Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Here is the cover for COMPLIANCE coming out June 4, 2013. I think it captures the idea of the book really well. And I think the red on navy color scheme is very "now".  At least I keep seeing it everywhere.

Pre-order Compliance here:

And here is the cover for the Spanish version of DEVIANTS, aka LOS INDESEABLES.
I have to say, I kind of love this cover. The back is cool too. 

You can order the Spanish version here: (sorry, I don't know any other Spanish retailers)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Living Up to Expectations

I really cannot count the times that I've read rave reviews for a book, been super excited to read it and then been really disappointed. It's especially embarrassing if I've talked my wonderful book group into reading it and then hate it and have to apologize to them.

Case in point: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. People were rapturous about this book. A man popped out between shelves in a bookstore to tell me what a fabulous book it was when I was thinking about buying it. He didn't even work there. He was just a guy. It was a good book. It wasn't a great book. Or I simply didn't totally get it. It meandered. It was confusing. It was an enjoyable read, but not life changing.

Kate Atkinson's Case Histories is another one. I liked it. I would even recommend it. People went nuts about that book, though, and I don't really know why.

Which brings me now to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. It shows up on a bunch of top 10 lists. Reviews raved. I talked my book club into reading it. I just got it from the library and started it last week.

It is freaking awesome. Awesome sauce on awesome ice cream with a fabulous cherry on top. Maybe even whipped awesome.

The story is moving and timely and thought-provoking. The language is gorgeous. I find myself rereading sentences because they're so terrific. I feel elevated just by reading it. Amazing.

What's your experience been? I'm betting everyone has a few books that haven't lived up to expectations. How about some of the books that have lived up to your hopes and dreams?

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Don't Think We've Made A Big Enough Deal About Stephanie...

Did everyone here realize that Stephanie's book One Final Step has won the RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Superromance? This is Steph's second RT Award, she won best Bombshell a few years ago with The Contestant . So, to sum up, Steph has two RT Awards and a RITA nomination. My guess is, like any writer, most days she doesn't even remember this. Under the pressure of trying to write books and decide what to do next, she's probably forgotten that she's a big-deal award-winning author. Congrats Steph - and it's super well-deserved.

Another friend of the blog Cecilia Grant is also an RT Award Winning Author. Her book A Gentleman Undone won for Sensual Historical. Which is tremendous and supremely accurate.

Congrats friends!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where have all the good men gone?

I was on Publishers Marketplace the other day, a place I probably need to stop going as sometimes it drives me crazy, when I saw several deals involving New Adult books. All of them featuring… Bad Boys.
Bad Boys are the new chic. And I dig it. I read Kristen Ashley’s Own the Wind and I was completely down with the idea that a girl’s boyfriend would beat up her boss just because he was giving her a hard time at work. I mean really what’s a little assault and battery when a man’s woman is being hassled?

But here is the thing about bad boys… in fiction they are not really “bad”. In fiction there is a core of goodness that runs through them usually driven by the powerful love they feel for the heroine. I mean what girl doesn’t want the biggest, baddest, strongest man standing between her and the rest of the world.
(I will also add that I do think there is a link between women getting stronger, professionally and financially etc… and wanting the bad boy fantasy even more. If we in the US elect Hillary Clinton as president oh my goodness we’re going to see some bad bad boys. Just sayin’)

But I’m not worried… or I can’t be worried… about young teenage girls devouring these New Adult stories riddled with angst and bad boys and fearing that they are going to only want for themselves in real life bad boys. Because despite what people say to the contrary women and girls can separate fantasy from reality. I was fourteen reading Kathleen Woodiwiss. I didn’t think Roark was going to ride up on his horse and carry me away.
But one of the things that does worry me a little is that we seem to be losing balance. Yes I read bad boy stories back in the day. Elizabeth Lowell alphaholes - I could not get enough of them. But there were other heroes too. Jayne Ann Krentz’s heroes were always strong steady reliable family men. Nora Roberts heroes were often similar.

I get New Adult is the spawn of Twilight and all that entails but I also hope there is room in there for the good guy. I wrote about Pitch Perfect as a New Adult movie and that is a perfect example. The hero in that story was a great guy. He was funny and personable. He won the girl over not by grabbing her by the neck, sticking her on the back of his bike and saying you’re mine. Instead he was just nice and friendly and he sang. Also he was really nice to his geeky roommate.
Let’s not forget them… The good guys. Because at the end of the day… in life those are the guys you want to spend your time with. They should be represented well in fiction too.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Self-Publishing by the Numbers

Here at Storytelling Rules, some of us are going back to school to earn MFA's (very cool, Eileen!) and others are trying to get skooled in self-publishing.

