In Which Zombie Joe Contemplated Critique Partners

Okay, so my titles are still feeling a bit Victorian. Don’t judge. It’s an ugly habit. The judging… not the… never mind.

This is one that is out there for my author friends. Even if you aren’t friends, or wish you didn’t know me. Feel free to comment on this subject. Currently I am contemplating writing partners and critique partners. This has been on my mind the last couple weeks thanks to Odyssey Con and the panel on collaboration. Not to mention the week before I had lunch (well they had lunch, I had a soda and conversation) with some authors who had long distance critique partners.

I have a weekly writing group. We meet at a diner every Tuesday (provided nobody is sick/away and someone has something to share) to read bits of our work aloud and critique them. Considering some of our members are writing erotica I think it is pretty amazing the diner accommodates us. But lately most of us have been in a funk. I’m putting in solid words every morning, but nothing that is developed enough to share. I just today have a chapter in my rewrite/revision ready to share with them. So I have an outlet for feedback. Lately I’ve been contemplating if I am missing an opportunity.

Until I put these first couple of manuscripts to rest (trunking them or reworking for submitting), I can’t see me doing a collaboration. Not that I wouldn’t be open to it, but I can’t see me doing it until I know I’d be in the right place. Also, currently I don’t see me offering much to the table for any established author willing to do a collaboration. I don’t see me getting past the “Well tell me a story” line that Larry Niven gave Steven Barnes. That could be the neurotic author in me talking, but there it is.

What I think I am missing out on is the possibility of a long distance critique partner. Someone I’m not face to face with every week that I can simply meet online every now and again to brainstorm and then send a complete and polished work for a fresh pair of eyes on it. For instance, once I rework my current piece to have the first three chapters popping (as I just did) and then clean up the rest of it I messed up by doing that (as I have yet to do), if I bring it back to my writing group it will take months to go through it again, and they will have read it all before. I can see the value of having someone from a different state (or country for that matter) to send it to for a fresh opinion.

My questions for you established authors out there are:

  1. Do you go to a weekly/monthly writers/critique group?
  2. Do you have a writing partner?
  3. Do you use a critique partner?
  4. If yes, local or distant?
  5. Do you have multiple critique readers/partners?
  6. What do you look for in a critique partner? What value do you get out of it?

I’ve read a number of advice pieces on how to find a critique partner, so the how to is not really the questions I have. Part of me would like to stay local, but the bigger picture part of me knows that my writing community is a vast network and not just limited to Southern Wisconsin.


Budgetary Book Constraints

So we are 10 days into the strict budgets and we are doing pretty well. We had a small section known as Mother’s Day we hadn’t budgeted for, but otherwise we are ahead of the game. Of course while nobody commented on which would be their one book a month for the upcoming months, through the magic of Twitter I was directed to

Looking through there, I was seeing the enormity of the situation with my book budget. If a trade paperback was coming out, I could skip coffee a couple days and make up the difference. But what am I doing in July when Ghost Story comes out? That is a hard cover bad boy. Moreover that is a hard cover bad boy that will likely not come to Audible right away (as I was hoping).

Furthermore, I entered in the titles I found there in my Google calendar to get a feel for the decisions I had to make. I also noticed that not all the books I knew where coming out in the next couple of months were there. My Life as a White Trash Zombie for instance, wasn’t listed. All of this started as I was deciding that since Dead on the Delta and Neon Graveyard both come out on the 31st this month that one could be my May book, and the other could be my June book. Here is what I found when I looked deeper…

May Books

  • Hounded – Kevin Hearne (out already)
  • Dead on the Delta – Stacey Jay (31st)
  • Neon Graveyard – Vicki Pettersson (31st)

June Books

  • Deadline – Mira Grant (1st)
  • Blackout – Mira Grant (2nd)
  • Hexes and Hemlines – Juliet Blackwell (7th)
  • Hexed – Kevin Hearne (7th)
  • Hammered – Kevin Hearne (28th)
  • Eat Slay Love – Jesse Petersen (28th)

July Books

  • Heartless – Gail Carriger (1st)
  • My Life as a White Trash Zombie – Diana Rowland (5th)
  • Snow Queen’s Shadow – Jim C. Hines (5th)
  • Bloodlust – Michelle Rowen (5th)
  • Dance of Dragons (HC) – George R. R. Martin (12th)
  • Rebirth – Sophie Littlefield (19th)
  • Ghost Story (HC) – Jim Butcher (26th)

August Books

  • Downpour – Kat Richardson (2nd)
  • Bloodhunt – Shannon K. Butcher (2nd)
  • Bloodlines – Richelle Mead (23rd)
  • Succubus Revealed – Richelle Mead (30th)
  • Crossroads – Jeanne Stein (30th)
  • Dust and Decay (HC) – Jonathan Maberry (30th)

Look at that. All of those are books that I am reading the series of, or are new books I was considering picking up from my favorite authors. Only one of the above in the list is an author I have not read before, and he is a member of the League of Reluctant Adults. Seriously though, check it out. July is hell month for me. How do I choose there?

One of the saving graces is contests that get run for books. Ironically Jim C. Hines started one this afternoon (while this blog sat on my laptop half finished). That is by no means a realistic answer, but it always gives one hope. Also, with his book coming out in July I have to look at it honestly. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is my top pick for that month. Were I to pick Ghost Story, I would not only have to take the budget for books that month, but even more from coffee and the like.

The other answer could be selling off the gaming books and such that I have determined that I do not need. Liquidating a few of those should make up enough for an extra book or two. And from the anti-4E comments that even plagued the Roll a D6 discussion on YouTube, it shouldn’t be hard to find people looking for some 3.5 books, right?

