Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plot Device

I am writing.
But in the mean time, please enjoy this, courtesy of agent Kristin Nelson's Pub Rant's blog. Definitely worth the view!

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Wednesday so that means...

I'm crossing my fingers that the months of dental woes are over. Failed root canal + failed crown + abcess + re-treated root canal + temp crown + new crown that seems to fit fine = pain in the... everything. Including the wallet.

Waiting anxiously for my editorial letter for Again and Again... which hopefully is not a prophetic title about the editorial process.

Enjoying the WIP. Really enjoying. Cheers to that!

Very excited that the local alum group of my college sorority has asked me to speak at their September meeting on publishing journey/books/dreams come true.

Equally excited that I will be doing a writer's workshop in October for Teen Reads week at our local library.

Appalled at my nails - chipped polish, kind of ragged looking. I maintained them from May 27 until about a week ago when I got bored. Now the toes - the toes are another story. Me loves the pedicures. Possibly there is one in my near future.

Just emailed my critique group that it would be nice to also meet for burgers before critiquing. Clearly I am procrastinating by thinking of dinner while it is still eleven in the morning.

What are you doing/thinking about right now? Please tell me!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

guilty and not so guilty pleasures

I have now watched parts of the new Lifetime bio pic about Jo Rowling two times. Actually, for all I know, it may not be a new movie. It is just new to me. Eventually, I will have to see the entire thing. Do you ever have that happen - you flip by a movie on some channel and then three days later it runs again but somehow even though it's a different day and a different time you still end up seeing about the same exact 30 minutes?

I have no idea if it's a good movie or a bad movie. But it's every wanna be author's dream story, even beyond the feel good part about how JK Rowling was a single mother on welfare when she finished writing HP. There was something just tingly about watching the scenes every author waits for: I have an agent! He sold my book! He gave me a check! I got a copy of the real book in the mail! I did a reading at a book store! I sold foreign rights! (in this case it was the American rights)

And here's the part that was the most fun: When Jo's agent Chris says on the phone, "You'll be getting a phone call from Scholastic from a man named Arthur Levine," and I smiled and laughed because I have met Arthur Levine and I adore Arthur Levine and once on an elevator at SCBWI LA Arthur Levine told me that it was going to be chilly outside and maybe I should go back up and get a sweater! This was totally awesome tv.

I also wrote more on the WIP this weekend. I am loving me my WIP.

What I'm not loving? The chinch bug invasion that's killed our front lawn. But the nice guys from Ray's Nursery are attempting to make it better with chemical warfare. Watch out nasty chinch bugs! You are not long for this world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thank You Borders

The publishing world is buzzing with the news that Borders is now closing all stores, starting this week. Personally, I was stunned. I figured they would make it through the bankruptcy, consolidate things and regroup. But when they didn't find a buyer, it was over.

Here in the northern burbs of Houston, my local Borders had stayed open after the initial closings and had continued to do well. One reason for this - besides the staff - is that it is a free-standing store, making for easy access and impromptu visits. There's a spacious cafe upstairs, where I've written and hosted literary magazine events with students. To be honest, it always seemed a little too large - definitely some wasted space and a lot spent on music, cd's etc, that just always felt unused, although interesting to browse. But as I say, the store did well. A few years back our B&N moved from its free standing store next to Target to a huge two story property at the mall. While it is accessible from outside the mall proper, there is very little parking near the store itself, most of which gets taken by the waitstaff at PF Changs and Brios by about 4 PM. Unless you're at the mall already, it is doubtful that you would just drop by B&N on a whim as I used to do. In the free standing store, one of my favorite things to do if I'd had a crap day at school was to stop by for about 20 minutes or so. I'd get a coffee or tea and browse. Generally, I'd buy something. No more. Now it is a planned event. And the B&N cafe is about the size of a pencil eraser. Much less fun. I adore the B&N staff. But getting to the store is an endurance contest.

Borders has had a long and wonderful relationship with my publisher, Sourcebooks. Sourcebooks writes about that here. And Borders has been very, very kind to me. Borders supported paperbacks with great zeal, and my Dreaming Anastasia series has been published in trade paperback. Borders jumped on the Dreaming Anastasia wagon from the start and has continued to stock and feature my books long into their life. For a smaller, genre blend paranormal/historical fiction from a medium sized independent house and an author who up until 9/09 was teaching Julius Caesar to the masses, chaperoning the Homecoming dance, and cheering at her son's football games, this is huge. I mean seriously, you have no idea how huge!

Assistant mgr. Cindy Wexler at my local Borders has been a dream as well. She has personally supported my career many times over - inviting me to do signings, writers' workshops, featuring my book on many special displays and tables. This kind of special attention can be rare, but it wasn't rare at Borders. And it helped me build my career.

