Sunday, December 23, 2007
Just a little note to let everyone know that the League of Reluctant Adults will be taking a brief winter break to celebrate the holiday. We'll be back on January 2nd or so.
Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz. :)
Friday, December 21, 2007
I givez u short interview with my BFF Sonya, Publisher of CatsCurious Press.
Her most recent release is Bound in Skin
A collection of seven short stories. Bound in Skin takes you back to the days of 1960s gothics: mysterious men, dark mansions, terrifying secrets, and passionate romance.
1) What made you decide to become an independent publisher?
The idea had been percolating in the back of my brain for a few years, and then one day my husband finished his first book. I had encouraged him, you see, and told him that I would send it out and find it a home. Little did I realize at the time I made the promise, that non-fiction children's books are a tough sell. So then there was a flash of brilliance and the percolating-idea reared it's mischevious head. I piped up "I'll publish it!" The project gave me a starting point and a direction. After all, I had to have *someone* to experiment on while I learned the ropes!
2) What type of books does CatsCurious publish?
Thus far, CatsCurious Press is a little eclectic in its catalog. We have one children's book (with another on the way), one cookbook, and a couple of looming YA projects (one is the Faery Taile project that opens to submissions in January 2008, and the other has not been officially announced yet). Our imprint, CatScratch Books, is where I plan to publish edgier, spicier, and yes -- even naughtier fiction. Currently we are releasing 'Bound In Skin', a collection of Gothic Romances on December 15, 2007, and I have (more!) unrevealed plans for later next year.
3) What was the biggest challenge for you as a publisher? What was the biggest surprise?
Ah! The biggest challenge so far has been marketing. During the day, I am an IT Professional of many years (16! count em!) and so working my way into putting a book together, physically, was not that large of a leap. However, the ideas and the sheer force of will that go into selling the books once they are printed? That's where I have the hardest time. I am still shy, and don't like to feel as if I am schmoozing someone to get them to buy something by CatsCurious Press or CatScratch Books, but I am learning. In this business, if you can't talk to people, if you can't sell your wares, you're never going to make it past the hobby stage. I think that is true for writers, too.
4) I know that you receive a lot of submissions. What makes a submission stand out from the rest? Is there anything that would make you give a submission an automatic pass?
Let's see -- I can tell you for certain what lands a submission in the circular file: not following the guidelines! I have gotten submissions with purple script font, with single-spaced Times New Roman and embedded italics. I have gotten screenplays and submissions that are easily two to three times longer than what I have asked for... and several that weren't close to long enough to begin with.
It sounds harsh, but the easiest way to sort the seed from the chaff is to see who can follow simple directions -- and who cannot. When I started out as a writer I thought guidelines were too strict or that I could get an editor to change their mind if they only knew how good my story was. Now that I have spent some time on the other side of the fence, I can tell you -- that editor isn't even going to read your stuff if you can't follow her directions! Another way to look at it? You are asking that editor to spend her hard-earned money on your story. Your Baby. But remember that this project she is putting out is also *her* baby, and if you can't help make her job a little easier by supplying her with the minimum that she asks for, how on Earth can you expect her to hand you a wad of dough for a job unprofessionally done? Especially when there are so many hungry authors out there who *will* follow the guidelines!
As for an automatic pass? Not really. When I was slushing for the anthology there was a particular story that I loved with mad love. The problem was, it really wasn't what I was looking for. I held onto it until the bitter end (but sending an occasional update to the author, so he didn't think he was forgotten) but finally decided that if I expected my authors to stay true to what I wanted, then I probably should do that too... So, as much as I loved it, I rejected the story. I hated letting that one go, but I knew that I was trying to achieve a particular mood with 'Bound In Skin' and that his story just wouldn't fit. Not only that -- the women who will be reading 'Bound In Skin' are not necessarily the sames ones who would enjoy his story, and in the end, it's them -- the readers -- that I want to please.
5) Can you give a sneak peek at what we can expect from CatsCurious in the near future?
Goodness! Next year is already shaping up to be crazy! We have a re-release of "Three Things About Animals... and Only One of Them's True!" followed a little later in the year by "Three Things About Bugs... and Only One of Them's True!". In addition to that, I will be working with Jim C. Hines, author of 'Goblin Quest', 'Goblin Hero', and 'Goblin War' on the Faery Taile Project. You can find guidelines here! If you enjoy snarky, faery taile retellings and would like to share a cover with Jim C. Hines, then send me a story or two! (I do accept multiple submissions!)
Also, there may yet be another book from CatScratch Books at the end of 2008, but those details have not been hammered out yet, and a *really* great project coming up from CatsCurious Press in 2009, but the word is not 'official' official, so I'll save those juicy details for later.
Isn't she awesome? Okay now I have a question for you. How many of you would be interested in seeing something like Bound in Skin in e-book format?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Please limit your applause to a polite clap or two, we've got business to discuss up in here.
Lest this be your average, run of the mill book club, we have engaged the services of a wandering band of hellspawn to keep things interesting (They may or may not respond to the name Gary). They'll pop in from time to time, when not busy toiling in the pits of despair, forging objects of torture and ridicule for sale in the Hellmarkets of depravity. So beware of becoming too serious.
That's frowned upon.
Again, we're so excited to be reading Hearts of Stone. I'm planning on using a notecard as a bookmark so I can jot down questions like: Are gargoyles always hard? and Does fear of heights effect their performance award?
Things like that.
We might be able to convince the author to troll the discussion and give up the inside scoop on the scenes that didn't make it into the book--like a DVD extras scenario. Or not, I'm just talking out of my ass here.
So, let's give it a good month and leave the last week of January open for discussion. Oh...and be thinking about the next book you want to read. We're going to leave the nominations for the February book up to the readers (we'll probably vote on that mid-January)!
By which I mean specifically, your writing support system. Who reads your stuff? Who listens to your moan and whine endlessly about how much your work sucks, how this chapter stinks, how this plot point or that one isn't working and your ending feels unfinished or whatever your particular writing issue is?
