Sunday, April 30, 2006

Booksigning Report

I had my first signing for the new book yesterday, and it was tons of fun. I have the best readers. Obviously, they have great taste in books, but they're also fun to hang out with. Thanks to everyone who came by!

I think this may have been the first time that people I didn't previously know in some way from before the books came to a signing specifically to see me. Before, it was all my friends from the real world and online, people I knew through writing groups, etc. But it was new to me to have people who'd read one of my books and then came to a signing because they were fans. I'm still getting my head around that concept. I even had a line for a moment or two. It was a very short line, but it was still a line, which was new and different for me.

I'm now frantically working to wrap up my Battlestar Galactica essay, which means I've been marathoning episodes that apply to my topic. I now have the opening credits music stuck in my head. Since I wrote much of The Current Monstrosity (aka Book 3) using the BSG soundtrack as background noise, that music is creating all sorts of mental triggers in me. It simultaneously makes me think of the TV series and my book, which is a very odd combination. My essay topic involves the role of the media in the BSG universe, something that's actually pretty rare for TV science fiction. Oddly enough, the most media-heavy episodes happen to also be the episodes where we see Jamie Bamber wearing just a towel, and I honestly did not realize that ahead of time. It was just something that occurred to me as I was watching. Yet another reason I have the best job in the world. Yep, watching Jamie Bamber with a towel around his waist counts as "work" for me.

Now I'd better get to work, since I hope to not only turn in that essay tomorrow but also get the revised book off to my agent. Then I may give myself a breather, but I don't want to get out of the habit of writing, so I may find something new to play with.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Natalie Collins

Okay, enough about me and all my book release angst this week (I can hear everyone heaving a huge sigh of relief). It's time to feature another author on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. I'm welcoming back Natalie Collins, whose novel Wives and Sisters has just been re-released in paperback. Set in the closed world of the Mormon church, the novel is the gripping story of a young woman on the run from evil, powerful men. Allison Jenson's best friend disappeared suddenly as a child and was given up for dead. Now, years later, trying to fill in the gaps of a patchwork memory, Allison still gets no answers from the Mormon community in which she lives. She is stuck in a world where she does not fit with a father who tyrannizes and torments her as the self-appointed messenger of God. Why is she being fed half-truths? When a brutal attack makes her desperate to escape Mormon bonds, Allison finds herself on a collision course with community leaders as they cover up the steps of a sexual predator.

I asked Natalie my usual questions last year, so I interviewed her a little more about the subject matter of her books.

It seems like polygamous marriages are always in and out of the media, with the real-world scary stories like the abductions and now with an HBO series. What do you think explains the public's fascination for the topic?
I think for a long time it was kind of a "forgotten part" of the history of our country, because it was officially left behind in 1890. Mormons became "that group" that sent out missionaries everywhere, but who were kind of vague about their teachings. People regarded them as "nice but odd." The truth about polygamy, of course, is that you can't just say one day, "Hey, we aren't doing this anymore" and have it magically disappear. Especially when it is still a tenet of the church, one that was originally espoused as "eternal," with the belief it will be lived in the Celestial Kingdom. Even when it was "manifestoed" away (please note it was NEVER condemned or prophesied to be wrong) Church leaders who had multiple wives lived in secrecy, and it's been documented this continued to occur until the 1940s or so. And some Mormons moved to Mexico and Canada, too, to avoid prosecution. Although there's never been much of that--prosecution. Because it WAS an early tenet of the church, it has gone on mostly ignored in Utah for years. This has allowed some really dangerous people like Warren Jeffs and the FLDS sect, and the Kingstons, to thrive and grow, and the abuse is just astounding. No one wanted to prosecute it, because most every Mormon had some connection to it.

I've been talking publicly about the dangers of polygamy for at least six years, (See SISTERWIFE, first published in 2003 to dismal results), but I really think people didn't want to believe this stuff could happen. Then one day, Elizabeth Smart disappears. Nine months later she is found very, very close to her home. And she never ran. And she never tried to escape, and people were left asking "Why?" Why didn't she ever cry for help, and why did she lie about who she was when the police finally came? How did this happen? And is it still happening? Yup. After Elizabeth Smart, and the very public prosecution of polygamist Tom Green, along with the illegal maneuverings of the FLDS Sect and their wanted leader, Warren Jeffs, America really got interested. It's almost like the country looked over at Utah and said, "What ARE you people doing down there?" And the truth is, there are some VERY strange and very dangerous things going on here.

There is still a very real threat to those who speak publicly against the Church, of course. Along with family pressure, and some not-so-subtle pressure from the Church hierarchy, I was pretty much told that I would be persona non grata in Utah after my book was published. I ignored it, and so far, no one has firebombed my house, and since I've been TRYING to get my name off the rolls for years, and it hasn't worked, I guess they aren't going to threaten me with excommunication. They use that to shut up a lot of people, but I think they are KEEPING me because they know it irritates me.

What do you know about the issue that the public isn't getting either from the news stories or from the fictional treatments?
Big Love is not real polygamy. While there might be a few groups who live this way, for the most part it is not pretty cars, and nice clothes, and nice things. These women and children live in utter and absolute poverty. They are chattel. Nothing more, nothing less. They are not allowed opinions, or real lives. The Kingstons marry their daughters off to other family members, and inbreeding causes severe birth defects and a high child mortality rate. Even in the FLDS sect, inbreeding is a problem, because you are only married off to someone in that close group. While they don't marry you off to a direct relative, it's hard to avoid it completely.

These girls are taught they will GO TO HELL if they don't obey their men leaders, and if they object, or run away, they are caught and sent to remote colonies in Canada, or sometimes they just disappear, and no one ever sees them again.

Young boys are thrown out for minor offenses so the older men can marry the young girls. And make no mistake. THEY ARE GIRLS. Children.

Looking back, what do you think the most effective thing you did to promote your book was?

My blog, Trapped by the Mormons, and of course touring on the GCC. I get a lot of traffic to my blog, and so I know people heard about my books from that.

What will your next book be about?
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is another suspense novel set in Mormon Utah, and it comes out in January 2007. You can read an excerpt of it in the back of the paperback of WIVES AND SISTERS. In many ways, it's a very different story than W&S, although still set in the Mormon arena. Jannie Fox has always been a little jealous of the regular, everyday, Mormon life her good friend Melissa leads, especially since Jannie has a secret. She hides from reality, because of one event from her past that has altered her forever. But she isn't hesitant to tilt at windmills for other people in her job as a domestic violence counselor. When Melissa disappears one sunny summer morning, everything changes for Jannie, as she, and a Salt Lake City police detective, unravel the few clues that are found regarding Melissa. Detective Colt Singer convinces Jannie it's time to live again, and face her demons, but she might not get the chance, because the real danger is lurking closer than she ever could have guessed.

What are you working on now?
I'm currently writing my next book for St. Martin's, tentatively titled SAINTS AND SINNERS. It's a very complicated book about Mormons in early years, and the lineage of Mormon royalty, and the "who is really living the true church" questions. Part of this book deals with the "Forgotten Mormons," the group that stayed behind when Brigham Young led the other Saints to Utah. This group became the Community of Christ. Both sides have a fascinating history, and I find it interesting that it is rarely noted that Emma Smith, Joseph's official widow, and their young son stayed with THIS group. So far, the research has been fascinating. And of course, mainstream Mormons play in here, too. Sometimes, there are secrets that zealots are willing to die for--and kill-- to protect.

You can read more about Natalie's books (and see a really cool trailer for her book) at her web site.

Now, because I can't go an entire entry without talking about myself at least a little bit, a quick reminder that I'll be at the Borders store in Plano, Texas (on Preston just south of Park) Saturday afternoon at 2.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Up All Night

I guess I'm not as self-aware as I like to think I am because it wasn't until last night that I realized why I've felt a little bummed this week, even though I should have been excited to have a book out. It's because something important has been missing from the experience: my friend Rosa. A quick recap for those who are relatively new here (you can read the whole story here): Rosa was the friend I dedicated Enchanted, Inc. to because it was largely her enthusiasm and support that pushed me to write and submit it. She never doubted it would be published. She also read every chapter of Once Upon Stilettos as I wrote it. A lot of the fun surrounding the release of the last book was her enthusiasm. She was possibly even more excited about it than I was (then again, she was usually a lot more excited about just about everything than most people are). She was freaked out when she found out I dedicated the book to her (I now wish I'd saved that message on my cell phone's voice mail), and I think she dragged everyone she knew to the bookstore to make them buy the book. Sadly, she lost her fight with cancer just before Christmas, so she didn't get to see this book in the stores. She was a long-distance friend, so sometimes the loss isn't felt quite as keenly until a situation occurs where I feel like she should be there, and then it's like it hits me all over again. It's a double-whammy effect because the fun isn't as much fun without being able to share it with her, and then that reminds me of the loss, making me sad in the process.

I think that also has a lot to do with why this third book has been a bit of a struggle for me. Not only is the emotional difficulty there, but it also disrupted my writing pattern because I don't have her feedback. And yeah, this book is a little darker and more angsty than I usually write, which is appropriate at this stage in the story, I think.

In other, happier, news, I found out I got a really nice review in Booklist. I've also started hearing from more readers, and it sounds like I'm responsible for a dip in workplace productivity this week from too many people staying up all night reading.

