Friday, June 30, 2006

My So-Called Glamorous Life

A comment made at LiveJournal the other day made me think about the life of an author and the way others tend to perceive it. Non-authors often think authors live incredibly glamorous lives, while authors always seem to be talking about how non-glamorous their lives are. I'm sure this varies by author, kind of book, and where you are on the food chain, but you know, my life is sometimes pretty glamorous. It's just that the glamorous stuff is vastly outweighed by the exact opposite of glamour.

The part of my life where I'm actually working on a book is about as non-glamorous as you can get -- unless you think that the act of writing a novel is inherently glamorous. I don't work in my pajamas, although I know there are authors who do. I just have this weird mental block about wearing pajamas in the daytime. If I'm wearing pajamas in the daytime, I don't get any work done because part of my brain thinks I must be sick. Even when I really am sick, I'll still get dressed because that makes me feel better. However, my "clothes" aren't really all that different from pajamas. In colder weather I'll wear sweats or leggings with a sweatshirt or long-sleeved t-shirt. In warmer weather, I generally wear knit exercise shorts and a t-shirt. I have a vast wardrobe of t-shirts from 5K races, client events, trade show giveaways, etc. I probably could sleep in any of the clothes I wear as pajamas, but I have the reverse mental block there. I prefer to wear proper pajamas/nightshirt/nightgown instead of sleeping in a t-shirt. Yeah, I'm weird. If I have to go out for some reason, I might wear jeans and a somewhat nicer t-shirt or sweater that day.

As for shoes, I wear things I can slip out of easily. I don't like walking around barefoot, but when I sit down, I usually come right out of the shoes (I've been known to sit in the choir loft at church barefoot through the whole service, then have to scramble to find my shoes at the end of the service). I've thought about getting a pair of those high-heeled marabou-trimmed slippers that Doris Day seemed to wear in her movies, but they'd probably clash with the shorts and t-shirts and might give Johnny the FedEx guy a heart attack. I don't own a feather boa or a tiara.

I don't wear any makeup at all most of the time. If I have to go out to run errands, I might wear concealer as needed and some tinted lip balm. My hair stays in some variation on a ponytail, and quite often I'll sleep with it that way and then not change anything when I get up the next morning (you can't brush curly hair). When I'm really into a book, I go out as little as possible, just to get groceries every so often and to go to choir practice and church, for the most part. As a result, my social life is barely on life support. I may cook once a week and eat leftovers supplemented with frozen entrees. That's when I'm not forgetting to eat.

I suppose you could say that I do eat bon-bons when I write, but that's because I've started using a weird little motivational system. I count out M&Ms according to the number of pages I want to write and keep them in a little dish on my desk. Each page I finish, I eat an M&M. That gives me a tiny little incentive to keep going, as well as a visual reminder of how much more work I need to do.

However, the public parts of my job can be quite glamorous. I travel to New York fairly often, both to research my books and to meet with my publisher. When I'm there, I may get taken to lunch at fun places. I've had cocktails at the Algonquin Hotel with my agent. When I go to conferences, there are often cocktail parties hosted by publishers or by various writing groups. I have a good-sized wardrobe of cocktail dresses.

I've been interviewed on TV and by newspaper reporters, though so far, most of my newspaper interviews have been over the phone instead of the interview over coffee at a posh cafe that it seems like the famous authors get (on the bright side, I don't have to worry about what to wear). Booksignings can be draining and depressing, but they can also make me feel like a minor celebrity for a short time. I love dressing up and wearing nice clothes, so I go all-out for these public events.

My life might be even more glamorous if I lived in New York because then I'd be invited to all the book parties that other authors have (Authors can generally be counted on to show up and make the party look busy. They show up because it creates positive book event karma so other authors will come to their events and because it can be good publicity for themselves.). Or I might not, considering I don't seem to be on the list for any of the parties they have for authors here locally. I've never had an actual book party, though when my very first book came out, my office threw me a little party during the day and even got a cake (woo hoo!). I know that the real kind of book tour that doesn't involve my Saturn and relatives' guest rooms isn't actually as glamorous as it sounds because while you might be staying in nice hotels, you usually get in very late, then have to be up at the crack of dawn for a day of constant travel and events, so it's not like you get to enjoy the luxury.

I might be a bit jaded because some of my previous jobs were actually more glamorous than this and involved meeting more famous people. I worked in radio and television news and then in public relations. One of my PR jobs involved dealing with people who'd won Nobel Prizes and going to parties at the homes of local movers and shakers. Of course, I was there more as "help" instead of as a guest, but it still felt glamorous when I was right out of college to be at a party in a home with original Picassos on the walls, even if I was just there with a photographer to direct which people we needed to be sure to have pictures of.

So, that's my life. I'm either a slob who never leaves the house, or I get all dressed up to go out and be a minor celebrity when I face my public. I get to be mostly a slob for the next three weeks, and I'm enjoying it already.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Kyra Davis

We're back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, this time with Kyra Davis, author of Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights. This book is a follow-up to Sex, Murder and a Double Latte, a chick-lit flavored mystery.

Here's the scoop on the book:
Sophie Katz has just offered a man $12,000 for his services…is she desperate or just meshugeneh?

Considering the kind of disasters that usually befall the half-black, half Jewish mystery writer, probably both. Because the last time Sophie saw sexy P.I. Anatoly Darinsky, he practically danced a jig when she waved goodbye -- a normal reaction for a man who’d nearly bought the farm due to her misguided attempts at vigilante justice. What are the chances he’d agree to take incriminating pictures of her sister’s philandering husband? Or that he’d let her tag along -- you know…for research?

But when her brother-in-law turns up dead and her sister becomes the prime suspect Sophie’s priority is finding the real killer. With or without Anatoly’s help. Her brother-in-law’s secret life yields plenty of suspects, but the San Francisco police aren’t taking any of them seriously. So Sophie does what comes naturally to her: she stirs up trouble (to lure the killer out, of course).

But if her crazy plan works will everybody survive the outcome?

And now the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
When I was three quarters of the way through the rough draft of Sex, Murder And A Double Latte it occurred to me that the book could be the beginning of a series. Since I had spent most of the first novel exploring Sophie's relations with her crazy friends I figured that it would be fun to use the next book (Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights) to explore her relations with her even crazier family. Having her sister's husband threaten divorce (and then wind up dead) seemed like a natural segue for a comical women's murder mystery.

Describe your creative process.
My process seems to vary book to book. I started two of my novels by "the-seat-of-my-pants" only to end up writing an outline when I was already at least 100 pages into the books. I began working on Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights by writing a very detailed outline but by the time I got to page 200 I realized that if I stuck to it my book would be completed before I reached page 250 (and there is NO WAY my editor would have gone for that). So I ended up tossing the outline and writing the rest of the book by the seat-of-my-pants again. I've probably come up with at least five different outlines for the book I'm working on now and I really haven't been sticking to any of them.

So I guess my process is that I don't have a process. For some completely inexplicable reason this seems to work for me.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I love listening to the radio when I'm writing. This is how it works...most of the songs they play on the station I listen to are what I consider to be decent background music but every ten to twenty songs they play something that is so good that it demands a little more of my attention. When that happens I save whatever I've been writing and start dancing around the house (no joke). Then, when the song's over, I'm refreshed and energized and ready to sit back down at my computer and write some more. My neighbor says she can always tell when I'm writing because that's when I play my music the loudest.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Well we're both writers, we're both biracial, we're both divorced, we're both from the Bay Area and we both love Starbucks. Understandably most people take this to mean that Sophie and I are one but that's not really true. There are actually a lot of divorced multicultural authors in the Bay Area who love Starbucks. The reality is that Sophie has some issues that I don't and vice versa. I'm not jealous, she is. I sometimes shrink from speaking my mind she NEVER does. And God knows she's braver than me.

How has your background in the fashion industry influenced your writing (or maybe your wardrobe)?
My fashion industry experience had a major influence on my upcoming (non-Sophie) November title, So Much For My Happy Ending, which features a female protagonist (April) who manages the "Sassy" department within a large specialty store known as "Dawson's." It didn't take a lot of creativity to think that one up since I used to be the Savvy department manager at Nordstrom. Let's hope people keep buying my books because after that title comes out I'm sure to go on Nordstrom's do-not-re-hire list. Although for the record I still shop there (great shoes, great service, great return policy, what's not to love?). The influence my fashion experience had on the Sophie books is less obvious. While it's true that Sophie's friend Mary Ann works at Neiman's LancĂ´me counter, readers won't get to see her at work until book 3. However working in what was (when I worked there) considered to be Nordstrom's most fashion-forward department and studying trendsetting at New York's Fashion Institute Of Design and Merchandising (FIT) gave me the strong grasp of pop culture that I needed in order to create Sophie's hip little world. As for my wardrobe--evidence of my former profession seems to be getting scarcer as my son's love of mud and slime becomes more acute.

Are people more likely to ask you how you research the sex or the murder in your books? (Since it seems like romance writers are always being asked how they research the sex, and the standard witty comeback has to do with deciding to write murder mysteries and needing volunteers to help with that research)
Honestly, no one's ever asked me how I researched the sex in my books. They do at times ask me how I researched the murders. Oddly enough I got most of my information about the crimes that take place in Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights from a cop that I used to have sex with. See, I was killing two birds with one stone!

Chocolate: dark or milk?

What are you working on now?
The third Sophie book, Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate (which kind of speaks to how passionate I am about my answer to your last question).