In a moment (day? week? month?) of recent depression, I commented to Molly and Sinead that I felt like everything I'd spent the last 10 years learning about publishing had become obsolete. And while I didn't really mean it, not literally, it has felt that way at times. And there's certainly a whole new area of publishing to learn about.

Over the past year or two, self-published authors who've had success have been bragging sharing their enthusiasm for self-publishing with the rest of us, and while it's been difficult to know what to believe at times, certainly it's been hard impossible to ignore some of the huge successes that have hit the news, or the authors who've sold enough to hit the conventional bestseller lists. 

But I also had the feeling that some of the bragging claims were exaggerated. Not everyone could be doing that well, and some of the successes being reported didn't sync up with objective and public data like Amazon rankings, and bestseller lists, etc. 

Yes, some self-pubbed authors have been upfront about their disappointing numbers, but for the most part, the author community has heard most from the people who've been doing really well. And that makes sense, whether it's human nature or careful protection of a public image or whatever. Definitely makes sense that we've heard more from the people doing the best.

Then, last week, author Marie Force posted the results of an informal survey she's done, where authors reported their actual numbers, and most of them also disclosed their names along with their numbers, making it easy to check the facts against titles out there, etc. Thank you to all who participated. It's so much easier to learn and make decisions with some actual information. Bravo to all. 

My preliminary conclusions/observations after scanning the numbers:

1) It's time to start taking this publishing option seriously. (Okay, a year ago was probably the time, but since I don't have a time machine, now is the best I can do...)

2) Some of the authors are doing extremely well. Especially in romance.

3) People who were traditionally published first, seem to be doing better. But they aren't the only ones doing well.

4) Many are earning a lot more as self-published authors than they ever did as traditionally pubbed authors.

5) That said, even with the people doing very well, it's not quite as spectacular as I feel I'd been lead to believe on some loops where there was the impression that everyone was making 7 figures a year. (Don't get me wrong. Many authors numbers are super-impressive. It's just that with some of the talk, I thought some numbers would be even higher.)

6) The people who aren't doing that well, yet, really aren't doing very well. It almost seems to be hot or cold. Either people are earning a lot, or peanuts much less.

7) Related to #5, everyone's definition of success is different. Some people selling fewer books seem to be very pleased with how they're doing. And that's awesome. (What it's all about.)

8) There are no straightforward answers as to what works and what doesn't and who will do well and who won't.

9) Perception is important... and some of the people who tout their success, yet aren't that successful, might be smart like foxes... Sometimes the appearance of success builds success... 

10) Suddenly everything is both terrifying and exciting. And I guess that's a good thing.

If you're a writer, are you thinking about self-pubbing? Why or why not?

If you're a reader, do you buy self-pubbed books? Do you even pay attention to who the publisher is?  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ring, ring goes the bell

I have some big news. I'm going back to school. In June, I'll be heading down to Los Angeles for my first term in the Antioch University low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing.

I've been thinking about this for a while. I finally got the nerve to apply to some programs and was lucky enough to get into Antioch which has an awesome reputation. I'm slightly terrified and really really excited.

I'm not entirely sure what to expect. I don't know what we'll do in our classes or what our homework will be like or exactly how much older than my fellow students I'm going to be. It's a big adventure.

The thing that has surprised me the most is how supportive everyone has been. Well, one of my sisters did sort of pause and say, "but don't you already know how to do that?" But she's been totally on board since then. No one has said I'm too old. No one has said I'm wasting my time. Everyone has been uniformly thrilled for me, even my day job although I think they realize that part of the impetus for this is to be able to quit working for them.

I've waited awhile to go public. I needed to figure out where I was going to go and let people know. It's all official now.

Wish me luck! I'm betting it gives me LOTS more to blog about.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I would have gotten away with it, except for you meddling kids

It's a phrase I loved as a kid, when I loved Scooby Doo and now my kids love the show, which looks almost identical, but has a weird over arcing plot about evil aliens and a strange owl.

There's a real comfort in familiarity, and a structure where we know all works out in the end. My kids love the show, because Scooby and Shaggy are still hilarious, but also because that line still comes up at the end and every time, they giggle.