I'm one to talk because I've been doing some late-night reading, myself. I've been reading His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, and although the sequel to it came out the same day as my book, I'm restraining myself from buying it until I get all my deadlines met because I know I'll be tempted to drop everything and read. It's like Horatio Hornblower with dragons! How can you not like that? Basically, it's an alternate history fantasy in which there's an air force for the Napoleonic Wars, and the air force is made up of dragons. The bigger dragons get rigged out like they're B-52s, with whole crews of gunners and bombers. The dragons are such great characters. Now I want one. It's like having a combo best friend/pet/form of transportation. Temeraire, the dragon main character, makes my Saturn really look pathetic in the conversation department. Sadly, I don't think my patio is big enough to house a dragon, and my neighbors might object. Yes, Mom, I'll bring my copy with me when I visit. Dad will probably like it, too. I got this one by asking Ballantine nicely (one of those perks of being an author), but I'll buy the next two because I feel like I should practice what I preach about supporting books and authors I like.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Day After

I did get to see my new book in stores yesterday. My book-visiting outfit involved a sweater I bought while in New York researching book 3, a scarf I bought for the Serenity premiere, my "tall" jeans and the Infamous Red Stilettos. I wavered on the stilettos because they sort of seemed like overkill for going to a bookstore, but I figured if I didn't wear them on release day for this book, when would I wear them?

My neighborhood B&N did have eight copies, most of them on one of the front table and three shelved in fiction. They've had a single copy of the first book for ages, up to last Thursday, but it was gone. I wonder if someone finally bought it, or if it got pulled when the new books went up. If it's the latter, that seems like a fairly silly move. You'd think that when the next book in a series comes out, you'd want to get additional copies of the last one, not get rid of the one you have. I know people who won't start reading a series until at least the second book is out, and then there are people who might not have heard of the first book, but see the second book, think it looks interesting, but then realize it's the second book in a series and want to read the first one first. The store loses two potential sales if there are no copies of the first book. If you finally get someone to give this series a try after they hear you talk about this book, make sure they know they'll probably have to ask for it because a lot of stores may not be stocking the first book.

I then went to the Books-a-Million in the nearby mall, and they had one copy, shelved spine-out. There was blank space around it, so I'm hoping that meant other copies had already sold. It wasn't worth scaring up an employee to sign one book that would remain on the shelf like that, and all their front-table space was devoted to The DaVinci Code cottage industry, which meant signing it wouldn't get it any better placement, so I just left. Some days it doesn't pay to gnaw through the restraints, or in my case, put on the stilettos.

I consoled myself by dropping in on the Nieman Marcus outlet to try on designer shoes. The fun thing about going shoe shopping while wearing the Infamous Red Stilettos is that it's hard to find any other shoes more fabulous than the ones you're already wearing -- and I was trying on Prada, Bruno Magli and Kate Spade. I was sort of tempted by a reasonably non-frivolous pair of kitten-heeled, natural-colored leather (or as I sometimes say, "leather-colored leather") Anne Klein Mary Janes with asymmetrical straps, but even at the outlet price they were more than I could justify spending, especially if a lot of stores like Books-a-Million were only going to be selling one copy each of my book.

And then I had a minor epiphany. I'd heard authors saying that the best use of your time was working on the next book instead of doing all the time-consuming self-promotion, but I hadn't run into it being an either/or dilemma before. Now, though, I have a book due, an essay due, and other work that needs to be done, and I'm not sure that me signing the books that are sitting in stores in this one part of town is going to result in a significant uptick in sales. I'd seen my book in the store in release day, and that was enough, so I went home.

Of course, once I got home I ended up obsessively checking e-mail and my Amazon and B&N rankings instead of working. On B&N for a while it was in the top 400. Now it's depressingly much, much lower than that. At Amazon for a while yesterday it was in the top 20 paranormal romances (how they have it categorized). And the electronic edition of the first book was once again the number one bestselling mainstream fiction at Fictionwise, so yay!

Now, though, I have a set of radio scripts to finish, some Battlestar Galactica to watch, a book to continue revising and an essay to write. I may also need some sleep because I ended up staying up way too late reading. I've kind of got that day-after-Christmas blah feeling, where there's a big letdown after all the building excitement. Being busy and eating chocolate may help cure that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Book Arrives!

So, it's release day. In a weird way, it's feeling kind of anticlimactic. Much of my life for the past year or so has been building to this day, and now it's here and just another day. Later I'll head out to at least visit my book in stores, but otherwise, I have a lot of other work to keep me busy.

In honor of release day, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the book itself. When I first had the idea for the book that became Enchanted, Inc., long before I started writing it at all, I knew I wanted it to be a series about the continuing adventures of the same main character. I thought I'd like to have several viable romantic interests along the way. In my daydreams, I liked to imagine people getting into Internet message board or newsgroup discussions and debates about which guy she should end up with, kind of like the "Ranger vs. Joe" discussions around the Stephanie Plum books. I had no idea what the sequels would be about (I barely knew what the first book would be about). In fact, for a while I was thinking that the second book would involve the heroine having to go straighten out the London office of her company. The first book was originally called "Magic, Spells and Illusions, Inc." and I thought the sequel could be "Magic, Spells and Illusions, LTD."

Of course, none of that happened. I've yet to see any kind of message board discussion about the content of my books. Lots of "read this!" recommendations, but no real discussion of the book itself among readers. I don't think there's even a LiveJournal community for fans of my books for discussion (and I will try not to pout about that). The London sequel never came about, either, and probably won't, as I can't see that happening the way I have the series set up now.

Where the sequel idea came from was an offhand remark in (I think) chapter four of Enchanted, Inc., when someone mentions a possibility of something that might happen, and I suddenly knew as I wrote it that it was something that would have to happen to my main character. I had to get a little more concrete about the sequel story when it looked like there was a possibility that the book would sell, and my agent made me write up a one-page synopsis for the sequel. I took my trusty notebook to the B&N coffee shop, brainstormed, and then outlined the plot.

The next key element came about after I got the book deal. Back when I was still trying to find an agent and had just had the full manuscript requested by Kristin (who became my agent), I went shopping with a friend one day. We had to make the usual pilgrimage to the Nordstrom's shoe department, where I saw this fabulous pair of red stilettos. Something about them called out to my soul, and I knew I HAD to have them. There were impractical and sexy and frivolous (and expensive) -- all things that I most certainly am not, but they spoke to my soul in a weird way. I told my friend that if I sold the book, I'd buy the shoes. Over the next several months, I visited my shoes in the store a few times. I started dreaming up outfits I could wear with them.

And then the book finally sold, along with the unwritten sequel. I called my friend to tell her, and she immediately suggested we go shoe shopping. So we went to Nordstrom's, and I got the last pair in my size. I had a moment of panic -- did I really want them? Were they too flashy, too not me? -- but went through with buying them. I was still convincing myself that buying them was the right thing to do, even as we drove home. We were sitting in my car at my friend's place before I dropped her off, and she was still trying to convince me that buying the shoes was a good thing. I agreed with her, then added, "Hey, they're magic shoes!"

I got that tingle again, that sense that this was something that had to go in the book. It became a central motif in the book, a major clue, and the opening line.

The book was originally titled Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, but soon after I finished the manuscript I found out we'd have to change it because another book with the same title would be coming out not long before mine. We spent a while trying to dream something up, and then one of the Ballantine copywriters had a 2 a.m. burst of inspiration and came up with Once Upon Stilettos. The original title was very apt for the book, but I think the one we ended up with is probably catchier, unless you're a fan of Rodgers and Hart and can sing all three zillion verses (the Ella Fitzgerald version is more than seven minutes long).

This afternoon I'll be visiting the book in stores (and I hope it's actually there this time). I need to get a new signing pen. For the last book, I had a set of four pastel metallic gel pens that coordinated with the cover, but I think for this one, I'll get a red metallic gel pen. I also need to come up with a good generic thing to sign in books, since autographing books is worse than trying to sign yearbooks and think of something clever to say on the spot that won't make you cringe twenty years later. I have no idea what cute outfit to wear to visit my book today. Most of my planned booksigning clothes are for warm weather, and we had a freak cold front come through, so I may even need long sleeves.

Meanwhile, I got through the first four chapters of book 3 last night and managed to cut 3,000 words, so it may not be such an epic tome, after all. I should have also started watching pertinent Battlestar Galactica episodes, but I was tired from exercise class and didn't want to be analytical, so I was a slacker and watched my tape of the Masterpiece Theater Thomas Hardy dramatization that was on Sunday. And shall we pause for a moment to contemplate how cool my job is: I was slacking by watching a literary adaptation on Masterpiece Theater when "work" would have been watching Battlestar Galactica.

PS: Buy my book!!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

D-Day Minus One

The draft is done, as of one this morning! Which meant I didn't get to sleep until around two or so because it's hard to wind down. I still have to do one more pass on the book to tidy up a few things and hopefully cut at least twenty pages. It's currently at just a little more than 116,000 words. For comparison, Enchanted, Inc. came in at around 101,000 words and Once Upon Stilettos was around 105,000 words.

I also need to write an essay on Battlestar Galactica this week. Time to dig out the tapes. I may even be able to justify buying the DVDs (and then writing them off my taxes!) because I don't have time to dig through my poorly labeled tape collection and find the episodes I need.

And, oh yeah, something big is happening tomorrow. I wonder what it could be?

While the US stores seem to be enforcing a "hard street date," it appears that Canada got a head start. I've already heard from a couple of readers there, and much to my relief, it seems they liked the book.

I'm still a little stunned to get anything that could be called fan mail. I get weepy and giggly and emotional when I read about someone who fell in love with my characters or who's read my book multiple times. I know I certainly get that way about books, but I can't quite wrap my brain around the idea that someone else is getting that way about my books. There's still something a bit surreal about the whole experience, like I halfway suspect it's only taking place in my head. There isn't really one book, let alone two books (as of tomorrow).

