Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Xe Sands Interview/Giveaway Winners

I know I'm a day late posting the winners of the THREE DAYS TO DEAD audiobook giveaway. My apologies (if it helps any, my copies still aren't here, so I can't mail them yet anyway).

So, I've added together the commenters from both Organized Chaos and The League of Reluctant Adults, and Random Number Generator has declared the winners are:

Erik and Moishe Moose!


Please send your mailing info to mail(at) and I'll get you set up!

Thanks to everyone who commented! Xe has been amazing about the entire audio process, and I can't wait to settle in and listen to her narrate some of my favorite scenes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Special Event: Dueling Harpers at Bitten by Books!

It turns out I have a Canadian Doppleganger. Dani Harper is a former newspaper reporter turned romance author, who writes about shapeshifters and weres. I say she's the Canadian Molly Harper. She says I'm the American Dani Harper.

We engage in this debate June 23 at Bitten By Books, where the werewolves of Grundy, Alaska will meet Dani's shapeshifters from her Changeling series at the Blue Glacier Saloon to compare notes about their lore, their backgrounds and their authors.

If you participate in this unprecedented meeting of Harpers, you will be eligible for FABULOUS prizes, including signed copies of our werewolf/shifter titles, a goodie bag from Dani, and a five-title paranormal prize pack from Pocket Books!

To RSVP for this event, (which earns you extra entry points for the contest) click here.

True Blood Anticipation


Who's ready for Season Four? If you're the type who can't wait until Sunday, HBO has an eight-minute sneak peak up of the first episode. And if you've forgotten the events of the last three seasons, there's also review of the last three seasons in under five minutes.

Any predictions for this season? I don't know about you guys, but I'm really hoping for an Erik versus Alcide shirtless dance fight. How many males will get seriously injured after Sookie mouths off to the wrong super powerful being? Can Sam finally find true love with a pomeranian?

To help prepare you for this exciting premier, I thought we should revisit what was perhaps the most awesome and most puzzling True Blood promo ever.

Ooooh, Sookie, indeed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What is a Beta?

((Cross-posted at On Literary Intent))

Since I announced that I’d finished Book 3 a few weeks ago and turned it over to my betas, I’ve had several questions that I thought deserved bigger answers than Twitter or Facebook would allow. So here we go.

No, a beta reader is not an overly aggressive fish with a love of literature.

Nor is it a person who divines the future by reading the entrails of said overly aggressive fish. (though a part of me now wants to put such a person in a book of some kind)

And please realize that if you ask a dozen different writers what a beta reader is, you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. (And if you ask the Leaguers, not all of those answers will be safe for work.) So what follows is really just a small example of what my betas do for me.

First, I have what I call my Alpha-Betas. This is a grand total of two people who read every word almost as soon as I set it on the paper (computer). Their purpose is to help me during the writing process. They work me past sticky plot problems, murky character developments, and guide me when I take a completely wrong turn. One of them is a high school English teacher, and the other has a Masters of Information degree (I think here in the States, it would be a Master of Library Sciences, but his way sounds cooler) and has read more classical literature then I even knew existed. They bring a wealth of knowledge and writing skill to the table. They’re the ones who get to put up with me whining “It’s not working and I just don’t know whhhhhhhyyyyyy!”

Once I have the first draft completed, I then send the book off to my regular betas. They come from a zillion different backgrounds. They are a web designer, an IT consultant, a bouncer, a factory worker, a theology student, a doctor and half a dozen other authors in various genres. But they all have one thing in common. They are readers. Like me, they read anything they can get their hands on.

When I send them the book, I give them instructions. Usually saying things like “Chapter 16 sucks, but I don’t know why.” Or “I’m worried that the first three chapters are too slow.” And very often “Did you follow event XYZ okay? I’m not sure I was even making sense at that point.”

They read for flow, for pacing. They read for continuity. They read to find me the places where I just didn’t explain myself as well as I think I did. They read to locate the points where my characters just aren’t acting like themselves. They tell me what parts they want to know more about, and what parts just stuck out because they didn’t belong.

It’s not fun, beta reading. It’s actually hard work. The easy part would be to read the book like a book, getting lost in the story. It’s much more difficult to read and deliberately hold yourself out of it, searching for the chinks and flaws between the words. But they do it for me every time. In fact, this crop of beta readers has been with me through four books now. Some of them have even read pieces of more books than that. I ask them to read for me over and over again because I know that they take it seriously, and because I know what kind of feedback I will get from them. The things they tell me are important. Even if I don’t agree with it all, it always makes me think and that’s the key part. If one person finds something wrong, others will also find that same part, and I need to decide how to address that.

Often, I get people asking “Can I be your beta reader?” Most of these people ask because they’re super excited about my writing, and they just can’t wait to see what comes next! They want to help! And that’s awesome. It makes me feel good that there are people who are so in touch with my characters that they’d volunteer to work on a book instead of just enjoy it.

Most of the time, though, I turn them down. It’s not because I don’t like them, or because I don’t think they could do the job. But really, the crew I have is enough feedback for me at the moment. I get a variety of opinions and notes, ranging from plot progression to grammar and syntax, and they’ve never failed to point me in the right direction.