Now there is still the possibility of using the library. Ghost Story and Dance of Dragons should be there, right? Here’s the obstacle there… even if I can get it release day (assuming they have enough copies), for popular books like that there is a fee to check them out. So I would have to go without coffee for a day or two just to check one of those books out from the library. How is that even fair? A late fee before you even step out of the door?

Just browsing over the lists, here is what I am seeing:

  • No offense to the other July authors but I have to go with My Life as a White Trash Zombie first. It fits into the budget, it is a book I know I can get personalized (maybe not with debauched stick figures, but still) and if it hits the NYT Bestseller list Diana has said she will get the tattoo on the cover done permanently on her arm.
  • Dead on the Delta is my May book.
  • As we are on a cruise, there is a couple weeks I am not buying dinner at writer’s group. This will more than cover Neon Graveyard (which I will be preordering this week). That makes this a second May book.
  • June will be a tough month to make a decision. No one author/title really stands out there. If I go with signature potential I will have to go League title. If I stick with content, zombies may win out. Which zombie title remains to be seen.
  • July is still going to be hell. After White Trash Zombie it gets rough. Rebirth might take it and I will likely have to wait for Audible to offer Ghost Story (oh and I will be banking a credit until they do). Snow Queen’s Shadow may be my son’s responsibility since I originally bought the goblin series and stepsister series for him.
  • August, I may have to start with Bloodhunt. After that there may be a cage match between Kat and Richelle for the second potential slot. Of course GenCon is that month, so I will be starting from over budget.

If you are wondering what all of this internal blathering that is making it out onto the blog means, the general thought is this… Strict budgets are hard. And having gone 10 days without a coffee that I didn’t brew at home I am finding what things in my original budget are really important to me. Sorry local coffee shops, the authors win.

As nobody had a comment as to the single book you would purchase in each of the coming months, how about a different question to fish for comments? What would you give up to be able to pick up one more book this month?

First Budget Dilemma

As of this month, Mrs. Zombie and I have started on a money management plan that a friend suggested to me a few years back. Between the likelihood that the state may be taking back a significant chunk of my paycheck and other family related bills coming up, it seemed like the perfect motivator to get on it. This meant devising very strict budgets.

First casualty was coffee. I write in coffee shops. This situation leads to me drinking coffee. Specifically in my reintroduction to coffee (from about a year and a half off of it) I began drinking vanilla lattes. Vanilla lattes are more expensive than drip coffee and by this point the drive-through place knows my truck and has fixed the drink before I get up to the window. This doesn’t really match the $2 per day I have slotted for coffee (which as is comes to over double what my wife has budgeted).

But this really wasn’t much of a dilemma. I can train myself back into brew coffee and we have a spiffy K-Cup machine at home. Shopping at Costco those bad boys are less than 50 cents per cup. I think just over 40 is the magic number. The real problem came with movies.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t go to a lot of movies, but during the summer we go more. I forgot this when we were budgeting. Originally I said enough for one movie a month and if there is nothing playing that month we can bank it or use it for a dinner out. Sounded good at the time… then I checked the schedule for the next couple weeks.

This Friday Thor releases. Next two weekends bring us Priest and the next Pirates movie. Next month is X-Men First Class and Green Lantern. After that is Harry Potter, Captain America ending with Cowboys and Aliens all in a row. August is my saving month with just Conan, but that is also the month of GenCon.

As it is there is a release of Highlander and GenCon that I am committed to outside of the budget, so adding this $30 to each of those months is not really an option. That means shifting the money from another portion of the budget and going without somewhere else. For Thor that can be solved by both my wife and I not eating out on Tuesday like we normally do (and have budgeted for).

Seriously, this is like Weight Watchers for your finances. Of course if we can stick to it, the plan works. My buddy in Texas only has a mortgage to pay and is saving a crazy amount every month – I assume to put towards paying off the mortgage early and being totally debt free.

For other people who know me and might be wondering… Yes, I have budgeted an amount each month to put towards going to Romantic Times and the like. I figure there is enough in that cell of the spreadsheet to cover OddCon and WisCon as well, since they are local. (Which means that RT2012 in Chicago is still on for me and Mrs. Zombie.) Books, well… that’s a different story. I have $10 a month slotted towards books. Enough for a single book and one or two epub short stories.

I’ll wait for the authors and book bloggers in the crowd to come around from the inevitable fainting spell they just had. It shouldn’t take long, most of them have coffee nearby – some may be gently rocking the cup and mumbling as I speak.

What this means for me in the library category is… well… the library. Which kind of pains me as ours is notoriously low in the contemporary genre fiction sections. Hopefully I can change that. The bright side to that one is having a crazy huge TBR pile at home. I will not want for genre fiction brothers and sisters. For my favorite authors it means I will have to make choices on which books I wish to own. Part of this will be my investment in the series, how well I know the author and my chances of getting the book personalized. Seriously if there is a chance of dirty stick figures being drawn in it at some point at a Rock Band party, why wouldn’t I get it?

For this month the book I know I want to own (and will likely be downloading on my Nook somewhere in Alaska while in dock on our Anniversary cruise) is Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay. Seriously, I have been waiting for this book for a while and a zombie has to support the undead enthusiast, right?

If, like me, you are a Nook enthusiast (or simply going to be in the middle of a trip requiring a passport and don’t want to wait) the Nook version will likely go up for preorder a week before release. The link above is to preorder the print copy and have it shipped to you.

Which brings me to a question for anyone who wishes to speak up. If you had only one book you could purchase during the next few months, which ones would it be?