Lots of talk now about what happens next. Will other bookstores take over some of the properties? Will our beloved indies benefit and grow. (I hope so) Will it be something else we can't anticipate - like some groups of authors banding together to start bookstores? (someone mentioned this, so I figured I'd throw it out there)

I am huge fan (as is Sourcebooks) of getting books to readers in as many platforms as possible. I love my Kindle and read on it most days. But I write for the childrens' market. By and large, my readers don't have e-readers. Kids and teens buy their books by walking into a brick and mortar store, browsing, socializing, talking to the booksellers. Now there is one fewer place where this can be done. The books that might not end up on the one shelf of YA at Target, well, they're not going to be known or read. That word of mouth will be that much less. It is a tragedy and a problem. When I joined with the Roecker sisters for Indie support day, I asked readers to tell me about their favorite bookstore, indie or otherwise. I heard from reader after reader who don't have a single store close to them. Like I say, it's a problem. And I think it's more than just the economy and more than just a shift in how we bring books to readers. The loss of Borders is a problem and a tragedy because it has closed another avenue for reader choice.

Going to ponder this more, I know. Hope you will too.
Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday talk

Began the huge office closet purge. Found the novel I started sophomore year in college. My ode to bad breakups and guys who just can't commit and the girls who fall for them. guys = the guy I'd broken up with. girls= nineteen year old me.

Nervously awaiting the edit letter on Again and Again. (which I hope I won't have to re-write again and again...)

Do you watch Covert Affairs? You must! Tonight Augie flashes back to the story of how he became blind. And takes his shirt off. Oh Augie.

Got sucked into season one of Real Housewives of NYC - it's like tv crack, I tell you. You start while you're cleaning the closet (see above) and find yourself no longer cleaning, just watching. And okay, I'll admit it - Andy Cohen and Watch What Happens Live? I love this. Mazel of the week, jackhole of the week... why do I find this so funny??

Shifting gears to other projects is hard once you've had your head in one book for so long. But shift I must.

Had to actually jog home from my walk because it began raining. Which is good because we are in this horrible drought. And my lawn is brown and crunchy. And it pisses me off to see people whose lawns are green and lush because we are on water restrictions. And the only people whose lawns look good are those who believe the rules are made for suckers like me.

Sarah Mlynowski's 10 Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) is absolutely brilliant. I love, love, love this book. I had no time to read but still I tore through it, unable to put it down.

I found the absolute best hideous 80% mark down purple prom dress to use for my malevolent Russian mermaid (aka - rusalka) costume for Austin Comic Con. It has one diagonal strap that is covered in huge purple 'gem' stones. I LOVE this dress for its tackiness. Now I need to rough it up some. Yay!

Must write.
Til next time...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Musings and a Huge Thank You

Last Friday was my deadline for turning in book 3 of the Dreaming Anastasia trilogy - currently titled Again and Again. Been mostly chained to the laptop for the past few weeks. The end of any book always gets me to that crazy place - the one where all I want to do is write. You forget to eat (at least anything beyond green tea, coffee or chocolate). You are distracted and possibly snappish (not that you'lld admit it) when someone (your husband, your best friend, the AC guy who you called to your house) asks you something. You stay up until the wee hours and find yourself up again early to get at it. You find places back in chapter five that you hadn't revised when you did that last draft. The ones that still say things like "Ethan (dressed in something really hot and historically appropriate)..." And yes, that's what you have typed still - that stuff in the parentheses.

Did you like how I tried to distance myself from the crazy by using 'you' ? Uh huh. I'm just that clever.

In any case, I cleaned my work space yesterday and can actually see the desk surface. Amazing.
And I find myself very sentimental about these characters I've lived and breathed for so many years. Anne and Ethan popped into my head in the late fall of 2004/early 2005. An enormous amount of change has gone on in my life since then, much, but not all of it caused by the ripple of these two characters and the stories I've been lucky enough to get to weave around them. The more I wrote them, the more I fell in love with them and their world. I loved writing about this girl who had no idea she was destined to be a hero and the struggles and loss and love that would come from that destiny. And I adored writing about this guy who had lived a very, very long time but would come to realize that he knew very little about himself or love or destiny and that he was about to learn it from this brave girl who would steal his heart. It doesn't spoil book 3 to say that Anne and Ethan take a while coming to their love. Because the central conflicts of their stories are not about love as much as about life and choices and the things life throws at us that we can never ever expect. Love is just a surprising and glorious extra event that makes the loss and struggle bearable.

If you have read Dreaming Anastasia and/or Haunted - thank you! If you have bought a copy for a friend, thank you! If you have mentioned the books or reviewed the books, thank you! If you turned a copy face out at the book store, well thank you for that, too! If you haven't read yet but are reading this post, well thank you for that, too. Readers and book bloggers and librarians - you have rocked my world for a long time now, and your support has helped me be able to write this third and final installment because you spread the word about this little series. I can't thank you enough.

But right now, I'm telling you, people! It's hard to let go of these characters!! And I'm already excited about next spring when book 3 is actually out in the world.

