Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So in the interest of helping you goof off as well, here are a few:
The Archive of Misheard Song Lyrics
Goodies that amuse me
This cracks me up - Every. Single. Frickin'. Time.
I've been addicted to this one for years
And, of course, a classic
So where do you go when you want to surf a bit on the web? There's still room on my favorites list…
Monday, March 30, 2009
I also enjoy movies about hockey. There aren't many to choose from, so it's pretty easy to pick a good one. After getting the second round of revisions back from my critique partner, I feel like I'm in the movie Miracle.
If you haven't seen it. It's the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. In the movie, the coach gets mad at the players because they aren't taking training seriously enough and decides to teach them a lesson.
He makes them run a grueling drill, over and over and over, until they're broken but they finally get what they have to do to win.
As I get my revisions back from Angie, I can't help feeling like she's channeling Coach Brooks just a little bit. Some scenes are really difficult, and even when they're working, she pushes me, again, again, again.
I need that. I need it to be more than an ordinary writer. I need a standard that is about five levels above my exhaustion, my insecurity, and my laziness as a writer. She pushes me beyond my first instinct of what is good enough.
And that is why I don't think I could do this without her.
Everyone needs a push, otherwise we settle for what is good enough, and we never reach that breakthrough.
So who pushes you? In what ways do you need pushing?
Saturday, March 28, 2009
My first real experience with outlining came when I was asked to write a Ghosts of Fear Street book for RL Stine. The line hadn’t debuted yet, and the book I was contracted for was either #3 or #5 (it was a while ago, and the ol’ memory ain’t what it used to be!). The process was arduous to say the least. The way I remember it (see above), we did 12 complete versions of the outline, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. We worked and hammered and sweated our way through hours of phone calls discussing what needed to be included, what needed to change, and how the book would fit in overall with the line that wasn’t a line yet since none of the books had yet to be written, much less published.
We got it done. And I wrote the book, "Fright Knight." That’s when I got a phone call from my editor who said, "Oh, didn’t we tell you we wanted it written in first person?"
Needless to say, outlining did not leave a good taste in my mouth.
But then a few years later, I started writing mysteries. And that’s when I discovered that outlining really can be a writer’s best friend (as long as you don’t have anyone demanding 12 versions of your outline and forgetting to tell you to write in first person!). These days, I outline a book thoroughly before I ever begin writing it, and believe me, I’ve learned that for me, this is the way to go.
But have I learned my lesson? I just finished a book under my Miranda Bliss name. It’s called "Murder Has a Sweet Tooth," and it’s due out in December. I had to write it over the holidays. I was rushed. I was frantic. I wrote without an outline, and boy, did I pay the price! It took me far too long to write the book, and I continually ran into the kinds of things that will sink any mystery plot, things like a confused time line, characters who knew things long before they should have, clues that were missing, and others that were so obvious, it hurt.
The good news is, it all got taken care of once my first draft was done. The other good news? This time, I really have learned my lesson. I’m currently working on the outline for Pepper Martin mystery #6, "Tomb With a View," and as God is my witness, I swear I won’t begin writing until I’ve got every single chapter worked out.
It will save me time and a whole lot of angst. And since the whole series is written in first person, I won’t have to worry about that, either!
How about you? Outline or no outline? And how does it work for you?
Friday, March 27, 2009
I blame the chickens.
In today's world with the Internet it is really easy to be visible. Anyone and everyone can and does mingle freely here. It can be great. If it wasn't for the Internet I wonder if I (being a huge extrovert) could handle being a writer. But it also has its drawbacks...what I call the chickens.
Chickens are the happenings (and sometimes people) who take little pecks out of you. For authors this can be in the form of a negative review, a slap from someone on a blog, or your own petty jealousy when someone else gets some award/book deal/praise you didn't get.
None of these things are major. All of them are things you should shake off, but over time, no matter how good you are at shaking, those little pecks slow you down and you find yourself slipping into a less than enthusiastic place. Some authors go further moving to what I call "life on the ledge."
For the most part, I don't think people mean to be chickens. In fact a chicken can even come in the form of praise or recognition. Your first book does great, people are excited about the next one, and doubt starts to build in your head...what if this is the one that flops? What if they all find out I'm a fraud?
Those chickens, they are sneaky beasts.
So, what do you do to avoid them? Do you follow McCarthy and Salinger's examples? Cut off your Internet and cultivate a love of being alone? Do you stop writing at least with the goal of publication all together? (Some authors do.) Or do you figure out a way to keep those chickens at bay? How do you live on the Internet without feeding the little critters?
I have my technique which usually involves a quick and hard reality check. This means stepping back and looking at the big picture instead of getting caught up in whatever the Internet passion of the moment it is. It also means not visiting sites or reading news that I know will feed my chickens. If your chickens get fat from your daily visits to Amazon, or a certain email loop that is one flame war after another, or even seeing deals posted on Publisher Marketplace--then don't go there. Cut yourself off. You can do it.
I've eliminated a lot of chickens from my life in the last year, and I have to say I am a much happier author because of it. AND while I have glanced at the ledge I haven't stepped onto it or packed up my bags to move to the deep woods.
How about you? Any chickens?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Unfortunately, being so sequestered doesn't lend itself well to blogging. It's hard for me to think of anything remotely interesting to write about. So here's what I'm going to do...the first four people to post a comment will win a copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE!! What kind of a comment?? Anything you like...just keep it clean!! Lol!
