Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I think this makes me "Team Late To The Party,"
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
When I was little and came running into the house, sweaty and caked in dirt, my mom would cry, “What the- have you been rolling around with wolves?”
Well, here I sit, sweaty, caked in various layers of dried mud. And I have indeed been playing with wolves. While promoting the release of my Naked Werewolf romance series, I visited the Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge in Nicholasville, KY. Wolf Run, a state- and USDA-licensed non-profit educational facility, provides a safe, loving and permanent sanctuary for 23 adult wolves and wolf-dog hybrids. The refuge is also home to two full-grown lions, deer, goats, sheep, monkeys, and other exotic wildlife. And Rowdy, the most obese raccoon I have ever seen.
Most of the animals are former pets that were either confiscated by or surrendered by their owners. Because it turns out, wolf hybrids do not make great house pets.
As Savannah Massey, director of animal care and education at Wolf Run told me, “These animals are gorgeous, appealing and unique. But they’re also aggressive, destructive and territorial. This is not an animal you want in your home. Wolf genetics do not go away. And it’s not just that they could tear up your furniture or hurt one of your other pets- you are physically in danger when you’re around them.”
Just what you want to hear when you’re sitting right next to one, and he’s been licking your face.
Honestly, Boone, a 10-year-old grey male, could not have been nicer during my visit and our subsequent photo shoot. He was a dignified statesman compared to raucous Razz, a three-year-old tan specimen who seemed to think my make-up was bacon-flavored. (Note to Sephora, wolf-oriented face powder may be a niche market you haven’t considered yet.)
I learned a lot during my visit to Wolf Run. I was happy to find there are some definite similarities between actual wolves and the characters in HOW TO FLIRT WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF and THE ART OF SEDUCING A NAKED WEREWOLF.
For instance, a wolf will pee on whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to make sure you know that thing belongs to them. It is now your tree, Boone, we understand. Thank you for not choosing my shoes.
Wolves have to date. There are five packs at Wolf Run, each with three to five pack members. New wolves are matched to potential packs based on temperament when they arrive at Wolf Run. If the initial matches don’t work, they are moved to different packs until they find a good fit. Some wolves, like Boone, don’t fit well with any group and end up being loners. (Which, I think, makes him a bit like Cooper.)
Wolves struggle over the Alpha position. Large males jockey for the position and it can lead to inter-pack tension. Unlike Boone, who was an Alpha contender, Razz, just seemed to want to play, which made me think of Samson.
I did not see a real-life counterpart for Maggie, which was probably a good thing given her penchant for biting people on the butt.
Mary Kindred, CEO of Wolf Run, calls the animals her babies. When she walks around the yard, any effort to distract the wolves is futile, because a) she is mom and b) she has Pupperoni in her pocket. Kindred noted that the sanctuary receives no outside funding, and all expenses, such sturdy fencing, food, veterinary care, and upkeep of the grounds, are paid through donations. The facility welcomes volunteers. And despite the love and effort Mary and her staff devote to the sanctuary, both she and Savannah look forward to the day they’re no longer needed.
“These animals shouldn’t be here,” Savannah said. “The lions should be in Africa. The wolves should be in the wild. Our goal is to rescue animals and educate the public, until a facility like this is no longer needed.”
learn more about Wolf Run, go to http://www.wolfrun.org/index.html or contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to check out the trailer for the Naked Werewolf series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyHG5546Xa4
Wolf photo credit: Memories by Chris/Chris Meyer/Georgetown, KY http://web.me.com/memoriesbychris
HOW TO FLIRT WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF is on sale now!
THE ART OF SEDUCING A NAKED WEREWOLF goes on sale 3/29!
But you know what's awesome for one's perspective? Taking a week off.
Last week was spring break for Spawn so we headed out of town for a week of fun. It wasn't anything elaborate. But it was a change of pace and a much needed break after the craziness of a book launch combined with revisions on my next book. Normally, it's really hard for me to do anything non-writing related without feeling guilty. But last week, I allowed myself a week without stressing about deadlines or obligations or tweeting or blogging or anything else that normally clogs my daily writer life to do list. I checked email and my horoscope but little else online. And you know what? My mind is now brimming with story ideas that weren't there a week ago. I realized there's a whole world out there beyond publishing and the internet and silly arguments over the placement of semicolons and what will be "the new vampire." It was glorious.
Of course, then I get back to work yesterday and find the internets all aflame with news of game changing and other bullshit. I get it. Publishing is changing. There's no denying that. But you know what's not going to change? A good story well told will always be in demand. It may not be in demand in the same formats we all grew up with. Writers might have to get more resourceful to make money telling them. But the stories? They ain't going anywhere.
So while I am probably not alone in having brain cramps trying to figure out where the hell all this is going, I can't focus on it. I won't. Because the stories are waiting to be told. All the rest will work itself out.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I like to say I blame Erin Evans--who was feeling a bit under the weather at Rainforest--but I mostly I say this because I would otherwise have to admit that I got a cold at Ikea and who wants to 'fess up to having a cheap-ass pseudo-Swedish virus that was actually ginned-up in China? But I digress. Or do I?
Anyhow, so while I was contemplating how efficient a proof reader I would be while high on a combination of decongestant, cough-suppressant, antihistamine, and expectorant—complicated by frequent sneezing, snorting, blowing, coughing and narcolepsy—I was supposed to be getting the boat cleaned and gussied up for a wee small party this weekend and trying to figure out how to manage all the rest in the copious spare time I would (not) have, the toilet broke.
