Friday, December 11, 2009

Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad, The Expensive

Author Shiloh Walker invited me to guest blog on self-publishing and subsidy/vanity presses in response to the recent issues with Harlequin and their new pay-to-play subsidiary DellArte. Just click this link to check it out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

There Be Questions (Part 1)

Recently I made an appearance at the Entertainment Marketing Class at Kennesaw State University. Besides having a grand time with the students, I left with a handful of questions. So I thought I'd answer a few.

D. Howell asks: What are you reading right now?
Scott Westerfeld. Scott has one really unusual imagination (as evidenced by his latest book LEVIATHAN) and I thought I'd check out this series. The premise is that when you turn a certain age you are changed from an Ugly to a Pretty and get to lead the good life. Of course, not all is as it seems and that's why I'm enjoying the book so far.

D. Howell also asks: Are any characters based off of yourself?
Sorta, but not really. Great answer, huh? There are elements of me in all my characters, but if I did a Mary Sue and made the heroine just like me it'd be a darned dull story. So I incorporate some of my traits (usually unwittingly) into my characters. An example is Jacynda Lassiter (my heroine in the
Time Rovers Series) who fears tunnels that go underwater. I'm the same. She has a tendency to thump annoying people over the head. I used to do that when I was a kid but gave it up since I don't really need a criminal record. There are other examples, but on the whole I avoid writing my characters based on me because my life is nowhere near exciting as theirs.

J. Smith asks: Iowa being the sprawling metropolis it is, did that help you in your writings or make you depend on your creative side when you were growing up?
I like the idea of Iowa sorta sprawling around, elbowing Minnesota and shoving Missouri further south (grin). Living in Iowa, per se, didn't affect me as much as being an only child. The best way to entertain myself (and not get into trouble with my eagle-eyed mother) was to exercise my imagination. I lived in my own little world (still do most of the time) where I created other people to hang with, talk to and share adventures. Couple that with voracious reading and you've got logical stepping stones to becoming an author.

J. Smith also inquires: What are your single malt recommendations?
Now there's a question close to my liquor cabinet! I choose single malt based on my mood. I usually head toward the peatier (smoky) varieties like Oban, Talisker or Laphroaig. Every now and then I'll try some Abelour A'bunadh. I have some 16 y/o cask strength Abelour right now that is just smoother than anything. Some nights it's a beer. Just depends on where my head is.

I'll tackle a few more questions in the next couple of days. In the meantime enjoy your leftover turkey, folks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going Global

One of the coolest things about being an author is knowing that folks are going to be reading your work. Even better when it's in a different part of the world. I've been sitting on some awesome news and now I can share it!

My Demon Trappers Series has gone international.

e German foreign rights have been sold to Fischer, which means my books will be sitting on shelves in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich sometime down the line! Wheeee!!!!

And then just last week as we walked off the plane in Las Vegas there was an email from my editor -- Pan MacMillan has purchased the UK rights. Books in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin!

Clearly we have a lot to be thankful for and I'll be making note of all that on Turkey Day. Thanks for sharing the good news. It makes it so much more fun that way. Publishing is a tough profession and it helps to celebrate the good stuff and share the bad. This time around it's the good stuff.

Wishing you all a very wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Postcard from the Writer Person

Manuscript to Editor on Nov. 1st? Check
House tidied? Check.
Twitching to work on next book? Check.

All systems normal here. While I await The Verdict from my editor on the first book in the Demon Trapper's Series (tentatively titled THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER) I've been tidying up my environment in an effort to keep me away from Book #2. I need a break, but the writing virus doesn't believe in time off so I have to trick it into submission by diverting its attention. So far that diversion has been successful.

I've had a couple folks ask how matters will progress from this point forward. It's pretty simple, actually. The process is much like it was for Dragon Moon Press, though on a grander scale. Once I've made any revisions my editor requests and she gives it a thumbs up, the next step is copy editing, wherein some wonderful person fixes my grammatical boo-boos etc. Somewhere along the line I'll get to see the new cover design (can't wait on this one -- St. Martin's has gorgeous covers) and I proof the "galley" for any typesetting issues. Then the book is into the chute and headed for press. ARC (Advance Reading Copies) will come out first and be sent to reviewers, then the real deal will land on my doorstep and in bookstores. There will be champagne flowing on that day, for sure.

I'll start working on Book #2 after our vacation and Thanksgiving. Meanwhile I'm enjoying the time off, while trying to ignore that tiny nagging voice hissing "Must Write!!" Time to clean another closet, me thinks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Of Vampyres and Friends

Every now and then I blog about friends of mine, especially when they're doing cool stuff. This post is about P.C. Cast who I met eight years ago at Arcon in St. Louis. Her first small press book had just been published. At the time, P.C. was a schoolteacher in Oklahoma. She was (and still is) a blonde dynamo. We met at a signing and I watched her work the crowd. GODDESS BY MISTAKE was a paranormal romance, but you wouldn't have known it by the line of guys waiting to buy the book. I suspect that might have had something to do with P.C.'s sassy attitude, hot pink sweater (with discrete cleavage) and the miniskirt she was wearing. Savvy woman.

