Random

RLXP – Role Playing for Life

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My husband and I like playing role playing games. 

For those not in the know, role playing games (RPGs) are storytelling games where you create a character and someone narrates an adventure. I’m sure you’ve heard of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s the most popular RPG but by no means the only one.

So Ben and I play these games together, sometimes with other people, but most often on our own and luckily for me, Ben is an amazing storyteller.

Recently, we have been playing a game inspired by the awesome book ‘All My Friends are Superheroes’ by Andrew Kaufman. In this game I am a superhero—an empath named The Empath (or Em) and I do what I love to do in real life: try to solve people’s emotional problems. Ben takes on the enormous task of playing all the other characters in the game and he does an amazing job at coming up with tricky emotional situations to inspire me and make me sweat.

The game is small and personal. Smaller and more personal than many role playing games you tend to see played. Often role playing games are massive, magical adventures in faraway lands, but our game is focussed on interpersonal relationships so there’s no demons to slay (except perhaps internal demons) or gold to be looted. And I love that about it.

I’ve played many different role playing games before and this by far is the most challenging and the best. It’s emotional, realistic (with a hint of magic), in short it’s the kind of stories I like to write and therefore it’s the kind I like to play. For the first time in a game I have to face having romantic relationships and even though it’s Ben I’m having them with, because he is playing a character I don’t know that well it feels new and awkward and hard. I have a brother in the game too, which presents me with hard familial choices (he’s on the rocks with his wife who is also my best friend) and as I play a social worker who deals with Superheroes I am constantly encountering people who need my help in a way that often feels out of my league.

I know, I know, it’s just a game. But because it is so small and personal it feels very real and because it’s just me playing the protagonist I want to do my best and help everyone in the best way I can. It’s intense.

Ben’s been running games like this since he was twelve and you can tell. He’s awesome. And because he’s so excited about the art of role playing he’s started a site called RLXP. He has this theory that you can get some real life benefits from role playing and he wants to test that out. So every week we broadcast our games and talk about the real life feelings they inspired. It’s fun and awkward and I think it’s pretty interesting too.

If you want to check out Ben in action and our games you can find all you need to watch us live stream at Ben’s website: http://rlxprpg.wordpress.com/. Also, you can follow him on Twitter @MrBadgerGM to find out when we’re online!

Stop by and check it out!

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Guest Post: Megan O’Russell – YA in an Adult World

ImageI’d like to introduce Megan O’Russell, a Young Adult author and my very first guest contributor Happy Musings!  Megan has written a wonderful piece on publishing YA with a very adult publishing company.

YA in an Adult World

I write Young Adult fiction.  My first book The Tethering is set to release this May, and I am so excited!  I have great editors at Entranced Publishing and wonderful people to back me up in the cold cruel world of books.  But I feel like the black sheep of Entranced.  Not because I’ve done anything wrong, but because I am a part of the Young Adult imprint at the big sexy romance publishing house.  Entranced has a YA imprint called Rush, but most of the books Entranced puts out are of the much more adult and dirty nature.

We have twitter chats where they talk about their steamy love scenes, and I’m worried about my poor characters sneaking out the window.  I can’t participate in their cover reveals because the covers are almost naked!  And the book blurbs are things my readers are not ready for!

I want my characters to have grownup lives.  I want them to live and discover and grow as real teenagers.  But I feel awkward being excited about their first kiss when my fellow Entranced authors are playing with bondage.  In a group where Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t seem all that dirty, can a story about first love hold its ground?

I would like to think so.  Not just because I want my book to succeed.  Not even just because it’s a different genre with a different target audience.  The sweetness, tenderness, and devotion of first love are things that we all have experienced right along with our first heartbreak.  The thrill of the first kiss is just as exciting as dirty things on a bear skin rug.

I mean sure, if you want to throw a little excitement into a YA book, just toss in a bit of non-sexual torture.  Maybe catch a few people on fire.  Dress someone in leather.  But do it all in a PG-13, teen romance friendly way.

I want to branch out, maybe write something a little more risqué for an adult audience.  But until The Tethering series is complete, I will exist in a world of (mostly) clothed, non-cursing, behind closed doors, teenaged angst.  Who knows, maybe my hero will even make it to second base.

