Friday, July 29, 2011

Blow up your world

So the reading has gotten really good for me lately. I'm deeply entrenched in the Karen Marie Moning Fae series. (I'm getting to the RR Martin books, promise, Molly). And while it drives me batty that Moning ends every book on a cliff hanger, she did something between book number three and book number four that has made me a serious fan.

She blew up her world. She didn't change the rules, or take the heroine in a different character arc, she simply changed the world, at the perfect time and in a way I truly didn't see coming. It's something I wish Laurell K. Hamilton had done with the Anita Blake series, because I loved that character and didn't buy into where she took Anita, but had she changed the world, she could have kept the books interesting.

But these fae books, I'm completely on board now. Excited to see what the author does next, because she's proved that anything could and will happen and that's pretty exciting. RR Martin does that with the Throne series. He proved with book one that anyone could die, at any time, and with that, there is a sense of unpredictability to it.

Now I'm thinking how can I blow up my own fictional world, because there is no better way to keep a series fresh.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Book Needs a Diet...

I know it’s cliché to say you learn with every book, but wow. I’m reading a book I wrote about four years ago and while at the time I thought it was the “greatest thing I ever wrote”… the writing is crap.

Okay maybe not crap – but it’s not tight. It’s interesting to me after having so much time away from it to really see “me” as a writer. Who am I and what do I do well. I still love my characters. I still love the “big” scenes.

But I think I use the word “that” between every other word in a sentence.

I read this book ten maybe twenty times over and I never saw a thing wrong with it. Now having spent more time on craft, sentence structure, making each word count I can see how loose and flabby I was back then. I remember JR Ward at a workshop once saying do a find on “that” and delete all of them. This is what I plan to do.

And it’s funny because while I kept telling myself the book was getting rejected on the premise, it very well could be anyone reading it just couldn’t get through all the fat.

Since dieting is something I’m very familiar with… I’m failing at one right now… I figure I should know how to fix this.

My book needs to be trimmed, my sentences need to be focused. My words need to be scrutinized. Call it ten pounds or ten thousand words. It’s going to be hard. I’ll need to be disciplined. In the end hopefully it will be worth it.

What about you? Anyone got a book out there that (I feel the need to change this to "which" right now) needs to stop eating “justs” and “thats”?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Stories that Shape Us

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” I feel the same way about my books.

Each book starts out because of something inside me, after all. They all grow out of my way of viewing the world. At a certain point, however, they start to take over. Since I started writing romantic suspense, for instance, my view of the world has gotten a bit darker. I see a lot more situations as dangerous.

It gets pretty hot in the summer where I live so some time around May or June, I start running in the early morning. The bike paths and streets aren’t completely deserted, but they’re definitely quieter than they are at mid-day. The other morning, just as I ran past an apartment complex, a man pulled out of the parking lot in his car. As I was running down the street, I saw him pull his car to the curb and get out. Then he opened his trunk.

I put on a burst of speed rivaled only by the time Lamb Chop the Airedale tried to take a chunk out of my calf. I instantly imagined this man (who I think was just trying to stop something from rattling in the trunk of his car) hitting me with a Taser, dragging me to the car, stuffing me in the trunk and driving away. No one would ever know.

Then as I continued to run and the man had long since gotten back in his car, I started wondering how hard it would be for a decent-sized man to get a good-sized woman like myself into a trunk. Would I fit? What injuries might I sustain in the process? What injuries might he sustain?

I don’t remember thinking like that before I started writing romantic suspense. It did, however, get me home in record time.

So do you imagine weird creepy things? Am I alone in this? Oh . . . and by the way, my newest romantic suspense, Vanished in the Night, is available for purchase starting today! Leave a comment below and maybe you'll win a free signed copy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Best. Reading. Experience. Ever.

I've been MIA from most things in my life these days. No much writing. No time for a blog. Largely, because it's summer and my kids are home and it's hot and the wading pool beckons. But, if I'm honest, it's because I've been reading. All the time. As much as I can. I was given the first four books in the George R.R. Martin Series this is being made into Game of Thrones on HBO.

