Monday, December 17, 2012

We Interrupt This Program

...to bring you a special bulletin.

Well, not really. Just a quick announcement that the Evil League of Evil Writers is taking something of a holiday hiatus starting today. This will probably be a yearly thing (unless, you know, the world ends on the 21st like people seem to believe the Mayan calendar says - which is total bullshit, btw, but you knew that, right?) as the holidays are always a busy time for everyone.

There might be the occasional post of an evil Bob Cratchit member, toiling away over the holidays, but there won't be any regular/consistent/scheduled posts for the next couple weeks.

Whatever holiday you celebrate (or not), we here at the ELEW wish you a happy!


The Sithmas Tree of our Gothic Goddess Dina James represents the ELEW holiday spirit!


We'll see you in January. The Bitchstress Dreamkiller will open the New Evil Year (2013! THE YEAR OF EVILTRY!) with her post on January 7.


Happy Birthday, Lieutenant Quillstabber!

Today the Evil League of Evil Writers celebrates the anniversary of the birth of our beloved Lieutenant Quillstabber, Skye Forbes!



Skye really is the lieutenant around here. She is beyond amazing, and much of what the ELEW does is made possible by her. Our beloved Lieutenant has been with us since our inception, through thick and thin, good times and bad, sickness and health...you get it. Skye is the epitome of "the loyal lieutenant," and we would not be the evil organization we are without her.

Happy Birthday, Skye! May your day be filled with eviltry, cupcakes, much spoilage and doting, massages, and cabana boys bearing mai-tais.



Much evil love and hugs,
The ELEW



Monday, December 10, 2012

Baby Evil Writers 101: Queries over the Holidays


Baby Evil Writers 101: Queries over the Holidays
Julie Butcher

No. Just no.

Reason One
Literary agents and editors are people, too. They have families. They celebrate holidays. Nowadays everyone has their work email on their phone. Dinner preparation, presents, cleaning, and running about are stressful for everyone. Would you want your job calling you thirty times during your Christmas dinner? So that would be a no.

Reason Two
The holidays are just after NANOWRIMO. If you’re unfamiliar with November as a writing month you should check it out here.  Everyone in the publishing industry is way too familiar with this phenomenon. Tons of writers dash out fifty thousand words in November, slap on an ending, and immediately query agents and editors. You do not want to be one of these people. I’m not saying that Nanowrimo is bad because it gets people in the habit of writing everyday—which is a good thing. The stinky part is that some of these people don’t think they need editing before they woosh their freaking first draft into the world. You don’t want to flush years of effort down the toilet, so—no.
Seriously guys, no.

Reason Three
Most literary agencies and publishing houses are closed for the holidays. When they return, the email is exploding. Even if you’re possibly the next Nobel Prize winner, you’ll drown in the flood. Your chances of having your email lost or deleted have to be a hundred times what they are on a normal day. So, no. Don’t do it.

Reason Four
People remember negative easier than positive. Of all the holidays you remember, the one where someone brought their sick kid to dinner (and they barfed at the table) stands out like mold on bread. Publishing people are smart, guys. They read and everything. They remember who was rude and interrupted their family time. Do you really think they’ll want to work with the person who ruined Christmas?
I know, you think one little email won’t bother anyone. BUT, if your query chimes in and the turkey burns because of it, you’re toast—so no. Seriously, no.

Reason Five
Holidays are for families. Take that time to enjoy your own loved ones. They deserve your entire attention. They love you whether you’re published or not. Seriously, guys, someday they won’t be there and you’ll regret not taking a few days to show them you love them.

I wish you a safe and lovely holiday season filled with all of the good life has to offer.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Sarah-Jane!


It is a busy birthday month at the ELEW.

Today we celebrate the birth of our Sinister Mashall of Corrections, Sarah-Jane!


