Thursday, December 29, 2011

In Preparation for the New Year...

So every year I make a list of things I want to accomplish in the next year. Usually stupid mundane things, get my carpet’s cleaned, take golf lessons, learn French… that kind of thing. I’m horrible at resolutions so I’ve basically just given those up.

I always want to eat better, drink less, exercise and write more. Since they are a given – I don’t even bother to write them down anymore.

Last year I had one very big goal which I finally accomplished at the end of the year. The Toronto DWT girls will remember my adventurous trip to San Francisco.

For 2012 though I’ve been floundering. This is what I have so far…

1. I want a repeat of my adventures in San Francisco – any city is fine.
2. I want to write 3 books.
3. I want to start a face care regime. Because at 41 let’s face it, every woman needs a face care regime.

That’s it. Seems pretty pathetic. I don’t know if it’s because as I get older I find that I’ve done a lot of things I’ve already wanted to do, or if I’m just particularly unmotivated this year.

I don’t know which is more depressing.

Anyway I figured I would throw it out to all of you – any resolutions or plans for the new year? Any hobbies you find yourself wanting to take up? This way I can steal from all of you.

And don’t forget the chance to win an Amazon $20 gift certificate is still out there. Leave a comment on any blog post from now until January 5th. I plan to just pick a random day, and from there a random comment.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Got Game

In 2003 Annika Sorenstam played in a men's PGA tour event and made history as the first female golfer to play in a men's tournament in over half a century.

I had never watched golf before that, but I watched that tournament and heard some of the commentators speak about her in patronizing terms, some supportive, but no one really thought she could win, and I'm not sure she ever thought she could win and I can't imagine the pressure on her.

But at the time, I remember thinking, it would be cool to read a book about this, but with the ending changed. I even half-heartedly told my fellow drunk writers about the golf book I thought would be great to write, but truly, I would never have done it justice.

But my friend Stephanie has. A golf book where the female golfer not only plays, but believes she can win. And it's awesome. The proper ending to the story that began in 2003. Because hopefully in my lifetime, I'll see a woman playing a major tournament and win.

Stephanie, I'm not sure if I ever asked you, but did you see that tournament, is that what sparked the idea to write this book?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Free Stuff!!!

So is everyone sick of reading about me? I know I am. Turns out I’m not the best at pimping myself. I felt embarrassed if I tweeted more than once a day about my book so I didn’t. And reading all the nice things my fellow bloggers have written about this book and my characters has kept me in a perpetual state of blush….

Or that could be all the red wine I’ve been drinking.

So this is not about Got Game? Or my new website… Or a shameless effort to get people to come to our website by offering free stuff. (Okay it’s a little about that.)

What it’s really about is finding out what works for readers. We all know advertising is a crapshoot. I can tell you my Goodreads Ad to date is a total failure. 66,000 views, only 18 clicks. So maybe the cover is wrong, or the title isn’t interesting, or my “blurb” sucks. Right now those are intangibles I can’t change – but I can learn from.

But in terms of using social networking I am curious if there may be a trend out there. I can tell you I had an experience where I was following an author who tweeted about her book because the price was reduced along with the link to buy it. From one tweet to the “click here to buy” to my Kindle in seconds. I loved that! Anything that makes buying simpler is a good thing. Anyone else buying books directly from Twitter?

And who doesn’t like free stuff? But would rather have a better chance at a small thing? Like a free book or a gift certificate? Or do you want to take your chances in a big contest like the one the Knight Agency ran where you could win an iPad?

Speak people! To this end I’m offering a $20 gift certificate on I can’t figure out how to give a free eBook away – but a gift card I can do. And since I’m tired of this being all about me – I’ll be pulling randomly from any comments left from today – all the way through the new year to January 5th.

So for folks busy around the holidays who don’t have time to check the blog and leave a comment you’ll have plenty of time to catch up in the new year.

Stop by, read some other blogs completely unrelated to my book, leave a comment and win a chance at a $20 gift card from Amazon. Or B&N if you are a Nooker and would prefer that.

I have learned there is a way to email a gift card… fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Golf and the Long Tail

Gee, that's a strange post title. LOL. But Stephanie's adventure into self-publishing has me thinking about niche markets and the so-called long tail.

I remember several years ago, when Amazon was really picking up as a retailer and e-books were becoming more of a reality, a statistician did a talk at some big publishing event (BEA??) about "the long tail". I wasn't there, just read about it.

I didn't read the material thoroughly but with the help of some flashbacks to stats class, I think I got the basics of what he meant. Think of a bell curve type diagram, with a bulge in the middle and then tapering out to the side. He argued that traditionally publishers could really only publish books they hoped would hit the bulge part of that curve, because they needed to find a lot of readers to make their investment in publishing it back, and also because shelf space in bookstores was so limited (even more limited now) that consumers would have no way of finding books if the number of titles increased exponentially. Even if readers/consumers would be interested in a particular book/product, they'd have no way of finding it.

Then along came retailers like Amazon with unlimited shelf space and search engines got better so that regardless of retailers, we could all find things we were interested in on the internet, with mind-boggling specificity. And then as e-readers became better and cheaper... Well, it all became viable. That is, it became viable to publish books that might be about the long tail, not the bulge. In fact, I believe he was arguing that for the long haul, it's just as good or better to be in the tail than in the bulge. Or that the bulge would smooth out and go away over time? (Need to find the article again. :)

And tons of books that are first deemed "long tail" will end up having tons of commercial appeal. I think Stephanie's Got Game is one of those! But what's really exciting is that she can have success in the long tail.

I think anyone who enjoys a strong heroine, great banter, fabulous characterization, romance, suspense... will love Got Game. And there's absolutely no need to know anything about golf to enjoy this book, but golfers?--especially female golfers--are going to LOVE this book.

I can't wait to see it soar!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why I Love Steph's Heroines

I'm about 70 pages in to Got Game? and am totally loving it. As always, I can't be content with just enjoying a book. I have to try to figure out why I like it and how the author did what s/he did.

It's probably not the milieu of the story. I don't golf. I live with a golfer which means that I deal with him being gone for hours and hours over the weekend, with him getting up stupid early to get to the golf course, with listening to him obsess about various statistics. I'm happy he has a passion, but seriously, I'm not in love with golf.

It's not the setting. Right now, the heroine is in Nebraska. I grew up in Nebraska. I haven't been back for a very long time. There's a reason.

I'm pretty sure it comes down to Steph's heroines. I'm completely loving Reilly. She's awesome. She's so smart and talented and driven. I want to be like her. But she's vulnerable, too. She's not perfect. Part of what makes her not perfect is the drive and ambition that make her so cool. To make your heroine's vulnerability also be her strength takes a writerly awesomeness that I have to bow down to.

This isn't the first time Steph has done this either. She did it with her book that came out last year. Camille in The Doctor's Deadly Affair? Same dealio. The very thing that makes her a kick ass awesome surgeon is what turns around and bites her squarely in the ass when it comes to her personal life.

Steph did it in the very first book I read by her, too. Talia in The Contestant might actually die because of her fabulous competitive drive, but that's what makes her so completely fabulous.

I'm pretty sure I posted a couple of weeks ago about needing to like someone in a book or a movie or a TV show to want to stick with it. Steph knows how to do that in spades.

I really wanted to come up with a golf metaphor for that last sentence, but hitting a hole in one didn't sound right. Who's got a good golf metaphor for knocking it out of the park?

Stephanie Doyle's GOT GAME!

Well, this is it, release day for GOT GAME! Steph's self-publishing adventure.

I'm hugely envious to tell you the truth. I think this self-publishing model is really only going to be making money for a few select groups of people. 1. Published authors and thier backlist or the manuscript that never got published - Steph's in this group. 2. People who pimp the hell out of thier book - not sure how much Pimping Steph will do, but I imagine it's some. 3. People with niche manuscripts - again, Steph has this one too.

Got Game is a golf romance/women's fiction. It's rich with golf detail, that is relevant and interesting. It's also got Steph's trademark humor and strong female characters.

I'm excited to hear how this works out and I'm sure she'll keep us posted. And, for any of you considering buying it - do it! It's her birthday! She's 25.

PS - winner of Cecilia's book will be announced later today!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cecilia Grant Interview and Book Giveaway

One of my favorite moments from Nationals in recent years was having lunch with Cecilia and our editor Shauna Summers. There was some general chit chat some Friday Night Lights gushing and fine food, but at one moment Shauna started to tell me about Cecilia's book A LADY AWAKENED and she absolutely raved! Raved! And watching Cecilia's face as her editor waxed poetic about her book to another author was utterly priceless. I wish all of us could have a moment like that.

Cecilia's moments with this book have just gotten better. Everyone is talking about A LADY AWAKENED. Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Book List - this book is going to be a big deal. And so is Cecilia. And honestly, it couldn't happen to a nicer, smarter woman.
I was thrilled to get a chance to ask her a few questions and the great news - answer Cecilia's questions at the end and you can win a book!

