Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Great Blog Campaign

I'm pretty much done with book 4. I think I'll re-read the last chapter because I think I rushed through it last night, as my laptop battery was dying. I also did a little rewriting. I'll get that sent off today (yay!!!). And then I have to make revisions on my House essay (due tomorrow). Plus, I have to write some radio scripts today.

But then tomorrow, I'll be free! Free!!!! Well, sort of. I've got other stuff to do, like getting promotion for the next book in swing, getting another series idea developed, a speaking gig Monday, some presentations and handouts to prepare, and a ton of e-mail to deal with. But I will take a little time to recover. I'm going to go hang with the parental units this weekend and eat barbecue.

I've hinted at this and was planning to announce it later, but then I realized that time is creeping up on me, and if this goes like I want it to, it could take a lot of time, so I'd better announce it now. As part of the effort to spread the word and get some big impact around the release of Damsel Under Stress, I'd like to see how many people I can get to talk about it in their blogs or on their web sites during the first week of release (April 30-May 7). Yeah, I do those blog tours with other authors, but I think there are times when ordinary people can be even more effective at hitting a broad audience.

What's in it for you? Well, my publisher likes this idea, and they've agreed to make advance copies of book 4 available to use as rewards. The advance copies of Damsel were ready in late January, for a May release. Count on your fingers and see how much earlier you'd get book 4 before the release date. I don't know how many copies I'll get, but I think what I'll do is give half of them away just by doing a drawing among the people who participate at all. If you mention my name and the name of the book, you're eligible. The other half will be merit awards. I'll have to think of some categories, like best review, most creative idea, biggest impact, Mom's favorite, etc. I'll also put links to all these blogs or web sites on my blog, so you may pick up new readers and make new friends. I may come up with some other prizes, as well.

Here's where it gets fun: I'll make myself available to help out. If you want to interview me, I'll answer e-mail interview questions. I'll provide guest blogs on whatever topics you want me to address. I can serve as liaison to arrange things if you want one of my characters to do a guest blog or if you want to interview a character. You may have noticed that I can get flaky and busy, so start thinking of what you might want to do now, and then starting next week you can begin shooting requests at me. Earlier is better than later. I may not be able to do as much fun stuff if I get a ton of requests the last week of April. You don't have to use me. You're perfectly welcome to review the book if you buy it the first day it's out and get your review posted that first week (or if you're one of the ones who gets an advance copy). Or you could discuss the first two books and mention the next one coming out. Quiz memes and stuff like that could also be fun (especially because they tend to get passed around). You get the idea, and I'm sure someone out there will be far more creative than I could be.

This is kind of an experiment, going back to the post I made the other day about the impact readers can make. If, say, a hundred people could reach just ten people each, that should cause a noticeable blip in book sales.

And now I must get to work before I can relax and play.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Cast of Thousands

I'm doing one final nitpicking read-through of book 4 to make sure it all holds together and is consistent. This is when I try to read more or less like a reader, getting through the whole book in a couple of days rather than spreading it out over weeks. And then I hope to turn it in tomorrow, and I'll be free!!! For a little while, at least.

I'm now going to talk some about last night's episode of Heroes, but I won't address what actually happened, just the story structure, so there won't be spoilers unless you're so rabidly anti-spoiler that vague references to the structure of the episode will ruin things for you.

This is one of those TV series that I feel I should love more than I do. I like it, but I don't find myself caring all that deeply about it. I've decided that a lot of that has to do with the cast of thousands approach. I counted, and there are at least ten characters with their own story lines. If they try to address each story in an episode without any of those story lines merging, that means each character gets less than five minutes per episode. If you really like and care about only half those characters, that could mean that you're only deeply involved in half an episode. I tend to be very character-oriented as a viewer, so that I can only get really involved in something if there's a character I latch onto emotionally. The shows I like best tend to be those where I feel that kind of attachment with most of the cast, or where my character is the main character and on screen most of the time, so that I'm always engaged. Otherwise, I'll find myself just watching for the scenes that involve my character. The larger the cast, the harder it is to relate to every character, especially when they have such divergent story lines. Meanwhile, the other problem with dealing with all these story lines is that if each character is getting maybe five minutes per episode, that means there's not a lot of forward momentum in a single episode. Each character may do one key thing. A lot of stuff is going on, but it's not really going anywhere.

Where I find this series works best is when the story lines start to merge. For one thing, if two or more characters are in the same story in an episode, that means that story gets ten or more minutes, so that more happens and if it involves one of the people I care about, that means I care about more of the episode. I also love that sense of "aha!" when you see the patterns forming and start to understand the connections. Last night's episode really worked for me because it merged several of the stories and then remained focused strictly on those events instead of bouncing around to show us what everyone else was up to. That meant the story as a whole made a quantum leap forward, and I was caught up in the episode more than I usually tend to be.

This is going to sound like an odd comparison, but one of my favorite books is Last Chance Saloon, by Marian Keyes. It's not about superheroes at all, but it's got a similar structure. It starts by telling the seemingly unrelated stories of various young professionals working in London, and then as the book progresses, the stories start to merge, and you see how some of the stories were already connected in the background. By the end of the book, it's just one story, really, as all the plot threads have woven together. The first time I read that book, I couldn't put it down once I started seeing the patterns emerging.

On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of the thing that happens far too often in fantasy books, where you start out with one big group on a quest, and then the groups split up, so you then go back and forth between the various groups and their various adventures as they all lead essentially separate lives, maybe eventually getting back together at the very end of the series. I don't mind so much when the split covers part of a book, but when it goes on for multiple books, I can lose interest. If what got me into the story in the first place was the characters and their chemistry, I feel cheated to lose that. I've been known to skip around and just read the parts with the characters I like. I've actually given up on series mid-way through when it felt too disjointed. If they're apart, they should at least be thinking about each other and how they'll find each other again so we feel that sense of connection.

I'm not sure why I've been pondering this so much, considering I write single point of view books in first person. It's impossible for me to split things up too much. But I do have a cast of thousands growing, and it's difficult juggling all the supporting characters' stories and giving them each their moment in the books. I also have a more traditional fantasy series I'd like to write someday, and yeah, there's a section where the main characters are split apart, so I worry about doing that in such a way that it doesn't make the story sag.

So, anyway, yay for Heroes last night.

In other news, does anyone actually really care about Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith, or is it just the media getting all excited about them and assuming we all care when we really don't?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Influencing the Book World

I had a rather relaxing weekend, not entirely by choice. I finished this round of revisions on book 4 Friday night (yay!), and my body promptly decided that I would be taking the weekend off. Back in the days when I had an office job, I always seemed to get sick when I visited my parents, like it knew I was finally safe and could let go. I get the same way now when I finish a book. So, there was a lot of TV watching while lying on the sofa. I didn't even turn on the computer Saturday. I finally watched the Masterpiece Theater version of Jane Eyre (swoon), and I watched Casablanca for the zillionth time. That is such a perfect movie, every little detail. I did not watch the Oscars, as I haven't seen most of the nominated films and found myself paralyzed by not caring very much (to paraphrase Spike). Now I want to give the book one more read-through, but I'm not as tense because I know I could probably turn it in as-is, which means I can meet my deadline.