May you have many evil cupcakes and booze and hopefully cats that let you sleep in!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let's Review



I reviewed books for a science fiction site for a few years, but have since given it up due to time constraints. It was a large community with a bevy of different reviewers from different backgrounds. Everyone who reviews books or films has their own style, and it's pretty open because any review is opinion based. But there's one type of reviewer that always makes me cringe and long to hunt them down and slap them repeatedly.

Now granted, a review is an opinion piece. But that doesn't mean it's all about you, the reviewer. You can present the plot of the book, and your thoughts, positive or negative, without ever having to use the word 'I'. Too many book reviewers take what's supposed to be a commentary on someone else's work, and turn it into an opportunity to stroke their own dick, or simply talk too much about themselves. For instance, go ahead and say a book is reminiscent of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and why. Do not however add that reading said book reminds you of the time you got that award in your high school lit class for having the best comparative essay on Harper Lee, and your Mom bought you a new phone for being such a good student. No one gives a fuck.   

Another one that we see a lot is the dreaded phrase, "As a writer…" These three words should never, ever, ever show up in a book review. Firstly, if you're writing a review, we already know you're a writer. But more importantly, it does not give you more credence as a book reviewer, in fact, it does just the opposite. It's great that you're a writer too, but that you felt the need to add that to your review of someone else's work makes you sound like a tool at best, and at worst, a frustrated, failed writer with insecurity problems. Sure, plenty of fiction writers also review books, and there are ways to reference your own thoughts and preferences, to use your expertise without turning the subject away from the work you're analyzing and putting it back onto you.

It's okay to add a bit of flavor to your review, some humor, a personal touch. But again, this can be done without saying things like, "As I sat in my kitchen, eating a leftover sandwich my wife made me, I wondered again why it's so hard for someone like me to find a book that keeps my attention. Maybe it's because I grew up in New York City, the most exciting place on earth." This is not a human interest piece about your personal life. It's a review of someone else's work. Same goes for comments about what kind of reviewer you are. "People say I'm a bitch" or "I'm really picky when it comes to books", dear God, shut up and write the review, you attention whore.
 
So if you review books, go ahead and express your opinion, be creative, add a bit of flair if you want. But try to keep the focus on the work you're discussing, and off yourself. If you're a creative writer yourself, show the reader that by using your tools. Not by being a tool.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baby Evil Writers 101: Tags and Traits


Baby Evil Writers 101: Tags and Traits
Julie Butcher

Tags are word that you try to use only for one particular character. When making your character sheet (see my last Baby Evil Writers 101 post) you need descriptive terms that apply only to one person.  When that person is introduced into a scene, you use one of the tags in the description.

Here is our character sheet from the last lesson.

Gregor (Poppi) Romanoff
Age: 67
Height: 6’
Nationality: Gipsy
Accent: Russian
Married to: Maria (Baba) Romanoff for forty years
Voice sounds like a gravel road
Plays the Violin for gipsy dancers
Lives in an Airstream trailer
Phrases: Devochka as an endearment
Favorite thing: To find news under the message stone


Now we need to make descriptive tags to hang on Poppi. (Whiskers, piercing gaze, tanned, white hair, determined)

The first time Poppi is introduced in the story it reads,
 *The spotlight lit up Poppi’s white hair as he trilled the opening notes.*  Since Poppi is a supporting character, whenever he pops into a scene after an absence from the story line, he’ll have a tag. This is purely to give the reader a mental nudge to form a picture in their mind. I’ll try very hard not to use Poppi’s tags anywhere else in the story.

Next, we need to give Poppi traits. Traits are like tags except they describe either an item the character owns or keeps with them, a characteristic physical movement, or his responsibilities/job.
(Violin, hex bag, pocket watch, sword)

The next time Poppi comes into the picture it reads,
*“Stacia, when you’ve changed, fold the outside chairs and put them in the trailer. We’re meeting up with a carnival in Boise tonight.” He closed and snapped his violin case. “There’s a State Fair, and we’ll run for a month, you’ll like that.”*

Have tags and traits for each character
Use them when a character enters a scene.
Don’t use those words for another character or description if possible. (A it’s lazy and B your job as a writer is to know more than one word for white.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Knowing Is Half The Battle


I live on the West Coast. More specifically, the Oregon Coast. My town was a popular film location in the 1980s, and one of those films was a kid's movie called "The Goonies." Now, I didn't grow up on the coast, but this movie had an impact on me. I watched it constantly when I was a kid, and when it came time to look at colleges, Oregon was one of the states I looked at, and I only did it because of that movie. (I ended up moving here by sheer happenstance, but that's a story for another time.)