We hit it off immediately and readily shared our dreams of being published by one of the Big Houses. It started to happen for P.C. right off -- her book received a rare 4-1/2 Star Top Pick Gold from Romantic Times. Then it won four major romance awards in one year. P.C. signed with a top NY agent (Meredith Bernstein) and went on to publish both fantasies and paranormal romances for Berkley and Mira. All the while she continued to be a single mother and a schoolteacher struggling to pay the bills. She'd come home from teaching and write until late at night. That's what it took to put food on the table.

Over the years we've shared the joys and heartbreaks. For the first year I kept receiving emails from her with "!!!!!!" in the subject line announcing her book had finaled in one contest after another. Then she won those contests. Then more book contracts came her way. In 2007 I got to retaliate with my own flurry of "!!!!!" emails when one of my books did so well. We also traded rants about this, that or another, the kind of candid emails or phone calls only close friends dare to share. Between the rants and the happy dance emails, time marched on.

P.C.'s career underwent a sea change in 2005 in Reno at a Romance Writers conference. P.C. and Meredith cooked up an idea about a series based on a Vampyre Finishing School and The House of Night concept was born. I remember thinking, "Wow. Cool concept. This will rock." We both joked how awesome it would be if she made the NY Times list with a Young Adult series.

And lo -- The House of Night Series (co-authored with her daughter Kristin and published by St. Martin's Press) did just that. The third book in the series (P.C.'s eighteenth book) made the NY Times list. The series is a MEGA bestseller. P.C. and Kristin have appeared on national TV shows, been on book tours in the U.S. and the U.K. They've camped out on the NY Times list for so many weeks I've lost track at this point. The series is in 30 countries now. I remember her calling me in July 2008 and, in a state of shock, telling me one million copies of her books were in print. We couldn't wrap our minds around that number. Now it's closer to eight million. Still can't fathom it.

I've been blessed with the front row seat to all this wonderfulness. A writer's road is a long and steep one so it is beyond joyous to watch a dear friend make that climb and hit the big time. Especially someone who worked so hard to reach that pinnacle, who paid their dues and got rewarded.

(TEMPTED) P.C. and Kristin's latest book in the series will debut today on the Wendy Williams Show. And even better, their multi-city book tour will bring them to Atlanta on Nov. 2 and 3rd. If you liked to meet my dear friend and her charming (and equally sassy daughter) they'll be signing at these bookstores:

Monday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
7660 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022

Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 7p.m.
4475 Roswell Road - Ave. E Cobb
Marietta, GA

As P.C. said a few months back -- "Now it's your turn, dahling." Who knows, maybe someday she'll be writing a blog like this for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Why It's A Good Thing

Back when I first started writing I would sit in a chair for 10-14 hours per day and bang out my first draft. Those drafts would require a minimum of eight or nine edits to get them passable. As I got older that many hours in a chair became crippling so I slowed down and spent more time on the draft, constantly rewriting. The number of edits required dropped a bit, but so did my productivity. I had to find a happy medium. Then came NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is a one-month long event held every November. It has a couple of purposes: collect a group of folks who are dying to put words on page and then entice them to do just that.

To achieve that aim NaNoWriMo creates a huge online community of writers, some published, some not, and coerces them to achieve a certain number of words per day. I participated in NaNoWriMo a few years back and generated a 75k word draft of my third Time Rovers novel in thirty days. Now to do that you have to have one focus: words on page. These are not great words, nor are they printable words. 50K words over 30 days = 1667 words per day. That's manageable. That's how pro authors get their books finished - one word at a time. By committing to those 50K words you are acknowledging that no matter how rough life gets, you will get your word count for the day. At the end of the month you will have a *start* on your novel.

Now no one shows up on your doorstep and points a loaded crossbow at your head to ensure you achieve wordcount. That's up to you. Peer pressure helps, but ultimately it's your fingers on the keyboard, on the typewriter or scribbling on a notepad. Word Count. That's what matters. Some folks meet during NaNo and do group writing events. I'm more of a loner so I type away on my own. Ultimately it's all about getting those words out of my brain.

What NaNo did for me:
1) It broke me of my obsessive editing of the first draft.
2) See #1.

Now I write all my drafts like that, committing to a minimum of # number of words per day according to my writing schedule but not being so stupid as to spend too many hours in the chair. I usually average about 2K (8 pages) but sometimes I roar up to 3K. In the end I have a rough draft. Then I make at least three more passes (sometimes more) through the manuscript before an editor ever sees it. I did exactly that with the first book in my DEMON TRAPPERS Series and will do the same with the next two. Sometimes I plot out a bit ahead, usually I just go where the story takes me. It's the journey that counts.

Because of this I enjoy that first draft stage a lot more, I don't kill my body and I can plan out exactly how long it will take me to produce a book. That last bit is exceptionally important since I sign a contract specifying when I will turn in that manuscript. If you're thinking of giving NaNoWriMo a spin, go for it. It's fun. And at the end of November you can say you've been writing a novel. It's a very nice thing to admit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Release by Ilona Andrews!!