There was a question in response to my post Friday whining about success about what readers can do to help promote books. I used to have something about this on my web site but it got deleted in the latest redesign because I was afraid it sounded a bit whiny and self-serving. But, since you asked ... :-) And really, these techniques can be used to promote any book, kind of book or author, or even just the idea of reading in general. You could probably adapt these techniques to promote things like TV series or movies, but it's harder to have a big impact there. The cool thing about books is that the consumer has so much more power. With TV, even if you could directly or indirectly influence thousands of viewers to give a show a try, unless some of them are measured by the ratings, it doesn't matter at all. With movies, there's so much money at stake that except for really small films, getting even a few thousand extra people into theaters won't make a blip on the box office. But for rank-and-file authors other than the mega bestsellers -- people like me and most of the authors I talk about here -- you'd be surprised at the impact you can have. The numbers are small enough that even a few hundred books will have a noticeable impact. If a hundred copies of Enchanted, Inc. or Once Upon Stilettos beyond the usual sales suddenly sold this week nationwide at B&N or Borders, they would sit up and take notice. It would be a huge blip, and then the publisher would know because they'd likely have to re-order. My publisher was pleased with selling about 400 copies at a single chain in the first six weeks of release. Depending on the kind of book and what the competition did, there are times when a book that sells a thousand copies in a single week can make some bestseller lists. So, you can see where even one person who tells a few people about a book can affect that book's sales. If a hundred people each got 10 people to buy a book, you might be able to get a book onto a bestseller list. Do you feel powerful now?

Here are some things you can do to help support a book (and if you have more ideas, please share!):
1. The biggest is to buy the book new (used book sales are invisible to publishers, and the author earns no money). They usually look most closely at numbers in the first month of release, and that's generally when books are most likely to hit a bestseller list, but they're also interested in books that continue to sell well for months or even years after release (which proves that word of mouth is working). Those long "legs" are what's been impressing my publisher, as the books continue to sell pretty steadily.
2. Tell people about the books you like. Give books as gifts (that's particularly good with the first book in a series -- get them hooked!).
3. If you have a blog, mention the book in your blog. Multiple mentions are better -- like with advertising, repetition works. Mention what you're looking forward to reading, mention what you've bought, mention what you are reading, discuss it after you read it, mention it in comparison to other books you mention later, mention it in year-end wrap ups. You get the picture.
4. Mention where relevant on various message boards you frequent (but don't spam!). If someone asks for a book recommendation in a community or on a message board, make one. If there's an open forum part of a message board (like on the Meet Market threads at Television Without Pity), talk about what you're reading (talking about books and reading in general is a good way to promote books and reading, which benefits all books and authors). Post reviews on relevant LJ book communities.
5. If you don't find a book you want in a store, ask about it -- especially if you're looking for it because you want to buy it, though I know of people who make a habit out of asking about favorite books whenever they're in a store and don't see it on the shelf, just to keep booksellers aware of the book. Don't order it and then not pick it up. Just ask about it nicely, talk about having heard about it, and express disappointment at not finding it in a polite way.
6. Before the next book by a favorite author comes out, it doesn't hurt to ask your local bookstore when/if they'll be getting it in. That gives you a chance to talk about the book to them so they'll be looking for it when they get it. Visiting the store on release day and asking about the book may make it more likely for the store to get it on the shelf where other people can buy it instead of letting it sit in the storeroom.
7. Write a review to post to Amazon or B& List the book among your collection on Library Thing and post a review there.
8. If your local library doesn't carry the book, turn in a request for it. Librarians do take these seriously, and libraries buy a lot of books. Or donate a copy to the library -- again, the first book in a series is a good way to hook people who might buy later books.
9. Include the book or author in your list of interests at places like MySpace or LJ, and put a link to the author's web site on your site or on your blog.
10. Read the book in public with the cover visible. I heard about a British publisher that promoted a book with a flash mob, where they arranged for people to be on a particular train at a particular time on a particular day, all reading copies of the book. Commuters couldn't help but notice. Even without that kind of mass action, if people see others reading a book, it might eventually stick in their brain.
11. Recommend the book for any book clubs you're in, or if it doesn't fit the club, you can still talk about it at meetings (if it's anything like the book groups I've been in, you spend a quarter of the time talking about the book, and then the rest of the time talking about other random stuff).

Those are the kinds of things I try to do when I'm really jazzed about a book or author, but some of my readers have been even more innovative. Any other ideas?

Friday, February 23, 2007


I'm closing in on the end of revisions. But I'm also near the end of the book, at the part where I need to do the most revision work. I have this bad habit of completely rewriting endings or at least the major climactic scene on every draft. Right now, I've got a chapter that got away from me entirely. I kept finding little places where I can turn offhand remarks into whole scenes that are a lot of fun, and now the chapter is epic so I'm having to cut elsewhere.

One thing that's challenging about this career is that it can be hard to define success. That goal line keeps changing, depending on where you are. A few years ago, just selling a book was success. Now it's having the ones that are published sell well enough that the publisher will want more from me. Next it will be wanting bestseller status. There's been much talk lately in writer circles about a debut author getting a seven-figure book deal and whether or not that's a good thing. A seven-figure book deal would seem like a pretty good sign of success, but it also tends to raise the bar for the book's performance. Sales that for someone like me would be spectacular would be a spectacular failure for someone with that kind of deal. It all depends on how that author looks at it. Bestseller status could be seen as a sign of success, I suppose. But how do you know if you're successful when you're not quite at that level to have such an obvious yardstick? You could still be considered successful enough without getting that kind of measurable achievement.

I guess if other people in the industry see you as successful, that's a good sign. I've learned that there are editors who, when pitching projects to their bosses, have compared books with paranormal elements mixed into the real world in a fun way to mine. That must mean that there are people in the industry who think my books have done well enough to use them as proof that this kind of book can sell. I recently saw an upcoming book promoted as "appealing to fans of Enchanted, Inc." (Though, um, it didn't actually appeal to the author of Enchanted, Inc., so I'm not so sure about that.) That was kind of cool, that someone thought I had enough fans to want to get on my coattails (there are dozens of us!).

I feel kind of weird about saying this because I don't want to sound conceited, but I have this funny feeling like I'm on the verge of a breakthrough with this next book. I get this little tingle down my spine, which is almost the same feeling I had when I first got the idea for the series and just knew that this was it. I'm seeing some signs of momentum, like hearing that other publishers are citing my books as examples of the genre, seeing my titles pop up frequently in Google alerts as being mentioned in blogs, getting a little more promotional support from my publisher this time around, having a few media queries about doing features on me. It's like everything I've been doing for the past few years has been building and is about to burst wide open. That makes me even more motivated to do what it takes for me to help that along as much as I can, even though at this point, that kind of breakthrough is out of my direct control. So expect to see more posts pondering publicity (ooh, alliteration!).

But first I guess I'd better finish this next book. If I make good progress this afternoon, I may let myself go out tonight. The community theater in the next town is doing Assassins, one of the few Sondheim shows I've never seen. The great thing about going out alone to something like that is that you can almost always get a single ticket, even at the last minute.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Crudeli Cieli!

I don't have class today because of some kind of faculty meeting at the school, so I'm hoping to get more work done (in addition to grocery shopping). If I'm really, really good, I might finish this round of revisions tonight or maybe tomorrow. I'll probably do one more pass, at least on the trouble spots that I'm not totally happy with.