I am not one for fantasy books - but I can't call this fantasy. At least in the way I knew fantasy. And I apologize to Sinead and her husband for calling them nerds. They are - but so am I. These books are epic in scope, heartbreaking in detail. Complicated, utterly suprising and freaking unputdownable. Having the whole series on hand this summer as I sit by the wading pool and hide out in my room and read dockside while my husband swims with the kids has been one of the best reading experiences of my life. Largely because this is the first summer that a child doesn't NEED me on the playground. I can read and look up every few minutes. It's amazing!

Which made me think of other great reading experiences. I have a list - because I love lists. But to be a great experience - the book has to match the opportunity to read it or the situation it was read in. So, start thinking about your own. Here are mine.

1. Blue Willow - Deborah Smith - I was living in California and I always went to this used bookstore and this book sat on the shelf for six months. I considered it everytime but for some reason I always put it back. I'd never read one of Smith's books, and I am rarely in the mood for family legacy/saga books. One day there was nothing else at the store and I grabbed it and stayed up until three am reading it. Next day I went to Borders and bought every book of hers I could get my hands on.

2. Seabiscuit. I took my fourth month old son sailing with my parents. He was not a great sleeper, but the hum of the engines and the rocking of the boat lulled him into sleeps of which I had never seen from him. I laid in the aft cabin reading this book voraciously while my son slept beside me and my mom brought me watermelon. Perfection.

3. The Time Traveller's Wife - it was a slow start with this book, but the last one hundred pages I read in my bathroom at one o'clock in the morning so my sobbing wouldn't wake up my husband. I was uncomfortable, kept telling myself to go to bed, but I couldn't.

4. The fifth Black Dagger Brotherhood book - the cop's story. I was speaking at a conference, my first time away from my second child. I'd just stopped breastfeeding and I felt so free. Picked up this book at the airport, didn't read it until I got to the hotel room that I had all by myself and read it all the way through. Delicious.

All right -what are yours?

Friday, July 22, 2011

working backwards

I never start at the end. Sounds like a stupid thing to say, but a lot of mystery writers start with the resolution of the mystery and work backwards to figure out the right clues, without giving away too much.

I start with the setup, the major turning points and then I get to the end. But as I start to plot the next book, with a whole set of new monsters and two different worlds to work through, I'm starting with the end, at least where it comes to characterization. What do I need her to to be at the end? And then work backwards as if she's a mystery to figure out what she needs to start like. I will need to give her a set of skills to navigate both worlds, and a set of drawbacks.

I think back to the Hunger Games and the skill set that Collins gave to Katniss that made her the perfect person to win those games without stretching incredulity. I need the same, but tailored for my world, and so as I start, I'm really thinking about the ending and where she needs to be and then how she gets there.

It's a change in my process, and I'm not sure if it will work or not, but I'm excited to try. Anyone else work backwards?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just kick the damn ball....

I watched the Women’s World Cup on Sunday as many did. I’m a sports fan but I’m not a soccer fan. My brothers played soccer, my nephews played soccer, my nieces played soccer. I have seen a lot of soccer. In one tragic attempt where my family thought they could turn me into an athlete I played soccer.

I don’t like it. But when the World Cup rolls around, and certainly women are involved, I have to watch.

A) Country

B) Dynamic women winning stuff.

I’m totally in.

I have two guys I work with who are former soccer players. (Soccer is all around me!). We were talking about the game and I was actually admitting that I thought the game was exciting and interesting and it held my attention. Of course I added my neophyte spin.

“But there were so many times when they had shots and missed… why couldn’t they just kick the damn ball straight!”

Soccer guy number one smiled. In that way he does when he knows I’m wrong. Soccer guy number two immediately went into counter attack mode. He presented me with an analogy.

“Your lifelong dream is to write a book that millions will read?”


“Okay. Here is your chance. Now. Do it. Just do it. How hard could it be? You’re a professional – like these women. You have an opportunity to “win” - like these women. Through hard work and dedication you have abilities – like these women. So now in this one moment with the world watching… Just do it!”

Did I mention I hate NIKE commercials? His point was made. No matter how simple something looks, like writing a book about a wizard or a vampire or kicking a ball into the net – we professionals know how hard it is.

Hard to perform on command when deadlines are pressing. Hard to make the shot (book) perfect when you need to. Hard to achieve every goal you set out to do… like publishing, awards and lists.