But in case it is real, be ready to hit the stores running tomorrow! Stun the booksellers with your enthusiasm and numbers!

Now I think I need a nap. I've got to be rested and non-crabby for the big day!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Teen Fiction and Body Image

Still trying to re-finish the Book That Would Not Die. I've been working on the same scene for three days. It's kind of complex, so I've had to develop multiple timelines to show where everyone is at each particular time, then I've had to figure out what should happen at each moment, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Five pages of scribbling in a notebook later, I may be able to just write the silly thing today.

First, though, I have to get to the library to return some books. I've been reading some young adult books lately, since my agent keeps suggesting I consider that. She thinks my voice and the fact that my books are already suitable for teen readers would make it a natural crossover. So, in my spare (ha!) time, I've been researching the market.

There's some really fun, clever stuff out there, like Fly on the Wall, the last Girlfriends Cyber Circuit book, and Sarah Mlynowski's Bras and Broomsticks, which has a fun twist on the fantasy plot of young person discovering she has magical powers. In this book, it's the heroine's younger sister who discovers that she has magical powers. Talk about stirring up sibling rivalry!

But there's also some stuff out there that would have to fall into the "what were they thinking?" category, considering that there are adults who should know better involved in the process of writing and publishing these books. Yeah, back in the Dark Ages when I was a teen, I did sometimes want to read about popular girls, but these take that desire to be on the A-list to extremes. For one thing, even though the characters and the target audience are in their teens (or younger, since kids usually "read up," looking for books about characters several years older than they are), their behavior is indistinguishable from what you'd see in an adult chick lit novel -- lots of drinking, smoking and sleeping around. Designer clothes are everything, and you're nobody unless you can get into all the right clubs and parties. In one book, the supposedly "good girl" heroine, who was still in high school, was getting drunk and waking up in strange places, smoking and playing strip poker with guys, and sleeping with her boss's son in her boss's house. And she was the nice, wholesome character.

Then there's the whole body image issue. Yeah, there's lip service ridicule of the super skinny girls, but the book still needs to mention that the heroine -- who was supposedly normal-sized at the beginning of the book -- has lost weight and trimmed down during the course of the book, so that by the end, she can look fabulous in swimsuits and designer clothes, be the new "it" girl and be seen on the arm of the hottest, richest guy.

I could rant about the kinds of lessons girls are learning through this kind of stuff, but it's been done so much better, by none other than JK Rowling, who proves once more why she's my writing/career heroine/role model. She's at the top of my list of writers I'd love to get the chance to hang out with. I already managed to do that with Connie Willis, and I've got Alan Dean Foster lined up for the fall, so Jo, call me! We'll do tea! The kids can come, too!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Spreading the Word

First, a work status report (mostly for Mom): still not quite done yet. I swear, this is the book that wouldn't die. I came up with a plot twist last night that makes everything else fall into place and make sense, but it also complicates matters a bit. I resorted to sitting down with pen and paper to figure it all out. I listed all the people involved and what was going on behind the scenes with each of them, including their motivations, plan A and plan B, and what they hoped to get out of the situation. Then I came up with a timeline of who did what and when. Next I may resort to drawing Xs and Os like I'm planning a football play. It's hard to plan written chaos so that it will make sense to someone who's reading it.

Second, thanks to everyone for the votes of confidence. It looks like I could go just about everywhere except my hometown and have at least one person want to meet me, which is cool. Unfortunately, what book touring I'm doing is strictly on my own dime right now, so I'm not getting too far afield. There's always the chance that if this book sells surprisingly well, my publisher might spring for a book tour on the next book.

Which brings me to my next topic. A discussion got going in the comments on my LiveJournal yesterday about how people who don't live near where there's a signing can still show their support. I used to have something about this on my web site, but it didn't make it onto this version of the site because I was afraid it made me sound kind of needy.

Believe it or not, you, the reader, are the single most powerful marketing force in the publishing industry. Word of mouth has more to do with what books become hits than reviews, ads or just about anything else other than print run and bookstore buy-in -- and you can even have an effect on that. You can take a book from obscurity to bestseller status, and you can even undermine the splashiest promotional campaign around if you get the word out that a much-hyped book isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just be sure to use your power for good rather than evil, okay? And don't let it go to your head. Superhero outfits involving tights are just tacky for daytime wear.

Here are some tips for the best ways you can develop and use this power, and it doesn't just apply to my books. It applies to any other books, or even reading in general.

1) Buy the book. New.
Used book sales are invisible to the publishing industry, so they have very little impact on a book's success. Plus, the author and publisher receive absolutely no money from the sale of a used book. Think of it as like calling in to cast your vote on American Idol. When you buy a book, you're sending a message to the bookstore and to the publishing industry about what you like to read and want to see more of. Publishers are like lemmings. If a certain type of book gets big sales, they'll give you more like that.

2) If a bookstore doesn't have what you're looking for, ask for it.
This is very important because if the book isn't on store shelves, word of mouth doesn't do much good (unless the word of mouth is so persuasive that it makes people go out of their way to order or request a book). If you don't find the book on the shelf, there are several things that could have happened.
The shipment may not have come in yet -- my last book came out the day after Memorial Day, so some stores didn't get it until late in the week. If a bookseller knows that people are already asking for a book, chances are better that when the book does arrive, it will be shelved as soon as possible.
The book could still be sitting in boxes in receiving, and they haven't gotten around to shelving it -- If people are asking for a book, that will more or less force them to open the box and put it on the shelf.
The store may not have ordered it at all, or it may have sold out and hasn't been reordered -- If people ask for it, the bookseller may consider ordering it or restocking it, which means it will then be there for other people to be able to find it.
The store may have it, but not in the place where you were looking for it -- in that case, the bookseller can help you find the book, and if you mention the perfectly logical place you were looking for it without finding it, a very enterprising bookseller may consider shelving some copies there in the future. (My books may cross the line between chick lit, fantasy and romance, but they're most often shelved in general fiction.)

3) Be enthusiastic about the book when you buy it.
Dances of joy in the bookstore when you see the book you want are optional. But it doesn't hurt to mention how much you've been looking forward to a book to the bookseller as you pay for your purchase. For the most part, people who work in bookstores like books, but they may not know everything about every book being published. They like to know what their customers are excited about because that points them to a book they may be able to sell to other people (and enjoy, themselves). Of course, don't start a long book discussion if there's a line of people behind you waiting to check out. Your interest in a book may also spread to other customers. If you do much people watching in a bookstore, you may notice that if there are a few people browsing those front tables where the books are stacked up, if one of those people picks up a book, the other people will eventually work their way around to that stack and pick up a copy, as if they have to check out what that first person was so interested in.

4) Tell other people about the book.
This is the core of word of mouth. People are more likely to trust the recommendation of people they know than they are the word of critics or ads. You can also engage in a dialogue that finds selling points unique to the interests of that individual, while a review or an ad can't talk back if it doesn't immediately catch someone's interest. When enough people tell enough people, buzz starts building, and that's what ultimately can make a book a hit, when people have heard about it from multiple sources, so they know it's got to be hot. That's also when the media may take notice, which then vaults things to a whole new level.
Blog about the book. Mention it on your MySpace page or your web site. Mention it in relevant message board discussions or on mailing lists (just don't spam or be rude or violate the list or board rules). Talk to your friends, family or co-workers about it. You may have to mention it several times for it to sink in. Generally, people have to hear a message three times before they start to notice it.

5) Post a review at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, as well as any other online places that allow customer reviews.
Be honest and straightforward here. People have learned to tune out reviews that sound like they were written by the author's mother or by the author herself under an assumed name. For the most part, it's the volume of reviews and the average rating that catches people's eye. A lot of reviews means a lot of people are talking about the book, which makes it look noteworthy.

6) If you know or know of any journalists, radio personalities or other public figures who like that sort of thing or who you think might be interested in the book, shoot them an e-mail.
Reporters are more likely to cover something their audience finds interesting, and a writer for a newspaper book section (if you can find one who acknowledges the existence of anything other than highbrow literary fiction) or person who chooses talk show guests will probably take more notice of a reader saying, "Hey, you should check this book out," than they would of a publicist saying the same thing. (Forget about contacting Oprah about books, though. She's swamped and has her own selection process.)

7) Read the book in public with the cover visible.
Read in the bookstore cafe, at Starbucks, while getting your hair done, in the waiting room at the dentist's office. Read on airplanes, trains, subways and buses. Read in airports, train stations, outdoor cafes, the park. You get the idea. It's like visual word of mouth. When you see a book everywhere, you're more likely to check it out, yourself (unless you're one of those people who's turned off by anything that looks too popular -- but I seriously doubt my books have hit that level yet). I'd love to see more people reading books of all kinds in public -- give the impression that everyone who's anyone is doing it and help make reading look more popular. All the cool people are doing it!

I don't really recommend rearranging bookstore shelves to make a book more prominent because booksellers hate that. You're better off bringing it to the bookseller's attention and then letting them make the decision to feature the book. In some cases, buying the book in the first week of release is best because it increases the chances of it making the bestseller list. I'm not one of those cases because my print run is such that if every single copy they printed sold in the first week, it still wouldn't hit a bestseller list. My goal is more sell-through, to have a larger percentage of the printed books sell over time. A big spike that causes a bestseller placement is nice, but consistent sales over time are also good.