How did the idea for A Lady Awakened come about? Character first? Conflict first? Do you think about things like high concept or hooks? I ask because the premise for A Lady Awakened is deliciously hooky…a great twist on a familiar hook - it's genius!

Sex first! No, seriously, I avoided writing sex for a long time (I was trying to write trad Regencies long after they went out of fashion), and when I made up my mind to do it, I looked for a premise that would require me to do lots of it, so I couldn’t weasel out.

And I didn’t realize, at first, that I had a high concept or hook. Only after I’d entered some pages in a contest, and got feedback that the premise wasn’t original enough, did I realize that this actually was the hook; that what I needed was to embrace the well-worn nature of the premise, acknowledge reader expectations for that premise, and be deliberate about which expectations I’d meet and which I’d try to turn on their heads.

It's obviously working for you. A Lady Awakened is coming out in Jan to some fantastic buzz. Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Eloisa James! First of all - congrats and I am so thrilled for you! Second - how is this messing with your head? Is it? Or do you find you are able to roll with it?

Thank you. It’s funny; the book has not been universally loved by any means (later in my blog tour I’ll be doing a stop at a site whose reviewer DNF’d it), so I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am that it should have found such enthusiastic support in such high places.

And you know what? It does not mess with my head. Not one bit. There is just no downside to getting good reviews.

I suppose I do worry that for a lot of readers the book won’t live up to the hype, and that, for the readers who loved it, my second and third books will prove to be letdowns, but that’s really just a variation on the basic worry of people not liking your book, and that’s a worry I was going to have no matter what. Any way you slice it, “This book sucks; how the heck did it get a star in Booklist?” beats “Booklist was right; this book totally sucks.”

That is absolutely the most mature and sound answer I've ever heard. You must be saving your neurotic writer tickets for something else. You have lamented that you are not a fast writer - what is your process like? If you could change one thing about your process what would it be? You are working on the third book - is this a series? What's next?

If I could change one thing, it would be to excise the perfectionism from my psyche and cast it into the raging fires of Mount Doom.

Have you heard the building-construction writing analogy? You have to put up the building’s skeleton, or whatever it is, before you start fussing over curtains and paint colors? For a perfectionist it’s not like that. Writing is more like building a brick wall: you need to meticulously place each brick, and you need to get it right, if you want the part you’re working on to support the parts to come. Otherwise you eventually have to take it all down and start over.

Enough about my process. Yes, this is a series, centered on family: Martha, of A Lady Awakened, Will, of A Gentleman Undone, and Nick, of A Book Yet Untitled, are all siblings. All tend to excess when it comes to notions of duty, honor, propriety, etc., and all fall for people who turn their worlds inside out.

I don’t know yet what’s next. I’ve tried to stay away from dukes, which maybe means I should tackle one.

You write complicated women, is that something you do on purpose? Or are you just fascinated by the kind of story complicated women create?

Yes and yes. You always hear about these readers who want an essentially transparent heroine, so that they can ignore her and imagine themselves interacting with the vivid-by-comparison hero, but personally I don’t know anyone who reads romance that way. What I want, and what I think most readers want, is a story of two equally flawed, intricate people discovering that they belong together.

And as a writer, I like the challenge of finding my way into characters whose flaws don’t just potentially put readers off, but put me off too. For example, awhile ago I was reading about Byron-mania, specifically about women who’d disguise themselves as chambermaids to get into Byron’s hotel room. My first thought was, “What kind of idiot woman would do that?” And my next thought was, “I need to write a heroine who does that.” Maybe some day.

That's a great way of looking at character construction - what fascinates you as the writer should fascinate readers as well. You are a Friday Night Lights fan - what are you watching now - anything as good as FNL?

Nothing has come along to take the place of Friday Night Lights. I miss it still. Now I have to spend my Friday nights with creepy Keith Morrison on Dateline, and I think it is warping my brain.

I suppose the show I’m enjoying the most these days is the sitcom Parks and Recreation. If you want to see a beautifully executed romance arc, rent Season 3 and watch geeky, over-earnest small-time bureaucrats Ben and Leslie fall for each other. (Bonus: Leslie’s awesome relationship with BFF Ann.)

Okay - cage match: Meredith Duran vs Courtney Milan and then Joanna Bourne vs Sherry Thomas

Oh, you had to go there.

Courtney Milan happens to be better than pretty much anyone at portraying this one specific thing - men yearning for platonic connection with other people - that I have a huge weakness for. (Think of Ash Turner feeling left out of his brothers’ easy camaraderie, or Gareth Carhart remembering his schooldays, when he could never think of the right thing to add to the other boys’ conversations - oh, the angst!)

However, there’s something about Meredith Duran’s books, aside from the beautiful writing, that just absolutely meshes with my sensibilities. I relate to her characters in a slightly different way from the characters of any other romance writer; I always feel like I could sit down and have long conversations with them. So I give her a slight edge.

The second match-up is even worse. In the past five years there have been exactly two romances that I finished, and then immediately started over again: The Spymaster’s Lady, and Not Quite a Husband. I’d say it’s a toss-up... but I’ve just had a Bourne fix with her excellent The Black Hawk, whereas it’s been a year and a half since the last Thomas book, so... no, actually, that doesn’t help me decide. Call it a draw.

Yeah, it's a draw for me too. All right Drunk Writers answer one of the following questions and you could win a book:

name either a) your favorite flawed heroine, b) your favorite duke hero, or c) the tv show you believe could fill the Friday-Night-Lights-shaped hole in my heart, if I gave it a chance.

And thanks so much Cecilia for stopping by!

Friday, December 09, 2011

My christmas list

So Christmas is a few weeks away and while I'm sweating the presents I still need to buy, the tree I still have to decorate and the Christmas cards I'll feel guilty for not having sent out, I'm putting my own Christmas list together. A sort of, if I had the time, here is where I would spend it.

1) Legend, by Marie Lu. This is a fantasy YA that is getting great buzz and while I know nothing about it, the buzz alone makes me want to read it.

2) Daughter of smoke and bone - an urban fantasy YA, again because of the buzz.

3) Girl with the dragon tattoo - because I'm fascinated to see what Fincher does with the material, and having seen the original Swedish movie and enjoyed it, curious to see if they bring something new. Plus, I've almost always enjoyed Fincher's movies and this one has Daniel Craig.

4) The Descendants - because I hear nothing but great things about this movie.

5) Sherlock Holmes - because the first was so much fun and Robert Downey and Jude Law and are my new favourite onscreen couple.

6 Downton Abbey - Because I love British historical TV dramas and this one has gotten great reviews.

7) Luther - I saw the first two episodes of this and loved it, plus Idris Elba in the title role is incredible. I need to get my hands on this.

There you go. I have my fantasy list where Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Sherry Thomas both manage to get books out in time for Christmas, or Karen Marie Moning writes another urban fantasy in the next month, but that's pretty unlikely.

Right now, I'm happy to go with the above. Throw in a glass of wine and I'm in heaven. Anyone else have a Christmas list?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Unknown...

So next week I’m about to launch (I think) my indie ebook. I’m waiting until everything is online and then I’m going to start my campaign blitz. I found a great golf blog for women that I want to run an advertisement on (thank you Maureen) and I plan to do a Goodreads ad (thank you Molly).

There are all sorts of suggestions and things I need to do to update my Amazon page. I’m actually going to log on to facebook and do stuff there. And finally I will tweet. (My whopping 48 followers I’m sure will race to buy my book.)

Then I just sit back. It’s very odd to have no expectation of what will come. There was an article in the RWR that painted a fairly grim, but probably accurate, picture of what to expect. But then there are those anomalies that make you think why can’t that be me?

When I put out my category work, I know what to expect. I know there are going to be a set number of readers, a basic number of sales. Yes, they certainly do range for authors – but I get the general idea. When the royalty statement comes I know how much to anticipate (or not anticipate in my case.)

But this feels like stepping my toe out into the great unknown. I could sell no books. I could sell many.

I could attract the attention of a Hollywood Producer (in my dream it’s Sandra Bullock) who decides she must turn my story about the first woman to compete with the men in a major golf event into a movie and I’m offered millions. See how creative my fantasies can be?

I absolutely plan to report back on the numbers for anyone reading this blog who is thinking about self-publishing. But I can say regardless what happens with the numbers, this whole experience has been eye opening. It’s made me think more about the business of writing than I ever have before. And it’s made me think about advertising and promotion and social networking more than I ever have before. If nothing else – it’s made me a better business woman.

Anybody out there have any self-publishing stories they want to share?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Jimmy, Boardwalks and Backstory

I'm so late today with my promised post and I suspect it will be short.  But this week's Boardwalk Empire got me thinking about the calculated timing of the backstory reveal once again.

