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.