So here is to the US Women Soccer team who tried. Here is to the Japan Women Soccer team who won. And this is a reminder to everyone struggling to make their “dream” happen.

Dreams are hard. For a reason. Sorry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Not Freaking Dystopian!

Those of you who follow the young adult market will know that there are a gaggle of books coming out this year and next that are either dystopian or post-apocalyptic. Thing is... a lot of people are calling them all dystopian and it's making me a tad crazy. Something I clearly need to get past.

These are two genres of fiction (not exactly genres) that have been around for a while (and I'm too lazy to look up how long). But for dystopian, think books like 1984 and for post-apocalyptic, um, The Road.

Okay, I have resorted to some "research" now and here's how Wikipedia, the most reliable source on the planet, defines dystopia:

A dystopia (from Ancient Greek: δυσ-, "bad, ill", and Ancient Greek: τόπος, "place, landscape"; alternatively cacotopia,[1] or anti-utopia) is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control systems, various forms of active and passive coercion. Ideas and works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity's spiritual evolution. Dystopian societies are often imagined as police states, with unlimited power over the citizens.
And look! They even cited 1984 like I did. (I feel so smart. I went to high school. :)

My point is... For a book to be truly dystopian in nature, I think there needs to be some sense of the society considering itself utopian... And many of the books being called dystopian (like The Hunger Games) aren't exactly dystopian in my mind. Sure, the people in The Capital might think they're living in a utopian society, but, um, most of the people in that world would not agree. And I got the distinct feeling that even people in the capital knew that everyone in the districts was being mistreated and punished for past digressions. That is, that they didn't believe that isolating people into districts like that was "perfect". Okay. Debatable. But to me, the world in The Hunger Games is more like a post-war society than a dystopian one.

I agree that the lines can get blurry, but having written a post-apocalyptic set YA thriller of sorts, (that I hope to announce good news about soon), I rankle a bit when all these books get labelled dystopian. Yes, my world does include some strict rules and repression, but it's not freaking dystopian! Everyone in my world knows life is hell. It's just that some are abusing power to have a slightly better version of hell.

And some other recent bestsellers:

Matched? Dystopian. In that world someone has decided that society would function better if people were mated (and all decisions were made) based on the statistical analysis of data. Someone's idea of a utopia.

Forest of Hands and Teeth? Post-apocalyptic. Zombies.  Most of the world dead or destroyed or crawling with zombies. Characters desperate to survive. Rules that have been set up (that some might claim seem a lot like dystopian rules) were put in place, not out of some vision of an ideal world, but for survival. To keep the zombies out and to avoid inbreeding in a closed-off society.

Divergent? Dystopian. We're not certain at the end of the first book why the part of society we've seen has been isolated from others by a wall, (maybe there are post-apocalyptic elements too...), but certainly whomever decided that society should be divided up according to factions representing positive human traits believed it was to create a better society.

Delirium? Dystopian. Haven't actually read it, yet, but it's set in a world where love is considered a disease to be cured and that sounds pretty darned dystopian to me.

And I would argue that The Hunger Games trilogy is largely post-apocalyptic, not dystopian. And that my trilogy in progress is also way more post-apocalyptic than dystopian.

I saw a great (and funny) flowchart this week done by YA author E.M. Bowman. I'm very sorry I missed the twitter discussion she talks about (guess I could search the #isitdystopia hashtag) but I LOVE this flowchart. :)

If it's too small to read... try over on her blog. :)

And my upcoming book is not a freaking dystopian! (Although I realize that when it comes out, (and I hope it will), I'll have to get past having it called that by some...)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why My Writing is like My Mother's Wheelchair

At the moment, they're both a little stuck. The left wheel of my mother's electric wheelchair has stopped turning, leaving her to whirl in tiny wheelchair circles a la Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. My book feels like it's doing the same thing.

I spent about an hour on Sunday flipping levers on the wheelchair, checking wires, connecting and disconnecting little connector things and, in one fabulous clusterf*ck, running over my own leg with the wheelchair. It's still going in circles. I have a largish bruise that is not nearly purple enough for how much it hurts.

