A game about how writing a book sucks out your soul

Bucket Detective

Writing is hard. Maybe hard enough to want to do anything to make it easier — like helping a weird cult that is up to their necks in some evil business.

That’s the premise of Bucket Detective, an hour-long dark-comedy game about a crummy writer who, desperate to finish his (terrible) book, agrees to help a cult in exchange for divine inspiration. It’s $4 on Steam or Itch.io, and … yeah. That’s kind of awesome.

I wish there were more games about the writing process and the insane lengths authors sometimes go to, honestly. I didn’t particularly care for The Novelist (a game about a novelist and his family struggles), and I’ve heard mixed things about Elegy for a Dead World (a game about writing fiction).

Alan Wake is a decent game about an author — and while it doesn’t focus on writing per se, it’s a fun Stephen-King-esque thriller about a guy whose wife goes missing, and pages from a book you don’t remember writing start showing up as you search for her.

Are there any games out there about writers/writing that you’ve played? Were they any good?

The importance of vulnerability

Nobody wants to show themselves failing. Yet that’s exactly what Kim Chance did in her latest video.

Let’s redefine that: Kim isn’t actually failing. She’s acquired a literary agent, which means she has a better chance of succeeding than the vast majority of writers whose manuscripts never get accepted. (See my interview with Kim here.) But the feeling of failing is admitting that you don’t have it together, that things might not work out, and that you’re scared shitless.

It takes a lot of courage to say, “Hey, I might not pull this off.” It takes even more courage to take a step closer to success, in front of the whole world — like Kim has on YouTube — and then fall short. We all go through this. But nobody wants to say, “I’m in the middle of the messy part that could be my failure,” with everyone watching. We only want to say, “I made it to the other side, and whew, it was tough, BUT I DID IT.”

Yet when Kim exposed herself — cried on camera, ditched the bubbly-happy persona she usually shows us, and let herself be completely vulnerable — she sent a message that was way more powerful and inspiring than any “We can do it!” speech. Because she showed us we’re not alone.

Of course, we all realize other writers have doubts and anxiety like we do. But to actually see that? Totally different.

“I guess what I lie awake thinking about is, what if it doesn’t happen?” Kim said. “What if [my book] Keeper doesn’t find a home? What if it doesn’t get published?”

She said, “I’ve been on submission a couple months now, and I’m scared. I’m really scared.”

That wasn’t the only fear she shared. She challenged herself to write the first draft of a new manuscript by June, before her baby is born. But she admitted she’s made no progress since that announcement.

“I am crippled with this fear that I can’t write a book. Isn’t that dumb?” she said. “But I just have this fear that I’m a one-hit wonder. I wrote Keeper and that was awesome, but what if I can’t do it again? What if that was it? What if that was my bout of creativity there in that one book, and now I’m trying to write the book of my dreams, the book that I would absolutely die to write, and what if I can’t do it?”

Yes, yes, a million times YES. I recently finished my second book last year and started querying it, and I’m already paralyzed by this fear. How can I move on to begin another project after this last one took two years of my life — hundreds of hours of time and energy — and nothing might happen with it? And that’s the norm. How do you find the motivation to do that all over again while facing rejection after rejection, or no response at all, from agents about the last book you wrote? How do you not get defeated by that? How do you not judge yourself by each and every “no”?

Kim said, “What if I let everybody down? What if I let [my agent] Caitlin down? What if I let you guys down? What if I let my family and my friends down? What if I let myself down? What if everything I’ve been telling myself is a lie?”

The stakes for Kim are even higher than they are for many of us. Personally, I don’t often share, outside of the internet, that I write books. That I spent night after night, week after week, working on a manuscript. Because as soon as you do that, people expect results. They don’t understand that the normal process is very slow-moving, that some authors don’t get published until their third or fourth or tenth book — and others, never at all. People think no news or bad news is a sign that you’re doomed to fail, that you’re a hack writer, that you’re chasing an impossible dream. And it’s hard not to believe them.

Kim said, “I know that somewhere out there, there’s somebody watching this who’s shaking their head, saying, ‘That’s me.’ I don’t want anybody to feel alone during this process. So as defeated as I feel right now, I’m gonna tell myself … I’m gonna keep telling myself what I’m always telling you guys. That dreams don’t work unless you do. And that no matter how hard it gets, you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to keep fighting.”

Every part of a writer’s journey is tough, she said. And it is. It absolutely is. “Writing a book is hard,” Kim said. “Querying a book is hard. Writing a sequel is hard. Being on submission is hard. Being a writer is hard, guys! … But it’s one of the best jobs in the world. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. And I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

Me too, Kim. Me fucking too.