Yes. You did read that correctly: the toilet broke. I don't mean the porcelain literally broke; actually I mean that the macerating pump on the electric marine head gave up the stinky ghost. Mr. Kat heroically stayed home for a day to fix it. Sadly, the problem was slightly more complicated than originally believed and so the toilet was not fixed on Thursday as hoped.
By this time (Friday) my head felt like a balloon full of snot and my throat could have stood in for ground beef, judging by the color. It also felt quite remarkably like I'd swallowed something both prickly and hard--a cactus perhaps. And so I regretfully canceled the wee small gathering, and didn't feel too bad since it appeared the weather was going to suck anyhow. And Mr. Kat came home with a sprained ankle. So there we were—the gimp and the simp—watching the last three episodes of "Human Target" Season One on DVD in between staring morosely at A) my paperwork or B) the parts of the toilet strewn around the place.
So Saturday dawned clear warm and nice and stayed that way. Mr. Kat had the "eureka" moment and—in spite of said sprained ankle—got parts and fixed the head by two minutes prior to the originally scheduled starting time for the party. Which we still weren't having because even after you've fixed a marine head, its odor lingers....
Luckily, the combination of Pseudaphed and Mucinex plus Dextramathorphan makes Kat an insomniac and I finished the whole damned proof by 11 pm on Saturday. And we went to bed—once I stopped vibrating—and slept like heroes. Because there is little in life more heroic than triumphing over toilets, let me tell you, and managing 180 pp of proofreading in a single day with or without a head cold that makes you fall over—while still seated.
This morning I scanned in my corrected pages and sent them to my editor. Then I willfully and maliciously did NOT re-write my synopsis, but sat down and finished reading a very wonderful ARC called THIEFTAKER, by one D. B. Jackson, which I am very very excited about. So there!
Sometimes you just have to say "I'm going to read now!" and do it.
I still feel like my head is full of helium-mucus but at least I managed to get the paying job done on time. Now the rest awaits. Til Monday at least.
(cross-posted from My Own Personal Grey)
First off, an obligatory reminder that the critique auctions are still going on. Team Claw has currently pulled ahead of Team Fang (I suspect foul play), so make sure you get your bids in!
And now, the post!
I'm currently sitting here at my desk, watching the gorgeous sunshine out over my deck. The nice lady on the weather channel says it's supposed to be up to 75 today, and my first thought is, "Hey, I should go outside! To write!"
Hm. I'm not sure that going outside to SIT more is actually the point of this whole "it's beautiful, go outside" campaign they keep running on TV.
That's the hazard of being a writer, especially when that writing is also coupled with having a Real Job(tm). There's a lot of sitting involved. On the average weekday, I'm sitting at my computer for 16 hours of it. Not only is this bad for the waistline (really, my jeans just shrunk in the dryer), but it's hard on various other parts of you.
We all know about the joy that is carpal tunnel (I dual-wield wrist braces, very stylish) but even in a perfectly arranged ergonomic desk environment, other parts of you suffer as well. Your back, your shoulders, your neck, your hips. Parts of you that were simply not made for constant sitting.
I have a friend on Twitter who regularly announces "butt-breaks" while she's writing. She makes it a point to get up every so often and just move around a little. Go get tea, do some jumping jacks, stretch a little.
So, that's my springtime resolution. (New Year's resolutions are so passé) I do solemnly swear that I'm gonna get off my ass more, if even just for five minutes or so at a time. It might even progress up to walks around the block, and tag in the backyard.
Spring is here, let's move!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Jeanne Stein here-
Hey--tomorrow it's official. The first day of spring. As if heralding its arrival, tonight we earthlings are going to be treated to one of nature's coincidences--the perigee...during which the rising full moon appears fourteen percent larger and brighter than usual. Nasa supplies this video explanation:
Here's your chance to capture some your own super cool shots like the one's we see in movies and assume are special effects.
The super moon only comes about once every eighteen or nineteen years. Get your cameras ready and head outside for the moonrise in your area. Heck, it's still mid afternoon. You have time!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I am currently in what writers affectionately call "deadline hell." I have a book due in four days and am working very hard to meet that deadline, which means I'm a hermit in a bathrobe who isn't going anywhere except for twitter. And no, it's not as glamorous as it sounds.
Anyway, thought I'd post a couple links and a video today here at the League.
After the devastation in Japan, two groups of League members have generously put together a couple eBay auctions to benefit the recovery effort. If you're looking for a group analysis of your work in progress and would like 100% of the final sale price will to go to the American Red Cross.
Team Fang is Mario Acevedo, Dakota Cassidy, Stacia Kane, JF Lewis, Nicole Peeler, KA Stewart, and Anton Strout.
Team Claw is Sonya Bateman, Michele Bardsley, Carolyn Crane, Kevin Hearne, Jackie Kessler, Diana Rowland, and Jeanne Stein.
Richelle Mead also has a bunch of auctions up featuring signed copies of hers and other fabulous authors' books.
Please see the individual auctions for more details about what is included.
Or you can donate directly to the Red Cross if you'd like to help out -- go to www.RedCross.com or www.RedCross.ca. Every dollar is appreciated!