Anyone else have any other word of mouth ideas they'd like to share? I read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point last fall, and he has some fascinating ideas of what goes into word of mouth spreading to the point of something becoming a hit, so I've started trying to study word of mouth to see what, if anything I can do to encourage it. I still think it's mostly up to you guys.

You might start seeing copies of Once Upon Stilettos in some stores as early as today. I was getting reports on the last book of people who bought it on Friday before the release date. If you see it anywhere, let me know! I'm curious about where and when it starts popping up.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The End is in Sight!

So, no takers on meeting up on release day? Y'all are not helping with my insecurity levels. Now I'm thinking twice about all those booksignings I have scheduled, since it doesn't seem like anyone cares to meet me. (Deep, dramatic sigh)

Speaking of which, I've got one to add to the list: April 29 (a Saturday), 2 p.m., Borders in Plano, Texas, on Preston just south of Park (in the same shopping center as the Nordstrom Rack outlet -- you can get bargain designer shoes while meeting me, or meet me while getting bargain designer shoes -- I don't care which). I'll be the one looking lonely and pathetic because nobody loves me. Boo, hoo. (Cue the violins.)

If you don't want to see me, necessarily, what if I promise to wear the Infamous Red Stilettos? Does anyone want to meet them?

Moving past the pity party, I didn't quite finish the draft yesterday, mostly because I wound up rewriting more than I had planned, and there's still more rewriting to come. But I'm within three chapters of the end, and I've more or less mapped out the way the rest of the book will go from here. I think I've clued into another bad habit I have, which may help me find more places I can cut on the next draft. I seem to do a lot of my brainstorming within the pages of the book. If I get another idea of something they could do or how something might work, I tend to write another scene where one of my characters gets that idea instead of going back and editing it into the earlier scene. Now I'm cutting all the "Hey, I got another idea!" scenes and just having everyone be smarter from the start, unless there's some plot reason for them to wait to get an idea. Yeah, in the real world the ideas come gradually (obviously, considering the way I write), but in the world of books, we have to condense all that brainstorming into one session because multiple scenes of people discussing the same thing and coming up with one new idea each time can get boring.

Meanwhile, I got a massive allergy attack, and those Claritin people who claim that it doesn't make you drowsy LIE!!! It made me all woozy and sleepy, and it didn't even work all that well. Fortunately, it rained overnight, so breathing is now much better. After our highs in the 100s earlier in the week, we're back to highs in the 70s, which is very conducive to writing productivity. Speaking of which, I have a book to finish!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Cool Breeze

Ah, blessed relief! It's cool this morning. I slept with my bedroom window open last night, and at some point during the night I had to pull the comforter up. That must have been when the front finally came through. Maybe my brain will wake up a little more now.

If I'm very, very good today, I may finish this draft of the book today (skipping choir practice may be required). Then I'll have to do another pass because I already know of some things I need to fix. I'll also have to start cutting any non-vital scene (there may be a lot of "deleted scenes" for the web site from this book). Although I now have more than 50 pages of material I've cut, the book is now three pages longer than it was when I started revisions.

In the future I will avoid being in the situation where I'm frantically trying to finish a book while another book is on the verge of release. I get very nervous, insecure and paranoid while leading up to release day, and that's not a good state of mind when I'm trying to write. On the other hand, being focused on the writing may have dampened some of the pre-release jitters.

My latest example of author insecurity: I was watching Good Morning America yesterday, and they had author Plum Sykes on to talk about her new novel. I was struck by a surge of jealousy and went into a bit of a snit about how unfair it was that she got on Good Morning America with yet another "rich people behaving badly" book and I can barely get any publicity. And then I realized a couple of things:
1) Her being on Good Morning America didn't take anything away from me. It's not as though they were planning to have me on the show, and then changed their minds when they realized she was available. At least they had an author on instead of some idiot from a reality show, some pre-fab pop star (who probably has a reality show), or any of their other usual kinds of guests. They were also doing something rare in talking about a comic novel that wasn't about death or injustice, which is the usual morning show fare.
2) Her new book may actually help me. Thanks to the providence of alphabetical order, my books are shelved very close to hers, and with her having a new book out and getting all the publicity she's getting, it increases the chances that people will see my book on the shelf. When you think about it that way, it was almost as good as me being on Good Morning America, and I didn't even have to travel, get dressed and put on makeup or get up at an ungodly hour. Score!

Next time I'm at the bookstore, I'll have to check to see what other authors I want to get major national coverage.

Speaking of bookstores, I had an idea yesterday from a comment. I don't have anything planned on release day itself, other than going around to bookstores to admire my book and sign copies, but maybe I ought to do something more momentous. Would anyone in the Dallas/Fort Worth area be interested in meeting up at a bookstore that day for an informal gathering? You could get your copies and get them signed, and then we could hang out in the cafe for a while, drinking overpriced caffeinated beverages and chatting about books.

I was going to try to get a sense of where everyone was and then pick a convenient bookstore, but I'm going to have a diva moment and just designate a store and expect people to go there if they want to see me. :-) I'm picking the Barnes & Noble in Las Colinas (on MacArthur just south of LBJ), in part because it's convenient to me, and in part because that was the birthplace of this book. When my agent told me to write an outline for book two in the series so we could go for a two-book contract in case the first book sold, I took a notebook to that store's cafe and brainstormed, then outlined the plot of the book. It seems appropriate to celebrate the release of the book in the store where it was born.

I will, however, be accommodating as to time. If doing something like this interests you, let me know in comments or e-mail me at and let me know what time you might be able to go next Tuesday. I'll pick a time that seems most convenient to everyone.

The one catch is that there's no guarantee that the book will be in that store on that day. Last year, it took a few days to show up everywhere. But if I know people might be coming, I can try to give them a heads up (or is anyone from that store reading? I know y'all pop in occasionally).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

One More Week!

I only thought the weekend was hot. Yesterday, it hit 101. Yes, 101 in April. I'm dying here. It's too hot to think, and how can I write about November and December in New York when it's 101 degrees? In April!

Of course, the power grid isn't prepared to handle this kind of heat, so we had brownouts and rolling blackouts yesterday. One of the rolling blackouts hit the street I was on as I was driving to my exercise class last night. Suddenly, there were no traffic lights. Fortunately, I was on the major street and there wasn't much traffic on the cross streets, but it was rush hour, so it was kind of a mess. We're supposed to have more of the same today, with a blessed, lovely, wonderful cold front coming through tonight.

If this is any indication of what summer will be like, I'm going to invest in a supply of cotton sundresses that barely touch the body. In this weather, even shorts are uncomfortable because they have a waistband. It's been too hot for hot tea, so I switched to iced tea. It's even too hot for Dr Pepper.

Hmm, maybe I should visit my brother in Chicago this summer. Or even better, my cousin in Alaska. That could be a good time to visit Australia when it's winter there.

In spite of the heat, I have managed to get some work done. Last night, I put on some jazz (the best music for a hot, sultry night) and worked until really late (when it had cooled off to reasonable levels). I'm closing in on the ending of this draft.

Only one more week until the new book comes out. Over the weekend, my Amazon numbers shot up. For a while, it was the #59 bestselling fantasy romance (how they have it categorized). Now it's back to the usual depressing range. I hope that changes a little when the book actually comes out. Yes, I'm being paranoid and insecure again. I think this business is designed to make writers paranoid and insecure and keep them that way. If we ever start to think anything of ourselves, we might get pushy and demanding.

And now I have to go think of something really mean to do to Mimi.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Heat is On

My taxes are done, and now I just have to put the forms in the mail. I was going to walk over to the post office, but it's freakishly hot today (like record-breaking), so I may combine that with a few other errands and just drive. A cool front is supposed to come through tomorrow, and I can't wait. Normally we get a freak cold snap for Easter -- last year there was snow! I guess things had to be different this year.

I'm blaming the heat for my lack of productivity (aside from the taxes) over the weekend. Saturday I helped out at my church's Easter carnival. I was in charge of the sack races, but it was hard to get the kids too excited about that. As hot as it was, the water balloon toss was much more popular. I did get to try out the bounce house (and no, Mom, it didn't deflate and suffocate me, and I didn't get a broken arm) and the giant inflatable slide, but the cotton candy machine wasn't working (bummer). I think the kids had fun, too.

But I was so tired when I got home that I just collapsed and was in bed with the lights out by 9:30. I'd hit Ann Taylor Loft on the way to the carnival to get my "book tour" wardrobe (yes, Ann and I are back on speaking terms since I found something in my size), and I didn't even feel like playing fashion show with my new clothes.

I did get some brainstorming done, and I've found ways to better weave my subplots together so all the plots are intertwined. That's going to create some fun potential scenes. Maybe later today I'll be able to cool off enough to write. I really want to finish my revisions this week, so I'll be ready when the book comes out next week. But first, discounted Easter chocolate is calling me.

Friday, April 14, 2006

New Web Site!!

Big news! I have a brand-new web site, which I guess you already know if you got here from there, but which might be news if you just come here directly. I'll need to re-do my journal layouts to match, but I'll get to that later. Although a lot of the content is the same as in the old site, there are some new things to look at. I've posted an excerpt from Once Upon Stilettos, a new "deleted scene" from Enchanted, Inc. and some new pictures in the photo album. I also re-did my bio. I'll start posting behind-the-scenes info about Once Upon Stilettos after the book comes out. In case you don't have it bookmarked, you can find my site here.

Contrary to what Mom assumed, I've also been plugging away on my book revisions. I hit another scene that needs to be rewritten last night, and once again, my list of twenty things trick seems to have helped. I've always wondered if this scene should even go in the book. It's fun and funny, but it doesn't really propel the story forward. After thinking about it, though, I found a way to rewrite it so that it becomes crucial to the main plot, plus funnier. That will be my work for the day.