About Megan

Megan O’Russell is a Young Adult author whose premier novel The Tethering will be released by Entranced Publishing this May.  Megan’s author blog can be found at MeganORussell.com, and her humor blog is at lifebeyondexaggeration.com.  For more news on The Tethering, follow her on twitter @MeganORussell.

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The Finished Book Itch

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Finishing a book makes me itchy, restless, ready for the next thing.

It was just the first draft (of my third book) and it was just yesterday I completed it, but today I’m going a bit nuts.  I want to edit, but I want to take a break.  I want to write something new, but I want to finish the old one first.  Also I don’t want to start anything brand new because I’m launching into NaNoWriMo in a couple of weeks and although I write fast, I don’t think I write that fast.

It’s all very distracting, but the thing is it’s not actually distracting me from anything.  I had a list of things I needed to do once I’d finished the book.  I did them all in two hours.

I ate lunch, took a Bugs Bunny selfie (see above), then I was so impatient to write something, I decided on this blog post.

I feel as though I’ve been neglecting the blog, which is a shame, but in the past couple months that I’ve been neglecting the blog I’ve written two books, so it’s not all bad!

So the itch.  It’s kind of like a tingling in my fingers.  A searching feeling in my brain like I’m scanning for something I’m not quite sure of.  A couple short story ideas are floating to the surface, ideas I tucked away for later, but everything feels very absent, and itchy.

Here’s what happens when I get the itch:

– I tweet more…pictures of my lunch anyone?

– I blog more, in a more spontaneous way…this blog post is a perfect example, it’s what I’m thinking and feeling.  Right. Now.

– I bug Ben more…taps, pokes, kisses, repeating his name over and over…and over.

– I get comment-y…I have a deep desire to comment on everyone’s Facebook posts.

– I get the deep urge to clean things (and throw things out)…cleaning’s kind of my default, cleaning or working out.

– I crave more exercise…what’s better for the restless itch I ask you?

– I try to find things to organize…which is hard when everything’s already organized.

Damn the itch!

Honestly, after a moment’s reflection, I think it might have something to do with my desire to be doing something useful at all times.  I don’t want to ‘waste time’.  It makes it difficult for me to relax in general and maybe that’s a bad thing.  It’s certainly good when there’s writing to do, because I will get that shit done, but the part I really suck at is taking a break to relax.  I guess I could try to change my personality.  You know, try to chill out a bit and not be so frantic to move on to the next thing, but it’s just who I am.  So in the meantime…more blog posts and twitter pics for everyone!

Do you get the itch?  What do you do to alleviate it?

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Self-promotion & networking

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Writing is a business.

Whether you’re penning the next bestseller or writing copy for websites about car parts, writing is a business and you (as a writer) are a business person.

So this means you have to sell, sell, sell yourself.  Self-promotion is the other half of writing.  Once the document is closed or the pen is down (or in the case of freelancing before you even start) you have to find a way to get your words out there.

Since deciding to be a writer (for reals) I’ve done a bunch of research on the subject of how to break into the world of writing.  There are (obviously) different rules for freelancing than there are for being a novelist, but the idea is the same.  Here’s some knowledge on the subject I have accumulated whilst researching.

Platform

Agents like a platform, so do readers.  A platform is basically a soapbox upon which you stand to blast your message out into the virtual world.  It could involve a blog, twitter feed, facebook page and linkedin profile, ideally with thousands of followers who are super interested in the words you have to say.  A lot of writers write about writing (like this blog for example) and themselves, they write about their books and engage with fans.  If you are an unpublished writer like myself (for the moment) it is a good place to get your voice out there and say stuff.  For self-publishers, a platform is a good way to sell people on your writing and get yourself out to the public, it also allows you a place to sell your books and build your brand.  For freelancers, a platform is sweet because it allows you a place to send potential clients to give them a taste of how you write and also link them to your portfolio.  Having a well rounded platform is a launch pad for greatness in the future and gives you a place online to send all your adoring fans as they pile up after you publish your first book.

Why not?  Start a blog about your life and interests.  Make yourself a twitter feed for short, but sweet messages to the world.  Start a facebook page and invite your friends to ‘like’ you.