Even famous authors like J.K. Rowling deal with rejection

Cuckoo's Calling

Rejection is the scariest part of anyone’s writing journey. It’s at the core of why we procrastinate — we’re afraid of what people will think. That they won’t like what we’ve written. That we won’t even like it. Rejection is synonymous with failure … right?

Wrong.

Rejection is just an agent or publisher saying, “Sorry, dude, not our thing right now.” It’s not an indelible mark that your story sucks, or that no one will ever want to buy it. Even if they were to tell you that outright, their word isn’t law.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone has the guts to tell another person that they shouldn’t be writing, or that their work belongs in the trash. THIS IS NOT TRUE, and it’s both immature and unprofessional. Plenty of the world’s most successful people were told they wouldn’t make it, but nobody gets to make that call for you.

With experience, you’re going to get better. Anyone who tells you otherwise is making an extremely biased judgment based on what they see at that exact moment. They’re not considering how you’re going to improve in a month or a year. And chances are they’re just projecting some insecurity about their own writing.

Rejection is just another step in the process. It’s the Magic 8-Ball telling you, “Sorry, try again” — you’ve got more work to do. The next best move is to keep querying (and polishing your query letter) and keep editing your manuscript.

Even big authors like J.K. Rowling have to deal with rejection. It doesn’t go away no matter how successful you are. What’s important isn’t whether you’re rejected or not — it’s whether or not you can persevere in spite of it.

At some point, you’re allowed to shelve the project and move on to writing something new. But be sure that’s what you want and not something you feel cornered into doing because you’ve accumulated a pile of rejection letters.

As long as you believe in the story you wrote and you’re still excited about it, keep trying.

Has someone ever told you that you wouldn’t succeed? How did you deal with that rejection? Let me know if the comments!

Why I’m rethinking how I buy books in 2016

bookshelves

Every book lover wishes they had beautiful, wall-to-ceiling bookshelves stacked with glossy hardcovers and pristine paperbacks. Another book haul from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, another five or six novels for the shelf.

I’ve not any different, especially when I watch my favorite Booktubers and wonder, “How the heck can they afford this many books?”

Like most people, I’m on a budget. That’s why last year, when my boyfriend and I moved to a new house conveniently located a few blocks from a library, we both invested in library cards. This means I can request books on my phone and then walk five minutes to pick them up once they arrive. This was probably the best decision I made in 2015 financially. (Total, I read 39 books in 2015, and a lot of those I obtained through my local library.)

Borrowing books means I save a lot of money. That also means that I don’t need to scrimp by purchasing books on Amazon for super cheap instead of better institutions, like neighborhood bookstores or other, less dominant online retailers — which tend to sell books for twice the cost but are better alternatives. I don’t have to buy books at all if I don’t want to (although every now and then I cave and pick up a couple, especially when I trek out to Half Price Books).

But never buying books doesn’t sit well with me because then I’m not supporting my favorite authors. That’s why, in 2016 and on, I plan to change how I buy books altogether and how I fill my bookshelves. With the exception of books I can’t find in my local library, I’m only going to buy books on one of two conditions: 1) I already know I love the author and want to support them by purchasing their work, or 2) I’ve read the book previously and adored it.

This works especially well for me because, for one, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, and I only own a couple of bookshelves anyway — so space is limited. This way, I can also give back to my favorite authors and cultivate a home library of my absolute favorites. I don’t re-read books very often, but I like to admire the ones on my shelves and maybe pass them on to my future kids for them to enjoy. A lot of books I tend to keep also possess sentimental importance to me, so there’s that, too.

How do you determine what books you buy? Are you making any changes to your purchasing habits this year?

Let’s talk about sex (in books)

sex artI’m reading Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and so far I’ve encountered two sex scenes: one I liked and one I absolutely hated.

I’ll be talking about them in my review, but I’m curious. What makes a written sex scene good, and what about them turns you off?

Let me go first: “Yes, yes, yes” is a big “no, no, no”!

This article on The Millions lists a few other don’ts, including “beware of sensory descriptions which include food analogies” and “avoid spiritual-religious metaphors – ‘salvation’ (Chuck Palahniuk), ‘rapture’ (Ayn Rand),” and so on.

As for the dos? Choose the right words: “All the same rules apply to sexually-charged words as apply to words about gardening or kite flying or race car driving. You can make a sentence about planting tomatoes better by making sure that it has good rhythm and pacing and correct grammar. The same is true for a sentence about kissing.”

Does sex even belong in novels? Author Philip Pullman suggested that “books were likely to deal with sex in a more sensitive way than the Internet,” according to The Telegraph. And Malorie Blackman, the newly appointed children’s laureate, said that reading about sex is safer than “innuendo and porn,” which can be damaging to how youths learn about the activity.