Awhile back, I put the movie on to see all the things and locations I was now intimately familiar with, seeing as I now live in "The Goondocks." Rewatching the movie as an adult, I was horrified that my parents let me watch it over and over. It's full of crude jokes and language they wouldn't have wanted me using and all sorts of things I'd never want a child exposed to at the age at which I watched it.

But the thing is, I never noticed them.

It wasn't until I watched the movie again as an adult that I heard all the inappropriate language and so on. It was like watching an entirely different film. Not only do they make a 30-mile drive into a quick bike ride, I finally got the little in-jokes and pop-culture references they made. It was really like watching something I'd never seen before, even though I knew the story.

I know we've all had experiences like that. You read a book and see something you've never seen before, even though you've read the book a hundred times. You finally get a phrase that you never understood before, even though you've read that line over and over. Perception is limited, and the things you notice or don't vary from person to person. 

It's amazing what stays in your brain, and from what source. Example: here in the United States we had a cartoon called "Duck Tales." It was all about Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck's nephews and their various adventures. I learned what a "status symbol" was from Scrooge McDuck. They had a whole episode about it, and that's the only one I remember. GI Joe always had some kind of moral to their episodes, and at the end of it before the credits they'd always have a little public service announcement-type clip about it.

He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats…all those cartoons had some kind of message in them. Most of them were forgettable, but some, like Scrooge McDuck and the status symbols, stayed.

The same is true for everything you write. Your book will be someone's favorite book. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but it's true. Someone will read your work over and over and over again. I can't remember at the moment who said it or where I might have read it (I think it was a writer's workshop, but I'm not sure), but someone once said something to the effect of, "what you believe will end up in your writing, so find out what that is."

Words have a great deal more power than writers think about sometimes. Truth be told, we can't think about how much power they have or we'd never write anything. You can't let fear of how your work will be read and interpreted stop you from writing whatever story you have to tell. Like the movie I watched as a kid, some things will get through, others won't. Some things you intend to have an impact won't, while completely random things you never intended to have meaning will have a vast one.

So write your story and don't get caught up in what it might mean to and for other people. They're going to take meaning from it or not without any help from you, and that meaning might not be the one you intended. So what? Don't be offended if people don't "get" your work. You're not responsible for what they get out of your story.

You're just responsible for actually writing it. So get on that.

I second what Skye said in her blog post about NaNoWriMo, though. If you've just finished NaNoWriMo, DO NOT SUBMIT THAT WORK TO AN AGENT IMMEDIATELY. Agents far and wide are ducking for cover at the moment, because they know an influx of half-finished, poorly-written, unedited crap is incoming. Don't add to that. Put that novel in a drawer and sit on it for at least three months, if not more. Then drag it out, polish it up and see if it shines.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. (Say it with me! "GEEEE-EYE JOEEEEEE!")


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dina!

Today is a very special indeed: we celebrate the birthday of the Gothic Goddess herself, the ever-evil Dina James.



Dina is my other half here at the ELEW, ensuring shit gets done and I don't give up and throw in the towel. She always helps me get back up when I've been (sometimes by myself) knocked down and reminds me to dust myself off and keep going because she will not suffer a whiner, and in case you haven't guessed, she is utterly terrifying. Dina effortlessly, unknowingly inspires people to be their best, and we are all better people for knowing her.


Happy birthday, Dina. You're a Ferrari and always my favourite.
Have a wonderful day.

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