Author Archive for Kalayna Price

15
Oct
10

Hello mister tall, dark, and terrifying

(Blog X-posted)
October is moving right along which means creepy costumes and sugar highs are just around the corner. Or is that just my plan? Surely not.

Halloween is nearly here, and it’s a good time for the things that go bump in the night. Many creatures which once would have been relegated to horror stories and movies are now featured as heroes and romantic leads, but let’s forget them for a moment and talk of the terrifying.

What flavor do you prefer your horror stories/movies? Do you like an oppressive atmosphere that keeps your shoulders hitched as you wait for the worst? Do you like the monster you never quite see so he’s worsened by your imagination? Perhaps your horror preference is the gore and the gritty details. Or maybe the psychological horror tale that worms itself into the back your mind and then begins to twist. Or perhaps your horror tastes lean toward the destruction of all hope in the face of insurmountable and unstoppable odds? (Zombie Apocalypse anyone?)

From the ghost story to the slasher film, horror is a genre with many faces and many elements. Which work for you? Do you laugh off a scary tale, or do you sleep with the lights on after a good horror flick?  It’s the month for spooky stories and frightening monsters, so please share your favorite horror movies and books! (We could all use a good scare, right?)

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08
Sep
10

The people who influence you

(This post x-posted from the Grave Witch Release Party going on now at my blog)

As previously mentioned, I just returned from Dragon*Con, the largest Sci-Fi/Fantasy Con in the South East. The guest list for Dragon is always impressive. Big name TV/movie stars, best selling authors, and some of the best underground musicians are pretty much par for the course. Lines for events are sometimes blocks long and many rooms fill to capacity (and beyond, though then the fire marshals tend get rather irate). You’d pretty much have to be living under a rock (or, I guess, just not be a geek) to have never heard of at least a few of the guests. Whatever your particular flavor of geekdom, there is probably someone there that you’re dying to hear speak and maybe get a signature and a photo. I’d almost guarantee that there is a guest in attendance whose work you respect greatly, and maybe there is someone whose work has influenced or inspired you.

This Dragon*Con, I had the opportunity to see one of those people who influenced and inspired me. And not only see her, but to talk to briefly and get a picture with said influential person. Who was this person? Well, you might have already recognized her from the photo, but for those of you who didn’t, the person I’m referring to is Laurell K Hamilton, the author of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and one of the forerunners of the Urban Fantasy genre as it exists today.  (NOTE: I know there is a lot of fan controversy about this series, but this blog post is not about that, so please keep comments positive and on topic.)

I discovered LKH and the Anita series when I was fourteen (this was in the mid-nineties, so the series wasn’t yet highly inappropriate for a fourteen year old to read–well, unless you object to violence and language, I guess) and before discovering LKH, I was strictly a high fantasy girl. Oh, I’d read gothic paranormal novels like Dracula and Frankenstein (which were pretty much UF for their day) and I’d read Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but nothing inspired a hunger for more of the genre in me like LKH’s books did.

Of course, there really wasn’t much more of the genre out there at the time.

P N Elrod’s Vampire Files and Tanya Huff’s Blood Books were on shelves, but that was about the extent of the genre that would eventually be called Urban Fantasy (and is even now mutating to a new name). Buffy didn’t start airing until a year or two after I started reading LKH (and I actually didn’t see any of it until years later when my college roommate decided it was all but blasphemous that I hadn’t seen Buffy and arranged several marathon viewings.)  The show Forever Knight (which I was a huge fan of and is probably another influencing force behind me writing UF) had come and gone, but as far as I could find as a fourteen year old, that was the extent of the genre.

I was dabbling in writing by that point, but only high fantasy. In fact, prior to finding the Anita books (and I received the first three by mistake from the Sci-Fi Fantasy Bookclub–I wouldn’t have picked them up on my own) I would have told you I wasn’t interested in any book set in contemporary times. Give me castles and dragons–technology as advanced as a car or wrist watch was a deal breaker. Then I devoured the first few Anita Blake books and I was hooked. I wanted more, and it wasn’t out there.

So I started writing my own.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t stop writing high fantasy at that point. In fact, I still focused primarily on high fantasy until I finished college. (And like those high fantasy novels, I didn’t finish any of my early UF stories.) I didn’t begin focusing on UF until nearly a decade later when I wrote the novel which eventually became Once Bitten, and by that point, other UF giants such as Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, and Kim Harrison were already established.

But if I had to point to one single influential writer who hooked me on the genre, that writer would be Laurell K Hamilton.

I saw LKH at Dragon two years ago and attended almost every one of her panels (including one memorable panel where I thought she was about to throw down with one of the romance writers), but at that time I couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to her. This year I saw her on several panels and even passed her in the halls a couple times, but I was too afraid I’d make a fool of myself to approach her.  Then, on the very last day of Dragon, probably two hours before I left, I saw her in the hall and finally worked up the nerve to talk to her. (Or maybe it wasn’t nerve. I’d literally just walked out from giving blood when I spotted her and was a little light headed so ‘just go for it’ sounded plausible.)

