Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two terrific workshops happening at Beauty & the Book Girlfriend Weekend


Perfect post-holiday excursion (and you know you'll earn it): Beauty and the Book literacy diva Kathy Patrick, founder/ goddess elect of the internationally known Pulpwood Queens book club, will host the 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend January 12-15.

In addition to the Author Extravaganza and Greatest Show on Earth activities, two terrific workshops are being offered:

You're invited to Kathy's house Wednesday, January 11 for a first time memoir workshop with Robert Leleux, columnist for The Texas Observer and editor of LONNY Magazine in New York. Fee includes lunch and a signed copy of Leleux's latest book, The Living End: A Memoir of Forgiving and Forgetting.

Stay an extra day for a voice workshop with film, television and radio voiceover artist Elaine Clark, author of There's Money Where Your Mouth Is: An Insider's Guide to a Career in Voice-Overs.

For all the information, visit the Beauty and the Book website. Hope to see you there!

Harry Potter in 99 Seconds

Harry Potter in 99 Seconds

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finding Focus #2--Bouncing off of Colleen's Post

When I finally logged back on here, I was glad to read Colleen's post about focus, as well as Kay's very honest and human response. Ironically, my new day job as a writing coach is all about helping writers focus and helping them find the right tools and rhythms for themselves. Because there's something dangerous about this writing life--the tendency to look over our shoulders at our neighbors, to compare not only the quality of our writing, but also the ways in which we work. All of that is fine if it helps lead us further down the path of our own development, but it's not good if it serves to distract or derail our focus.

So far there is no one program or one website that every one of my clients has loved, but I want to point you to a few that may help. As with everything in the writing life, your mileage may vary. Later in the week, I'll be sharing additional ideas about brainstorming and breaking through conceptual blocks in writing, but we'll start with these, which are targeted more towards the age old dictum of applying "butt to chair."

Programs and websites to help with focus

Write Or Die: http://www.writeordie.com
A program you can download that will beep and growl and do other bad things to you if your fingers leave the keyboard. I personally find this program a bit stressful, but some of my clients swear by it. Check it out and see if it works for you.

750 words: 750words.com
NaNoWriMo word counts too high, but you still want to build up words? Try 750 words.com, based upon The Artist's Way premise of writing three "morning pages." You can use the site, which will track your words (and keep them private), for writing your novel, your blog post, your scholarly article, your journal, or just anything that comes to mind. The concept is to write 750 words of something every single day, and there's a whole community of writers assembled around this.

http://www.mytomatoes.com

Mytomatoes.com is based on Francesco Cirillo's time management technique of working in 25 minute sessions that he calls pomodoros, or tomatoes. The website helps writers to time themselves as well as goes into the philosophy behind the method.


Instant Boss
Want to write in brief, timed sessions? Like the pomodoro method, but want to change it up and customize? Instant Boss will let you design your own writing and breaking intervals, so that you can have as long or short a writing session you like, and as many or as few different back to back sessions as works for you. This is a great way to experiment with finding the length of your ideal writing session, a concept encouraged by Eviatar Zerubavel in his book The Clockwork Muse. For instance, I always thought I was best writing in 90 minute or two hour chunks straight (with only the odd quick bathroom break), but I've found that working in 50 minute sessions, with no more than a 10 minute break between them, is perfect. Who knew? Some of my clients find that they are great if they do 20 or 25 minute sessions, while others still prefer the long session (90 minutes +). One thing I've learned is that this is one area where writers' preferences really vary. So play around and find your sweet spot, if you're lucky enough to have the time to experiment.

There are other websites out there, but these are the ones my clients tell me are the most helpful. Has anyone had any success with other websites or programs? What's your favorite motivational and/or focusing tool? What works for you?

Shees baaaaaack! (Did ya miss me?)

I'm unearthing myself from my self-imposed hiatus from all writing other than fiction to give an update. I am working like mad to finish the final, final, final draft of my novel, since I have promised my prison students that I will have finished it and queried 15 agents by the time I start teaching again--in January. The work is going well, although I'm a little bug-eyed, adding four brand new chapters and tracking threads. Although I'm tired, I'm finally feeling good--okay, even a little great--about the book.