Occasionally, one of my betas drops out due to time constraints. (Contrary to my own belief, they have lives/jobs/writing deadlines of their own, and they can’t always drop everything to read through my drivel) In those cases, I will sometimes reach out and try to find a new reader. If that reader provides helpful feedback, then I’ll usually keep them on for the next one. But more often than not, I choose a new reader and then I never hear back from them. Sad, but true. Those are the ones who just want to read a book before it comes out, but they don’t want to do the work to help make it the best it could be.

So for those who would love to be a beta reader (not just for me, but for anyone), remember that it’s work, and that the writer is relying on you. Simply telling them “It’s great, I loved it!” – while wonderful for the ego – is actually not as helpful as one might think. We need to know the parts that aren’t great, and when a person is a super-fan, they have a hard time pointing those places out. (Which is why I don’t beta read for a certain author-friend of mine. Flat out told her, I’m too big a fan to be useful to you.)

Hope this clears up some of the questions people have about beta readers. (If it doesn’t, I obviously should have run it past my betas first.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

More Potter?

A mysterious teaser website went up the other day at and it's clear that it is JK Rowling who's behind it all. From what I've found (not much) this could be anything from an expansive website about the books, the announcement of an encyclopedia about the world, or something else.

I'm hoping for something else. I adore the Harry Potter books and movies. From a purely strategic promotion angle, this is the absolute best time for Rowling to do something new -- which is hopefully a new series of books in the same world. After all, even though the last Potter book came out years ago, we've had the movies to look forward to. Now that the last is almost in theaters, we're going to be Potter-less.

When better for Pottermore?

My hope is that she's decided to do a prequel series about James and Lily and the Marauders. Not to mention more Snape, more Dumbledore, more everything. That would be my wish. What's really going to happen? I guess we'll find out in about six days.

In the meantime, check out the EPIC trailer for the last movie. Can't wait to see it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Independent Rear Suspension

Yes, this is cheating, because I originally wrote this in November 2000

I used to have ferrets. I should perhaps say that my life was lorded over by two ferrets. In the years I've had ferrets I have observed something about them that most people seem to have missed: they are constructed in three parts and the pointy part in the front is not in charge.

If you are not familiar with them, think of a ferret as a sort of fur-covered slinky with legs, a stretch kitten, a miniature dual-tractor-trailer with teeth. They have a head-part (which is somewhat pointy and has the teeth in it), a middle bit with two legs attached, and a rear bit with two more legs and a tail. Although the head-part may seem to be in charge it is, in fact, mostly oblivious to things other than food and toys. The middle part seems to be the engine, since it is the most stable and predictable part. But it's the butt that seems to be in charge, in a sort of sit-down-revolt kind of way.

How do I know this? Observation. I observed the following one day and many times since then:

The ferret in question had come to rest standing beside and parallel to its litter box. The head part looked up at me and blinked its shoe-button-type eyes while the middle bit stood admirably still. Meanwhile, the wayward butt, without any apparent help, direction or knowledge from the other parts, hoisted itself sideways into the litter box and maneuvered itself around to do what you can surely imagine it would do in a litter box.

When this mission was complete, the butt hopped out of the box and bumped into the middle bit, which seemed a bit startled and started to move away. Meanwhile, the head remained oblivious of this activity, still directing its gaze at me with some kind of anticipation (probably hoping for a bit of my banana, or something). The middle bit decided it didn't like being bumped by the end bit and started to walk away, but the butt wasn't having any.

Apparently worn out by the activity, the butt decided to rest on its tail. The middle bit, still doing its thing, continued to walk forward as the head, now concentrated on the banana, tracked the fruit with great intensity. Suddenly, the head was made aware of the unwarranted activity of its associates and looked around wildly.

"Oh, no!" it seemed to be thinking, "palace revolt!"

The middle bit just continued straight ahead, dragging the lazy rump along behind.

The indolent rear part seemed to be enjoying the Hell out of this for a few minutes, then got bored, stood up and attempted to outrun the rest of the ferret in a mad dash to something more interesting.

The middle and head bits then took a tumble, had an argument, which was punctuated with much waving about of the teeth by the front part and the discoordinated jumping up and down of the middle bit while the hind end was flung about indiscriminately.

I think, if the butt could have laughed, it would have.

Suddenly, the entire ferret reached consensus and darted forward to snatch a toy that was lying on the floor. Now came the committee work. The head grasped the rubber eggplant in its teeth while the front part did a bit of dancing around, but, again, it was the butt that was in charge.

Without any regard for the laws of physics or any concern for whiplash, the rump made a sudden, precipitate turn to the right, reversed direction while maneuvering, and dragged the rest of the ferret under the settee, eggplant and all. The whole vanished with a protesting squeak! from the rubber eggplant as it was folded neatly in two to pass through the hole.

A little while later, the head appeared and then the middle bit, both pushed out into the open by the rump, which was apparently working quite hard to move the recalcitrant fore-parts, judging by the amount of scrabbling the little back feet where doing. Of course, this could also have been because the floor was a bit slick, but I doubt it.

It doesn't seem to matter what is going on where the ferrets are, if the butt gets an idea, the rest of the ferret will be dragged, pushed or tumbled along according the the ass-end's whim. Despite the fact that the front end is cuter and the middle part is more steady and stable, the butt is definitely in charge.