Whether you're writing a novel, or a TV series that might go over several seasons, timing is everything when it comes to revealing backstory. And if you've thought up cool, dark backstories for your characters, the temptation is to make sure the reader/viewer knows and sees all that great stuff. But holding it back is so, so much better. They did this well on Battlestar Galactica. And really well in the movie Shame, to the point where they never really did reveal the backstory, and now Boardwalk Empire.

I loved how they revealed the stuff about Nucky's childhood in the first season, and how Margaret got to America in this season (although frankly, that was a bit of a letdown) but the reveal of Jimmy's backstory was perfect for me.

Yes, with hindsight, we've known some of that all along, and we knew a few details... We knew he'd been at Princeton, but never finished (but didn't know why). We knew he'd been in the war, so I assumed his enlisting had been what cut his University career short. But no... We knew he'd gone to war when  his girlfriend was pregnant. We knew his mother is super young and super pretty and there was some  super creepy sexual energy between them, but wow. What great timing to explain some of the missing pieces in Jimmy's background.

And to add layers to his already very complicated relationship with his mother. Not to mention his wife.

When things like that get revealed in second or third seasons I often wonder when the writers knew... Is this something they thought of after the fact or knew all along and held back. And in this case, I think it's deliciously obvious that they knew all along. And that the director told the actors from the start. Every look between Jimmy and his mother.... The awkwardness between Jimmy and his girlfriend/wife once he comes back from war.. That, I assumed, was just due to the time they'd been apart, (and then the fact they reveal she's a lesbian). But no. So much more delicious. They barely freaking knew each other.

And his mother got him kicked out of Princeton. Or he did because he was freaking jealous of a professor hitting on his Mom. Wow.

All of it delicious. One of my favourite episodes yet.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Why Must I Like Them? Really Really Like Them?

So this weekend, in a fit of laundry-folding, filing of papers and other organizational chores, I watched a lot of television. On Friday night, I watched Cedar Rapids. Ed Helms plays a total shnook of an insurance salesman who gets sent to the big regional conference. My expectations were pretty low, but still it was funnier and way sweeter than I expected. There's a moment where Ed Helms explains why he became an insurance salesman and it all has to do with helping people and being there for people when their lives are falling apart. So through all the goofiness and even John C. Reilly walking around in his boxer shorts, I hung in there because I wanted Ed Helms to win.

I also watched Web Therapy. My expectations were a little higher for this one. I love shows with psychologists. To keep it simple, I hated it. Lisa Kudrow's character had, from what I saw, absolutely no redeeming qualities. She was a narcissistic, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy twit. I didn't even make it all the way through the first episode because there was absolutely no one to root for. Not even her clients.

I can't decide if this need to have someone to root for is a failing or not. There seem to be plenty of shows and movies where everyone else is perfectly happy that the heroes aren't heroic. Chicago, anyone? I hated it. I wanted them all to be executed. On the other hand, though, I get so sick of the perfect heroines who are always smart and kind and blindingly pretty. I need a good middle ground.

So what drives you nuts more? Having no one to root for or having the person you're rooting for be too effing perfect?

Monday, December 05, 2011

A conversation about category romance and effective promotion

I've done some blogs about category romance and royalties and while I am still very much a middle of the pack Superromance writer, sales as a whole have gone down. It's still a great place to write I adore Wanda Ottewell and deeply respect her eye for story. It's been a great place to write. It's pretty much anything goes over that at Superromance and while I think there are authors who sell better than I do because they might have branded themselves better in terms of the stories they write - or they stick to one kind of subgenre that appeals to the category reader, I have enjoyed writing pretty much whatever I want - probably to my detriment.

So, for those of you focusing on Superromance and for Stephanie whose first Superromance comes out in April - here are some tips for making the most of your career at Superromance (from someone who probably didn't, so take all of this with a grain of salt).

Cowboys and kids sell. And they sell pretty well from what I can gather. So if you can get that cowboy hat and a baby on a cover, chances are you'll see some sales. I've never managed to get this kind of cover - although maybe in July since I have a cowboy and some kids. I'll report back. Without that selling feature, unless your cover is different and really pretty radically different - I think covers are just covers. People aren't impulse buying like they were - they go by name recognition and recommendation - more on that in a second.

Yes, you do have to do social networking. But only do what you like. Readers want giveaways. Who doesn't? Do a little blog tour - there are a lot of websites out there who would LOVE to have guest bloggers. Do the blog. Giveaway some books. Be on Facebook - do some giveaways. Are you going to see sales - can't say. No idea. But giving away books in my opinion is the best promotion there is. Especially if you're proud of the book. I did a Good Reads giveaway, which is free - I do recommend that, they pull from a huge pool and get a lot of rabid readers who might not know your name, or romance.

Paying for advertising - be it on Facebook, Good Reads or Romantic Times - I honestly don't know if it makes a difference. I've stopped doing it for my category books because I just never felt like there was a huge result from it. If I would recommend one I'd say Good Reads - it's concentrated on readers and it's not outrageously expensive. Once again, no idea if it resulted in sales.

I have not done a bookmark or a trading card. I print up business cards for conference - which inevitably I forget to hand out. If I get my act together I think I'll do a trading card for my single titles, but for category...I probably won't do it.

Consistently, the best promotion you can do is write great books that your editor loves. Because your editor is your best sales force.

Now, the real surprise from my royalty statement is the number of ebook sales for my Feb book - HIS WIFE FOR ONE NIGHT. There were over 1,000 sales. The rest of my ebook sales hover between 200-400. Now, perhaps a contributor to this was my Good Reads ad and giveaway. I'd never done that before this book. So again, Good Reads - check it out. Another contributor might be that at Christmas there were a whole lot of new e-readers in stockings.

But the real factor I believe comes down to Internet buzz and the hand-selling of one very important librarian. I got a great review on Dear Author and it was before the book came out, most of my reviews have been long after the fact. So a good review at the right time. And Wendy the SuperLibrarian raved about this book practically door to door. Can not thank her enough.

We all know there are blogs in this business that have some clout. It takes some guts to send your book to Dear Author, Smart Bitches and All About Romance for review - because they might trash it and trash it hard. But if you can get over that - great. Do it. And maybe you don't approve of what they do on their sites - fair enough. But Internet buzz has become - in my opinion - the game changer and no one does Internet buzz like those sites.

That's my takeaway this time around. Thoughts?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Stretching credibility

I will go a long way with a show or book that is exciting and keeps me guessing, or makes me laugh, probably past where a lot of other people will fall off. I'll accept if there is more good than bad.

I'm just past the point into bad with a show right now. Did anyone out there watch the first season of Camelot? I did, mostly for Joseph Fiennes and the clever, clever episode where it twisted the legend regarding how Arthur came upon Excalibur. The show is clever in some ways. They know that Fiennes is chewing scenery in a truly memorable performance. They know Eva Green is also chewing scenery, but like Fiennes she brings such energy to the screen that it elevates the show. Both actors are more interesting than the actual script and any scenes with them together are really fun to watch.

Then there is the plot of the actual King, Arthur and his love for Guinevere, a pretty blonde who's hair styles look like they came directly from the 1980's, not the distant past. Arthur is supposed to be a youth, growing into his responsibilities and that I buy. What I don't believe is the instant sizzling attraction between Arthur and Guinevere. In the show she is betrothed to Arthur's right hand man, a man easily ten years older than Arthur, one who is far better looking and more interesting and quite frankly, the moment he removed his shirt, the show lost me.

There is no way I believe Guinevere would ever be more attracted to Arthur than her fiancee, and this is the central concept of the romance on the show.

So even with Fiennes and Eva Green and some cool twists to well known legends, I'm done. There isn't enough good about the show to overcome the way they mishandled the subplot.

Anyone else watching? Are you more patient than I am?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Getting my ducks in a row...

As writers we often have to worry about our creative process. We need to think about structure characterization, conflict and plot, blah, blah, blah…
But sometimes we also need to focus on the business. That’s where my head is out now. I’m almost ready to announce my new website that has all the bells and whistles it needs. Links to things… links are good.

I’ve dotted every I and crossed every T on my indie publication which will be released in December. (Where I will post a big splashy picture and ask everyone who is anyone to please buy this book because I really like it.) I’ve made decisions about branding, cover art and book titles. Yeah me!

Now I have to sit down and think about 2012. I have a book to finish and a new proposal to write, that’s for certain. But do I want to write 2 or 3 category books? Do I want to schedule time to try and fit in my new historical? Do I want to focus more on the indie work and see if I can gain any traction in that market?

Hard decisions. And not creative at all. It brings home to me again that as “authors” we need to be both things – creative writers and logical business people. I’ve met author’s whose work I thought was okay – but did an amazing job of marketing themselves. I’ve met author’s whose work is amazing, but so few people have ever heard of them. Either group can get lucky – but I think long term success requires a blending of both skills.