Essentially, it is what is at this point, and I'm ready to stand behind it. And I'm ready to move on and write something else. I can also say that, now nineteen months after my spinal injury and two years post PhD defense, I have finally healed from both the injury and the whole toxic writing workshop experience.

And really, I'm ready to kick a little literary ass.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Note to Cancer: I LIVED, MUTHERF#@%ER! Note to Publishing: I fear nothing.

Seventeen years ago today, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a virulent blood cancer. (Coincidentally, November 28, 1994 was also the Monday after Thanksgiving that year.) Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Every day since that one is bonus time. A gift, and I know it.

During chemo, I was clobbered by the realization that writing is what I was supposed to do with my life. An inconvenient discovery at an extremely inopportune moment, but my longshot odds of survival actually made my longshot odds of getting published slightly less ridiculous.

My goal was to live for five years, just long enough so that my children (ages 5 and 7 at the time) would remember me and maybe - just maybe - I could get one book published.

Seventeen years and a dozen books later, I'm taking a humbly grateful moment to say TAWANDA!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finding Focus

It's not easy recovering from a few days of holiday celebration to get back into the old workflow. I'm finding today especially distracting as I fend off cyber-shopping temptations and, even worse, an all-day Firefly marathon on the SciFi channel in an attempt to feel my way back into this manuscript.

Desperate for focus, I'm resorting to a few old tricks, including:

1. Headphones to block out household distractions. I prefer listen to music without lyrics for the most part. The music of Philip Glass is an old friend I can count on, but I'm also test-driving something called Focus Optimizer, a white noise sort of program which is supposed to help you tackle your to-do list and organize your thinking. I'll report back on how I like it later, but I'm all for anything that will help to minimize my chronic lack of focus.

2. Shutting off Internet distractions. If you're a Mac user, I highly recommend the program Self Control, which allows you to block whichever urls you designate for however long you set. Once started, it cannot be disabled by any means for a quick game of Bejeweled, an all-important glimpse at your Amazon sales ranking, or the insidious temptation of Facebook.

3. Scented candles. Don't asked me why, but lighting scented candles as I play music informs my brain that it's time to work. Unless I choose one I'm allergic to, which informs my nose that it's time to sneeze.

So how do you find your focus. With the holidays coinciding with a tight writing deadline, I'm eager to add a few more tricks to my arsenal.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

With thanksgiving for all that's been and all that's possible


Feeling incredibly grateful today for my family, friends and the dawn of a new day in the publishing world.

I feel an amazing 2012 coming on. Creative freedom, financial rewards, an abundance of great books to read and no end to the stories that want telling.

Happy Thanksgiving! (With gratitude for everything that's been and all that's possible)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rethinking indie publishing rhetoric

Two years ago, when I first started talking about indie pubbing ebooks, I was resoundingly squashed from every direction. My agent at the time (not the agent I'm with now) was understandably concerned that self-publishing would brand me as someone who wasn't publishable. Almost a dozen books into my career, I wouldn't be called a wannabe or an amateur; I'd be a reject. I wouldn't be the girl who didn't get asked to the prom. Best case, I'd be the girl who had a great date for the prom, then showed up with bad hair, fell down on the dance floor, got her period and had to walk home. Worst case, I'd be Carrie in the wake of a big bucket of critical pig blood.

On the flip side, the voices rising to the front of the self-publishing world were overwhelmingly vociferous - and uninformed - tirades against the vagaries of the industry, the evil intent of agents, the shortsightedness of whoever signed the rejection letter. It was off-putting, untrue and amateurish, and I just didn't want to be part of that conversation.

This is the same type of rhetoric that used to surround cancer care in the mid 90s when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Proponents of chemo and radiation were vehemently against "woo woo" or "alternative" treatments like macrobiotic diet, meditation, singing bowls, massage or whatever. Holistic medicine proponents railed against the "slash, poison and burn" methods of allopathic "conventional" medicine. Neither the polarization nor the pejorative terms were helpful to me, the person fighting for her life.

Ultimately, I did a ton of homework, then designed a treatment plan that worked for me, my belief system and my family's needs, with consideration for my best statistical odds of survival. I did surgery and chemo, but I turned down radiation and bone marrow transplant. I went to a shaman, became vegetarian, meditated and yes, I had Tibetan singing bowl therapy. (Don't knock it till you've tried it.)