Which kind of reminds me of a place I once worked.....


I promise to have something more original next time, but right now I'm working on reading all the essays from the Be My Minion contest. See you soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Cover for Eye of the Tempest!

Oh, my friends, how I have waited for this day. A number of you have emailed me over the months as various versions of the cover for my fourth book, Eye of the Tempest, have found there way to the surface of the internet. I met most of these emails with silence, 'm afraid, as I'm a terrible, terrible liar and I'm not supposed to reveal anything about covers until they've been officially released by my publishing company. So I ignored these emails not because I didn't appreciate people's enthusiasm about the book, or excitement about seeing what they thought was a new cover, but because I can't talk about this stuff until it's official.

But now it's official! Here's the final version of my beautiful new cover for Eye of the Tempest:

As you can see, Orbit's made some changes to the general layout, but the artist, Sharon Tancredi, is still rocking out, doing her thang! Wait till you see the back!

What do you think? I hope y'all like it as much as I do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Word in Time

Earlier this week I ranted a bit on my personal blog about being trolled in a livestream chat room. (And before the innuendo starts flying, it was a perfectly harmless chat/livestream belonging to an artist that I like. (Livestreams are great to get a bird's eye view into a talent that I'll never have, anyway.)

The chatting portion became a little strange at one point when one of the other chatters essentially accused me of being a liar. That I couldn't possibly have written a book. (Part of the discussion was about what we were working on at the moment  - pretty harmless stuff.)

I have no idea why. No idea who this person is or why they decided I couldn't be trusted. In the end I suppose it doesn't really matter. I know what I've done and that's what counts.

However, the whole thing did get me to thinking  more about voice and style overall. Plagiarism happens all the time - of writing, of art, of any number of things. There's a fine line between taking inspiration from something and outright copying. (And this sort of goes back to an email I'd received a few weeks ago asking me where I got my inspiration from...and the answer is pretty much everyone and everything is fair game.)

But still, how can an author "prove" they wrote something? Is it a matter of certain words? Of plot? Style? Artists copy from the masters all the time - not to try to fool anyone, but because technique often has to be experienced to understand...and what better way than to try to replicate that than to actually pick up a paint brush or a pencil and go through the motions?

As writers, I suspect the best teacher is reading other authors. And I'll admit I don't have as much time as I used to, but I still gravitate toward my favorites - though sometimes my motivation is different now. Whereas before, reading was something I simply did for pleasure, now I tend to keep an eye toward craft as well. Hard not to, especially when I'm in revision mode on my own writing.

Still.  Though I would never dream of copying from someone else, I take a fair amount of pleasure in coming across phrases or words or descriptions that make me think of developing my own scenes a little differently. Sometimes I write them down in a scrap folder and sometimes I don't, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to study someone else's craft in the hopes of making my own better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Interview: Xe Sands, Audio Narrator

Cross-posting with my blog, Organized Chaos.

So before reading this post, who knew June is Audiobook Month? Anyone?

I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been recently been involved in the creation of audiobooks for the first three Dreg City books (although when I say involved, that mostly means signing the contract, helping my amazing narrator with pronunciation questions, and then pimping the project here and there). The books are with Tantor Audio, and THREE DAYS TO DEAD is currently available for purchase. AS LIE THE DEAD will be available June 20, with ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD releasing August 2 (same day as the print version).

My absolute favorite part of this whole process was "meeting" Xe Sands, who is the voice behind these audiobooks. She's a fabulous lady and her enjoyment of my books has meant the world to me. And since the process of audio narration is brand new to me, I decided to pick Xe's brain and share the results (kind of sounds like I'm inviting you to a zombie buffet, doesn't it?). Xe was kind enough to do an interview with me, and the results are below. Stick around to the end, too, because there will be a giveaway!


First off, how did you get into this kind of work?

You know, so many narrators come from an acting or performing arts background, but me? Well, I didn't. Although I do have experience with public performance, what really shaped my entry into the field of narration is my daughter's love of reading - specifically, how much she enjoyed me reading aloud to her. I joke that she's my harshest critic, but it's actually true, because as she matured, so did her taste and her preference for a more nuanced and authentic performance of the stories we shared together. Now how did that shared experience and love for storytelling parlay into a career as an audiobook narrator - ah, bit more complicated, of course. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just wave a magic microphone, utter a few choice words and suddenly be imbued with the necessary training and a contract in hand? Right.

What really happened is...after reading to my daughter for nearly ten years, I began to realize that I derived an immense sense of satisfaction from performing for her, from her emotional reaction to the experience. At that point, a fire was lit inside me and once that happens...well, there isn't much to be done except move forward really! I began researching how narrators get their professional start, and at the same time, found and starting recording for, which publishes audio of work in the public domain. Such an amazing learning experience in an incredibly supportive community! After volunteering for several years, I realized that raw talent was the foundation, but that professional coaching/training was the walls of the house of my dreams (hey, did I say I was a writer? No I did not). Fortunately, I was granted a scholarship to attend a working session with the amazing Pat Fraley, then followed that up with ongoing coaching with Carrington MacDuffie, and attendance at my first Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) last year. I made several invaluable connections at APAC 2010, one of which led to my initial work with Tantor Audio, an ongoing relationship which eventually led me to recording the Dreg City series :)

But the short answer? I am where I am because of my daughter's love of ,and relentless appetite for ,storytelling...and her belief in me.