If you are reading this blog – you know that we never say the easy things about writing and publishing. Was it you, Molly, who said realistically hitting it big in publishing is not all that different from winning the lottery? And that’s the truth. But know that writing the great the book, crafting the best query, landing an agent, publisher, whatever… all those things are great things. Once you've done that, then it’s… okay what’s next – Are you tweeting?

(I am tweeting and some day I’m going to figure out how to tweet my blog – 2012 to do list!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tense and Tension and Night Circuses

I was talking to a writer-friend this past weekend who also recently read The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I loved this book and I'm 99% sure I would have loved it whenever I read it, but I do think I looked at it slightly differently as a writer. Writers often notice things readers don't.

The book is written all in present tense. Mostly in omniscient third person present tense, except for a few sections in 2nd person. But I'm pretty sure all of it is in present tense. (I don't have the book with me and I'm out of town, so I can't check.)

The present tense was a problem for the other writer I was talking to because the events in the book are happening in the past not the present so she didn't think using present tense made sense. She also said that although she couldn't stop turning the pages, she didn't end up caring about the characters or thinking about them much after finishing, and she thought present tense was to blame.

I thought for this for a while after our conversation and instead of e-mailing her with my opinions, I'll just post them here. :)

First, clearly not every book is going to speak to every reader. It's subjective. And full disclosure: I've written 3 books in first person present tense, including the ones I'm working on now. And I have a partially completed manuscript in 3rd person present tense. So I'm not totally unbiased here. :)

But I would assert that a lot of the tension and the rapid pace of The Night Circus comes from the author's use of the present tense. I don't think it would be as creepy or fascinating or as immediate in past tense. Present tense can make you feel as if you're watching a scene unfold. (Rather than hearing someone tell you about something they saw in the past.) I think present tense can pick a reader up and swoop her into a scene, even if that scene is in the past. I do assert that the present tense was responsible for creating tension in that book and it would have been flat in past tense.

I think that the omniscient viewpoint is a more likely culprit for the detachment she felt. In hindsight, I felt detached from the characters too. We're never fully in any characters' POV, so we never fully feel any of their emotions. Now I'm not meaning for a second to argue that this was a "mistake" or "bad choice" on the part of the author -- just a different one. I think in this particular book, the omniscient viewpoint had the advantage of creating mystery and allowing the author to show many, many points of view, but the disadvantage of emotional detachment. It worked for me. I also liked how it clouded things or kept the reader from immediately seeing which characters were the most important. Experienced readers know that when a character gets a POV they're going to be important for some reason or a major player. But in a book where virtually every characters' thoughts are disclosed, there's almost another layer of mystery to figure out who's important and who's not or why I'm being told about a little boy sent on a dare, or a German clock maker.

I also loved how the description of each circus tent/act was done in 2nd person, (but also present tense, I think. Again, I don't have the book on me.) These short 1-2 page chapters are scattered throughout the book and are presented almost as if the circus itself had written them as ad copy to entice people to visit. Or more likely as if one of the rêveurs (avid night circus fans) had written about his or her experiences. eg. You walk through a curtain and.... (I'm not quoting. Just giving the idea.) PS. This trailer was clearly done based on an old cover.... I kind of like this first cover better, but maybe they didn't think men would pick it up? UPDATE: It's the UK cover... Here's a link to an interview with Erin Morgenstern I just stumbled onto at Writer Unboxed. BTW. Erin and I are at the same literary agency which freaks me out to no end.

All of this also got me thinking about how and if a writer using present tense might use different techniques depending on whether she's writing in first or second or third person... In first person present, I'm of the opinion that you need to keep description of scenery and action simple and minimalistic or the reader will no longer be "in the moment" or believe that events are unfolding in real time. But in third person, I think you have slightly more leeway--especially when it's omniscient--but still, during scenes with action, I'm pretty sure she kept her sentences clean and clear and easy to parse. There's a ton of vivid description in this book, but I suspect not during actual action scenes. I see myself reading this book again to study it. :)

I have heard some people say they do not ever enjoy reading in present tense, but usually this comes from other writers and I suspect some English majors who were told by their professors that it was infantile to write in present tense. (A reviewer "informed" me that I was using an infantile style when my first person present tense women's fiction manuscript was in that Amazon Breakout Novel competition a few years back.)

Does present tense bother you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So I've been thinking a lot about structure lately and how I'm a little tired of the fact that every book I write starts at the beginning and goes to the end, over and over and over again. Beginning, middle end. Beginning, middle, end. Beginningmiddleend.

I've read two books recently whose structures blew me away. Sister by Rosamund Lupton (I think I've mentioned it before) and Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. They both mess around with the timeline. Starting at one point, hopping into the past, coming back to the present until both timelines meet up and then charging into the present/future. They were both awesome.

I had also been watching the first few seasons of Damages with my niece. The writers for that show also used a structure where you're in the present and then hopping into the past and then back to the present until the timelines merge near the end and pull you along to the conclusion.

We just started season 3, though, and they're even a little more ambitious with the timeline. There's the past then a mid point and then the present and frankly, I'm confused. They got too ambitious with their fancy storytelling technique and it's all gotten muddy.

I really want to try to do something more in my next book (not the one I'm writing now, I'm too committed to how that one works, but the one after that assuming there is one after that), but the idea of biting off more than I can chew is scary.

Have you seen that before where the writer or writers go too far in a book or a movie or a television show? Where they get too ambitious and instead of being intriguing, it's muddy and confusing?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy American Thanksgiving...

This will be a short post as I'm traveling. Just wishing everyone who is celebrating today a happy T-Day.

My sister is already panicking that she doesn't have a big enough bird so we are off to the store to see what can be done.

We're thinking of using a rotisserie chicken and just mixing it in with the turkey. I mean really, who is going to notice!

Anyway to echo what Eileen and Maureen said... ditto about being thankful for good friends.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Like Eileen, I too am very thankful for this blog and my great friends. (She said it so well, I'm simply going to say, "Ditto.") I'm grateful that I finally discovered (admitted?) what I wanted to do with my life and I'm thankful for all of you for keeping me going and not letting me quit the many times the going has gotten decidedly rough.

To give credit where credit's most due... I am especially thankful for Sinead. She was the first of this group whom I met and her determination and talent and encouragement inspired me to keep writing  past just taking a class. Then she introduced me to Molly and the rest is history so to speak.

I'm also feeling grateful for my family and my health. Breast cancer claimed another of my cousins this week, way too young. She never even had the chance to be middle aged and that's just not fair. But I'm thankful to have known her.

I'm also always grateful for the many turkeys and pumpkins and cranberries and their contribution to Thanksgiving dinners -- even though I had mine back in October. ;)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I'm going to keep this short. I have a house full of relatives and more arriving by the day. We're having 25 for dinner on Thursday and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to seat them all and we still haven't practiced getting my mother in and out of the van we rented to squire her around for the week. I wanted to make sure this was said, though.

I'm very thankful for this blog. I'm thankful for a place to put down the random thoughts I have each week about writing and to be able to do it in a community who understands what I'm talking about and why I want to talk about it. I'm thankful for the support. I'm thankful for the way you all make me laugh and think and stretch.

For those of you celebrating this week, have a safe and wonderful holiday. Hugs to you all.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Standing up for our rights or career suicide

One of the websites I love to read on a regular basis is Dear Author . Great website, thoughtful reviews, and always interesting information on publishing in general.

This week they had a brief article on an author suing her publisher for including promotional materials for other author's books at the back of her book. There was nothing in her contract against cross-promotional material, but she felt it went against the terms of her contract and because of this she has refused to hand in the third book in her three book deal.

There are lawyers involved, it's gotten ugly and for anyone interested, check out Dear Author's midday links for the details. Me, I read it and my immediate thought was this author is shooting themselves in the foot. Every other publisher will find out about this and would anyone agree to publish and author who had sued their publisher over something as common as cross-promotion. For more examples of this, see almost every Harlequin paperback.

I admire this author's self-confidence, her ability to speak out for something she thinks is wrong. I do think this is career suicide, but as writers, going through the critique process, through submitting to agents and editors, getting reviewed, there are so many ways our egos can be battered and I'm jealous of any author who can maintain their confidence through all of that.

Authors that will wait for the perfect agent rather than leaping at the first agent to offer representation, or can wait for the big deal rather than just accepting publication, the authors that believe inherently they are worth better treatment. Because I know I'm not that author and I wish I were.

Anyone think the above author was right in her stance? Would you have done the same?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Weekend That Changed My Life...

Sounds dramatic no? But I really believe it to be true. At least my writing life. We’ll see in ten years or so if I’m right. But as Molly posted on Monday I was in Toronto this past weekend and it was awesome. A weekend of good food, good friends, beer and wine, book talk and let’s not forget Friday Night Lights.