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
Writing the Sophie Katz series is an enormous amount of fun. The characters in those novels have become so real to me that I've come to think of them as friends. That did come back to bite me on one particular occasion. When my son (now 6) was in preschool, a school psychologist came into the classroom and spent some time talking to the kids. At one point my son mentioned Sophie. The psychologist smiled encouragingly and said, "Is Sophie your imaginary friend?"

My son shook his head emphatically and answered, "Noooo, Sophie's my Mom's imaginary friend."

I'm fairly sure that woman left the classroom convinced that my boy was being raised by a schizophrenic.

For more info on Kyra and her imaginary friend, visit her web site.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Booksigning and Chick Lit

First, a booksigning report. I wasn't a total dork when meeting Sarah Bird, but there was some dorkishness, and I found myself actually trembling when I got to the signing table. When I told her that I was the one my editor warned her about, she seemed to know who I was, and instead of being freaked out when I mentioned how much of The Boyfriend School matched my life, she signed the book with something about leading parallel lives. There was a good turnout, around 30 people. It seemed like her newspaper column got a number of those people there. She spoke for a while, telling us some of the inspiration behind her newest book, did a bit of a Q&A, and then we all lined up to get our autographs. I ended up getting a copy of the new book, as well, because her talk made it sound intriguing. It involves Flamenco dance, and I already have a big book set in the ballet world that my editor gave me, so I may do a dance week in my post-book-4 reading binge.

I liked that talk and Q&A format for an event. It's something I might consider with the next book. The only problem is that people have to actually be there all at once for it to happen. My past signings have been mostly come and go without a critical mass of people to speak to. It's a lot less humiliating to sit there for a while as a few people come and go than it is to face rows of empty chairs.

And now for some other book talk. I may have been playing fantasy author last weekend, but I feel like I'm equally a chick lit author. I'm definitely a chick lit reader. There's been much talk, discussion and debate about the state of chick lit in the market -- is the market really shrinking, or was there a huge glut? Is the audience still there? Was the problem too much of the same thing? I tend to go against the conventional wisdom and say that to me, as a reader, the problem was that the books being published as chick lit started veering too far from the kind of books I fell in love with. They were trying so hard to be different that they weren't what I wanted to read. There were more books out there in the genre, but fewer that I actually wanted to read. I'm not saying that I wanted to read dozens of books about young women with crappy jobs in publishing who were recovering from being dumped by their evil boyfriends. But I do still love the classic core story about a young woman trying to find the courage to take a leap -- whether it's escaping the bad boss, breaking up with the bad boyfriend, starting a new career or even daring to start a new relationship.

Last week I finally got around to reading Bookends by Jane Green, which is one of the minor classics (if you can have "classics" in such a new genre). I hadn't managed to read it before because I kept thinking that I'd already read it. There's a book by Lisa Jewell called Thirtynothing, which is about a young woman who re-connects with her male best friend from her school days, and there's a lot in the book about how others often called them bookends because they were always together. For some reason, that stuck in my head, so I got the two books confused. Bookends is actually about the main character opening a bookstore called Bookends, so it's entirely different.

The story involves a group of friends from their school days who are now in their 30s (plus the wife of one of them, who becomes part of the group). Then another friend from school comes back into their lives, and things get complicated. There was an aspect of the book that hit a bit too close to home for me. The main character has more or less given up on dating. She's comfortable with her group of friends and doesn't feel like she needs more than that in her life. Dating is just complicated and difficult and potentially painful. I can sooooo relate, but I haven't yet had any dishy estate agent/artist types show up in my life to make me decide whether or not I want to take a chance again.

One of the big critiques of chick lit from the literary snobs was about the insistence on chick lit heroines being someone readers could relate to. Apparently, you're not broadening your horizons enough if you read books starring characters who have something in common with you. But unless you're reading your own biography, you're not going to be reading about someone exactly like you who does all the same things and reacts in the same way. Yeah, it's also good to read things that are wildly different, but that doesn't mean you can't read about anything that reflects your own life. I tend to find that I get more inspiration to do something about my own life, to make changes or take chances, from these characters who have enough in common with me that I can see some of my own problems reflected on the page. I think that's a lot of the appeal of chick lit, and that appeal is still there even as the market settles into a new norm. I hope it doesn't go away entirely because there are books I want to write that aren't fantasy-related, that are pure, classic chick lit.

But first I have another fantasy-tinged one to write.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


That stuff I said yesterday about becoming a hermit for a while? It's going to have to wait until next week. I forgot what a busy week this is. My church choir is doing our "Prelude to the Fourth" program Thursday night (the big patriotic concert), which means rehearsal Wednesday and the performance Thursday (if you're in the Dallas area and want a rousing good time, it's at 7 p.m. at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church -- the old church on the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs). And tonight is Sarah Bird's booksigning.

When I mentioned reading her last book a couple of weeks ago and worried about whether or not she'd be open to signing one of her older books, I soon got an e-mail from my editor. It turns out my editor knows her and was having lunch with her the next week. My editor assured me that Sarah would be happy to sign anything, and since they were having lunch, she'd tell her to look out for me at the signing. Eeek! I'm trying to get over the whole starstruck thing because every time I've met one of my favorite authors, I've ended up getting along fine with them after the first burst of nervousness.

I also have to admit to being kind of curious about the turnout. She's a fairly well-known author, especially in Texas, and she got some good publicity. Her new book was reviewed in the newspaper this weekend, with a mention of the signing, and she had a humorous column in the paper, also mentioning the signing (it turns out she angsts over what to wear for signings, too). Now I want to see if that makes a big difference, or if getting people to a signing around here is like pulling teeth for everyone.

And since I'm going out tonight, that means I have to work this afternoon. Next week will have to be my week to stay in the cave.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Back Home

I'm back at home and very excited to realize that I get to stay at home for more than four weeks! I will probably become a terrible hermit this month while I try to focus on the book, and while I try to recover from everything I've been doing. Today I feel like I'm doing the Dr Pepper detox program because I drank way too much of that stuff over the weekend. I feel like when I sweat, Dr Pepper is oozing out of my pores.

I had a major "I'm not worthy" experience when I moderated a panel with Peter S. Beagle on Sunday morning. I essentially interviewed the other panelists on how they develop magical systems and use them in their books. His A Fine and Private Place is one of my favorite books, one that left a haunting impression on me. Meanwhile, I came away from the entire convention with a long list of stuff I want to read, if I ever get the time to really go on a good reading binge. That may be what I do this fall. In general, this weekend, from meeting with my cousin's book club on Thursday to the convention itself, was mostly about talking to people about books, which is one of my favorite things to do.

I got home Sunday in time to take a nap and then head out to the theater to see Les Miserables. I've actually lost count of how many times I've seen that show. It's somewhere around eight or nine. I have season tickets to the summer musicals series, so I've seen it at least once every time it's come through town, and then there have been other situations where I've gone with other people, plus the time I saw it in New York. That's probably my all-time favorite show. I like my books funny, but it seems that I like my musicals to be dark and angsty. It's odd that a romantic comedy writer doesn't actually like musical comedy all that much. Give me a show where everyone dies at the end over one full of happy tap-dance numbers any day (and there again, I love dancing but am not fond of dance numbers in musicals). One thing that was really cool about last night was I felt like we were getting a real "A Star is Born" experience. They announced right before the show that the understudy would be playing Jean Valjean -- it hadn't even made it into the program inserts, so I'm wondering if something last-minute happened. Then the understudy came on and proceeded to blow everyone away. He brought the house down with "Bring Him Home" -- literally stopping the show for several minutes, and then got a huge standing ovation at the end. It was like something out of an old movie where the understudy gets a chance and then becomes a star. I made sure I noted his name because I have a feeling we'll be hearing from him in the future. When Jason Kraack wins a Tony, remember you heard it here first.

And now that I'm back home, I have to buckle down and get to work on a lot of things. I started my "boot camp" by walking to the post office today, and I have dance class tonight. Then tomorrow I plan to hit the grocery store and buy lots of fruits and vegetables (I probably have serious nutrition deprivation after this weekend). I'm also going to get serious about this book. And that essay due at the end of the week. Eeek!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Live from Houston

Here I am at ApolloCon, and obviously I got the wireless Internet to work. I'm still amused by the fact that I didn't know my computer had that capability built in. I thought it was "ready" for wireless access if I bought extra stuff. I wonder what else I'll find is in this machine. I haven't yet found the coffeemaker. Not that I need one, since I don't drink coffee. A popcorn popper would be handy.

I'm having fun here, though I've been retreating to my room between events to try to work some on the book. We had a great Firefly panel this afternoon. As usual, we could have talked at least an hour longer. I got to sit next to Greg Edmonson, the Firefly composer, and he's the coolest guy, very nice and down-to-earth. In fact, when he was signing autographs, he had a poster that he asked everyone to autograph to him, so you had to give your autograph to get one. I got my CD signed. Tonight's the party night, which should be a blast. Then tomorrow I have two more panels before I head back to Big D.

I learned yesterday that Once Upon Stilettos went into a second printing a while ago. It's outselling Enchanted, Inc., so I guess all my stress about the second book lagging behind the first was mistaken. It just goes to show that my view of how things are going may or may not have anything to do with reality.

And now I'm going to force myself to work a little more. I'm determined to finish this chapter tonight.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On the Road Again

Just a quick note before I dash off to Houston for ApolloCon. If you're at the con, be sure to say hi. I'm the one with the curly hair and the dazed expression. Tonight I'm staying with my cousin and meeting with her book group. I guess I'm the family celebrity.