More than once I've raved about Ilona Andrews' books (in particular the Kate Daniel's Series) and this time I get to tout their newest baby! Ilona and her spouse/co-author Gordon, are launching a new series this week. I've already read the first book (ON THE EDGE) and thoroughly enjoyed it. These authors know how to create real characters, set a page-turning pace and they world build with the best of them. I particularly like the fact they use a rural setting and the magic rocks!

To celebrate their new book launch, the Andrews have teamed up with to give away some really nifty prizes (see above). So drop by that site and
Ilona and Gordon's blog to enter the contests and to learn more about these gifted writers. Even Ferret Fred and his gal pal like the book!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

2009 Dragon*Con received many thumbs up from me. It's sort of like the Crusades minus all the forced conversions, chopping off of limbs and sacking of cities. Well, maybe a bit of the latter. You should never miss the opportunity to sack a city or two.

Being a guest has its perks -- you get to pick up your badge with minimal hassle. I felt sorry for the folks standing in the hideously long Pre-Reg line and did my best NOT to look smug when I waltzed in and out in record time. Usually there's a bit of a line at Guest Reg, but not when I arrived. That was good as The Spouse was ill. As in perishing from a cold. But more about him later.

My panels went great, I actually had people at my reading (yeah!) and the Hour with Jana Oliver (Time Rovers vs. Jack the Ripper) did not become what I feared. Yes, gentle readers, I have secret fears. In this case it would be the appearanc
e of some person toting a fat notebook filled with JtR facts and figures who intended to grill me about every single suspect and aspect of the crimes. Instead it was a really good group. Not that I mind the folks with the notebooks, it's just that they spook me.

Squee'ing Fan Moment -- I got to meet MAGGIE STIEFVATER!!!! She's a most excellent author (LAMENT, SHIVER, BALLAD) and a bright and snazzy young lady. I wish I was her age and just starting my career, but for all writers there is a season and mine didn't start until a few decades later than Maggie. If you haven't read SHIVER, get it from your library or buy a copy. It's way GOOD. She acknowledged (and didn't appear freaked by) my inner fangirl and all was wonderful.

I also hung with buds. Many buds, actually, which made me realize how many people I know after all these years. Jean Marie Ward allowed me to haul her butt all over Oakland Cemetery, then to lunch at Six Feet Under (yum!) and then over to Little Five Points for some shopping. We ran out of time (bah) but have scheduled a revisit to L5P next year.

Other buds: Theresa Patterson (she who taught me panel manners way back in 2001 when I started this journey), Lee Martindale (ditto), Florence Bradley (a lady fightfighter -- how cool is that? She's my go-to source for all things incendiary). Chris Jackson and his lovely wife, Anne. He launched his first Dragon Moon Press book at the con (SCIMITAR MOON) and sold a lot of them I hear. I did the Friday breakfast gig with Pixie and Blanchard, as is tradition. But I missed the single malt scotch tasting (drat!) There were countless other folks I hung with, but if I try to list them all I'll forget someone and get nailed for it. Happens every time. Thanks ya'll. You made it special.

The new Alternate History programming track ROCKED. The panels very well attended. So glad Dragon decided to finally add this track. The Time Traveler's Ball was SRO. I was very plain compared to all the incredible steampunk and Victorian/Edwardian costumes. Such creativity. I just stared at lot.
I couldn't resist taking one of the photos and turning it into a pseudo cartoon (see above).

And finally the husband -- he got his badge Thursday evening and then spiraled into bed until Monday when he came to pick me up. Nasty, nasty cold which was way worse than the one I caught a week before the con. I felt so sorry for him because he missed Dragon. Next year we're both going on serious immune builders in mid-August so we can do our thing without a sniffle.

The only grumble I have from the con:

Why in the living hell can't the Hyatt get their wheelchair lift working and keep it working throughout the con? The device is situated between the hotel and the Peachtree Center where the Food Court resides. The stairs between these two places make it impossible to access if you're a wheelie. Why is that important? Peachtree Center is where the reasonably priced food is located during the majority of the hours the con is in session. That is also the best way to get to the Marriott without going out onto the streets. Not all the curb cuts are decent and the advice that anyone in a wheelchair should just tool out there is dumb. Wheelchairs, motorized or not, are white knuckle when you're faced with the significant hills around the con hotels. At present I don't need to use one, but I have friends who do. In years to come I might be the one finding myself stranded.
Hyatt, get with it. That thing dies every year. There's no excuse.

Already looking forward to D*C 2010. If the publishing gods favor me, I might even get to launch the first book in my Demon Trappers Series there next year. I would just be so jazzed I probably would explode. Ultimately that decision is not in my hands so I'll put it out to the universe (and my editor) and see what happens.
Fingers be crossed.

Glad to see all of you again! Do good things and we'll see you next year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bug Photo of the Day

Little miracles abound around us. Or in this case are hiding in some bushes my husband was dutifully trimming. When something flew out of them, he checked it out, figuring it was a grasshopper.