I've almost got all my tax stuff together. All that's left is filling in the forms. I'm not being crazy by thinking that Monday, rather than Saturday, is the deadline, right???

When I set up my calendar for the year, I'd planned to take today as a holiday, but it looks like I'll actually end up working even more than normal. I guess I'll have to give myself a comp day somewhere down the line. I am having a minor celebration tonight, since I'll actually be home on a Friday (woo hoo!) and the Sci Fi channel is doing its usual lineup instead of a bad movie marathon. I've got ingredients to make fajitas, guacamole (I found my mix at another store) and margaritas. I've been given an out for the Easter carnival I was supposed to be helping with tomorrow, but I think I'll still go. I need to try out the Bounce House. Every year, I've ended up being too busy with my volunteer task to do it, and this time I'm determined.

And in other news, we've got another Out of the Blogosphere book, Angela Knight's Master of Wolves.

When Jim London's best friend is murdered, Jim vows to catch the killer. Leaving it for the local police to solve is out of the question, because he suspects they are involved.

Jim is more than capable of taking action if they are -- he's a werewolf. Realizing the only way to investigate the department is from the inside, he decides to go undercover -- as a police K-9.

(Okay, that right there sounds like a fun story set-up!)

His "handler" is lovely Faith Weston, the only person on the Clarkston Police Department who isn't up to her neck in murder. But Faith has no idea her "dog" Rambo is a werewolf, or that the department she serves is rotten with corruption.

But it doesn't take her long to figure it out.

For more info, visit Angela's web site.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents E. Lockhart

We're back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, with a return visit from E. Lockhart, who toured last year with her young adult novel The Boyfriend List. She's back with a new book, Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything. If you saw the show on Oprah earlier this week about the "stupid girl" trend, including all those teen novels about being on the A-list, rich, pretty and stupid and all that, this book is the polar opposite. It's smart and funny, and it's about really learning to see people and understand them instead of just making superficial assumptions.

The book is about a girl called Gretchen Kaufman Yee who goes to a wacked-out art school in New York City. She's a collector of plastic Chinese food and odd figurines, a passionate comic-book artist, and a crazy Spider-man fanatic. She's also completely freaked out by the opposite sex -- in particular, the Art Rats, a group of guys in her drawing concentration. One day, she wishes she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the heck guys really talk about.
And the next thing she knows... she is.
A fly.
On the wall of the locker room. 

Now, for the interview (with some different questions, since she's a return guest):
How much, if anything, do you have in common with this heroine?
I come from a mixed background, rather like Gretchen does; although she is Jewish/Chinese American and human/insect (depending on which part of the book you're in), while I'm Jewish/WASP. I was interested in that split identity. Other than that, she's much cooler than I am -- her collections of comic books, plastic Chinese food, strange figurines and such are all things I'm attracted to but never really pursued. 

If you could pick a place where you could be a fly on the wall, where would it be, and what would you want to learn?
In high school, I would have picked the boys' locker room, just as Gretchen does (or is magically forced to). There was just so much about boys that perplexed and distressed me, at the same time as it fascinated me. 
Now -- I'd like to be a fly on the wall during the rehearsals of a great piece of musical theater. I've been writing about summer drama camp, and listening to a lot of show tunes for that book (Dramarama, early 2007), and I'd love to learn how a really stunning musical comes together. 

How have things changed for you as a writer since your first book?
I'm going on tour for Fly on the Wall, with three other YA authors, including fellow GCC member Tanya Lee Stone (A Bad Boy is Good for a Girl). I've never been sent on tour before, and it will be either wild fun or a terrifying nightmare, I am not sure which.  Everything else is pretty much the same. I write. I procrastinate. I write.

Your book uses type style, fonts and the arrangement of type on the page as part of the way the story is told -- almost in an ee cummings way. Is that something you came up with, or was it something your publisher did in typesetting?
The change of font for when Gretchen becomes a fly was the publisher's decision, but the manuscript of Fly on the Wall does have all those carriage returns, the italics and all that odd punctuation, yes.  I was trying to get a stream-of-consciousness feel, and proper sentence structure just got in my way.

What are you working on now?
I'm finishing revisions on the Dramarama book I mentioned earlier, which is about two theater-mad teenagers who spend a summer of jealousy, love, jazz hands and bad behavior at musical theater camp. It has been so so so much fun to write.  But before that, I have the sequel to my book The Boyfriend List, coming out next September. It's called The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, plus Techniques for Taming Them

(Hmm, sounds like that could be useful for big girls, too.)

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
So much of Fly on the Wall takes place in a boys' locker room. The biggest challenge was how to talk about--  well, what I needed to talk about -- and make it entertaining and un-clinical and also not too crazy offensive, even when the characters are offending one-another. So I invented a lot of slang -- mainly body part slang and homophobic slang. And most of it is very ridiculous.  I had a great time. 

For more info, visit her web site. You can also take a quiz to determine your fly style and enter to win a free copy.

This book got me thinking about where I'd like to be a fly on the wall. In high school, I'm sure I wouldn't have picked the boys' locker room. That would have been way more information than I was ready to handle at that time, and besides, I was the girl the guys didn't think of as a girl, so I heard a lot about what they really thought of girls in the school even without going into the locker room. I think I would have wanted to be a fly on the wall for get-togethers of the school's "in" crowd. I was sort of an adjunct member of that group. I was on the fringes of the group in school, but didn't get invited to extra-curricular happenings. My senior year, that group started getting together to work on our trig homework, and I was included. It ended up that not a lot of homework got done. Instead we just hung around eating nachos and talking, and my hope was that this would make them realize that I could be fun, so they might invite me to join them for other things (there was a weird attitude in my school that if you were smart, you weren't capable of having fun and wouldn't enjoy fun or funny things). Then I found out that they were still getting together to do stuff like go to movies or hang out on weekends, and I was never invited. I would have wanted to be a fly on the wall to see if they really were having a lot of fun, or if I was better off being at home and reading. And maybe I could have buzzed them and annoyed them for being jerks.

Now, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at my publisher to see what really goes on behind the scenes there, how they decide on books, how they decide which books get the attention, what gets said about me and other authors. I guess that's the equivalent of the boys' locker room at this stage in my life. Except without the nudity (I hope!).

So, if you could be a fly on the wall anywhere, where would it be, and what would you want to learn?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

And the Winner Is ...

Taaa Daaa!

The winner of the book giveaway is ...

"Carla in Austin."

She not only won the drawing I did when I was being indecisive, but she also got sympathy points with a broken foot that leaves her unable to do much other than read (are those violins I hear?), and she bribed me with the offer of margaritas.

The runners up will be getting the cute frog pins, and then I'll be running to the store to get some more so I can do more giveaways to my mailing list, as I promised (because I didn't have nearly as many pins as I thought I did).

Thanks to those of you who entered!

Diva Lessons

The panic attack is now officially over (or possibly abated for the moment). I really need diva lessons, or maybe assertiveness training (though diva lessons sound like more fun). Most of these things I get really anxious about can be dealt with pretty simply if I just ask about them. I don't know why I get so worried about asking for things that I'm owed. I guess it's part of that same impulse that makes me say that no, this isn't a bad time when someone calls me and I'm in the shower, the oven timer is going off, something's boiling over on the stove, the dryer full of permanent-press clothes has just stopped and my favorite show is on TV with the most crucial moment just about to happen. Not that I'd ever get myself into a situation to have all that going on at once. I'd never take a shower or have the dryer going during my favorite show. But you get the idea. Maybe it's more realistic to say it's like that weird impulse I have to say that no, I wasn't asleep when someone calls me at five in the morning and then asks if they woke me up. Yes, I have actually done that. I have no idea why I felt like it would be some kind of sign of weakness to admit that I was being a lazy bum and actually sleeping that early in the morning, or perhaps I thought I'd make the other person feel bad if they thought they'd woken me up, when, hello, IT'S FIVE IN THE MORNING! WHY WOULDN'T I BE ASLEEP, YOU MORON!!!

See, I really do need diva lessons. I pride myself on being low-maintenance, but there is such a thing as being too low-maintenance, because if you're too easy and accommodating, you may fall through the cracks. People tend to put a higher value on things they have to work harder for, and that can apply to people, as well. If people know you're not going to make a fuss about something, you may get moved to the bottom of the priority list so they can focus on the person who is likely to make a fuss.

Anyway, the info about my book is now finally up at my publisher's web site, and that means it should be showing up at B&N and Amazon soon. Soon after I made my last post, I finally got those files I needed. Now there's just one more thing someone needs to get to me, aside from the payment my client owes me. I feel like I'm more on track. I spent most of yesterday working on the new version of my web site, even while I was watching TV, with the result that I barely remember what happened on the shows I was watching. I'll let everyone know when the new site goes live.

One thing I do remember from TV is that there seem to be some commercials straight out of my brain. There's the Dodge commercial with the mischievous fairy zipping around New York, and then there's an Earthlink commercial showing all kinds of mythical creatures working in a cubicle farm office setting. Both of those commercials will get my attention, no matter what I'm working on, because it's almost like watching my books come to life. Freaky. In fact, they're closer to my mental images of my books than the dream I had the other night about my books being made into a movie. Somehow, Colin Firth was involved, and he was wearing a toga. The setting seemed very ancient Rome. I'm not sure how that came out of my books, but in my head in the dream, that's what was going on. I don't quibble about Colin Firth making guest appearances in my dreams, no matter how little sense they make.