It turns out that last week's zipper agony was just the tip of the iceberg. I was figuring out what to wear last night and trying things on, and too many of my clothes weren't fitting right, including things I wore about a month ago and even one thing that was too big on me about a year ago -- to the point that when I wore it, someone suggested I should have it taken up. Yeah, I know, I still don't look too bad, and I'm still pretty small so I shouldn't be griping, but I don't have the money, time or inclination to buy a new wardrobe I can fit into, so when I get home, it's bootcamp time. I was reading a study (for my one remaining freelance client -- a medical school) about how they recommend an hour of exercise a day to maintain your weight and an hour and a half a day to lose weight. I thought that was excessive, but now I'm starting to wonder. I guess I'll give it a shot, considering I have another conference in a month, and I'd like to be able to fit into my clothes by then. All those honey wheat pretzel twists and cheesy snack crackers that got me through the last book have apparently done their damage. With this book, it'll have to be carrot sticks.

If I can make the Internet access work, I may post reports from the convention.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Evil Bosses and Bad Dates

I seem to have broken through the latest creative block, so chapter two is now done. I think if I take the computer with me this weekend when I go to ApolloCon and get any work at all done, I might be able to get back on track. Unfortunately, the hotel does apparently have free wireless Internet, and I just discovered that I actually have that capability in my computer (who knew?). Maybe I won't figure out how to work it, so I won't have the distraction temptation (though having access to e-mail this weekend would be nice).

One of the most common things people say when they write me, other than "when's the next book coming out?" is that they recognized Mimi, the evil boss, because they'd worked for a Mimi. Well, if you've got a good Mimi-like story to tell, there's apparently a contest to find the worst boss. Check it out. (Thanks to Alana Joli Abbot for the heads up.) There's probably a statute of limitations to prevent me from entering with my tales of the folks who inspired Mimi and Gregor.

Which just made me realize: I've now been in my current "job" longer than I've ever worked anywhere. I worked for 4 years, 4 and a half months at my first job out of school. Then I was at my next job about 3 years, 8 months. I worked 3 years, 3 months at my last job before I got laid off. I've now been self-employed for nearly 4 years and 5 months. I've sort of done a variety of "jobs" within that time as I progressed from making most of my money from PR/marketing writing while getting my fiction rejected to making most of my money from writing novels, but I guess you can consider it the same job because I've worked at the same place with the same "boss."

While I may no longer be eligible to gripe about my boss, there's another contest that should be all mine to win. Beth Orsoff, author of Romantically Challenged (no, it's not my biography), is holding a Best Worst Date contest. I don't think a statute of limitations applies there, even though it's been a while since I had new material. My only challenge is deciding which of the bad dates really is the absolute worst one, considering my experiences were in general bad enough for me to pretty much give up dating because I wasn't seeing the cost/benefit ratio working out in my favor. It was a lot of stress and misery for very little happiness in return. I guess my other problem is that it may not have been the dates themselves that were so bad. It was the follow-up that killed things. I've run into a lot of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde guys, where the guy was nice on the date but then turned into some horrid person who became furious if he called me on Friday afternoon to ask me out and I'd already made plans for the weekend, or who acted like he was trying to catch me in a lie when I turned down an invitation because I already had other plans. I may sometimes need a keeper, but I don't need a warden, and you've got to do a lot more than buy me dinner before you get to start dictating my life (and yes, these things did happen with men I went out with ONCE. One date, and they already thought I should drop everything else in my life). Or I had a lot of what I started calling The Incredible Disappearing Men, the ones who acted really into me on the date, talked about getting together again and even mentioned specific things we could do together on our next date, and then never got in touch with me again and didn't respond if I contacted them. I totally get that in guy-speak "I'll call you" means "Have a nice life, I'm not that into you." But if you don't plan to call, you don't have to go so far as to list ideas for the next date. Maybe they're onto us figuring out about the "I'll call you" thing, so they have to keep escalating to keep us off-guard. Next thing you know, even a marriage proposal won't be a good sign that a guy wants to see you again.

My latest dating pitfall seems to be that I inspire "Marian the Librarian" fantasies. I'll admit that I'm pretty conservative when it comes to relationships. It takes me a while to get into a comfort zone with a person, I'm very cautious (largely because of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde behavior and the disappearing acts -- I don't want to go too far before I'm sure whether or not a guy is a controlling jerk or if he's going to vanish), and I have some pretty strong personal beliefs about physical intimacy (in addition to being just plain picky -- to quote the movie Clueless: "You know how picky I am about shoes, and those only go on my feet."). For a while, I seemed to attract the men who thought that the fact that I was a writer meant I must be a free-spirited bohemian (in other words, easy), and then they acted like I'd led them on when it turned out to be just the opposite. So I started being pretty up-front about it. I manage to mention that I am quite literally a church choirgirl very early in any getting-to-know-you conversation. But then they seem to take that as a challenge. I'd thought it would weed out guys who weren't willing to take things slow or who didn't have similar beliefs, but instead it only attracts them more, and they seem to think that I'm actually repressed and desperate (when I don't believe I'm either. You can be cautious without being repressed), and therefore if they keep pushing or get under my guard they'll discover my inner wild woman and will have scored a major victory in getting me to succumb to their charms. There's something very patronizing about it, like they think I'm not smart enough to figure out what they're up to, and little do these guys know, but I'm very clear on my personal boundaries, and when I say no, I mean it. Not to mention the fact that this attitude is a total turn-off and can take me from 60 to 0 in a split second, no matter how much I thought I liked the guy before.

But that would be kind of hard to convey in 500 words, so I'll go with a plain-old miserable date story. I can't decide if I want to go with the one where the guy didn't bother to find where and when the movie he'd invited me to see was playing, so that we ended up spending the evening driving from theater to theater (in my car because he had a bad tire), or the one who'd rented a convertible on an evening when I wore my hair down (and it was waist-length at the time) and had on a wrap skirt, and then he announced early in the dinner conversation that he would be totally happy if he never had to do anything but eat and watch TV -- and he didn't even watch the same shows I did. That was the high point of the conversation. It lagged from there. Oh, and he also didn't know when or where the movie he'd invited me to see was playing.

I'd claimed I was going to take October through December mostly off after getting this book done, but my schedule is already filling up. I've got my class reunion in early October, then I'm speaking at a conference in late October. The World Fantasy Convention is the first weekend in November, and I just got invited to participate in a book signing during a huge Junior League event in Tyler the following weekend. I was going to apply to be a featured author at the Texas Book Festival, but that's in Austin the weekend before the World Fantasy Convention (also in Austin), and I'm not sure I want to be traveling that many weekends in a row. Not that I'd stand much of a chance of being selected. I'm a bit on the fluffy side for their taste, from what I can tell. Serious literature only. Besides, I suspect I'll like the people at the fantasy con better, so I might as well focus my energies there. I'd thought I'd take an actual vacation during the fall, but I may be longing for home and hearth instead of wanting to indulge my wanderlust.

Speaking of World Fantasy Convention, if you got the awards nomination ballot, Enchanted, Inc. would be eligible for consideration as best fantasy novel. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Sara Rosett

After last week's military life discussion that stemmed from my reading The Yokota Officers Club, would you believe that this week's Girlfriends Cyber Circuit book is also about military life? My guest this time around is Sara Rosett, author of the new momlit mystery, Moving is Murder.

Air Force wife Ellie Avery is an ace at moving. A professional organizer, she plans ahead, packs efficiently, and even color-codes the boxes. But her ordered world is thrown into chaos when she finds a dead body at the squadron barbeque and suspects the death wasn’t an accident.

(And here's where my mom would say that moving really is murder, and could possibly result in murder that would probably be declared justifiable homicide if you managed to get a jury of military wives.)

Now, here's the interview:

What inspired you to write this book?
I’d finally decided I was going to get serious and try to achieve a dream I’d had since I was a kid. I wanted to be a writer. I was a really good reader and I’d been doing some research on the publishing aspect of writing. I found out I had to have a hook, something that would interest agents and editors. Lots of books I loved had hooks:  Diana Mott Davidson (cooking), Carolyn Hart (mystery bookseller) and  Rett MacPherson (genealogy). I could go on here with authors all day, but I’ll stop at three. I thought about my life and tried to come up with a compelling hook. I found out I was a boring person. No rock climbing or knitting or even an interesting hobby on my resume! Then one day a friend asked me all sorts of questions about what it’s like to be a military wife. (Did I worry when my husband flew? How often did we move, etc.) I realized that I did have a new angle, a hook, for a mystery:  the life of a military family. I love writing about the military lifestyle. I get to take the ridiculous things (arrows on the floor of the grocery store!!) and the great things (the friends you make in the military) and blend them into my stories.

Describe your creative process.
I have to plot. If I try to write by the seat of my pants I’m petrified and can’t even get a few lines down. I have to know who the main characters are, what the mystery is, and who did it. I usually have a general theme, too, but it can change. In the first book I thought my theme was moving, but it turned out to be about change. I write some brief character sketches and then I use a storyboard to jot down ideas and play around with plot lines. Then I start writing and go from “Chapter One” to “The End” without looking back. After I’ve got a complete draft I go back and do a big picture revision for themes, plotlines, and check for clues and red herrings. Then I do the detailed spelling and grammar revision. That’s the plan anyway!

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I write in the afternoon. It’s a ritual leftover from when I began writing. I’d take my daughter to afternoon kindergarten, put my son down for his nap, and sit down and write for an hour. I don’t listen to music, it just distracts me and I’m always up for caffeine (Diet Coke) and chocolate (M&Ms).

