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Showing posts from November, 2011

Two terrific workshops happening at Beauty & the Book Girlfriend Weekend

Perfect post-holiday excursion (and you know you'll earn it): Beauty and the Book literacy diva Kathy Patrick , founder/ goddess elect of the internationally known Pulpwood Queens book club, will host the 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend January 12-15. In addition to the Author Extravaganza and Greatest Show on Earth activities, two terrific workshops are being offered: You're invited to Kathy's house Wednesday, January 11 for a first time memoir workshop with Robert Leleux, columnist for The Texas Observer and editor of LONNY Magazine in New York. Fee includes lunch and a signed copy of Leleux's latest book, The Living End: A Memoir of Forgiving and Forgetting . Stay an extra day for a voice workshop with film, television and radio voiceover artist Elaine Clark, author of There's Money Where Your Mouth Is: An Insider's Guide to a Career in Voice-Overs . For all the information, visit the Beauty and the Book website . Hope to see you there!

Harry Potter in 99 Seconds

Harry Potter in 99 Seconds

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

When I finally logged back on here, I was glad to read Colleen's post about focus , as well as Kay's very honest and human response. Ironically, my new day job as a writing coach is all about helping writers focus and helping them find the right tools and rhythms for themselves. Because there's something dangerous about this writing life--the tendency to look over our shoulders at our neighbors, to compare not only the quality of our writing, but also the ways in which we work. All of that is fine if it helps lead us further down the path of our own development, but it's not good if it serves to distract or derail our focus. So far there is no one program or one website that every one of my clients has loved, but I want to point you to a few that may help. As with everything in the writing life, your mileage may vary. Later in the week, I'll be sharing additional ideas about brainstorming and breaking through conceptual blocks in writing, but we'll star

Shees baaaaaack! (Did ya miss me?)

I'm unearthing myself from my self-imposed hiatus from all writing other than fiction to give an update. I am working like mad to finish the final, final, final draft of my novel, since I have promised my prison students that I will have finished it and queried 15 agents by the time I start teaching again--in January. The work is going well, although I'm a little bug-eyed, adding four brand new chapters and tracking threads. Although I'm tired, I'm finally feeling good--okay, even a little great--about the book. Essentially, it is what is at this point, and I'm ready to stand behind it. And I'm ready to move on and write something else. I can also say that, now nineteen months after my spinal injury and two years post PhD defense, I have finally healed from both the injury and the whole toxic writing workshop experience. And really, I'm ready to kick a little literary ass.

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

Seventeen years ago today, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a virulent blood cancer. (Coincidentally, November 28, 1994 was also the Monday after Thanksgiving that year.) Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Every day since that one is bonus time. A gift, and I know it. During chemo, I was clobbered by the realization that writing is what I was supposed to do with my life. An inconvenient discovery at an extremely inopportune moment, but my longshot odds of survival actually made my longshot odds of getting published slightly less ridiculous. My goal was to live for five years, just long enough so that my children (ages 5 and 7 at the time) would remember me and maybe - just maybe - I could get one book published. Seventeen years and a dozen books later, I'm taking a humbly grateful moment to say TAWANDA!

Finding Focus

It's not easy recovering from a few days of holiday celebration to get back into the old workflow. I'm finding today especially distracting as I fend off cyber-shopping temptations and, even worse, an all-day Firefly marathon on the SciFi channel in an attempt to feel my way back into this manuscript. Desperate for focus, I'm resorting to a few old tricks, including: 1. Headphones to block out household distractions. I prefer listen to music without lyrics for the most part. The music of Philip Glass is an old friend I can count on, but I'm also test-driving something called Focus Optimizer, a white noise sort of program which is supposed to help you tackle your to-do list and organize your thinking. I'll report back on how I like it later, but I'm all for anything that will help to minimize my chronic lack of focus. 2. Shutting off Internet distractions. If you're a Mac user, I highly recommend the program Self Control, which allows you to block wh

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

Feeling incredibly grateful today for my family, friends and the dawn of a new day in the publishing world. I feel an amazing 2012 coming on. Creative freedom, financial rewards, an abundance of great books to read and no end to the stories that want telling.