That's it for now-oh and btw-I'm almost FINISHED with the edit!! YAY!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I didn't want that to change too much, but having one night a month where I was forced to be an adult sounded pretty good. So I called a few friends, who called a few more friends and the rest is history. We've been going strong for a long time now. We have some new members, some original members and some who come and go as they please. Some of us even read the book.
We theme out the food, open a bottle or two of wine and have a good time. In fact, my smarty pants husband calls it Wine Club.
This past Thursday was my turn to host. Usually, when we have the girls over, Jim will pour drinks and act as host, or disappear upstairs with his laptop. Well, this last time, he stayed downstairs to watch the basketball game - and listen, as it turns out.
Evidently, we had lots of fun - and opinions (stronger opinions as the night grew late. He even timed our book discussion (the jerk) - 17 minutes. His question was: is that what book club is about?
Books are about enjoying ourselves and discovering something new, whether that is between the pages - or not. For us, it's a common experience that inspires themed foods for the night, and plenty of side discussions. It's an excuse to get busy people together. It's how we make time for each other each a month.
So should we take it more seriously? Heck, no. Life, like books, needs to be savored.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Spring has finally come to Minnesota... mostly. We're still waking up to the occasional frost (traditionally, we can't plant until after Memorial Day, though most gardeners get way too itchy and start digging despite potential frost.) Today it's chilly and rainy. But, hey, no snow, which is a victory. Still, it's very dark and dreary; a perfect day to stay inside and curl up with a good book.
Lately, I've been on a non-fiction kick, myself. I'm enrolled in several classes at WitchSchool.com, and so I've been reading books about the history of Goddess worship or guides to Wiccan spirituality. I'm wondering now, with the coming of warmer weather and more days to sit on the sunny porch, if it might be time for some fiction.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
What can I say, I'm a bit of a luddite. I didn't know what the word meant until a round of the game Balderdash. That game is surprisingly good at expanding one's vocabulary. I looked the word up, and discovered that not only does it refer to a person opposed to new technology, but apparently there was a riot back in the 1700's by a bunch of textile workers who believed that weaving machinery would lead to job loss.
I don't know if they had a point or not, but sometimes I do think new technology leads to loss.
For the most part, I like gadgets just fine. I only have a problem with one gadget. My cell phone, and all cell phones in general. I'm very grateful we have graduated from typewriters to computers, but I want to take the cell phone about seven rungs back on the technology ladder.
They're small. That's great. They work well, wonderful. Why does my cell phone have to do everything from shooting video to washing the dishes?
Here's a confession. I've never sent a text message. Maybe that's part of my problem. I just want to talk on my phone. I don't want to email people, I don't want to invent a new language by truncating sentences down to something that looks like random Scrabble tiles, and I certainly don't want to shop on my phone. And I really really really don't want to get nickle-and-dimed by the cell phone company as they charge me ten cents for this, and four hundred dollars for that.
I started thinking about all of this when Twitter became the next big thing. I just don't get it. First of all, I'm assuming Twitter is something for people who enjoy using their cell phone for things other than talking, because my only answer to the Twitter question is, "Sitting at my computer typing a message on Twitter."
I don't see the point.
And I feel a deep sense of loss. (Not about Twitter, I don't care about that.)
I hand wrote a letter the other day, and I realized that I had gone so long without using my handwriting, that it was shaky. That makes me sad. There's something beautiful about a hand written letter that you can't replicate with an email or a Tweet. We're in such a rush to do things quickly, I think we're forgetting how to do them well.
So I think I'll take a step back and embrace some older technology—a paper and a pen.
I am a writer, after all.
P.S. If anyone would care to tempt me in to the world of technology, I'm willing to listen. I just don't know if I'm ready for change.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
In fact, no one would have known the teenager ever existed if not for an archeological dig in England six years ago. Archaeologists were called in prior to work starting on a housing development in Hoo, Kent, England. That’s when they found the 700-year-old remains of a 14-year-old girl buried under a holly bush in an unconsecrated part of the church grounds.
The girl’s head had been removed from her body and placed next to it. According to historians, people in the Middle Ages believed that removing the head was a sure way of denying a person eternal life. Scientists can’t say if she was killed by decapitation, or if her head was removed after. However, they do know that such a method of burial means the girl was either a criminal, a suicide, or she was suspected of witchcraft.
Locals called the girl Holly, and once archaeologists were through studying her remains, they decided to give her the proper burial she never had. Earlier this month, Holly’s body was taken to Hoo St. Werburgh Parish Church and a joint Anglican/Catholic service was held in her honor. More than 200 people showed up to pay their respects.
According to Reverend Andy Harding who officiated at the service along with a Catholic priest, "We just wanted to give her a funeral that was denied to her at the time. She obviously came from Hoo so she will probably be buried close to the rest of her family. We don’t know exactly what happened to her but what we do know is that her life came to an horrific end and even in death she was treated appallingly. We wanted to put her back where she should have been when she first died, and we will be placing her with her head on her shoulders as it should be."
I came across this information yesterday just after I read Lori’s post about, "Where do you get your ideas?" I don’t know about you, but this story sparks at least a dozen for me!
I also think there’s probably one less ghost haunting Hoo these days.
Rest in peace, Holly.
Friday, March 20, 2009
No one has ever asked me this question--at least not that I remember, but it shows up all the time on lists of questions people do ask authors. So, seemed like a decent topic to me. :)
My ideas come from a wide variety of places. In fact each book is kind of a collage of ideas that I snipped from many unrelated sources. My most go-to-sources are:
- Real life - Yes, ideas come from real life. This most true for my first two published books and my first (unpublished) manuscript. Mainly because they were set in places I used to live. The manuscript even featured a real life character--my Alaskan malamute, Kiska. One of the romantic comedies did too--a man who made a living wheeling and dealing in antiques. He had a hook for one hand and a stub for the other. He used to come to our house and drink coffee out of a cup--not a mug. He'd pour the coffee into the saucer first, then drink it. And he managed it all with no help from anyone. He made quite an impression on me. (Note here: When I say he was in the book, it is just this bit, not what the character did or his personality. Honestly I was too young to have a real knowledge of this man's personality.)