I also rewrote the vocabulary in my own head, then in conversation, making sure people around me were speaking the same language. It wasn't "alternative" - which implies either/or - it was "complimentary" therapy - a practical, useful, customized combo platter. I can't say what's right for anyone else. All I can say is, I'm still here.

My approach to publishing is exactly the same - and my priorities haven't changed: my life, my belief system and my family's needs, in balance with my best statistical odds of survival.

The vocabulary that works for me (for now) is:
Indie publishing, which implies that I'm free of obligation to a publishing house and in creative control (as opposed to "self-publishing" which implies I don't have help. I'm doing a lot but bringing in the help I need for editing, design, conversion, etc.)
Legacy publishing, as a term for the business model in action at Big 6 and other publishing houses (defined here), as opposed to "traditional" publishing, which to me implies a values system. (A literary novel written by a dedicated craftsperson, carefully edited and thoughtfully presented is "nontraditional" while Justin Bieber's ghostwritten, blitz-release memoir is "traditional"? That makes no sense to me.)
More important, as the ebook revolution unfolds and these two worlds come together in a way that benefits authors, readers, agents and the publishing industry, I'll adhere to my policy of rhetoric that is:
Respectful of the choices being made by others
Honest with myself about who I am and want to be as a writer
Realistic in my financial expectations
I see the greatest satisfaction (financial and artistic) coming from a thoughtful, symbiotic combination of legacy and indie publishing.

I can't tell other people what to do. All I can say is, I'm still here.

Reshaping the rhetoric of indie publishing

Two years ago, when I first started talking about indie pubbing ebooks, I was resoundingly squashed from every direction. My agent at the time (not the agent I'm with now) was understandably concerned that self-publishing would brand me as someone who wasn't publishable. Almost a dozen books into my career, I wouldn't be called a wannabe or an amateur; I'd be a reject. I wouldn't be the girl who didn't get asked to the prom. Best case, I'd be the girl who had a great date for the prom, then showed up with bad hair, fell down on the dance floor, got her period and had to walk home. Worst case, I'd be Carrie in the wake of a big bucket of critical pig blood.

On the flip side, the voices rising to the front of the self-publishing world were overwhelmingly vociferous - and uninformed - tirades against the vagaries of the industry, the evil intent of agents, the shortsightedness of whoever signed the rejection letter. It was off-putting, untrue and amateurish, and I just didn't want to be part of that conversation.

This is the same type of rhetoric that used to surround cancer care in the mid 90s when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Proponents of chemo and radiation were vehemently against "woo woo" or "alternative" treatments like macrobiotic diet, meditation, singing bowls, massage or whatever. Holistic medicine proponents railed against the "slash, poison and burn" methods of allopathic "conventional" medicine. Neither the polarization nor the pejorative terms were helpful to me, the person fighting for her life.

Ultimately, I did a ton of homework, then designed a treatment plan that worked for me, my belief system and my family's needs, with consideration for my best statistical odds of survival. I did surgery and chemo, but I turned down radiation and bone marrow transplant. I went to a shaman, became vegetarian, meditated and yes, I had Tibetan singing bowl therapy. (Don't knock it till you've tried it.)

I also rewrote the vocabulary in my own head, then in conversation, making sure people around me were speaking the same language. It wasn't "alternative" - which implies either/or - it was "complimentary" therapy - a practical, useful, customized combo platter. I can't say what's right for anyone else. All I can say is, I'm still here.

My approach to publishing is exactly the same - and my priorities haven't changed: my life, my belief system and my family's needs, in balance with my best statistical odds of survival.

The vocabulary that works for me (for now) is:
Indie publishing, which implies that I'm free of obligation to a publishing house and in creative control (as opposed to "self-publishing" which implies I don't have help. I'm doing a lot but bringing in the help I need for editing, design, conversion, etc.)
Legacy publishing, as a term for the business model in action at Big 6 and other publishing houses (defined here), as opposed to "traditional" publishing, which to me implies a values system. (A literary novel written by a dedicated craftsperson, carefully edited and thoughtfully presented is "nontraditional" while Justin Bieber's ghostwritten, blitz-release memoir is "traditional"? That makes no sense to me.)
More important, as the ebook revolution unfolds and these two worlds come together in a way that benefits authors, readers, agents and the publishing industry, I'll adhere to my policy of rhetoric that is:
Respectful of the choices being made by others
Honest with myself about who I am and want to be as a writer
Realistic in my financial expectations
I can't tell other people what to do. All I can say is, I'm still here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hurricane Lover (How I got smote by the story hammer)

