The slow descent into a Twitter addiction

I can’t believe I just opened a Twitter account. This is so dumb.

What are you even supposed to say in 140 characters? Maybe–nope, how about–still too long–GAH!

Whatever. I don’t have anything witty to say anyway. I’ll just link to my blog.

What’s with all the cat pictures?

OK, OK, I’ll tweet, but I’m NOT using hashtags. I don’t even get how those work.

All these other writers are using the #amwriting hashtag…I guess that one’s harmless enough. I’ll try it.

HOLY CRAP, like ten people just followed me! That, like, tripled my followers!

…aaand most of them are spam bots.

Why do people even like looking at Twitter? All I see are the same self-promoting tweets sent out about five times a day.

Wait, you can mute people who don’t do anything but scream “BUY MY BOOK”?

Heyyyy… That’s better. Some of these people are actually kinda fun to follow.

Wait–one of my favorite authors just followed me back! Eee! Must–control–fangirling…

Favorite author just REPLIED TO MY TWEET! Stay calm… Don’t blow it… Say something cool… In less than 140 characters… Is it OK to abbreviate when tweeting an author? Is she going to judge me? How else do you get under 140 characters? There’s not enough room to reply to her comment AND tell her how many times I’ve reread her books. Should I tweet her twice? Is that annoying?

Dude. I’m totally Twitter buddies with a super awesome author.

Actually, there are a lot of awesome authors on here. Follow… Follow… Follow…

And agents! Look at all the agents!

And #MSWL! Whaaaat?! Coolest thing EVER!

NETWORKING! WRITING COMMUNITY! TRIBES! CAT PICTURES! (OK, no, I still don’t get the cat pictures.) TWITTER FOREVER!

WordPressiversary Nostalgia

Every year, on January 6, I get a notification on WordPress that another year has passed since I first registered here. And without fail, I get all nostalgic about the reason why I joined WordPress.

It was for a class I took my final semester at the university. A class I didn’t need according to my academic advisor, but a class that I needed with all my soul according to my writerly ambitions. It was the class that changed my life possibly more than any other class I took during those four years.

I met Brandon Mull and Dan Wells and other amazing authors.

Even better, I met Jennifer Nielsen and got a signed copy of The False Prince about two days after it was released.

I listened to agents, editors, authors, illustrators, and other publishing gurus talk about their experiences in the world of books.

I pitched a book to a real live agent while I had the flu. Possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done.

Above all, I realized that all those published authors out there are just people. Ordinary people who wrote books. And by golly, I’m as ordinary as any of them, which meant that it was entirely possible for me to get a book published.

And hey. I did.

Happy WordPressiversary!

The Battle of Names and Titles

Covers aren’t usually a huge deciding factor for me. I care more about the words inside than the pictures outside. But there is one thing a cover can do that will instantly have me cringing, screeching, and hiding the offending cover behind other books:

Displaying the author’s name in a font ten times larger and bolder than the title.

Look, I appreciate that some authors are just plain awesome. But there is not a single author on earth whose book I would buy just because that author wrote it. Every book is something new, something different, something unique. Every book has its own identity. Every book has to make a name for itself.

And, for goodness’ sake, how can you expect a person to remember the title of the book when there’s a 1000-pt, extra-extra bold

AUTHOR NAME

blaring in your face and drowning it out?

Am I the only one who cares about the relative size of the title and author name? Are there any authors whose books you will buy without hesitation just because it’s written by that author?

It’s launched!

The launch party at Barnes and Noble was amazing! I talked with so many wonderful people. I love how books bring people together! A huge thank you to all who pitched in and made it a success!

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20141212_164239Sadly, this was the only photo, blurry as it is, that I got with the wonderful Julia, who took good care of me and was a delight to talk to. Thank you, Julia!

Laughter from a Moribund Writer

The first time I heard the phrase “The author is dead” in an intro to literary theory class, I was completely puzzled. We wouldn’t have many sequels if all authors were dead, now, would we?