Talk your face off

Gone are the days of being a reclusive writer, shunning the world and swooning alone in the darkness to your own sweet prose.  It’s a self-promotional world out there and even if you’re not super net-savvy you should still be getting out there and meeting people.  Conferences and writing festivals are awesome ways to get your face out there, shake hands and take numbers.  Lots of agents and publishers go to conferences and festivals to check out the new blood and it’s always good to make yourself known (agents might be more likely to look at the work of someone they meet in person).  There are also local events you can take part in, reading nights, writing groups etc…where you can get loads of information on what’s happening in the writing world.  Get out there and get involved.  Also, if you are a published author a book tour/signing or at the very least a launch party is always a good thing.  People want to see the writer who wrote the words they love.  For freelancers, get to know your market.  If you’re a medical writer, get out there to conferences and meet some doctors, talk shop and keep on top of updating your language and voice.  Shaking hands is always more memorable than e-mail.

Why not?  Look up some conferences and festivals nearby and make a plan to head out to one.  Find a local writing group and join.  Find local readings and see if you can sign up.

Look good doing it

This is a personal preference of course, but I find it’s easier to be memorable if you look good at whatever you are doing.  If you’re rocking a medical conference, dress the part, don’t walk around in your old raggedy jeans and expect people to want to do business with you.  Same goes for being an author.  If you are a romance writer, put a little oomph into your outfit.  Sci-fi writers, would a dash of silver really hurt?  Overall your presentation should match how you want people to see you and the best impressions are always made when you give it some effort.  Just because you spend 99% of your time behind a computer doesn’t mean your style can’t be snappy folks.

Why not?  Put together a couple of stellar outfits to wear to conferences and book signings.  Choose a style that reflects the type of writing you do.  Create your own personal look that is distinct and creative.

Discuss

There are loads of writing forums and blogs out there that you can get involved in.  They offer basic writing discussion as well as feedback opportunities for your work.  Forums can be a great way to meet other writers and get your name out there.  Be careful though because they can also be a time sink for your creativity.  Always remember your own writing should come first before all your pals on the boards!

Why not?  Check out some writing forums and join in the conversation.

Don’t just promote

A lot of people think social media is about promoting yourself non-stop.  You see them all the time on twitter, tweeting the same links over and over and generally driving you crazy with in-your-face promotion.  Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason.  It’s a place to discuss and engage, not shove your product into someone’s face.  You want to learn to be part of the conversation, otherwise people will just tune you out.  Saying something relevant and helpful is good, commenting on other posts or tweets is good and not overdoing the links to your books is also good.  Just think of it like a normal conversation in real life, if you just sit there repeating the same sentence over and over at people they will eventually get bored and walk away.

Why not?  Find some way to engage your community with helpful hints or personal anecdotes.  Stop tweeting the same message over and over.  Join in the conversation.

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all

I was at a writing talk at Ryerson the other day and there was an agent there.  After all the talk of social networking and self-promotion she made sure to add in that sometimes saying something poorly is worse than not saying anything at all.  Ain’t it the truth?  Maybe you just have a knack for writing fiction and really suck at self-promotion, if that’s the case that’s okay.  There’s still the more traditional route of publishing for those who don’t want to get out there online and yammer away.  So take heart if none of the above sound like you, you can still write your heart out, get it published and be a bestseller.  At some point you may be invited to talk at conferences with or without self-promotion and at that point, the talk your face off and look good doing it points will still apply to you.

Why not? Stick to what you’re good at and just keep writing.

Anything to add?  Did I miss anything?  Let me know!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Traditional or Self-publishing?

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I was at a panel discussion last weekend on publishing and the writing industry and there were two experts there.  One was from Harper Collins and the other was from a small, self-publishing company.  At one point they had a brief interchange about their respective industries and it seemed as though it was about to get heated.  The self-publishing expert was talking about how self-publishing is the future and the internet was changing everything.  From what I gathered he believed that giants of the industry like Harper Collins were failing because they couldn’t acclimatize themselves to the new pace of the internet.  The Harper Collins guy, on the other hand, seemed to think they could change with the times as well as maintaining the old standards of publishing.

I wanted to hear more about the burgeoning debate.  It was interesting because it seems to be the carbon copy of the debate that is raging currently in the advertising industry.

The internet has changed everything, that much people can agree on.  Gone are the days of Mad Men (or whatever the publishing company equivalent is), now we are connected, fast and hip (is hip even a cool word anymore?).  The ad industry debate seems to centre around whether TV commercials are the ‘thing’ anymore, just like the publishing industry is asking if paper books are going to stick around or if e-books and self-publishing are the absolute future.  The Harper Collins dude seemed to think paper books and big publishing is here to stay.  Apparently he found a fact stating that people have better retention when reading on paper than on a screen, but he also admitted our brains were changing to match the pace of our technology and therefore our tastes and desires were changing.