But the game changer for me was the brainstorming session. I had never been part of a critique group before. For many reasons. I often tell people who ask me about my writing that I’m the least creative person I know. I write simply because I like to control things. So the idea of a group talking about my idea or changing my idea… I thought, no.

And then there was this element of … if you accept help does it make it less your idea? I’m not great at accepting any kind of help and writing help in particular seemed like a foreign concept.

But then I did it. I told everyone my idea and they all listened (thank you for listening) and it was like watching someone with a Rubix Cube. All the pieces of my story were still there, but with a few twists this way and another few twists that way and what might have been a story that only had 3 sides of all the same color now was a completely finished cube.

I was stunned and amazed. And thrilled. Then Molly did her magic with the high concept stuff and bammo – I felt like I had this great high concept pitch married with a fully cohesive plot.

Now sure – I have to do some more work. The annoying business of actually writing the book. But I will forever be sold on the idea that it is not only okay, but downright smart, to pitch your book to other smart writers and let them find the holes you just can’t see.

You don’t have to use every idea – for instance my hero is not going to be German – sorry Molly! But it’s not even like that really matters. Just throwing things out there made me think about things I hadn’t thought of before.

I’m sold. And I absolutely want to do this again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Talent vs. Skill

I feel as if I've done a post on this topic before, but the previous one was more about whether or not you can learn to be a writer... Hmmm.. when was that? (I found it. A post I did on my other blog in 2006 about whether writing is a talent or a skill. I guess a five year gap is enough time to revisit. ;)

Something recently drew this concept to mind again--and it was partly Stephanie commenting last weekend that she was now paying more attention to craft than she used to. And I'd already thinking about talent vs. skill.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through a bookstore with the fabulous Debbie Ohi and we stumbled on a woman doing a signing and we listened to a small chunk of her presentation. From what we could gather, her book was a cookbook, but also had personal stories about the recipes and some cartoon-type illustrations. Someone in the audience complimented the illustrations and asked her about them.

The author was a tad shy about her drawings and said she wasn't an artist or an illustrator by any sense of the imagination, but she'd shown them to the publisher and they wanted to include them. She also showed them to an artist friend at the time, to ask her opinion (should I really let them publish these?) and the artist replied something like: you don't have much skill, but you definitely have talent. That made me nod.

I think you can go a long way in many creative pursuits relying solely on talent, but at some point, when the going gets tough, or when something isn't working, or when you want to push yourself to do something different or better, or when you need to continue to produce more and more books, faster and faster, it sure helps to have developed some skill. :)

What do you think? Do you rely more on talent or skill when you write? Which is more important?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sometimes I Hate Romance

Most of the time I love love. Young couples smooching on the street make me stop and smile. I often applaud when the couple finally kisses in the movie or the TV show. I get all swoony when one of my friends' husbands steps up to the plate and surprises her with jewelry or a trip or anything that makes her feel fabulous.

So when do I hate romance? Apparently when it's in a commercial. Those "Every Kiss Begins with K" commercials that will be playing nonstop from now to Christmas make me want to puke. Honestly, does that dude think it will really help unpack all those boxes to give her a necklace? Forget the diamonds, man. Start putting together some shelves!

Truth be known, I also despite those Jared commercials and the Zales commercials and I've been known to turn the car radio off the second I hear Tom Shane's voice, so maybe it's just jewelry commercials that set my teeth on edge. Perhaps not, though, because there's a few perfume commercials that make me want to scream as well.

Maybe it's just the start of my usual hatred of all things holiday starting up because of the commercials. Or perhaps I'm becoming prematurely curmudgeonly.

Is there any place where you hate to see romance? Or is it good for you wherever you find it?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Figuring out High Concept

Big moment for some of the drunk writers - namely, me. For years when people have talked about High Concept, I have mocked them behind thier backs largely because I have no CLUE what high concept actually means. Is it JAWS meets LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE? What if we write straight up contemporary romance - where's the high concept in that? Don't I need zombies or post-apocolyptic drama to be high concept?

And, and this is ugly, I have always believed that the books I have adored you can not whiddle down to one line that manages to encapsulate all the tension, drama and nuisance of the character and conflict I love. Because I love those books, and emulate those authors, I thought my books were so damn special one line wouldn't do it.

I know, such a dummy.

Anyway, I had a slow-burning ah-ha moment after Lori Wilde's talk at the TRW meeting a few months ago, and in talking with Maureen and Sinead about the ideas they are working on and the rejections that they've gotten.

High concept doesn't encapsulate the book - it encapsulates the idea. It sells the idea. Shines it up to an irresistable gloss. The book is another thing entirely! (not really, but for this discussion, yeah it kind of is). And yes I think a contemporary romance needs a high concept line most of all. We've got to figure out why this book is different and get it out there.

I don't know about you guys, but after I've written a book, I could not come up with the high concept line to save my life. I'm all bogged down in the 100,000 words of nuance and conflict and backstory and mommy issues. In fact, as an aside, I could not come up with a high concept line on a book that I've written a proposal for.

But this weekend, Stephanie came to town to be a big timmer up at the Harlequin office and we got to do some brainstorming. Steph, Sinead and Maureen were all at the very beginning of brainstorming, they had some ideas, some plot and a character - all very fluid. But we decided for each of these ideas the brainstorming wouldn't be finished without coming up with this line...and HOLY SHIT! I am not kidding you, in all my years of writing and brainstorming - nothing has ever lit a spark under us like this. It wasn't just enthusiasm for the ideas - all of us wanted to pitch these books. We were excited about the part of the publishing process that every hates - submitting.

And the really amazing power of a great high concept line is that it shows the whole book. The world, the character, the external conflict, the twist - and if you choose the words right, you can even get tone and voice in there too.

It's freaking magic! Not kidding.

Friday, November 11, 2011

When are you fully committed?

It's time for a new idea and I truly don't know what to write. Brainstorming is my favourite part of this writing process, and at this point, everything is on the table. I'm committed to absolutely nothing, not even genre, so I'm really going where my best idea takes me.

I like to plan in advance, have a strong sense of the major plot points, but usually I jump into a book too soon, a mistake I'm hoping not to repeat.

So my usual process is, I brainstorm a general plot, the beginning, the end, the internal and external conflicts and then, when I should be thinking more of developing the relationships between the characters or how the character arc plays out, I get impatient to start and I write the first chapter and go from there. Once the first chapter is written, I'm pretty much committed to the idea and I rarely back off from there.

I know people, who are committed to the idea almost from it's inception, and others who can write three chapters and still back away from an idea.

But by the time I start the first chapter, I'm so excited about the prospect of the story that I get caught up. It's nice, it's a place for me that has little doubt, and that's about the only part of the writing process that lacks doubt.

Anyone gotten farther into a book and turned to another idea?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Building a Platform

I'm participating in a mentorship program through one of my online writers groups and my "grasshopper" recently asked me this question:

When did you start building your platform? Can you identify the major steps to take? What made a real difference?  

In answering her, I thought I'd just make it into a blog post.

First... I actually don't think it's essential for fiction writers to build a platform before they're published. I know or know of lots of very successful authors who had zero online presence prior to their first sale. A platform will not get you published in fiction unless it's a really awesome one. And wearing these shoes wouldn't count as an awesome platform for fiction, unless your name is Snooki or Lauren Conrad or Tyra Banks.

That said, I am someone who started to build a platform before I sold.

I used to be very active on several writers loops. I did this more to learn about writing and the industry, and to share what I'd learned with others, than to build a platform per se... but I did develop a fairly significant network of writer friends both via loops and via blogging. 

The keys with blogging are at least two fold. First, make your content interesting. And second leave meaningful comments on other people's blogs in the hopes that you'll gain readership either from those individuals or their readers. Or maybe that they'll link to your blog from their blog. It can be a lot of work to do both of those things consistently, so I only recommend this for someone who enjoys it and has time. Also, you have to be careful not to say something that will paint you in a negative light.

And I don’t think that either of those venues are as active as they used to be. More people are now on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

I was a pretty early adopter of MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and Google+, but I don’t think it’s essential to do these things professionally before you’ve got a publishing contract. The trick is, unless you have really great content on those venues, why would anyone you don't already know follow you before you have a book out? It’s tricky. And is there any point in building up huge numbers of Facebook friends who are mostly interested in either hitting on you via skeevy messages, or asking you to buy them a cow for Farmville? (Asks the girl with 3800 Facebook friends. Do what I say, not what I do.)

Here's my twitter page if you're not already following me there. :)

Some people do social networking extremely well, but I don’t think it’s essential if it’s not something you enjoy. It's easy to get started on these social networking sites, and the main "tricky" thing for a writer is deciding whether to separate your personal identity from your writer identity. If I could turn back time three or four years, I would have set up Facebook differently for sure. Not that I really could have done it the way I wish I'd done it, because it's changed so much.... 