Okay! Now that I've done the important stuff, I want to share this video with you -- in case you haven't already seen it. It's the latest viral video on YouTube and the singer, Rebecca Black, has been a trending topic on Twitter for a few days now and an interesting experiment in whether or not bad publicity will turn out to be good publicity.
I honestly thought it was a parody or a satire of pop music being brainless and insipid dreck, but guess what? It's (allegedly) totally legit. This comes from a company where rich people can get music videos made for their kids. It's slick, Disney-channel pretty, and one of the worst songs ever! EVER!
AND I CAN'T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD. Enjoy!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
So... this past weekend I was at the Rainforest Writer’s Village writer’s retreat out on the Olympic Peninsula. I’d never been to a writer’s retreat before and this was kind of interesting. Because this was my first time and because the organizer had prodded me firmly with a virtual poke, I had agreed to lead a couple of discussions. Or workshops. Or something like that. It was pretty casual. And I said I would because that’s what you do when someone reminds you that people did such things for you when you were a newbie and “paying it forward” is good karma.
So, arm properly twisted (but not very far) I said I’d talk on a couple of topics that I’ve been poking at a lot lately: Voice and Setting. Not together, but as two separate occasions. So let me start with Setting... (with apologies to Don McQuinn who first kicked my ass about this and as a result the setting in the Greywalker novels became almost a character in its own right.) I try to use settings that enrich the plot and create some opportunity or context which I might not get otherwise. For any story—be it yours or mine or someone else’s—setting is not just where things happen; sometimes it is why they happen, or how they happen; or to whom they can happen.
Setting, to be didactic, informs both plot and character. So what the hell does that mean? Well, it means that where something happens—be it a single scene or a whole story/novel/play/movie/game—determines many plot possibilities, closing some and opening others. Where a story takes place also reflects, highlights, isolates, or molds character. Setting erects barriers or knocks them down; it brings people together or tears them apart; and it can provide emotional and historical/backstory context. All of these enrich the plot and characters and move them forward in dynamic and interesting ways. Even a simple scene should be set with an eye to character and plot and even a seemingly innocuous location can be rife with tension and challenges for your plot and characters. The setting doesn’t have to be fantastical. It can be historical or imaginary or part of the contemporary world. It can be material or allegorical or both. What it must be is important, not just some place you pulled out of a hat or used because it’s familiar and convenient. This does not mean it has to be exotic, however.
For instance—and to borrow from McQuinn—without the rugged and isolated landscape of Wyoming, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is just a chatty lit romance about a couple of gay men who meet and part. If it took place in New York, the characters would be different people and their affair and its long-term impact on their lives might be nothing unusual; the story might never happen at all. But when it’s two men in traditionally masculine, “man’s man” roles that only really come to fullness out in the harsh and lonely wilderness of the plains and mountains, alone, dependent on each other for safety, and suddenly drawn to each other in a way that is anathema to the society from which they come, the story is quite a bit different and its bittersweetness becomes inevitable. The landscape becomes allegory and challenge, it also provides license for the characters to do what they would never do in the glare of their “normal” lives. The characters defy the expectations inherent in the setting and only then does the plot—and its inescapable challenge to the characters and the reader—become possible
So this is setting providing a challenge and a taking a role in plot and character development—this specific example is Setting at the macro level. Setting also works on a smaller scale, in individual scenes—on a micro level. One example from the weekend came from a writer who was sending her protagonist couple into the bedroom. She doesn’t need to describe the bedroom very much—we all know what a bedroom looks like in a middle class North American home—and she doesn’t need to go into detail about why they are going there because we all know what people do in bedrooms. But if the writer sends the couple to the bedroom and suddenly the female character is looking at the bedspread and thinking it really needs washing... the emotional feel of the scene has changed because the writer has fucked with your expectations of what happens in bedrooms. The bedroom is no longer the place to retreat for rest or sex. It’s now a disjointed place where the dirty bedspread is more comforting than the thought of the bed beneath it. The context of the bedroom has changed and thus the emotional development of the scene has changed, too. There’s nothing remarkable about that bedroom until the moment when the linens take center stage.
Now, you could think it was just a bad scene, but what if the couple doesn’t go to the bedroom... what if the same scene which would have happened in the bedroom with its distracting comforter took place in the basement, or the living room, or the garage...? Once again, the setting changes the impact of the whole scene. Even if the characters say and do the exact things they said and did in the original scene, context has changed. The characters are revealed in new ways and the plot has an opportunity to twist beyond what might have happened in the bedroom between two consenting adults.
Every place your characters go either tells the reader something about them or moves them into emotion or action that could not happen elsewhere/elsewhen.
How your character reacts to a place tells a lot about them. It also gives you, the writer, a chance to expose their past and their emotional/mental state. A character returning to their childhood home after decades away will react differently to a place where he was happy than to one where he lived in fear, or where once-happy memories were overturned by later violence—or vice versa. The emotional context of the place will have a profound effect on what the character feels, thinks, and does.
Setting also challenges characters. If the landscape is rough and difficult to travel over, whether it it is rife with wonder or the stalking ground of lunatics with banjos and chainsaws, the progress of the plot has ample opportunity to go off in new directions or take alternate routes from the obvious. It also forces your characters to make choices, to take risks, to succeed or fail, and possibly to die. They are mentally and emotionally challenged as well as physically. They must do something more than they anticipated, something harder, and possibly more emotionally difficult. It doesn’t have to be the road to Mordor, so long as the setting represents the unknown or the impossible to the character. The setting can be lovely and inviting, or completely ordinary, but so long as it holds a secret or a challenge to the character, it offers the writer opportunities for character revelation and change as well as plot complications and advancement—there’s nothing quite like a giant sinkhole or massive gridlock to change plot direction.