I have two main readers. My critique/writing partner Anna J. Evans, and my bestest friend Cori back in Florida who beta-reads. I send them sections at a time. Anna sends them back with comments. Cori actually agrees to waste hours of her time on the phone discussing the intricacies of my plots and characters and what's going to happen next and why such-and-such happens. That's a good friend, folks, because as I'm sure you all know, most non-writers (like Cori) will start rolling their eyes after about twenty minutes.
(This is, btw, why Megan from Personal Demons shares Cori's middle name. It's the least I could do, at least until this actually makes me some money [at which point she has made very clear exactly what I am to buy for her].)
I think most of us have someone who'll beta read for us, whether we found them through an online group or a local groups or a friend-of-a-friend or whatever.
But who supports you? Who do you turn to when it feels like you'll never get anywhere? When it's the middle of the night and your book feels like so much useless gibberish to you? When you feel like you're missing the boat, missing the plot, missing out on everything? Do you have someone?
Do you want someone? How vulnerable will you/do you make yourself?
How about your characters?
This is a big realism issue for me. I always feel uncomfortable around people who open up too much or too fast and it never rings true for me with characters in books. Intimacy and trust go hand in hand. You should be able to see, without being told, who a character trusts, how they feel about that person, by how intimate they allow conversation to get. And I don't mean that in a sexy way (although for reasons I cannot fathom it seems like almost every other sentence out of my mouth these days is a double entendre. Must be all those rumballs.)
I mean, if character A is sleeping with character B (and I do mean that in a sexy way) but telling their secrets to Character C...the reader should be inferring all sorts of things about those relationships. Effortlessly.
What do your characters reveal? Who do they trust? Who do you trust?
Monday, December 17, 2007
Today I wanna tackle the issue of time and time management for writers. Or at least this writer.
I've often had to resist the urge to spork someone in the eye when I hear the following out of people who find out I'm a writer: "Oh, I'd write a book if I only had the time!"
As if time were the only requirement! But today, let's say it is.
If you're an unpublished author, you are afforded the one time luxury of taking all the time in the world writing those first works. Dead to Me, for instance, was written over a period of three or four years, which would have taken maybe half the time had I not decided to switch it from third to first person halfway through.
Book 2 in the series, however, is not afforded that luxury. I had a year to turn it in, which meant I really had to pay attention to time. Here's how the schedule breaks down:
- Late March 07 to mid-December 07- write first draft of book2 in a state of panic mixed with dread, hoping I can suddenly write a lot quicker
- mid-December 07 to January 1, 2008- Don't touch my first draft at all, forget it exists so I can read and fix it up like it was foreign to me in the new year
- Jan 1,2008 to Jan 10, 2008- make an initial round of edits to first draft
- Jan 10 to Feb 1,2008- have beta readers rip it apart and give me their notes
- January 24, 2008- celebrate my birthday by opening all my glorious fanmail
- Feb 2, 2008- celebrate Groundhog's Day by grilling a delicious groundhog
- Feb 3 to Feb 26, 2008- make corrections to draft based on many of the notes given to me by the beta folks
- Feb 26, 2008- Dead To Me releases, reading and book party, also turn in manuscript on book 2
So setting aside the time and planning out a manageable schedule, as you can see, becomes a necessity... but you need not wait until your published to start thinking of time management.
Why not start now? If you're really decided in your heart of hearts that you want to give writing a real shot and are committing yourself to it, start today. Plan out when is the best time to write for you? Then put yourself in that seat and write. If it isn't coming, tough! Stay in that seat til you train your brain to perform during that time. Teach it to salivate to your Pavlovian bell of writing time!
And for those of you married or co-habitating, make sure to come up for air once in awhile to say hi to the spouse, loved one, or to pet the cat. And eat and pee, not necessarily in that order... or if you are in a groove, comfortable Depends may be your answer!
Just remember to thank me in your acknowledgments for all this helpful (and free!) advice!
Friday, December 14, 2007
(Quick Note - The winner of C.E. Murphy's HEART OF STONE is Karen Duvall. Karen, please email Catie at Catie AT cemurphy.net. Thanks again and sorry about the delay in the results. My brain gave up sometime around Sunday night.)
So I was trying to think about what to write today. I couldn't think of anything. Ilona dared me to write about teh sexx0rz, but I think I will save that for next week when I am really dry (no pun intended, gross Mark!). Someone else suggested that I write about how things inspire me, and I thought that was a great idea.
But then I realized, I have no idea how I get inspired. Ideas just come from wherever they come from. I don't see a picture and go "Ooo, great, now there's a story!" I make up stories, sure. But they usually don't turn into novels.
But what I do have is a tidbit soup rolling around in my head. There are scenes from movies, characters from books, certain glances or expressions that I've caught in a photo that caught my eye. It could be something as simple as a name that I thought was pretty. All of these things float around my head (or on a million post-its, as I mentioned before) and just sit there, waiting.
To me, writing a book is like putting the puzzle together. Let's say you have a great big puzzle. One of those annoyingly hard ones - maybe a bald eagle in front of an American flag.
Everyone always starts with the easy part first - the corner pieces and the borders. Unless you're some sort of puzzle-freak-of-nature, everyone does this. Same with your book. You start with your basic ideas. Okay, guy. Maybe girl. Concept. What are we doing here? Where do I set this thing? You know the basics, but that's about it.
And then you keep thinking things out. You flesh out the borders and build from there. Maybe the setting is mid-thirteenth century England. Maybe you want to do something with tournaments. And something with twins. And a smart-alecky guy. How about a crippled heroine?
All good puzzle pieces. I put them together in my brain and add to the structure. Along the way, I add a few of the puzzle pieces in my brain-soup. I saw the name Aveline a while back and wanted to use it - okay, the crippled heroine is Aveline. In 13th century England - prime time for a tournament. Another puzzle piece falls into place. Smart-aleck hero can be one of the jousters trying to win Aveline's hand. Perfect. My puzzle's coming right along. Let's give Aveline a twin sister who is in love with a Scotsman--
Hey...what? Oops. A Scot in England? REALLY hard sell, especially for that timeframe.
I suddenly came to the perfect puzzle piece that doesn't fit.
And again, this is just like a puzzle. You keep turning and turning it, and it looks like it should ALMOST fit but not really. Maybe one of the edges of the piece is a bit too long. Either way, you can't force it in without totally jacking your puzzle.