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
I’m a military spouse and a mom, but I didn’t want Ellie to be exactly like me, so I made her a professional organizer. I’m not organized. I’d love to be as organized as Ellie is. Maybe that’s why I write about a professional organizer, so I can experience it vicariously? Ellie is also very persistent and nosy. I’d die before I’d ask some of the questions she asks. She also pushes the boundaries, which is not me either. I’m a follow-the-rules-kind of person. But Ellie’s traits make for a good amateur sleuth.

What's your best tip for an organized move?
Pack an Open First Box. Put in sheets, towels, a shower curtain, an alarm clock, a phone, tools to hook up your washer and dryer and anything else you might need for basic survival. Mark with “Open First!!!” so it will be easy to find in the mess of boxes and you’ll have a much easier first day in your new home.

Can you list the bases where you've lived? (I seem to get the "where all have you lived?" question a lot -- and since we ended up spending a lot of time around air bases, we may have a place or two in common)
We’ve been stationed at March AFB (Riverside, CA), Fairchild AFB (Spokane WA), Tinker AFB (Oklahoma City OK), and Robins AFB (Warner Robins GA). We’ve just moved back to March in Southern California. Kind of like Monopoly, you just keep going around the board again and again! We’ve also spent several months at various training bases, so we’ve lived for a short time at Reese AFB (Lubbock TX), Altus AFB (Altus OK), Castle AFB (Merced CA), and Maxwell AFB (Montgomery AL). And, of course, in some of those places we moved there, then moved again within the city while we were there. We’re gluttons for punishment, aren’t we?

(Hmm, no actual overlaps, but Tinker is close to Fort Sill, which was our "home base" and my birthplace. The air bases I've lived around include Barksdale (Bossier City, LA), Dyess (Abilene, TX) and Ramstein (Germany). You might also count Bergstrom in Austin, TX, but it just happened to be the base in the city where I went to college and we weren't actually stationed near there for military reasons. I just went to the BX there. And now it's closed.) 

Chocolate: dark or milk?
I’d never turn down ANY chocolate, but I like milk chocolate the best.

(I haven't done a count in a while, but I think dark may still be the primary choice of writers. Maybe I should also try sorting it out by genre.) 

What are you working on now?
I’ve just turned in Ellie’s second adventure, STAYING HOME IS A KILLER. Mitch (Ellie’s husband) is unexpectedly deployed and Ellie has to deal with her two-year-old daughter’s separation anxiety. Then the suicide of a military wife rocks the squadron, but Ellie isn’t sure her friend’s death was suicide. I’m about to start the draft of the third book in the Mom Zone series, GETTING AWAY IS DEADLY.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
I’m so excited and amazed that my book has actually been published. Thanks to all the readers out there who are reading it and thanks to all the writers who have encouraged me along the way!

Sara has also contributed to Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul. For more info on her and her books, visit her web site.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Designated Nerds

I had some writing momentum going into the weekend, then became a total slacker. I've got a chapter and a half written now (yay!) but am about a chapter behind where I hoped I'd be at this point. I usually do go into marathons later in a book, so I'm sure I'll catch up. Aside from the tiredness and distraction issues over the weekend, I am having fun with the book. It's a bit different in a lot of ways from the earlier ones, so it's like writing something new while also writing something familiar.

I had a fun booksigning Saturday. I may need to get a geek friend (or stealth geek friend) to come to all my signings because it seems like I sell the most books when I'm chattering away with a friend about good geeky stuff like Firefly, Buffy, Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, the Stargates, etc., and then people who are in the store overhear the conversation, join in, and then end up buying books because I sound like I'm reasonably cool (I think I sold a couple of books just because I recognized the picture of River on one person's t-shirt). I guess I need to start a Designated Co-Nerd sign-up sheet for all my appearances. I did find out that Candace Havens, who was signing with me, is a TV writer, and she gets advance copies of a lot of the TV pilots and season premieres. She may find me on her couch at certain times of the year. I'll bring dessert or snacks.

Clutter Demon update: I haven't made much progress, but I've managed to maintain what I have done, so the bed has been made consistently, the dishes generally get done pretty quickly, and no new piles of clutter have appeared. I just haven't made much more of a dent in the remaining existing clutter. At least this time when I go out of town, I won't be leaving a mess behind that I'll have to face when I return.

I learned last weekend that my neighborhood movie theater, the one I can walk to that closed last fall, is re-opening soon under new ownership. I got all excited, and then I realized that there aren't too many movies coming out soon that I'm dying to see. Maybe in the fall when I'm done with the book and the weather is more suitable for hiking up the hill in the middle of the day, there will be more things to see. The only movie I might pay full price for in the near future is the new pirate movie. Otherwise, just about everything strikes me as either 50 cent day at the dollar theater or wait for HBO. I hope this theater gets back some of the same staff from its last incarnation because they were all really nice.

And now I guess I'd better get to work on the book so I can get caught up.

Friday, June 16, 2006

More on Characters

I wrote the first four pages of book 4 last night. Woo hoo! It's funny how quickly I was able to fall right back into Katie's voice. I've noticed that she's a little more sarcastic than I am. She may be one of the least edgy chick lit heroines ever, and yet she's edgier than I am. I'm not quite sure what that says about me. In those first pages, I've introduced a new "love to hate" character who should be tons of fun to write. She might possibly even be more fun to hate than Mimi is (and now I'm picturing an epic to-the-death cage match bitch-off).

As the ultimate proof that I'm now into a new book, I had trouble sleeping last night. All kinds of bits of scenes and snippets of dialogue kept popping into my brain. Then once I finally fell asleep, I had bizarre dreams that managed to combine all the characters I've been analyzing in discussions lately, along with my own characters and stories. Trust me, the world isn't ready for a blend of Harry Potter, House, Firefly, Angel and my books, with maybe a bit of Carpe Demon thrown in. It was downright disturbing.

Going back to the characterization and archetype topic from the other day ... we got into some discussion in the Live Journal comments trail, which got me started thinking some more about it, especially the Lost Soul vs. Professor issue, which is what I've argued about even with someone who wrote the book on archetypes. (Some of this may be a repeat for those who read the LJ comments but possibly phrased more coherently.)

I think the Professor and the Lost Soul are very easy to confuse because on the surface level, they have a lot in common. The Lost Soul may be a bookworm because books make good companions when you don't have anyone else in your life, and developing a special skill or area of expertise is a good way of finding a place for yourself in a group. If you can do something they need that other people can't do, they have to let you in (see Wesley in Angel, who managed to worm his way into a group where he wasn't entirely welcome because he was useful in translating demon languages). Meanwhile, the Professor may be a loner, but he's lonely by choice because he likes to focus on his work and people can be illogical and annoying. The Lost Soul can't help being a loner because he doesn't belong, though later in life when he's been rejected too many times he may start keeping himself apart as a protective measure. He still wants to find a place, though, even if he's afraid to hope for it.

The difference, as always, is in the "why." If you aren't sure which type you're dealing with, think about his childhood:
Was he alone a lot because he was the weird kid who was always reading and because even if the other kids asked him to play, he preferred not to go? After all, why would you want to chase a ball around when you could be reading or doing science experiments? (Professor)
Or did he turn to books and other projects out of loneliness because he had no friends and his parents were gone or too busy to acknowledge his existence? (Lost Soul)

I mentioned that I disagreed with the archetype book where it classified Harry Potter as a Professor when I think he's a Lost Soul. All you have to do is look at his reaction to finding out he's a wizard. Yeah, he thinks the idea of magic is cool, as any kid would, but his primary reaction is joy to find out that there are other people like him, and that there are people who knew his parents, which helps him feel closer to his parents. That's a Lost Soul. A Professor would have been jazzed about all the things he was going to learn. Harry's just glad to be able to find a place where he fits in. What he sees in the Mirror of Erised is another clue. There's also some plot element about him feeling ostracized or like an outsider in every book so far. I do think that as he's growing up, he's evolving into a Warrior, especially at the end of the last book where he's willing to give up the security he's gained in order to go after his mission 100 percent. You know he's no longer such a Lost Soul when he has the strength to willingly remove himself from the things that he's previously clung to in order to get his job done.

The best example of the flipside of the Lost Soul vs. Professor issue, the Professor who may look like a Lost Soul, is Dr. Gregory House on the TV series House. Yeah, he has all that inner (as well as physical) pain and lots of psychological issues, and he's a loner, but he's still a Professor. He chooses to be alone because he finds people annoying. They're illogical and they lie. Science, on the other hand, doesn't lie. As long as you do the tests right and interpret them correctly, you can trust them. His primary motivation is solving the puzzle. He'd prefer to forget that there's an actual human being behind the symptoms and test results. Even when he seems to care about someone, it's usually because he wants to solve the puzzle of whatever's going on with them. They made a point of introducing his parents and showing that they're nice, normal, loving people, so it's not as though he's been emotionally scarred by his upbringing. He's chosen to be this way (and they've also indicated that he was this way before his leg was damaged, so his injury isn't really a reason, either).

A perfect example of a straightforward Lost Soul who doesn't look like a Professor on the same show would be Dr. Chase, the young Australian who works for House. He's the one with the troubled childhood who is now essentially alone in the world and who's so desperate for the security of the comfort zone that he's created for himself by working for House that he's willing to put up with whatever abuse House throws at him.