Was it something you always wanted to do, or that you found later on in life?

I would love to say that I was caught reading aloud to an audience of stuffed animals, using rudimentary accents and characterizations at the tender age of 5 - ha! But reall, until I realized how very much I loved doing it, and more importantly, how much she and other children enjoyed it too, I just didn't view myself that way. However once I had that epiphany, I realized that *this* was the passion I had been waiting for all these years, the one you always hope you will find. It's what I want to do until I'm physically incapable of continuing.

How do you get jobs? Are they assigned? Are they offered and you can say yes/no based on the material?
(Let's assume you mean after you are established with a publisher)

Getting the job/job assignment: In my experience, this happens in one of two ways: (a) I'm asked to audition for a particular project, based on a short sample of text; (b) I'm sent an offer to narrate a particular project sans a custom audition. I find this completely depends on the publisher. Some prefer to audition narrators for each project, send those samples on to the author/agent/client, and then base their decision on client feedback. Some prefer to do the casting internally, based on demo samples and prior experience with a particular narrator (and perhaps author/client request). I've experienced an equal mix of both approaches to casting.

Can I say no? Yes, I can and I have - although I have not yet had to turn down an actual offer. I have, however, chosen not to audition for a particular project based on concerns over the content. I'm a bit of a "method" narrator and tend to really "live with" the characters of my projects and the worlds they inhabit pretty thoroughly, so if there is material that is truly offensive to me or with which I truly cannot connect, I may turn down the project. That said, I do not reject projects based on genre preferences. I feel that being open to many genres, even those outside my personal comfort zone or interests, encourages me to grow and open myself to new experiences...and bring my discoveries of new worlds into my narration.

Can you briefly take us through your process for narrating an audio book? From receiving the manuscript to final editing?
Sure! Course I'm laughing about this because I can't imagine I've ever been able to be brief about anything - but I will try! Going to number these to keep myself honest in the length department. Let's use the recording of Three Days to Dead as our model, shall we?

1. I receive the text from the publisher and begin my pre-read (pre-reading is a MUST! No cheating!)
2. Pre-read the book, taking notes along the way - specifically for characterizations, pronunciation questions, accent questions
3. Contact the publisher (and/or author, depending) for confirmation on any pronunciation and/or characterization questions
[Intermission: time permitting, I let the book percolate a bit, come together in my head/heart/voice*]
4. Head into the studio (usually my home studio) to begin initial character studies and narrative voices. Play around with character voices and narrator tone. Meet/conference with coach to go over tone, any tricky characterizations, etc.
5. Begin recording the book in earnest (using one of two recording methods, depending on the publisher I'm working for). Proof each day's work the following morning, paying special attention to narrative flow, characterization consistency.
6. Finish initial recording and go back for final round of proofing and tweaking
7. Send files back to publisher (most publishers do not want any processing on the completed files; if they want editing/processing, this is when that happens).
8. Complete any corrections reported back to me once final proofing is completed by publisher, and send the corrected version back to the publisher.

*And as in the case of one of my other recent projects, meet with a dialect coach in order to develop a specific accent for the project.

What were three of your favorite titles to narrate?

Thank you for not asking me to name only one! That's impossible, really, as they are all so different and I almost always fall in love with them in some way.

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, by Sarah Braunstein
Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding (and I'm not just saying that - there are three powerful scenes that pushed this into my top three)
Fire and Ice, by Anne Stuart (bad boys, simply can't resist them!)

Is there a book you wished you could have done, but someone else got the job?
Yes. I auditioned for a poignant memoir...first person narrative, tortuous, darkly humorous - my favorite thing! And although I was disappointed upon hearing that I wasn't selected, I was blown away by how perfectly suited the chosen narrator was for the project. That was actually a very lovely feeling in the end, and a great reminder that the perfect casting is so essential. Yes, I wanted it...but someone else was perfect for it. And I can respect that.

Is yours a competitive line of work, or are you guys pretty supportive of each other?

Such an interesting question, and one that came up at APAC just a few weeks back. You know, when I first started, I assumed it would be a very competitive business...but it just doesn't feel that way. The casting is so individualized and each of us has a unique sound and "thing" that we're perfectly suited for, that I don't feel I am in competition in the same way I assume other performing artists might feel. The community of audiobook narrators feels much smaller and more tight-knit than I expected it would, as well as feeling incredibly supportive. I have been very blessed by the generosity of time and spirit of more established narrators - offering their guidance, sharing their experience, and introducing me to various individuals in the industry. I hope to be able to do the same for others that come into the industry after me.

Do you do any other kinds of audio work, other than book recording?

I have been fortunate to have worked on several video games, the last of which had me playing a sexy, ancient vampire created by Charlaine Harris. Character was essentially a sexier, snarkier, more confident version of Evy (like that's possible!) and it was a blast. I really enjoy working on video's like performing only the emotional dialog from a novel :)

What do you do for fun when you aren't working?