So you keep toying with the piece. I do the same thing with plot ideas in my head. Why a Scot? History shows that the Scots were terribly unpopular with the English in the 13th century. Lots of unhappiness on both sides. No reason for a Scot to be at the English court, much less at a tournament.
I've got a puzzle piece that doesn't fit.
I fretted over this one for weeks, maybe even months. The idea wasn't gelling. Pieces weren't fitting together.
And sometimes you stumble across something that locks everything into place. For me, with this particular idea, it happened a few days ago. I was googling medieval Christmas traditions when I stumbled across one line in a long essay about how King Edward III invited King David II of Scotland to a CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENT IN ENGLAND IN 1358.
I nearly swallowed my tongue with seizures of happiness. The annoying puzzle piece that had been flipping in my mind for weeks now fell into place. And now I can move on to filling in the rest of the puzzle.
So anyhow, that's my writing metaphor for the week. Novels iz like puzzles.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Mine was Three Musketeers. From the time I was 9 till about 12 years old, there was nothing greater in this world than Three Musketeers. Oh, I've read Twenty Years later, but only because I missed the characters. See, the Three Musketeers and the intrepid Gasconian don't really get a Happily Ever After. They get rather tumultuous lives, and although they fall in love, they always fall out just as quickly.
There is no lasting Twu Lowe, no happy family, no children.* At that stage in my life, I wanted everything to have a happy end.
No, as far as I was concerned, Three Musketeers was the best and the only book about D'Artagnan. Atos was my favorite character, with Cardinal Richelieu close second.
And then adolescence hit. I didn't have the worst adolescence, but it wasn't pleasant. Like most girls, I went through the ugly stage, on top of which I was labeled as a "smart kid." By fourteen, I was a ball of raging hatred. And that's when I discovered the Count of Monte Cristo.
moar funny pictures
Oh, yes, revenge. I fully understood desire for revenge. Disappearing for a while and then coming back and destroying people who did nasty things to you, that I could get behind. Count of Monte Cristo kicked Three Musketeers off the pedestal and proudly took the place of the greatest book ever written, because I could relate completely to Edmund Dantes' motivation. I judged his quest for punishment just and given a chance, I would help him.**
Motivation of the character is absolutely crucial to the success of the story. Give the character a proper motivation and readers will follow him to hell. The stronger the motivation, the better is the ride.
The four heroes of the Three Musketeers were motivated mostly by their noble impulses, occasionally tinted by lust and perhaps a need for revenge, but mostly they acted out of noble duty. Duty is a good motivator, but there are stronger ones. Love of others. Love of self. Hate. Revenge. Punishment. Those strong, visceral, primal emotions that propel us through life.
Aside from the spike in adolescence, we rarely experience extremely strong emotions. Honestly, when was the last time, you hate someone so much you could actually see yourself killing them? Most of us stop short of outright hatred or all-consuming crushes. But we all had experienced these emotions, and we want to taste them again.
However, picking the right emotion is only half of the battle. The motivation must ring true, or the reviewers will throw the book against the wall, with exclamation of "WTF!"
How do you know if the character's motivations are strong and true enough? Here is how I do it, and what works for me may not work for you.
Motivations come in two flavors: reactive and proactive.
Reactive motivations occur in response to something the villain did. Mysteries, revenge stories, and rebellion plot lines would be most obvious examples. In this type of story, typically, the protagonist exists in a relative comfort and then the villain does Something Heinous to the character or to someone he cares about. The hero then feels compelled to do something about it. Kidnapped relative, an innocent murdered, etc.
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The plot line can be summarized like this:
1) Everything is fine, tra-la-la-la, hero is content
2) Heinous Act!
3) Everything Goes to Hell
4) Hero gets a big stick and goes to Right the Wrong
Monte Cristo, FTW! So if this is your kind of story, I check my villains. I try t make their acts so bad, so awful, so frightening, that the reader becomes personally investing in nuking them.
Proactive motivations usually pop up when the protagonist already exists in a state of relative misery and he sees an opportunity to climb out of the hole.
The plot is somewhat like this:
1) Everything is awful, hero is content
2) Thing that could make everything better appears
3) Hero seizes the opportunity
4) Heroic Struggle ensues
Romance stories are typically proactive: two people encounter each other, become attracted, and strive to be together.
moar funny pictures
(Or, to be more accurate, in romance one member of the leading couple, typically the man, spends a great deal of energy to convince the other member of the couple, typically the woman, that they ought to be together. For the reverse example of this, with woman being the pursuer, please see Nalini Singh's Caressed by Ice.)
Other examples include social climb stories; a lot of fantasies employ this method: a thief girl becomes the ruler of the city, a new governor arrives to a planet to find it in total disarray and must now put it together, etc. Fool's Company by Asprin is a very good example.
If this is my type of story, I try to make sure that the hero is likeable enough and miserable enough in the beginning. This is a double-edged sword, however, because if you make the hero very likeable, you have to make sure that the object of his/her desire is deserving of the hero's attentions.
This concludes my enormous diatribe on motivation. :passes out:
*I couldn't even stomach Vimcomte de Bragelonne. I can't go into why due to spoilers. Let's just say no Happy Ending.
**Yes, I'm a scary, vindictive bitch. :raises hands: Meh, what are you going to do?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
You've noticed some changes here at the League over the past couple of weeks and here's another one stemming from our lovely reader's comments. So don't ever say we didn't do nothin' for ya.
We're starting a book club!
It took some doing and there's always some hesitancy on the part of authors to talk openly about other author's works. What if we don't like it? Worse...what if we hate it? Then we'll be THOSE authors, the ones making fun of people.
Well. I'm a big geek and I love a book club. I started a local monthly group and we've been going for the past two years. Some of the books I've loved (Little Children, Shadow of the Wind), some not so much, but in the end, the purpose of a book club is not to find out whether you like a book or not, it's to talk about the emotions and thoughts that resonate from the experience of reading.
We'll pull together some guidelines as we get closer to the big day, but for now...let's do the fun part and pick a book. We nominated 5 in our genre for you guys to choose from and here they are...
Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire.