- TV--mainly reality for me. My second book had a female auctioneer who had a string of pearls. The pearls symbolized what she thought she wanted and her denial of her past. I got the idea from a show called "Starting Over." There was a woman on there who wanted to become an auctioneer and someone from Sotheby's, I believe, gave her pearls. Miami Ink also had a role in my upcoming urban fantasy, Amazon Ink--and not just for the title. I was really struck by Kat Von D--the "men only" club mentality and Kat's love of art. This stuck with me when I started writing, and actually gave me the idea to make my Amazon a tattoo artist.
- Books--authors love books. We read a lot. Even though I can't peg down an idea I got from another book, I know this has influenced what I write. It has too.
- Research--this is kind of a cold way to come up with an idea, but sometimes you just know you need something special and you have to work for it. This is how I came up with the idea for my Unbound series and hellhounds. I sat down with a book on mythical creatures looking for something that would be sexy and unique. I came up with hellhounds.
- Dreams---Before, last night I would not have put this on my list, but this morning I woke up with close to a full novel plot in my head. I've heard other authors claim this happens, but it had never happened to me. Unfortunately, it was in no way related to anything I am writing or will be writing soon. But I have the idea now, scribbled out on a piece of paper.
So, that's my list. There are probably some I've missed. But honestly, I don't think the source of the idea is what's important. It's how the author puts it all together.
How about you, if you write, where do you get your ideas? If you read, what are some of the best, most unique ideas you've seen lately?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a Scorpio. Not the easiest or nicest sign of the Zodiac!! Scorpio's tend to be driven, single minded, intense, and secretive. They are fascinated with the mystical and are always looking for what lies beneath the surface. And those are some of the best qualities!! The less appealing ones?? They like to walk on the wild side and tend to push the limits in whatever they do. They also don't know the meaning of "turn the other cheek." In fact, I once read that Scorpios don't want simply justice when wronged, they want revenge and will wait until the time is right to get it.
Is that me? Well, since I write paranormal mysteries and have been interested in the subject since I was a child, I think it's safe to say that, yes, I am drawn to the mystical. What other traits do I share with my fellow Scorpios...sorry, can't tell you, I'm secretive, remember?? Lol
Anyway, the whole point of this is that I do think that knowing someone's sun sign can tell you a little bit about that person. I know in my own life there are certain signs of the Zodiac that I seem to be more compatible with than others. Aries...okay for friendships, but not any kind of a romantic relationship. Pisces? I've had a couple of people of that sign drift into my life, then back out, never to be heard from again. I get along well with Virgos (my two oldest kids are both Virgos but my two youngest are on the cusp of Cancer, so they also have strong Leo tendencies!! Which doesn't always play well with their Scorpio mom!!) Geminis are fun and I've always had Libras in my life.
How about you?? What's your sign and do you think it really describes you?
That's it for now-catch you later!!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I'm not sure why this works so well for me, but I suspect it's because I'm susceptible to music. Certain tunes make me sooo sad. To this day, I'll never forget hearing Seasons in the Sun on my cousin's record player, and crying my head off. Even as a kid, I understood how bleak the song was. (If you Google the lyrics, you'll see it's either about a dying man, or one about to commit suicide.)
You'll note that there are a number of hyper-emo selections on SKIN TIGHT's soundtrack. This book has a lot of angst to go along with the violence and sex, so emo strikes the right note. Selecting songs for the list also allows me to spend time getting to know my characters. As I'm listening to new music, pondering it, I'm asking myself, would the hero like this? Would the heroine? What does she listen to when she's cleaning the house?
Do you guys listen to music when you write? Readers, do you ever play a list on your computer when reading the author's books? Do you think that would enhance the experience, or would it be distracting? I'm interested in what you guys have to say about the book / music relationship.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Both Ann and I have stories in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. According to the cover, the stories are about, "hot blood, midnight pleasures and inhuman passions," which frankly, I need to write about because fiction is so much sexier than real life.
Case in point? My daughter brought home a caterpillar last week. It's part of a school assignment where we learn about nature and responsibility for the next month or so.
They sent a sheet home explaining how to take care of said caterpillar, and the butterfly - until we release it on Easter. Maddie was thrilled for about five minutes - the time it took to name Daisy the caterpillar and find a bright, yet not too sunny spot for it in the kitchen. A spot that is low enough for Maddie to see her pet, but high enough so that her two-year-old brother doesn't decide to give Daisy a ride in his plastic Wonder Pets fly boat.
Everything was fine, until the caterpillar escaped. How? I have no idea. I know I didn't take the lid off, my husband forgot we even had a "pet," my son can't reach it. Maddie, of course, claimed the fifth. Luckily, speed isn't one of Daisy's strengths and we returned her to her little plastic cage. She didn't even protest when I re-enforced the lid with tape. And a small rock.
So now she's weaving her cocoon, happy as a pupae and I'm left wondering how I can write about hot blood, midnight passions and inhuman pleasures when I don't always know how to handle furry, slightly squishy things in my own life. I suppose that's why they call it fiction.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I found the backlash very interesting. I'll admit, I used to read some fated to be mated stories, and I liked them at the time, but I'm not sure if I was ever really sold on the idea of fated mates even then. It seems like you've skipped over two things that I think are essential to a good romance if people are fated to be lovers.