I'm currently in a phase where it's probably best that I live alone. When I get like this in a book, I tend to wander around muttering to myself, playing out scenes in different ways in my head and sometimes even saying the dialogue out loud. Or I'll sit, just staring into space, while I think about what to do. Meanwhile, the next song I'm learning is in Italian. It's rather high and fast and kind of angry. I catch myself randomly shaking my fists in the air and saying, "Crudeli cieli!" (cruel heavens) In fact, that's become my new favorite curse. It's a lot more colorful than "damn."

I've also finished the books I'm judging. I'm feeling like my perspective has been skewed by being in the middle of revisions while I'm reading because I checked Amazon reviews for these books, just out of curiosity, and found tons of raves for the ones I kind of hated. For one book, I was able to dismiss some of the reviews because it looked like all of the author's family and friends had posted reviews (some familiarity in the way they talked about the author, some repetition of phrases), but then there was one from a person I actually know from real life, and I tend to trust her judgment. So maybe I have a hard time not being ultra-critical as a reader when I'm in a phase of being ultra-critical of my own writing. I think I'm going to have to judge based on measurement against a set of ideals rather than on my own taste as a reader, since my tastes tend to be far from the mainstream. For instance, in almost any romance novel, I usually like the hero's best friend or brother better than I like the hero as a match for the heroine. That's one reason why I gravitated to chick lit. In chick lit books, the guy who'd usually be the hero of a romance novel is often the jerk who breaks her heart, and the guy who in a romance novel would be the buddy is the one she actually ends up with. Then in the sequel to the romance novel, that buddy character will be the hero, and I'll no longer like him because he'll be acting like a romance hero.

In addition to getting groceries, it looks like I'm going to have to buy envelopes to mail out these advance copies. My office looks like a stationery store with all the envelopes I've got lying around (or like the city dump), with just about every shape or size -- except what I need. I don't know how I do it.

When the book is done, I'll have to think of some quiz questions for giving away the rest of the books. I also need to start thinking of promotional ideas that aren't "preaching to the choir." I'm afraid that I've already reached all the people I'm capable of reaching and am now just keeping the congregation fired up, and all my rabid fans have already told everyone they know. The challenge is jumping outside that circle and starting the cycle again to keep building the audience. That's the key in publishing, growing numbers. They want each book to sell better than the one before it. But with a series, that can be challenging because your readership mostly consists of people who read the previous books. Unless those people found the earlier books at the library or used bookstore or borrowed them from a friend and then go on to actually buy the later books new, you're more likely to get a flat line than a growth curve unless a lot of people stumble on the series in mid-stream. And I should stop worrying about that right now and work on the book. I can worry about publicity next week.

I already do know of a way that we'll be giving away early copies of book 4, and I'll be announcing that soon ... That one may help spread the reach.

In the meantime, I'll promote other authors. We've got another Out of the Blogosphere book that will probably appeal to those of you who like CSI and things that go bump in the night, Blood Secrets by Vivi Anna.

A young human woman is found ritualistically murdered in a downtown Necropolis hotel. It is up to Caine Valorian, a 200-year-old vampire, and his Otherworld Crime Unit to solve the unusual crime, and quickly before the human press can jump onto the story and cause a panic. To add to their already tough case, a new member, Eve Grant, transfers to their lab at the request of the mayor. Not only is she green and eager to impress the boss, but she's human. The first human ever to work in an Otherworld unit.

Caine has his work cut out for him, especially with his unruly team who don't appreciate any help from a human. Not only is this the toughest case of his career, but he's unusually attracted to the new girl, which can only cause trouble for them all. However, as they sink deeper and deeper into the workings of the case, Caine and Eve become closer and closer. So close that neither of them can see past each other to the real happenings behind the scenes. The more they poke and prod at the case, the more they realize that something is going on, that this murder is only one step toward a greater purpose. Someone in the Otherworld community is calling on dark forces, in a plot to wipe out the entire human population.

For info, visit the Valorian Chronicles web site.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I got over my alarm clock woes, but had a fun bit of serendipity with the clock radio alarm this morning. The alarm went off just as DEVO was saying "Crack that whip!" Talk about a motivating start to the morning! "When a problem comes along, you must whip it!" And boy, do I need the whip cracked today. I have a freelance project I have to get done, and then those book revisions, and I also have revisions to do on that essay for the House book. Part of my problem with not getting work done yesterday was the fact that House wasn't on and I finally got frustrated and gave up on The Gilmore Girls. I usually do my freelance work while watching my Tuesday night TV, but without TV I worked on book revisions and forgot to do my radio scripts. Oops. I'm also almost done with my reading for judging the Rita awards. Then I have a book to read for a possible cover blurb, and then I can go back to reading for fun the things I want to read. Woo hoo!

The revisions are turning out to be challenging. I'm in two steps forward, one step back mode at the moment. I'll revise a chapter, then that night I'll think of something else to add to it, so I have to go back and do that chapter again. I'm also juggling input from both my editor and my agent, and while they generally comment on different things, there are times when they're in direct conflict. On a passage my agent highlighted as maybe being unnecessary and something I should consider cutting entirely, my editor had underlined it and written "love it!" in the margin. In those cases, I go with the one I agree with the most.

I'm also having to learn to stand up for myself better instead of just taking input. I come from a journalism and public relations background. When you're a journalist and your editor changes something in your story, unless it's a factual error and you have documentation showing that what the editor changed is wrong, you don't go protesting and refusing to make changes because you had a very specific reason for stating things that way. In public relations, the client gets final say, and when they make changes, the changes stay. But in this world, most of the edits are more suggestions. The author does have more freedom to consider and even reject suggestions. My instinct is to think, "Well, they said I have to change it." Then there's the competing instinct to get stubborn and refuse to change something because I had a very compelling reason for doing things that way, if only I could remember what it was. What I'm trying to do now is look at the suggestion, then re-read the part in question, imagine it changed, then weigh that against the way it is. Then I'll decide what to do. In this book, there was one scene where I thought taking the suggested approach would actually be better, but then there was another where I tried playing the scene out in my head in the new way, and it didn't work, so I didn't change it. There have been times when the suggestion is flat-out wrong, mostly because the person making the suggestion missed the point, and that's usually because I need to fix something that makes that point clearer. Whenever I see one of those "Huh?" suggestions, I try to find where the confusion arose and fix that. Often, I can see where the person making suggestions is going with an idea, and then I can find my own way of carrying it out.

There's something emotionally draining about this whole process, balancing what I want against what others want and what's best for the book. Today, I get to write a whole new scene to make better use of a secondary character and to provide a punch line for a joke it seems I've been setting up throughout the book but never did anything with. Sometimes I think my subconscious has ADD. It sets something up, weaves all the hints into place, and then it gets distracted by something shiny and forgets about it so that my conscious brain has to then recognize the pattern and complete it.

Now, in other news, we have prizes! I had four advance copies of Damsel Under Stress, and would you believe, I had four people who met their writing month goals! So, Jana, Miriam, tarysande and Melody need to e-mail me with their snail mail addresses (

But wait, there's more! I got my hands on some more copies, so I did a drawing among the people who participated and gave me their results but who didn't quite meet their goals. parke_matru, you need to send me your mailing address, too.

I may have a couple more copies, so I'll have to figure out how to give those away.

I would ask that those of you who do get these advance copies not spill spoilers. And I really don't want to see them show up on eBay before the book is released. That would make me sad.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan

I was so very good yesterday. I got a lot of revision work done (up through chapter 14, but I've since come up with another idea for something earlier -- yay! Ideas are good!) and I even took a walk. There may be less progress today because I have class and some errands, but I feel like I'm in the swing of things again.

