Friday, August 31, 2012

WorldCon Day 2

I think it's day two of the convention. I've got my days all mixed up, so I have to keep double-checking what day it is.

My first panel yesterday seemed to have gone reasonably well. When people have recognized me later from being on the panel, they haven't pelted me with rocks or rotten vegetables, and I take that to be a good sign. The opening reception was at the planetarium last night, and they had telescopes set up. I got to see Saturn, with the rings visible. That was really cool. Then I got to look at the moon through the big telescope in the observatory. I also had a nice chat with someone I met at last year's convention. I made a brief pass through the party suites, but the parties here are taxing my ability to be around crowds and noise.

Today's been my "easy" day, business-wise. I lounged around most of the morning, then met a couple of local friends for lunch, upping my Chicago pizza count (I may turn into a pizza by the time I'm done, but that's fine, since pizza is one of nature's perfect foods). I attended one panel and found myself drifting off a bit (though not as badly as the guy behind me, who snored so loudly that the panelists noticed). The panel was on steampunk, and I found it interesting that the steampunk book I currently have on submission contained all the elements that the panelists said they wanted to see in a steampunk novel, including some that they were saying they wished more authors would do because they haven't seen it. So, basically, my book is the book the steampunk fans seem to have special-ordered. Hear that, editors?

Now I think I'm going to take a nap before tonight's publisher party, the infamous Three-Hour Tour. My emergency plan for this cruise is that if it looks like the boat's going to sink and we're all going to die, I'm going to find George R.R. Martin and make him tell me how A Song of Ice and Fire ends before we all die.

If I survive, then I have to do a reading in the morning and two panels in the afternoon, and then I'm part of a group hosting a party, so I guess I have to deal with the party crowds. I'll be the one hiding under a table.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Live from Chicago

The convention hasn't really started yet, but I've already run into friends, had some Chicago-style pizza and gone to a party. The programming starts this afternoon, and then I'll start being busy. This morning I'm taking it sort of easy. I did a lot of walking yesterday and my legs are tired, but I think I may take a leisurely stroll this morning to keep my muscles from getting too stiff. My hotel is right on the river and very near a park, so there are lots of places to walk.

I do find that Chicago baffles my usually quite good sense of direction, and it doesn't help that taking the train from the airport means arriving downtown on a subway, which also messes with my sense of direction. As a result, I came out of the subway station and headed in the opposite direction from the hotel, then realized the mistake when I was running into streets I knew I wasn't supposed to hit. I was checking the map below an El station when a guy from the Salvation Army (in uniform, with ID, which he made sure to show me) took pity on me and got me turned in the right direction. That meant I did a lot more walking than I planned, and then I took a long walk along the river after dinner because I had to work off some of that pizza. I suspect there will be a lot of pizza this week. I am not complaining.

On today's agenda: I'm moderating a panel this afternoon, and then there's an opening reception at the planetarium. Tomorrow I'm meeting some Chicago friends for lunch, and then that evening is the publisher's party. Saturday's my busy day, with a reading, two panels and then dinner with my agent's associate and some other clients from the agency. I don't know how often I'll manage to update because getting Internet access means going down to the convention area. I don't think I'd use it enough in my room to make it worthwhile to pay for it, and I'm hoping to trick myself into getting some writing done, which might not happen if I could get online and goof around. Though the Weather Channel is kind of addictive at the moment.

Oh, and I've been recognized already by someone who reads my books, so I've had my moment of fame.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Preparation Day

I made a good dent in the daunting to-do list yesterday, hitting all the stuff I had designated as Monday chores. I did cross off a couple of items, one because I got an e-mail saying it wasn't necessary and one because I made an executive decision that it was better suited for after the trip. The most time-consuming stuff on my list today involves getting the house clean enough that it will be pleasant to come home to. That shouldn't be too epic, even though I sort of slacked off on my routines. I really can't seem to write and keep my house clean at the same time.

I'm mostly packed. There were some things I washed yesterday that needed to dry before I put them in the suitcase, but otherwise, other than things I need between now and the time I leave, it's all together, and it will fit in the tiny suitcase. I remember a time when for a trip this long I'd take a full-sized suitcase and a hanging garment bag. It helps that I'm mostly wearing skirts, which take less room in the suitcase. Any rumors that this is also a strategy to show off my legs are totally unfounded.