Don’t let your setting be just a boring back drop. Make it work for your story. Each character experiences a moment in a setting from a slightly different position both physically and emotionally than every other character. Where one is perfectly at ease, another may be terrified; where one is angry, another may be oblivious, or happy, or too tired to care. Let their differing knowledge, relationships, and responses add complexity and richness to your story. Let the history or physicality of the place provide context and plot challenges. Give your setting depth and your story will be better for it.
First off, guest blogs!
You can find me guest blogging over at Richelle Mead's site, where I talk about "How young is too young?" in regards to reading, and you can also find me at Vicki Pettersson's site, talking about my rather ridiculous mental version of Las Vegas. Vicki also says such nice things about me she made me go all vaklempt.
Kat Richardson also made me blush with what she said before my guest post at her site, about truly inspirational places to live. Next, I've got a guest blog up at Kevin Hearne's Writer's Grove, regarding butts that can crack walnuts and the urban fantasy heroine. It makes more sense when you read it. ;-)
Finally, you can catch me talking NOLA cuisine over at Suzanne Johnson's Preternatura. She's even offering a NOLA gift bag as a contest prize. Fun!
I'm wandering around to other people's blogs partially because, for the month of March (and a bit of April), if you live in America you can OFFICIALLY call me cheap. Because Orbit's offering its US readers the chance to download my first book, Tempest Rising, for only $2:99. Click on the ad below for more info:
So if you want to give Jane a shot, and you live in the states, she's gorgeously cheap. Yay for cheap!
Monday, March 14, 2011
There's a lot of flexibility here - both in the overall design and the details you might want to include on the back. As a reader, I love to collect things like this - just a few more insights into the characters or books I've come to love. As an author, it gives me a chance to express my vision of my characters in an unrestricted way.
Romance Trading Cards If you're getting cards made up for any of the conventions, be sure to stop by there and upload a few of them and add your name to the list so that readers will know you'll have them. (They are doing several auctions for charity as well, so it's always worth it to have something to go to a good cause.)
The only thing to keep in mind is that the cards are small - 2.5 x 3.5 inches, so a little larger than a business card. That can make it difficult design-wise. Too much info and it will get lost. I stuck with fairly simple stuff, myself - just a teaser quote and left it at that. Think I will start out with four designs to start with and add to them as the next book in the Brush of Darkness series continues.
You can see the fronts of all four cards on my website. I'll have the backs up there later this week. :)
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Instead, with all that's happening in Japan right now, I'll just redirect you back to Richelle's post from yesterday and the awesome things she's doing to help raise relief money.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Watching the events in Japan unfold has been difficult for me. My heart goes out to everyone there, as well as to those of you who have loved ones there. It's heartbreaking to see so much news on the internet and TV--and to feel so far away and helpless. There are a number of charitable organizations I donate to that are doing good works, and I wanted to give some incentive for other people to donate. Here's the scoop.
Over the next couple weeks or so, I will be auctioning signed books through eBay's Giving Works programs. It works like this. I provide books that you can buy through eBay, just as you would normal items. The only difference is that 100% of the proceeds go to either Save the Children or the American Red Cross, both of which are doing work in Japan to help disaster victims. (They also help other tsunami-affected regions). Each listing will tell you which charity eBay will send the proceeds to. These are books provided from my own supply, and I will autograph them before they're shipped out. Bottom line is that you get a book (or books), and a worthy cause gets helped.
I know this will be disappointing to some, but at this point, these auctions are only available to people living in the United States. This is to ensure that items and delivery can be tracked through the mail. Since you're sending money for these charities, it's imperative to me that we make sure you get your items. It simply isn't feasible to do that with international shipping. I hope you can understand and are still able to donate in other ways to those in need.
I only have a few listings up right now. At the time of this post, there's a signed Succubus Blues, a set of German VA books, a set of French Georgina books, and some UK Eugenie books. All are starting out below cover price, and I'll take care of shipping charges. I'm trying to gauge interest by seeing how these do, and if there's a lot of demand, I'll eventually put up some more books because I would really love it if we can help these causes. A new seller account was created to list these books, and savvy eBay users know to be wary of sellers without feedback. But, I can assure you here, being the real and legit Richelle Mead, that eBay user "booksthatgive" is trustworthy and indeed legitimately selling my books and donating all the profit to charity. I am not affiliated with anyone else who might be claiming the same.
Ok. After all that build up, here's where you can view the eBay listings of my books. Please direct any other questions through eBay's site, and thank you so much for helping the disaster victims.
And of course, I hope many of you will donate to charitable organizations simply for the sake of donating. Charity Navigator is an excellent site that reviews charities and provides tips on which are the most legitimate to give money to. This site lists what some specific organizations are doing. The tiniest amount can help. So can good thoughts.
What happens one place in the world affects the rest of the world. Please keep those who are suffering in your thoughts. Thank you for all your help.