Nope, something way cooler. There, on his rake handle was the lovely praying mantis. Husband is a bit concerned that the one shorter antenna occurred because of his trimming efforts, but the wee beastie seems to be fine otherwise. Now deposited into our Japanese maple, I'm sure he (or she) is looking for the next meal. It was at least 3-1/2 inches long, if not more. Yet another reason to get a higher quality digital camera than the one I own.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Crazy or Why Writing Drives Me Insane

I'm coasting toward Dragon*Con and hacking my way through Book #2 of the Demon Trappers Series whilst I wait for edits on Book #1. So I thought I'd give you an idea of how my writing process does (or doesn't work).

I start the first book. This is like first love! I discover characters. I realize they're not telling me everything, which means there will be an author gotcha down the line. I pray that said author gotcha doesn't happen after the first book is printed and there is no way to change something I will live to regret.

Finish first book, convinced it rocks. No, it sucks. Rocks. Sucks. Repeat those two in an endless loop until I start Book #2 so I don't go nuts.

Book #2. Yup, I'm working on Book #2. Fingers on keyboard, butt in chair, iced tea at elbow. Long passages of prose will flow any moment now. Any moment now. Hello? Earth to Jana? Why aren't those fingers moving?

(Crickets chirping). Gee, maybe I should clean the catbox. Oh, don't have one since the feline moved onto a new address (points upward).

Okay, then I'll write. (Crickets.)

Maybe the heroine some laundry or something. Yeah, that's it. She's not done washing in Book #1 and is probably low on underwear and jeans. That outta eat up a page or two.

(Crickets.) Let's take her to the hospital to visit "X" (major plot spoiler here if I reveal the name).

Okay now we're visiting "X". This is working. Deep, angsty scene. Cool. Lots of hidden stuff that will be really nifty when it's revealed down the line.

Now a scene with the hunky, mysterious dude. A scene with the one guy who pushes all her buttons, in sequence.

(More crickets.) Okay, how's about the big battle scene?
*headdesk* Battle scene is in BOOK NUMBER THREE. So is Big Decision Scene and the Big Emotional Scene, all of which are VERY clear to me at this point in time.

Why am I only getting scenes from Books #3 and beyond when I'm working on #2?

Because that's the way my author mind works. It lives to torture me. Over the years it's gotten quite proficient at it. If you listen closely, you can hear its evil chuckling in the background.

Situation normal. I think I'll go around the neighborhood and find a catbox to clean just for something to do.

(Cue crickets.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

Dragon*Con approacheth and so I thought it might be appropriate to post my schedule for those who truly care. One new thing this year -- "Time Rovers vs. Jack the Ripper: An Hour with Jana Oliver" courtesy of the good folks on the Alternate History Track. This will be fun. And scary. Okay, scary fun. An hour with me? I know two folks who will be there -- me (of course) and my hubby who is always there to support, harass and keep me humble. Hey, what else would you expect of a spouse? I'm hoping to schlep along some of my Victorian goodies (maps, some early Ripper fiction from 1888 and what not.) So drop by and join in the heckling. I'm good for it, trust me.

If you want to chat, buy books, get books signed, find me and we'll do so. I'm also known to wander off to the closest bar and b.s. on a moment's notice, so you've been warned.


04:00 pm - Williams (Hyatt)
Reading -- I will be reading from the Time Rovers Series and snippets from the new Demon Trappers Series!

08:30 pm - Fairlie (Hyatt)
Small Press or Self Pub? Or Both?
What are the assets and the pitfalls of a small press, of self publishing? Could small press be a better entrance for new writers?


05:30 pm - Piedmont (Hyatt)
Alternate History Classics
A look at the periods that are extensively covered in the literature and why these eras are popular, with emphasis on the works of S.M. Stirling and Eric Flint.


01:00 pm - Piedmont (Hyatt)
Time Rovers vs. Jack the Ripper: An Hour with Jana Oliver
Come discuss the Time Rovers series, Jack the Ripper, and Victorian London with author Jana Oliver.

04:00 pm - Piedmont (Hyatt)
Sherlock Holmes - Does the Franchise Really Need a Reboot?
A discussion of the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film led by Carole Nelson Douglas, author of the Irene Adler mystery series.

05:30 pm - Fairlie (Hyatt)
My Brain Hurts! Time travel in SF
Writing time travel is hard. Sometimes reading it is just as difficult. Join us in a discussion of both.

10:00 pm - Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong (Hyatt)
Creating a Viable Spiritual Base for Fiction
God, Demons? Where do I start to develop a religion or spiritual base for my books and stories?


01:00 pm - Piedmont (Hyatt)
Ancestorcide, Paradox, and Navigating the Multiverse
Common pitfalls of time travel, and how to avoid them. A lighthearted look at time travel in literature and popular media.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cemetery Tales

The word came down from my editor -- thou shalt provide an author photograph for thy book cover. Cue squee of excitement at the thought of the book cover, followed by "Oh no!" I HATE getting photographed. My bangs have a will of their own and a camera's lens is never kind, adding even more pounds to my well-rounded frame.