Now he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue when an old friend prompts him to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania at the secret government facilities in Rocky Flats. He'll find out the cause of all these horny women or die trying! But first he must contend with shadowy government agents, Eastern European vampire hunters, and women who just want his body . . .
Skewering sexual myths, conspiracy fables, and government bureaucracy, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats reveals the bizarre world of the undead with a humorous slant and a fresh twist.
No one would call vampire Colin Ames-Beaumont kind, but they would call him unnaturally beautiful. For two centuries his tainted blood has kept him isolated from other vampires, sustained only by his beauty and vanity--bitter comforts, since a curse has erased his mirror reflection, replacing it with a terrifying glimpse of Chaos.
Savi Murray's insatiable curiosity had gotten her into trouble before, but she'd always escaped unscathed. Then came Colin. In the midst of Heaven, he gave her a taste of ecstasy--and of Chaos. Deadly creatures from that realm herald the return of an imprisoned nosferatu horde, and Colin and Savi's bond is their only protection--and their only passion...
Once upon a time, Jezebel was a powerful succubus, capable of seducing men and sucking out their souls. But that was before Hell put a bounty on her head. Now her only chance to escape a fate far worse than death is to live as a mortal, losing herself in a sea of unfamiliar humanity, in a place where sinners walk hand-in-hand with saints--a place like Belle's strip club in New York City.
Working as an exotic dancer is a piece of cake for a former demon who once specialized in sex. Taking money from men? Please. It's like leading lawyers to the Lake of Fire. Plus the lingerie is great. But she hadn't counted on meeting sexy Paul Hamilton, a man haunted by his past. Good-bye, succubus; hello, lovestruck. Learning all about how complicated--and pleasurable--love can be, Jezebel thinks she's turned her back on Hell.
But Hell hasn't stopped looking for her. The secrets Jezebel holds are the most dangerous of all, the kind every demon in the Underworld would do their worst to protect. Demons are closing in, which is enough to make Jezebel shiver in her G-string. But it's her love for Paul that's going to have deadly consequences...
Okay, so jogging through Central Park after midnight wasn't a bright idea. But Margrit Knight never thought she'd encounter a dark new world filled with magical beings--not to mention a dying woman and a mysterious stranger with blood on his hands. Her logical, lawyer instincts told her it couldn't all be real--but she could hardly deny what she'd seen...and touched. The mystery man, Alban, was a gargoyle. One of the fabled Old Races who had hidden their existence for centuries. Now he was a murder suspect, and he needed Margrit's help to take the heat off him and find the real killer. And as the dead pile up, it's a race against the sunrise to clear Alban's name and keep them both alive...
There you have it. The nominees for our first book club. It's a nice mix of saucy and smarmy, mystery and mockery, don't you think? Tell us what you'd like to read, we'll take votes for a week and then schedule the discussion after we've nailed down the book.
Get to typing, bitches!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
First, apologies for this post being late. I have a little one who is recovering from chicken pox, and who refused to get off my lap all morning. I had to actually do housework just in order to move my legs for a few minutes.
Got some final line edits today, for an EC book. Also about halfway through my first editing pass on my new project. So discussing edits is not only timely, but is frankly the only thing I can actually focus my mind on at the moment. Unless you want to discuss chicken pox. Which I'm betting you don't (although feel free to tell me how bad you had it, as that is the first response everyone gives, and is pretty interesting. I was seven. I had them bad. I had one on my eyelid, right on the lashline, and I had to soak it with a warm cloth and then pry my eye open in the mornings.)
So. Editing. Here's what I do.
By the time I've finished the book I hate it. I mean, I still love it, but I hate it. Because behind the love is the knowledge of all the stuff that needs fixing. I remember plot points I dropped. I remember scenes that didn't feel like they worked. I realize the Bad Guy wasn't prominent enough throughout the book, I realize the explanation for a magical happening I pulled out of my behind needs to be clarified and set up, etc. etc. etc. So all I remember of the book is what's wrong, along with perhaps a scene or two that works. One or two scenes is not much on which to base writerly pride.
So, while all of those things I did wrong are fresh in my head, I go back and read with a notepad. I make notes of any inconsistencies that need to be corrected later in the book and correct/add in the stuff I know I'll need. I cut awkward or repetetive sentences. I take out sentences that say the same thing I just said in a different way. (Hee, get it? Little example there.) I remove most adverbs and occurences of the words "just", "a little", and "a bit". Some of those stay, because they need to. Most of them are extraneous and must die. I add in stuff to explain later stuff, I trim dialogue and ruthlessly excise dialogue tags, which are the bane of my existence (although I admit I'm not great at cutting them on the first pass. That comes later, which I'll get to.)
So by the time I've finished that first pass, I'm fairly pleased. The atmosphere and voice of the book are there and the story makes sense (hopefully).
Then I might send it out to anyone masochistic enough to volunteer to read the thing (*ahem* consider this your warning). But in general I set it aside. For a while. I used to go six weeks. Now I need less time, mainly because I think my writing is stronger (as I said on my own blog, I seem to have graduated at least somewhat from the "writing extraneous scenes" school, which is good.) But still. I set it aside, I don't think of it, I write something else, I read, whatever. Hopefully in that waiting period I'll get comments from people who read it, which I will file away.
Then comes the big reread. This is where I incorporate comments that make sense. This is where those other nasty dialogue tags get cut and where I really notice things like character inconsistencies or wonky sentences. Those go. This is also where I check The Big Stuff: does every word, every sentence, suit and advance the story, or is it just pretty or clever? Have I jumped out of voice? Does the theme of the story come through or is it muddled?
And ultimately, did they story hold my interest? What parts were boring, if any? (This is where comments are invaluable.) If those parts are necessary but not sparkling, I can fix them. If they're unecessary, they go.
Cutting hurts. It really does. But I keep everything. One day it will all go on my website (I have a bunch of deleted scenes from Personal Demons) or I may be able to rework it and use it in another book.
So there you go. I never really finish editing. I can tinker until the cows come home, and tinker more after that. After those two strong passes I do another one, lower-level, checking for all those other things still and fixing wording but mainly to see if I think the book is better after the changes. Then I randomly go through and re-read and mess with other bits, section by section. It's a lot, a lot of reading and thinking and criticizing oneself.