Cross-posted from my blog.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I didn't know about it until later when everything was okay again. Another one of my readers, when they reached the offending part of CROSSED that had so upset the other reader, threw the book across the room. A third, I'm told, stood up when he reached that portion of the novel and shouted, "Noooo!" at the top of his lungs... in the middle of the night. (I think I owe his wife an apology.) Then there was the reader who sent me an angry and impassioned email, begging me to undo what I had done... if, in fact, I didn't already undo it later in the novel. A few posted things on my Facebook fan page about it.
Of course, they're fine now. Each of the readers I mentioned finished the book and were pleased by what they found at the end, even if it wasn't the ending for which they were hoping (or expecting). And I like to think I held up my end of the writer-reader bargain.
The closest I've ever come to shouting "Nooo!" was on my first read through of Roger Zelanzy's Amber Series. If you haven't read the first five books in the series (there are the best ones, IMHO), you should. They are brilliant urban fantasy written before anyone was calling it that. I won't go into it in detail, but the main character is a very dangerous person from a family of very dangerous persons (a royal family as it so happens) and SPOILER ALERT (skip the the next paragraph if you want to avoid the spoiler): at one point in the series, he gets his eyes burned out by his evil brother, who to all appearances, has won.
If I were ever going to shout "Noooo!", it would have been then. I didn't, of course. I kept reading and reading... and reading. The books are an astonishingly quick read. And Mr. Zelazny gave me the right ending, even if it wasn't the one I expected, because that's the writer's job.
So... how about you? Have you ever shouted at a book, cursed it, or thrown it across the room, only to pick it up again and feel silly for ever doubting the author? If so... wasn't that a cool feeling? :)
Thursday, March 10, 2011
So I'm slaving away on LOSS, which is due May 15 (twomonthsaway!!!!!!!), and I'm thinking that it's going well. Except this obnoxious little voice in the back of my head is telling me that no, it's really not. This isn't the Voice Of Evil Intent, the one that claws at my confidence and whispers that maybe all my writing sucks. Let's face it, the Voice of Evil Intent is just a bully, trying to get me to doubt myself. Screw that schoolyard shit; I can do a LA LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU nice and loud. No, I'm talking about a much more upsetting voice. I mean the Voice of Something's Wrong.
Now, there are some writers who claim never to suffer from writer's block. I say they're either liars or damned lucky, and I don't believe in that much luck. I do believe, however, that every writer experiences writer's block differently. For me, writer's block happens when I've taken the story in the wrong direction. The back part of my brain realizes it, even when the front of my brain is happily zooming in First Draft Land, breathing toxic road fumes and getting Writer's High. (Sort of like Runner's High, but with significantly less running.) Once the backbrain groks what's happening, it slams on the brakes. Boom: writer's block. Then my forebrain goes through withdrawal (usually in the company of the Voice of Evil Intent), and finally, I pull it together and reread the manuscript to figure out where things went wrong. Sometimes it's easy. Other times, it's worse than getting all my teeth drilled, sans Novocain. But worst of all is the part **before** writer's block sets in. You know what I'm talking about. The hesitation when writing. The itchy feeling at the base of the neck. The tendency to frown as you type. That nagging suspicion that even though the words are great, the story isn't headed in the right direction.
That's the Voice of Something's Wrong. And my God, it's a nightmare to deal with. Because sometimes, it could be the Voice of Evil Intent just fucking with you. But usually, it's not. And when the Voice of Something's Wrong starts whispering, you ignore it at your own peril.
I tried ignoring it. This resulted in me getting all these New Ideas about what should happen with the story I was writing. And that resulted in me having 20 versions of the draft.
Twenty. Fucking. Versions.
Now, it's not as if I've written the whole thing twenty times; God, no. As the Joker would say, I may be insane, but I'm not crazy. Every time I made a change, major or minor, I did a SAVE AS and updated the number. I'm currently on version 20. I dallied with version 21, but I quickly realized that it was wrong, wrong, wrong, so I'm not counting that. Version 20 seems to be the right version, though; after deleting 6,000+ words and ripping out the entire second section, I've now moved past that initial wordcount and have not looked back. So...cautious rah.
In retrospect, the first (and biggest) warning sign that the Voice of Something's Wrong was getting ready to whisper was all the stupid research I found myself doing. Not just immediate research, for what was supposed to take place in one particular point in time (fudged a little for the story, because we novelists have that power!) -- but **other** research, stuff that I found truly fascinating that **sort of tied in, just not in the current form**. When you're researching diseases of 6th century Athens and you're supposed to be focused on 14th century England, well, something's wrong.
Of course, if we could just make this shit up, then there would be no need to do any research, and we wouldn't get pulled out of the current draft so easily. But let's face it: we have to do basic research to make the fantastical stuff we write more believable. The best lies are based in truth, and the best fiction has a foundation of facts. (True facts -- or, in a pinch, truish facts.) Thank God for Google. Man, life before the Internet -- was there ever such a time?
So, my advice to writers: If you find yourself getting sidetracked with fascinating research that doesn't really connect to your story in its current form, but something about it feels right, you may want to take a long, hard look at your story to make sure it's going down the right path.
Now if you excuse me, I have to go do more research. (But for the 20th version! I swear!)
Writers out there: Do you ever get writer's block? How do you get past it? (Acceptable answers include "Eat lots of chocolate" and "Watch Doctor Who.")