But it didn’t take long to realize that the words were figurative. (Figurative language in a literary theory class? Who’da thunk?) Once a book is out in the world, it doesn’t matter what the author meant it to say. The book is open to the interpretation of all who read it.

This was one of the things that I worried about leading up to Demon’s Heart‘s release. Once it was out in the world, in a way, it would no longer be mine. It would be whatever the readers made it out to be based on their own experiences, tastes, opinions, and so forth.

But the day after release, I’ve already had a good laugh over this very concept. I’ve had two very dear people place Demon’s Heart on opposite ends of the romance spectrum. Romance! Do you know where romance falls on my list of things I think about when categorizing Demon’s Heart? Somewhere on level five or six. Sure, there’s a boy and a girl and teenage hormones play a role, but to have romance brought out as a principle sub-genre and critiqued as such in two very different ways . . . it made me smile. I suppose everyone views it through their own eyes.

What do you think? Is the author truly dead? Have you ever had a reader give you a totally unexpected perspective on your book?

If you’re interested, here are a few reviews that have rolled in. Enjoy!

“Whenever you’re stressed, you wear the yellow tie.”

It’s been one of those weeks, folks. I’ve gotten abysmally lost three times on the way to three different libraries. My baby girl decided she only wants to take one nap a day. And it’s been pouring rain all—week—long.

If my name were Russell Morlin Duritz, I would be wearing a yellow tie.

Instead, I’m wearing Christmas socks and sharing exciting news!

On December 12 from 4pm to 8pm, I’ll be at the Woodinville, WA, Barnes and Noble with a stack of freshly-released copies of Demon’s Heart!

I’ll also have a bowl of chocolate and a few other fun things to hand out. Stop by to say hello and to eat my chocolate! I’d love to see any of you that are in the area!

Never say never, whatever you do

What can a mouse and a pigeon teach us about writing? I shall enlighten you.

Did you ever watch An American Tail as a kid? It’s about this family of Russian-Jewish mice who escape to America (because “there are nooooo cats in America!“). The little boy mouse, Fievel, gets separated from his family and meets up with a pigeon (Christopher Plummer), who sings this long song in a French accent about how you should “never say never, whatever you do.

And I want to sing that song at the top of my lungs every time someone posts a list of “THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER IN YOUR LIFE DO WHILE WRITING OR ELSE YOU WILL NEVER GET PUBLISHED AND YOU MIGHT POSSIBLY BURN FOR ETERNITY.”

Can I tell you a secret?

There is no recipe for writing.

There is no rule book you can follow to have words come together in combinations that will electrify your reader. Not even the Chicago Manual of Style. (Gasp!)

Listen, there’s “proper” grammar and “proper” syntax and plenty of rules on how to use English “correctly.” I studied all these things in school. I used them in editing. I understand their importance.

But I defy you to find any author with the slightest shimmer of brilliance who hasn’t defied those rules somewhere in her books. Madeleine L’Engle. Charles Dickens. JK Rowling. Neil Gaiman. Louisa May Alcott. Harper Lee. Lois Lowry. They all break rules.

So should we just throw all rules out the window?

Not at all. See, there’s a balance. Write a book following all the rules of standard English, and you have the lamest textbook ever written. Write a book flouting all the rules of standard English, and you have the most unreadable trash ever written.

But follow the rules most of the time—keep your writing in check most of the time—lull your reader into a false sense of security—and then, when something needs to stand out, when you need to draw attention and make a point, you tear that list of rules in two and you drive your words home in the style that’s coming out of your heart.

So next time you start to doubt your writing because some random person in the wide world of the Internet posted a list of arbitrary rules, don’t. Start singing in a Christopher Plummer French accent and go on your merry way, leaving a trail of broken rules behind you.

How do you feel about rules? Are you a die-hard prescriptivist? Are there any “rules” that you think are particularly dumb and useless?