However, when one's author photo is at least ten years (and umpty odd pounds lighter) than the real you, it's time to make amends. In my case it'd been six years, lots of pounds and the loss of the long red hair since my last sitting in 2003.

Amends were taken -- as in hauling my behind to my hair stylist, the ever talented Eli Boursarkis (
Image Salon). Eli has been instrumental in helping me to go "silver" (as he puts it) and so he was delighted when I told him we could be completely funky this time around. He used semi-permanent color as I still want to gracefully go gray down the line, but kicked it up a notch. So now I'm this lovely chestnut brown with black chunky lowlights and a few blonde highlights on the tips. It rocks. Like. Totally. (Yes, I've been immersed in Y.A. fiction a little too long.) This is close to my original hair color before Nature decided to show me a lesson or two. And it will be perfect for Dragon*Con!!

Off to Oakland Cemetery with more wardrobe changes than Paris Hilton. Well, not quite -- a couple change o' shirts and a couple hats. Matt the Photographer (see above) from One Six Photography met us at the cemetery office and off we went. At six in the evening it's still really light and there was a breeze so we kept wandering around and shooting based on places that had interesting textures, shadows, you name it. I went back and forth between a denim jacket (yes it was hot) and an emerald green shirt. I figure between Matt's talent and Photoshop we'll end up with something that will work quite nicely. Unlike the last couple of weeks, it did not rain and the light wind made the temperature (87 degrees) bearable.

Pluses -- Matt's shot in the cemetery before so he knew cool places to go. There were No Mosquitoes. We're swarmed with the bloodsuckers in our neighborhood, but there were NONE down at the cemetery. The occasional gnat or butterfly, but that's it. I didn't even both to pull out the bug spray. And Matt and I talked cameras cuz, well, ya just got to! He made some recommendations on Canon digitals and I'm doing some serious pondering in that direction.

Now I wait and see what miracles Matt is able to perform. I had tons of fun and have promised myself that in a couple years, I'm doing it all over again. Yes, it was that painless.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MobileMe Fail

Annoyed, we are. I'm willing to embrace new technology as long as it works. I eagerly embraced MobileMe so that my emails could be "pushed" to my iPhone as compared to going through my regular web address wherein I have to check for new emails or wait for them to be delivered at a particular time. Not that my life is so on the edge that I need to read my emails "instantly" but still, it's way cool, okay? I ran their sixty day trial -- no hassles. A little light on options, but it had possibilities that it might grow into something really nice. I moved my primary business contacts to MobileMe and life was good.

Then Apple changed their software somewhere along the way. So not good.

My agent was the first to point out things were not kosher. My emails to her didn't bother to wrap. Instead, they were one long line disappearing off the end of the page and into infinitely. Gads. So I tested this issue with some friends. Almost all of them had a problem. Drat. Digging through the stacks of info on Apple's website reveals they know of this problem and haven't bothered to correct it. When I go to send an email, part of the time I get an error message that requires me to refresh the MobileMe page, then send the email. What is with that? No formatting options have been added, etc. etc. Did I mention this service costs $99/year? Ah, that got your attention. Inelegantly designed software is tolerable if it's free. It's not when it costs $$, especially for what is to be my business account which is a reflection of "moi" online. (To their credit, Apple offers a refund if you cancel within forty-five days. That date approacheth.)

I'm currently checking out GoDaddy. Their hosted exchange accounts offer Microsoft 2007 software as part of the package. The Alpha Geek tells me that MS Outlook '07 is a good thing (and he's SO not a Microsoft guy). I've be less likely to get caught in a spam trap as compared to using Yahoo or Gmail. I'll need to do some more due diligence. I don't want to keep annoying my contacts by changing email addresses every day or so.

So no gold star for you, Apple. I love your iPhone. Adore it. I can't stand your MobileMe. Fix it and maybe someday I'll give it another try. For now, I'm cozying up to your competitors.

If any of you have experience with GoDaddy or any other service, let me hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wisdom of Others

The Second Book Saga continues. I'm at about 20K (I need about 85K) and I keep hitting walls. Frankly, the computer crash came at a "good" time since I was still trying to work out the plot for Numero 2. Well, I do know the big stuff that's going to happen in the story, but it's all the rest of it I'm pretty foggy on. Which is par for the course at this point so I'm not freakin'.

Fortunately a fellow writer (the talented Gillian Summers) pointed me toward a
review of THE AWAKENENING by Kelly Armstrong. The reviewer is Sarah Rees Brennan the author of THE DEMON'S LEXICON, also a Young Adult author. Sarah wisely explains how she feels a three book set outta play out (and I quote here): "Book 1: set up. Book 2: make out. Book 3: defeat evil!"