I asked if I could get a picture with her, and told her that her books had inspired me to write and that I have an UF book (Grave Witch) being released from Roc next month. Then I gave her a very nervous hug and ran away, even more light headed–either from blood loss or nerves. I hope I didn’t scare her and come off as a crazy fan girl, but how do you act and what do you say to someone whose work influenced you (especially during those formidable teenage years)? 

So, here is my question for you: Who has influenced and inspired you and how? (In any aspect of your life.) What would you say to them if you had a chance to meet them? Or, have you met that person? What did you do/say?

12
Aug
10

Lesson Learned–a Convention story

(I’m buried under deadlines, so this is x-posted. By the way, before I get started, I currently have a contest on my personal blog and one of the things the winner will receive is a sampler from Ace/Roc. Check out the details HERE. )

While I’ve attended conferences and conventions for nearly a decade, this year marked the change from attendee to guest, from audience member to panelist. In the years and years I sat on the other side of the table, listening intently to the writers on the panel, I picked up on a lot of things I didn’t realize I was learning at the time, and which the authors probably didn’t know they were teaching. As I sat there, hoping to learn some secret of craft or business that would help me reach that golden goal of getting published, I was also subconsciously learning what I, as an audience member, responded to. That information became invaluable this year.

For instance, I know that when I’m in the audience, listening to a authors I’m not familiar with, I’m not going to remember their names. I’m just not. Panels usually start with an introduction, but until I hear them speak and some part of my brain determines what they say is interesting, their name just doesn’t stick. Of course, by that point, the intros have already passed. Sure there are usually nameplates on the table, but the rooms are often large and I’m terrible about wearing my glasses, so I can’t read them. And even if I do remember their name throughout the panel or even during the entire convention, I’m terrible with names and that information doesn’t always stick in my head. But, if they have their books on display on the table throughout the panel, I’ll associate that funny/insightful/charming/whatever personality with that book. When I see the cover later in the store, I’ll remember. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up just because I liked the author. Even if I don’t pick up the book while at the con, I tend to buy it afterward. So, when I walked in my first panel, I walked in with copies of my books to display on the table.

From being in the audience, I also know that I personally respond well to bookmarks. A nice looking bookmark is a great way to help me remember the author’s name after the conference. So, I bring bookmarks to my panels and invite people to come up and take them after the panel is over.

Basic manners are a must all the time, in my opinion, but especially when you’re on a panel. Another writing friend and I were talking about a convention we both attended earlier this year. During one of the panels (I was in the audience for this particular panel) one of the panelist said “you’re wrong and I think you’re and idiot” to another panelist (in a few more words, but that was the gist). The result included a lot of shocked faces both on the other panelists and in the audience, and a couple nervous giggles. That was months ago, but when we discussed it recently, I asked my friend if she’d ever read that particular author’s work. Her answer: No. A friendly debate and differing views on a panel can be educational and entertaining, but ugliness leaves a bad taste in the mouth (even if you’re right).

This one is probably obvious from either side of the table, but: no one likes a panel hog. I’ve been to panels where one panelist (typically the least interesting/knowledgeable) would not shut up. A question would be asked and they would jump in, rambling on and on–often not even about the right topic. (Occasionally it isn’t even a panelist, but an audience member who either thinks s/he should be on the panel or that they are having a private conversation with the panelists.) This puts the moderator and the other panelists in an awkward position because there is often not a good way to quiet the loud mouth without coming off as rude (see the previous point). It’s not fun for the panelists, and it’s frustrating for the audience, so when I’m on a panel, despite how nervous I am, I try not to ramble (unlike when I’m blogging, clearly. LOL)

So these are all things which can be learned from the audience side of the table, and when I showed up to my first panel, I felt pretty prepared. Oh, I still ran into my share of cringe-worthy newbie mistakes–like the fact I didn’t consider preparing a short verbal introduction before I sat behind the table for the first time and my brain totally went blank when they handed me the mic. I got the whole, “I’m Kalayna Price and write Urban Fantasy” part but then the moderator asked me to tell everyone a little about my books. ” . . . they are uh, about vampires, and shapeshifters, and uh . . . magic . . . ?” Major fail. But I eventually ironed that out and I can now describe both of my series in under three breaths.

Once my first con passed and I survived, I thought I had this whole panelist thing figured out. I was able to talk about my books without making a complete fool of myself, I was talking to readers, making friends with other writers, and generally having fun. No problem. Then something new happened.

Someone asked for my business card.