I spent several hours writing on Sunday also, but I can't seem to get a good flow going. I've been looking at my outline (such as it is), picking scenes that I know how to write and getting those down on paper. The pages are starting to mount up, but there's a lack of linear flow that's making me fretful and frustrated. It's kind of like writing in circles.

Luckily, we have a wheelchair repairman who's going to come check out my mother's wheelchair. His name is Raphael and he's Italian. I so wanted him for my sister, but apparently he's married. Unfortunately, I do not have a book repairman and even if I did, I wouldn't want to show this to him (or her). It's that much of a gloppy mess.

So . . . should I just keep getting pages down and hope it will all fall into place before the beginning of September? Or should I start trying to beat it into submission now?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Now is the time to turn your inner critic off

I was lucky enough to go see Hugh Jackman in concert this week, and he was great. Great in a campy, musical theatre, jazz hands kind of way. Who knew Wolverine loves show tunes and not only that, but can sing them brilliantly. And sure, he's not hard on the eyes and he's charming and witty, but more than anything what I took away from the show was how committed he is to every moment.

He never for one moment doubts what he's doing on stage. He laughs at himself, the audience, he ad libs and even stumbles, but he never stops to think, maybe the audience won't get this, maybe they won't like it. Or if he does, it's so far hidden that I never even suspected. And because of that, because of his absolute assurance I was completely absorbed.

At my first national conference I went to a St. Martin's publisher spotlight, where Jennifer Enderlin said something that frustrated me intensely when I first heard it, and I'm paraphrasing, badly, Write one thing and write it brilliantly... be it suspense, romance, adventure.

It took me a long time to figure that out, but I think I get it now. You can't get everything in a book, but pick what you're best at, and don't edit it down. Push the boundaries of it, whether it's an emotional romance, or a horrific suspense. Sure, add in other elements, but not at the expense of the core of the book. At least that's how I'm interpreting it.

And Emmy noms came out and Friday Night Lights finally got nominated. Finally!! Along with other great shows like Mad Men, and Parks and Rec. Now the race comes down to who deserves the emmy for best actor, Kyle Chandler, or Jon Hamm?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm Tweeting... a little bit.

I announced last week that I had at least logged on and got an account. I’m officially @StephDoyleRW. So for now the guilt at not doing what I need to for my publisher has gone away.

And here is what I’m learning – I definitely like twitter more than facebook as a publicity tool. For me facebook is intimate. It’s family and friends. It’s my nieces and nephews. It’s the people I work with. Talking about writing or my opinions on various different things… I don’t know feels odd to me. Like if I had something to say I would just call anyone of those people directly and say it.

Twitter feels different. Like you’re sending your voice out into the vast and infinite universe and if people hear and respond – great. If they don’t then that’s okay too. I know the point is to build followers but I find I like just sending my message out into the world.

I don’t care for it as much as blogging here. Not enough words to work with. You should have seen me try to make that – sign go away. Maybe this will help me improve my sentence structure. Still, it’s been interesting and something that won’t be a burden to do although check back with me in a month.

The trick will NOT be doing it after wine. WINE + TWEET = BAD.

I need that sign hung somewhere over my computer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Power -- Another Dynamic of Characterization

I read an interesting article recently that I've been thinking about and will (I hope) continue to ponder as I start my next WIP.

The article suggested a way of thinking about characterization that I hadn't thought of before, and in hindsight was kind of surprised that I hadn't.

The author of the article (once again I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember who it was and don't have a link) was pointing out how, in most situations, one person has more power than the others. And this might change depending on the situation. Example off the top of my head... A mother and a five-year-old: usually the mother has the power in that dynamic, but in a stressful situation, in public, the five-year-old might actually have more power temporarily (and realize he can manipulate mom into buying a treat to hold off a temper tantrum.)

The suggestion was to use this power dynamic to add 3 dimensionality to characters. The boss might be a powerful person, used to always getting his way, but put him with his mother or sister, or older brother, or lover and it might be different. (Or even more extreme.) Point is, he would react differently to different people an in different situations.

Also, playing with the power dynamic clearly creates and/or escalates conflict.

I suppose this is just another way of looking at things, but I found it interesting. Reading the article made me think about my last ms and it's something I'll keep in mind as I do my final revisions for that ms and start the second book in that series. My main character has some serious trust issues. She's been orphaned for 3 years and although she's only 16, she's used to making all the decisions for herself and her brother. When she's thrown into situations where she needs the help of others, in my first draft I mostly made her belligerent, which made sense to me. I figured the way she'd react to losing her power to control her brother's safety would be anger and distrust and stubbornness. What I don't think I thought about enough was showing her in situations of power more often, or portraying more clearly how she feels when she loses power... At least I'm worried that I didn't show those things well enough.

Is the question of who's got the power something you ever think about when writing/revising scenes?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eileen's Summer TV Round-Up

Ah, summertime. A time to soak up sunshine poolside and drink beer by the barbecue. It used to be a time to wander lost through the land of TV reruns, but no more! Over here at the Rendahl Ranch, we look forward to summer.

Tops on our lists are definitely a whole slew of shows from the USA Network. We love In Plain Sight, Burn Notice, White Collar and Covert Affairs. They're fun and quirky and sexy and fast-paced. There's banter. We love banter. They've added a couple of new shows this season, Suits and Necessary Roughness. They're . . . okay. Maybe USA is becoming a victim of their own success. Maybe I only have attention for so many tough and accomplished, yet vulnerable and growing, smart heros/heroines.

We totally grooved on last fall's Walking Dead and right now we're getting our post-Apocalyptic fix with Falling Skies. It's not perfect, but I like the way they started the series (the world is already decimated and we join the resistance fighers) and the way they're building the characters (is Noah Wylie ever anything but earnest and adorable?). It reminds me a little of Battlestar Gallactica and all the decisions that had to be made about what kind of society they were going to be with the limited resources they have to fight and build.

Combat Hospital is basically Grey's Anatomy meets M*A*S*H*. I've only seen the pilot episode. It's not perfect either, but I kind of liked it. Now let's see if I can get the rest of my family on board . . .

Which brings us to Wilfred, which I originally described to my sweetheart as the show with Frodo and the dude in the dog suit. It's pretty clear that the main character (Elijah Wood) has had a major psychotic break and now sees his neighbor's dog as a guy in a dog suit who teaches Elijah life lessons. Some of these lessons involve taking a dump in his neighbor's boot. It's possible that the only happy ending to the story would be that someone finally realizes that Elijah's gone off the deep end and gets his committed and put on heavy-duty psychotropic drugs. My nineteen-year-old is convinced that Elijah will learn the life lessons he needs to heal himself from Wilfred. I'm just hoping that our neighbors take their shoes in at night.

So what are you watching?

"The Good News is You Write for Harlequin...."

"The bad news is, you write for Harlequin." This was one of my favorite lines from the RWA conference. Super Agents Gottleib and Steve Axelrod said it during the PAN keynote address on the State of the Union.

This was their answer regarding the outrage a lot of Harlequin authors have and had about the change in royalty rates for digital books. For those that didn't know Harlequin has been paying the same royalty rate for digital books as print, while the rest of the industry has been paying %25 of net sales. This has outraged Harlequin authors and for pretty good reason - it's less than the industry standard. So, before Nationals, Harlequin changed it to 25% net for single title authors and 15% for category authors. And they made it retroactive.

Harlequin thought they were doing a good thing - and they were. Making it retroactive was more than they needed to do. But still...there was outrage.

1. Harlequin handled it in sort of a ham handed way. They sent a letter to agents. Almost no author got a letter directly and many authors don't have agents. So, instead of handling the release of this new information - it exploded on author loops where rage and paranoia breed like crazy. And I think because Harlequin thought they were doing a good thing (and they are) they had in the letter an opt out date. So, if you don't want the 25% you have to notify us in writing. Well, for people who have been writing under one of the most unchangeable nonnegotiable contracts in the publishing world - this was sort of...laissez-faire.

2. The discrepancy between category and single title was a shocker for a lot of writers. I don't think a lot of women knew that there was a discrepancy in royalty rates between HQN/MIRA and series imprints. Harlequin's rationale is that reader's of series romance read according to line - not according to author. And so some of that money needs to be kicked back to maintaining the brand.

This is true is broad strokes. For the most part people don't seek me out. But they sure as hell seek out BJ Daniels or Karen Templeton. But I think Harlequin starts to fall apart when it comes to this mandate and the digital world. Sure, lots of people do a one click buy of all the Presents books in a month - but that is changing by the minute. By. The. Minute. And I think Harlequin knows that. There sure as hell are plenty of authors hammering on their doors willing to tell them.

All the publishers know that. Another one of my favorite lines was Steve Axelrod telling the publisher of St. Martin's that everything will change when publishers realize they've been underpaying their authors on digital rights.

Right now romance digital sales are keeping Economic textbooks in warehouses and paying the printing costs of those literary novels no one ever reads.

Part of the optimism felt by everyone at Nationals was due to everyone feeling like they've cornered their role in the digital world. Authors can self-publish, agents can help authors do that, and publishing houses have all opened digital first lines, hoping to get new talent and new money in their doors.

I'm a sit around a wait kind of gal. Or maybe it's lazy. Or maybe I don't see the point of getting too riled up until we really see how things are going to shake out. I don't know, but I can't get super wound up about the 25-15% thing. Maybe it will change. I hope it will. I hope the women shaking their fists understand the repercussions of waking up the monster. Because the only thing I really know is - 'the good news is, I write for Harlequin. The bad news is, I write for Harlequin.'

Friday, July 08, 2011

How to train your dragon and world building

One of the movies I've adored in the past few years is How to Train Your Dragon. It wasn't pixar, or disney, so I don't think it came out to huge announcements, but I've since watched it several times and every time I marvel at the imagination that went into this story.

A viking world, in which the vikings fight dragons. And perhaps the dragons aren't all bad. As a concept it's pretty simple, and it could translate into so many genres, Fantasy, YA, even romance.

And as new ideas fight for space in my head and the sense from the conference that anything is possible, I come back to the simplicity and imagination of this movie. There was enough there from popular culture that the writers didn't have to explain the world too much. We all know vikings to some degree and we all know dragons, and from there they expanded on the ideas, by giving us classifications of dragons, and a school for dragon fighting and a hero who is smaller and weaker, but smarter than those around him. Simple and smart, yet imaginative.

And those have become my guidelines for the next WIP. Simple and smart, but imaginative. If I stick to that guideline, I'll have a book I'm excited to write, and really, at this point, that's all I care about.

On an entirely different note, anyone watching Tru Blood? I am really enjoying it, because it feels campy this season. They are the opposite of simple, as seasons move on, they keep introducing new elements, fairys, witches, were-panthers, and sometimes the stories feel a little too crowded. Simple is harder, simple is Mad Men during the last season, where they distilled the storylines and characters to a few concepts. Right now Mad Men trumps Tru Blood.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

I Bought Hermione's Wand

No, I am not crazy. No, I do not dress up as characters from the book when I go to see the movie. And no I don’t think the wand actually works.

I tried it. Wingardia Leviosar…. Nothing.

No, the reason I bought this wand is because I was in NYC at the conference and during a lunch break I went to see the Harry Potter exhibit at the Discovery Museum. It featured all sorts of movie props from all of the different HP movies.

Props, costumes – I can’t believe how tiny Helena Bonham Carter actually is - and a life size Kreacher and Dobby. Really cool amazing stuff. And as I was walking through the exhibit I thought of all the things I had learned at the conference.

Where publishing is going, where self-publishing is going, how agents are reacting and the numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Twenty five percent, seventeen percent, fifteen percent.

I’m not a numbers girl at all, but I paid attention. Also I listened once again to why Tweeting is essential to career building. I’m very proud to say I actually signed up, but I’m still learning. Hashtags. Apparently it’s all about hashtags.

As I meandered through the exhibit and saw the Dragon’s Egg and Hermione’s Time Twister necklace and Voldermort’s wand I realized that all of this came about from a person’s imagination. Just that. One person had an idea and turned that idea into a book for people to read and enjoy.

It really struck me. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the business of writing we (me) forget about the joy and fun and creativity of writing. We’re all just people who have ideas and any one of us could write a story as amazing as Harry Potter as sweeping as Gone with Wind as emotional as The Room (I’m going by what Molly said about this book).