So which is it?  Will the Goliaths of the industry be crushed under the weight of the internet?  Will paper books evaporate from our society to be replaced by their more convenient electronic counterparts?  Will the structure of the publishing industry crumble leaving nothing but literary chaos?

I don’t know.

Things change, it’s inevitable.  The giants of the industry will change or die.  So the only question is, what’s my preference?

Fact:  I don’t really read indie books (that I know of).

Not because I don’t want to, mostly because I just haven’t and frankly, I kind of like the idea of someone vetting the piece before it comes into my hands.  Sure people in big publishing miss out on great works all the time because a lot of it’s about what will sell, but on the other hand you have a lot of people in big publishing who are very passionate about good writing.  I like to know that a piece has been through a couple of sets of discerning eyes before I read it.  That maybe a bit snobby I guess and perhaps it means I’m missing out on some awesome stuff, but there it is.

From what I can understand about self-publishing, it seems like it’s just as much of a crapshoot as big publishing.  It’s all about self-promotion and, although you may have an absolutely fantastic book on your hands, if you can’t promote yourself on the internet as a self-publisher, you are likely to languish in obscurity while some sub-par book in the hands of a promo-guru rockets to the top sales on Amazon.  So it’s basically the same shit, different pile (to be vulgar).  Either you’re going through the laborious process of finding an agent and getting published, or you’re coughing up a bunch of dough and going through the laborious process of trying to self promote via twitter, FB & blogging.

So for my own journey, I’m going to try traditional.  I like it.  I like getting feedback from people who read thousands of manuscripts a year and reject most of them.  I don’t like the idea of trying to layout my own book in some self publishing program and design cover art (I really really suck at drawing).  I like the idea of having an agent with good connections trying to get me published (if I can actually get an agent in the first place).  I don’t like the idea of shelling out my hard earned pennies to pay for printing and all the other costs associated with self publishing.  I like tweeting and blogging, but I don’t want to have to do it like a maniac because that’s my only plan to get my book out there into people’s hands.

I don’t know the future, but I do know what path I want to take and for now, in this one small way, I guess I am a bit traditional after all.

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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How I got into writing

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This is the first post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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When I was younger I used to write a lot.  Journals mostly, whining about boys (and later girls too), unrequited love, rituals (during my witchy phase) and other teenage stuff that I was sure was insanely important.  I’ve looked back over old journals before, but I find the process of ploughing through years of bad poetry kind of painful.

Next I got into writing plays.  I still have one sitting around about a girl who discovered she was gay and made out with her best friend.  Ah the ponderings of a seventh grade bi-girl.  Then there were stories.  I even wrote a story about a girl on a journey to enlightenment for philosophy class in high school and scored myself an A+ (I went to an alternative school of course).

Then it was world travels.  Long nights were spent scribbling in notebooks on buses, traveling through the desert in Egypt or up and down crazy mountains in Peru, in dirty old hotel rooms or tucked away in sleeping bags on the beach watching the stunning Italian sunset and hoping I wouldn’t wake up after high tide.

I wrote a lot.  But still, through all of that, I didn’t call myself a writer.

I wrote little articles about my adventures with my friends, replacing us with anthropomorphized animals and calling it: The Starry Web Press.  I wrote stories and poems as gifts.  I sent out poems as solstice greetings to friends and family.  Still, I refused to call myself a writer.

No no, I was a traveler, a server, a bartender, a go-go dancer, a shaman, a tarot card reader, an event planner, a video producer, but never…NEVER a writer.

The real turning point came maybe a year ago, after I finished my first novel.  A honking, slow moving, boring laborious thing (150,000 words).  I finished it, looked at Ben and said:

“I think I’m a writer.”

Since then I’ve been on fire, I’ve written multiple short stories, another novel, made a giant list of agents, magazines and contests to submit my work to, started this blog, gathered almost 250 followers on twitter, joined two writing groups (and quit one), and I’ve even been hired to write professionally from video scripts to event proposals to websites.

So although it took me 29 years to admit it, I’m a writer dammit, and just like everything else I’ve been before, I’ve thrown myself into it, heart and soul.

Now it’s your turn…how did you get into writing?