Well, there we are. Frankly it makes a great deal of sense and also explains why Book 2 has been kicking my can -- I do have a lot more interaction between Riley (the heroine) and the other folks in her world, in particular Simon (her new boyfriend), Beck (who insists on acting like her annoying big brother) and her best bud Peter. And then there's the mysterious hunky guy who is making her eyes cross cuz he's just so...hunky. Sigh... Much is happening in this book, but on a more intimate, personal level. If I work hard, I'll pull it off.

I also really enjoyed a recent post by Maggie Stiefvater who laid out the basics of how to write a novel. It's completely on target -- no butt in chair, no novel. Even writing a few hours of day will eventually get you a book. She's proof of it. So go forth and procrastinate no more, would-be writers. You have been given your marching orders.

And now back to teasing out the finer points of teen angst with a nice overlay of nasty demons. I've said it before -- my job rocks!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Of Technology & Cranky Computers

Words you do not want to see on your computer screen:

Operating System Not Found

Sigh. This was not on the 'new' eMachine I bought, but my trusty and deeply cool Dell Mini 9 which I purchased last November. It doesn't have a hard drive, more of a glorified flash drive, which means that full backup I did last week is not going to be able to be reloaded anytime soon. So I called Dell, talked to some delightful East Indian gentlemen, and the computer will be zinging it's way to wherever to be fixed (it's under warranty). When it gets back I am to call them and they will walk me through putting all the goodies back on the machine. Actually, I'll have the spouse do that since he's Alpha Geek of the household.

I find it suspicious that only a few days after the new machine arrives in the house the Dell goes toes up. A fit of pique maybe? Like a cat eying a newborn and knowing it's penultimate place has been usurped? Let's just hope they never make truly sentient computers or they'll spend all their time sulking and plotting unholy revenge for slights imagined and otherwise. So take a few moments and tell your computer you love it. If not, it may find a way to get even.

(For those writers out there who wince at such news, I didn't lose a bit of my work. That automatic full system backup onto the Seagate drive saved my a**. Huzzah!)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Technology Fights Back

The plan for a fun weekend was thwarted by technology. Or in this case my Dell Inspiron 600m. I've had this computer for six years, written a squillon words on it, toted it all over the planet and now it's finally doing a dying swan routine. (To be honest, it doesn't owe me anything and I've been tickled it's lasted this long.) Husband, an Alpha Geek, recommended I use the spare desktop we have in the basement for the audio equipment. So we toted it upstairs, starting loading software until I tried to put on the MS Home and Office and I got the "Need Service Pack 2" message. So I loaded SP2 and the machine promptly crashed. At which point my beloved spouse says, "You know, I've had troubles like that before." Now he tells me after I've blown hours mussing with this thing.

I must admit that I felt the overwhelming urge to bury his remains in the back garden, but Georgia has a death penalty and I'm not sure that homicide secondary to computer failure is a legal defense. To his credit, he reloaded the system after repartitioning some of the drives. It works okay, but neither of us are convinced it'll behave itself in the future.

Eventually I gave in and ordered a refurbished computer. I don't usually buy used, but I figured I'd give it a shot this time ($199). If it doesn't work, the "No Lemon" clause in the warranty will give me an out if they can't fix it. Meanwhile I'll do ferious backups like I've been doing with the old Dell and use my new(er) Lilliputian Dell as a secondary computer.

The weekend is over. I'm back to the keyboard hammering away on the word count and for some reason I don't remember having much fun. Bah.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rollin' the Rock

Second book hell. Or Hades for those of you with gentler sensitivities. First books are always fun to write. I steam right through them, creating worlds and plot and characters like a playful god. Luckily this is my third series so I know the books after #1 get progressively harder. The first time this happened I was sure I couldn't ever write another book. Now I know it's just a b*tch to get into the new book and then it gets better. Even one of my most favorite authors (Ilona Andrews) occasionally blogs about this sorta thing.

Since the first book in my Y.A. series didn't exactly follow the synopsis (do they ever?) I have a new starting point for the second tome. I always get hung up on first and last scenes because if I can see those, then the middle just happens. I don't know the last scene of this book yet, though for some queer reason I do for Book #3 (of course). So I've spent the last couple of days typing out, then rejecting opening scenes. The husband recommended an action scene, but at this point in the story there isn't much action since lots of seriously bad stuff happened at the end of Book #1. Still, I'll keep that suggestion in mind because most of the time the guy's right. As of this afternoon I think I've got something, but it's certainly not set in Jello at this point. Most of my first scenes are rewritten no less than ten to fifteen times so I have a lot more to burn through.

So for you writers out there (yes, this is an interactive blog) how do you get yourself psyched/into the next book in a series? Is there some special way you get into the zone, besides imaging what it would be like to live without the electricity bill being paid? Any special tricks, suggestions? Come on, don't be shy. You know you want to tell us.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Might Have Been

Lost in the swirl of news about the health care legislation, etc., is this tidbit in the New York Times. It's for all those who thought some of us were a mite too paranoid about Mr. Bush & Company.