In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, my husband and I were among the volunteers who worked on relief efforts as evacuees were brought into Houston's Reliant Center. Carrying water to the long lines of people outside in the 105 degree heat, I heard hundreds of wrenching, vivid, emotional stories from the storm and its aftermath. A New Orleans police officer wryly remarked that this hurricane was the best thing that could happen to con artists and media people.

Bam. The story hammer smote me in the head. That night, sunburned and exhausted, I sat up until 3 AM with the first draft of this novel pouring out of me. I didn't have it all worked out, but I knew exactly who these people would be:

Shay Hoovestahl, privileged daughter of a Texas oil baron who's looking to break away from her pageant banner and make it on her own as a serious journalist.

Corbin Thibodeaux, her on/off (recently way off) lover, a New Orleans meteorologist, who is obsessed with the science of megastorms and specializes in assessing storm risk for oil companies.

Queen Mab, a clever con artist who and uses chaos as cover for identity theft and murder, luring her victims through HurricaneLovers.com, a website where people hook up to have sex in the midst of a hurricane. (Yes, people actually do that.)

Because this is the South, darlins, a slew of colorful characters came along to people up the story. High-strung family dynamics during this politically polarized moment in America makes for a substantive secondary storyline in The Hurricane Lover.

The journey to bring this book to the light of day has been an amazing learning experience - the perfect storm in many ways, including the dawn of the ebook revolution and the opportunity to indie publish, which has made it possible for me to maintain creative control.

I wanted to do this project without compromise. No watering down the relationships. No mamby-pambying the politics. No scrimping on the science. I knew that wasn't going to happen within legacy publishing. Stepping out there without a safety net is terrifying - and thrilling. Now that I know I can do it, I can't envision going back.

More about all that another day. Meanwhile, hey, buy my book! We need new plumbing.

Buy The Hurricane Lover on Nook

Early report on Gary's Kindle Fire: "I like it."


If Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet end up being the Christmas gift everybody gets this year, 2012 will be an amazing year for ebooks. I'm seeing a prodigious blast of ebook consumption coming, and I think people will be very surprised at the books that emerge as big sellers.

Based on my Margaret Mead observation of the Gare Bear since the moment he got hold of his new Kindle Fire, it looks like price point is a major influence on buying. The first thing he did was search on his favorite authors and was seriously dismayed that their ebooks (obviously from the big publishers) were almost as much - in some cases more than - what he's been trained to pay for paperbacks.


So the next thing is visibility. How to authors aiming for the same demographic as that arguably overpriced big name get their book into the reader's eyeballs? Theories continue to evolve.

All we know for certain is that ebooks are not the next Big Thing. They're the current Big Thing. My new novel, The Hurricane Lover, came out on Kindle and Nook this weekend. So begins my indie pub maiden voyage, and I could not be more thrilled about what lies ahead.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Contest News + Win a Free Copy of PHANTOM OF THE FRENCH QUARTER!

Today, I'm blogging with my friends at The Jaunty Quills on the lure of the stranger in the shadows. Please drop by and say hello for your chance to win a free, autographed copy of my latest release, Phantom of the French Quarter. If you already have PHANTOM, I'll send you the backlist copy of your choice instead.


Also, thought I'd share this fun bit of news. My first book for Intrigue, Capturing the Commando, was recently nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Intrigue of 2011!
Winners will be announced at this spring's Romantic Times Convention in Chicago. Good luck to all the nominees!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Death Comes to Pemberley Sweepstakes


Death Comes to Pemberley


Now this is a sweepstakes worth entering. To celebrate the December publication of P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley, Knopf Publishing is giving away a copy of the book with a signed bookplate ..... and the six Jane Austen novels in the beautiful, clothbound Everyman's Library collection. Can't duplicate that on a Kindle.