I'll be announcing contest winners later. First I have to go through the agony of choosing the book winners, and then I'll do a drawing from the mailing list for some other stuff. There weren't many entries for the books, so I may give first priority on the other prizes to the runners up there. I guess I'd better check on how many frog pins I have, and then maybe I'll need to restock if the store still has them.

In other news, this is Drop Everything and Read Day. Celebrate by taking some time out with a favorite book, and if you have youngsters in your life, read with them. Like I need an excuse ...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pardon My Panic Attack

Two weeks from today, Once Upon Stilettos will be officially released (though there may be places where it's available earlier). That means it's time for a good paranoid panic attack. I feel like I'm running behind, like there are things I should have done by now that aren't done. Part of that is because of the release date change. I had a timeline laid out, but moving the release date up a month compressed that, and then there's the fact that I'm busy writing a book, which means I have less time to deal with everything.

I'm also starting to worry that there's less buzz building up than with the last book, and that may be yet another factor from the release date change. I'm not sure how many people got that memo. I'm not seeing nearly the same number of advance reviews that I had at this time last year (with publication a month later), let alone with publication two weeks away. Some places that reviewed the last book, like Dark Realms magazine, don't seem to be reviewing this one. Meanwhile, there's still no info about the book up at Amazon or B&N, and even the Ballantine web site is conspicuously blank about this book, which is part of what set off the major panic attack yesterday. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd fallen through the cracks. Fortunately, my agent's blog mentioned a meeting with my editor where they talked about the exciting launch plans, so it doesn't sound like they've forgotten me entirely (though it would be kind of nice to be let in on the exciting launch plans for my own book). I hate bringing stuff like up, though, because it's hard to do without feeling like I'm demanding a twelve-city book tour, a spot on the Today Show and a full-page ad in Entertainment Weekly. No, really, all I want is for the publisher's own web site to acknowledge that they're publishing my book. (Though I wouldn't turn down that full-page ad.)

Another part of my problem in feeling like I'm behind is that I'm having to wait for other people to do stuff for me. I thought I was making progress in hiring people to do stuff instead of trying to do it all myself. I even went the extra step in hiring people on a purely business basis even though I have very talented friends who I'm sure would have been willing to cut me a deal. The problem with hiring friends is that it's harder to complain if they don't get something done on time, and if they're cutting you a deal, you can't expect them to put your project ahead of their regular work. And it turns out that was a good plan because I've been having to complain about work not getting done. I put that off as long as I could because I've been in the vendor position, and I always hated it when clients called to wonder where their stuff was. But then I remembered that those calls came before the deadline. I hated it when we'd agree on a deadline, and then days or even weeks before, the client would start checking in to see how things were going.

Now I'm starting to understand that impulse. I had some stuff designed and printed, and then I still didn't have it after the longest window they gave for printing and delivery. I waited an additional couple of days, then checked on the status. It hadn't been printed yet. After my status check, it got printed the next day, then they changed my delivery to air instead of ground, but that still amounted to me getting it nearly a week after I'd counted on having it -- which meant I missed a couple of opportunities to use those materials. Then there's the design element I was getting done for my web site. An advertised "three-day turnaround" is turning into three weeks. I approved the final design more than a week ago, and all they have to do is give me the final files. The response to my nag yesterday was, "Oops, we'll get on that ASAP. Sorry." (I still don't have it.) I want to redesign my web site, but I can't do it until I get those files. If that was the more typical experience my clients had, I can see why they'd be calling before the deadline to check on progress. If you wait until the deadline -- until the time you need something -- and the work hasn't started yet, then it's going to be late. That status check before things are due seems to be the only way to be sure things will get done by the due date. God help me, I was sending my own, "Just checking to see where we are and when I'll get that" reminders yesterday. It's not even just my vendors. One of my clients has been consistently late in paying me for work, and after spending three months tracking down a late payment, I'm not up to giving them any grace period. I start nagging the day it's late, because it's going to take resubmitting the invoice and going back through the whole system, and that adds a couple of weeks to the process. I'm not going to wait the standard fifteen days before I start sending late notices, or else it will be a month late by the time I get a check.

I really hate having to do that kind of nagging. My way of doing business has always been to set a deadline we both can deal with, then I leave them alone to do the work and get it to me on deadline, or else they leave me alone to do the work and I get it to them on or before deadline. I pay when it's due, and they pay when it's due, and we're all happy. How much productivity is lost because of all those, "So, am I ever going to get that?" messages?

And to top it off, the neighborhood grocery store had avocados on sale, but they didn't have any guacamole mix -- the packet you just mix with mashed avocados that makes better guacamole than if I try to make it from scratch. You'd think it would be a great cross-promotion to have all those piles of avocados, then other stuff you might buy to go with them. But no. How do businesses stay in business when they do dumb stuff like this or miss opportunities?

Okay, the rant is over and I feel somewhat better. Maybe now that I have that out of my system, I might even be able to write today. It's sad what a big panic attack that turns into anger can do for your creativity. I need to just let it go (even though there are still people who owe me stuff, and I've got a deadline here, people! The book is coming out in two weeks!!! Ahem.)

Oh, and this is your last chance to enter the book or icon contest. Deadline is 10 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Booksigning Routine

I'm feeling quite accomplished today. It's not even noon and I've already done two loads of laundry and checked off most of the items on my to-do list. Of course, the remaining items are things like "write a book," so it's not as though the rest of the day is smooth sailing, but I have taken care of a few nagging little things that I tend to put off dealing with even though they usually just take an e-mail or a phone call.

A few more thoughts from last weekend's book festival -- Friday night at the reception, the entertainment was by a guy who writes non-fiction historical books about stuff like Billy the Kid and who writes and performs Western folk-type music (as in "we have both kinds of music, country and western"). He said he often writes songs inspired by his books, and then he performs them at book signings, which then results in a lot of sales. That sounds like a great idea. There are just a few problems: I don't play an instrument that allows me to sing at the same time, I don't write music, I think in 100,000 word (or more) chunks of words, so I don't write poetry that can be set to music, and then there's that weird stage fright thing. I can talk in front of any group, but if music is involved, I totally freeze. That was a big problem when I played oboe in high school band because it's a solo instrument.

I've also heard of authors who created a sort of staged reading play out of their books and had a cast of actors to perform it. I don't think my books really lend themselves to that sort of thing, and I don't know a lot of actors, so that's probably out. So far, my book signing routine has been to just sit behind a table, wear cute shoes and smile at people. But it seems like the book world is moving to more in the way of performance instead of the traditional booksigning, so you do readings, or give a talk, or something like that. My experience has been that people trickle in and out for signings, so I'm not sure I could draw enough of a crowd at any one time to not feel pathetic about facing a sea of empty chairs. On the other hand, I've found that whenever I speak about something, it tends to result in book sales. Maybe for the Austin signing I'll do an experiment and let them set me up to give a short talk and maybe a reading, followed by a signing, and we'll see if anyone actually shows up. If no one does, then we'll punt and go with a traditional sit behind the table and smile signing. I guess I'll have to talk to the people at the store and get a sense of what their customers might respond to.

Any thoughts from authors about what's worked for you, or from readers about what might get you to go to the store? (Or, if you're already in a store, what would draw your attention and get you to sit down and listen?) What would you like to see/hear from a favorite author (or even one you just kind of like)? Remember, I draw the line at singing, and most stores aren't set up for cooking demonstrations.

Now I guess I'd better get to work on that "write a book" item on my to-do list.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Back to Book World

I have survived the first wave of Silly Season. I got through the last book festival/conference yesterday evening. It was a good one, with an informed audience and lots of librarians. I even got a little bit of a blast from the past because they announced the winners of a high school short story contest, and the first-place winners had to read their stories out loud. The stories reminded me of all those things I scribbled in spiral notebooks when I was in high school, only theirs were probably a lot better than mine. For one thing, they actually finished theirs and submitted them someplace. I never knew of any venues to send my stories to, which meant I didn't have a lot of incentive to finish them. For another, my stories tended to have alien invaders or messengers from alternate worlds show up midway through. There would be a page or two of introspective teen angst, and then suddenly the aliens were invading and my characters had to realize how meaningless all their teen angst really was. I think I might have had issues.

Now I plan to return to Book World until I get this book done. I've come up with lots of ideas but haven't had the time or energy to actually get anything written. Fair warning to my family and real-life or local friends: I don't plan to leave the house this week except to go to exercise class and possibly grocery shopping on Monday and then choir practice on Wednesday. Otherwise, I'll be living in my own little world. I do need to finish doing my taxes, but I was pretty good about record keeping last year, so that shouldn't be too hard. For me, the hard part is usually tracking down and sorting all the receipts. Filling out the forms isn't that difficult.

A couple more notes on that contest thing: winners are limited to US and Canada because for the things I'm sending, I can't afford foreign postage, and for the things my publisher will be sending, it's kind of unfair to ask them to mail stuff to countries where their books aren't actually being officially distributed. I should also say that if your entry for the books is of the sob story variety, it doesn't have to make me happy. I mean, if you have one month to live and want an early copy of the next book so you can be sure to read it before you die, that won't make me happy, but it would be a pretty compelling entry (though I might have to require a doctor's note, so don't go trying to scam me). I must say, from the ones I've seen so far, it's going to be a tough decision that could require me doing a drawing from among the top entries. Needless to say, my ego is feeling good right now. :-)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Bookfest and Some Goodies

I made it through my TV interview okay. I felt good about it, I don't think I said anything too stupid, and I made the host laugh a few times, which is good. It turns out it won't air until August, so it may be a bit dated by then. I'd thought it might be on next week, so I was prepared to talk mostly about the last book, then mention the one that was coming up, but even the new book will be old news by then. I guess that's local public access cable for you. In my wildest dreams, this next book will be a huge hit and I'll become famous, and then DCTV will realize they have this fabulous exclusive interview on their hands. (As an author, I obviously have a vivid imagination.)