This WorldCon is going to be a bit different because it's in my home time zone, so I won't be waking up at weird times. However, it's also starting earlier in the mornings, with programming at 9 a.m. When I was two hours off and fighting to stay asleep until 6 in the morning, the convention started at 10, so I could have leisurely mornings. When I'm in my usual time zone and am not having my summer morning person phase, it starts at 9, so I'll likely be a bit rushed. Since I'm not a morning person and need breakfast before I can really face people, I'm making plans for breakfast in my room. I got some Tang and put enough in a baggie to allow me to make juice without refrigeration (and get some extra vitamin C), and there I encountered a product packaging failure. I don't remember the last time I've had Tang. We mostly used it for camping trips, but it was an ingredient in the spiced "tea" that was a popular homemade gift item in the 80s. I remember it being in a jar with a regular lid. Now, though, it comes in this weird plastic canister whose lid is like a measuring cup, and the label is shrink-wrapped around the canister. But to open the canister, you have to cut off part of the label -- the part with the directions for how much powder to combine with how much water to make a certain quantity. Did no one do any testing of this packaging before releasing the product this way? I guess I'll have to tape the relevant part of the label onto the canister. But anyway, I also have my travel teakettle and some tea, and there's a nearby bakery where I can get some bagels or rolls. And then I can have a semi-leisurely morning with breakfast in my room before I have to face people.

I don't know how often I'll be posting this week because the hotel doesn't offer free in-room Internet, which is something else that brings out my stubborn Scottishness. If the EconoLodge can offer free in-room Internet in a $40/night room, then I expect it to be free in a $100+ a night room. There's Wi-Fi in the convention center area, and then there are the Starbucks and McDonald's access points, so depending on my schedule and when I feel like hauling a laptop around, I may be able to get online, but it will be sporadic. There may be more Facebook updates via the phone. I'm taking the laptop because I suspect that being in the room with no Internet may allow me to get some writing done.

I do hope I'll be able to keep up with the Doctor Who prequel series. Here's the latest installment, in which we learn what it's like to have a Time Lord as your best friend (don't count on getting a lot of sleep). And then Steven Moffat has a guide to this Saturday's season premiere.

Now, off to pack, clean and get my life in order so I can catch the bus early in the morning and get to the airport on time. I had a few nightmares about that last night, so I'm giving myself extra time and catching an earlier bus than I need to, just in case.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Daunting To-Do List

Since I'm heading out of town in a couple of days, this is going to be a very busy week. I've got an intimidating to-do list, since I have a couple of business items that must be done before I leave in order to get that Much Ado About Magic paperback ready to go and book 6, No Quest for the Wicked, ready for electronic release. Today I took care of the last-minute errands, and I had to keep reminding myself that I'm going to be downtown in a major city. I'm not going to the uncharted wilds. If I forget something or run out of something, there are two big chain drugstores within a couple of blocks of the hotel. There's also a branch of my bank just down the street. I don't have to bring absolutely everything with me to survive on my own for a week.

I'd planned to indulge myself and actually pay to check my bag so I don't have to worry about restricting what I bring. And then I started putting things in my suitcase and realized that I can probably fit it all in my smallest bag, and even getting wacky with toiletries, I still don't fill the Ziplock bag. There's a lot I can do with $50 (to check a bag each way), so I may be wrestling with a carry-on, after all, since it doesn't look like it will be a hardship. It's funny how that one little thing has triggered all my stubborn Scottishness and actually limited the amount of air travel I do because I don't want to pay to check a bag and I don't want to deal with fighting over overhead bin space.

Now I just have to deal with the startling amount of fresh produce I have in the refrigerator. I'll be having a few fruit salads this week, I think.

Some TV updates:
Soon after I posted last Monday about the Doctor Who season premiere, they changed the date. It will be this coming Saturday, Sept. 1 (take note, Mom). Of course, I'll be at WorldCon, where the odds of the hotel TV system having BBC America are next to none, but I suspect there will be ways of viewing it. To set the stage, they've done a web series that's a prequel to this season, letting us know what the Doctor's been up to since we last saw him and what Amy and Rory do when they aren't traveling with the Doctor.Here's the first episode.

I've also discovered BBC America's new series, Copper, which is a police procedural set in 1860s New York. That's a time period and setting I've read a bit about, so I find it interesting on that level. I don't yet know what I think about the series, though. There are several characters I can't quite tell apart. Two of them I think are supposed to be brothers, so that makes some sense, but I spent a lot of the first episode never knowing which guy I was seeing was the hero and getting them mixed up. I may have to watch it again when I have time. I don't know when that will be!

