep checking back to T.A.A. today and all this week for tips and strategies that keeps me going. Hopefully one of them will help some of  you as well.

Until Next Time,
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You,

UAPDATE (8/18/11): Giveaway's Officially Over!
Winners, e-mail me at the following address to claim your prizes-

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Polls!

8-16-1/Edit: Misspelled e-mail address below!

Sorry guys, I forgot to put up my poll yesterday, but it's up now, and from now on, they'll be two major polls each week. One poll will always involve animals and pets given the nature of this blog, the new poll you now see at the top of this blog will be writer specific. I'm trying to get this blog to work on two levels, for writers of course, but also readers and animal lovers in general. This is the start of my doing that.

Here are the results of March's Poll*

4-Way Tie for 1st
25% Weasel
25% Fox
25% Platypus
25% Crow

3-Way Tie with no votes, Sorry Guys-
Coyote 0%
Leopard 0%
Swan 0%
Wolf  0%

*(These polls are meant to be weekly updated, but I had some downtime  that prevent me from updating weekly polls in the past)

Stay tuned for the next post where you can win either a $20 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card, or a
$10 iTunes Gift Card.

Back soon,

P.S. I also forgot to mention how to best contact me, I'll have the contact info page up soon, but here's the e-mail address-

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Write For Yourself: Because YOU matter too!

Inspired by the blog, "The Other Side of the Story" by Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars Trilogy.

As writers, we all have times when we just struggle on certain parts of the process, and even though we keeping telling ourselves to be patient and keep trying we'll one day achieve the results we strive for, and being patient with ourselves can often be harder than waiting to hear an editor or agent wants to buy our book(s).

"I Write For Myself."

How many times have we heard or been told this same advice from other writers, often those who've achieved some level of success that is noticeably greater, if not eons beyond, what we have experienced so far, and I believe while many of you, like myself, really want to believe it, it simply may not be easy to achieve, simple as it is to say. 

Does that mean we're pathetically lazy or impatient? 

I don't think so. 

Contrary what I hear from some writers, some of us don't find adopting this mindset an easy, or straightway thing, and here's why-

We just lost our way. Nothing else to it.

This is what happened to me, AGAIN, and it's a strong part of why I've been MIA from the blog so long, and I really missed those of you who are T.A.A. faithfuls, and I continue to appreciate the support my fellow bloggers and writers have been gracious to give me during this time, and I hope I can return the favor someday. 

While I'm still in recovery mode, and even if my updates remain inconsistent for the foreseeable future, I will keep it going, because I love doing it, and hope sharing my journey as a writer and reader will ease some of the pain of writers who feel or have felt similar frustrations.

If I can help one writer among you feel less alone and hopeless, I consider that a special kind of success, and you can't measure it with money or stock charts, but that also means we all have an equal chance to give it, and maybe get some back ourselves, because at day's end, we need community and understanding now more than ever.

Even in those times when we must stand alone to face our fears and right our wrongs, we need to remember the community who got us to this point, I believe we all need some amount of it, this just varies from writer to writer, no different than books that work for some readers versus others.

We spend so much time thinking of our readers needs, and I'm in no way saying this is a bad thing, all writers and readers who don't write need to stretch their horizons, but we can't let allow it to devalue and neglect our own personal feelings and taste in books, and that's not fair or healthy to us, because we're readers too. 

Tomorrow, I will talk about what's helping me climb out of the new hole I fell into this year, and share what's helping me fight back, and I promise an update tomorrow, and here's some encouraging proof, I'll give the first two replies to Friday's post the following prizes-

Reply Prize #1:  $20 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card*
Reply Prize #2: $10 iTunes gift card*

(*Prizes can only be awarded to residents in U.S. or Canada)
2nd Note: Hawaii and Alaska are eligible! I hate contests and giveaways that leave them out They're part of America too.)

Check back tomorrow, I look forward to lots more discussion, and if you've got questions or would like to comment on your personal battle with this subject, feel free to share in the comments, or if it's more personal or intricate, but would help writer's morale, e-mail me, and you can chose to be anonymous, but give me an alias so my responses can read natural on the blog. I'll update my new contact info later today.

Until then, May The Fantastic Fauna be with you,

Editor-in Chief
Resident Frazzled yet Unflappable Literary Rat

P.S. If you're interested, read the post on Janice's blog that sparked this topic here.