While I'm off being productive and efficient, I'll leave you with the latest Girlfriends Cyber Circuit visit. My guests are Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan, authors of the new novel China Dolls, which has been called The Joy Luck Club meets Sex and the City. China Dolls explores how culture can affect one’s personal and professional lives. As if dating isn’t hard enough in New York City, Asian-American women have to balance the expectations of family and exceed expectations in the workplace, all while looking for Mr. Right.

Blossom answered my interview questions:
What inspired you to write this book?
Michelle and I both love chick lit, but we felt that we could add something to the genre. Instead of just focusing on the more traditional chick lit topics - dating, fashion, etc. - we wanted to really focus on the career issues that young women deal with, especially what it's like to be a young woman trying to make it in a white man's world.

Describe your creative process.
We are very much seat of our pants. While we have a general idea as to what we want to write about and the themes we want to explore, we don't outline or plot out every line of the book. We basically sit down at the computer and start writing.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I am very much a write-at-midnight-until-I-fall-asleep type of girl. Michelle is more of an early bird and likes to write in the morning.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroines?
We have a lot in common with our heroines. Like our heroines, we've had to deal with a lot of stereotypes and prejudices that people have had about us the minute they laid eyes on us - and despite those stereotypes, we've had to persevere and prove our detractors wrong.

How much did you draw on your personal cultural experiences in writing this book?
We drew on a lot of our personal cultural experiences. Another big theme in our book is the role of family. Our heroines have to deal with family expectations about who they should date, what jobs they should have, what kind of lives they should lead - at the same time, they have to deal with the reality of living in modern-day America.

What do you think the biggest difference is for young Asian women, compared to what's generally presented as the "mainstream" in chick lit type books?
I think the biggest difference for young Asian women is having to deal with being stereotyped as either the docile, submissive "geisha" or as the "dragon lady." At some point in their lives, every young Asian woman will encounter these stereotypes, and it adds a new layer to their personal and professional lives - as if life in the city isn't hard enough already.

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Milk (this is going to sound sacrilegious, but we're actually more salt people than sweet people)

What are you working on now?
We're under contract for our next 2 books (Book #2 will feature the sister of the Lin character who dreams about becoming a soap opera actress), so the minute we get back from tour, it's back to the computer!

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
The process was not an easy one. It took a lot of hard work, and there were definitely times when we wanted to throw in the towel. But we kept going at it, and our book is finally in bookstores now! So to all the aspiring writers out there, just remember: no matter how much things might seem to suck, keep at it!

For more info, visit the China Dolls web site.

Monday, February 19, 2007


As a public service to help my readers live better lives, I offer the following tip:

If you haven't used your alarm clock in about a week, don't just turn on the alarm and assume that it's still set at your usual wake-up time. Always be sure to check what time is set. Otherwise, it may turn out that the last time you used the alarm, it was changed from your usual wake-up time so you could get up at 4:30 in the morning to catch an early flight. Then the alarm will go off at 4:30 when you're not expecting it to, and it will take you a while to figure out what's going on, why you're awake, and why the radio is on. You'll frantically fumble in your semi-conscious state to make the noise stop, which means you'll turn the alarm off and then end up oversleeping because the alarm won't go off when you need it to and you'll be extra tired after waking up in the middle of the night. There's also the danger that in fumbling to turn the alarm off, you'll accidentally turn it back on, but for the beeper instead of the radio, so it will go off again the next morning in an even more annoying way.

Not that (ahem) I know anyone this has happened to. It's just a cautionary tale that maybe sort of could happen. You know, under the right circumstances to some person. Just don't let it happen to you.

I'm seriously starting to be annoyed by my own sloth. I don't know why, but I've lately had a hard time forcing myself to get any work done. It's an incredible effort to drag myself out of bed, no matter what time I got to sleep. I have a mile-long to-do list of things I just don't want to deal with. All my early January gung-ho new year attitude has gone by the wayside. Even my housekeeping has slacked off -- and it actually takes effort to be a worse housekeeper than I usually am. I never got off the ground with my vow to exercise more. Maybe it all had something to do with the cold, dark, wet winter we've been having. I've wanted to do nothing but crawl under a blanket and stay there. It's supposed to be warm this week, which will be nice. I'm determined to get back on track this week.

But wouldn't you know, the day I decide to get myself back on track and going turns out to be a national holiday. I have a list of questions for my editor and publicist that I need answered before I can move forward on a few things, and they're out of the office. There's no mail delivery. There's not even trash pickup, and the dumpster is full so I can't go on a housecleaning binge and take the trash out. When did people start getting President's Day as a holiday? I never got it, even when I was working for the state. When they started giving us MLK Day they took away President's Day. I definitely never got the day off when working for a PR agency.

On the bright side, that may mean that I actually get some revision work done since all my business to-do items have to be moved to tomorrow. In the next week and a half, I have to revise half a book. I also need to revise an essay and get some things together for promotions, since the release date is just a little more than two months away. That means no more procrastinating and goofing off. I'm going to force myself to use the things that usually delay work as rewards once the work is done.

In other news, the first review for Damsel Under Stress is in, from my old friends at Armchair Interviews. Apparently, the book doesn't suck. Yay!

So, now to work. Really.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Magazine Life

First, a bit of housekeeping. Did anyone other than Jana, Miriam, tarysande, elizawrites, Penny, parek_matru or unycorne (going with screen names or first names) give me your writing month results? I've sifted through my e-mail and comments and want to make sure I didn't miss anyone. No cheating and saying you sent me something when you didn't because I can go back and find it if I know what to look for. :-)

I got a really late start on the day, probably because I woke up from a nasty nightmare that was the worst kind of nightmare because in ways it was utterly realistic (though it had some dream-like qualities). Being chased by fire-breathing dragon monkeys in a nightmare is scary, but you can wake up and know for sure it didn't happen and won't happen, but a nightmare that could happen leaves you unsettled. This one made me just pull the covers up over my head and hunker down for another hour or so until I could face the world.

I may have material for another nightmare brewing in my living room, one in which I'm buried under a huge pile of magazines. I like magazines. They're great for having something to read when a book would be too much. I like them for travel or when I'm working on a book and don't want to get involved in reading a book. I can pick up a magazine to read for a few minutes here and there while I eat dinner, before I go to bed or during commercial breaks when I'm watching TV, and there's no danger of getting so sucked in that I lose hours. Even if I read the whole thing, it can't eat up too much time. I get the magazines that go with my memberships in Romance Writers of America and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, my dad usually gives me a subscription to Southern Living for Christmas (I like their recipes), and I subscribe to Glamour and Lucky because I'm fashion-impaired and need help staying somewhere within this decade of style.

But I recently did something that may turn out to be a mistake. I had a bunch of frequent flier miles on some airlines I fly only occasionally, so the odds of me ever earning enough for a free ticket were slim. Every so often, they offer you the chance to get free magazine subscriptions with your miles. I may have gone a wee bit nuts this time around. Now all those magazines are starting to come in, and I'm getting buried. I already had a bit of (make that a major) clutter problem. Now I could probably build furniture with my magazines.