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
But anyway. I don't have an oven, you see, at the moment. I haven't in a while. And it's getting annoying. And while doing some holiday shopping I saw the pressure cooker and thought that could be fun. Maybe a little terrifying, considering that my only real knowledge of pressure cookers was that sometimes they exploded, but hey, I'm the kinda girl who likes to live on the edge. (Note: everything you read now will tell you how much safer pressure cookers are now, how they never explode or anything anymore, and that we should all be using them every day because this is the new millennium, baby! Or, okay, we're eleven years in, so this is the newish millennium, baby!)
So. Chuck roast went into the cooker. Whole pricked potatoes wrapped in foil went into the cooker. Cooker went onto the stovetop. (Okay, it didn't actually happen quite in that order. I was going for a sort of "You go in the cage, cage goes in the water, shark's in the water" sort of thing there but I don't think it worked.)
I browned the roast in a little oil and butter, threw in some carrots, herbs, and a cup of water mixed with half a cup or red wine, and set the potatoes on top (since my cooker doesn't have a rack). We sealed up the lid and there you go.
The cooker sounds like an industrial washing machine once it's all sealed up and the pressure has built so it's working. This little thing on top rocks back and forth, and every time it does it emits a little "chuh" sound. It's a bit creepy. Kind of like a cross between a coffee percolator and a soul-sucking monster of the deep on unsteady jellylike legs (I had a dream kind of like that last night; there were these jellymonsters disguised as people in a discount store. It was all very fraught).
And of course I spent the whole cooking time sort of hovering near it in the kitchen, afraid to get too close lest it explode but afraid to get too far away lest, well, lest it exploded too.
The whole place smelled like rosemary within a minute or two, which was nice.
Of course, once I reached the end of the cooking time I was a little confused. The cooker booklet said to run the cooker under cold water to lessen the steam so I could pen it up. When I did that it started moaning. That's kind of terrifying, when you're actually holding the entire thing and it's loaded with like five pounds of superheated food (hotter than boiling, remember). I played a sort of put it under/take it out game for five minutes or so until it stopped yelling at me like a walrus trapped in a pipe, then eyed it for another nervous couple of minutes while it sat on the cool side of the stovetop, looking peaceful but probably planning its revenge on me.
Then I opened it. And all was well. The meat maybe wasn't as tender as it would have been in a Cockpot (I do like roasts in the Crockpot), but it was awfully tender, especially for thirty minutes of cooking. The potatoes were fantastic, actually, really soft and fluffy, and very faintly flavored with rosemary. And the carrots were really bright and nice, too.
And nobody died in a fiery steam explosion, which is always a good thing. So I'm going to give it a try again.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
It's times like this that I almost wish I had a salaried job that I could call in sick to.
So...this is me calling in sick.
But I have some questions for you.
1. Who the hell came up with that vile Theraflu?
2. What should I do when I track down the person who gave me this virus?
3. Won't someone please come over around noon to make me chicken noodle soup?
Monday, March 7, 2011
Sorta/kinda cross posted from mah blog. There's a narrative and everything over there. Contest below!
Since I'm not all that great with reviews and tend to think, as a writer, that reviewing isn't really my place, I started a series of posts on my blog called Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit, wherein I basically share what I'm reading and maybe give a broad hint at why I like it (or why I'm looking forward to reading it). Incidentally, I also share what's in my fruit bowl.
I was particularly excited to read the three recent releases below, and perhaps the composition got a little risque in my attempts to convey emotion.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
And the winner is--unseelieme Congrats! email me at Dakota@dakotacassidy.com so I can ship you yer bootay! Thanks again, everyone, for playing :) Come back and see me next month!
Hellloooooo, fellow reluctant adults, and welcome to my blog day here on the League! Stick around and read this so you can enter to win some books at the end of my rambling.
Which means you’re now my hostages until you finish reading. And don’t scroll to the end just to get to the giveaway because I’ll know. And you’ll be toast. :)
I was pretty fekkin’ stumped about what to blog about. I suck at coming up with creative blog s and themes. I also suck at adding pretty pictures to my posts—so I hope you aren’t in this for the shiny. :)
Anyway, let’s talk about something other than my lack of technical abilities—like when a writer goes from a lighthearted series to a darker, more intense one.
This scares me much like the notion of Victoria’s Secret filing for bankruptcy and going out of business. I’d be dead in the water without a steady replenishment of the Wonder Bra. So, I write what some call funny (not all—just some. A very little some, but there it is), and regardless of the label you give it, what I write isn’t plot heavy. I write light, littered with bad language, bickering, antagonistic, plot-light FLUFF. We all know humor is subjective and mine is undoubtedly subjective times ten. Some people eat it like it’s a bowl of ice cream. Others call it over the top crap.
Being the kind of girl I am, supportive of all opinions, I just serve double scoops to those who like my brand of ice cream and ship the others off to authors who don’t abuse the English language the way I do. :)
But lately, with all the awesomely dark, complex titles coming out, I wondered if I shouldn’t give darker fare a shot. I tried. Jesus, I tried hard. Like I expended every last hope of ever creating more brain cells doing it, too. And then my kid looked over my shoulder while I sweating blood writing this dark sure to be an NYT bestseller and said, “Hah. Funny, Ma.”
And there you have it. I can’t do it. I don’t mean for what I write to be lighter fare—it just is, and I’ve just recently made my peace with it. I knew going in I wasn’t smart enough to have an evolved, complex plot, but I was really giving myself credit when I thought I could overshadow that with my deep dialogue and eerie settings. It all just blew greasy chunks and has now become one with my trash on my computer.