Okay, so most people aren't too fond of work, but in this case, work it baby. I like it when a guy has to work for a woman's affections. Sometimes I'm afraid that modern women have forgotten how to make our guys work for us. Think about it for a second... A few centuries ago, men would dress up in metal suits, get up on a horse, careen toward another man in a metal suit, and knock him off with a very, very, (hee hee hee) very long pole. Then once on the ground, they'd fight! Yeah baby! And for what? If he wins, the dude gets a scrap of a hanky from the lovely and virtuous lady, who was usually already married and completely unattainable!
Those men knew how to work for some affection! Honestly? Where are the knights in shining armor now? We have lost our power girls. Until we demand men do completely ridiculous things to win our affection again, we've got nothing on medieval babes, except maybe eyelash extentions.
Which brings me back to my point, if two people are eternally destined to be together, then it's assumed that eventually they're going to end up together whether or not the guy works to win the girl.
Now fated to be mated stories can get around this by him having to win the woman's love in spite of the bond that's already there, but if there's some hot lovin' goin' on before the guy has won the heart of the fair maiden, I think it's all backwards.
And that brings me to #2 Danger.
Ah, the most frightening threat to the male heart, rejection. If they're fated to be eternal lovers, she can't tell him to hit the road, at least without dire consequences. The ones that really get my goat are the stories where those dire consequences have to be paid by her. She didn't ask for this bond, and now she has to suffer because of it? That doesn't seem fair.
And what about him? Is it heroic to say, you can't leave me because bad things will happen to me? Or is it more heroic to say, you can leave if I haven't won your love, and I will suffer the consequences for you?
Sigh, I've got to go with the latter on that one. That's love right there.
I guess more than anything I'm longing for stories that don't skip the tough stuff when it comes to matters of the heart. I guess that's why I'm writing those stories. I'm having a wicked hot time with the characters I'm working with now, and they're just now getting close enough to feel the love. I'm so on fire for them, it's amazing!
I hope more stories in the future lean that way. Sure, it will make the fated to be mated stories seem as dated as the forced seduction ones, but the big question is, will we miss them?
What do you think?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
I get this question a lot. I think it's kind of a default question, like how are the kids? People don't REALLY want to hear all the gory details, but after asking it they always stop, wait and look expectant--and I never know how to reply.
First because I never know what book they are talking about. Like right now, you ask me that and my mind will whirl like a Rolodex. The last book that came out? Or the last one you read? Or maybe the one coming up... The novel or the anthologies? Or maybe they mean the book I'm working on. In which case, the one I just got done reading galleys for, or the one that is due May 1? And there is always something else, like the YA full my agent is about to send out. It's doing lovely BTW--no one has had a chance to reject it yet.
So, what book?
Then there is the "doing" part of the question. Is this a numbers question? A dollar one? Or a writing one? Do they expect me to know how many copies have sold--and if I started quoting my latest statement, would it sound like a lot to them or like nothing? Dollar? Well, that's just rude, right? And writing...I'm pretty sure they don't want to hear how while I love my blood-drinking dwarf I just realized that my inciting incident was all wrong and it is hosing pretty much everything up and now I'm going to have revise--Yet. Again. Pull up a chair and let me share my woes.
Nope, no one wants to hear that.
So, what do I say? Who has a good answer for me? Is this a case where you should just smile and nod even if you know your last book tanked, your current publisher is about to dump you and you got 20 one star reviews at Amazon?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
But that's okay-I've found that the old adage "don't pick a book by its cover," really isn't true. The title and the cover play a huge role in the marketing of a book. And there are brains far cleverer than mine at my publisher's who put a lot of thought into what's going to attract a reader as they're browsing through the stacks and stacks of books at the local bookstore, or checking them out online. Every author wants theirs to say "read me...read me", so I leave it up to them to come up with a list of suggestions.
I do have some input-I'm asked my opinion of the list which opens a dialogue between me and my editor, and usually there's one title that we both like more than the others. In fact, such was the case this week...I no longer have to refer to the next book in the series as "Book 7." Nope, it's got a name...THE SEVENTH WITCH! (Personally, since this is the seventh book in the series, I think that title is very appropriate!!)
Anyway, here's my question-have YOU ever bought a book because of its title or cover? I have...one of the first books I ever bought about the craft of writing and it's by Lawrence Block. The title? TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT. To me, that just said it all! ;)
Catch you next week,
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Case 1: I had a Palm TX, which I use(d) quite a lot for reading ebooks. I've said more than once that I adore being able to download and read whatever book I want. I favor Ereader.com and Mobipocket for getting a hold of the latest releases. I've long since been fed up with paying outrageous amounts in shipping. Instead, now I just do a massive shopping trip whenever I'm in the States, and fill up an empty suitcase with books. Which is fine unless I have a long stretch between trips and there are a hella lot of tasty books I can't wait to read. That's where the now defunct TX came in.
I had been carrying the thing around with me all weekend, and I was in the middle of a Karen Hawkins book. I put the thing down on the arm of the couch, went into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of H20 (that's lightly flavored water, this was apple, if that matters). Upon returning to the living room, where the whole family was gathered to watch some TV, I tucked the cup against my thigh and started pulling a blanket across my lap. It gets chilly in the evenings. Would you believe that the movement jarred my PDA just enough to send it plopping from the arm of the sofa, squarely into my water cup? The alignment of the trajectory was perfect. And it went PFFT. Because, of course, it went in charger end first. So now I have no idea what happened with that Karen Hawkins book, and I had a bunch of unread purchases on there.