Family Tree: "Stupidland" (Just told someone to "Have a nice weekend." #ThatSortofTuesday)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Revision 101: Protagonist Check-list

So you have a plan, a draft, or even something you're really to call a novel. Before you put it out there, you'll need to take a hard and honest look at chapter, every scene, every word or it, with a distant, honest eye. One of the key factors you'll need to take a look at is the story's protagonist. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you're got the right hero for the job.

1. Does this character make an interesting entrance? The first time the reader meets her, is she showing some relatable/admirable quality, initiating or reacting to a situation in a provocative or relatable way? If your protagonist is sitting around thinking about how he/she got to that point in Chapter One, consider scrapping it (as a reader, I'm beggin' you) and starting with Chapter Two, feeding in only the tiniest splinters of backstory as necessary.

2. Is the character sympathetic on some level? Even the anti-hero might love his mother, worry about his carbon footprint, or slam on his brakes (or his way to a bank heist) for a mama duck and her ducklings crossing the street. Or maybe she simply expresses her wicked thoughts with such panache, honesty, or humor that we laugh in recognition. The only thing less forgivable than an unlikeable character is one that's so bland he/she vanishes against the scenery like a chameleon, so make sure we'll at the very least remember this character as we continue reading.

3. Does the character have agency throughout the story? Does she make things happen rather than simply having things happening to her? One of my pet peeves is what I call "dust mote characters," who simply float through the plot, buffeted by every puff of air (and usually whining about it.) If your character starts out passive, at least show signs that he/she has the potential to make a change.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Harry Potter has been so wildly popular is because rather that spending all his time angsting about his dead parents and mean aunt and uncle, he boldy and actively sets out to change things, even when it's risky (exhibiting qualities people look for in leaders.) Although the Twilight Saga, on the other hand, is a very successful series and has other good qualities, I was very annoyed by the character of Bella, who seemed to be much more reactive than active (at least in the first book, which was as far as I got in the series.) Characters should have more to do in the story than observe change and be rescued.

In my opinion, truly great books and series have truly memorable, dynamic protagonists. If you have a really good one, the reader will forgive bland settings, clunky prose, and plot holes you can drive a truck through. If you don't, even the most fascinating backdrop, cleverest writing, and most intricate story may not be enough to save yours.

Happy revising!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Herman Melville on the guileless spirit of a sailor

This description of a sailor's guileless spirit comes from Billy Budd by Herman Melville.
Habitually living with the elements and knowing little more of the land than as a beach, or rather, that portion . . . set apart for dance-houses, doxies, and tapsters, in short what sailors call a “fiddler’s green,” his simple nature remained unsophisticated by those moral obliquities which are not in every case incompatible with that manufacturable thing known as respectability. But are sailors, frequenters of fiddlers’ greens, without vices? No; but less often than with landsmen do their vices, so called, partake of crookedness of heart, seeming less to proceed from viciousness than exuberance of vitality after long constraint; frank manifestations in accordance with natural law. By his original constitution aided by the co-operating influences of his lot, Billy in many respects was little more than a sort of upright barbarian, much such perhaps as Adam presumably might have been ere the urbane Serpent wriggled himself into his company.
Above: Robert Howard Rodgers, my father-in-law, serving in the Navy during WWII

Seth Worley's PLOT DEVICE

Nine minutes may seem like a lot to invest in a short film, but Seth Worley's Plot Device is worth every second of it, especially for writers! Had me laughing from the moment the first Amazon Buy button showed up.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gofightwin Thursday! Blind Boys of Alabama "Higher Ground"

Website about Agents

Writers, I recently discovered this website, which has lots of information about working with agents, including a searchable database.

http://www.agentquery.com/

Buy This Book: Life Without Summer by Lynne Griffin

I had ideas about the story when I picked up Life Without Summer, Lynne Griffin’s fiction debut, but I was wrong. I thought I knew what was meant by Summer, but I didn’t. I imagine, too, that I’m not the only reader who was hesitant when on reading the jacket copy, I learned the story concerned the loss of a little girl, adorable four-year-old Abby. But there was something so compelling in Griffin’s writing from the very first page: Fall, it begins, day 18 without Abby. This from Abby’s mom, Tessa, who is foundering in a nightmare of grief after a hit and run driver ran Abby down in front of her pre-school. Other seasons of grief follow, winter and spring, while Tessa grapples with the nightmare of horrendous loss and what she deems the near-criminally inept handling of the investigation by the detective who is assigned to Abby’s case. But in a way it’s Tessa’s anger at this man, and her frustration that sustains her. It’s her single-minded focus on bringing the driver to justice that creates the shape of her days.