Believe me when I tell you that now that I'm narrating full-time, work IS my fun. I'm completely addicted to it and find myself sneaking into the studio at every opportunity. The medium combines all of my interests - emotional performance, inhabiting other worlds and characters, reading, creative expression. But when I do manage to surface [read: am dragged kicking and screaming from the booth], I merge back into the life of my family and friends. Recording projects require my full attention and energy, so when I come up for air, free time is spent reconnecting with loved ones. And of course, no big surprise, I love to read! The only downside to my work is that I no longer have as much free time to read books outside of project to-be-read pile is seriously going to topple right over very soon...and with all the amazing bloggers I interact with on Twitter, it grows daily.

Is there anything you'd like to add? Plug? Chat about? Warn against?

I suspect this is where I'm supposed to be extraordinarily clever and "WOW" you with my witty banter, isn't it? Sigh. Well I'm afraid that between you, Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman, all the charming witty banter the world has to offer has been just about used up and I will need to leave it up to the characters you create to be charming, snarky and witty in my stead. Me? I'm just the narrator ;)


Thank you, Xe, for taking the time to do this!

And if y'all have made it this far, I'm giving away two copies of the THREE DAYS TO DEAD audiobook! All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment. You can enter twice by leaving a comment on both blogs (Organized Chaos and the League). The contest is open until June 27, so there's lots of time! Winners will be announced on my blog.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

So what DO you do with your time?

I never want to discourage anyone from pursuing a career in writing. I'm a big fan of "following the impossible dream," particularly after a few well-intentioned friends told me--in absolute seriousness and sincerity--that I needed to give up on "this publishing thing" back in the day. That being said, I'm also a big advocate of people understanding what a writing career entails. One thing I'm constantly explaining is that once you've signed a contract with a publisher, you have the same responsibilities as any job. You can't just write when you feel like it, anymore than you can show up for an 8-5 job when you feel like it. Sad, but true.

Another thing I've recently been talking about is how a huge part of an author's job isn't actually writing a book. Days when I have nothing to do but write a fresh manuscript are few and far between--and wonderful when they happen. When I made this comment, it triggered questions from some: what exactly am I doing if not writing?

Let's take a look at the things that take up an author's work day.

1. Revising, editing, and proofing the previous book
It never fails. I'll be a few chapters into writing a new book, getting really excited about some awesome plot point...and bam! The manuscript I thought I'd finished a month ago literally shows up on my doorstep, marked up with comments and corrections from my editor--that need to be dealt with ASAP. Trufax: in the 9-month cycle of start to publication for a book, it takes me about 2 months to write the first draft and at least 4 more to revise it. There's no such thing as a perfect first take. Revision is a huge part of the process, and it's not nearly as fun as pure writing. Revision is surgical, involves problem solving, and requires re-reading something over and over. It's not always enjoyable, but it's sooo necessary. I've written some terrible first drafts, and my excellent editors are there to catch me on it. I'm not talking about typos either. I'm talking about things like, "This chapter contradicts the rest of the book." Fixing something like that is a lot of work, and although the editor helps find the problem, it's on me to find the solution. I can't emphasize again how essential revisions are, but man, it's wearying continually going over an old manuscript when you just want to move on. Remember that exciting plot point I mentioned earlier? Revisions can delay me a few weeks in getting back to it, and then I probably only have another few weeks to work on the new project until the next round of revisions from the old one show up. It's a juggling act.

2. Promo and marketing - everyday
Lots of authors have big internet presences these days, no matter how famous or unfamous. We're active on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and whatever other trendy sites du jour are all the rage. Most of the time, this isn't difficult. In fact, for some people, the difficult part is limiting what they say on Facebook and Twitter. But still, if you know you have readers hoping for an update, you have to keep that in mind and post accordingly. If a few days have gone by without a word from you, it's good to let readers know you're still alive--preferably with something a little more compelling than what you had for breakfast. Blogging takes up even more time (this post will take me an hour, which is 1000 words in a manuscript) but is such a great way to connect with readers that it's well worth it. Website maintenance is something else that needs to be rolled into this category. Even if you aren't updating your own site like I am with ~1995 HTML skills, you still need to periodically keep in touch with your web designer and send them relevant updates.

3. Promo and marketing - the unusual
The stuff I mentioned above are the typical, day-to-day things authors stay on top of. But, every so often, other promo and marketing opportunities come up, and it's really hard to turn them down. If you want to be a professional writer, expect to be involved in promo and marketing a lot--again, no matter how famous or unfamous you are. This week, my Australian publisher sent a small team to Seattle to film a series of videos promoting my August books. It was a lot of fun, and I think readers are really going to love the finished product. It was also 3.5 days out of my writing time--or about 12-15k words lost. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. Meanwhile, down in my living room, I have a box of 2000 Bloodlines title pages that all need my autograph. They'll eventually be bound into finished books for promotional reasons. A very cool thing--but it's time I need to account for in my schedule.

4. Communicating with other people
What a pain! Shouldn't I be allowed to exist in isolation to pursue my art? Nope. Some of this communication overlaps with promo. Writers are always periodically doing some sort of outreach, be it an interview or guest blog. Maybe it's a quick Q&A with a book blogger. Maybe it's a phone interview with a major publication. Regardless, it's time when you aren't writing. Email is the other beast in this category. Living on the west coast means that everyone in publishing has a 3-hour lead on me when I get up, so I often wake to an inbox full of messages from my agent and book companies--not to mention readers. It can take me a couple hours each day to get through all that.