So today's question: If you're a writer - is it hard to let go when you finish a book/series?
If you're a reader - what are books/characters that you found it hard to let go of? Are there characters who rattle around in your head still?

Later this week: a July giveaway of all sorts of cool books!!

And check out Lisa and Laura's(my Sourcebooks sisters) latest post on WriteOnCon - coming up next month!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts about a Trilogy

Writing Again and Again (which might not ultimately be the title but is the name on the contract so it's all I've got right now) has taught me a lot.
In no particular order:

  • Third books are harder than they look. So many arcs to wrap up; so many choices as to where these characters will finally end up. I've known the general beats to this series for years, but then I get writing and well, things change. Characters evolve. Their motivations shift. It's tricky business. And absolutely crucial that I get it right. We'll see what Editor Leah thinks next week when she receives the manuscript! (I love you, Editor Leah)

  • Tess is still my favorite character to write. She's funny and brave and smarter than she looks. Other characters sometimes underestimate Tess. Ethan has been one of those. He assumes because she's a smart ass with a habit of rambling that he can dismiss her. But in book 3, he's realizing that Tess has Substance. Most of my readers love Tess as much as I do. Occasionally I hear from someone who doesn't. Usually they object to her quippiness. As someone who frequently uses to humor to offset tense or sad situations, I love that I've given Tess this habit. Really true example: Last year my mother in law passed away very suddenly after a short illness. It was a brutal couple of months; she went from being completely lucid and independent to, well, not. And then she died. We were all sort of reeling. This was unexpected. We were not prepared. Okay, you are never prepared. Husband is an only child. There was no one else but me to lean on. So there we are in the funeral home, and it's time to pick the coffin. If you have never had to do this, let me explain. This is one of those moments where the death experience becomes the sales experience. They take you into a coffin showroom. And they show you the cheapest one first. Then they try to step you up to the fancy one that has a pillow and colored silk lining. And then they leave you alone to decide. Let me interject here that my husband 'gets me.' This is why he married me. I'm decent in a crisis. But there he stands muttering "what color? what color?" Because the one we chose - middle of the road model - comes in like six different colors. No lie. And I'm thinking, does it matter? Really? Is someone going to stand up at the cemetery and say, "You know, if only the coffin was purple..."? So I quip. And tell him, "Get white. White doesn't show dirt." This is what people like Tess and me do in times of crisis. My husband now tells this story all the time. People are either highly amused or horrified. If you are horrified, then Tess probably won't be your cup of tea.

  • Allowing Anne and Ethan to grow into their love story - however it may turn out and I am not going to tell you; you will just have to wait until next year to find out - has been a good choice for me. I have worked hard to understand what is in their hearts and right for them. This is good for some readers; not so good for others. Actually, I just read a really wonderful review on B&N that addresses this. AVC75 says:

The boy/girl relationship is portrayed realistically - teenagers driven by their emotions and insecurities, not prone to calmly/rationally discuss how they honestly feel about each other or tell each other the full truth of what is really going on in their lives. Hence, a majority of the book may be painful for those who wanted to see an immediate "happily ever after" to Anne and Ethan's budding relationship in Dreaming Anastasia, but it is an important part of the character development - no cliched weakling women and superman men here.

Thank you for that! Especially because this review really gets it - Anne is the hero. And the hero has other things to do besides find her true love. Oh she wants to. I want her to. You want her to. Ethan would like it a lot, too! But she has other stuff to do. Heroic stuff. And so it's a balance.

  • Trying to write a third book while actively promoting the second and working a full time job and having a family life and oh yeah, a son who just got married.... a little much on the old plate, I'd say. I have always been the world's best multi-tasker. Piece of cake, I thought. I have graded papers and written scenes while sitting in a paper robe waiting for my yearly pap smear. I can do this. Turns out I couldn't. At least not like I thought. I found my limits. I was thrown over right after Spring Break, otherwise known as the week I graded research papers, went on the Bachelorette Cruise to Mexico, and then got in my rental KIA and book-toured LA once we hit shore. And two weeks later went to Salt Lake City to tour there. And in between kept teaching those six classes. (for the uninitiated - high school English classes in suburban Texas public schools contain somewhere between 25 and 35 students) You can do the math on your own. Some weeks I wrote for about 40 minutes. Not enough. This coming year, I will be writing full time/working part time. I'll let you know how it goes. Possibly we'll be so tired of the all ramen diet by the end of the year that I'll go back to crazy world. Possibly like my character Anne, I'll find my needed balance.

So what do you think? Any thoughts this morning on female protagonists in general? Tess and Anne? Romance in fanatasy books or books in general? The weird stuff people do in crisis situations? Third books of trilogies? Finding balance? Writing while still maintaining a job and a life? Whether or not I should go see Cowboys and Aliens at the end of the month? (just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention)

til next time...