I've got one more crazy weekend ahead of me. This time it's the Best Southwest Bookfest in Duncanville. Tonight is the party where guests get to mingle with the authors. I'm excited because I came up with a new outfit to wear, using an old suit jacket and my latest shoe acquisition, and it looks like something out of a fashion magazine. Then tomorrow all day is the festival. I'm speaking at 10 in the morning, then again on a panel at 4:30 (I think -- they haven't exactly confirmed much of anything, so I'm hoping I don't show up tonight and get a blank look).

After this weekend, I get a bit of a break before the book comes out, and then it starts all over again. Next weekend is Easter, which will be busy in its own right, but I get to be home on Friday night (let's just hope the Sci Fi channel actually shows the things I want to watch instead of the kind of crappy "Sci Fi Original Movie" marathon they tend to do on holidays), and helping with an Easter egg hunt isn't quite the same level of work-related stress. The following weekend I have writing group stuff, but no specific responsibilities other than showing up.

I had a fun bit of library serendipity yesterday. I always at least check the new books shelf, just in case, and there was a non-fiction book that addresses a topic for one of my subplots. I doubt I'd have ever found it if I'd gone looking for that kind of thing, but the title caught my eye, and then it was perfect for what I needed.

Now for some news -- In the next week or so, I'll be giving away some cute frog prince pins. In order to be eligible for the drawing, you have to belong to my mailing list, so now would be a good time to join. I promise not to spam you with newsletters and stuff like that. I only send out info when I have news. (This is to thwart the Internet freebie junkies who enter contests en masse. I want to reward my readers, so if word does get out and the contest junkies show up, then at least they have to get my book news while they're at it.)

Plus, my editor has generously made available a grand prize consisting of a personally autographed (by me, not by my editor) copy of Enchanted, Inc. and an advance copy of Once Upon Stilettos. Since if you're reading this, you likely already have a copy of Enchanted, Inc., you can keep the autographed one as a keepsake and save the other one to re-read, or you can use that copy as a loaner to hook others, or give it to a friend who might enjoy it and then force him/her to buy the sequel. But I'm going to make you work for this one. You have to send me a short paragraph about why you think you should win -- sob stories, plans for using your advance peek at the new book to help spread the word, stories about how many people you got to buy Enchanted, Inc. You get the picture. I won't be judging on grammar, spelling or writing style. The winner will be the one that makes me happiest. Entries are due by 10 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, April 11. To enter, e-mail me with your paragraph in the body of the e-mail at Put something about the contest in the subject line. Good luck!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

TV, Reviews and another Blogosphere Visit

I get the interesting experience today of taping a TV interview show. It will only be shown on local access cable in Dallas, so I won't get to see it, and not even my mom will be watching, but you never know, someone might be bored enough to surf by. Besides, it's good practice in case Good Morning America calls. I should be good at this kind of thing, considering I have a degree in broadcast journalism. I've been on the other side of the microphone/camera a number of times, and I even used to do media training to coach other people how to do interviews. I just haven't spent a lot of time being the victim -- er, interviewee. This show also requires me to read from my work, which is still not something I'm entirely comfortable doing, for some weird reason. I'm having some trouble coming up with something to wear. Once upon a time, because of the TV news issue, most of my wardrobe was TV friendly -- no small patterns, bright, solid colors, no large amounts of white near the face. Now it seems like all my fun tops involve lots of white or lots of small patterns. I still have a couple of suits that might work, but I don't think suits really fit my current image, or at least not the one I want to convey. I guess I can always fall back on a red sweater, considering how many of those I have.

It looks like I'm going to have to tear out and then rewrite the entire middle of the current monstrosity. I'm excited about that because I can already see where it will be better. The list of twenty strikes again, so now I have lots of ideas. I just need the time to sit down and focus. Guess who has another book festival this weekend, though. My plan was to have been done with the book by now, but oh well. I shall have to learn to multitask.

Reviews for Once Upon Stilettos are starting to trickle in. Here's the latest, from Fresh Fiction. I like that they say you don't have to have read the first book to enjoy this one. I'm too close to the material to have a sense of whether or not that's true. Ideally, you should read them in order, but I'm glad to see that it might be possible for someone to pick this one up and then maybe want to go back and read the first one.

Now for another Out of the Blogosphere entry. This week's guest is Deidre Knight, the founder of the Out of the Blogosphere group. Her new book is Parallel Attraction.

About the book:
It has been years since exiled alien king Jared Bennett thought of anything other than his people's fight for freedom. Now his rebel force has the one weapon that can turn the tide against their enemy: the key to the secrets of time. Victory has never been closer-but one woman has the power to change everything.

Kelsey Wells can't deny that there is something unearthly about her fierce attraction to Jared Bennett. His revelations about alien wars and time travel can't possibly be fact-yet with every seductive touch, every searing kiss, Kelsey circles closer to the truth: that although Jared is exactly what he says, he hasn't told her everything. And when the future crashes into the present, Kelsey must decide if his deception will cost them the love that should have been their destiny.

For more info, visit

Meanwhile, because I am a blog slut, I'm part of another group blog. This one won't be touring. Instead, it's a separate group blog, the Deadline Hellions. We all used to write for the Harlequin/Silhouette romantic comedy lines (Yours Truly and Love and Laughter, which became Duets, which became Flipside, which died and went away), which is how our group got started, but then along the way we've become a crazy kind of support group for our lives and our careers, and then we got the bright idea of sharing that madness with the world. We'll be taking turns with our entry for the day, and then Friday through Sunday we'll let you eavesdrop on (and join in) some of our wacky chatter. You can find us at

And now I'd better see about doing something with my hair before I go on TV. Maybe I should find something to read, while I'm at it (a girl has to have her priorities).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Finding the Magic

Every time I go to a conference, I think about writing something on this topic. I might as well finally do it today before I get scatterbrained and forget.

There are a lot of aspiring authors out there who seem to think that there's a magic spell that will get them published. If you hang out at a writing conference or subscribe to any writing-related e-mail lists, you'll notice people who are desperately looking for the right combination of things they can do that will guarantee a book contract. I guess a recipe would have been an equally good metaphor, but I write books about magic, so I'm going with the magic spell metaphor, and besides, recipes are too close to science. When it comes to writing, there's no guaranteed outcome. In spite of what a lot of people seem to believe, it's not as though you can bury a canary feather under an oak tree at midnight during the full moon, then spin three times counterclockwise naked while chanting in Latin and then be sure your book will sell (though you're welcome to give it a try, and be sure to post pictures on the Internet and let us know how it goes).

The people looking for that magic spell seem to fall into two main groups. One group focuses on the process of writing. They're searching for that magical combination of ingredients that will give them a manuscript that sells. If they have their goals, motivations and conflicts determined, if they find the right character worksheet and fill it in the right way, if they can glean some specific insight from an editor on exactly what that editor is looking for beyond "a good book," then they can create a selling manuscript.

The problem is, there is no one single way to write a book that will sell, and following every single guideline won't guarantee that your book will sell. Each author has to find his or her own way of working, of finding story and characters and making them come together in a book. If you're like me, it changes with every book. When you go around looking for that one magical spell, you're in danger of your head exploding because every workshop speaker or how-to book author is going to tell you something different, and sometimes the advice contradicts. Not that workshops and how-to books are a waste of time. Try on all the various techniques and methods and see what resonates with you. My processes are a hodge-podge of things I've pulled together from a variety of sources, some of which actually aren't writing-related (I use self-help psychology books as characterization resources, for instance). Meanwhile, hearing what editors say they're looking for only helps you if you already happen to have a manuscript that fits that niche. If you have to run home and write something, by the time you get it done and submitted, it's probably too late. They won't be looking for that anymore. The one exception might be a new category line opening up, but while new lines can be great opportunities, they also offer their own pitfalls (and I speak from experience there). Chasing the market will only cause you frustration. You have to write what you want to write, what you want to read, and then you find the market niche it belongs to -- or create one.

But that group is sort of on the right track because at least they recognize that it's about the book itself, the material contained in those pages. The other group is closer to canary-feather-under-the-oak-tree territory because they really do seem to be trying to create a spell that will sell rather than worrying about the book. They spend a lot of time and energy worrying about manuscript format, fonts, word count, paper clips, binder clips, rubber bands, envelopes, how to seal the envelope, which month is best for submitting, query letters vs. sending pages of the manuscript, and so forth. These are the discussions that can rage for days on writing loops, and I've seen conference workshops deteriorate into debates over binder clips vs. rubber bands -- even when the workshop was supposed to be about the story elements that go into a breakout novel. It's like these people believe that if you use the right fonts, margins and paper type, if you bind it in just the right way, put it in just the right envelope, send just the right material, seal the envelope the right way and mail it at the right time, the book will sell, regardless of anything to do with the book itself.