5. Travel
Whether it's a full-fledged city-a-day book tour or just a weekend conference, getting out in the world can eat up writing time too. Some authors can actually roll into their hotel rooms at midnight and still knock out 10 pages after a long day. Not me. After a long day, I roll into my hotel room and go to sleep and have to figure out the words when I get home. I love travel and meeting readers so much, though, that it's totally worth it.

6. Personal life
No, really. And I don't just mean fun stuff. I mean the daily things that take up anyone's time. Here's a sad but true fact: if you're a full-time writer with a spouse or partner who works outside the home, a lot of errands/tasks will fall to you. This has nothing to do with gender, relationship inequality, or anything like that. It's just reality. For example, if you're getting some major household repair done, who's going to be the one to talk to the workers and hang around while the work is done? Is your partner going to come home from his/her job 10 miles away? Or will you do it since you're already in the house and it'll "only" take an hour? Most likely, the latter. And again, it's not about inequality. It's just doing what makes sense for you guys, but those hours here and there will nick away at your schedule. Kids, sick time, and a million other things all play into this too.

I always feel so cruel and pessimistic after writing posts like these--or like I'm trying to elicit pity for this job. I'm not. Let me reiterate what I said earlier: I don't want to discourage anyone from being a writer. I just want the realities out there. If you've gone through this list, there probably isn't any one thing that seems like a huge time sync. And really, none of them are. It's the culmination of them that adds up and leaves you wondering, "When was the last time I spent the day writing?" I also want to reiterate that I don't hate any of these things. I love my job and am grateful to have it. I love travel, doing cool promo projects, polishing a book to perfection, talking to readers, working with my publisher, and all of the other necessities of this job. Really, they're what make this such an enjoyable profession. I'd probably be bored if I just wrote from sunrise to sunset with nothing else to do. Most importantly, these things also ensure I continue to have a profession.

So, yes. Just keep these in mind as you embark into the wide, wonderful world of authordom. Because once you sign a contract with a publisher that says you will turn in your next manuscript by such-and-such date, that date becomes your lord and master. All these other things will try to get between you and it, but you can manage it all. Just keep your eye on your scheduling--and don't stay on Twitter too long.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The disillusionists might become a TV show!

Like many Americans, I am a great fan of TV, and have many opinions and fierce attachments to various shows. So as you can imagine, I’m beyond thrilled that the Disillusionists has been optioned by the production company Fishbowl Media for possible development for TV!!

The announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Carolyn Crane's The Disillusionist Trilogy, about a psychological hit squad of misfits and neurotics who reform criminals by pumping them full of their negative energy, pitched as Heroes meets Inception, optioned to FishBowl Media, by Shari Smiley at CAA, on behalf of Cameron McClure at Donald Maass.

When something gets optioned, it’s not actually sold. It’s more like the rights are rented for a year or some other specified time period. Fishbowl Media would use this time to work out and pitch the show to…um, I think networks. Then, if somebody picks it up, they would buy the rights.

What what what will it be like?
I’m so excited to learn more about what they envision. I enjoyed Heroes, and I really REALLY enjoyed Inception. So I’m sure I’ll like what they have in mind.

Also, I’m burning with curiosity on how they’ll translate it to screen, because the books are quite psychological, but I'm sure they have ideas. And far more psychological books than mine have been made into shows and movies that I have come to love. My prime example is Remains of the Day. I was like, How the hell do you make that into a movie? But it was awesome.

Screenwriters and TV people bring new ideas and worldviews to books. Even though I would not be involved, I feel like they are sort of collaborators after my part is over.

A shrewd and sexy prisoner controlling the area beyond his 
prison walls via a band of misfits with different specialties.  
And a hat-wearing member of the police/military. 
Could this be the next coming of Hogan's Heroes? Probably not! 
Anyway, sometimes these options just run out and nothing happens at all - a lot of books actually get optioned where that happens. But still, it surely is excited when it happens! What are your favorite movies or TV shows that have been made out of books?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interrupting our regularly scheduled program

for pictures from Kevin Hearne's signing at WhoElse Books in Denver last night.

Enjoy...and to see Mario acting up, check out today's Biting Edge.

Kevin and his daughter before the signing (when she was still acknowledging that she knew him)

Being introduced by the lovely Nina Else.

Nice crowd.

Kevin reading...who knew he could do voices? We always suspected he heard them but this was a surprise!

The signing line.

Three Leaguers...behaving. For what happened after, you have to go The Biting Edge...I know, I know, what a tease.

Now back to our program now in progress....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Diff'rent Books with the Same Name on the Same Day!

My fellow fans of debauchery, I am currently traveling in Colorado in support of my writing habit and in support of Rocky Mountain brewers. I started on Saturday and have been blogging about each day's adventures. Some of my adventures look like this:
Today is a SPECIAL day, however, because today happens to be the day that TWO books titled HEXED are released into the wild, and both books feature spiffy adventures by League authors!

No, we did not plan this amazing coincidence. At all. But we will pretend we did if you think it's cool!