Business card? I’m a writer. I didn’t have business cards. I had bookmarks for released and upcoming books. I had thought that was all I needed. After all, I’d never once, in all my years attending cons, come home with an author’s business card.

But while authors are at the cons to interact with readers and they speak on panels about books, publishing, and craft, they are also at cons to network. They network with other writers, with editors, with agents, with organizers of other events, and with a plethora of other people. Part of me knew that, but I never really thought it all the way through. So, at the last con I attended, I ended up scrawling my email address on the back of my bookmarks–not the most professional approach. Needless to say, several of the people who asked for my card never contacted me.

Kalayna's Business CardsLive and learn. I now have business cards. They came in today, just in time for Dragon*con. They are simple, as you can see, just my name, email, and website along with my most recent book cover. I have no idea if anyone will ask for my card, but now I have one. I’m sharing this experience with you, because this con guest must should have wasn’t obvious from the otherside of the table. You never know what you don’t know until you’re faced with a new situation.

Any tips or tricks you’d like to share (that you’ve picked up on either side of the table)? Is there anything you’ve seen a panelist do that was particularly helpful/successful? How about something you really wish a panelist would never, ever do?

Anyone going to Dragon*Con?

01
Jul
10

On Goals

Goals tend to be important in every aspect of life. These goals might be long term: graduate college with a certain GPA, reach a certain level in your career, or see that your kids grow up healthy and happy. Goals might also be very immediate: answer all the waiting mail in your inbox, practice an instrument for a certain amount of time, or finish a looming project. We all set goals constantly because, whether our goal is to write a certain amount of words, lose weight, or just get through our daily to-do list, we tend to need to track our progress to feel accomplished. Looking back on a day, a week, a year, in which we accomplished our goals tends to leave us feeling satisfied whereas not meeting our goals drags on us and leaves us feeling like we’ve wasted time. That said, setting the right kind of goals is important.

So what makes up “the right kind of goal”?

For starters, a good goal should challenge you. If a goal is too easy, there isn’t all that much a sense of accomplishment at the end. They call it “reaching for a goal” for a reason. If you don’t have to extend yourself, that’s not much of a reach.

But, while challenging, a good goal should be achievable. If you set your goal too high, you’ll become discouraged if you can’t reach it. This is especially true for more immediate goals. I’m going to use writing goals here, because I’m a writer, but these can apply across the board. My daily writing goal on a first draft is around 3k words a day (depending on my timeline). Some days I blow past this amount, but some days I struggle to reach it. I wish I could write 10k words a day, and I have on a couple occasions, but not only do I tend to burn out quick and lose writing days following a 10k day, but if I set my goal that high, I’d hit it so rarely that I’d feel guiltier and crummier by the day. 3k is a comfortable goal for me and a goal I can usually hit. (Comfortable, in this case, does not equate easy.) That means when I close my laptop at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, instead of thinking I fell 6k words short, again. I will hopefully have to up my goal in the coming years, and have upped it in the past as my writing speed has increased, but for now, 3k words a day is a good goal for me. In the past, instead of word count goals, I had writing time goals, meaning my goal was to devote an hour or two hours (whatever I could juggle at that time) to writing. Shape your goal to fit in your life. An impossible goal will help no one.

Speaking of achievable goals, make sure yourgoal is within your control. It is important to distinguish between goals and dreams. Dreams are something you desire, something you want to happen. Goals are something you can make happen. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a hand in helping a dream come true, but you can’t make a dream happen. Being published is a dream. Becoming a major league athlete is a dream. Performing in the Met is a dream. You can structure your goals to work toward a dream, but the dream can’t be a goal. If you are a writer, it is self destructive to make your goal that you will be published by xyz date. That isn’t within your control. Now a good goal might be to have a certain number of queries out by that date, as that is something you can control and works toward your dream. If you’ve never done it before, examine your dream and your goals. Are you working against yourself by considering a dream a goal? Do your goals and dream work together?

I could probably list a few more points, but I’ll end with the fact good goals reap rewards. Okay, that one sounds a little obvious. The sense of accomplishment at the end of the day is a reward, right? And your goals paying off in your dream coming true, that’s a reward, surely? Yes. Yes, of course. But don’t forget to take care of yourself along the way of accomplishing your goals. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the big goals (and big dreams) and you shrug off the littler goals. Met your goals? Then give yourself a minute to enjoy that sense of accomplishment. Take a book in the tub and read by candle light, watch a movie with the family, go out for dinner, or at least do your own private happy dance in your office before diving into your next goal, just so you don’t burn out.

Well, I hope you found this list of good goal traits useful. Anyone one want to share their goals? Progress on goals? How about dreams and the goals you are using to achieve those dreams?

Happy Thursday everyone!