Bush Weighed Using Military in Arrests

No surprise, the Dark Lord was in favor of this. It doesn't matter the political leanings of the people in D.C., you still gotta keep an eye on them. Which reminds me, I really should get up to speed on the health care debate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Limbo and Liking It

It was an excellent week. I submitted the unpublished Maggie Contest entries on time (I was a judge) and sent off a series proposal to my excellent agent. I even got my luggage unpacked. And now I'm in the transitory stage when the manuscript is out being cheerfully savaged edited and so I really can't touch it until it returns. When my beta teen reader/editor sends back The Book With No Name (I'm working on that) I'll be digging in for a rewrite. Then it goes out to my other betas, both teen and adult, for their input. This lull has left me with time on my hands. It's true -- idle hands are the devil's tools so I signed up for Facebook.

I can hear some of you muttering, "Where have you been, girl?" Actively avoiding time suckers, to be honest. However, since my Y.A. book will be of interest to teens (at least that's the cunning plan), I was advised that I should put my toes into the Facebook waters. OMF woodchucks! Just where does FB get those people who want to befriend me? Or more precisely, how do they know I'm buddies with X or Y or Z? Creepy, it is. I didn't realize there would be a wall where my new friends' comments would instantly appear no matter what they're chirping about. That was precisely the reason I have ignored the other Evil called Twitter. I swear that Lucifer is gleefully rubbing his hands together, infinitely pleased he has lured people into the latest time waster. Rather than saving whales, righting wrongs or any of the other noble pursuits, we are happily tweeting and FB'ing our time away into the grave.

By now you've probably pegged me for a fledgling curmudgeon. That's righteous. I'm actually quite social. At least my friends tell me I am when I buy them lots of booze. That being said, I don't think I want to know that my new FB friend, who I have NEVER met, ate a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. Not unless they ate that breakfast at Buckingham Palace with HRH and the hunky Prince William. Then I want to know. With pictures. Of William. And the corgis cuz they're cool.

Still, FB and MySpace and all the other places are a means to connect with other humans who eat bagels or have corgis or lust after young princes, so maybe this will have some value. The jury is still out. Tweeting probably. And there's a story idea for you writers out there. Court decisions made by Tweeters.

Technology. Not always a good thing. I'm just sayin'...

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Was Promised Pie. And A Cemetery.

My trip to D.C. and the Romance Writers conference was grand. I just forgot to pack my digital camera. Nothing against iPhones, they're bloody brilliant, but they don't take great pictures indoors, like during parties. So there are a minimum of cool pix to post. But I digress.

I sailed into D.C. on Tuesday the 14th. I had a hangover. This was entirely my own fault. Why I chose to drink to excess the night before I was leaving town is unfathomable. I know better than that, however while I was rereading one of Ilona Andrews’ most excellent novels, I augmented my fluid intake with wine, schnapps and vodka. That made me one unhappy critter the next morning. Much water and Advil later, I still felt awful (as I so richly deserved). I checked into my B&B (Woodley Park Guest House - these guys get a FIVE STAR rating from me) and then met my great author buddy, Jean Marie Ward. Spider lives in the D.C. area so we set off for a walking tour of Adams/Morgan, including a delightful dinner at a Creole restaurant. She was easy on me, knowing that I FLC (felt like crap) and that my right knee can be finicky at times. Since this is a lady who can trot along at an incredible speed in heels, she was very kind.

By Wednesday I was human again. We started off at ten in the morning and I didn't get home until near eleven that night. Since I was packing the portable cane, I didn't need it once. And for some odd reason, the walking eased up the knee beautifully. We toured Lafayette Square, the
Renwick Gallery, visited Black Aggie, the Freer and the Sackler Galleries, and the Library of Congress. As to the latter, this is where our books go when they get copyrighted. I didn't visit my tomes but we did take in the magnificent architecture. Built in the late 19th century, the place has all the Victorian excesses I love. Guilded everything. I could easily see some of the influence from the 1893 Columbian Exposition. We visited Thomas Jefferson's library collection (lord, did that guy love to read) and in between all our trudging we indulged in some of the most marvelous food imaginable. The Eastern Market is home to Monmartre, a French restaurant with some excellent delicacies. The gazpacho was unreal. For dinner we ate at RT's, a Creole restaurant and a long time favorite of my hostess. Then we did the Alexandria ghost tour which ended in a very old and cool cemetery.

But what about the the baked goods, you ask?Jean Marie took me home to meet her hubby,
Greg (a cartoonist in his own right) and to indulge in homemade berry pie. Okay, I was spoiled. Big time. She's coming to Atlanta for Dragon*Con and I'm going to have to hustle to match her incredible hospitality. I think we'll start with the cemetery, move onto the pub and then settle in for some Jonesy Port. Yeah, that's the plan. No pie. I'm not that good at making crusts.

The rest of the conference was a blur. Thursday I attended a few panels and then the Prism Awards ceremony. I took Third Place, while
Colby Hodge won the Prism for Time Travel. Colby (aka Cindy) and I found out we share the same agent, the truly amazing Meredith Bernstein. Another writer friend of mine won the Prism for Light Paranormal. Jeri Smith-Ready has been nominated for the award a couple times before, so it was awesome to see her win her very own pyramid for WICKED GAME. Very cool.