There's nothing wrong with comfort. It makes the journey more secure. It's why I always get annoyed when people talk about formula and romance. Lots of genres have a formula of sorts. Look at the big action movies, where the hero always saves the day. Always! And yet that formula is accepted, but one where two people fall in love and live happily ever after is criticized endlessly.

I think about this a lot, because I still have acquaintances who refer to romance as the trash they read when they need to shut their brains off and no matter how I defend the genre, I know I'm just wasting hot air.

Anyone else come up against this? Am I the only one who still gets annoyed?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So you want to be a writer...

I had a business colleague reach out to me about a friend of hers who wrote a book and was thinking about getting it published and how to start the process. With the myriad of issues in publishing today I had no idea where to begin spewing my knowledge. Do I talk about editing, agent getting, publishers, self-publishing options. Do I talk about creating a fan base with facebook and twitter and all the other things involved with marketing?
A thousand things went through my head but when I finally settled down I realized I needed information from this newbie writer first in order to think about what information was going to be the most useful to her. So I came up with a list of questions and I think they pretty much some up where a person who has never previously published a book before needs to answer before beginning the process.

1.      How long did it take you to write this book? How long do you think it will take you to write the next? This tells me several pieces of information because while saying that it took five years to write the first book is okay – because then it’s just a hobby and your tinkering with it, having fun, say it will take five years to write the next means unless you’ve just written the great American novel, the publishing world isn’t going to be thrilled with that.

2.      What do you write? Who do you most closely resemble in the publishing world? So many times people will tell me – I’m totally unique. I’m like no one else. I don’t fit any genre. This is not an okay answer. If you are deciding to go the traditional route – you must be able to give agents and editor of who you are and where they are going to shelve your books. I would make the same argument for self-publishers because in that case you have to know what target audience to market your book to.

3.      What are you goals for this book? Do you just want to see it published? Or do you want to hit the NYT list? This helps me figure out if Indie Publishers are in play, or maybe you would be okay with just selling a few copies from Amazon or you want to go whole hog into the business of publishing.

4.      What are your goals for your career? Do you see yourself making the NYT  or will you just be happy to publish a book and say you did it? Obviously this helps me decide if I’m going to explain to the newbie author so much of what goes into building a writing career.

Any other questions you can think of to add to this list?  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


We often hear that there are no new stories and everything is derivative of something... and yet there's still so much pressure when starting a new book to be original.

I actually love thinking about new ideas and they always seem so shiny and exciting to me when they arrive in my little brain. Until I start talking to other people. Then they start to sound derivative or unoriginal or cliché. Or worse, all three.

I know this is part of the process, especially if you're pushing yourself to be better, and I do think it sounds smart to discuss new ideas with people you trust who are smart about storytelling and the market before investing too much time in the actual writing part, but even that is no guarantee of originality... (For example, it's kind of funny (and disturbing) to me that Deviants has been called derivative of books I've never even heard of, never mind read...)

And for me, discussing an undeveloped idea too much creates the risk that others (CPs, agents, close friends) see it through their own lenses with their own histories of reading and/or their own writers' voices and story preferences, and what I thought were my original ideas get lost or buried, at least. Often, I think, because I'm unable to articulate my ideas well, when they're still in development and fragile.

I'm definitely one of those writers who needs to write things down. I need to organize my thoughts and ideas, before I present them, rather than saying them aloud... And even then, I usually have open questions that could change everything...

And as a result, developing new ideas, for me, has gone from my favorite part of writing, to one of the most angst ridden and stressful parts.

But really, instead of whining about my mixed up story ideas and scrambled brain, right now, what I meant to blog about is: how important is it to be original?

I mean, 10 years ago, I thought it would be incredibly dumb to write about vampires, because Anne Rice (not to mention Bram Stoker) had already covered that ground so well. How could one possibly write another vampire book? And now I wonder why the hell I didn't write a vampire book back in 2004...

It's hard. But I think that we (and by we, I mean me at this very moment of my process) need to trust that our unique writer's voice will bring things to the table which will sound fresh even if others see similarities to other stories.

And back to originality... What's amazing to me is how everyone sees similarities to different things, depending on what they've read, or what books have stuck with them, or resonated, or what images pop into their imaginations when they hear the scraps of your story idea before it's formed.