The first book titled HEXED is an anthology featuring our very own Jeanne Stein! Oh, and some other authors you may have heard of too, like Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson know. Awesome writers. The cover for that book looks like this:
I think that magical circle thingie on the cover might have been a necessary ritualistic aid to get the cover model into her pants.

The second book titled HEXED being released today is a novel by yours truly, the second book in The Iron Druid Chronicles. If you're in Colorado Springs today (June 7) or in Denver or Ft. Collins, you can catch me on my wee tour and say howdy! Dates, times and places are here. My book looks like this:
So, to sum up: Two totally different books! Same name! Same day! ALL AWESOME!

In other news, the guy from the Wall Street Journal who thinks Jackie Kessler's extremely moving and IMPORTANT books are somehow improper is a total asskitten. Sorry, I do not link to asskittens, but if you missed Jackie's response, please scroll down to her post titled "Making the Darkness Visible." 

Since the asskitten in question singled out RAGE, I'll provide a link to my Goodreads review of the book from April 3 and add that Jackie's books will be a positive force in this world for many years to come while the weekend's WSJ has already been used to wrap dead fish and potty train puppies.

In other, other news, I'm going to be sad to leave Ouray, which is where I'm writing this. It's so honkin' beautiful here, and I hope you get to visit someday. Until you get to see it for yourself, I'll leave you with this view from my hotel room:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making the Darkness Visible

[Cross-posted from my blog -- and a day late. Sorry about that!]

I was at a friend’s surprise party last night when I myself received a huge surprise: a friend emailed me with the news that my book Rage was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, in an article called “Darkness Too Visible.” At first, I was ecstatic–I mean, hello, the WSJ mentioned my book! I was giddy with validation.

When I read the article, I got my second surprise: the article blasts darker-themed contemporary fiction for teens. Rage was used as an example to illustrate how “tame” issue-oriented books from the 1970s–including Go Ask Alice, Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, and I Am the Cheese. Worse, after mentioning that the protagonist in Rage struggles with self-injury and quoting two lines from the book, the article goes on to say that books like Rage are likely to help “normalize” issues such as self-injury–and “may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue.”

That sound you hear is my blood pressure rising.

To suggest that Rage effectively glamorizes self-injury is both insulting and stupid. The entire purpose of the book–indeed, of all of the Riders of the Apocalypse books–is to raise awareness of issues such as self-injury and eating disorders and bullying.

Not everyone wants to raise awareness of such things, though. The WSJ article argues: “If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader–or one who seeks out depravity–will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

Heads up, WSJ: Life isn’t always beautiful and joyous. That’s not the real world; it never was. We just know more today about the issues that have been around for a long time–and we’ve come to a point where we’re not afraid to talk about these issues.

But then, not everyone wants to talk about them. The WSJ article laments, “Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books” and goes on to suggest that “the book industry’s ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young.”

You want relevant? Let’s look at the numbers.

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, “12% to 24% of young people have self-injured” and “about 6%-8% of adolescents and young adults report current, chronic self-injury.” According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, “about 1 in 10 young people will self-harm at one point.”

One in 10. So in a classroom of 30 teens, 3 of them either are or will self-injure.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million females and 1 million males suffer from anorexia or bulimia, and another 15 million suffer from binge eating disorder.

I was one of those 10 million females.

CyberMentors indicates that “as many as 70% of all young people have experienced some form of bullying” and “1 million kids are bullied every week.”

Let me repeat that: One million kids, every week, are bullied. This is not okay.

These numbers show that issue novels such as Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars and Lauren Myracle’s Shine—two books also mentioned in the WSJ article—are not simply “relevant for the young.” They’re urgent for the young, and for their parents. Ignoring issues such as self-injury or eating disorders or bullying doesn’t make them go away. Covering our ears and shutting our eyes and going “LA LA LA” as loud as we can doesn’t make these problems magically disappear. The only things that go away if you ignore them are your teeth.

Maybe the notion of discussing these issues makes some people uncomfortable. That’s understandable; these are not comfortable topics. But that’s not a good reason to remain quiet. To those who insist that they’re protecting children and teens by not talking about these issues–or by banning books that discuss these issues–don’t you realize that the best way to protect children is to educate them about these issues?

The WSJ article concludes with the following: “The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn’t be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.”

That’s right: parents are there to raise their children. And that means teaching our kids about the world, the real world, not just some idealized fantasy where everything is joyous and beautiful. With numbers like “1 in 10″ and “10 million females/1 million males” and “1 million kids,” it’s crucial that kids and teens–and adults–understand that when they’re suffering with conditions or disorders that might otherwise lead them down a path of no return, they’re not alone.

At the very top of the WSJ article, there’s a blurb that sums up the article’s tone: “Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?”

Why? Easy. Ignoring ugly truths doesn’t make those truths go away. Silence is never the answer. Granted, there may be those who will always advocate censorship rather than frank discussion. But the more that people insist on limiting the books we read, the more those books need to be read.

Learn about the world. Read a book.

To everyone on Twitter who responded to the WSJ article with #YAsaves: Thank you. You all rock out loud.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inspiring Writers (Or How to Re-Use a Speech for a Blog Post)

Last month, I gave the keynote speech at the induction ceremony for Sigma Kappa Delta, the English Honors Society at Collin College. I thought, "Hey, I can share all my words of wisdom at the League." And if you think I'm just doing this because I couldn't think of an original blog post ... um, maybe you're right. But seriously. Words of wisdom. You're welcome.