I like the TV Guide enough that I may actually renew the subscription. The new version, where it's more like a regular magazine and less about the TV listings, is nice, and my local newspaper has cut its TV coverage down to almost nothing. I'm a bit iffy on Entertainment Weekly, though they do cover books, which is nice. I got a couple of the fitness/health type magazines, Shape and Self, and you'd think they'd motivate me to exercise, but who has time when there are all these magazines to read? I got a few of the fashion/lifestyle magazines aimed at a slightly younger demographic, like Jane, mostly so I could sort of stay hip to the age group I write about, but those are getting rather depressing to read. I hope they don't really reflect the way women in their twenties look at life, because that's awfully cynical and, dare I say, shallow.

Then there are all the home decor and decorating magazines. Yikes! Even if I did learn something, which I don't think I will because it's all so non-practical unless you have an ultramodern mansion and a few million for decorating it, I wouldn't be able to start decorating until I got rid of all the home decor magazines that clutter the place up. I didn't remember signing up for that many, but now I seem to be getting one a day.

I have come to a few conclusions about myself, about magazines and about life from reading all these:
1) I am not hip, edgy or modern, and I'm not sure I really want to be. I'm an old-fashioned girl and I like it that way. The lifestyles portrayed in a lot of those magazines seem very empty and sad to me.

2) I will probably never be truly fashionable. I'm more the classic style type. There are some things about current fashion that I totally don't get, which I'm sure makes my look boring, but whatever. I have fabulous red shoes, so there. Like, what's with this apparent "rule" that you don't want to put things together with other things that actually go with them? For instance, I recall seeing one of those "how to put together an outfit" articles where they showed a very feminine, floaty dress. In my boring, classic way, I'd wear a dress like that with either strappy sandals or ballet flats and delicate jewelry. But apparently I'd be wrong because it seems you're supposed to balance out the sweetness of the dress by wearing it with motorcycle boots and a denim jacket. I guess that goes back to issue number one, because I don't see a problem with looking sweet and pretty.

3) People who are non-snobby about everything else will be snobby about books. Entertainment Weekly does occasionally review genre books, but its book section still tilts toward the highbrow. The rest of the issue may have been about American Idol and Survivor, but then you get to the books and suddenly it's all pretentious. Ditto with the fashion magazines, which are the worst. The Elle book pages are hilarious (unintentionally so). They seem to go for the authors who declare Oprah book club picks to be boringly middlebrow and too mainstream. This in a magazine that ran an eight-page feature on how to dress like a celebrity, illustrated with paparazzi photos of people like the Olsen twins at Starbucks. Seems to me that people who care about whether or not they look like a celebrity when they do their grocery shopping are probably not reading the Pulitzer candidates. Just sayin'. And by making it look like it's not worth bothering to read if you're not reading Pulitzer candidates, they might be discouraging these people from even considering reading anything other than a magazine. I can't think of a better place to go all chick lit, all the time.

4) Even if I got my dream house, was able to decorate it just the way I wanted and had a maid to keep it clean, my home will probably never be featured in a home decorating magazine because there's nothing too edgy or unexpected about my decorating style (and I don't think the suit of armor on the ledge over the entryway counts). I also happen to like having white walls.

And now to dive back under the blanket for some writing time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


BRRRR! Why is it that 28 degrees here feels so much colder than 0 did last weekend in Chicago? I had to go out to class today, and it was bone-chilling cold. Now I have hot tea and I'm about to crawl under the electric blanket with my laptop to get some work done.

I showed incredible willpower today by NOT hitting the half-off candy sales. Considering I still have chocolate from Christmas, and Halloween, and the previous Valentine's Day, I figured I could last until the post-Easter chocolate sales. I'm running out of places to store chocolate. Besides, there's something kind of sad and pathetic about the picked-over post Valentine's aisles. I don't generally get too sad about Valentine's Day as a single person, since I think it's kind of a made-up holiday, anyway, and certainly not the true measure of a relationship. Not that I'd turn down flowers or chocolate if someone wanted to give them to me, but I doubt I'd throw a huge hissy fit if I didn't get them, so long as there were gestures of affection at other, non-scripted times.

I seem to have missed the wave of being outraged about the New York Times (and then syndicated) column about how (gasp!) chick lit is taking over the bookstores! And keeping women from reading more worthy books, like The Red Badge of Courage! But I can't seem to make myself get too worked up about it, considering that whole topic is so three -- or more -- years ago, and chick lit is actually declining in the market these days. I guess Maureen Dowd is lucky she didn't go to the bookstore in 2004, when there would have been even more pink-covered books, and the covers would have been even more obnoxiously pastel and cartoony. She might have had a fit of the vapors then. The pastel cartoon covers are mostly out, except for authors who already have a defined brand image (like yours truly). Photo-realistic covers are more "in" today. I guess the spell that veiled the chick lit books from her was dropped recently. I'm just pissed off that she didn't rant about seeing these fluffy books with a fairy on the cover shelved next to Jonathan Swift. Next time you go slamming a genre, give me some ink, okay? Thanks!

And now because I can't think of anything else to say and really must get to work (and to that electric blanket), I leave you with the latest Out of the Blogosphere entry, Moon Awakening, a juicy werewolf tale by Lucy Monroe.

When Emily Hamilton's family is ordered to send a woman to the Scottish highlands for marriage to the laird of the Sinclair, Emily volunteers in order to save her younger sister from such a fate. But at her new home, the only friend she finds is the laird's sister-especially after Emily's stubborn streak causes the laird to cancel the marriage. And though her plans have gone awry, she refuses to return home...

Lachlan Balmoral is laird of his clan-and leader of his pack. One of the most feared werewolves prowling the Highlands, he is on the march against the hated Sinclair, who have abducted a Balmoral woman. He kidnaps the sister of the Sinclair laird, planning to marry her off in revenge-but the woman he takes along with her proves to be the greater prize...

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hearts, Flowers and Music

Happy Valentine's Day! As I am rather extremely unattached romantically this decade, I have no major plans. I'm behind on work, so I imagine I will be spending much of the day with Owen. I could do worse. Come to think of it, even with him being fictional and even with this involving work, it's still probably better than my last few dates and almost-dates. I'm sure chocolate will be involved at some point, considering I still have chocolate stashed around from last year's post-Valentine's Day sales. I may have a minor chocolate hoarding problem.

As for the music class, I survived! Actually, I did better than I expected to. I think I sounded reasonably good, and I wasn't quite as panic stricken as I thought I'd be. I still got a little tense, which made a few notes go sharp on me, and I was pretty much paralyzed, so there was next to no expression. But I got through it okay without messing up badly, and I had a good tone. It wasn't quite performance at the Met quality, but then it wasn't a performance at the Met. It was my first performance in a non-credit community college class.

And that shift in perspective seems to have helped make the difference. Somewhere along the way, I think the shift from self-consciousness to paralyzing stage fright came from a weird stroke of radical perfectionism. I was measuring myself against the wrong people. I have some God-given raw talent in this area, a nice voice and a pretty big range, as well as a decent musical background from years in band and church choirs, but very little voice training. Yet I wasn't measuring myself against other people who'd had some bits of training and mostly sang for fun. I was measuring myself against people who'd been taking private lessons since they were teens, were voice majors (my freshman roommate in college), who had advanced degrees in music or sang professionally. I knew I couldn't do as well as they did even as I expected myself to, and if I fell short at all, I felt like a failure, so I was even more nervous about the next time, and a downward spiral started so that every "failure" made me even more scared.

