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.