* * * * *

Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

And a T-shirt I saw recently said, “Follow your dreams … except the one where you’re naked at work.”

Both of these quotes offer good advice.

Let me tell you something, you’ll be subjected to all kinds of advice. Some of it you’ll ask for and perhaps even want, but most advice will be given to you unsolicited. You have no doubt already experienced the joy of hearing other people’s opinions about your goals … about your dreams.

You are the dreamer. Be confident. Only you can decide what’s important to you, and how much effort you will put toward your goal. It’s not that you should discard all advice, or ignore the wisdom of those who have gone before you. It’s that reaching for your dreams is risky. And scary. And a little crazy.

You might assume that you are not strong enough or good enough to chart your own creative course. So, you listen to others and try on their recommendations, attempting to find what fits on you. This can be a trap. You can drown in the efforts of others to re-make you in their images. You can be boxed in by rules. You can imprison yourself with fear and with doubt, and never move forward.

You don’t have to listen to others bombard you with their so-called advice, peppered with their own disappointments, their sureties that you will do no better.

Worse still, is that cranky voice within you that constantly disparages your efforts. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy to silence your inner critic. Unfortunately, that critic is made up of too many facets of your life. It is a combination of your parents, your teachers, your significant others, playground bullies, too many self-help books … and those late-night informercials that promise a whole new you for only three payments of $99.99.

Be. Confident.

It’s not easy to silence your inner critic, but you must try anyway. And I will give you the two magic words, that if you say them enough, the voice will grow smaller, and so will its poisonous influence. Those words are: Shut. Up.

As for those people who seek to “help” you by crushing your spirit with phrases like, “you should be more realistic,” or “that’s just not practical,” or “use some logic here” … weeelll … you know, you probably shouldn’t tell your mother to shut up.

You are the dreamer. Be brave.

Oscar Wilde said, “I put all my genius into my life; I only put my talent into my works.”

You are the only one who can decide how much time and effort you will devote to your goals. You will decide the priorities of your life, and what sacrifices you will make to achieve your dreams. And there will be sacrifices. Just make sure that they’re the right ones.

Remember that dreams are shiny, beautiful, perfect. But making them come true is gritty, difficult, frustrating work. You will fall. You will fail. You will curl up in a fetal position in the corner of your bedroom and weep.

It’s impossible to give up just a little. Giving up is like sliding down a glass hill. There’s nothing to grab onto, no way to stop the descent. So. If you fall, get up. If you fail, try again. If you’re curled up in the corner sobbing … knock it off already.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?”

Be. Brave.

Don’t give up. Persist. Put on your stubborn coat and wear it everywhere. Pull on your doubt-stomping boots and march around. Choose the weapons you will use to slay your fears and go to work.

Giving up is not the same thing as letting go. We change, and our dreams change with us. It’s okay to let go of old desires, to take what we’ve learned on one path and use it to travel on another. Don’t hold on to a dream because it’s familiar or because choosing something different feels like accepting failure. Not every dream comes to fruition, but every dream serves a purpose. You decide the purpose. You decide what you will take away from every experience. You will use all that you learn to build other dreams, to create other goals, to become a better version of who you are now.

You are the dreamer. Be patient.

Ambrose Pierce said, “Patience. A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.”

Being a writer—well, being human—means you do a lot of waiting. Every writer waits. Published or unpublished, waiting is waiting. Waiting for proposal approvals, waiting for revision letters, waiting for copy edits, waiting for cover art, waiting for paychecks. (Most especially waiting for paychecks.)

Be. Patient.

"Wait" is an active verb. But it doesn't feel active. It feels stagnant. Like doing nothing. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of doing nothing. I believe everyone should indulge in quality lolling. For writers, this is known as “day dreaming,” AKA “research.”

Remember, there are things you can't wait for ... like inspiration or a visit from the muse. Waiting can easily turn into procrastinating. Procrastinate long enough, and sometimes the issue you're avoiding goes away, loses its ferocity, its meaning. I know. I'm procrastination royalty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Patience and fortitude conquer all things.”

You are the dreamer. Be resilient.

William Connor Magee said, “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”

You will experience rejection. You will hear from people who think you are not talented, will never sell or find success, and enjoy shredding your dreams. You may even think these things about yourself.

You’ve no doubt heard the adage that you must “grow a thick skin,” to handle the slings and arrows of dream-following. But I think you should be more like Teflon. Let negativity slid off. Don’t let fear or doubt or other people’s opinions stick to you.

Mario Cortes said, “Nothing can sabotage winning, except for fear of losing. Success usually lies just beyond failure.”

Be. Resilient.

You are the dreamer. I am the dreamer.

I like to dream. I think about my life, my writing, my children, my apartment, my animals ... about everything. In my mind, I re-arrange mental furniture. I chuck things out the door, and bring things in. I dream every day, sitting in my chair or lolling too long in bed, and think about all things I can do. It doesn't matter if I actually do them, not really. It's the act of dreaming that is wondrous. It's why I write. Why you write. To dream with words.

You are the dreamer.

Be confident.

Be brave.

Be patient.

Be resilient.

And dream on.

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

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