But the thing is, I have no desire to perform at the Met. I don't even like opera. I used to sometimes have dreams of performing on Broadway, but I knew I didn't want it badly enough to wait tables or make other sacrifices to get there, which meant I'd be at a disadvantage against those who were willing. I just want to be able to sing solos in church choir performances, sing at friends' weddings and maybe audition for community theater productions without having a panic attack. There are a few book events where they make authors show off some other talent, so it would be handy to be able to put the pipes to use, and next time I'm in a jazz club or piano bar and someone puts a microphone in my hand, I'd like to be able to have fun with it. Getting the right perspective and forcing myself to face my fears may turn this around.

The really freaky thing came after the performance when I had to stand there while the class and teacher critiqued me, and then the teacher made me go through the song again bit by bit, with her correcting me along the way. That's when I got really nervous and lost control of the tone, but by the end I'd settled down again. Now I have a few weeks before I have to sing again, but the song I have to learn this time is in Italian.

And now it's time to go snuggle up with Owen on a potentially snowy Valentine's Day afternoon.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stage Fright

Eeeek! In just a couple of hours I have to sing for my music class. I think I'm prepared, but then last night I suddenly started messing up the beginning of the piece -- the part I used to be most comfortable with. So now I must go practice a little more until I'm sure of it again.

I have no idea where my stage fright issues came from. I just remember always being a little self conscious about people hearing me sing. When they introduced Lorne, the demon who could read your soul when you sang, on Angel, that made total sense to me. There's something so intimate and vulnerable about singing. I can speak in front of any audience with no fear, but put music into the mix, and I panic (I'm the same way with instruments, which isn't good when you play oboe -- a big solo instrument where there's often only one in the entire band). I do have a vague memory of when my brother was a baby and my parents told me it was okay for me to play my records when he was sleeping, but if I sang with the records he'd wake up because he'd respond to my voice, but I don't think that was the trigger for me freaking out if someone could hear me sing because I recall being self-conscious about that long before my brother came along.

I'm just hoping to get through this sounding okay. The teacher wants us to get all emotional and perform, but that may be too much to keep in my head right now. Besides, I'm not a particularly demonstrative or emotional person. To make matters worse, I've got a very Baroque piece, and although it's supposedly all serious and sad, there's just something bouncy about Baroque music. In my head, it always sounds cute and funny, so let's hope there will be no giggles.

So, if you think about it, be thinking good thoughts for me between 2 and 3, Central Time. I have confirmed that at least one person in the class knows CPR in case I keel over. Now, off to practice a few more times.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back in the Real World

I'm now back in the real world after a weekend in Chicago and a night at the headquarters of Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. I don't even know where to begin to describe the party, so I think I'll wait until I have pictures to illustrate it. Suffice it to say that the Chicagoland Browncoats are very, very cool people.

I had a good convention and managed to have a reasonably intelligent conversation with Lois McMaster Bujold, but that was mostly because I didn't know who I was talking to at the time. I was hanging out in the green room, waiting for my first panel to start and drinking tea and got into a conversation that seemed to range from jokes about kids with swords and other pointy weapons (based on a children's programming note about javelin practice) to discussions about cross-marketing books that fit into multiple genres. It was only around this time that I looked at her nametag to see what her books might be and where they'd fit. And then I did the freeze around famous people thing so that she probably thought she'd insulted me and I was avoiding her for the rest of the convention. Note to self: Develop social skills, stat.

The usual Murphy's Laws of travel applied. If I get to the airport early, the flight is guaranteed to be delayed, and it was. They rescheduled it the moment I set foot in the airport -- literally. But I met some nice people and had a good chat while waiting around in the terminal. In the ultimate bit of cruelty, the gate where I had to wait for hours was right across from the Cinnabon place, and I swear they vented their ovens right into the waiting area. But I held strong and did not give in, though I may possibly be baking cinnamon rolls later in the week. I finally dragged home, nearly two hours late.

It's going to take me a while to recover. It didn't help that I had to get up shortly after 4 in the morning one day and then stayed up until almost 4 in the morning the next day, after a brief night of sleep in between. I'm getting too old for that kind of thing. I've made it through all my e-mail and caught up on anything else I needed to check, and I think I'm declaring the rest of the day comp time because I'm not sure I could do anything coherent at the moment. I have to work on my music and catch up on the TV I taped. I didn't even want to go to the grocery store today, so I will be scavenging in the freezer.

In other news, today we sold Damsel Under Stress for publication in Dutch, and I found out that I got a mention in an article in Locus magazine.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Building a Better Alarm Clock

Drumroll ...... aaaaaand .... I didn't go to the movie. For one thing, I was just finishing and turning in a project that was due Wednesday at about the time I needed to be getting ready to go. For another, I'd made a list of all the things I needed to get done before going to bed tonight (Thursday), and none of them were things that I could do while waiting in a movie line. I'm sure the other people in line wouldn't have appreciated me singing a Handel aria over and over again, and it would have been really difficult to clean my living room or do laundry remotely. Anything I could have done in line I also could do on the plane Friday and wasn't necessary for getting ready to leave town. So, practicality won out, and I must say that the moment I made the decision I felt a lot more relaxed. I've gone to events like that before, so it wasn't an anxiety about stepping outside my comfort zone, or anything like that. It was plain old too much to do, too little time to do it stress. If I'd been sure of getting into the screening, that would have been one thing, but with more than four times the number of passes given out as they had seats, the odds weren't worth taking the time to try. It would have still taken a big chunk out of my day even if I'd gone and then didn't get in and therefore didn't take the time to sit through the movie.

Instead, I paid bills, went to the post office (and walked, so there was exercise), straightened my living room, washed some clothes, practiced my music and edited a chapter of the book, among other things, so I feel a little less stressed about everything that must be done today. Today on the way to class, I have to go to the bank and do my last-minute errands before the trip. Then I have to try to get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can catch an 8 o'clock flight in the morning.

I guess if I'd managed my time better earlier in the week or got an earlier start on the day, that would have helped. But, I didn't. I got an even later start because I was daydreaming and thinking. No, not plotting my book, or anything like that. I was thinking about ways to improve the alarm clock. First, there's the "You Have to Get Up Eventually" snooze button. I love the snooze button and can hit it for hours, but if I really need to get up, that constant nine minutes is just enough for me to really get back to sleep so that I have to wake up all over again. I need a clock with a diminishing snooze time. First time, you get nine minutes. Then the next time, four. And then two. Then one. And then the alarm just keeps going so you have to get up. I also think we need an Internet-enabled smart alarm. You could program it with certain parameters, like the route you take to work, the name of your company, your flight, etc., and then it could search for relevant information and adjust your wake-up time accordingly. If it's raining and traffic is slow or if there's a bad wreck on your route to work, it could get you up earlier. If there's snow and your company closes for the day, it could let you sleep in. If your early-morning flight has been delayed, it could let you sleep a little later.

I have no idea how to make any of that work, so I guess I'm not going to become wealthy from building a better alarm clock. The snooze button thing seems like it should be doable (and if it's already been done, I need that clock).

And now before I run off to get more stuff done, there's another Out of the Blogosphere book to tell you about (this is a group of authors who write various kinds of paranormal fiction and who help promote each other's books), Island Heat by Sue Kearney.