Ethan, Abby’s daddy, who is struggling in his own way, asks Tessa to see a therapist and she complies although in the beginning she questions what sort of help she can get from Celia who, while she is compassionate in her attention to Tessa, keeps her professional distance. Celia has her own story, one that unfolds alongside Tessa’s and it is in this way that the real complexities of this plot begin to be revealed. Celia’s life too has been filled with tragedy. There’s a half-grown son and his secrets, an ex-husband and his alcoholism. There are other things, hinted at, whispering between the lines. There’s all this nice stuff about a new husband and a new life for Celia and her son. But something feels off about it. This is what is so well done throughout this novel, the feeling it gives of having its own secret. It will be summer before the pages give it up, the answer to the mystery. By then hearts will be broken all over again and then entwined in ways you can’t imagine.

Another beauty of this novel is the sensitivity with which each character is portrayed. Tessa and Ethan (their marriage in the aftermath of such tragedy just comes to life off the page), Celia and the members of her family are each one so skillfully drawn and so realistic and true to life. Remarkable for their courage and tenacity, yet flawed. Human in other words. Believable. As is the ending. I’m glad I took a chance on this book. For more visit Lynne's website.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How writers fit into the US labor force

Interesting numbers from NEA study, looking at the arts in the US economic picture. How are writers doing? Here are the stats:

There are 2.1 million artists in the US (1.4% of the total workforce, 6.9% of the professional workforce), and a little over 9% of artists (189,000) are writers/authors.

The average annual income of professional authors during 2005-09 was $44,792. (I'd be interested to see how that breaks down by genre. I think this reflects the average of Tess Gerritsen, Dan Brown and 8,687 bloggers who made fifty-three bucks each.)

84% of authors have a BA or higher.

56% of authors are women, average age 44.

While women artists in general make 81 cents for every dollar made by male artists, the income of women authors is almost equal to the income of male authors.

Only 13% of writers and authors are non-white and/or Hispanic, compared with 32% of the total workforce.

Oregon and Vermont have 20% more artists than other states, with a particularly strong population of writers and authors.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Erica Jong: "Do you want me to tell you something really subversive?"



"Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."

This includes the love of writing.

Fabulous Freebies from Writer's Digest

I don't know about you, but I cut my teeth on the craft books published by Writer's Digest. I thought of authors Nancy Kress, Lawrence Block, and Orson Scott Card as Mount Olympus gurus and learned so much from studying their words (including their fiction.)

Today, Writer's Digest is offering Kindle editions of six books on writing absolutely free, including How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play, by Barbara Baig; Les Edgerton's Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go; The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing; Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (I loved her book on master character archetypes); Marilyn Ross's The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book (Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Everything); and finally, Getting the Words Right, by Theodore Cheney.


My advice: even if you don't have time to read them right away, load up your e-reader, phone, computer or other device now, because this offer may end at any time. Most of these books have excellent reader feedback, and who knows, one of them may prove to be your personal tipping point.

Thanks to author Jana deLeon and DailyCheapReads.com for alerting me to this fabulous freebie!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

P.D. James Knocks Off Wickham


Am I the very last person to know that the venerable Baroness James (about to turn 91) has written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice? And zombie free, thank God.

Her English publisher, Faber & Faber, posted this synopsis: The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live within seventeen miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth’s happiness in her marriage is complete. But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual Autumn Ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered.

Death Comes to Pemberley isn't due out in the US until December but the UK critics have already weighed in -- and they can be a particularly vicious crowd when it comes to their beloved Jane.