If you're starting on Facebook now, it's a good idea to set up a Page. But again, why would anyone "like" your page before you have a book? So, it's really just preparation and I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to coerce people into liking your page. You'll just alienate them. Once you have a book out, they will come. ;) Especially if you have links for them to "like" you on your website and in various other places. :-)

My Facebook Page:

And here's a like button for Molly's new Facebook Page:

There are lots of great resources with advice on using social networking but I think the bottom line is be genuine. Be yourself. And again, be careful you don't tweet or post anything you might later regret. What you post online stays there forever. Minimize drunk tweeting. ;) Especially from an iPhone with autocorrect!

In terms of building a platform, one step I would advise writers to take before they sell is to buy the domain name(s) for whatever author name(s) they plan hope to use. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than realizing you can’t get “” when you want it. I reserved my website name in about 2003 and launched my website and blog after I got my first agent (in 2006) when I thought I was about to sell. I didn't get my first book contract until 2009. If I could turn back time, I’m not certain I would have put as much time/thought/money into my website. I do love the look of my site. My designer was very talented and really “got” me and my writing that I shared with her. Problem is, I ended up published in a different genre than I was writing at the time and while my website fits me as a person, I’m not sure it fits my current work... And I'll definitely need a new design with the books I have coming out starting next year (that I still can't talk about...)

One clear advantage I saw to blogging when I started, was that before I had a blog, when you googled my name most of the top hits weren’t me. After I’d been actively blogging for just a few months, and other writers had linked to my blog, suddenly most google hits for my name were actually about me and not some other person named Maureen McGowan. But again... that didn't get me published. I just thought it was cool.

If you know you’re going to use a pseudonym, then by all means start to create an identity online under that name, but know that things might not turn out as you plan. Maybe your publisher won’t let you use the pseudonym of your choice. Maybe you’ll change your mind by the time you’re published. Maybe you’ll end up in a different genre than the identity you’ve built up... 

All this said, I think unpublished writers should concentrate more on their writing and honing their craft than worrying about a platform. Platforms are only essential for non-fiction writers. For fiction writers they're just a bonus, not a necessity and won't get your novel published unless your platform is that you're a cast member of a big reality TV show. If you enjoy social networking and have time, by all means. But make writing your first priority until you have a contract. An agent or editor won’t sign you or publish your novel because you have a gazillion facebook friends or a pretty website. In fact, unless they already love your book, they won’t even check to see.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cutting the Squirrel

No. It's not a euphemism for something dirty. Trust me. I double-checked on Urban Dictionary. It might, however, be my new Cutting One's Darlings equivalent.

I had a lovely chat with my adorable and way-too-perceptive-for-her-age editor about my WIP. I'd had a chat back with another editor at Ace when we went to contract for the book. She'd really had only one real objection. It had to do with the squirrel.

I hate squirrels. I'm terrified of them and I'm pretty convinced they're out to get me. They're constantly dashing out across the bike path trying to knock me off my bike. I know people think they're cute, but they attack children, set cars on fire, cause car accidents and may even be involved in espionage.

It was one of those happy writing accidents when I was researching Norse mythology for my third Messenger novel and stumbled across Ratatoskr. He's supposed to be quite the gossip and I figured he could help me get information from one place to another and would also help me work through some of Squirrel issues. I mean, isn't one of the points of writing fiction to basically get cheap therapy?

Alas, I must cut Ratatoskr. Apparently, he doesn't "resonate." Also, I already have crows and some oxen in the book and my editor felt like it was turning into a something like a Disney movie gone terribly wrong. I don't think it will be terribly hard to fill the plot holes his disappearance will make, but I have to admit I'm a little bummed to leave him. I mean, just because he didn't resonate in a synopsis doesn't mean that he won't resonate just fine in the actual book. Sadly, he won't have the chance. I must cut the squirrel.

Have you had to cut any personal squirrels?

Monday, November 07, 2011


Well, here they are my first single title covers from Bantam! I've never had the naked guy cover before and while initially it threw me for a loop - I have to say I've grown fond of his abs. Very very fond. And I think you will too. So: Can't Buy Me Love

I love the look on the woman's face behind the model. She's the perfect representation of my heroine: Tara Jean Sweet.

And my personal favorite of the two, the cover for CAN'T HURRY LOVE not because we see MORE of his chest, but I love the cowboy hat and the fact that his shirt is wrinkled? I adore it. I really do. Not to perfect, just perfect enough, sort of like the hero: down on his luck cowboy Eli Turnbull.

Let me know wht you think!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Vampire Diaries and the surprise plot revelation

Welcome to my ongoing fascination with the Vampire Diaries. It's pretty much the only show in the week that I watch in real time, and if I have to PVR it, I do a back up recording at another just in case my PVR screws up. Because you miss a show in this series and you miss a lot. They somehow manage to keep it moving at that pace, without losing the central relationships either.

And this week was no exception. They surprised me (pleasantly) twice with revelations I didn't see coming, but made absolute sense within the framework of the story and the plot, and more importantly the revelations made the external plot tighter and added some lovely character drama to all of it. Essentially, they kept it all within one family and did it brilliantly.

Lovely surprises happen when you write, really lovely twists and turns, but I'm still a big believer that the important twists, (like the big bad also being the big daddy) is usually something that takes some advance thought. I do some of this, but I never feel as though I do enough, and the Vampire Diaries, on a weekly basis, is convincing me to to do more advance plotting before I ever type a word.

Because it's not just the plot twists, it's the time they take with the central relationships. They seem to understand that because they have so much external plot keeping everything moving along, they can really take their time and develop relationships slowly, build to them and trust the viewer will follow along. And I'm in, and for the first time since the show began, they have two male leads that are fascinating.
Damon and Stefan, because one walks the edge of the line and the other has to be all or nothing, and the show is more about their relationship than it is about the romance between Elena and Stefan which was never that interesting to begin with and the writers seem to understand that as well.

And just finished the Night Circus and it's amazing... loved it, every page.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Girl... She's weird but I like her

Okay so is anyone watching this show? This is the Zoey Deschanel show on Fox. When I watched the first episode I thought… I don’t know. I watched the second and wondered… do I like her or is she just weird?

I watched the third show and I thought she’s weird… but I like her.

This isn’t some show where some actress is trying to be quirky and cute but going over the top and failing at either. This is either a) Zoey is weird and she’s playing herself or b) Zoey is doing very well as an actress playing a weird girl.

Now the impact of this is sometimes she’s adorable. But sometimes she’s so weird it’s uncomfortable and I love that. We’re not going for the “semblance” of a character. We’re going for a real person who could be like this. I have a friend who shares many characteristics so maybe that’s why I can see the real through the weird.

But you’ve got a guy who played in Europe League Basketball who is trying to figure out who he is. You have the “player” who thinks he’s great with the ladies but is desperately insecure. You have the lead guy who will eventually be the romantic foil to Zoey and does a great job playing her straight man and you have her with these guys just being herself. Last night she brought out a “feeling stick.” When the main guy broke it (predictable) she pulled out of her purse a smaller similar stick. She called her travel size feeling stick. (Totally cute and funny.)

I think it’s a great show. It’s grown up. It doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to go and I just love that either the writers or Zoey are not trying to sugar coat her. TV does that so often. They don’t give me real characters they give me –character-lite.

We should always strive in movies, TV and books to go full monty. Will it put some people off – sure. Will everyone watch this show – probably not. But at least they’re going for it and in going for it they might find success.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Happy November!

Those of you who are writers probably know what November is. Sure, there's that big American holiday near the end of the month, but writers who really know how to party know November as the month of insanity, aka NaNoWriMo.

According to the NaNo site I've been a member for seven years and that sounds about right. I've even donated money to them (they're a not for profit) and bought a few of their t-shirts (to wear to the gym). I like NaNo so much that I've signed up this year, even though I just finished a first draft and my goal is to complete a second draft in November. But I might use the progress meter anyway. It's not cheating. ;) I won't apply to "win".

The idea, is that everyone who participates starts writing a novel on November 1st, and finishes their first draft of said novel, at least 50,000 words, by November 30th. If you accomplish that, you are deemed a "winner". It started in 1999 with 21 writers in the San Francisco Bay area, and last year there were over 200,000 participants all over the world. (I would have guessed more... but that's what their site says.)

The rules state that you can't have started the book before November 1st and that you must finish a first draft by November 30th. That is, you can't just write 50K of an ongoing WIP, or a 50K start of a new book... So while I have written 50K most Novembers, I haven't applied to "win" very often because it's rare that my timing works out that I can start something new in November.

But I have a special place in my heart for NaNo. The first "longer" book I wrote; that is, the first novel that wasn't targeted for one of the shorter Harlequin lines, I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2004. That book still might not be published, but it did land me my first agent and won a lot of awards and more importantly, it was the book that made me think I could actually be an author.