Now I must go and see if there's anything I can cross off the to-do list from this morning, and then I must tackle the urgent items for today.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Conventions and Creeps

I think I worked my way past my roadblock yesterday, with great effort. Today I plan a serious marathon of work. Really. Plus I need to proof the e-book files for book 6 and write a couple of guest blogs. It's a good thing I don't have anything scheduled for this weekend.

As I've mentioned, I'll be at WorldCon in Chicago next week. Normally I don't post my convention schedule because I figure if you're there, you know how to find me, and if you're not, you don't care, but WorldCon is huge and the way they post the schedule on their web site is wonky, so here's what I'll be doing:

Thursday, 4:30-6, Faith in Fiction panel
This approaches the use of faith in world building. I'm moderating, which means I need to come up with some discussion questions.

Saturday, 9:30-10 a.m., my reading
What I read will depend on what happens between now and then, who shows up, what of my works they've read, what they've heard me read, etc. At 9:30 on a Saturday morning, I may be reading to myself. Depending on what I read, there may also be singing. Maybe even dancing. Who knows? Come and find out. Please!

Saturday, 1:30-3, Panel on what's on TV in the general genre space
I'm moderating, so I imagine this will go a lot like the SyFy Smackdown we do at FenCon, in which I play the Oprah of geekery and turn it into a talk show panel kind of thing. I already seem to have a problem panelist who started e-mailing the rest of the panel to try to dictate what the panel would cover. When I realized I was the moderator, the power went to my head and I told everyone to chill. I will do everything in my power to make this fun and funny, even if I have to smite someone with my Invisible Lightsaber of Moderation to do so. My experiences dealing with children may come in handy here.

Saturday, 4:30-6, the Warehouse 13 vs. Eureka Smackdown
We have to come up with which character from which show would win various challenges. Should be good for a lot of laughs. I anticipate at least one epic giggle fit.

Sunday, 3-4:30, panel on the artifacts of Warehouse 13
This one should also be fun as we get to talk about what's really in the Warehouse.

I'm not sure how I ended up on all the Warehouse 13 panels other than I said I was willing to do them. There was a lot of other stuff I was also willing to do that I didn't get.

Speaking of conventions, this summer there's been a lot of talk about harassment policies, safety, etc., and probably about time. When you think about it, conventions are kind of a recipe for disaster in that area. We've got a lot of people with not necessarily the best social skills getting together, it's traditionally a male-dominated environment and not everyone seems to be comfortable with the way that's changing, and the depiction of women in a lot of the works traditionally popular in that crowd doesn't necessarily lend itself to equality and respect (in fact, women are far too frequently depicted as objects to be won). So you get the "creepers" who can't (or refuse to) tell the difference between "cool, we like the same stuff" interaction and "I want you." And then you get the nasty situations when they refuse to believe that it really, truly isn't "I want you." Strangely, I haven't actually run into anything majorly awkward with the fanboys. I've had to deal with a couple of uncomfortable situations with fellow professional authors, and that brings me to my bit of advice for men at conventions:

If you offer to escort a woman to her hotel room and she declines, back off, totally and immediately. Don't attempt to talk her into it, don't try to bargain ("How about just to the elevator?") and above all, don't follow her. Even if you're going back to your own room and you need to take the same elevator, take a lap around the lobby and let her go on her own before you go. Because if you do any of these things, you've just made yourself more potentially threatening than any hypothetical stranger she might encounter, since you're demonstrating that "no" doesn't mean "no" to you and you don't care about her wishes or her comfort. After having to use the ugly voice to remove a guy from my room doorway after I told him I didn't need an escort to my room, I now make a lap through the lobby instead of returning to my room after an offer has been made and declined, and then I'll stop and talk to friends. If I don't find friends, I'll probably lead my would-be Galahad straight to the convention operations office.

But what if you really do feel like it's a safety issue and it's bad for her to go alone? Well, for one thing, there's a totally different vibe, voice inflection and body language between "I'm concerned for your safety" and "If I get as far as her hotel room door, I'm totally going to score." For another, I've never had one of the creepy offers come in a situation where safety was genuinely an issue. Those offers always seem to be made from the lobby bar/restaurant to my room on the last day of the con, after I've made the trip safely on my own dozens of times. These guys are nowhere to be seen when I need to get from the party hotel to my hotel through a deserted downtown area in the middle of the night.