I've since bought a new PDA (a Dell Axim) but I won't be picking it up until April. Well, technically, it's a pocket PC, I suppose. I'm really looking forward to having a bunch of books at my fingertips again. This whole delayed gratification thing kind of sucks.
Case 2: I use an adorable Ibook to do most of my writing during the day. I meander around the house with it, working in the bedroom, office, living room, sometimes even outside in the garden. Generally, this isn't a problem. Due to a confluence of insane events, which involved a dog and me going face-first into a wall, I dropped my beloved Ibook on the marble floor. Needless to say, this didn't do it any good. Shortly thereafter it refused to boot. I begged my husband to accompany me to the Mac doctor, a store called Todo Para Tu Mac, where we'd had it serviced once before.
Instead he gently suggested perhaps it was time for me to replace said pink and white Ibook. The horror! I responded with puppy eyes. So he took half a day last week and we went to the Mac store. It's situated in an out-of-the-way location; last time, we had to go up a flight of stairs and ring the bell. This time, that location was undergoing renovations, so we had to go around the corner, and up four flights of seriously steep stairs. (I proved my devotion!) Then we had to ring and knock and get escorted in like it was some kind of secret spy office. The woman actually remembered me, as my Ibook ranks high on the international cuteness scale. (See, I told you it was special! It really is!)
To my vast relief, they were able to fix the problem, but it involved totally wiping the hard drive and reinstalling everything. If I didn't make a habit of emailing my work to myself on a daily basis, I would've lost 3,000 words. So that dog-related disaster could've been worse. But the funny thing is, I didn't realize how much difference using a different computer could make. Andres let me borrow one of his spare laptops and the keys felt wrong. They didn't click right. Worse, it was a Spanish keyboard, which meant I had to learn to type all over again. I was never so pleased to get my Ibook back. This week has been a little better in terms of productivity, but now the cats are acting needy. (Yes, they're twins.) Yesterday they begged for attention the whole time I was trying to get my words done.
Do you guys have pets? Do they ever interfere with your work, in whatever way, or is it just me?
PS - Interactive interview with me here & your last chance to win a BLUE DIABLO arc.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Theory #1: some children are part imp.
I had to research imps for the first Accidental Demon Slayer book and most sources I found describe them as these tiny, mischievous creatures who like to get into everything. I made mine minions of the devil. After what happened this morning, that's not too far off. Because in the time it took me to enjoy a 10 minute shower, my 2.5 year old son removed two stairwell spires and decided to see if he could "climb" down the landing, "like Spiderman."
Luckily, he's not at all quiet and I was summoned from the bathroom, quite drippy, to see what large object had crashed down the stairs (luckily a wooden part of the landing and not his hard little head). I don't know how he removed the spires (that are bigger than he is and glued into place - I checked the rest of them), but I do know one thing.
Theory #2: it's my dad's fault
Sure, he's been gone for several years, but from what I've heard, my dad was a trouble maker too. My son is descended from a person who, as a child, decided to wear a Superman cape and jump off the roof of the house. My dad was also known to tie up his friends ("cowboy and Indian -style") and then forget about them. And I'm pretty sure I remember the story about him removing the doorknobs from his room, "just to see what would happen."
So for people who think my books are outrageous - hah! They should try living in the Fox household. Now where's my wood glue?...
Monday, March 9, 2009
The stereotype is, of course, the greasy-haired square in horn-rimmed glasses with tape over the nose piece. Or, a more modern version, the kind you might actually run into, as I did this weekend, at a science fiction convention, of an overweight guy wearing a tee-shirt with an obscure computer reference and a tendency to stand just a little too close.
I love him.
Those are my people. I actually can't always stand to watch "Big Bang Theory" because feel like they're mocking me and my friends. I know people WAY too much like those guys. WAY too much. They're not caricatures to me. They're my friends.
Anyway, the point is, what I really, really love about the geek is his passion. No one cares quite like a geek. What he cares about is... fiction. It might be movies, TV, comic books, but it's also novels. It isn't always easy in the "real world" (tm) to find a collection of people you can talk to about your book (the one you just read or the one you just wrote), but at a science fiction convention not only have six people read it, but they have something THEY want to say about it too. Books are something they really care about. To the point of fist fights.
Oh, you think I'm joking?
I was on a panel at MarsCON this weekend called "The Day Star Wars Died for Me," and the moderator actually had to step in between one of the panelist and me, because he was honestly afraid we were going to come to blows.
It was AWESOME. I haven't had so much fun in a long time. Plus, I end up having much to say about it. You can read more details about our argument on my alter ego's livejournal or on Wyrdsmiths' group blog.
Geeks. We love what we love, and hate what we love. It's a great world.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I love games. I'm not always the best sport. In fact, my hubby learned pretty quick never to play Monopoly with me. That game is just nasty. On the first trip around the board, you know who is going to end up with all the money, and the rest is hours of gloating torture as you land on peoples stinking hotels and they demand money you don't have, then you have to hock the only thing you do have until your left wallowing in a pit of poor and broken misery.
Seriously, who ever thought that was fun?
I've just rediscovered the joy of Chutes and Ladders. That game is fun. You never know what's going to happen or who is going to win. You could be fifty points away from everyone else and hit that really long slide and go all the way back down to the thirties, then one spin later hop up the long ladder and end up right back where you were before.
I guess I like surprises and dislike playing with money.