I've been a published author for thirteen years now, and I can honestly say that very little of that stuff has ever made much of a difference. The word count and manuscript formatting to get the right formula for word count only makes a big difference if you're writing for category lines where they have very specific word count ranges. Even so, I didn't learn the formatting formula for calculating word count until after I'd written my two category romances. I used the totally wrong font (New York -- the default Mac font at the time -- instead of Courier) and the computer word count instead of the formula, and all that happened was that my books had to be trimmed a little in the copy editing process. They still sold and were published. I submitted my first novel, a short 40,000 word book, by sending it in a box instead of a large envelope. It still sold. I once said something about proper manuscript format to my current editor, and she gave me a blank look. She'd never heard of some of the so-called rules, and this is a fairly senior person at a major publishing company who has worked for other publishers, as well. True, she's the kind of person agents submit to who doesn't see the slush pile coming directly from authors, so agents may have reformatted manuscripts to send her, but as long as she can read it, she doesn't care much.

Mind you, this isn't open season for submitting your work handwritten in yellow crayon on sheets torn from spiral notebooks. You want to present yourself as a professional who has done some research on the business. But as long as a manuscript is reasonably professional looking (printed in black ink on white paper in a font and with margins that don't give someone a headache, and with page numbers and an identifying header on each page in case a draft blows through the office and scatters the manuscript), they're only looking at the content. If you've got a story that knocks their socks off, they don't care if your margins are too narrow or too wide or if you used a binder clip instead of a rubber band. I can't think of an editor out there who would say, "I's a terrific book that could be a bestseller, but the font was wrong, so we'll have to reject it." On the other hand, if your story isn't up to par or isn't what they're looking for, all the fonts, formats and clips in the world won't save it. You're not going to find an editor saying, "The book didn't do a lot for me, but that's the most professional-looking submission I've ever seen, and she followed all the rules, so let's publish it."

If an agent or publisher posts guidelines on how they want to get submissions, then follow them. There's nothing there to lose sleep over. Send them what they ask for. That may be the one place where it is important to follow the rules as stated. There are agents who won't read e-mail queries, and there are agents who won't read anything but e-mail queries, so send what they ask for. Beyond that, worry about the book.

Of course, the book is the hard part. Any idiot can format a manuscript. Writing a book that keeps people turning pages with characters that capture imaginations takes a combination of talent, hard work and maybe even the kind of magic we can't quantify, define or control.

Speaking of which, I'm nearing the halfway point on my revisions, and I'm feeling good about it so far. I'm still stressing over how long the book is turning out to be, given how much I feel like I still need to add. I've been cutting things I like that may not actually belong in this book, but I'm not entirely sure where they need to go. Y'all are going to have to help me out here by getting the word out and making sure this next book sells well enough for me to sell at least one more in this series because I've got a lot of things I keep putting aside to deal with later, and I'm running out of "later" unless I get another contract.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Life-Changing List and Blogosphere Visit

That list of 20 things tip I mentioned yesterday? Life. Changing. Seriously. I had a new scene I knew I needed to incorporate into my rewrites, but I wasn't entirely sure what would happen, only how it fit into the plot and that I wanted it to be really funny. So, I sat down with a notebook and started listing things that could happen in the scene. By the time I got to five, I thought I had the scene pretty well figured out, but I knew I needed to get to twenty, so I kept coming up with random things to write down. Some of them were silly, but it was items 19 and 20 on the list that really made the scene come to life for me and that I think will provide the climax and punchline of the scene. If I'd just brainstormed in the usual way or just sat down to write it, I never would have come up with the ideas that should make the scene something special.

Wow, this is so exciting. I may have to go back and try this with all the other big scenes. I can't wait to do this while brainstorming an entire book.

The down side is that I don't know for sure yet what I'll need to cut in order to fit this big new scene in. The book is still loooooong, and I'm not sure I'm quite ready to hit JK Rowling lengths yet. This may be where I have to decide (or let the publisher decide) if they're going to keep me in chick lit or let me be fantasy. In fantasy you can more easily get away with epic tomes. I don't know if I've yet seen a 125,000-word chick lit novel.

Weird thing is, in some cases I may have already cut too much, even from the draft I sent to my agent. I'd had a scene that I ended up cutting. It gave a recurring character more of a role, but the information in the scene was repeated elsewhere, so I cut it. But I accidentally left in a later reference to that scene. At that reference, my agent noted that it would have been nice to actually see that scene. Oops. I did write it, but I'm not sure how I'd go about fitting it in again. See above about the epic tome. In my revisions so far, I've managed to kill all of a thousand words, maybe, and the parts where I really need to add stuff come later on.

In the meantime, I need to be doing some rewrites on my Judy Blume essay, and then, get this, they're going to send these essays to Judy Blume to read. EEEEEEPP! Judy Blume will be reading something I wrote. Judy Blume will then know that I exist. Pardon me while I have a panic attack over here in the corner.

Finally, I've fallen behind on the Out of the Blogosphere entries. No interview this time, as the guest author wasn't able to get to my questions (besides, it turns out I'm the only one in the group doing interviews like that, and I hate to make the others look bad -- or, to be honest, do additional work). This voyage's book is Crimson Rogue by Liz Maverick.

About the Book:
Crimson Rogue is the latest in the Crimson City series of books started by Liz. From the four strata of Crimson City come rogues: vampire, werewolf, human, demon. These rebels, rakes and unsung heroes have turned their backs on the extravagant vampire skyway, the gritty werewolf underground, the iron-fisted human stronghold and the fiery power of the demon underworld. Walking a thin line between heaven and hell, they make their own rules and follow their own destinies. Ironically, they will be the ones to determine if the City flourishes or fails.

In this book, Cydney Brighton has escaped hell to discover that the City is not what it once was—and neither is she. Only one man understands her, understands what it means to be someone or something beyond control. He’s ready to come out of the darkness; and part-man, part-machine, he’s willing to sacrifice almost anything to make himself whole.

For more info on the series, visit For more info on Liz and her books, visit

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Evil Time Change and Other Weekend Adventures

I had one of those crazy weekends that makes me want to treat Monday like another weekend day for recovery, but I have a lot to do, so I can't really. The time change is affecting me a bit, mostly by making me feel like I'm running behind. I don't generally set an alarm on mornings when I don't have to be anywhere or do anything at any specific time, so my body doesn't recognize time changes very well. I went to bed last night on the new time because I was utterly exhausted, but I would have slept late today even without the time change. On the new time, it was extremely late. Now I'm worried about how this will affect my work schedule. My brain kicks into gear at 10, which is now 11, and I don't want to get in the habit of working from 11 to 2.

The conference this weekend was great, in spite of the headache that hit me midway through the day on Saturday, in fact, right in the middle of a workshop, so I had to get up and leave right then before my head exploded. I might have survived the workshop if it hadn't been one of those interactive ones where you're expected to write during the workshop. I don't write well on command, and the surest way to get my brain to freeze is to say, "Okay, in the next five minutes, I'd like you to create a memorable character and write a scene showing how this character is memorable." It takes me five minutes to settle in and decide to write. It can take me weeks to create a memorable character because there are all sorts of layers and nuances that come to me gradually. Writing a scene and creating a character who's anything but a stock stereotype in five minutes? You've gotta be kidding me.

The headache may have been my agent's fault (sort of. Okay, not really). I got dragged (okay, invited, and I went willingly) to a late-night happy hour with a couple of other agents and their authors, and appletinis on a nearly empty stomach aren't a great idea (for the second round, I ordered chips and queso instead of a drink). I now have to check a bunch of blogs because the constant threat anytime anyone said anything funny was, "That'll go in the blog." I don't think I said anything particularly interesting because alcohol tends to make me mellow, and I was just listening to everyone else talk. I ended up getting to bed pretty late, and then our workshop was at 8:45 the next morning, which meant I didn't sleep well because I kept waking up to look at the clock and make sure I wasn't oversleeping.

But we survived our workshop, and I think it went really well. They even had to kick us out of the room so the next workshop could get started, we had so many people coming up to speak to us afterward -- and they weren't even all people trying to pitch their books to Kristin. Some even wanted to talk to me! I think they mostly wanted to admire my shoes. Well, there was one bookstore owner who was excited about doing a chick lit display in her store, which was cool.

I did pick up one really cool tip from a workshop that I can't wait to try. Linda Lael Miller talked about the Rule of 20: when you have to think of what will happen in a book, make a list of 20 things that could happen. Do that for the whole book, for a scene, for a character's decision, etc. Some may be cliched, some may be silly, but something on the list will trigger your imagination and give you something fresh and interesting. It's having to come up with 20 things that really forces you to come up with different things you might not have considered otherwise. That's a tip that's right up my alley. I LOVE making lists. I make lists for fun. Making lists relaxes me. This seems like a brainstorming idea that might really work for me. Unfortunately, my silly brain decided to put it into action Saturday night when I fell into bed to try to get some sleep and get rid of that headache. And I had not been drinking at all Saturday night because I was the driver as I dragged my agent around some of my Dallas stomping grounds.

I may have to do a post someday on insider secrets to not annoying an agent because boy, did I learn a lot. I should also teach a class on how to pitch a book because that seems to be a skill a lot of people are lacking.

Meanwhile, I've been on a reading binge. I took a break from the Stephanie Plum books before I had the urge to knock over a Krispy Kreme. Over the weekend, I read Innocence, by Kathleen Tessaro, which had an interesting structure, with chapters alternating between the past and the present, telling what was happening to the heroine now and what had happened in the past to get her to that point. I love the idea of playing with timelines that way. Now I'm reading Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews, and I may have to give up on the idea of work so I can sit on the patio with a glass of iced tea and read because it's an addictively funny book. I can justify it by saying I have to finish reading it before I go back to work because her voice is similar enough to mine that there may be bleedthrough, and I have to get it out of my system. Yeah, that sounds like an ideal excuse!