Former screen siren Shara Weston lived on an exotic and private South Pacific island as a recluse . . . until Cade Archer fell out of the sky and into her life. Cade's on a mission to open a portal between Shara's island volcano and his world. But not everyone wants him to succeed. A powerful enemy has followed Cade to prevent him from sending the resources through the portal that will free his people. Shara must find a way to fight him . . . to stop his mission because the fate of every man, woman and child on Earth is at stake.

For more info and to see Sue's video book trailer, visit her web site.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More on Slow/Fast Reads

I'm happy to report that I did finally finish the Unending Book last night, and boy, it really was an unending book. It was like one of those movies that has false endings where you're sure it's over and then it keeps on going. It wasn't so much like a horror movie, where they think the bad guy is dead, and as they're relaxing and celebrating, he comes back again for a while. It was closer to the kind where there's the big, climactic scene where all the plot threads that really matter for the story are resolved and it just feels like this is a good place to end on a high note -- and then it goes on for another half hour to convince us that those threads really are resolved by introducing a random element for the characters to deal with that proves everything's okay. The hero and heroine faced their enemy together and came out okay, they were reunited with long-lost loved ones, there was the childbirth scene to then demonstrate how much they loved each other and to prove that they really were going to create a family -- which is where most books would end, but this one then went on for two more chapters and an epilogue, just in case you weren't really, really sure that things were going to be okay. Arrrgggghhhh! I love wrapping things up and getting a sense of what life post-crisis will be like, but you do have to eventually end the book.

I have a couple of amendments to the slow=bad/fast=good rule. I can tear through a book I'm hating in one sitting, mostly because I just want to get it over with, or possibly because I want to see if it will get any better (or see how bad it can get). There are books that hook me at the start, and then fall off later in the book. It also depends on what else is going on in my life. Anything read on an airplane will generally go quickly, no matter how good or bad it is, because there aren't a lot of ways to distract myself (though a book I'm not enjoying or not into will go a little slower than a really good book because I'll find myself reading the SkyMall catalog and mentally choosing the things I'd buy if I had money, doing the crossword in American Way, staring out the window, chatting with my seatmate, etc. before I force myself back to the book). In fact, if I know I'll be traveling during the time that I have an obligation book to read, I'll deliberately take the book I'm obligated to read but not crazy about with me on the plane so I'll be forced to plow through it quickly.

I can't think of a book I really loved that took me forever to read. It may have taken me a little while to get through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, but with that one, it took me some time to get into it. Then once I was into it, I really tore through it and will eventually have to reread it because I know I missed a lot of stuff near the end. I usually end up immediately re-reading the last five chapters of the Harry Potter books because I get so excited and flip through pages like crazy, so I miss a lot of stuff in all the excitement. Come to think of it, I'm that way in writing, too. I tear through the ending, and that's usually the first part I revise.

Another sign I'm not really into a book is if I catch myself flipping ahead to see what happens. I usually do that when a book follows multiple plot lines or characters, and if there's one plot line or character I'm really into while I don't care so much about the others. Then I'll flip ahead to read the part of the story that interests me. I may never even go back and read the rest unless that becomes crucial for following the story I care about. Mom's rule is that if she isn't really into a book within the first few chapters, she'll skip to the last chapter, and if it doesn't really intrigue her or if she doesn't like the ending, she'll know how the book ends and be able to put it down. If she's intrigued about how the book got to that point, she'll go back and read the whole thing.

In other news, tonight's that movie screening, and my practical circuit has now kicked in to do war with the stubborn circuit. The practical circuit has pointed out that going early enough to be sure of being one of the 75 people allowed in will end up meaning devoting seven hours to going to this one event. Meanwhile, I'm leaving town on Friday and have a ton of stuff to get done before I leave. I found out yesterday that I have to perform in class next Tuesday, so that means really learning a Handel aria with only today, tomorrow, Monday and early Tuesday to work on it and practice. I need to do laundry and figure out what to pack, as well as figuring out what to wear for the party. I need to get together some promo stuff to hand out at the convention. I also want to do a little house cleaning so that I don't come home to a mess (today's Oprah is apparently on dealing with clutter -- coincidence or not?). And, oh yeah, there's this book I'm supposed to be revising that's due March 1. The stubborn circuit is telling me that I will rule if I go and get into the screening, and hello, it's Horatio Hornblower! In person! And besides, I went to the effort to go get that pass, so it would be a shame not to even try to use it.

I'm afraid the practical circuit may win, mostly because when I imagine scenarios, I can feel my stress levels drop when I think about not going. I get at least one e-mail a week inviting me to one of these screenings, and while most of them aren't movies or celebrities who interest me, there's still a chance that something else will come along later when I have less going on. It would be one thing if I could leave the house around 6:30 for the 7:30 movie, but I'd have to leave around 4 to be sure of getting in, and with everything else I need to do, that seems excessive.

Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Unending Book

Last call for letting me know if you met your January writing month goals so I can do some kind of randomized drawing to see who gets the advance copies. I'll probably do the drawing on Thursday and announce the winners next week when I get back from Chicago. So let's say that midnight central time on Wednesday is the deadline to get your name in the hat.

I forgot to mention it, but I did get a pass for that movie screening, but that still doesn't mean I'll get in. They said when I picked up the pass that they're only going to let 75 people in the theater and at that time on Friday afternoon they'd already given out 150 passes, each of which was good for up to two people. The pass says that they oversell the screening to ensure a full house. I guess when something is free people may change their minds or forget about it and there's a big difference between the number of passes handed out and the number of people who actually show up, but I think when you make people physically go to the theater to pick up the pass you're raising the odds a wee bit. I think I'll still try to go, since I'd want to get there early anyway to avoid rush hour traffic. I'll go ahead of rush hour, check in at the theater and see if a line has formed. If it has, I'll get in it, and if not, I can do some shopping. I'll stick a book and a notepad in my purse and I'll probably get more work done waiting in line than I would sitting at home. I think my stubbornness circuit has kicked in, making me determined to get into that screening. It's a mission!

A couple of months ago, I pondered how we decide whether or not a book is really good. One of the measures for a lot of people seems to be if it makes them cry, because that then means that the book touched them in some way (and I mused that there are authors who shamelessly manipulate that by throwing in some random tearjerking scene that has nothing to do with the plot near the end, just so the reader will read the ending with tears in her eyes and think the book was really good). I've come up with a new measurement: how long it takes me to read a book.

I'm a pretty fast reader, when I have the time to read. I can tear through an 800-page tome in a day if I'm really into it. Therefore, it's a bad sign when it takes me nearly two weeks to read a standard-sized book. I realized yesterday that it's been about two weeks since I started reading the book I'm currently on, and that's probably a bad sign. It's one I'm reading to judge for a contest, so I can't just toss it aside. I have to read it all the way through. Now, I have been busy, but usually, if I'm really into a book, I will find time to read it. I may temporarily give up sleep, or I may start spinning rationalizations about how just finishing the book now will actually give me more time to work later (similar to the rationale that eating all the chocolate now will get it out of the house so it can't tempt me later). It's not really a bad book. I do kind of want to know what happens to the characters, and though there have been a few groaner spots, there hasn't been anything worthy of throwing it against the wall. I guess I'm just not that into it. There's been time I could have applied to reading if I'd really wanted to read this book that instead I've spent doing stuff like reading Television Without Pity recaps for shows I don't even watch. Sometimes I feel like this book is expanding as I read it. I'll be sure I'm about to finish it, and then I'll read for an hour, but I don't seem to be any closer to the end.