If you think a woman needs an escort for safety's sake and you want to make sure she doesn't decline you because you're scarier than the unknown, put together a group. Find a group of people, both men and women, who already know and trust you, and then invite the woman you don't know as well to join that group. Then follow her wishes. If she only wants you to escort her to the hotel entrance, stop at the entrance. If she wants company farther than that, allow her to make the request. Keep a respectful physical distance from her the entire time and allow her to initiate contact like farewell hugs. If she needs an escort to her door, stay back to where you can see that she's safely getting through the doorway but you aren't close enough to be looming over her as she unlocks the door, then leave once she waves to let you know she's okay.

And, seriously, guys, when you gallantly offer to escort me from the hotel lobby to my room on the last day of the convention, I know exactly what you're up to and it's a total turn-off. I actually kind of liked the first guy who pulled that on me, and him doing that totally blew any chances he might have had because he was so cheesy about it and because he disregarded everything I said and followed me to my room even though I told him not to. If I want you in my room, I'll invite you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Big Changes

I accomplished something major on the to-do list yesterday. Here's the before:

And the after, plus the 10-inch ponytail that will be going to Locks of Love.

I've been procrastinating on a haircut for a couple of years. I was rather severely traumatized by my last one when the stylist practically pinned me down and insisted on straightening my hair over my objections. Then it got to be kind of fun seeing how long I could get it and doing some fancy things with it occasionally. And then I realized that a haircut would involve chopping off a lot, so I might as well do some good with it. A lot of the little girls at church were growing their hair out and getting it cut off to donate, and I figured if they could do it, so could I, so I let it go a little longer so it wouldn't be too short when I cut off the required amount. It's still a little shorter than I'd ideally have it, but it grows pretty fast and I'll live. It's just at the length where it all falls forward over my shoulders and gets in my way. It still looks pretty long in the photo, but that was soon after the cut before it started curling up a lot more. Now that it's settled down, it's falling to just barely past my shoulders, and it feels really weird. However, I do have a little more versatility without all that length. I can still put it in my usual bun with fewer pins, but I can also do a bouncy ponytail again, and I can do a braid that doesn't get caught in the waistband of my jeans or strangle me in my sleep.

The weird thing is, last night I wore my hair down when I went to choir, and nobody noticed that my hair was more than ten inches shorter. I do wear it up most of the time, but I had it down or in a ponytail for much of the music and arts camp, and there were people in the choir who saw me there. I'd have thought that going from past my waist to barely below my shoulders would generate some comment, but I guess people just see "long."

I should weigh myself and see how much weight I've lost. My head certainly feels lighter.

The major items remaining on the to-do list involve some shopping, but I don't much feel like going out today. I want to focus on the work. I figured out that part of the reason I hit a brick wall was that I put something that should have happened later in the book in too early in a fit of overeagerness, and that kept things from going forward because there was nowhere to go from there. Once I fix that, I should be able to move forward. However, I keep forgetting that with each revelation that's made, there's an implied revelation that goes with it, and so I'm also forgetting to have the characters react to both the big revelation and the implied revelation, which then should change all the interactions. I knew this plot would be complicated when I came up with it, but I didn't realize I'd need to wallpaper the house with Post-It notes to remind myself of all the things that are going on.

But I have no errands, no classes, and no rehearsals today to distract me, so I'm hoping to get things fixed and then get some momentum going.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Else Writers Need to Learn

I made great progress yesterday, until I hit a wall and had no idea what happens next. I think today I need to list all the big events that need to happen before the end of the book and then figure out the little events that lead up to each big event. Alas, it's not rainy anymore, but it is relatively cool, and according to the newspaper, we're supposedly done with 100-degree temperatures for the year and the fall will be cooler and rainier than normal.

In my previous writing post, I talked about the education and training that are needed for becoming a writer, but I've thought some more about it, and in today's publishing world, I think there are additional things that are necessary. If you get a contract with a traditional publisher, you're probably going to be expected to do the bulk of the publicity for your book. Only the really big names (who don't need the publicity) get the full-on marketing effort. Everyone else does most of it themselves. But it's increasingly looking like the publishers are using the self-published market as a kind of farm team or slush pile, so that instead of buying books by totally new authors, they watch the self-published market and pick up authors who prove themselves successful there.