It’s all in us. For those of us who make up stories and write them down.

So I bought the ridiculously expensive silly toy wand and I put it on my writing desk to remind me always what writing is really about.

Also I use it to tease my cats… I think they’re afraid I’m going to curse them but I’ve already explained to them it doesn’t really work. Silly cats.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Like Eileen, I'm not yet back in my regular schedule and by the time I remembered it was Tuesday last night, it was midnight and I was exhausted. Exhausted at midnight... That's one thing from being off my regular schedule I hope to keep... No more 4:00 am bedtimes for me. We'll see how long that lasts... :)

Anyway, sorry for the very late post.

The past few years, I felt like the overall vibe at the RWA National conference was apocalypse preparedness. And no, I don't mean writing in that genre, I mean the general "the sky is falling!" vibe.

I've read a lot of articles/essays that point out that at almost any time in the past century, many people were predicting that publishing was about to die and that authors perpetually reminisce about the good old days. And maybe it has become consistently worse, decade after decade, but I'm not certain I believe that. And even if it has, well, unless you have a time machine there's no sense worrying about a time that has past.

These days the blogosphere is  filled with doomsday theorists. People predicting the end of agents, the end of traditional publishers, the end of midlist aurhors, the end of bookstores, the end of the printed book.... And at last year's National conference all the talk at the published authors workshops was about decreasing print runs, shrinking shelf space, dropping advances... doom, doom, doom.

And it's certainly true that things are changing right now. Rapidly. And change is scary. No doubt about it.

But, while I'm no expert and really have no solid stats to back this up, I feel as if right now, the people in publishing who have the most reasons to be optimistic, not terrified, is authors.

Why are print runs going down? Why is shelf space shrinking? Not because people aren't reading. It's because of the huge expotential growth of e-books.

And if advances have gone down or stayed steady it's likely because of all the uncertainty. Publishers are likely less willing to take huge risks or make big investments up front when they are in the process of going through rapid change themselves. And probably their budgets are a little tighter because of the expenses involved in evolving their businesses....

BUT... if sales of e-books are growing exponentially, I do not see how this can be anything but a good thing for authors. I know that romance readers are ahead of the curve on the e-book trend, but based on what I heard last week, e-books are rapidly becoming dominant in that genre. And most other genres, paricuarly those sold in mass-market format are sure to follow. And while e-books are a great replacement for mass market books, I think books sold in the more expensive trade and hardcover formats will see a big increase in e-book sales, too, if readers are reluctant to put out the higher price for an unknown-to-them author. I know people (including myself) who've bought two copies of books--both e-book and hardcover--for recent favorites. The possibility of getting two royalties from the same reader. Awesome.

Yes, brick and mortar bookstores are struggling and are stocking fewer copies of new books and fewer backlist books... but suddenly, all these authors whose backlists were hard (or impossible) to get, have their backlists up for sale again as e-books. And this could be huge. An unexpected royalty gift for multi-published authors.

Sure, there are still some things to work out in terms of finding a fair way to pay royalties on e-books. And while I'm not saying we as authors shouldn't be pushing our agents to get us more there... I think stressing over it too much right now is short term thinking. Look at the horizon. E-books means more books available. More reading. More sales. More royalties.

Everyone I know who has a kindle or other e-reader has bought and read MORE books since they bought their device, not fewer... More books sold. Um... Am I missing something? How is that not good for authors?

The rise of e-books possibly sucks for brick-and-mortar-only stores and I hope most can find a way to specialize and survive, because I love book stores... but I honestly think this is a great time to be an author.


(I've been asked to write on this topic on another blog and plan to mine the comments here to improve my essay. :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Home from conference and totally forgot this was Tuesday! Eek!

The conference was fantastic. I got to run in Central Park with Molly. I got to admire Steph's shoes. I got to send Maureen cryptic text messages. Really, does it get better?

I ended up getting a National Readers Choice Award and a runner-up designation in the Prism Award. I ate my way from one side of Manhattan to the other. I saw a show. I saw an exhibit. I ate oysters and drank prosecco. I talked with both my editors and my agent face to face.

It was fantastic. I leave you with an oysters and prosecco image. I'll try to post something smarter next week.
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