Is it possible to be truly original? Am I chasing unicorns??? Hmmm... unicorn story idea... joking... sort of.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Context isn't everything, but it is awesome

Putting things in context makes them so much more interesting. I think it's why I've always loved art history. Seeing a beautiful painting is, of course, enjoyable, but it's even more enjoyable to me if I understand the context in which it was created. I've discovered I feel the same way about TV shows, apparently.

Last fall, I read Tina Fey's book BOSSYPANTS. It was very funny and wise and I really enjoyed it. I hadn't watched 30 Rock. I'd blown past it a few times here and there, but it never kept my attention for long. I just started watching it from the beginning (thank you, Netflix!!!!!) and I'm loving it. It cracks me up, but the best episodes are the ones that I know about from the book. When one of the writers calls Liz that really bad name that men call women that rhymes with runt? You see Liz grappling with how to handle it in a funny way, but it's even more interesting because I know how Tina Fey grappled with it real life and enjoy it even more because I see how she made art out of her life.

Several years ago, my youngest (hereby known as Thing Two) complained about a field trip to a museum. "You go into a room and there's a picture of a lady and then there's a picture of a flower. You go into the next room and there's another lady and another flower. Booorrrrinnnng."

I explained to him that there were probably reasons that those particular flowers and particular ladies were meaningful and that if he just understood the context it would make it more interesting. He seemed doubtful. The next time that he and I were at a museum together, we stood in front of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Ginevra de Benci and I explained to him about Leonardo's unique use of figure and field, the atmospheric quality of the painting, the use of light and shadow, the softness of the lines and Leonardo's use of symbolism.

I asked him if that made it more interesting. He gave me one of those smiles that seemed to say that I might shut up if he agreed with him and he said yes.

I'm taking that as a win.

Have you ever had a TV show/movie/book/piece of art become more interesting to you once you understood its context? Or does it not matter to you?

Monday, April 08, 2013

Professional jealousy and Twitter

You know - it used to be the writer loops that would kill me. They'd drain my energy and make me crazy. When they became easy to dismiss as a time-suck, I happily got out of them. But Twitter is beginning to feel like this to me now too. If I'm circling the drain emotionally Twitter makes it worse. Everyone's success, everyone's ability to be funny and charming and smart in 140 characters, feels like a mirror held up to my lacking soul. I wish I was being over-dramatic, but I'm not. Of course, if I'm feeling on top of things, twitter is a great place to drop in, share a joke with some writer friends and then get back to work, my narcissism and neediness in check. It's a hugely successful way to connect with book bloggers and writers.

But there are days when it is as bad a time-suck as the loops are. Maureen made a comment about how she can go onto Twitter and spend hours, not saying a word, but scrolling through every one else's updates and feeling like garbage.

YES!! Exactly!! It can be so poisonous.

But I also feel like we can't walk away from it like we could the loops. As we're supposed to be doing more and more marketing, our publishers want us facebooking and Tweeting and Pinning because no one can point to those things and say they don't work. They do. Not all the time, not in any perfect way - but it's an important part of the promotion puzzle.

And the smart advice is "Molly, when you feel bad, don't go to Twitter." Right. Yes. Smart. But you're talking to a woman who hasn't totally figured out that food is NOT comfort. I have some self-sabotaging behaviors that are not totally in check.

So what do you do?

Friday, April 05, 2013


So the news this week that Roger Ebert has passed away is sad, and he certainly will be missed. I watched his show with Siskel from a pretty early age, and loved the show. I loved that they had such strong opinions, and adored when they argued with each other over loving versus loathing a movie.

What always came across was a deep respect and admiration for movies in general and it helped me nurture mine.

It's really hard to create something, put it out in the world and then have someone tear it to pieces. (I know, that's such a duh! statement), but the critics out there, the ones that take the time to read books, asses them, think about them and then write a blog post serve an important role.

The really good bloggers have opinions, and champion books they love and give poor grades to the books they don't and of course it's subjective, but more and more it's important. In the age of self publishing bestsellers. A lot of those successful authors credit book bloggers for their success, for getting their name out there.

And I know there are authors out there that have voodoo dolls of certain bloggers, and I feel for those authors, because a scathing review is soul destroying, but better a bad review than nothing.

We need the critics. As a reader I rely on them to guide me, and while I may not always agree with their opinion, I really appreciate that they took the time to put it out in the world.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

New Adult Movie?