So, in addition to learning to write a good book and learning enough about the industry to know how to submit a book and where to submit it, you should probably learn something about:

1) Public relations and marketing -- at least know some of the major terms so you can talk to a publisher's publicity department, but you may need to learn enough to do a bit of publicity for yourself. You can find books on the subject in most libraries, and there are a lot of blogs about book publicity on the Internet. This is something that's constantly changing, since the media are in a transition phase. This was my professional field, and it's changed dramatically in the ten years since I've worked for a PR agency. It's even changed a lot for the book business in the four years between my last book and the one I'm promoting now.

2) Graphic design and web design -- even if you hire people to do your web site and covers for your self-published books, it helps to know enough to understand if what the people you've hired are giving you is good. Again, there are books in the library and web sites that cover these topics.

3) Budgeting and finance -- I used to say that this would be important if you ever wanted to make a living as a writer because writing income comes in sporadically and isn't always something you can plan on. Now, though, you may have to self-publish your first book to get noticed by a publisher, and doing it well enough to achieve that kind of success generally involves some financial investment to get professional copyediting and cover design, so you might need to save money to invest in your career even before you sell a book.

The rule used to be that all money flows to the writer, and that should still be the case when you're dealing with an agent or with a publisher, but the ballgame really has changed in the last few years with publishers taking fewer risks. Instead of buying a manuscript from a total unknown, they can watch what's selling on the Kindle and then take those books. People are still selling from the slush pile, but it's hard to say what will happen in the next few years, and a lot of authors are discovering that they don't even need traditional publishers, that being in business for themselves gives them more rewards. That's why it's more important than ever for aspiring authors to learn about all aspects of the business so they can make wise decisions. You not only have to be a creator, you also have to be an entrepreneur. That doesn't always come naturally to creative types, so it may take some effort on your part to learn what you need to know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Report: Other People's Books

It's August in Texas and I have my windows open. It's absolutely lovely listening to the rain and being cool. There aren't even any 100-degree temperatures in the forecast, so while it will go back to being summer, it won't be a major whiplash if my body decides it's fall because of today. I'm going to revel in every minute of it, too. I plan to have soup for lunch, and I made muffins for breakfast (I turn into Betty Crocker when the weather gets cool).

Because everyone's probably tired of me talking about my book, I think it's time to talk about other people's books, so I have a catch-up book report.

First, a book that would be ideal reading on a day like today: The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore. This is a paranormal/gothic YA kind of story in the vein of Mary Stewart. Our heroine is a teenage ballerina recovering from a career-ending injury who gets shipped off to stay with a relative she barely knows in her dead father's family's ancestral home, an antebellum mansion in Alabama. There she learns about all kinds of spooky family secrets and a history that seems to keep repeating itself. It has all the elements of a classic gothic -- the spooky house, the sense of isolation, the seemingly good boy with dark secrets and the mysterious stranger whose motives aren't clear -- but it's got a very contemporary sass. I read it in just about one sitting because once I got into it I couldn't put it down. However, one slight caveat: this is very much a YA book with a lot of the elements that are currently familiar in that genre (the triangle, the Mean Girl, the emo, etc.), so adult enjoyment may depend on tolerance for some of the standard YA stuff.

Then there was a duology recommended by a blog reader, Mairelon the Magician and Magician's Ward by Patricia Wrede. The current edition puts the two books together in A Matter of Magic. I'd describe the first one as Dickens with magic and the second as My Fair Lady with magic, but in a Regency setting. Our heroine is a London street urchin who's reaching the age when she won't be able to disguise herself as a boy anymore, and she's worried about her future. When a man offers what to her is a great sum of money to break into a traveling magician's trailer just to see if an object is there, she feels like she doesn't have much choice. But the magician catches her and then hires her as his apprentice, and she gets more than she bargained for when he turns out to be a real wizard. Later, she has to learn to fit into London society while she's learning to be a wizard. Plus, there are bad guys to fight and magical objects to retrieve. I thought these books were a lot of fun, but I was left wanting more, and that may be because they were written for older kids/younger teens. From an adult perspective, I thought there was a lot more potential depth to be mined in this world and with these characters. For kids, it's a fun magical romp with a hint of romance.