I'm not sure why I find these two types so fascinating, since I don't often write them. They're mostly good for debate. :-) I originally planned to write Ethan as a Professor, but he turned out to be a Swashbuckler underneath his more scholarly exterior. I guess Merlin could be a Professor, but he's functioning more like a Chief. Owen may have some traits that look like Lost Soul or Professor, but those aren't what make him tick. He likes books and knowledge, but they're not his primary driving force, and though his personal background is murky, he feels pretty secure and content about where he is. He's shy, but he still basically gets along with people, and he has close friends. He does have issues, but they're not really Lost Soul issues on an archetypical level. They're more personal. And really, once you get into actually developing a character, and especially after writing three books with a character, you tend to move away from the archetype so that you're writing that person. The archetype is merely a jumping off point and a way of populating a cast to make sure you've got a balance of different kinds of people.

I don't tend to write stories angsty enough to have a real Lost Soul, even though they're fun characters to work with and I love reading/watching them. In romances, those tend to be the guys who need to be healed through love, and I tend to want to refer those guys to a good therapist. Now, of course, I may have to take this as a personal challenge, to come up with a way to use a Lost Soul in a funny story where the "healed through love" cliche doesn't come up and where he doesn't annoy me with his moping.

In other news, I'm doing a booksigning Saturday afternoon, 4-6 p.m., at the new Borders Express at Collin Creek Mall in Plano, Texas. Candace Havens, author of Charmed and Dangerous, will be there, too (she's also written a book about Joss Whedon). So, even if you've already got my books, stop by and say hi and you can check out her books.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Book Report Day

I've got more stuff to say on characterization that I came up with last night, but I'll save that for tomorrow since today is Out of the Blogosphere and Book Report day.

This week's Out of the Blogosphere book is California Demon: The Secret Life of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom, by Julie Kenner, the sequel to last summer's hit Carpe Demon. Kate Connor was a retired demon hunter. Now, after fourteen years busting her tail as a suburban housewife, raising two kids, and supporting her husband's political ambitions, she's rejoined the workforce -- and except for a few minions of evil, no one has a clue. She tries hard to keep her home and work lives separate -- a good idea when your job involves random slaughter.

Between fending off demon attacks, trying to figure out why the mysterious new teacher at the high school seems so strangely familiar, and keeping a watchful eye on her daughter's growing infatuation with a surfer dude, Kate is the busiest -- and most dangerous -- soccer mom on the block…

I finally started reading Carpe Demon yesterday after finding it under the widowed socks on top of my dresser during my latest cleaning spree, and I'm loving it. It's the kind of secret life/intersection of the real world and the "other" world story that I love. Imagine what would happen if Buffy got married and moved to the suburbs -- and her husband had no clue about her past.

For more info, visit Julie's Web site.

I guess my theme this week is Austin authors because I also want to talk about The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird. I've recommended her earlier book, The Boyfriend School to just about everyone I can get to sit still and listen long enough, and though this book is quite different, it struck a similar nerve for me. Yet again, this person I've never met seems to have some kind of direct access into my life.

I've joked that The Boyfriend School was the book written just for me because it parallels so many aspects of my life. The heroine lives in a neighborhood in Austin where I lived one summer. She works for a weekly newspaper, and that's what I did that summer. I can trace almost every step she makes through the city because those were my stomping grounds. Then she goes go a romance writing convention (something I've done a few times) and tries to write a romance novel (something else I've done a few times).

Bird does it again with The Yokota Officers Club. My dad was in the Army instead of the Air Force. We were in Germany instead of Japan, and the "now" part of the book takes place in the year I was born, but there's still so much I can identify with, including some things I hadn't been consciously aware of. For instance, the heroine talks about feeling right at home the moment she enters a military base, even if it's one she's never been to before. That got an instant spark of recognition from me. Any base I visit makes me homesick in a weird way because it feels like home more than any civilian city ever could.

There's a scene where the narrator visits a base where she used to live and finds it oddly familiar and yet strange at the same time because while there are changes, it hasn't entirely changed, and yet the people are all different. I've done that, when I got the chance to wander around one of the housing areas where we lived when we were in Germany. I dropped by my schools and our apartment building. I even stepped into the school gym when I saw it was open, and while it was familiar, it was also strange because none of the teachers were the same.

That leads up to a scene where she tries to explain this to someone else who doesn't get it: "A hometown is where you go back and they remember you from when you were a kid. This is like being Jewish and going back to Krakow or something. All the buildings are the same, but everyone you ever knew is dead or PCS'd, which amounts to the same thing. For me, Yokota is a fully populated ghost town. I can't go back and visit my old teachers or my old neighbors or even the guy who sold me Mad magazines in the BX when I was nine or the girl who sat next to me on the bus in second grade. She's gone. They're all gone. They've been transferred three, four, five times since then, and they wouldn't remember me any more than I'd remember them. This is not my hometown. Military brats don't have hometowns."

I honestly can't say how the book would play to someone who didn't relate to it in that way, but I found it fascinating. It gave me an interesting perspective on my own life, as well as a better appreciation of what my parents were going through as I grew up.

Sarah Bird's doing a booksigning in Dallas in a couple of weeks, and I'm now trying to think of a way to mention how closely I identify with her books without making it sound like I'm saying I think she's stalking me and stealing from my life. I also have to admit that I'm less interested in the new book she's touring with than I am in her earlier books, and it would mean more to me to get a copy of The Boyfriend School signed. I need a new copy of that one, anyway, since I discovered it when it was out of print and had to scour used bookstores to find a copy of my own. I snagged my copy of The Yokota Officers Club from my editor's bookshelf at Ballantine, so I can't exactly haul it to B&N for an autograph. I know I don't much care which book someone buys at my signings (heck, I'll even sign other authors' books, if you want me to), but this is a trade paper vs. hardcover situation, and she seems to have moved on to more literary stuff, so I'm not sure she'd be crazy about someone wanting her to sign a seventeen-year-old book (even the new trade paper reprint) during a tour for a new book.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm closing in on the start of Book 4. If I stick to my plans, I should write those all-important first words tomorrow. Eeek!

In the last day or so, I've been creating characters. Yeah, I already have an established cast of thousands, but each book needs some new characters to play particular roles, and this one seems to have a lot of them. A lot of writing guides and workshops have little checklists or questionnaires to help you develop characters, asking about stuff like hair color, eye color, height, build, favorite food, favorite color, etc. That's not how I create characters.

I tend to work from the inside out, starting with the core of a person's being, then adding flesh and finally physical description. Because I'm really into that whole universal story/archetype stuff, I like to start with archetypes as foundations for characters, then build on top of that. Unless a character jumps fully formed into my head or is obviously "played" by a specific actor, the physical description may be the last thing I come up with.

One of my favorite books for characterization is The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever and Viders. They take the basic core archetypes and classify them in ways that work for modern fiction (much as Christopher Vogler took Joseph Campbell's work on the universal myth and distilled it for modern storytelling in The Writer's Journey. There's a danger, though, in using books like this because if you're not careful, you'll end up with stereotypes, and the writers even almost encourage that by providing lists of likely careers and activities for each type. Yeah, certain types of people are often drawn to certain kinds of work, but the whole idea is supposed to be that it's the motivation behind the action that determines the archetype, so each type could be doing the same job, and the difference is in why they're doing it.

I think that's one of the reasons the characters Joss Whedon creates really capture people's imaginations. I don't know if he deliberately uses archetypes to create his characters, but they're all pretty easy for me to classify, so they seem to fit the archetypes well. But he always throws in a twist or two to make these characters more interesting people, and those twists go counter to some of the suggestions you find in the book. For instance, you'd think that prostitute (or Companion) would be the chosen career of the Seductress type. But Inara in Firefly is a Nurturer. Even in her work, she takes on the role of nurturing, caring figure. You expect to see a sultry, sexy prostitute, but a gentle nurturer is more interesting.

While I do recommend this book to writers, I also caution against looking too closely at their examples because I think the authors often miss their own points. They classify Harry Potter as a Professor, the type who is driven by gaining and mastering specialized knowledge. I totally disagree. Yes, he's studying to be a wizard, and to us that counts as specialized knowledge, but in his world, he doesn't have any particularly specialized know-how. He's an indifferent student at best. When he succeeds in fighting Voldemort, it's not so much about what he knows as it is about his heart and his courage. I think he's actually the Lost Soul, the type who is driven by wanting to belong and wanting to find a home. He most wants to defeat Voldemort because Voldemort destroyed his family and threatens to destroy the new "family" Harry's finally found in the wizard world. He wants more than anything to belong and fit in. He tries to do well in school mostly because he doesn't want to get expelled, since school is the next best thing to home and family for him. (And that's yet another reason why my Owen isn't a grown-up Harry Potter. Owen fits the Best Friend type. He's actually content with his life and just wants to keep things stable, with everyone getting along and leaving him alone. His motivation for beating the bad guy is that the bad guy isn't playing by the rules, and the bad guy is disrupting his quiet life.)

I actually once got into a rather vocal public disagreement with one of the authors of this book at a workshop when she asked people for examples of certain types. I said that Wesley on the series Angel was a particularly interesting case because he looks like a Professor to others, but he was really a Lost Soul. She said I was wrong, that he was a definite Professor. I said that was giving in to stereotypes, and that him wearing glasses and liking books didn't make him a Professor. His primary motivation in everything he did, even going back to his first appearance on Buffy, was that he wanted to belong, to be an integral part of the group. Yes, he wanted to have the crucial information and to be right, but he wanted that because it was the only way he knew to contribute and be so crucial to the group that they couldn't shove him aside. His need to belong was so strong that he was willing to ally himself with someone he'd recently considered a potential enemy, just because he was the one person Wes knew when he was left stranded in a foreign country.