And that's just before submission. It gets so much more intense after acceptance!
That's why you need to really love your story. Trust me. You're going to be living with it for a long time.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
There's nothing quite as exciting as finishing the first draft of a book, except for the following moments:
-realizing I need to read it and the sense of dread that comes with it
-realizing I need to eventually let my editor read it and the sense of dread that comes with it
-realizing I need to read my editorial letter on it and the sense of dread that comes with it
-realizing I'll need to copy edit and the sense of dread that comes with it
you get the idea...
I'm not complaining really... or at least not too much. See, having the brass ring of a bona-a-fide publishing contract is great, but it also brings along a whole new can of nerve shattering worms... hmmm.. nerve shattering worms, I can use that!
Once the nervousness of "oh will I ever get published is it worth writing at all?" goes away, there's the pressure of jumping through the next hoop. Book one isn't even on sale yet, and here I am obsessing over book two living up to it! Whatever that IT is....
Epic story teller, Janet Jackson asks the deep philosophical question "What have you done for me lately?" and that's pretty much the stage I'm at. There's now the need outperform myself and frankly, I don't know what that initial performance is!
I suppose I should close with something like with great power comes great responsibility, but well, I can't say I feel all that powerful being pre-pub on Dead To Me and in the baby stages of birthing book two, except to put my humanity on my sleeve here.
Nothing to learn here this week, I suppose... excuse me while I go print this beast out and get to reading...
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Thanks Sonya! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize. :)
I confess, I've always been slightly (okay, sometimes more than slightly) jealous of C.E. Murphy. When I was just a wee writer putting together my first (really bad) submission, she was signing her first contract for URBAN SHAMAN, which sold a ton of copies and launched her writing career. And she's got a fabulous agent. And in the course of the next couple of years, she managed to sell just about everything that sprang to mind. She's what you would call 'prolific'. She's also one of the nicest people out in Blogland, so when I had an interview coming up this weekend, I decided to poke her and see if she would poke back. And she did!
How did you get started with novel writing?
CE: *laugh* When I was eight I started what was going to be the first book in an on-going mystery series with five young protagonists. One was a set of red-headed twin girls. I don't remember what the other three were, but even at eight it was clear to me that longevity as a writer came in the form of the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollidays, Trixie Belden...so that was what I was going to do. I think I got about twenty pages written, and I experienced my first computer-related loss of material. I wish I still had that! :)
The first actual novel I completed was when, at 19, I read some very bad book (while I'm wishing, I wish I could remember what it was) and thought, "God, I can do better than *that*," and sat down to write a novel. Took me about six weeks. I've still got the manuscript, but I'm afraid to look at it now. :)
How did you break through into publishing?
CE: I actually sold out of the slush pile. I'd written URBAN SHAMAN (which was my fifth manuscript) years before (in 2000) and I knew it was publishable. Over the course of 2002-2003, I attended some very helpful conferences (particularly Colorado Gold, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' annual conference ( http://rmfw.org/)) that lit a fire under me, and when I heard about Luna--who were asking for traditional fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a strong romantic subplot--I sent them URBAN SHAMAN (which is contemporary fantasy with a strong female protagonist and no romantic subplot: I believe in letting *them* tell you no, rather than saying no for them) and within a few months they bought it.
What's it like working for Harlequin?
CE: Generally fantastic! For me professionally, selling to Luna (a fantasy line under the Harlequin umbrella) was an enormous boon, because it gave me access to the mega-sized Harlequin publishing machine. I was able to sell books to another line, as well (the now-defunct action-adventure romance line "Bombshell"), and that combined with my Luna titles actually gave me the security to become a full-time novelist a year after my first sale. (Well, that and getting laid off with severance from my day job...) But I couldn't ask for a better launching pad than Harlequin. I've had fantastic covers, an incredibly insightful editor, and the kind of promotion a first-time author can only dream of. It's been great.
Tell us a bit about your new release.
CE: New York City lawyer Margrit Knight has finally met the perfect man--only he's a gargoyle, and wanted for murder...
HEART OF STONE is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy called the Negotiator, in which Margrit discovers a world of Old Races--gargoyles and selkie, dragons and djinn, and vampires--living alongside our own in cautious secrecy. Alban Korund needs his name cleared of murder, but he can't go to the police, and as Margrit helps him, she gets drawn further and further into his world.
The idea was originally born from my love of Beauty and the Beast and a story idea a friend and I talked out one night. Aside from the fact that the hero is a gargoyle, the end result looks absolutely *nothing* like that original discussion. (In fact, the end result of the book looks nothing like the original book, after all the revisions it went through!) It's a darker, more sensual story than the Walker Papers, and the whole trilogy will be out over the course of the next year--the second book, HOUSE OF CARDS, is out in March, and book three, HANDS OF FLAME, is out in August. Or maybe September. Can't remember. But within the year! :)
Random question time - Which came first, do you suppose? Star Wars or fanboys?
CE: Given that Star *Trek* was rescued from obscurity by the fanboys, I gotta say, fanboys.
If Jo from URBAN SHAMAN was to face Margrit from HEART OF STONE in a dark alley, who would win?
CE: Jo. She's got the reach and she's a much better fighter. On the other hand, Margrit would be unlikely to be *alone* in that dark alley, and no way could Jo take Alban out. On the third hand, if Margrit *was* alone in the alley, she could easily out-run Jo, who would be left at the corner panting and wheezing with a stitch in her side while Margrit mocked her monkey pants from the other side of the street.
We're not supposed to have favorites, but do you? Have a favorite character, that is.
CE: Yes. :)
Remember when you read my 20 page synopsis for my first novel? Hee. You were too polite to tell me that it was way too long. If you could give one piece of advice to the noobs of the writing world, what would it be?
