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Showing posts from January, 2007

Tour de Tattoo

YA author Jennifer Lynn Barnes is touring the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit with her new novel, Tattoo , in which she accomplishes the high-diving horse trick of combining chick lit with fantasy. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer . Buzz is good. Best line in the book (according to PW): "You think you're bad?... I'm on the cheerleading squad; I know what real evil looks like." Jen's bio says she's been writing since she can remember, but "has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado." And then she graduated from Yale last spring with a degree in cognitive science. Talk about the ultimate "bite me" license. You go, girlfriend!

Quote of the Day

Last night, I was reading Brother Odd, Dean Koontz's latest entry in the Odd Thomas (love that character) series when I came across this great line: Humanity is a parade of fools, and I am at the front of it, twirling a baton. It occurs to me that to be successful, the writer has to embrace this sentiment - or as least risk being caught out front . Without the willingness to occasionally look like a grand fool and the confidence to know you can make it back up on your feet and once again start twirling, the writer becomes mired in a "What-Will-They-Think" mentality ("they" being critique partners, family members, agents, editors, reviewers, and those few who live to write angry e-mails to authors). This is the death knell of creativity. So have you dropped your baton lately? Will you risk it today? Go ahead, write fearlessly. You have only a little pride to lose and all the world to gain from it.

Too much information

Friday nights are always the same at my house. The ol’ Grizzly Bear and I pop the cork on a bottle of wine, he kicks back in the recliner to watch Monk , and I retreat to my office to do a scan of my publishing industry info sources. Publisher’s Marketplace offers a daily “Deal Lunch” detailing who got book deals where and for how much. Subscribers can access a huge data base, including info on who agents whom and what they're selling. Media Bistro’s GalleyCat is an unending fount of delicious industry tidbits. And then there are industry updates offered by Yahoo News, AP, BBC, NY Times, and I’m sure the list goes on, but that’s about all the information I can stand. It’s important to stay abreast of the biz, but all these abreast implants are overwhelming at times. This is one of those rare cases where there is such a thing as too much information. It’s frankly depressing to read about a 19-year-old signing a six figure book deal. So much can and does happen in publishing, a

The Three People You'll Meet in Every Writers' Group

Not long after I joined my first writers’ group and started participating in critique circles, I discovered there were three types of people involved. The first I’ll call the Little Old Me set. These members clearly enjoyed offering comments and suggestions, though some of them simply listened, week after week, and deferred to those they considered more experienced. Whenever asked about their own work, they set responded with a litany of excuses, details from their busy lives. Or they said they were working on something, but it wasn ’t ready. During the years I attended the group, I rarely saw any of the Little Old Me ladies (sorry, but these were mostly women) progress, and many of them fell by the wayside as the demands of jobs and family overwhelmed them. Then there was the next category, composed of writers eager to read their work at every opportunity. These members clearly loved an audience, but had little patience for constructive feedback. If it wasn ’t praise, they argued —

Gotta Love Melissa Senate

Melissa Senate is touring the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit with her latest novel, Love You to Death , in which spunky Abby Foote is on a quest to find out who is killing the men who broke her heart. Buzz is good. Four stars from RT and Publisher's Weekly says readers will "cheer Abby every step of the way." At first blush, Melissa struck me as one of those annoying “Hottie Literati” types. She’s young, gorgeous, commercially successful. Book deals galore. Lusted after by anthologizers, bar flies, and potential mothers-in-law. This chick would be so easy to despise. But Melissa defies most of the stereotype that goes with that "Hottie Literati" label by actually loving language and knowing how to use it. She started as an editor, which is probably the best place an author can learn how to craft a solid manuscript that actually stands a chance of making money. Melissa’s official bio says she writes full time “on the southern coast of Maine, where she lives with he

Flattery Will Get You... Rolling

As a working author of romantic suspense novels, I'm often amazed, flabbergasted, (insert-your-own synonym) with the things friends, relatives, and total strangers say to me in a misguided attempt at flattery. Some of them are hurtful, but many cause intestinal distortions as I struggle to keep a straight face. Anyway, in the name of public education, I thought I'd share some of my favorites. 1. (From older, male family member laboring under delusion I write porn): "I'd read your books, but since my prostrate operation, I can't really enjoy that sort of thing any longer." My response: Slack-jawed amazement. What I wish I'd said: "You don't need a 'prostrate,' just a pair of working eyeballs and a brain." 2. (From medical assistant at an office where I'm a patient): "I loved your new book. I just *adore* reading trash." My response: "Uh, thanks." I think. What I wish I'd said: "Clearly, you have me c

Writer in the real world

Yesterday, I made a few final tweaks on the manuscript I've been flogging, Fed Exed galley proofs to my editor at Random House, and went directly to get my roots done. “Goodness,” said Veronica, the sorceress who sees me through all my seasonal changes in foliage. “What have you been doing for the last six months?” Every time she lifted a section to foil with bleach (I’m a non-blond attempting to have more fun) I could plainly see three full inches of salt and pepper that have grown since last time I had time to think about anything other than this manuscript. Flannery O’Connor once said, “Writing a novel is a terrible experience during which hair often falls out and teeth decay.” Maybe she was talking about writer angst, but for me it’s an entire clouding of the mind, un unhealthy disconnect, during which the alternate world of the book occupies the vast majority of my waking thoughts and becomes more real to me than my own roots. And taxes. And dishes. And laundry. People occ