However, there are those who’ve successfully made the transition from light to dark and have done it so well, they left me balled up in the corner of my office whimpering. There are also those who have a good balance of a snark here and there, and a solid, layered plot of darkly goodness.
And that’s whose book’s you’re going to win today if you leave me a comment below! Yep. I’ll personally send you the League's most recent releases from Michele Bardsley, Jaye Wells, and Anton Strout—right to your door. So that’s--Never Again, Green-Eyed Demon and Dead Waters—all yours--all on me!
So all ya gotta do is comment and tell me one of your favorite darker reads to be entered to win a random drawing. I’ll announce the winner of the blog within this very post. Now, be sure to check back tomorrow afternoon to see if you’re a winner-winner-chicken dinner or I’ll have to give the shiz to someone else. I HATE doing that because it makes me sad. So check. Early. Often. TOMORROW!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I have a confession for you: sometimes, I really hate my characters.
Not all the time, mind you. This is a special, specific kind of hate – it usually crops up sometime around chapter 5 or 6 in my writing process, when the excitement of beginning a new story has ground to a halt, and suddenly, my characters are just standing there looking at me, saying, “Now what?”
This shouldn’t be a problem. I’m the creator, and all I’m supposed to do is decide that now it’s time for *this* to happen, and it does. I type a few words and off things go, just the way I want them to, in interesting and compelling directions.
Only when it comes to the middle of the story, this Does Not Happen.
What happens is something like this:
Me: All right. Now that you’ve managed to escape from the first bunch of villains and run into a mysterious monk, who’s actually an evil djinn, you’re going to take him home with you and—
Donatti: Screw you.
Donatti: You’re doing it wrong. See, this guy should be dead right now. Ian would kill him as soon as he saw him.
Ian: That is correct. Excuse me, I have a monk to murder.
Me: Hold it! I need him. He’s a major character in this story. You can’t just—
Ian: He is, as you humans say, toast.
Me: Don’t even think about it. I told you, I... wait a second. Ha! You don’t have his tether. You can’t kill him.
Ian: Watch me.
Donatti: No, she’s right. But there’s no way in hell we’re bringing him home.
Jazz: Damn straight you’re not.
Me: Jazz, you’re not even IN this scene!
Jazz: Well, I should be. You just don’t like female characters.
Me: That is so not true. It’s just that Donatti’s the main character, and this is in first person, so he gets more page-time.
Robert Gray: I should be the main character. I’m more interesting.
Me (and everyone else): Who the hell are you?
Robert Gray: You cut me out of the first book. Remember?
Donatti (under his breath): Yeah, there was a reason for that...
Me: Will you all just behave and do what I tell you to? I’m in charge here!
Of course, this doesn’t really happen. I’m not crazy enough (yet) to believe my characters have somehow acquired minds of their own, and are carrying on somewhere without my input or knowledge. I’m sure there’s some fancy, scientific explanation about the subconscious mind, the id and the ego, the complex intricacies of the human imagination and the way neurons fire in the brain.
But I’m not a scientist. I’m just a writer, with characters that refuse to behave.
Fortunately, they’re usually right, and I end up loving them again – it just takes me a while to see that.
(And if I ever go missing, please check the trunk of Donatti’s car.)
In other exciting news, my sequel, Master and Apprentice, will be out in just a few weeks -- March 29, 2011. Here's what it's all about:
MASTER AND APPRENTICE
A deadly cult. An unbreakable curse. The rules are simple: learn to kill... or die.
When stealing’s your only talent, it isn’t easy being a retired thief. Especially when you’ve graduated from thief to killer—and your partner doesn’t care if you die along with your targets.
Luck has never been on Gavyn Donatti’s side. Anyone else with magic abilities inherited from a distant genie relative would have it made, but not Donatti, descendant of a cranky, shape-shifting genie named Ian. The prince of a murdered kingdom, consumed with revenge and driven by an unbreakable curse, Ian is determined to hunt down and destroy every last one of his enemies in the power-hungry snake clan—at any cost, including his life. Or Donatti’s.
Obsessed by his own rage, Ian has never really taught Donatti how to use his abilities. So when a powerful cult of magic-users captures Ian’s wife, the princess Akila, and then Ian himself, the thief is left alone to take on dozens of half-djinn and their mysterious leader with designs on world domination.
Facing an impossible mission, Donatti is forced to turn to an enemy for help—one who claims to know how to unlock the thief’s true potential. Trusting a snake might be the last mistake Donatti ever makes—but if he doesn’t learn to wield the power inside him, everyone will pay the ultimate price.
You can read a preview here!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
We write fiction all day long. So we spend good portions of our day lying. Writers are awesome liars. And gods. (In our minds.) After all, we control whole worlds, and people (the ones we make up, of course. Hell, I can't even get my son to brush his teeth on a regular basis), and we CREATE.
We also work in an industry that makes no sense. None. Publishing doesn't operate like the real world. Oh, not that I could operate within the real world. Stick me in a corporate job or make me do normal-people things, and my soul will wither and die. So, writing it is. Because mental institutions cost money, and I have no health insurance. Also, I cannot be without a computer more than twenty-four hours or my soul with wither and die.