"As might be expected from a celebrated crime novelist, her follow-on to Pride and Prejudice introduces a detective story into Austen's world; but without any tremor of incongruity. An acute admirer of Austen's novels (which, her autobiography makes clear, she has been re-reading for more than 80 years), she keeps her sequel close to their ironic spiritedness, moral toughness and psychological finesse ... brimming with astute appreciation, inventiveness and narrative zest, Death Comes to Pemberley is an elegantly gauged homage to Austen and an exhilarating tribute to the inexhaustible vitality of James's imagination." --Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

"P. D. James has the advantage in having both the skill and the intelligence to hold her own in Austen's company. Her charmingly conceived murder mystery unfolds like a big soft comfort blanket just in time for the nights drawing in: the nation's best-loved crime writer and best-known romance in a magic meld, with Downtony moments below stairs, spooky moonlit bits and some police procedural thrown in for good measure ... James takes Pride and Prejudice to places it never dreamed of, and does so with a charm that will beguile even the most demanding Janeite." --Claire Harman, Evening Standard

Time to go immediately to Amazon and hit the Pre-order button.



Embracing (the Right) Changes

I love Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" feature. Not only does it simplify the task of working with multiple editors/critique partners, it boils down our most essential everyday choices so neatly. Take this screenshot, for instance.


While reviewing and correcting a document that's been marked up by a trusted critique partner, my agent, or an editor, my gut reaction is all too often to click on "reject change" and move on to the next item on my nearly-overwhelming to-do list. But frequently, I come to realize it's the wrong decision and I end up going back and making the changes anyway.

To help myself embrace those pesky, #$@*! changes, I've come up with a few ground rules.

1. Understand that your first reaction to any suggested change is going to be ego-driven and emotional. Allow for that by first reviewing all suggested changes without reacting to any of them.

2. Complain to your significant other, best friend, or critique partner about what an idiot the person requesting said changes is not to recognize the genius of your vision. I call this my wailing and gnashing of teeth stage.

3. Take a walk or have a glass of wine. Then sleep on it, if at all possible. These steps give the suggested changes the opportunity to filter down through your brain's many layers of resistance.

4. More than likely, by this time, you will realize that the editor in question was right about at least a few things. Address those "easy fixes" first.

5. Take a second look at each of the others. You will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised to realize the other person has a point. Address it, not necessarily in the same way the editor/critiquer suggested, but try to fix the underlying problem that prevented the reader from getting whatever you were trying to communicate.

6. Next, tackle the items your ego resisted most fiercely. You may find this was not because the editor was wrong, but because the point in question was going to take more effort to correct. Concede that you were really just being lazy, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.

7. If you truly don't agree with something, even after you've taken time to think things through carefully, don't make the change. Instead, reread the entire document. You may find that the reviewer's suggestion was based on a weakness you can address in some other way.

8. Realize and allow for the fact that sometimes, even the most professional editors/critiquer/reviewer is going to be wrong. Maybe he was interrupted by a phone call and missed something that most readers would find obvious. Maybe she doesn't know your genre as well as you do or wanted you to reveal something ahead of the spot where it would have the strongest impact. Embracing change is important, but sometimes, as the author, it's your responsibility to reject it. After all, the buck stops with you, and like your reviewer, you're an expert reader, too.

The truth is, not even your editor expects you to agree and comply with every single comment and suggestion. If you're really worried about something, ask if it's a deal breaker and explain your point of view. Even if the editor still objects, this will give her a chance to better explain her resistance and brainstorm mutually acceptable ideas with you.

How do you handle the editing process? Do you often find your ego getting in the way?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween Show and Tell


One of my favorite projects of late -- I'm expanding my PR business to include packaging author websites -- was for Baylor Press' Monsters in America. Both Baylor and author Scott Poole were up for anything .........including blood spattered Facebook and Twitter icons.

Scott put together a Top Ten Filmography for anyone who's a fan of monster/vampire/zombie flicks and we added great original trailers we found on You Tube. If you've never seen "Freaks," I dare you to watch the trailer. I still have nightmares about that movie and I saw it in 1970.

Happy Halloween!

Goal Update

I'm happy to report the last Wednesday, I reached a milestone by finishing the draft of Relentless Pursuit, which is due for release sometime next fall. But finishing the draft is not the same as getting a finished, polished manuscript to New York by D-day, so I'll be relentlessly pursuing that goal for a bit longer.

While I'm tied up, I wanted to leave you with a link to this fabulously-profane, tell-it-like-it-is post over at the Terrible Minds blog: Writers Must Kill Self-Doubt Before Self-Doubt Kills Them.
Well-said, Chuck Wendig, and very highly recommended!

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