And those are just board games. I haven't even gotten into my computer game obsessions, like the Sims, or console games, like Rock Band. That game is pure genius. Who doesn't love to rock out with their friends? And it's cooperative, which is even better. I'm a pretty good singer on the game, but I'm a serious embarrassment on the drums.
So how about a blog game?
Just for fun, how many romance novel heroes can we name that fit this description:
He entered the room, dark and menacing. With his inky-black hair tied back at his nape, his dark eyes flashed a sensual warning. Crossing his powerful arms over his hard chest, he dared any to name him...
Mmmm, I've got my A-list of tall dark and handsomes. How about you?
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I know, I know...no one is more surprised than me that I’m even talking about nonfiction. Though I’ve done some newspaper work and some corporate communications, it’s been a long time. Yet I spent the last week–every single working hour of every single day–crafting the proposal for a nonfiction book.
I won’t tell you the subject; I’m not ready to divulge that yet. I will tell you that my agent got me into this trouble. She was talking to an editor who publishes nonfiction, my name came up, and so did an idea I’d tossed at my agent lo, these many months ago.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Do I think the project will ever get off the ground? Honestly, I can’t say. I don’t know enough about nonfiction markets to have a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I do know that I’m excited about the ideas I present in the proposal and that my excitement translates to the page.
Oh, one other thing I didn’t know: I had no idea nonfiction proposals were so very different from fiction proposals. Or so hard to write.
In comparison, fiction is really pretty easy. If you’re a new author, you’re probably going to be presenting three chapters and a synopsis to an editor. If she likes it, she’ll ask to see the rest of the book. Once you’re a little more established, an editor might be happy with just those three chapters. I’m lucky in that my editor asks to hear my ideas. Quick, simple, painless.
Not so with nonfiction! Nonfiction proposals are very definitive. An author needs an overview of the project, a bio, a chapter outline and sample chapter, a list of competing works, even a market analysis. It’s like writing a gigantic term paper and it challenges those oh-so-practical portions of the brain that don’t always come into play when we’re writing fiction.
The good news is that there are plenty of excellent resources online to help an author through the process. OK, I’m a little (or a lot!) biased, but I think one of the better ones is found on the Folio Literary Management site (www.foliolit.com/) Yeah, they just happen to represent me. But if you’re interested, there are other sites that can walk you through the process as well.
And if you decide to go the nonfiction route someday, just be ready to turn on a completely different part of your brain than the one you use when you write fiction.
It’s been an interesting exercise. And I’m glad the first draft is off my desk and to my agent and I can get back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing–writing fiction.
Ah, at this point, it almost sounds easy!
Friday, March 6, 2009
The title of this post is pretty much a cliche. It's what every agent and every editor says when a writer asks, "What's the best way to get published?" But seriously, is it that easy to write the best book you can? Do you even know if you have?
When I first started writing I had an opportunity to send questions in for an interview of a big name author. This big name author had been writing for years before breaking out--before hitting the series that made her into a big name. My question was, "Did you know this was going to be it?" In other words did you know this book was good?
Her answer? "No."
At the time, I wasn't completely sure I understood this. How could she not know? I mean she came charging out of the box with this book--out of nowhere it seemed. Wasn't it OBVIOUS this was THE book/series?
But now I understand. See, books are not science (rocket or any other kind). What makes a book work for one person will not make it work for another. The books of mine that I liked the most were not (to date) the ones that got the best reviews or garnered the most fan mail. And one book that did particularly well I was terrified of having hit the street. I vividly remember getting the copy edits for it and wanting to hide under my couch. I KNEW it was bad. Then it went on to get me more positive vibes than any of my previous books.
I have friends who tell me over and over, "My book sucks. This is the end of my career." Then I read the book and love it--and so do others. Some of these books have received accolades from NY Times authors and placement on lists we'd all like to be mentioned on.
Are my friends liars? Do they know their books are great, but playing some game to feed their egos?
No, they honestly have no clue and at that time they do hate their book, and they are sure it is the worst thing they have ever written.
So, the next time you hear "write the best book you can" nod, smile and just go write the damn thing. If you sweat too much over it being the "best you can" you will never get it done and it may be worse for your tweaking.
Go forth and write--and don't worry too much if you think it is crap. We writers are really not fit to judge our own work. ;-) Actually, now I start to worry if I DO like my book too much...
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I love libraries!! I always have. Some of my best childhood memories involve hanging out at the old Winterset Library after school then toting home an armload of books! Thanks to the local library, this small town girl visited places in her imagination that were way beyond the borders of the Midwest. In fact, the very first books I ever read dealing with the paranormal were courtesy of that library!!
Now as an author, my love affair with libraries has taken on a new dimension. I've had the privilege of doing events at various libraries...it's been great. I've enjoyed seeing each building's uniqueness, from the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in Pittsburgh (it's haunted btw, and no, during my visit I did not meet Amanda!) to our local Carnegie library here in Stuart. The events have been fun and the people attending, wonderful audiences! And like ever author, I value the support given to us by libraries across the country.
Well, now it's my turn...I received the following email this week from Pat and Gary at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it's a plea to help the Cedar Rapids Public Library. You see last summer, Iowa experienced some of the worst flooding ever, and the small city of Cedar Rapids was hit particularly hard. Their library was destroyed, and according to Todd at Mystery Cat Books in Cedar Rapids, the library lost over 250,000 books, one of the largest losses ever sustained by a library. The two bookstores, Once Upon a Crime and Mystery Cat Books, are organizing fund raisers and have already held a few, but they're still looking for donations. So if any of you out there want to help, the contact information is at the bottom of this post. Later, when they hold the auction on Ebay, I'll post the info for that event.