Finally, the book that's been keeping me up late at night for a week, Something Dangerous by Penny Vincenzi. It's a sprawling, soapy family saga, not my usual sort of thing at all, but I stumbled upon it when looking for novels set in World War II. This book turns out to be the middle book in a trilogy about a family running a publishing house in London. It spans the years from the late 20s to the late 40s, going through the Depression, the war and the aftermath of the war. It's mostly about the relationships and loves of the huge cast of characters associated with this family, and I quite frequently wanted to slap some sense into them, but I couldn't seem to stop reading. This is the weird kind of book where when I'm reading it, I can't put it down, but when I'm not reading it I hardly think about it. It's the sort of glitzy saga that was popular in the late 70s and early 80s, and in the 80s they'd have probably made a TV miniseries out of it. I've heard people calling 50 Shades of Grey "cracktastic," where in spite of how ridiculous it is, you can't help but get caught up in it. I'd call this a higher-brow version of "cracktastic." It's well-written and vividly uses the historic settings, but a lot of the behavior is totally whacked. For instance, the ideal of "love" seems to be something you can't help yourself about, that it doesn't matter if he's selfish and unreasonable and maybe a little unbalanced, you can't help how you feel and you're helpless about falling into his spell even though you know it's bad for you -- and this is what true love is. Gag. But then there's the family home turned into a boarding school in the country and the elderly earl drilling the boys to be a home guard and being maybe a little disappointed that there's no invasion, and there's wining and dining and glamour, and there's a mad dash through the streets of London during the Blitz in order to retrieve the sole copy of a manuscript, and it's very easy to get caught up in it all.

However, it's not the sequel I want to run out and get. The first book in the series looks like it spans from the early Edwardian era into the aftermath of WWI, so it's likely going to be very Downton Abbey, only without following the servants, and there were a number of hints dropped in this book that I think were supposed to be meaningful for those who read the first book, and now I want to know the backstory. I don't much care what happens next because it looks like it will be about the 50s into the 80s, an era that doesn't excite me, and there's no war for them to deal with in London, so it's probably all going to focus on the politics of the publishing company and family squabbles and still more unhealthy "romantic" relationships. These are huge doorstopper books, so I'm saving the prequel for a rainy Sunday afternoon in the fall when/if my life starts to calm down. These are very much make a pot of tea and then curl up in a comfortable place and wallow for a while kind of books.

But before then, I have to finish writing the current book. It's good writing weather today, so I wonder how much progress I'll make.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Upcoming Movies

I made my pre-Worldcon to-do list last night, and it's daunting. My first problem is that stores and manufacturers aren't cooperating with me. My beloved black ballet flats that I can wear with everything and that are dressy enough for me to get away with wearing them for dressier occasions when I need to be comfortable but that are comfortable enough for walking are on their last legs. I'm holding them together with glue and making them presentable with shoe polish and by using shoe stretchers to keep them in shape. I need to replace them, but with all the shoes like that in stores right now, they're doing it wrong. The toe is too short. I guess they find toe cleavage sexy, or something, but I find that the shoe then cuts across the "knuckle" of my big toe and is painful, plus it makes you look like you crammed your foot into a shoe two sizes too small, for that oh so attractive Minnie Mouse effect. I'd found a few options when searching online that looked like they might work, but the actual shoes were awful. Even searching Nordstrom isn't bringing up anything I like. The one thing I've found that's perfect, they don't actually come up with having it in my size either in stores or online (and I love it when you're browsing for shoes online and they suggest you try a different size when they don't have the size you want -- yes, I'll just cut off a few toes and try a different size).

I guess I'll just stick in the shapers, get out the shoe polish and hope my shoes hold together for another year. Otherwise, I think I've got my wardrobe planned.

My book has now dropped off the Amazon category bestseller lists. I suppose everyone in the know has bought their copies in the initial surge and now it will be more of a steady trickle as word of mouth spreads and people find out that the fifth book is available. I worry that there might be fans out there unaware that they can now get this book, but I don't know what more to do to reach them other than hope word of mouth has a ripple effect. Skywriting is probably out. Though it would be cool.

They've added a number of new movie trailers to my OnDemand listings, and while the first part of this year has been rather slow for me, movie-wise (the only movie I've seen this year was Brave), there are some good things coming out. In no particular order there's:

The Great Gatsby -- it gets the Moulin Rouge treatment (without the music) with a really lush Baz Luhrmann production. He really has fun with the Art Deco world, and the cast looks good. While I was a little underwhelmed with the book, I must have found it pretty compelling because I read it in one sitting. The previous movie versions I've seen are fairly stilted and tame, but this looks like it will really capture the decadence and hedonism of the jazz age.