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

Florence + the Machine "Shake it Out" #yesplease

Rethinking indie publishing rhetoric

Two years ago, when I first started talking about indie pubbing ebooks, I was resoundingly squashed from every direction. My agent at the time (not the agent I'm with now) was understandably concerned that self-publishing would brand me as someone who wasn't publishable. Almost a dozen books into my career, I wouldn't be called a wannabe or an amateur; I'd be a reject. I wouldn't be the girl who didn't get asked to the prom. Best case, I'd be the girl who had a great date for the prom, then showed up with bad hair, fell down on the dance floor, got her period and had to walk home. Worst case, I'd be Carrie in the wake of a big bucket of critical pig blood. On the flip side, the voices rising to the front of the self-publishing world were overwhelmingly vociferous - and uninformed - tirades against the vagaries of the industry, the evil intent of agents, the shortsightedness of whoever signed the rejection letter. It was off-putting, untrue and amateuri

Reshaping the rhetoric of indie publishing

Two years ago, when I first started talking about indie pubbing ebooks, I was resoundingly squashed from every direction. My agent at the time (not the agent I'm with now) was understandably concerned that self-publishing would brand me as someone who wasn't publishable. Almost a dozen books into my career, I wouldn't be called a wannabe or an amateur; I'd be a reject. I wouldn't be the girl who didn't get asked to the prom. Best case, I'd be the girl who had a great date for the prom, then showed up with bad hair, fell down on the dance floor, got her period and had to walk home. Worst case, I'd be Carrie in the wake of a big bucket of critical pig blood. On the flip side, the voices rising to the front of the self-publishing world were overwhelmingly vociferous - and uninformed - tirades against the vagaries of the industry, the evil intent of agents, the shortsightedness of whoever signed the rejection letter. It was off-putting, untrue and amateurish

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

In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, my husband and I were among the volunteers who worked on relief efforts as evacuees were brought into Houston's Reliant Center. Carrying water to the long lines of people outside in the 105 degree heat, I heard hundreds of wrenching, vivid, emotional stories from the storm and its aftermath. A New Orleans police officer wryly remarked that this hurricane was the best thing that could happen to con artists and media people. Bam. The story hammer smote me in the head. That night, sunburned and exhausted, I sat up until 3 AM with the first draft of this novel pouring out of me. I didn't have it all worked out, but I knew exactly who these people would be: Shay Hoovestahl, privileged daughter of a Texas oil baron who's looking to break away from her pageant banner and make it on her own as a serious journalist. Corbin Thibodeaux, her on/off (recently way off) lover, a New Orleans meteorologist, who is obsessed with the scienc

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

If Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet end up being the Christmas gift everybody gets this year, 2012 will be an amazing year for ebooks. I'm seeing a prodigious blast of ebook consumption coming, and I think people will be very surprised at the books that emerge as big sellers. Based on my Margaret Mead observation of the Gare Bear since the moment he got hold of his new Kindle Fire, it looks like price point is a major influence on buying. The first thing he did was search on his favorite authors and was seriously dismayed that their ebooks (obviously from the big publishers) were almost as much - in some cases more than - what he's been trained to pay for paperbacks. So the next thing is visibility. How to authors aiming for the same demographic as that arguably overpriced big name get their book into the reader's eyeballs? Theories continue to evolve. All we know for certain is that ebooks are not the next Big Thing. They're the current Big Thing. My new novel,  The

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

Today, I'm blogging with my friends at The Jaunty Quills on the lure of the stranger in the shadows. Please drop by and say hello for your chance to win a free, autographed copy of my latest release, Phantom of the French Quarter. If you already have PHANTOM, I'll send you the backlist copy of your choice instead. Also, thought I'd share this fun bit of news. My first book for Intrigue, Capturing the Commando, was recently nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Intrigue of 2011! Winners will be announced at this spring's Romantic Times Convention in Chicago. Good luck to all the nominees!