With the economy the way it is right now, these are tough times for everyone, and there are many worthwhile organizations needing help. But for me, as an author and a life long lover of books, this situation really hit home. I'm sure that they'll appreciate any help you might be able to offer!
That's it for now-I'm stepping off my soapbox and thanks for reading this rather long post! 8) Hope everyone has a good one!!
Dear Authors around the country
Help, if you have not already and I have no way of knowing is you have; send some (or one), signed copies of your books to the Mystery Cat Books for them to sell on the April ebay sale to raise money. FEMA is doing nothing as you might have guessed. Kindly let your colleagues know about this appeal by forwarding this email to them. We need libraries and this library needs us.
We have been getting donation for several months and we need more.
Pat Frovarp and Gary Shulze (Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis, MN.)
The following is our generic plea.
We would be happy to receive your donations in books, CDs, DVDs children, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, history, just about anything that a library lends, also audio books. Some things will be used to raise money as in library sales, there will be an e bay auction sometime later this Spring featuring pricier editions and collectibles to raise money but many donations will go directly on the shelves in this temporary library at the shopping mall. They lost everything, including furnishings, bookcases, appliances, office equipment and their building which may yet have to be demolished.
Make payable to the Friends of the CR Public Library and mail to:
Mystery Cat Books
112 32nd St. Dr. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Winner of DESIRE UNCHAINED = Vicki! (Profile says "aspiring writer, lives in Florida", in case there was any doubt which one.) Note: this is book two in a series. I recommend reading PLEASURE UNBOUND for maximum enjoyment, but DESIRE UNCHAINED is capable of standing alone. Vicki, you need to email me to claim your prize.
Now, I have some general contest news. In case you've been living in a cave or just discovered the joys of the internet, I have a contest running on my blog all this month. It's a two-parter with some really serious prizes. If you talk up my contest or blog about it (with widget) you could win $100 in book money (or other cool prizes). If you make me a book trailer for Blue Diablo, you could win a $250 Visa gift card. As of right now, I haven't received a single trailer entry, so your chances of winning are really good! See my blog for details.
Today -- limited time only -- you could win an advanced reader copy of BLUE DIABLO. You have 24 hours to leave a comment. I strongly recommend you hightail it over there and try for a copy. I'm really proud of this book and I can't wait to hear what readers think of it.
So just for fun, I'm going to offer an excerpt (never before seen!) The first three chapters are available on my message board. Right now it's mostly inactive, but I hope that will change as I release more books. Anyhow, on to the brand-new excerpt:
“It’s best if you let me do the talking. Chance is here for obvious reasons.” Yeah, I knew why—to make it more likely we’d run across someone willing to part with information on Montoya, and to pay the bribe when we found the guy. “I think maybe we should’ve left you at home with Eva.”
I snorted. Like I’d have gone along with that. I had too big a stake in this to permit them to form a boy’s club at this juncture. Plus, you never knew when my gift might come in handy.
Before I could bitch, Chance shifted, elbow on the back of the seat, and put in, “Yeah. Those jeans are a felony.”
“That bad, huh?” I glanced down at the worn denim. Chance never appreciated my sense of style.
A slow smile curved his beautiful mouth. “That good. Do you know there’s a rip
on the back of your left thigh?”
“Ah, no.” Great, now I’d worry all night whether my ass was hanging out.
“Sexy,” he told me. “Shows just a hint of skin.”
I quirked a brow. “I thought you wanted me in suits from Lord and Taylor.”
“Once I did. Now I just want you.” Beneath the rumble of the motor and the rush of the tires against the pavement, his words crushed me with their candor. Need laced his tone, shot straight into my nervous system.
God, I hated he could move me like this. My chest hurt, so I rubbed it, and then cursed silently when I saw his gaze tracking the movement like he’d kill to touch me again. For Christ’s sake, why me?
My pained bewilderment must’ve shown because Chance turned around without another word. I stifled a sigh. Like too many dark chocolate truffles, he was rich, sinfully delicious, and bad for me…his gift might kill me; I knew that, but I couldn’t quell my longing altogether.
“We’re almost there.” Cutting in when he did, Chuch did me a favor.
I sat quiet as we drove the last few blocks and found a place to park. Even in the dark, La Rosa Negra didn’t look promising. It appeared to be a crumbling stucco building, painted an unlikely shade of green. To my surprise, shiny new cars lined the curb outside.
This wasn’t just any seedy little corner bar, stashed beyond a warren of one-way streets and seemingly pointless construction. The men who congregated inside had money to burn; they just didn’t want to do it conspicuously. Our cherry Mustang looked right at home along side the other sports and muscle cars.
I could guess what it was like inside. I’d been inside a dozen cantinas like this in Mexico City. Sometimes, on nights when dreams kept me awake, I wandered out into the neighborhood to nurse a beer, letting the susurration of other people’s lives wash over me.
“Let’s do this.” Chance climbed out of the car and offered his hand, which I took. He pulled me from the back seat easily. Whipcord built as he was, I didn’t doubt he could carry me off like a Sabine woman, should he take a mind. I exhaled and took a long look at the Corona neon sign flickering in the window before calling myself ready.
Chuch was already headed for the door, paying us no attention. This appeared to be familiar ground for him. Maybe he even hung out here on his own when Eva let
To my surprise, the strains of Reik’s Invierno greeted me when we walked through the door, a more soulful song than I expected to hear in such a place. Three couples danced to it in the small space before the bar. Not a boy’s club.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I took stock of my surroundings. Low ceilings were hung with amber paper lanterns, giving the room a warm glow. Scarred tables had clearly seen better days, and countless high heels had left their marks on the wood floor. None of the chairs matched, and the décor consisted of various neon signs. Apart from the painting of the maiden holding a black rose between her teeth, La Rosa Negra could’ve been transplanted to any border town.