So recently I watched the move Pitch Perfect. Staring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson (she was the awful roommate in Bridesmaids). I loved it. I thought it was funny and edgy in places and of course there was a lot of singing.
And as I was watching it I thought to myself I think a woman must be directing this. Or part of it somehow, because there were just some lines that I thought were so funny that I didn’t feel like a man would understand. Elizabeth Banks provides sideline commentary during the acapella competitions that while funny is also a wink to women everywhere who know that while what she is saying is wrong, it’s also very truthful. After watching the credits I learned it was in fact written by a woman and I thought she might make a great NA writer.

Because of course there is a romantic element too. Anna Kendrick’s character has suffered as a result of her parent’s divorce. Her relationship with her father is strained. She doesn’t want to be at college, she would rather be working in music. So when she meets the funny, charming nice guy, she really doesn’t know what to do with him.
Now I would say there is probably 95% less angst in this movie than other NA books that are out there, but the premise is the same. Young girl starting her adult life with all her childhood history behind her and falling in love while doing it.

In this case it worked for me. But again that might have had a lot to do with the singing and lines like.. “Aca’Scuse me?”
But the trick with NA is believing in the HEA. Of course it’s not inconceivable to think Becca and Jesse will stay together all through college, get married and live happily ever after. But the reality is a couple who meet their freshman year probably won’t. So if I’m going to buy into NA anything as it relates to romance the trick is going to have to be letting the story end and freezing them in that moment and in that time.

I haven’t read an NA book, I’ve been reluctant to try because I didn’t know I would react to that HEA element of it, but if I can be so pleased with this movie maybe there is a chance for me and NA yet?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


About a year ago, when the ARC's for Deviants first hit the streets at BEA (was that just a year ago???) one of the first people I heard from who read the book and loved it, was a woman named Kimmy. When I clicked through to see who she was, I figured out she was an upcoming debut author herself, named Kimberly Ann Miller, and we started up a correspondence. Sometimes I heart the interweb. :)

I'm now thrilled to say that the release date for her debut YA novel, TRIANGLES, is almost upon us!

And her publisher, Spencer Hill Press, is running an awesome contest.

Yes... Spencer Hill Press is giving away a cruise to one lucky winner. Really. This is not an April Fool's joke--it's a travel voucher that can be used to cover the cost of a cruise (or any other travel--they're flexible that way). Two other winners will receive gift cards from either Amazon or Book Depository (winners' choice).

Official rules and entry forms are available online at:

The PDF of the entry form is available by clicking here:

And here's the scoop about TRIANGLES. 

the debut of Kimberly Ann Miller
Coming June 18, 2013

A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong?  

In the Bermuda Triangle--a lot. 

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her father's death years ago, her mother's medical problems, and the loser who’s practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she's gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser’s suddenly claiming they're a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying "Happy Anniversary"... and suddenly, she’s full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship's doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she's warned that these "alternate realities" could become permanent. 

I, for one, can't wait to read this book!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Very Drunk Writer

I know we're changing our name, but last Saturday night just left me in a place way too appropriate. My family finally had its Passover seder. We are, as my kids like to say, only Jew-ish so we don't feel like we have to actually have our seders on the first and second nights of the holiday. We don't go around with candles and feathers removing all the bread from the house. We do, however, honor the tradition of drinking a lot of wine at the seder.

It's not just getting drunk, though. The whole point of Passover is retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt. It's all about the importance of passing stories down from one generation to another. I love the message of the story. None of us are free until we all are free. We were all slaves and it's our job to help other people gain their freedom. We must open our hearts and our homes to the lonely and homeless because we were once strangers in a strange land ourselves.

And we remind ourselves and teach our children about these important lessons by telling and retelling this story. We tell about the hardships we faced. We tell about the baby left in the rushes. We tell about the plagues. We tell about the last minute flight. We eat really dry flat crackers so the point of the story really gets hammered home.

We've had a few huge seders, but this year we kept it small. Just family. My mom, who has a harder and harder time every week it seems, was drinking her red wine out of a sippy cup so she didn't spill. My youngest was still pretty much drinking Martinelli's, but he made sure to have all four glasses.

I spent Sunday morning on the couch with coffee and the newspaper. I couldn't even manage a hangover run, Molly. But it felt good. It may be the most important drunk writer holiday of the year for me and I felt I honored it well.
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