The interesting twist on the character was that all the other characters took him at face value and made the same assumptions about him that this author did. They thought that knowledge itself was what motivated him, so when they gave him something to translate, they thought they were giving him what he needed to be happy. They didn't realize that yes, he'd just about kill himself to get the translation for them, but at the same time he felt like that was the only reason they wanted him around, so their attempts to do what they thought made him happy only ended up making him even more insecure. (Anyone out there agree/disagree with me?)

I've recently read a book called Inner Drives, which uses the Centers from some Eastern belief systems as ways of explaining characters and character growth. I haven't yet incorporated some of these ideas into my writing system, but I can already see the dangers of taking it too literally. They list behavior patterns, clothing and food for each center, and while following that would certainly give you consistent characters, I think you'd also get boring characters. You need to shake things up a bit -- and know why you're doing something unexpected, not just do it for fun -- to have characters who really jump off the page.

And now I need to go decide what all these people I've just created should look like. But first I have to exercise. There was some zipper agony yesterday with a pair of pants that fit me perfectly not too long ago, and I need to do something about that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Desperate Housestuff

First, some news: My web site has been updated with some behind-the-scenes stuff about Once Upon Stilettos. I've got the backstory, a few little deleted scenes, and some photos of locations (and one character). You can get to all of these through the book's page (which you can get to just by hitting the book cover on the home page). The deleted scenes from this book tend to be little snippets because most of what I did in revisions was focus on the main part of the scene that mattered to the plot. I'd really beef that part up, then trim off the stuff that ultimately didn't matter. That stuff might be of interest if you're really into these characters, but it slowed down the book, which makes them perfect as "deleted scenes" material. I have a few more scenes that I'll trickle in between now and the publication of the next book.

Of course, all that behind-the-scenes stuff is spoilery, so read the book first!

The news page and the Stilettos review page have been updated, too.

It's a good sign of how scattered I seem to have been lately that I totally forgot to mention the release of a new book. Welcome to Wisteria Lane, the anthology of essays about Desperate Housewives, is available now. I wrote an essay comparing Desperate Housewives to medieval morality plays (yes, really). I wrote that back in the fall, so more recent events in the show have sort of shaken up some of my theories, but then some of them have been even more confirmed.

I should confess that I sort of have a love/hate relationship with that show. I wasn't planning to watch it at all because it didn't seem like the kind of thing I would enjoy, but then the relentless marketing campaign, the Saturday-night rerun of the pilot episode, and boredom wore me down. I was visiting my mom one weekend while my dad was off doing disaster relief work, and no matter what we seemed to watch on TV, they had to remind us that they were re-running the hit Desperate Housewives pilot that night. That night there was nothing else on, so we decided to give it a shot. I enjoyed the absurdity of it, so I kept watching the series.

I was also surprised at how well I could relate to some of the things the characters were dealing with, seeing as how I'm neither a housewife nor "desperate." I do live in a suburban enclave that in places isn't too different from Wisteria Lane (though the houses here have more of a sameness about them). I guess in a way I might be considered a housewife in the sense that if I'm married to something, it might be to the house itself. I just don't have a husband or kids to deal with. As much as I really hate to say it, I'm probably most like Susan, Teri Hatcher's character, except without the ex-husband and teenage daughter. I work at home as an author, and I have dating woes to match hers, though I think mine are a lot less self-inflicted because I'm more cautious than she is. I also have a tendency to get into weird, wacky scrapes, like the time last summer when I managed to get locked out of my house with my keys in hand. The door was unlocked but it just wouldn't open because the door latch itself broke, and going to a neighbor while holding your house keys and saying that you're locked out and need help is almost as embarrassing as being locked out naked.

This season, I might have given up if it hadn't been for this book. It had lost the fun absurdity and I'd reached the point where I wanted to throttle all the main characters. They were suffering from Too Stupid to Live syndrome and had brought most of their own problems on themselves from being impulsive, stubborn or blind (which actually backs up a lot of my essay). But I was worried that if, by chance, I ended up doing any interviews about it, I'd need to know what had happened in the rest of the series, so I kept watching. Now, curse them, the season finale has me at least mildly intrigued to see what happens next.

I do think that Desperate Housewives is wrongly classified for awards purposes as a comedy. It may not really be a drama, but I think it ultimately fails as a comedy because, absurd as it is, it doesn't make me laugh that much. I expect more laughs from something calling itself a comedy. Your average episode of House gives me more laughs, and that's called a drama (now, there's a show it would be fun to write essays about).

So, anyway, if you care to know what I and a bunch of other authors think about Desperate Housewives, check out the book. I've also got an essay in the upcoming book on Battlestar Galactica, and I'm working on one about Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fashion Faux Pas

There's been a lot of talk among authors and readers about some recent articles on booksignings. One in USA Today talked about how chick lit authors were doing more signings in non-bookstore locations like boutiques and department stores. I'm not sure how well that would work for me because my books aren't too fashiony (aside from a minor shoe obsession in the latest). And, as much as I try to fake it by not looking like a complete mess and by having a few fabulous pairs of shoes, I'm certainly no fashion plate.

For instance, supposedly you're not supposed to dress head-to-toe in one designer. That shows a lack of imagination. It's like Garanimals for adults. The true fashionista can put together a creative outfit from a variety of pieces from different sources. Of course, in my wardrobe there aren't really any "designers," so to speak, just stores. I've become more conscious of how "matchy" you can get when you do buy a lot of your clothes from one place, especially when so many of your friends also shop there. I've got that problem with Ann Taylor Loft, so that I have to be careful about how I put together any outfits I get there because so many of my friends also wear those clothes, and I'm terrified of showing up at church in the exact same outfit as someone else. I can only avoid that by mixing things from different seasons and years and throwing in items from other stores.

But the other day, I realized I'd really done the head-to-toe thing. I was dressed in head-to-toe Target, and I was in Target! I just knew the Fashion Police were going to be kicking in my door at any moment. I was, however, wearing things from a variety of Target "designers," and from different years, so it wasn't like I was wearing adult Garanimals. The top was a basic satin-trimmed, scoop-neck t-shirt from a few years ago, and I wore it with a denim skirt from 11 years ago (I remember because I remember the specific date I bought it for). Then I was wearing a pair of ballet flats I got last year, with a bag I bought recently.

Meanwhile, on an episode of What Not to Wear I was watching a couple of weekends ago, they made the victim of the week throw away something that I actually own! And just when I thought I'd never be a candidate for that show ... It was a little handbag with the famous photo of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square at the end of WWII on it (Target!). They told her it wasn't "age-appropriate" for her, and she was about five years younger than I am.

I've rationalized it since her wardrobe was all punky schoolgirl, and the picture handbag as part of that didn't help. I tend to use that bag to add a touch of fun to an otherwise severe "ladies who lunch" outfit. That's yet another one of those fashion guidelines, that if you're dressing in vintage or retro, you shouldn't do the same period head-to-toe or else you'll look like an escapee from the set of a period film. I have a few 40s-looking suits, and I like to throw that bag in as a bit of whimsical irony to show that I know I'm not literally in that era. So, I think I'm safe from the Fashion Police on that account, too.

I saw the musical Bombay Dreams last night, and between some of the audience members and the costumes on stage, I've now got a case of sari envy. But again, I don't want to look like I'm wearing a costume, so I don't think I could get away with flat-out wearing a traditional sari (let's just say that the pale redheaded woman sitting near me wearing Indian get-up looked like she was at a costume party), but I'm considering buying some sari fabric and using it to make a dress or skirt that would have a bit of East meets West about it.

Gee, from the sounds of my shopping choices, it seems like I should have a booksigning in Target. I certainly spend enough time there (and money!). Just one problem: Target doesn't carry my books! How's that for gratitude for all the money I've spent there, all the people I've sent there by giving them a heads up about something cool they have? I'm like a walking billboard for them, and yet they don't sell my books. Hmmmphhh. My editor says they're weird about the way they choose books. If they like something, they'll keep it around forever, but that means they don't have a lot of slots open for new books coming along. Maybe I should get people to ask for my books when they see someone shelving books at Target and see what happens.

In other news, I hope to have the web site updated today with some fun Stilettos info. Plus, today is the deadline for Blogging for Books. You'll need to post a link to your entry in the comments trail at Joshilyn Jackson's blog today by around 7 p.m. Eastern Time. (And her gods in Alabama is out in paperback now, in case you didn't get the hardcover last year. It's a great book.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Out of the Blogoshere and Book Report

It must be spooky week for my blog tour groups, because after yesterday's GCC post about a haunted house, today's Out of the Blogosphere book is about werewolves. It's Shadow of the Moon, the latest installment in Rebecca York's werewolf series.

Here's the scoop:
Lance Marshall has a nose for great news stories-not surprising, since he's aided by his werewolf abilities. Now he's prowling outside an ultra-exclusive Washington, D.C. nightclub-"The Castle." But he is not alone. Savannah Carpenter wants to know how her sister ended up in a coma, and she knows that The Castle has something to do with it. But when Lance and Savannah pretend to be lovers to gain entrance, they learn that deception and unbridled lust can be a dangerous combination.

(Hmm, a member of the D.C. press corps is a werewolf. You know, that would explain a lot.)

For an excerpt and more info, visit Rebecca's web site.

And now for my latest book report. An odd theme emerged from my reading this week and last week because for part of that time I was simultaneously reading two books. One, a novel, was my fun reading. The other was a book I was reading for writing research. At first glance, they seemed entirely unrelated, but then they started to play off each other in weird ways.

The novel was Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. I've had his books recommended to me for YEARS by many of my friends, and I don't know why I didn't bother trying one until now. I think I was so overwhelmed by the size of the series, but I just grabbed this one at the library and dove in. It took me a bit longer to read than books I'm enjoying usually take me because his wordplay is so clever you don't want to rush ahead. It wasn't so much about what happened and how things would work out as it was about how things were described, and there were a number of passages I re-read just to enjoy them again. For the few of you who aren't already Pratchett fans, this book is about a dyed-in-the-wool crook, swindler and con man who gets an unexpected chance when his city's ruler rescues him from a hanging (well, he is hanged, just not quite to death) to make him Postmaster of the long-defunct post office. As he wades through piles of undelivered mail and deals with the odd assortment of postal workers, he realizes that there are actually good uses for his crooked skills. I'm a fan of light, fun fantasy, so I'm glad that I have a new author to enjoy, and years worth of reading to catch up with.

Meanwhile, I was reading a non-fiction book called Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud. I read a lot of books about psychology and its practical applications because they help me with character development. I especially like business-oriented psychology books because they're usually about stuff like developing leadership qualities or coping with difficult situations or people -- the kinds of things that happen to characters in stories. This book isn't so much about the usual meanings of "integrity," such as being honest and trustworthy. It's more about the "integrated" idea of being a whole, complete character who can see reality, face it and deal with it in a way that brings about success. The writing was quite engaging for something that could be a dry topic.

Usually when I read a book like this, I get something out of it on multiple layers. I see something I can apply to the characters in whatever I'm working on. I see something I can use in my own business dealings. I also often get some ideas for my own personal growth. But this time around, what was really fun was that the journey of the main character in Going Postal was mirroring what I was reading in the Integrity book. It was almost like a case study as this character was learning to face the situation he was in and deal with it.

Last week's reading also included the second book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (LOVE!!!), in which our main character might also be a good example of integrated character.

And don't forget that this weekend I'm part of a panel of authors answering questions on world building at the Romance Divas Forum. You may have to register with the site to be able to read the forums.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Deborah LeBlanc

Today I'll shut up about market research and talk about books. That's because it's time for another Girlfriends Cyber Circuit visit (something several of you mentioned as a way you've discovered new authors). My guest this time around is Deborah LeBlanc, author of A House Divided, a spooky new supernatural thriller.

Keith Lafleur thinks he's cut the deal of a lifetime. The huge old, two-story house is his for the taking as long as he can move it to a new location. It's too big to move as is, but Lafleur's solution is simple: cut it in half. He has no idea, though, that by splitting the house he'll be dividing a family, a family long dead, a family that still exists in the house . . .

(Am I the only one shivering already?)

Deborah's own background is as interesting as anything in her books. She's a trained treateur (Cajun Healer), has worked in funeral service, is a licensed death scene investigator and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. Deborah also created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual, national campaign to encourage more people to read.

(Now I REALLY feel like I need to get a life so I can pump up my author bio a bit.)

Here's my interview with Deborah:

What inspired you to write this book?
A friend, who claimed he lived in a haunted house when he was a kid. I’ve always been fascinated with a good ghost story and was even more thrilled with this one because the house was not that far from my own home. My friend took me to see it, and while visiting the small, abandoned house, I found out the structure was only half of a larger home.

As the story goes, an oil company, who purchased the property the home was originally built upon years ago, offered a local contractor the house. All he had to do to own it free and clear was move the house off the property. The contractor, knowing he would not be able to get the rent he needed for such a large house, decided to cut the house in half, move it to residential lots in another town, remodel the halves, then rent each structure separately. He accomplished his goal, for both halves were rented the moment he finished the renovations. However, strange things began to happen to the families who moved into each structure. According to my friend, cabinet doors opened and closed on their own, utensil drawers flew open, lights in the kitchen turned on and off, the sound of children and a woman crying late at night. Chairs rocking on their own.

I didn't see or feel anything in the abandoned home of my friend and took his accountings of the paranormal events with a grain of salt. Still curious, however, I searched out the other half of the home, found it across town, and had the opportunity to speak to the single mother who lived there with her three children. When I told her why I was there, she actually seemed relieved and invited me inside. For over an hour, she recounted all the weird things that had been happening in the house since she'd moved in a year ago. Many of those events mirrored the ones my friend had told me about.

Although I didn't experience any paranormal phenomenon in either half of the house first hand, the stories generated enough fuel to set my imagination in motion, which eventually led to my latest novel.

Describe your creative process.
My process is pretty simple. I get a story idea and start scribbling notes to see if I can build a strong central plot as well as subplots around the idea. If something does develop out of that scribbling, usually the main character’s name and face will have already come to mind. From there, I doodle with secondary character possibilities. If it all falls together, I might immediately head for my computer and begin … Chapter One. If the plot and subplots begin to twist and loop and more than two main characters are demanding to tell the story, I may do a short chapter outline to make sure I have all the voices in the right places so the story line is sequential. If none of the above works, I stick the idea and its accompanying notes into an accordion folder labeled, “Ideas,” and move on to something else.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I write better in the morning, although I have been known to burn the midnight oil when I’m on a deadline. I prefer quiet to music, and a mug of coffee and a bottle of water are constant fixtures on my desk.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Hmm, probably her determination and loyalty to friends.

How have your varied real-life experiences (crime scene investigator, funeral service, paranormal investigator, etc.) influenced your work?
I think they’ve significantly influenced my work. Each offers me an insider’s view to some pretty intense situations. I don’t have to imagine what a gun shot wound to the head looks like or look on the Internet to figure out how an autopsy was done to locate the bullet. I get to see, smell, feel, and hear it first hand. To me, these real life experiences bring depth and a ring of truth to my stories.

Since you do a lot of work toward encouraging people to read, what's one thing that ordinary readers can do to help further that cause?
Read to your children—often. Set up some kind of reward system that will encourage your children to seek out books on their own. When holidays and birthdays come around, buy books as gifts. If you belong to a book club, encourage a friend who doesn’t read to join. If you don’t belong to a book club, start one!

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Milk chocolate and lots of it!

What are you working on now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on, MORBID CURIOSITY, a psychological suspense that will be released in June ’07. I’m also working on a mystery series and a fifth psychological suspense novel.

To find out more about Deborah and the literacy challenge, visit her web site.

Now I have some errands to run, and then I'm kicking off my "staff retreat" to get myself geared up to plunge into the next book.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Market Research

No real Clutter Demon update because I kind of slacked off. I totally ran out of energy. But, I did hold the line instead of backsliding. I didn't get any more de-cluttered, but I also didn't get any more cluttered. That's normally my downfall. When I run out of the initial burst of steam, I give up entirely. But now I feel like I can pick up again and keep going instead of having to start all over again.

Thanks to all of you who've given me feedback on my market research project. I didn't plan to get warm fuzzies out of it, but it was a bit of a boost to my ego. Some of the feedback was also a little depressing in terms of the book industry, but it matches how I've found some of my favorite authors.

It seems like the cover design and shelf placement are two of the biggest ways people discover books, and those are two things that are almost totally out of my control as an author. I get some input on the cover design, but I'm not sure how much weight I really pull or if I've just been lucky so far that what I've had in mind has matched what my publisher had in mind. My editor and I agreed from the start that we wanted a lighthearted, fun, cartoony cover, and I really lucked out that they got a fabulous artist who's done books for people much higher in the food chain than I am (she also did the artwork for the opening credits for the movie Le Divorce). The artwork has a cartoony, fun feel, but I think is a little more abstract and sophisticated than the usual chick lit cartoon cover. I also said I wanted the cover background to be white instead of pink or some other pastel. On the cover for Once Upon Stilettos, once I saw the draft sketch, I did request one tiny change. The fairy's feet looked huge in proportion to her body, and the heels on her shoes were too low to be "stilettos," so I sent in a picture of the Infamous Red Stilettos, and they did adjust it a bit before the final cover.

But no matter how much I know about how little the cover may or may not have to do with a book, I'll admit that often it's the cover that catches my eye in the first place. I won't buy a book just because of a nice cover. The story still has to sound like something I'd be interested in. But I may not pick up a book to see if it looks good if the cover or title don't catch my eye.

Meanwhile, that catchy cover may not do any good if nobody sees it, so store placement is key. Publishers generally have to pay for that prime space on the front tables. Mine arranged for my book to be out there for the first two weeks, but after that, if the people who work in the individual stores don't decide on their own to keep it there or to keep it face-out on the shelves, the cover isn't visible to attract random bookstore browsers. After those first two weeks, you have to rely on people looking specifically for that book, which means word of mouth and bookstore handselling become primary.

And that's where I'm trying to hone my marketing efforts. It seems from the responses that I've done a good job of saturating the areas where I have access. Now, to move up and expand my market, I have to find ways to move beyond my existing constituencies (oh my, am I having agency flashbacks, or what? Next thing you know, I'll be making PowerPoint slides). I'll need to find some additional circles to move in and start raising awareness there or else hope that some of the first-degree people I've reached will move on to their other circles (and find ways of encouraging that). I feel like I've been doing a good job with paranormal romance and fantasy readers. I see those folks mentioning my books in blogs, on message boards, in blog comments, etc. It seems like response in chick lit is a lot weaker. I'm certainly not top-of-mind as a reading recommendation on the boards where I lurk or participate in a reader capacity (I don't like to jump in and recommend my own books, but I will recommend others). Then again, a lot of the people on chick lit discussion groups and message boards (the reader ones, not the writer ones) don't seem to realize that there are authors other than just Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella. Those are wonderful authors, but there are a lot more out there, and I'm making it a personal mission to raise their names whenever I get a chance. Maybe that'll rack up enough karma that other authors will start recommending my books.