I slipped into the Kiss of Death (Daphne Awards) but the room was so crowded I retired to the bar with Jean Marie where we chatting about writing and politics while I enjoyed a modest amount of single malt (remembering my indiscretion earlier in the week).

Friday was more panels and then one of the moments I'd been waiting for: the St. Martin's Press cocktail party. I got to catch up with my dear friend P.C. Cast, whose
House of Night
vampire series is kicking serious butt. I think she has seven million books in print now. OMG. She and Meredith introduced me to the movers and shakers at St. Martin's. It was good to meet the folks I'll be working with. Alas, my editor wasn't there so I'll have to save that meeting for down the line. But gee, that means I just might have to fly to NYC. Darn, that would be such a penance (not).

After that party, we moved onto the Harlequin bash, which is always a blow out. P.C.'s dad (Dick) held his own with the ladies. Lord, can that man dance! I did a little dancing, but not much as the knee was bitching up a storm if I moved wrong and since it’s healing I really didn’t want to piss it off further. Jean Marie and I called it an early night about ten as we took the Metro to our respective homes. Kennedy Center was just getting out so the Metro was packed. I blended right in. For some reason I was starved, so I stopped at the McDonald's down the street from the B&B. Mind you, it's now eleven at night and I'm dressed to the nines. No one batted an eye. (And to those concerned about my safety, I’d already stripped off my costume jewelry before leaving the party and I pack a LOT of attitude).

Saturday (more panels) including one with agents Denise Marcil and Meredith Bernstein entitled The Secrets of Authors with Long Careers and How They Sustain Creativity and Success. They conducted interviews with successful authors who've stayed the course and listed out a series of traits these authors possess. Very interesting information. A few authors in the audience shared horror stories (they were truly horrific) about the uglier side of publishing. As this was a PAN workshop (part of the Published Authors Network) there were no editors present so candor was rampant. That’s a good thing. You need to know where the bodies are buried.

Though Meredith and I really wanted to go to a particularly well-recommended restaurant, they had a forty-five minute wait. We chose an Indian buffet instead and spent most of the time deep in conversation. The relationship between an agent and a client is much like a Victorian marriage at first – arranged because it suits both partners’ career and financial goals. It’s what happens after that “marriage” that counts. This was the first time I really got a chance to chat with Meredith and we made the most of it. She’s fun, intelligent, and very savvy. I sincerely respect that. In return, she respects my opinion and together we can make sound decisions as to my career. A partnership. That’s the way it should be.

I returned home to find my house clean and that my dearest spouse (sincere brownie points for this) had cleaned out the refrigerator. Wow. I should go away more often. Now that I’m over the trip lag, I’m working on projects that I’ve ignored while finishing the second draft of the manuscript. Next convention: Dragon*Con. And it's not that far away, folks!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shifting Gears

Today is the transition day between family and profession as I wash clothes, pack and get ready to head for Washington, D.C. tomorrow. But more on that later. This last weekend it was all about family as the husband and I flew to Iowa to celebrate his mom's 90th birthday. She had been quite ill earlier in the year and we weren't particularly sure she'd make this milestone, but she did. And in great shape. Her health has improved greatly and she was in high spirits. Once we convinced her that tooling around in a wheelchair made it easier on all of us, we schlepped her around for food and some sightseeing. On Sunday my husband's uncle (Mel) and his wife (Wanda) drove down to the Quad Cities and we shared a lunch of KFC and a gorgeous birthday cake with the mum-in-law. I know there are wives out there who can't stand their m-i-l. I adore mine. Probably because she's a lot like me, which is scary. So the weekend was very good on many levels and I'm glad she was around to share it.

Today I'm gearing up for the Romance Writers annual convention (which moves cities every year). This year it's in D.C. and that means I get to hang with my writing buddy and occasional roomie, Jean Marie Ward
. We're going to spend some time wandering around the big city since the last time (my birthday last November) I was quite ill with a cold. This time I'm in fine shape so there will be considerable walking. I'm packing my Tevas. Mrs. Ward is a consummate hiker, even in heels, and she knows the city intimately. There'll be some research stuff, some good food and lots of fun. The conference starts (for me) on Thursday and goes through Saturday. Lots of panels caught my eye. I need to meet with my fabulous agent and the Prism Award ceremony is Thurs. evening. (MADMAN'S DANCE is up for one of those little beauties in the time travel category.) After that is the Death by Chocolate Party hosted by the Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA. One of the highlights of my trip: my first official St. Martin's Press publisher party is Friday evening. I admit, there has been some fussing around as to what to wear since the Powers That Be will be in residence. Over the course of the convention I'm hoping to catch up with a lot of author buddies and have a grand time. It's back home on Sunday. I'll try to do a recap on Monday once I sort out the brain.

The fact that I've not been doing so many conventions this year has made me majorly productive (the first draft of the first book in the Demon Trappers Series is already done) and I'm not so wasted. So it's all good. More later. Have a great week. I know I will.