CE: Oh no I wasn't. :) Length wasn't the problem with that synopsis. Believe me, I told you everything I thought was wrong. (And you took it like a champ!)--(ed note: I actually pouted a lot...heh) Synopses, like books, are as long as they have to be. I've written them anywhere from 2 pages to...ok, not 20, but I know people who turn in 80-100 page synopses to their editors, so 20 pages, pshhhht. :)
Noob advice: this is a job. It's work. You do not wait until the Muse Hath Struck to do your writing. You get up and do it whether you want to that day or not, whether the words are coming like a flood or like treacle (the Great Molasses Flood nonewithstanding). You get up early or you stay up late or you write during your lunch hour or your commute (the latter is when URBAN SHAMAN was written) or when the kids are at school or napping, but you write. It's a second job, and it's probably not going to pay for a long time, and then it's not going to pay especially well. But if it's what you really want, you persevere, and at the end of the day, if you write a good book, I genuinely believe you'll find a publisher for it.
Also, btw, writing one good book isn't enough. Write it, finish it, send it out, and start another. :)
You grew up in Alaska, but currently live in Ireland. How do you think both of those places influenced your writing? Or am I on crack?
CE: You're on crack. :) (ed note - I knew it!)
Actually, I'm sure growing up in Alaska did in some way affect my writing, but I couldn't tell you how. Possibly somebody observing me could, but the only thing I can come up with is, "There's not a lot to do in North Kenai. I read a lot." :) Living in Ireland, meh, less influential. I could always write the Irish accent, and a friend of mine made me promise I wouldn't suddenly be writing All Things Celtophile if I moved over here. Then she said, "...of course, a lot of what you write has Irish influences anyway." So, y'know, Bob's your uncle, as they say here. :)
What have you got in the pipeline for upcoming projects?
CE: Next year's a good year for me. As mentioned above, I've got the second two books in the Negotiator Trilogy coming out. I also have a brand new series starting from Del Rey, the first book of which is titled THE QUEEN'S BASTARD, about the daughter of a Reformation queen who is her mother's most secret and most deadly assassin. Uh, hang on, let me find the blurb my publisher wrote for it (it's awesome).
Ok, this is from September, so it may not be the final copy, but it's the gist of the thing. :)
SHE NEVER REALIZED HER OWN POWER . . . UNTIL NOW.
In a world where religion has ripped apart the old order, Belinda Primrose is the queen's secret weapon. The illegitimate daughter of Lorraine, the first queen to sit on the Aulunian throne, Belinda has been trained as a spy since the age of twelve by her father, Lorraine's lover and spymaster.
Cunning and alluring, fluent in languages and able to take on any persona, Belinda can infiltrate the glittering courts of Echon where her mother's enemies conspire. She can seduce at will and kill if she must. But Belinda's spying takes a new twist when her witchlight appears.
Now Belinda's powers are unlike anything Lorraine could have imagined. They can turn an obedient daughter into a rival who understands that anything can be hers, including the wickedly sensual Javier, whose throne Lorraine both covets and fears. But Javier is also witchbreed, a man whose ability rivals Belinda's own . . . and can be just as dangerous.
Amid court intrigue and magic, loyalty and love can lead to more daring passions, as Belinda discovers power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
This is out in May, and I'm *so* excited about it! *beams* It's a total departure from my urban fantasy style, and I'm hoping it'll bring in new readers and fans! :)
What do you suppose your agent says when you email her out of the blue?
CE: "Oh God, now what?"
If you could get anything for Christmas, what would it be?
CE: A big-money winning Lotto ticket. I mean, world peace, an end to world hunger, and a couple of other high-minded political agenda topics aside, I'm really pretty happy with my life. All I can ask for is the ability to fly first-class anywhere in the world that I want to at the drop of a hat. Is that so much? :)
Ham or Turkey? Eggnog or Cider? Pumpkin Pie or Candy Canes?
CE: Turkey, cider, and ... BOTH!
Thanks to C.E. Murphy for being kind enough to answer all my goofball questions (without even batting an eye). HEART OF STONE is currently in stores and available on the Harlequin website for purchase.
Also, CE's been kind enough to offer to give away a copy of HEART OF STONE! Here's what you do - link to this blog post on your own journal. Leave a comment telling us where your link is. We'll randomly draw a name from everyone that commented on Monday for the winner. So spread the word and win a book!
Thanks everyone (and thanks Catie)!
Friday, December 7, 2007
I tend to make lists for everything. I'm not sure when I started, and I'm not sure what I use them for, but I guarantee if you open up my purse (or my desk drawer, or my notepad) you'll find over a dozen scribbled lists. Plot ideas, things to research, character names to use, book genres, books to buy…you name it, I've made a list of it.
Here's the current list I'm toying with:
#1 - No. Just no.
#2 - Use the good pieces. Fates.
#3 - Fix 'fire' plot element. Needs heavy redraft
#4 - Complete Rewrite
#5 - Sold!
#6 - Add 2nd POV. Redraft so H is less stick-in-the-mud.
#7 - Subbed
#8 - POV switch, redraft
#9 - Add 2nd POV. Emphasize 'plot' plot.
#10 - Submitted
In case you haven't already guessed, that's a list of my 'completed' novels (completed being the operative word). You'll see that there's only three I'm truly happy with. The others are in various stages of repair or dissection.
What does this list accomplish? Not a whole heck of a lot, to be honest. I probably won't reference it again. In fact, I *know* I won't reference it again. I never look at any of my lists again.
So why do I write them? Organization, baby.
See, I'm a very 'mental' writer (I hear Anton laughing out there). All my story bits are floating in my head in this messy hodgepodge. Somewhere in the middle of the clutter are to-do projects, and things I need to do this weekend, and ideas I have for other items.
(Which reminds me. This weekend I want to do: 1k in N-M, 1k in T-B, 1k in S, and 1k in V)
Writing down things in lists helps me focus. It gets these items out of the random swirl in my head and in a distinct line. I think it through, and I feel better - and more organized - now that it's all written out in a row and pretty to look at. I won't look at it again, of course. I don't need to. Conscious thought and repetition has cemented it in my brain.
And this is why I write my synopsis halfway through a novel.
I don't need one at the beginning, of course. That's when you have the initial heady rush of writing. Stuff is slamming onto the page and the world is your oyster. You can add anything to the book and it's not wrong - yet. It's like juggling. You're tossing a lot of stuff into the air, and nothing's coming down yet.