For the adult crowd, authors sound off on who does sex well and why in this article on the Guardian. Howard Jacobson argues that “the best sex is the most implicit” — like in Jane Austen’s Persuasion: “There is no overt sexuality, no titillatory play with power and dependence … Wentworth’s hands have been on [Anne’s] body, and we never doubt that it’s her body that receives the shock of the contact as much as her mind.”

Photo credit: Flickriver

Guest blog: Marta Acosta on the close calls of writing

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Marta Acosta, the author of the upcoming book The She-Hulk Diaries, releasing in June. We recently talked about the big misunderstanding and public relations nightmare that erupted in response to her book and another, Rogue Touch, in Marvel’s new line of superheroine fiction, falsely dubbed “romance novels.” Here’s what she had to say about writing and her career — in a sassy satirical piece. Take it away, Marta!

Marta AcostaLike most people, I love being labeled because it saves me the time and trouble of defining myself and explaining really boorrring stuff like, oh, that my name isn’t Maria and that I’m not really exotic since I’m from Oakland, or that I don’t write magical realism or romance. Basically, I don’t like to do anything that requires actual effort, thus the writing career. Which is not to say that I don’t make terrible missteps. For example, my first book, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, was written as a spoof of genre conventions with vampires as a metaphor for being “other” in society. I know — what was I thinking? So when people introduce me with something helpful like, “Our exotic friend Maria writes magical realism slash vampire romance with a hot tamale heroine!” I just smile with relief and say, “¡Si!”

I was pretty pleased to have this routine down pat when I made another terrible misstep. I wrote a modern gothic, Dark Companion, as an homage to Jane Eyre with a theme of social disparities and exploitation. The book’s tone is set by Paulette Jiles’s classic feminist “Paper Matches” as the epigraph. It almost makes me question the wisdom of starting each day with a dozen Sudafed and a tumbler of Tanqueray because my appalling pretentiousness is in direct inverse relation to my, uhm, cheerfulness. Luckily, readers quickly assumed that I’d merely written a really bad teen romance. Whew, that was a close call!

The She-Hulk DiariesLike most messy thinkers … er, I mean writers, I was looking for another way to keep from getting a real job … I mean, another fantastic writing project. When I got the She-Hulk gig, I did that whole failing-to-learn-from-history thing and wrote a lively comedy about Jennifer Walters, an accomplished attorney, who gets a new job at a powerful law firm while trying to have time for friends and activities and also handling her She-Hulk responsibilities. She’d like to have a healthy relationship with a considerate man and a professional wardrobe that isn’t destroyed every time she hulks out.

I felt pretty comfortable writing this story since I’ve been a lifelong fan of speculative stories. Was I a geek in high school? I think it’s like the ’60s: if you remember them, you weren’t there. I.e., as a teenager, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with spending all my free time with my best friend reading science fiction novels and discussing the possibility of alien life, interplanetary travel, and Asimov’s laws of robotics. We went to science fiction conventions and were the only girls there. We thought physics class was fun.

And I wore glasses. The realization that I’d actually written a funny geeky novel struck me too damn late, and I was in a desperate state, upping my Sudafed/gin intake and despairing about my days of hanging out at home … I mean, my writing career. I was rescued by headlines like the Hollywood Reporter’s “Marvel Comics Goes ‘Fifty Shades’ With New Line of Romance Novels.” I wanted to send the journalist a gift of those delicious brandy chocolates, but I was terrified he’d ask questions I couldn’t answer with a simple and enthusiastic “¡Si!”

My fretting was unnecessary, however, because no one bothered to find out that I’ve written tedious diatribes about gender, race/ethnicity, and class throughout my career. I think I’m safe, so long as actual romance writers and fans don’t explain that most romance readers and writers are fierce feminists.

I’m already working on my next book, which is inspired by the “diaries” part of my title. It’s a tribute to “Diary of a Mad Housewife” with robots and machinery as a metaphor for the rote and inhumane effect of sexism on society. I’m sure that Diary of a Mad Fembot will cement my place in the robot/diary fiction canon, which is all I’ve ever really wanted.

Click here to read my interview with Marta.

Scare up a good book for charity this Halloween

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Who doesn’t love the sights, sounds, and smells of Halloween — from the patchwork of autumn leaves to their crunch underfoot and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin pie? All those things come alive in a good story. Now you can make this Halloween special for others by helping 10 authors raise 1,000 books this month.

Donate a book from today through October 19 — or just participate in the event — and you could earn some goodies of your own. Trust me, this is way better than candy (who needs those extra five pounds, anyway?). You could win a $100 Amazon gift card, signed copies of the authors’ books, or a special swag bag (see details below). The Friction Frolic for All Hallow’s Read blog tour and fundraiser benefits the Books for America charity, which gave more than $800,000 worth of books and materials to DC area schools, shelters, and other educational programs and organizations last year.

But Friction Frolic is also a blog-a-thon of sorts: From now through Oct. 5, you can read about how books shaped these authors’ love for reading and writing. From Oct. 8-12, they’ll be sharing their best Halloween experiences and their favorite scary books, movies, or pieces of literature. And from Oct. 15-19, you can enjoy some flash fiction, short stories, and novel excerpts.

Here’s a list of the participating authors:

Neil Gaiman started the All Hallow’s Read tradition (you can trace its origins back to this blog post), which simply involves giving someone a scary book during the week of Halloween.

What book will you choose?

Click the button below to enter the Rafflecopter.

Friction Frolic

Sex and vamps: Andy Gavin talks The Darkening Dream

So The Darkening Dream is on sale this week (June 25-29) for 99 cents, and to help with the promotion I interviewed author Andy Gavin. If you read my review a few months back then you already know how I feel about the book, but I wanted to give Andy a chance to speak for himself.

Misprinted Pages: Hi, Andy! Thanks for chatting with me. Before we talk about The Darkening Dream, which is on sale for 99 cent this week, I wanted to say that I’m a HUGE fan of your video game work. The first game my parents ever let me pick out myself was Crash Bandicoot 2 (love, love, LOVE jet pack Crash!). So thank you for being awesome!

Okay, down to business! This interview for my blog might surprise some readers, as I wasn’t too crazy about your book. But when I was contacted about the opportunity, I knew I wanted to give you a chance to defend yourself. As someone who loves games but is also interested in book writing, myself, I know what hugely different mediums they are. What made you want to write a book, and what was it like transitioning from one major industry to another?

Andy Gavin: As a serial creator (having made over a dozen major video games), it was interesting how similar the process was to any other complex creative project. Video games and novel writing are both very iterative and detail-oriented. They use a lot of the same mental muscles.

I’ve always been a huge vampire fan, and I’ve read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff, I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I’m always thinking, “That could have been so much better if they didn’t make up the historical backstory,” so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don’t exactly answer the question in TDD, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.

Continue reading Sex and vamps: Andy Gavin talks The Darkening Dream

Book giveaway! Win The Darkening Dream and more

Hey, guys! I’m running a special interview this Wednesday with author Andy Gavin, and you have a chance to win some awesome swag. Just follow the link to Gavin’s website to enter.

You could win a $100 Amazon gift card, signed copy of The Darkening Dream (book) and Crash Bandicoot (video game — and damn worth it, trust me!), a poster, collectible bookmarks, and lots more.

Those of you who have read my review of The Darkening Dream back in April might be wondering what I’m up to. You’ll find out in a couple days — promise! :D

Good luck!

I’m going to be SUPER jealous of whoever wins those signed game copies.

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens!

Google and the book world are celebrating Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday today. Why not honor the literary great by reading one of his classics? He’s written fiction, non-fiction, short stories, and even a play (No Thoroughfare, a collaboration with detective novelist Wilkie Collins). And hey, many of them are free for Kindle (and priced low for Nook)!

English Victorian author Charles John Huffman Dickens lived from 1812–1870 and was born on February 7 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England (now the Dickens Birthplace Museum). Often considered a spokesman for the poor, Dickens is famously remembered for his characters and his contemporary depictions of social classes, mores, and values. Critic and author Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who wrote several introductions for the author, described him as “the voice in England of this humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything.”

His first book, a collection of stories, was titled Sketches by Boz (“Boz” was his pseudonym) and published in 1836. He and his wife Catherine Hogarth welcomed ten children to the family—that’s ten little Dickens running around. Charles was busy at the desk and in the bedroom.

He later left Catherine for actress Ellen Ternan, whom he met while performing in Collins’ The Frozen Deep. “The good, the gentle, high-gifted, ever-friendly, noble Dickens—every inch of him an honest man,” the Scottish historian and author Thomas Carlyle called him upon hearing of Dickens’ passing—but not so much for the marriage bonds.

For a full bibliography of Dickens’ works and a biography of the author, visit The Literature Network.

Cassie at the blog Books and Bowel Movements shared a link to an article about how college students who grew up reading Harry Potter are more prepared for classic literature, especially works by Dickens.

Blogger Caorthine wished Dickens a happy birthday today, too. And Literary Wonderland sent him a birthday letter.

Love Dickens? Feel free to drop a link to your happy birthday post or share a memory of reading his books in the comments.