Yes, publishing is crazy, so it makes sense writers are crazy, too. Who else works hours and hours every day without even knowing when they'll get paid? In a recent conversation with my boyfriend, he was like, "Wait. You turn in the book before you even get the check? Why would you do that?" See, that's normal-people mentality. Normal people work, and get a check once or twice a month like clockwork. Writers work every day and get paid ... um, whenever the mysterious and confusing "processing of payments" occur. Honestly, I think the accountants have wall calendars and darts labeled with writers' names. Then they bring in drunk monkeys and give 'em the darts. Those little furry bastards throw the darts at the calendar and whatever day it lands on is the day we get paid. God help us if a dart lands in the ceiling or a desk or an accountant's ass.
Not only do writers write for inconsistent paychecks, we also spend money and time promoting our work. 'Cause the publishers like to say that we have "online marketing." That means we have a website and we post on Twitter and Facebook 2,300 times a day. So, not a lot of publisher promotional investment in the book we've written (but have not been paid for), and because we're certifiable (AKA writers), we spend our own money on advertising, and do blog tours, and go to really expensive conventions, and jump on every promo opportunity out there.
I love writing. I love being an author. I don't always enjoy all the crap that goes with the job, but I feel damned lucky I'm able to write full-time. And the thing is, once you're in, once you're writer crazy, there's no going back. I can't be normal. I wouldn't even know how. That's why I hang out with other writers because they understand the crazy, empathize with the frustrations, and follow the golden rule: If you were paid, then you buy the booze for the rest of us. Because if I don't connect with other writers over multiple chocolatinis, then my soul will wither and die.
***Leave a comment. I'll choose three people to win autographed copies of NEVER AGAIN. Because I'm crazy. And also, nice.***
DA WINNERS: Random Number Generator sez Stacie, Nancy, and Johanna get autographed copies of NEVER AGAIN.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
This is my first blog under our new schedule, now in perfect harmony with the Zodiac and the League’s ovulation cycles (including my own).
And to demonstrate the clockwork synchronicity of this process, today I’ve started my new writing journal, numero ocho (I started counting in 2006). Everybody has a different way to keep track of all the details and notes, and I’ve stayed old school with spiral binders. Notice that some of them are decorated with the paper badges my publisher issued me when I visited my editor.
Shout out to my pal, Dakota Cassidy, who so breezily combines class and snark. Here she gabs book stuff with Louisa Edwards.
And the deputy overlord of the League, the alter ego of Mark Henry, spills his good news:
And since you’re here, check out my interview in Electric Spec magazine. If they’ve got cover art like this, you know you’re getting the creamy fudge center of the online fantasy cookie.
And now...Collateral Damage.
Once upon a time, there was a place called America. And in this America, almost every city had a neighborhood bookstore. Even my little town, sleepy dusty Las Cruces had a bookstore. Two of them in fact. One in the mall, though I don't remember its name. It was a small shop, had dark paneling and wooden bookshelves stacked with hardbacks and made me feel all cultured and learned just by walking in. My memories include the time in high school when I got dumped and I spent the weekend trying to understand the heartache by wallowing through the works of Hieronymous Bosch. That certainly brightened my spirits!
I was such a bookworm that my mom would call the bookstore (or the public library) and have them send me home. It used to irritate her that I spent so much time reading books. Too bad I didn’t have the wherewithal to tell her I wanted to be a writer! The other bookstore was Jon’s Newsstand and what keep me lurking there were those paperbacks with their educational covers.
This is where Jon’s Newsstand used to be back when Las Cruces had a for-real downtown.
Years later I had the bad luck of living in Fresno, California, the armpit of America (both continents). The place was such a dump, that even though a million people lived in the county, other than a tiny Waldenbooks in the mall, there wasn’t another bookstore in town. The one independent rented porn videos to make ends meet before throwing in the towel. When Barnes & Noble moved in, I was so happy that I’d hike the mile there almost every night just to surround myself with literature and culture. At the time I had such idyllic hopes for my future as a writer.
Fast forward. Now the state of the publishing industry kinda looks like this:
First the big chains stomped over the independents. Then came the Internet and that T Rex known as Amazon. The recession claimed my original publishing house, Rayo, within HarperCollins. Borders has gone bankrupt.
Then e-publishing arrived, which thrashed around for years before gaining its legs in erotica and now looms over the publishing landscape like the 50-foot woman.
If you’re not at least on Kindle, then you as a novelist are dead. Barnes & Noble regrouped and pins its hopes on the Nook. A lot of writers, both published and unpublished, are wading into the murky waters of self-publishing online. Some are even making money.
But novels are still selling, unlike two other industries that have been smited mightily by the Internet. Who needs the Encyclopedia Britannica when you have Google and Wikipedia? A paper map versus GPS and Google Maps? You guessed it. In Denver, the venerable Mapsco cried uncle and shut its doors.
And who else has felt the pinch of the Internet? Porn shops! Since you can pretty much get any smut you want online, mostly for free (I’m told), why bother going to the store to get your fix of skank and wank? It’s the latest turn of the screw for the skin trade. Like many American cities, downtown Denver was rife with porn theaters, which were displaced by porn video rental shops, and now the Internet is putting the kibosh to most of them. Diamond Lil’s (housed in what used to be a Victorian bordello, of course) hasn’t flashed its open sign for weeks.
There’s a lot of handwringing about the future, but I know we writers can survive if we remain crafty and nimble. Keep swinging, baby.
Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?
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