Planting Next Year's Crops

Sometimes it seems as if being a writer is as much about time management as it is about words. Weeks and months can drag by without hearing from an editor or agent to see how last year's crop fared or whether the latest has earned any interest in the market of ideas. And time never moves more slowly than when one is between deadlines. These long waits are the best times to select the seeds for future projects, whet your plow's blade with fresh research, and to sow the seeds for future work by querying editors for "filler assignments" (I love doing quick "how-to" articles on writing, for example), putting together proposals for presentations, and brainstorming various options/markets/projects while networking with trusted writer buddies. Lately, while waiting to hear about a pending book proposal, I've taken to getting a second underway. Not only is it good insurance, in case the first one doesn't fly for whatever reason, it may raise the possibility

Quote of the Day

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae..." Kurt Vonnegut I'm told this is a pretty well-known quote, but I'd never read it 'til today. (Thanks, Yasmine Galenorn, for mentioning this on a writers' loop we're both on.) It made me laugh - and think. It's always amazing to me how the same book can be lauded and damned by different critics. So who are we supposed to listen to, you ask? I think it's the readers and that little voice inside the pumps its fist and shouts out Hoo-Ya when you've reread a passage you have written and it feels oh, so right.

Taking your thrills where you get them...

If there's one thing the publishing industry (and life in general) have taught me, it's to take joy in the small stuff. Even after eleven books, that includes getting excited by the blurb the editor's written for my next book. It's always surprising, fascinating, and impressive to see how she boils down a 100K+-word book so beautifully. Here's the back cover copy for my July 07 book, Head On . I call this novel my Peyton Place meets Last Picture Show book, and even though I've been finished with it for several months, the characters and story are firmly stuck in my head. This was one book I hated to complete (though by the time I finish revisions and galley edits, I suspect I'll be more than ready to move on.) I'll also repost the artwork above so you don't have to visit the archives to see it. Here's the blurb: Hell On Wheels... The full moon brings out the crazies; anyone in

Writing Allies and Enemies

Our dreams are delicate, fragile as hummingbird's eggs. Which means we have to be extra careful to reveal them only to those who will be gentle. When we share our dreams with those who encourage, who lead us to other knowledge sources, and respect the time (and often money) put into the quest, they help to bolster us through long waits and disappointments. They maintain the vision even when it falters for us. If we're lucky, these writing allies may include a spouse, close friend, or family member, but often, writers find that those who understand best are their fellow writers... or some of them, at least. When we share our dreams with those who scoff, they infect us with their knowing looks and lectures (for our own good!) about the odds stacked up against us. They speak to us of back-up plans or safety nets. They treat the dream as trivial by interrupting and monopolizing work times or by resenting time and money spent in our pursuit. Sometimes, the discouragement is well-m

Free Fiction Workshop

Important Note: Due to the threat of bad weather, this workshop has been rescheduled for Feb. 6th at the same time and location. Have you ever wondered what it takes to snag an agent's or editor's (or masses of readers') attention from the very first lines -- and then keep it? For those in the Greater Houston area (particularly on the North side), I'd like to invite you to attend a free workshop I'll be presenting on the subject. On Tuesday, Jan. 16th, the Woodlands Writers Guild meets at 6:30 PM at the South Montgomery County Community Center on Grogan's Mill Rd. (next to the public library). After the business meeting, I'll give a one-hour presentation called "Emotionally Engage from the Very First Page," which focuses on techniques to quickly pull the reader into your work of fiction. Attendees are welcome to bring the opening page of a work in progress to share and discuss. Not in the area or have a conflict with the time? Don't worry.

The Curse of the Soul-Sucking Critique Group

Last night's meeting of my long-time critique group, The Midwives, was so constructive, upbeat, and just plain fun that I can't help comparing it to some of my earlier critiquing experiences. Most writers agree that the right critique group is a joy, offering support during tough times, cheers during good times, and honest-but-supportive dialogue about perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of each member's work in progress. But a lot of times, writers find themselves in less than helpful situations with those who hinder instead of help. For fear of hurting feelings, they stagger along with these emotionally-draining groups for far too long. Here are some signs that it's time to split the sheets with your current critique partner/group. You dread going and look for excuses to avoid it. Others do the same, so attendance is sporadic and ever-changing. An individual's positive news is greeted with stony, resentful-looking silence or attributed to dumb luck/pan

Great Resources for Writers

I've been poking around cyberspace a lot while stalling on my latest project (shame on me), and one of the many amazing sites I've found for writers belongs to New York Times Bestseller JoAnn Ross . In addition to writing fabulous suspense and romance, JoAnn is an amazingly generous mentor. Check out her writer's resources section for helpful articles on everything from manuscript formatting to the definition of suspense. If you're in the mood for cynical chuckles, Miss Snark's blog is a excellent place to stop. This agent incognito dishes out plenty of great advice along with the barbs and can't be beat for pure entertainment value. Another blog I love to visit is M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype . I especially enjoy the weekly "The Doctor Is In" column with Dr. Susan O'Doherty, a clinical psychologist from NYC who deals with creativity issues and is a writer herself. This week's post deals with coping with professional jealousy, but

Growing the Dream

Years ago, I spoke to a group of aspiring writers and because I'm a fan of cheesy (and cheap) props, I gave each of them a (drum roll, please) single kernel of unpopped corn. I did this, I told them, to represent the kernel of arrogance that each writer must harbor inside, that tiny voice that says, "I've got something important to say here, and I'm darned well gonna say it." Flash forward many moons, when I ran into a woman at a signing who smiled and actually pulled that tiny (now lint-covered) seed out of her pocket and told me she'd continued carrying it around. Surprised (and sort of flattered she'd remembered something I'd forgotten), I asked how things were going for her. She shrugged in a self-effacing manner before admitting that she hadn't made much progress. She was still tinkering with the same, unfinished novel, still working without critique partners, and still harboring the same dream, but over time it had grown to look increasingl