Death Comes to Pemberley Sweepstakes

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

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

Revision 101: Protagonist Check-list

So you have a plan, a draft, or even something you're really to call a novel. Before you put it out there, you'll need to take a hard and honest look at chapter, every scene, every word or it, with a distant, honest eye. One of the key factors you'll need to take a look at is the story's protagonist. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you're got the right hero for the job. 1. Does this character make an interesting entrance? The first time the reader meets her, is she showing some relatable/admirable quality, initiating or reacting to a situation in a provocative or relatable way? If your protagonist is sitting around thinking about how he/she got to that point in Chapter One, consider scrapping it (as a reader, I'm beggin' you) and starting with Chapter Two, feeding in only the tiniest splinters of backstory as necessary. 2. Is the character sympathetic on some level? Even the anti-hero might love his mother, worry about his carbon footprint

Herman Melville on the guileless spirit of a sailor

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

Seth Worley's PLOT DEVICE

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

Gofightwin Thursday! Blind Boys of Alabama "Higher Ground"

Buy This Book: Life Without Summer by Lynne Griffin

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

How writers fit into the US labor force

Interesting numbers from NEA study, looking at the arts in the US economic picture . How are writers doing? Here are the stats: There are 2.1 million artists in the US (1.4% of the total workforce, 6.9% of the professional workforce), and a little over 9% of artists (189,000) are writers/authors. The average annual income of professional authors during 2005-09 was $44,792. (I'd be interested to see how that breaks down by genre. I think this reflects the average of Tess Gerritsen, Dan Brown and 8,687 bloggers who made fifty-three bucks each.) 84% of authors have a BA or higher. 56% of authors are women, average age 44. While women artists in general make 81 cents for every dollar made by male artists, the income of women authors is almost equal to the income of male authors. Only 13% of writers and authors are non-white and/or Hispanic, compared with 32% of the total workforce. Oregon and Vermont have 20% more artists than other states, with a particularly strong popu

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

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

Fabulous Freebies from Writer's Digest

I don't know about you, but I cut my teeth on the craft books published by Writer's Digest. I thought of authors Nancy Kress, Lawrence Block, and Orson Scott Card as Mount Olympus gurus and learned so much from studying their words (including their fiction.) Today, Writer's Digest is offering Kindle editions of six books on writing absolutely free, including How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play , by Barbara Baig; Les Edgerton's Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go; The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing ; Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (I loved her book on master character archetypes); Marilyn Ross's The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book (Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Everything); and finally, Getting the Words Right, by Theodore Cheney. My advice: even if you don't have

Another Sunday. Let's have some Cee Lo!

P.D. James Knocks Off Wickham

Am I the very last person to know that the venerable Baroness James (about to turn 91) has written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice ? And zombie free, thank God. Her English publisher, Faber & Faber, posted this synopsis: The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live within seventeen miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth’s happiness in her marriage is complete. But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual Autumn Ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered. Death Comes to Pemberley isn't due

Embracing (the Right) Changes

I love Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" feature. Not only does it simplify the task of working with multiple editors/critique partners, it boils down our most essential everyday choices so neatly. Take this screenshot, for instance. While reviewing and correcting a document that's been marked up by a trusted critique partner, my agent, or an editor, my gut reaction is all too often to click on "reject change" and move on to the next item on my nearly-overwhelming to-do list. But frequently, I come to realize it's the wrong decision and I end up going back and making the changes anyway. To help myself embrace those pesky, #$@*! changes, I've come up with a few ground rules. 1. Understand that your first reaction to any suggested change is going to be ego-driven and emotional. Allow for that by first reviewing all suggested changes without reacting to any of them. 2. Complain to your significant other, best friend, or critique partner about wh

Halloween Show and Tell

One of my favorite projects of late -- I'm expanding my PR business to include packaging author websites -- was for Baylor Press' Monsters in America. Both Baylor and author Scott Poole were up for anything .........including blood spattered Facebook and Twitter icons. Scott put together a Top Ten Filmography for anyone who's a fan of monster/vampire/zombie flicks and we added great original trailers we found on You Tube. If you've never seen "Freaks," I dare you to watch the trailer. I still have nightmares about that movie and I saw it in 1970. Happy Halloween!

Goal Update

I'm happy to report the last Wednesday, I reached a milestone by finishing the draft of Relentless Pursuit, which is due for release sometime next fall. But finishing the draft is not the same as getting a finished, polished manuscript to New York by D-day, so I'll be relentlessly pursuing that goal for a bit longer. While I'm tied up, I wanted to leave you with a link to this fabulously-profane, tell-it-like-it-is post over at the Terrible Minds blog: Writers Must Kill Self-Doubt Before Self-Doubt Kills Them. Well-said, Chuck Wendig, and very highly recommended!