Chuch was calling the play, so we followed him to a table. He signaled the waitress for a round while the regulars studied us. Guys dressed in black sat in groups of three or four; they didn’t look likely to strike up a conversation.
“Do your thing,” he murmured to Chance.
I had no idea what I should be doing, if anything, so I took my beer with a nod of thanks and waited for some sign from Chuch. He merely sat there, quiet, drinking and looking watchful. I guessed you couldn’t hurry something like this. Chance, on the other hand, fairly crackled with purpose. What must it be like to be able to focus your will and shake whatever you needed from the cosmos?
I listened to the music purring from the vintage-style Crosley CD player. As we waited, a mellow Franco de Vita ballad melted into Shakira singing Ojos Así. I’d never been able to resist its rhythm, but I tried to keep my butt-shaking to a minimum. The dancers broke apart and started gyrations that suited the tympanic melody.
Chance touched me on the arm. “I can do this and dance at the same time,” he whispered. “You want to?” I must’ve looked astounded because he added, “I can, you know. I just never did. Not with you.”
What do you think?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
That first sentence can tell you so much about a book. Here were some of my favorites from last night:
"Looking back, I guess my first mistake was to assume that a rookie reporter could pursue both a hot story and a hot sex life."
Bubbles Ablaze by Sarah Strohmeyer
"The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry."
Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson
"The blackened shell of the house still stands on the edge of the moor."
Greygallows by Barbara Michaels
"My philosophy is pretty simple - any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day."
Dark Fever by Karen Marie Moning
"Two blocks from the restaurant, Zoe Tarleton knew she was screwed."
Gone with the Nerd by Vicki Lewis Thompson
"Captain Crosbie came out of the bank with the pleased air of one who has cashed a cheque and has discovered that there is just a little more in his account than he though there was."
They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie
"Falling out of Heaven is the easy part. It's landing that's difficult."
Angel with Attitude by Michelle Rowen
"Sometimes, it seems like all I ever do is lie."
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
"If you ever touch me again, I'll pull off your ears and stuff them up your nose."
The Royal Treatment by MaryJanice Davidson
There were even more, but darned if I'm going to type them all. It was fun to get drawn into my favorite books all over again. So what about you? Do you have any favorite opening lines? Post yours and I'll buy you a brand new copy of any of the books above. Winner's choice.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Today, for instance, is my day to work on the project my alter ego is under taking for a small press. It's a prequel to "her" science fiction novels, and it follows a character who lives in Egypt, Cairo to be specific. I have been STRUGGLING for the last several months to get a good sense of what Cairo is like via books, memoirs, and Internet sites galore. Well, out of the blue today, what happens?
A fan of my alter-egos work friends me. Normally, this is not cause to celebrate... but THIS fan lives in CAIRO!! I emailed him instantly to ask if he'd be willing to talk via email about his city, so I could FINALLY get a good sense of that that place is like for a native.
And, in a kind of similar vein, I just read a really great memoir that's completely unrelated to anything in my life, other than my Witchcraft. It's a book that appears to be out of print (no surprise as I got it out of my local library), called THE RED-HAIRED GIRL FROM THE BOG by Patricia Monaghan. If you're interested in Goddess cultures, Irish history -- or really anything Irish, or are planning a trip there, I totally recommend it as a great read. I read in three days, which is a rather astounding feat for someone like me, who is mildly dyslexic and for whom reading, though a pleasure, is often a bit of a struggle. Anyway, how this relates is this: I had a flash last night that what my novel (which I have been struggling with for months and months and months) might need, in terms of structure, is to try setting it up as though it were a faux memoir by the main character. I've never attempted anything quite so meta-fictional, but it may be just what I need as in memoir form I'm not necessarily bound to write the book strictly chronologically.
It could be the key.
March is coming in like a lion for me. How about you?
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Oh yes, the familiar wink-wink nudge-nudge look in the eye. "So, how do you research your books?" stuff.
Well? While I tend to roll my eyes at that question, how do we do it? (Literally and figuratively)
For me, the most important thing for any love scene is the emotion behind it. There is so much at stake when two people choose to trust one another in that way. I really like that part of writing a scene.
However, (and Angie can verify this) I always stop cold just before writing one. I hem and haw and do all the dishes, and reorganize the garage, give my dog a bath, repaint the baseboards, well, you get the idea.
Why? If I really dig down deep into my inner psyche, it's because I feel just a little naughty. The act of writing a love scene for me is very voyeuristic. I feel like I know my two characters as well as I know any two people in my life, and then I'm standing in the room, actually choreographing them—well, you know. It makes me just a little bit uncomfortable to have my characters that exposed, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
It's raw, it's powerful, and sometimes it is transcendent. That's when I know I've written a good one.
But I take some prodding to get there. It usually goes something like this.
Me: Here it is!
Angie: Push it.
Me: Awww, man!
Angie: You have to go there.
Me: Double aww man!
And so on and so forth until I finally reach that point with my characters where everything is on the line and nothing is held back.
I love that in a love scene. It's so dang hot. I really don't put too much stock into what they are actually physically doing to turn me or anyone else on, but when barriers start breaking and that connection starts weaving my two characters together, it's a beautiful victory.
What an amazing thing.
I'm so glad I write Romance. This is awesome.
So what is the one thing about a love scene that really gets to you?