I also wrote most of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior during NaNo 2009. Yes, I kind of cheated that year. I had a December 31st deadline for that book and so started it as soon as I knew I had the contract, on or about October 20th, and I finished the first draft before the end of November. But I definitely wrote more than 50,000 words of that book in November. I wrote the bulk of during NaNo and swear competing on word counts with a few of my extextremely prolific erotica writer friends mates really spurred me on. (If she wrote 4,000 words today, so can I!)

And so Nano is inidrectly responsible for my first agent and my first published book. On different books.

What about you? Do you NaNo? Do you like to write fast first drafts or take your time to get it right?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Very Drunk Writer

I am in San Francisco with the fabulous and gorgeous Serena Robar. She's in town for a conference and I am hanging out with her, doing some writing, doing some shopping and tossing back some drinks.

I had a lovely hangover run on the Embarcadero (where were you, Molly?) and then had total sticker shock at Bloomingdale's. Thank God for Macy's and the 40% off rack where Serena found me the perfect dress for an upcoming event. Then tonight it was dinner at Zingari's and off for an end of the evening cocktail at the Redwood Room. Where we took this awesome photo in the fabulous giant chair in the lobby:

In case you can't tell, I had a Manhattan which had LOT of bourbon in it. I am not, sadly, feeling brilliant, but am quite content. Wish you all had been there drinking with us!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Effing things up for yourself...

For the last few years I have been a head of my deadlines. And not just a little. But like, months ahead of deadline. I seemed to keep having these events that I wanted to get books completed by - biths of babies, American Thanksgiving, Conference, Drunk Writer Talk. So, I had real deadlines and then I had my own.

And let me tell you, this has been great. I am heroic in my editors eyes. I have so much good will built up in this department that if I could somehow transform good will into shoes I would be Maureen.

And I've liked it too, I feel on top of my game and focused. I was really diligent every day despite being ahead of the deadline.

But OH! Oh the times they have changed - my deadline is November 15 for my Harlequin Superromance (I thought it was Nov. 22, why? No idea). And it's doable if I stick to my word count goal every day and work on the weekends and in the evenings...really, it's not even that hard. But what have I been doing? SLACKING OFF. Watching TV - in the middle of the day. Eating cookies? (That's effing up this no cookie diet I was on for about ten minutes. The second I said "Molly, no more cookies, what did I want? Ten cookies.) Friday Maureen and I had a writing date and what did I convince her to do? HAVE A BEER!

I am so far away from my word count goal that it's actually funny. Like ludicrious. Like a Monty Python sketch. And it's not my children, or my husband, or fate conspiring against me, it's me. %100 me. Though Maureen could have been a bit more firm on that beer thing...

Do you do this? When the pressure is on, do you go to sleep? Because I've been doing that too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How much attention should you pay to the market before you write?

I've been actively watching the YA market for a while now, but never as much as now. I've always been a firm believer in write the idea that grips you, makes you smile and excited to sit at the computer. And I still believe in that to a degree, but there was a point where I would have done so without being really aware of what else was out there.

Now, as I check author/agent/publisher blogs and learn what people in the industry are saying, I realize what a mistake that can be. In YA right now, according to most agents, trying to sell a vampire/werewolf/angel paranormal would be almost impossible. It would take an incredible book to break into that market. Similar with dystopian YA. Two years ago, a dystopian would have been requested by most agents out there, three years ago, vampires were still something publishers were excited about.

As a writer, locked in my writing cave, would I have known that I most likely couldn't sell a vampire book right now. I'm not sure and it is why most agents/publishers say don't write to trends, but be aware of them. I just don't feel as though I've ever been really good at that. Looking at the market and seeing what I shouldn't write. Because like most people who read the Hunger Games, I saw tremendous appeal and potential in a dystopian world, and the potential to create drama in that kind of setting.

So is the answer to be aware of the market? To be aware of what's selling in your genre and ensure that what you are writing is different, but with the elements that still remain true to the essential nature of the genre?

I go back and forth, especially now that I'm submitting, where if you'd asked me a year ago, I would have emphatically stated that the book is the only thing that's important. Now, I'm not entirely sure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


In keeping with the theme of mindless entertainment is anyone watching this show? It was absolutely not something I thought I would be interested in. Soap opera level drama in the Hamptons (been there/done that) But here is the thing. The actress who plays the lead is really good.

She’s completely convincing when she’s pretending to play the innocent girlfriend. Then completely convincing when the audience sees her plotting her revenge against the people who did her father wrong.

It’s got it all. Emotional conflicts, sticky situations… murder. You can’t really figure out who likes who but there are all kinds of romantic connections. Each week the heroine (who we are sympathetic towards because of how she lost her father) sets up these elaborate cons to take down the people responsible for setting up her father as a patsy. The cons are sometimes silly. The drama is a bit over played. And I’m not really sure how this can go for more than one season.

If anyone remembers the summer murder mystery series Harper’s Island – this feels a lot like that. Over the top – but completely watchable. Kind of like a Sydney Sheldon novel.

It occurred to me how often this can be true in books as well. The plot can be done to death, there can be holes and gaps everywhere, the writing might be flawed but if the voice of the author is good, really good - it can still make the book enjoyable.

I recently read a book by an author and it was just like that. I kept telling myself this… this is bad… this isn’t good… this isn’t right… I must keep reading. Is there a book two? … I must by that as well.

Ever done that with a TV show or a book?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pure Entertainment

Eileen's post yesterday about Bridesmaids had me thinking about fun movies.

This fall, after all the dark and difficult movies at TIFF -- and some that weren't dark or difficult but didn't really inspire me all that much -- I went to a few movies just for the pure fun of it.

One was Our Idiot Brother which I found adorable if forgettable... But I've loved Paul Rudd ever since Clueless so I enjoy just about any movie he stars in, even if he's cast as an irresponsible and naive stoner.

But the film that inspired this post is Real Steel. It seems as if they were showing the trailers for this film for close to a year before it came out... Which often is not a good sign... And I have to admit, it did not seem like the kind of movie I'd like. More like one Molly's son would like. But writer-friend and movie-critic for Hard Core Nerdity,  Adrienne Kress saw the film at a press screening a week before it came out and she told me it was worth seeing so I thought I'd give it a shot.

And you know what? I was completely entertained. There are some completely corny cliche lines like, Son to Dad: "You can do this. I believe in you." (or something. I'm paraphrasing.) And while I might have rolled my eyes once or twice I had to do my eye rolling quickly, because mostly I was just too busy being entertained. :)

And if I have to watch boxing... there'd better be either a great story to offset the violence, or the boxers getting beat up had better be machines and not people. This movie delivers on the second for sure ;) and the first mostly. The story is simple, but I admired that simplicity...We know exactly who the protagonist is, how he has to change, what his external goals are... and we see him change and get what he wants and deserves.

I have a bit of a love-to-m'eh sliding continuum thing for Hugh Jackman (as opposed to Sinead who is fully in love). And this was a movie where I swung to the love side of my continuum. (As I did the night Sinead and I went to see him perform live this summer.) It's like Hugh can either be the most masculine and most feminine man on the planet -- and I heart the masculine Hugh. (Without facial hair and with his shirt on, ;) he comes off too pretty for me) But he was definitely masculine Hugh in this movie. Yowza.

The only thing that would have made it perfect for me was a tiny more emphasis on the romance, but then that would have turned off their key demographic -- twelve-year-old boys -- so I had to be satisfied with a few kisses and some clear chemistry. I'll say one thing about Evangeline Lilly -- she can look at a man and convince me she loves him. And she looked at Hugh like she looked at Sawyer.

I've read reviews that criticize Real Steel for morphing together movies from the past like Rocky and The Champ and Transformers... But I think the filmmakers were smart enough to take what worked from each of those movies: underdog triumphing, heart-breaking father-son relationship, big robots -- and combine them into pure entertainment.

I saw the movie in one of those enhanced theatres, with a bigger screen, better sound and comfy seats (with built in speakers...) and I was thoroughly entertained. And really, that's exactly what I wanted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I just watched Bridesmaids with my darling and talented niece. I really really liked it. We laughed really really hard, but I also liked the fact that I felt a little verklempt more than a few times in the movie.

I really related to Annie. I know that awful feeling of not being able to afford to do what everyone else can and feeling like the least successful one in the room. I know the feeling of watching a friend leave me behind for greener pastures. As funny as the scene on the airplane was, I think the real reason people like this movie is that everyone has had that sinking feeling in their chest that those moments create.

Oh, we suck it up. We plaster smiles on our faces, but hasn't their been a moment when you wanted to splash the chocolate out of someone's fountain and wrestle their giant love cookie to the ground?