24
Jun
10

How to write a book

When writing a book, you need to start with these little tiny things called letters. You take those letters and make words, the words add up to sentences, which turn into paragraphs, and then scenes, then chapters, and finally you find you have a complete book. Oh, you need things like plot and characters, and having a good understanding of craft helps, but when it all boils down, what is really important is sitting down in front of the keyboard and tapping a key to create a letter. And then another. And another.

Okay, that is rather tongue in cheek, but sometimes I do have to remind myself that writing is contingent upon, you know, writing. To write a book you have to sit down and put words on a page. To edit a book you have read and rewrite those words. Seems easy enough, and yet I’ve been sitting at my keyboard staring at my pages for two days. I’m trying to fix a plot gone askew, and while, yes, a certain amount of planning and replotting is required, I’ve crossed the point where I should be thinking about it and moved into the territory where I should be doing it.

It’s time to make those letters work for me.

If you’re stuck or floundering in your writing; if you’ve been avoiding your story; it’s time to get back to work. Remember, a book is built one letter at a time. You can handle a little letter, right?

10
Jun
10

Writing the easy part.

I have determined that I lie to myself. A lot.

When I start writing a new book, I tell myself I just need to get through the beginning, then it will get easier. Once I’m trudging through that endless middle section of the first draft, I tell myself not to despair, once I get closer to the end it will be all down hill. Of course, I forget that the downhill ride toward climax and resolution is full of treacherous cliffs and jagged rocks. Not to worry though, once I get through the first draft I’ll have words on the page and I can start revising. That will be easy, right? Not so much. While revising I tend to tell myself to just get through the revisions, then I can go back to the easy part of writing fresh new words in a new book. But wait . . .

Yeah, I lie to myself.

Writing isn’t easy. It just isn’t. Oh, some days are easier than others, and sometimes writing is tons of fun, but it isn’t actually easy. I’ve written four (five?) complete novels at this point, and if anything, it’s getting harder, not easier. Apparently I’m a masochist because I keep coming back to my keyboard. Of course, being difficult doesn’t make it any less rewarding. (Also, I’m pretty sure the characters living in my head are vindictive enough to drive me insane if I refuse to write their stories.)

So what is the point of this blog post? Am I trying to scare the potential writers out there? Quite the opposite.

I was a guest at ConCarolinas this weekend, and after one of my panels (I think it was a panel on procrastination) a young man came up to me and we chatted about what was said on the panel and about writing in general. He eventually said, “It’s so hard. I have all these ideas, but I have so much trouble getting them down on paper.”

All I could do was stand there and nod because writing is hard. I totally agree. It’s hard for me too. I could lie to you like I lie to myself and say, “just get through this and it will get easier” but then when it doesn’t, you might think you’re doing something wrong or that you’re just not cut out for writing when the truth is that it’s hard for all of us. (That, or maybe I’m the one doing something wrong. LOL)

So, if you are writing and it’s all up hill, keep your chin up. Those who came before you had the same struggle and they made it. You can too.

22
Apr
10

Conference/Convention Season

I recently returned from my first convention of the year. It was a small regional science fiction/ fantasy con called RavenCon, and I had an absolutely fabulous time. I sat on about a dozen panels ranging in topics from the blush-worthy “Got Sex?” to the tech savvy “Kindlemania” to the very popular “What’s next in Urban Fantasy?”. I have spoken on panels before, (most notably a “strong female characters” panel with the super nice author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Charlaine Harris.) but this is the first convention I have been an official guest. And wow, I had fun. I met awesome readers who asked great questions, and I got to spend time speaking to other writers who were all wonderfully nice and I had a blast talking with both on and off panels.

What I learned about myself over the course of the con is that I am absolutely horrid at talking about my own books and what I write about. Admittedly, by the end of the weekend I finally nailed down a two sentence ‘blurb’ about both my Haven series and my upcoming Alex Craft novels. This was absolutely mandatory because I was expected to say something about what I write in my introduction on each panel. You know that whole, “I’m Kalayna Price and I write . . . ” Drawing a complete blank in your introduction never looks good, so after a couple times I did finally figure out a quick way to talk about my series.

But after the introduction, I was quite happy to never mention anything about my books again and talk about the panel topic. The hardest panel I was on was called “book launch” about new and upcoming releases, which meant no topic to divert me from having to discuss my books. That was also my first panel—talk about awkward.

I have sat on both sides of the table at a convention, and I know from experience in the audience that the authors (or anyone else) on the panel making the ‘hard sell’ and making every single statement about their own books are annoying. That said, if an author interests me, I do want to hear at least a little about their work (particularly in relation to the topic on the table). There is a balance there, and I’m sure the exact line is different for everyone.

So here are my questions for you. Have you ever been to a fan conference? Did you check out the author panels? What were your favorite topics/authors, and how did they balance relating the topic to their books?

Happy Thursday everyone!