But when you get 30 or 40k into the book, and you have a lot of plots and subplots and motivations that you're juggling, all those balls you've tossed into the air suddenly become a lot to juggle. What if you forget a piece? I've done that. It's no fun to try and go back and squeeze it into what is otherwise a tight, seamless narrative.
So I put a list at the end of my working document. I list out everything that's floating in my head, and forces me to think of everything I need to include. It emphasizes it to my brain. It says "Okay, don't forget this piece!"
And then I continue writing. I might not reference it again (I usually 'enter' down a few pages so I don't constantly see my list of notes) but it's there if I need it. And as I progress through the story, I check my list from time to time. Some of the stuff I don't need anymore. Some was used (quite brilliantly, I might add), and some is still waiting to be used. I delete what I don't need and keep going. By the time I'm done with the book, my list is gone too.
So there you go. There's my crazy writer quirk: lists. Great for helping you outline to 'juggle' all those balls.
(Not so good when your husband discovers the list of xmas presents you just bought. Oops.)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
A thick, muscular neck is sexy on a man, because men, by their biological function, fight more often than women. A long lean neck is sexy on a woman because she is the look-out rather than a fighter. A thin waist of a woman compensates for her hips by adding mobility to her body. Heavy muscular development of the male pectorals is indicative of the great strength.
As our civilization develops, we choose to accentuate certain attributes. Corsets show of the narrow waist. Spikes heels lengthen the calf - the longer the legs, the better is the runner. Jackets develop padded shoulders. Even our cosmetics are tailored to improve our mating chances: foundation hides evidence of a lousy immune system, blush falsifies healthy circulation, eyeliner creates an illusion of larger eyes and therefore bigger field of vision.
Broken down like that, beauty seems just a sum of optimal mutations. And if one were to sit down and put together a laundry list of beautiful traits, all of the descriptions of beautiful people would sound the same: large eyes, large mouth, chiseled cheekbones, lustrous hair… Boring.
Without personality, even the most detailed description will read like an old wad of used chewing gum.
It's the personality that makes us truly unique. The more I write, the more aware I am of how much of our seduction takes place on the intellectual level. I suppose that's why writers often try to marry personality with description. Honestly, it's a ton of work. That aspect of writing doesn’t come naturally to me. I end up wondering, well what is this particular woman see in this man? Is she looking for a protector? Does his intellect add to his allure? It is the capacity for violence that's pulling her in?
So I'd like to ask you, what do you guys find attractive?
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Why, just this Monday, I was at my writing group...
*the mist rolls in, cuing a flashback*
M--name changed to protect the innocent--is reading from her WIP. It takes two pages of exposition to get to the first hint of scene. Dialogue is brief and transitory and seems to link passages of exposition rather than the other way around.
T follows her with a similarly exposition heavy reading.
I drift off into daydreams involving razor blades and bathtubs.
*the mist separates*
So...we had to have the discussion about scenes being the cornerstone of the novel, the driving force behind everything.
Now, don't get me wrong--I love a touch of exposition here and there to shake things up a bit. Take this little transitional ditty from HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED...
Speaking of fashion, on my way out of the office I was greeted by the grating voice of burgeoning fashionista Rowena Brown. Pendleton calls her 'Lollipop' because the color of her hair extensions always matches her tank tops. At least, I think that's the reason. I hope it's not because he wants to lick her.
Since having a gastric bypass, she melted down at least ten sizes, but her skin hadn't. It collected around her ankles, like sagging brown skin boots. In day-glo miniskirts, tight halter-tops and 6-inch heels, Lollipop appears less an aging streetwalker, than shriveled ghoul. She shuffles down the halls; head balancing Harijuku girl pigtails, and teetering precariously.
Once, she even fell in front of me. The landing scored a 9.5. She settled with her head perched in an odd angle against the copier. A single blinking eye glared up from Lollipop's twisted face; ultimately she was uninjured. Not that I would have eaten her to put her out of her misery. Absolutely not, she looked to me like one big piece of gristle.
I like to use exposition for laughs, but when I'm reading I don't want to see more than a couple of paragraphs of the author telling me something. I'm from Missouri, people, and they don't call it "the show-me state" for nothing.
The conversation at group located the source of this need to "tell". It comes from english class essays. We're taught to follow a basic structure in our writing. Opening statement followed by evidentiary sentences, lather, rinse, repeat. It's hammered into us. And you remember how boring those essays were, dontcha?
My best advice to break the exposition habit is to try and write only scene (action/dialogue), no internal dialogue, no back story and description only as it pertains to the action. Once the scene is written and it sparks and makes you happy, you can go back and layer in some character thoughts, emotional cues, characterization, etc.
Here's a scene (this one from my WIP, THE DARK RITES OF JOE BARKLEY)...
"Do you know how to tell if these are ripe?" Joe held a greenish cantaloupe to his ear, and attempted to look helpless.
"Let me see." The brunette thumped the melon like you would your little brother's head. "Nope." She picked another melon, gave it a few thumps and then turning to Joe, held it to his ear.
Thump, thump, thump.
"Do you hear that?"
"What?" Joe stepped in closer to the woman.
"That hollow sound. That's how you can tell it's ripe."
"Mmm." Joe hummed the sound. "What about smelling the end? I'd always heard--"
The woman brought the cantaloupe to her pert nose. It quivered a bit with each sniff. Joe moved in to smell, too, but not the fruit. He brushed his hand against the back of hers. She was staring at him now; a slow smile crept onto her mouth. She wet her lips. "I think I heard that."
Ingrid was breathing in an aroma; that was certain. Joe released his toxins in that moment, a small dose, just enough to make the woman more agreeable to the seduction. It tangled with the scent of the cantaloupe and made it's way into her lungs.
"Ingrid." She chewed at her lip, her eyes heavy-lidded with yearning.
Within twenty minutes the two were in a nearby motel, tearing at each other's clothes, bare feet on threadbare carpet. Joe tossed Ingrid back onto the mattress. He kissed her feet, nibbled at her calves, kneaded her thighs. He pressed his face into her moist folds, lapping at each layer, curling his tongue around the knot of flesh so sensitive it seemed attached to her spine. Her legs wrapped around him, her heels dug into his ass.