In other news, I'll be part of an online panel Q&A session Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Romance Divas forum. Don't forget about Blogging for Books.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogging for Books

Project Slay the Clutter Demon Report: The main part of the house (minus the office) is now more or less straightened. My house feels a LOT bigger now. Today's plan is to clean the floors and dust. Then I'll start to very gradually tackle the office. I even ended up doing some sorting while I was straightening in the loft, since most of the mess in the loft is books. I'm running out of shelf space, so I did a little culling and have boxed up some books to sell to a used bookstore or to donate for the next Friends of the Library sale (though, come to think of it, the Friends of the Library sale is this week, so it may be late for this year, and by next year I should have even more -- and I'm not letting myself go NEAR that sale this year because I have plenty of books, for now). I even tested my resolve to keep things neat when I cooked a real dinner, the kind that involved cutting and measuring and multiple bowls and pans. I'm proud to say that I had all the cooking mess cleaned up and the dishes washed while my sour cream chicken enchiladas were still in the oven (minus, of course, the pan the enchiladas were baking in). Go me!

Now for a bit of news. I'm the final judge for this month's Blogging for Books contest, which is hosted by Joshilyn Jackson. What you do is write a blog entry this week related in some way, shape or form to this month's topic, which is magic (clever, huh?), then post a link to that entry in Joshilyn's blog comments. Last month's winner will read all the entries and pick some finalists, then I read the finalists and pick a winner. The winner gets a personally autographed copy of Once Upon Stilettos. Now, I'm sure that most of you reading this already have a copy (and if you don't, what are you waiting for?), but this way you can get an autographed one, and then use your old copy to hook someone else, or you can have one to read, haul around in your bag, take into the bathtub with you, etc., and one to look pretty on your bookcase. You can see all the rules and how-tos and details here. And I should warn you that looking at Joshilyn's blog can be addictive and may cause you to laugh out loud. She's high on my list of online writing friends I want to meet in person because I'm sure she'd be fun, and she's even on my fantasy dinner party guest list (plus, we found out yesterday that we both graduated from high school in the same year). If you have your own blog and want to pass the word about the contest, feel free. I'm not saying that for obvious self-promotion reasons (though that is a nice bonus), but because Joshilyn is really trying to keep this contest going, but would like more participation. It's all about getting more people to think and talk about books.

Speaking of thinking and talking about books ... I'm already doing some brainstorming about how to launch book 3 and how to continue spurring sales of the previous two books. The more I think about book 4 and see it shaping up, the more I'm sure I really, really want to write more books in the series, and to do that, I have to make sure the previous ones sell well enough that the publisher is willing to keep it going. Ideally, there'd be a huge surge in sales of Once Upon Stilettos before I'm done with book 4 so I'll have a sense then of whether or not that's the end of the series. And it CAN'T be the end of the series because I have plans!!!!! So, like the good marketing person I am, I thought I'd do a bit of market research. If you feel so inclined, please share with me in comments (or if you'd rather remain a lurker and not share with the world, you can e-mail me at how you first heard about these books and what it was that made you decide to buy them. That will give me a better idea of how to direct my future marketing efforts to lure in more unsuspecting saps, er, readers.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Slaying the Clutter Demon

My cleaning mission is starting to show results. I now have the downstairs more or less straightened, except for a couple of clutter hot spots that will have to be tackled in smaller increments. Even the staircase is now clear. I now just need to straighten the upstairs loft. I'm afraid the office is beyond mere "straightening" and will be the first target for the more intense bit-by-bit organizing. The office is also the source for most of the clutter that spills over into the rest of the house, so I'm hoping that once I get the office entirely together, it will be easier to keep the whole house clean. I'd been hoping to finish the straightening yesterday, but I ran out of steam. That makes sense, considering that I'd done so much work in what was supposed to be my first weekend off in ages.

I've even managed to maintain the stuff I've already cleaned. Yeah, it's only been a few days, but that's still doing well for me. Maybe by posting about this stuff, I'll hold myself accountable to all the thousands of readers (okay, maybe hundreds. Or tens) who read this. It should be pretty obvious by now what inspired Owen's organizational/housekeeping style.

I've discovered while doing the sorting and tossing that I have a habit of hoarding odd things. I can't seem to bring myself to throw away a nice shopping bag -- the kind you get from stores where they're made of laminated heavy paper or even a sort of translucent stiff plastic, with cord or ribbon handles. I especially love Ann Taylor Loft bags, and considering how much of my wardrobe comes from there, I have a lot of those bags. But now that I think about it, those bags in particular (they're a bit translucent) would be a great way to organize t-shirts on my closet shelf, so I may not trash them all.

I also can't seem to bring myself to throw away a good, sturdy shipping/mailing box. I think I got the habit of keeping those back when I always seemed to be in need of a box to ship something or to put a gift in. But now that I'm getting lots of book shipments from my publisher or from my online book buying habit, I could probably pack my entire book collection in all the boxes I've got lying around. I may use them to organize the to-be-read pile and keep it from spilling all over the loft.

My other weakness seems to be bath and body products (bubble bath, shower gel, exfoliating scrubs, lotions, face masks, etc.). That seems to be my retail therapy of choice. Shopping for clothes actually requires a certain level of self esteem and can make me even more depressed than when I started, and my budget can't handle much shoe shopping. But I can generally afford a sample or travel size of a Bath & Bodyworks product or two, and that along with a book or magazine is enough to lift my mood on a bad day. Meanwhile, hair product advertising seems to be the only advertising that is nearly 100-percent effective on me. If I see an ad for something that's supposed to make curly hair non-frizzy, with smooth, glossy curls, I turn into a zombie that has to get up and immediately head to the nearest store to buy it. As a result, I have tons of these products that I've maybe used once or twice (the hair stuff never works as advertised, and only new bath products seem to have the required mood-lifting effect, so I keep buying them instead of using them up). I could open a spa.

I'm planning to do my pre-book retreat in the latter half of this week, so I think part of that will be a big, self-indulgent spa day, playing with all that stuff and pampering myself silly. And it would count as house cleaning because I'm using up stuff that's cluttering my bathroom!

Best find during the straightening process: I found my stash of dark chocolate M&Ms. I'd totally forgotten where I put them and thought I only had one bag left. I have a bit more than that, it turns out.

You can see what inspired this housecleaning binge at Julie Kenner's Slay Your Demons site, where I'm guest blogger this week. When Julie said she needed guests, I tried to think of the biggest "demon" in my life right now, and my house won. Writing that entry inspired me to slay that demon (and Carpe Demon was one of the books I found in the bedroom TBR pile under a pile of mateless socks, so now that I've found it again, it's high on my summer reading list).

In other news, I've been answering questions and discussing the books over at the Fox Firefly message board, and that's been a lot of fun. That's made me wonder if there's any interest in a more general discussion forum for readers. I've had someone mention that a Yahoo list would be nice, so people could either read messages online or get them in e-mail. I don't really have the time or energy to start and maintain another mailing list, but if someone wants to take the initiative to do so, let me know and I'll post links here and on my site. I may even pop in (time permitting) and answer questions. I just have one request: if I'm going to read messages and participate, there can't be any fanfic on the list. That's not just because I'm a bit squeamish about other people playing with my people. It's for legal reasons. I've heard about authors having to scrap book ideas because of fanfic posted in forums they were known to frequent. Their publishers were worried about possible legal action if a published novel had too many similarities to a posted fanfic and the fanfic author sued the author for stealing the idea. I'd like to hope that my readers would be too upstanding to do something wacky like sue me, but in this day and time, you never know and I can't take the risk. If there's going to be fanfic (and I realize it's a compliment and probably inevitable), I don't want to know about it or where it is.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Free Saturday

I just realized that this is my first Saturday with no book-related stuff going on since Easter, and there were four weekends of book stuff leading up to Easter. I probably will do some book-related work (just writing this blog counts as marketing activity), but I have no scheduled book-related events that require leaving the house. I will have to leave the house to go to a friend's birthday party tonight, and books may be discussed there, but it doesn't count. Next weekend, I have an online workshop, which is a scheduled book activity that doesn't require leaving the house. Then the following weekend a booksigning, and then a convention, so it will be next month before I have another weekend free of scheduled book-related activities.

It was nice having Friday evening free to relax at home with the Sci Fi channel, some pizza and a Dr Pepper (though Dr. Who was a wee bit stressful), and I can't remember the last time I was able to sleep in on a Saturday morning and then have a leisurely breakfast.

I've made decent progress on my house cleaning efforts. The kitchen, dining room and main part of the living room have now been straightened up, and I've scrubbed the bathtub. I decided to clean like I write -- in layers. On this pass, I'm doing some straightening: throwing out things that need to be tossed, putting away things that have a home and getting things that don't have a home out of the way. I've been using a modification of the FlyLady system, putting on a CD and then getting as much done as I can in a certain area while that CD plays, then taking a break when it's done. While I listen to the CD, I'm also thinking of the book four soundtrack.

On my next pass, I'll do cleaning: vacuum/mop and dust. Then once things are superficially clean, I'll go into more serious FlyLady decluttering mode, with 15-minutes at a time of sorting, organizing and deep cleaning. Meanwhile, I'll try to start the habits and routines to maintain all this. I'm proud to say that I had my sink clean before I went to bed last night, and I put the day's newspaper in the recycling bag to keep my dining table and sofa clear, and it really was refreshing to wake up to. Today I've already cleaned up after breakfast and even made my bed. I'd like to finish with the living room and do the downstairs bathroom and my bedroom today. I hope I can sustain the enthusiasm even when I fall into the book.

Now, off to clean the bathroom!