If the movie had been an endless parade of women having diarrhea in the middle of the street while wearing wedding gowns, I don't think it would have been that big of a hit. It was, as my brilliant niece said, how relatable it was. I know Annie. I've been Annie. I knew the other bridesmaids, too. I may also be a little bit of the blonde bridesmaid raising three boys. I am the same kind of drunk as the sweet newlywed bridesmaid. And I've run for a buffet just like Melissa McCarthy did.

So did you see it? Did you like it? Did you relate to Annie? Or anyone else?

Monday, October 24, 2011

What a Literary Agent Should Do For You

A few weekends ago a NYT bestseller came to speak at our local RWA group and she answered all of our questions with utter honesty. One of the questions was about her relationships with different agents. She's had some good ones and some bad ones but she said with the one she has now it was the first time she actually felt agented.

This got me to I feel agented? The answer quickly for me is a resounding yes.
But why do I feel agented? She sells my books - but is that enough? The answer quickly there was no. What are the elements besides selling my books that makes Pam Hopkins such a great agent for me?

1. She's not my friend. We're chatty. Sometimes we gossip, she's VERY friendly and warm and I like her a lot - but everything comes back around to business. I think this is important. Sometimes, after a glass of wine too many - I feel awkward, because I want secretly to be best friends with everyone, but it's business. Good business.

2. She subtly and not so subtly pushes me. I was having babies and writing Superromances and life was pretty good but after every book I turned in she'd send me an email saying - I know you're busy now, but you really need to think about single title. Every time. I never pushed her into thinking about my single title career, she was there all the time with the next steps in mind. An agent should see your worth and hopefully your trajectory. The NYT bestseller at the meeting had a conversation with an agent who had been selling a lot of her books but the writer wanted more and the agent said "not everyone can be a star." Your agent should think you can be a star...

3. She helped my work. Pam is not an editorial person and I didn't want an agent who was going to critique my stuff - I have lots of critique partners - I wanted an agent who would look at my stuff and critique it's salability. Her comments on my proposals were always things like "I don't think this works. This won't sell." She's the one having conversations with editors - she knows what they want and she helped me match my work to that need/want.

4. Respected in the business. Sometimes we don't know how our agent is viewed in the wider world - but considering the respectful and warm business relationship she has with me, I can guess she has the same relationship with editors. If your agent crosses a line in your mind with you or another author - red flags should go up. She hasn't burned any bridges. And as much as writers want to write for editors like Shauna Summers and Jennifer Enderlin, agents want to work with them too and should be building relationships with every editor despite being thorns in thier sides when it comes to contract negotiations.

5. As your career changes so should thier services. This is new to me. Moving into single title I am getting a whole different service from Pam. Wait...maybe that's not true. It's the same service but more of it. She's always been the middle man between me and my editors but now she is more so. In more ways. Tuesday she has a conversation with my editor about what the publisher is doing about promotion...that's never happened before. And I think it should. Promotion is a freaking big deal and a big freaking mystery. And almost no writer I know feels like they've gotten a great answer from thier publisher. Please, tell me if you have...

6. Despite how little money I made or make for Pam, I feel important. Writing catagory I wasn't making Pam much money - like almost none. But I always felt like I could call her. I might be uncomfortable doing it, but that was me, not her. We should feel like our agents - no matter if we're making NO money or ooodles of money - work with us. So many authors I know after a couple of manuscripts don't sell - the agents stop calling. Or returning emails. Wow. Really?

Now, sometimes questions in emails don't get answered. And sometimes it takes a day for an email to get answered. Sometimes I feel all alone in the world - but I'm a writer, I'm bat shit crazy on a good day.

Anyway - those are my thoughts. Do you feel supported by your agent? Why? What do you wish was different?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fringe - come for the crazy mysteries, stay for the family dramatics

So I tried watching Fringe Season 1 when it played on TV and gave up when it seemed a little repetitive and kind of an X-files rip off. But then we got our hands on Season 2 and Entertainment weekly had been singing the show's praises and so I started at Season 2. (spoiler alert - I'll try not to give anything away, but it's going to be hard, so if you're planning on watching, don't read this)

Which is SO much better. They still have the bizarre monster of the week, and the overarching plotline of what are those things from the other universe, but the dynamics between the players is so much better.

And everything is underplayed. but what I've enjoyed the most is the dynamic between Peter and Walter, son and father. The father is a brilliant scientist, who spent 17 years in a mental institution and is utterly incapable of living independently, and in season 1 the character was nothing but weird and in season 2 he has developed this relationship with his cynical, clever son that humanizes the son and keeps the Dad tethered to reality.

And that relationship, in particular, is underplayed by the actors, a clever choice, considering the drama of the weekly mysteries and the strangeness of the overarching plot.

But then the show introduces us to an alternate Walter, one far closer in personality to his son and we see what Peter could have become had he remained on the path he had been on, and we see what Walter would have been had he not had his mental breakdown and it's brilliant and a great choice by the writers.

It's show I would definitely recommend, because they never forget the characters and the writer's choices are always interesting and usually different from what I'm expecting.

And I just started The Night Circus and so far it's pretty amazing. Has anyone read it? Is it this good all the way to the end?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

So I'm doing it...

I’m actually starting to make decisions now about this book I want to self-publish. It really is kind of a crazy thing. Part of me likes it.

Most of me hates it.

I’m a worrier. When I write a book for another publisher all the worries other than - did I do a good job - lands on them. When you’re doing it yourself all the worry is with you.

Forget the obvious issues – are there any typos or inconsistencies that are going to make it seem like a “self published” book? Did the copyeditor catch everything? What about copyright infringement issues. What if I used a brand name I wasn’t supposed to?

I’m also dealing with cover art and title. I have ideas. I know what “I” like – but I’m no expert in this kind of stuff. What sells? Then of course there is the marketing. How much money should I put toward advertising? How many copies do I need to sell in order to cover the costs of the copy editor and advertising combined in order to make a profit?

Because as Maureen said so eloquently yesterday… it’s about the money. I’m not going to get rich – but I need to be compensated for the effort. Yes my love of writing and for whatever reason this story in particular carried me a long way but this a whole lot of work and worry to do this for free.

I’m still a couple of months away – but then I will use this Blog to shamelessly promote it and you can all go and look at the cover and read the title and tell me how you think I did as a publisher.

(And you know… while you’re there… maybe you could buy it... if you want to…)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stating the Obvious

Can we all just stipulate that pretty much everyone in the publishing industry wants to make money? (Stipulate is what the TV lawyers say. ;)

There are some very popular bloggers who've gained disciple-like followings by railing against agents and traditional publishers. Also, some of my writers' loops have been inundated with posts from authors complaining about how publishers or agents or retailers (especially Amazon) are just in it for the money, and how these various entities are behaving in ways that support their own interests.

To which I say, "DUH!"

What I don't get is why some--not all--of these posters seem to think that wanting to make money and caring about books/authors are mutually exclusive.

Sure, not every person in the world loves what they do for a living. Lots of people work in jobs or industries because they landed a job there and need to learn money; and so they plod along, caring little for the products or services their employers provide. I used to be one of those people.

BUT, I would assert that this is less true in the publishing industry than most other industries. Why? Because frankly there just isn't that much money in it. Or at best, the risk/reward balance is skewed such that more people earn a very small living than a great living. You don't go into a business like publishing unless you love books. You don't become an agent unless you love reading and writing and authors and books. I read a discussion recently about how it's almost impossible to become an agent or editor unless you have a trust fund or spouse backing you, because the money's so bad or non-existent for the first many years... (That discussion was about whether this "wealthy white New Yorker" preponderance in the industry biases "taste" and what gets published... but I digress.)

It is also true that the big publishers are now mostly all owned by huge multinationals whose CEOs and shareholders probably don't care about books all that much... but editors and publishers, from everything I've observed, are fighting the good fight for books within these huge corporations.

All that said, I think it's the railing against agents that bothers me the most.

I'm not meaning to suggest, for an instant, that agents' motives are altruistic, but I am sick, sick, sick of hearing authors make anti-agent arguments using, "They just want to earn more money."

Of COURSE they freaking do!!! What kind of fairy tale land are you people living in?

Given all the changes happening in the publishing world right now, I'm very interested in discussions about the pros and cons of some of the recent developments... agents being publishers, retailers being publishers, and everyone trying to figure out what's fair in terms of splitting the proceeds from selling a book in the digital age, and whether agents should earn their normal commission if authors self-publish a book the agent once sold (many years ago) or tried and failed to sell, and whether a publisher can consider a book "in print" paying an author a tiny royalty on a book they aren't promoting, but have up for sale on their website...

All important topics. All interesting. Lots of turmoil and new industry "norms" will undoubtedly be worked out over the next several years, and yes, we authors have to stand up for ourselves and our interests as this all works itself out...

But in these discussions, can't we all just stipulate that everyone involved is out to protect his or her interests and turf? That everyone wants to maximize their potential for earning a living? Including authors? Isn't that obvious?
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