Now I'll have to test whether this theory holds true. I can't think of any book that I've really loved that's taken me very long at all to read. Even when I want to slow down and savor it, I find myself just tearing through it, and I have to struggle to put it down. Has anyone else noticed this kind of pattern in your reading?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Post-Weekend Catch-Up

I'm going to have to quit planning to get work done during the weekends because it just never seems to happen, and then I only end up feeling guilty instead of enjoying the goofing off. I did get a few things done, but otherwise, it was a major sofa time extravaganza. And no, I did not watch the Super Bowl. I watched Cinema Paradiso on TCM because I'd heard a lot about it but had never seen it. Of course, it left me all weepy and reflective. I'm sort of an architecture nut and am a big fan of historic preservation, so I think the sight of that lovely old town square being used as a parking lot near the end made me cry as much as anything else in the movie.

But now I have to catch up on everything I was supposed to have done this weekend. I'm still working my way through dealing with e-mails that weren't emergency crises, though I did get caught up on dealing with blog comments over the weekend. This is a short week for me because I'm going to Chicago on Friday for Capricon. I hope it warms up a wee bit before the weekend because I looked on the weather map, and those are some seriously insane temperatures up there right now. I guess I can drag out all my heavy winter clothing that I never get to wear (and then I'll sweat indoors). I'm just not equipped for temperatures that far below freezing.

I also need to come up with something to wear to the Enchanted, Inc. theme party. I'd been thinking of dressing like the Once Upon Stilettos cover, but that's a silk dress that doesn't travel well, and I learned the hard way not to try to spend hours on my feet in the Infamous Red Stilettos. I may dig up some of my old work clothes from back in the early days of the day job, when I had to wear suits. I think a purple suit with fairy wings could be fun. I guess I could still do the red shoes with that, but they're likely to end up not on my feet after a while, unless I can manage to sit down a bit throughout the evening.

And now I can't think of anything else to say. I think I need to go take a walk to clear my head enough for me to get to work. If you really must read more of my wit today (hah!) I'm the guest columnist at 2 Be Read.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I have a bunch of random stuff today that I've been thinking about but haven't dealt with because it didn't fit into a particular topic or theme.

So, they announced the release date of the next (and final! Sob!) Harry Potter book yesterday, and like a good little fangirl geek, I've already put that date in my calendar. Would you believe, that very same day I got invited to speak at a science fiction convention taking place that very same weekend? Arrrgggghhh! I'm sure they have bookstores in Tulsa that will be having midnight parties, and the con may even plan a midnight event. But still, that disrupts my habits. I like going to my neighborhood store, then getting home, five minutes away, and reading the first, well maybe the first two, okay, probably the first three. Oh, who are we kidding here, the first five chapters before I go to sleep, and then spending all day Saturday reading, with appropriately themed food and snacks. It would be sheer torture to have to spend that Saturday speaking at a convention, knowing that book was back in my hotel room, and I'd possibly lose the socializing benefit of the convention if I ran back to my hotel room to read during every break. Plus, there are people at those events who are far hardier than I am who would probably read the whole thing overnight and then delight in running around the con, bragging about having read it and spoiling it for everyone else (yes, those are the minority, but be honest, you know or have run into that kind of jerk -- the person who just has to know more than everyone else and has to make sure you know he knows). And then after the con, there would be a very long drive home, during which I couldn't be reading (I don't do audiobooks -- I hate being read to and tend to drift off to sleep, which is bad while driving). I'm really torn here. I know going to the con could be good for my career and probably a lot of fun, and I'm flattered to have been invited, but dude, this is like practically an international major holiday for book lovers.

The other thing I'm kind of wrestling with at the moment is a movie screening coming up next week. Thanks to that Battlestar Galactica thing in December, I'm on the movie theater's mailing list, and I got an e-mailed invitation to a screening that will include a Q&A with the movie's star -- get this, Horatio Hornblower himself, Ioan Gruffudd (commence fangirl squealing). Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Here's the catch: You have to take the e-mailed invitation to the theater today to get a pass that might let you into the screening if you get there early enough. The theater is near downtown Dallas. It's about a 15-mile drive each way. I'd be totally okay with getting to the theater on Wednesday rather early and waiting in line. I just don't really want to leave the house today. It's not snowing anymore and the roads are clear, but it's cold and I have work to do. But this would fall squarely into the category of Getting a Life, so I may force myself to put on decent clothes and head out in a little while. I can always do a little shopping while I'm there, since a lot of my favorite stores are in that area and there's a big, huge Borders next door. This is one of those times when teleportation sounds like a great idea.

Speaking of movies, I finally saw Dreamgirls last week, and loved it. I had to buy the soundtrack. And why has Eddie Murphy spent so much of his career wearing fat suits and falling down a lot when he's capable of what he did in this movie? It's amazing how good a singer he really can be.

On the television front, I think I may be officially in love with Jim on The Office, just because of what he did when his boss made him order a stripper for a wedding shower. That was way too cool (and do you like how I vagued that up so as not to spoil anyone who hadn't watched it yet?). I've become mildly addicted to Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. They always seem to be dealing with things I often wonder about, and I love watching them create the experiments to test them. It's probably a good thing this show wasn't on when my dad was teaching physics. There are too many good experiment ideas to come out of it. And I've sort of started getting into Supernatural. Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with the cute boys (who are young enough to fall into my "boy" category, which means they're not that interesting to me romantically) but rather because it scratches my X-Files itch. Plus, some of my favorite writers from other shows seem to be on the staff. Ben Edlund of Firefly and Angel fame (and let's not forget The Tick) did last week's episode. I've liked what I've seen of The Dresden Files and need to get the books now, but can we start the petition to have Bob carry out his threat to sing show tunes from the 16th century? Because it's a CRIME to have Terrence Mann in a role and not let him sing, ever.

So, I think I'm caught up on everything but books, but that's a subject for another post. Now I have to decide if I want to brave the cold to make an hour-long round trip in order to have a chance to make another hour-long round trip to maybe see a movie screening.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writing Month Results

Our writing month is over. So, how did you do? I got through the line edits on a manuscript, wrote about 30,000 words of a book and revised a couple of proposals a couple of times. I guess I was kind of scattered in a lot of directions. Oh yeah, and I proofed galleys on a book.

If you met the goal you established at the beginning of the month, send me an e-mail at or leave a comment letting me know what you accomplished. I have four copies of the bound galleys for Damsel Under Stress that I will be drawing for from among those people. I'll see if I can scare up some other prizes, depending on how many people have earned them.

Stay tuned to learn about another way to win advance copies. In April I'll be announcing what you can do to win an early copy of book 4, and it doesn't require writing 50,000 words. It does, however, involve helping promote Damsel. Speaking of which, the release date is now three months away.

Now I have to get ready for class, so I'll leave you with this week's Out of the Blogosphere book, Night Rising, by Chris Marie Green.

When stunt woman Dawn Madison's PI father vanishes while investigating the bizarre sighting—caught on film—of a supposedly long-dead child star, she comes home to Tinseltown to join the search for him. Working with his colleagues—a psychic short in stature but big in dreams, a beautiful Latina techno-geek, and the P. I. firm’s never-seen boss—she discovers an underground society made up of creatures she thought existed only on screen. They are devious. They are deadly. And some of them are dangerously attractive…