Joe reached down, shoved the band of his underwear under his sack, and found an unfamiliar softness. He separated from Ingrid. Sitting upright on his haunches, he jerked at himself, spat in his hand and tried some more.
The lubrication had no effect.
"It's a nice enough looking dick, though," Ingrid pulled on her panties, snatched her clothes from the floor, and retreated to the bathroom. "Maybe, I should have thumped your crotch."
Should I have warned you there'd be dirtiness? Oops...guess the title was the tip-off.
It's pretty simple stuff, just what happened, but it gets you there. It's paranormal but you only get that from one line. You'll also note I have an aversion to dialogue attribution, favoring action beats.
Give it a try. Go back to your WIP and pick a scene. Rewrite it as dialogue and action. Come back and tell us how it worked. Did you run into any problems? Did you love it?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
So, naturally, I'm wasting time on IMDB and doing lj memes and rereading Andrew Vachss novels for the millionth time.
When I was nearing the end of Personal Demons I went on a baking kick. I would think about writing, but then I would decide what we really needed in the house was a Victoria sponge with Nutella and fresh whipped cream (which was delicious, btw.) Or a chocolate sponge with raspberry jam and whipped cream (also quite yummy). Or cookies.
Then I decided instead of gaining weight cooking I should instead do some cleaning. The house sparkled for a week. I even washed my rice & flour canisters. I used toothpicks wrapped in cotton to clean grout. I washed cabinet shelves and used baby wipes to clean all the doors and doorframes.
I believe my body has joined me in my work avoidance this time. Even the flesh isn't willing. I have developed--I think--an ear infection, so I'm currently slightly deaf and in pain. So off I go in half an hour or so to the doctor, where hopefully they will be able to treat me. (When the hubs had bronchitis last year, the doctor said, and I quote, "You're a strong, healthy young man. Just give it some time, and come back if you start coughing up blood." So I sincerely hope I will not be sent home and told to come back if I go completely deaf.)
Oh yes. Anything nd everything becomes infinitely fascinating when you are getting ready to finish a project. Anything and everything that isn't actually finishing the project.
I suppose part of it could be the subconscious fear of rejection. If you never finish the book, you never have to submit the book. Another part, for me at least, is the knowledge that when the book is done you're going to have to read it and see if it's really any good yourself. And try to fix what's wrong, which means rewrites and tinkering and rpping the book apart and hoping it can be put back together. It means second-guessing yourself, second-guessing your characters--is that guy really as charming as you think, or just a dick? Is the heroine a strong, likeable woman with vulnerabilities, or is she just a sad sack bitch?
And the biggest one, the worse one, is when you finish the book you have to leave the world. No more. You can tinker and reread, but you have no idea if you'll ever be able to play with those people again. They're gone, they live on their own, not part of you anymore in the way they used to be. It's lonely and it's sad and it's strange, and I hate that bereft feeling.
But we must finish. If we don't finish, we'll never know if it's any good or not. We'll never have that accomplishment. We'll never be able to share that world with anyone else, and ultimately, isn't that what we want to do? Finishing a book separates the writers from the hobbyists, so if you want to be a writer you don't have a choice. Can't be a lawyer without passing the bar; can't be a writer without doing some of that pesky writing.
So I'm off to get moving. Um, before I go to the doctor, that is.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
So anyway, this one goes out to all the writers out there who are sending out their work or waiting to hear back from and editor or agent on their work.
I'm talking about rejection, folks. It's a natural state for most writers. I know it was for me. When I first moved to Manhattan, I had two choices: be an actor or be a writer. Both promised years of rejection, but ultimately I chose to ditch acting and pursue writing.
Why? Because acting in New York City is a constant and pretty frequent barrage of rejections. Audition, rejection, audition, rejection. Rinse and repeat. In comparison, writing seemed the way to go. Given the slow pace of the industry, I could go long stretches where I didn't actually get rejected. In fact, most of the time I realized I was pretty happy writing in my Fortress of Lassitude. It was the journey, not the destination, of writing which was the positive experience overall. Sure, there was rejection, but those happened in isolated pockets and were slow in coming compared to acting.
I read a lot of blogging hopefuls out there, many of whom keep my updated on their latest rejections, be they personal letters, form letters or the occasional bits of advice worked into their rejections. Now here's the Donald Trump part where I crib from The Apprentice: It's not personal. It's just business.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, folks, I know from my own pained journey. As a writer, you've got the emotional attachment to your work, your precious little snowflake of a child. Every letter kinds hits like someone hasn't chosen your kid to be in the school play or on the soccer team. Of for those of you without kids like me, it's like not having your cat picked for the cover of Cat Fancy or having your pooch chosen for the Purina Dog Show. I digress...
As someone who is not only a writer but works inside the publishing industry, I see the sheer volume of books coming into our house. It's an impossibility to give every rejection that personal touch. Again, it comes down to the reality of business. Chances are your rejection will be rather impersonal, but your personal reaction is all yours, not from a personal slight from people trying to conduct business.
Now, if you haven't hung yourself yet, here's the thing: I take comfort in rejection, and I'm not just saying that as a published author. I have rejections to come, no doubt, so I spend just as much time dreading it as someone unpublished. Still, I take comfort in the fact that yeah, rejection is gonna happen, but what can you do about the rejection itself? Not much, sadly.
Obsessing over rejection keeps you from serving the story, keeps you from writing, and worst of all, keeps you from learning.
So if you get something personal telling you why they rejected you, great. Weigh it, see if it's valid and learn from it.
There's so many ways to get rejected and I have to wonder how much of it is truly about your work because each editors are people, each of them different. Your work might be hated by many, loved by one... and that one is all you need. You hear about it by a billion authors, "I was rejected 50 times before someone bought me" (not me however, I only had three rejections ;P). Same over in that acting field. A lot of what editors tell you varies from editor to editor. I've known people to totally rewrite every last word of their work to appease what one editor said cuz EDITORZ IS GODZ OMG WTF BBQ?!??! and unless there's a somewhat serious offer on the table, don't do that. If you get a consensus of feedback that's all telling you the same thing, consider following the advice, but don't give up everything you believe in of your story to simply appease one editor while you grab for the brass ring.
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Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells