Monday, October 31, 2011

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Irene L. Pynn

What About Shakespeare?, guest blog by Big Time Nerd Irene L. Pynn

It’s cool to say you’re a nerd these days.

Quick nerd test!

Do you love…

·         Comic books?
·         Video games?
·         Anime?
·         __InsertNerdyTopicHere__ conventions?
·         Doctor Who?
·         Anything Joss Whedon has ever touched?

If you answered YES to any of those, or if you scowled because I left something out, then you can go ahead and wear your Nerd badge with pride.

Maybe once people kept their love of all things cool a secret, but today being a nerd is almost a form of street-cred, like knowing the titles of all early albums of the band-before-they-were-popular. If you know why Cloud Strife is sad and how a Dalek sounds when it talks, then you can most likely enjoy nerdiness and all of its perks.

I can throw down with the nerdiest of nerds in most situations and come out looking fairly cool. There’s little question that I belong with this crowd. Most of my obsessions fall into the category of Satisfactorily Nerdy.

But then there’s Shakespeare.

Yes, one of my biggest nerd-fascinations is the Bard. If you want to talk about Hamlet with me until the sun comes up, go right ahead. Need a new perspective on Romeo and Juliet? You’ve come to the right place. I have always been, and will always be, an uncontrollable Shakespeare Nerd.

For some reason, though, this doesn’t seem to count toward my Nerdy street-cred in most situations. It comes across as dryly academic and gives people horrific flashbacks to ninth grade English class, when 900-year-old Miss Moleface had each student read the lines aloud, without explanation, for an hour every day. (disclaimer: my ninth-grade English teacher was neither 900 years old, nor did she have moles on her face that I recall).

But why can’t Shakespeare be cool, too? He’s shown up in countless comic books and acceptably nerdy franchise titles – even the Doctor has hung out with the Bard. And yet, staying up late with a bunch of nerds, the conversation might cover the intricacies of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and the best possible strategies for surviving the coming zombie apocalypse. I rarely go to nerd parties expecting to discuss whether Hamlet was truly insane. It just smacks too much of homework.

One of my first short stories, “God Corp.,” features a Shakespeare-obsessed teen. She wins a trip back in time to meet her hero, and her choice perplexes most people. Why Shakespeare? What’s cool about him? And anyway, what if he didn’t even write those plays himself? Wouldn’t it be a waste to time-travel back to meet a fraud?  Maybe William Shakespeare was just a random, illiterate guy whose name was stolen for purposes of anonymity.

The new film Anonymous poses the authorship question in what people are saying is the Hollywood-ization of this debate. Shakespeare scholars are up in arms about inaccuracies and misleading conspiracy theories that they say are destined to give current students a totally backward idea about the best playwright of all time.

Like the protagonist in “God Corp.,” I don’t care much about the authorship question. My nerdiness only extends far enough to love what was written – regardless of who actually wrote it. It’s the stories that really get me, not so much the mystery behind the author.

Perhaps Anonymous will mislead scores of young students into a confusing haze of inaccurate details about the person who penned the greatest plays in the English language. That’s possible. But I’m hoping for something else, something that doesn’t feel like homework at all.

Maybe, instead, Anonymous will develop increased interest in Shakespeare as a nerdy topic.  We’ll see more questions about his true identity in pop-culture. Goodbye, homework. Hello, nerds. Shakespeare the zombie slayer. Shakespeare the time-traveler. Shakespeare the enormous robot with laser-beam eyes. A turn-based JRPG on the PS3 with an international voice track: Fortune’s Fool. Now, that’s cool. 

Irene L. Pynn is the author of From Light to Dark, a young adult fantasy based on a Romeo and Juliet theme. Visit her at and get your copy of her book at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft (Part 6)

One Writer, Many Genres by Ryan M. William: I’m considering a pen name. Damn I never thought that I would say that.

When I saw this article in the book, I’ll admit…I cringed. Ever since I was younger, I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever consider making up a fake name to hide behind. To me, it sounded like they were ashamed of their writing, and then when I started freelancing erotica. It became routine procedure when I received my contracts to click the box that said ‘Yes, you can use my real name.’ I mean, yeah I wrote a steamy sex scene and was proud of it so why should I put someone else’s name on it?

And then word started to spread. And it wasn’t that I was writing sexy romance scenes. It was that I was writing porn. Really?

So I read this article in the hopes that it might help me come to some decision about the concept of a pen name, which I still hate the idea of but are warming up to. For instance, if I end up writing erotica, I highly doubt my horror fans are going to be a fan of that if people are split open with an axe or possessed by the devil. But hey, you never now and I certainly wouldn’t deny them the knowledge that I’m writing a different genre on the side. Williams writes, “I suggest that you use open pen names. Otherwise you cut off your third audience, those readers that want to follow your books wherever you go.”

I think that’s a brilliant idea.  Plus, this way when I apply to jobs at Christian universities, I won’t have to explain why I’m published in Clean Sheets Magazine (which I’ve had to do). So I’m thinking about it… I even have a name in the works, but if I do, I’ll be open about it…if people are curious. But if they don’t ask, then they don’t need to know.

Oh. And FYI… I’m not writing porn.

Writing More by Susan Mallery: Discipline is the solution to everything.

I’ll be very honest with everyone. I love to write. It’s my soul passion in life. However, I’m having a hard time adjusting to graduate school while holding down a full time job.  When I was doing my undergrad, I worked 6 hours a week in an art gallery and freelanced poetry on the side for some extra cash, but other than that…my head was in a book and I was writing 24/7…thus, the workload was a problem. Deadlines weren’t an issue. And I never turned in anything late.

Now, with a holding a full time job, and being a full time graduate student, my head is ready to explode, ha.  I’ve been trying really hard to discipline myself into writing at the same time every day, but so far with my schedule it’s not really working. And I’m not a fan of not having structure in my life. But I’m building habits slowly but surely.  I think after I feel adjusted to my new job, I’m going to try to write a poem a day, and shoot for x amount of pages/words a day. Right now, I’m just doing what I can to make the deadline whether it be writing every day, or having to pull major marathon sessions a few days before.

But then I come across Mallery’s article and it makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. I think this article had such a big impact on me because it applies to every writer out there… not just me. So clearly that means that other people are going through the same problems as I am. Here are some pieces of advice that I found particularly useful:

-“The Secret to writing is very simple and done in two parts. Part one, write consistently. Part two, write more.”
-“Writer’s block only exists because you say it does. The reality is you can train your brain to be creative on demand. It just takes a little discipline.”
-“The point is to build habit.  You have to train your brain to learn to be creative when you say so, and you butt to stay in the chair for the time required to get the pages done. Of the two, the butt is much harder to train.”
-“The trick to writing more is to first write consistently, then slowly, very slowly, adding a half-page at a time.  Using this process you can easily double your output over a few months.”
-“Pantsers will see significant increase in pages very quickly.” – YES!

So with these little tidbits of information and advice going through my head, I’m going to really try to schedule in blocks of writing time each day to avoid rapid writing sessions and writer’s block (that doesn’t exist). Thank you Mallery for your encouragement!!

eFabulous: Publishing in a Paperless World by Penny Dawn: Shelf life for an eBook is infinite.

The idea of an eBook still baffles me for some reason because I’m having a hard time seeing how writers make money off of it. But that’s a question for another time when I can sit down and study the business and marketing of writing. Now, I want to talk about shelf life. If your book is available online, it’s going to be there forever and that is a beautiful thought to me.  I mean I love having stacks of books scattered around my room, and believe me I do, but sometimes having them on my iPad and phone is nice too because they are easily accessible.

Dawn writes, “…ePublishers produce more books per year than traditional publishers, due to having less production cost.  If you’re fighting for one of forty-eight release dates, instead of one of six, your odds of acceptance are greatly improved. ePublishers take more chances on unknown writers, as well as works that may not adhere to genre conventions.”  Frankly, this is exciting to someone that is just breaking out into the industry because it provides a completely different backup plan if traditional publishing doesn’t work out right away.  I never thought about ‘going green’ with writing, but it looks like it might be something to look in to.

Networking at Conventions by Lucy A. Snyder: I need to start preparing for the World Horror Convention this March!!

First off, I had no idea that convention expenses could be considered tax deductible for working writers. That’s kind of cool! But really folks, this article was hugely important and helpful to me because I have no idea what to expect when I head out to Utah this March. 

Snyder talks about new writers focusing  on strong writer-related panels and workshops and to “steer clear of conventions that mainly focus on costuming or media.”  Great advice...I’m excited to see what I can get myself into at the conference!  But I am a little nervous about networking and meeting potential agents. I have a feeling I’m going to be practicing in a mirror a couple weeks ahead of time and going over (1) what my book is about (2) why I picked my genre (3)how I’m going to say “can I buy you a drink” without sounding creepy and desperate!

Any advice? How did you guys handle your first conference/convention? I’d love to hear stories!

And…I’ll update more about the conference as soon as  I found stuff out. Right now, I just have a ticket, and know that Jeff Strand is the emcee! Woo! More excuses to buy his books and spend my evenings reading!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Meg Mims

Create Your Own Creative Process
by Meg Mims
With NaNoWriMo on the doorstep (two weeks! Only two weeks away, augh), writers are chewing nails about how in the world they can possibly get 50,000 words written in one month. Some are lucky to write 5,000 words in that time period. Some can barely manage 500.

I’m not going to discuss whether NaNoWriMo is crazy, or whether it works (kudos to those writes able to turn off that pesky internal editor), or even if you can actually get a decent first draft—or an absolute mess of a draft. The point is to try. And I do. I usually fail miserably, coming up with between 1,000 and 10,000 words. I also fail at writing challenges, where writers set the clock and challenge each other to rack up words.

A clock doesn’t serve me well, except as my profile picture.

Neither does a calendar. Oh, I’ve given myself deadlines and usually meet them—for an hour or a day, a week, even a month. But I know it’s my goal and not imposed by someone else. In fact, I have come up with my own version of NaNoWriMo for every month of the year. I call it MegMoWriSlo. Meg’s Monthly Write Slow—also called the “Ocean Wave”  method.

I spend two weeks (or three) hammering out characters, backgrounds, pictures, settings and even a loose outline (or a detailed one.) Once I get started with the inciting incident, I hum along until things start to bog down—and then rethink my outline, or fill it out in more detail, or find a key missing point. This can take place in a day or a week. But every time I open the file, I tend to read what I’ve gotten down for that scene or chapter before starting fresh. I write on, sometimes going back to add a new detail I’ve just thought up, or planting a clue, or foreshadowing. And then I return to where I stopped. By the time I finish, I end up with more of a second draft that still needs work. Some people, and my critique partner is one of them, are “racers” who churn out the entire first draft as a whole without ever going back.

Every writer has to come up with their own creative process. It’s okay. I also spend one evening painting (which helps me use a different part of the brain’s right side) but feeds on the creativity. So does sitting in church listening to the sermon—I’m far more aware of my current work’s theme and how a scripture might apply, or a character might act from something I hear. Listening to movie soundtracks while I write is another way to open up channels. And while Lord of the Rings may have nothing to do with historical westerns, it works for me. If I do all of these things each week, I’m a lot less slow!

Don’t be afraid to explore and find your own way to maximize your creative output. Whether it’s standing on your head for twenty minutes before sitting down at the keyboard, or knitting, or going on a shopping spree (a killer on the budget, though!), or exercising. As musician Isaac Hayes once sang, “Do Your Thing.” You gotta write!

So go to it, your own way.

Meg Mims is an author, artist and amateur photographer. She writes historical mysteries and romantic suspense, and is a staff writer for RE/MAX Platinum in Michigan and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan tourist on-line magazine. Meg had an article about a lighthouse keeper published this past summer in The Chronicle, the Historical Society of Michigan magazine. Meg's first novel, Double Crossing was also published this summer by Astraea Press.