Looper -- I hadn't heard of this one before, but it looks like an intriguing time travel thriller about an assassin who specializes in going back in time to kill people before they're a problem (a human terminator), and then he gets an assignment to kill his future self, who's apparently hiding in the past. Uh oh. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the assassin, with Bruce Willis as his jaded future self.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- it's a teen film, but it looks like a smart one, and the trailer made me laugh out loud a couple of times. Features a post-Hermione Emma Watson doing an American accent and playing what looks to be the polar opposite of Hermione. Good for her.

Pitch Perfect -- the story of a chick with attitude joining her ritzy school's a capella choir sounds like it could be very formulaic (one of those "using current music is a radical idea that will put us ahead of the competition!" things), but the trailer was great. I think I actually want to see this.

Plus, the Les Miserables trailer is now OnDemand, so I can watch it on my TV whenever I want to. I'm ready for a new trailer or a bit more footage, though.

And in TV news, remember that a new Grimm is on tonight, and rumor has it that Doctor Who will return September 8. I'm already in pre-mourning for Rory's departure.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Availability Update

I've found that Much Ado About Magic is now in both the Ingram and Google Books systems, which means that you can now buy it through independent bookstores. I've checked a few, like A Real Bookstore and Book People in Texas and Powell's in Portland, and it's there. However, the prices at these stores are more expensive than the price I set and that it's selling for in other places. It also seems that Google is selling the PDF version in addition to the epub.

We're hoping that it will be available via Overdrive for libraries to purchase sometime next week. They're pretty slow to get started.

Ah, a Day at Home

Ah, a morning to sleep in and not have to go anywhere. It was sheer bliss. And it was a good thing because I stayed up way too late reading last night. At "late," I put my bookmark in the book, but then I found myself flipping through the pages to skim and see what was going to happen next, and next, and next, until I'd skimmed to the end of the book and it was "way too late." I think I still need to read the rest because there were some details I missed and I was focusing on one particular story line. And then I found that this book was the middle book in a trilogy (I'd thought it was the first), and some of the secrets that I thought there would be big revelations about were actually plots from the previous book. This may be the first time that I've finished reading a book and wanted to immediately rush out and get the prequel, not the sequel. I don't much care what happens next, but I'm dying to know exactly how the things that came before happened.

I think I'll wait until I finish reading it before I do a full review, though. So you'll have to wait to find out what I'm talking about. It isn't my usual sort of thing, actually, but sometimes it's fun to dive into something different that still has some overlap with your usual interests.

I guess my "blog tour" of sorts has started. I did an interview with the BiblioJunkies that gets into my fictional boyfriends and favorite treats. I have a few guest blogs I need to come up with and write. In fact, one of them is actually good background material for the next scene I need to write, so maybe that will be my afternoon's task. I'm still open to doing blog interviews, etc. Just let me know.

I did finally get back into writing yesterday. It helped to go back a couple of chapters to fix some things I realized were wrong and then to figure out some scenes I need to add based on that. Now I need to crunch out the second half of the first draft because I really want it done before WorldCon. I don't want another momentum break, and the rest between drafts is good. I'm hoping for a productive day, since I don't have to go anywhere at all. And it is bliss.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sneaky Kids

I have survived music and arts camp. Barely. Today was crazy, and I only got through it because we spent most of the time rehearsing for the program instead of doing the usual classes. Otherwise, I spent the day tracking down kids making a break for it. There was one whose mom was helping out elsewhere who kept wandering off to see his mom. I had one who somehow followed a different group to the playground instead of following our group to the next class (I didn't buy the excuse he gave that he was really that confused because he knows the people in our group and he knew we'd already been to the playground). I had three run and hide in the bathroom to try to escape from art class. I had two try to run off instead of going to rehearsal. Fortunately, I seem to be smarter than a second grader, so I always knew who was missing and where he'd have gone, and I had a teenage boy helper I could send into the bathroom to look for them. Then to top it all off, at the end of the day we had a couple of missing kids (not mine, thank goodness). The mom came in to pick up her kids, rather late, when almost everyone had left, and her kids weren't there. These tend to be good kids who aren't the type to run off and hide, so panic ensued. After we'd searched the whole church and the playground the mom remembered that she'd arranged for their grandfather to pick them up that day and she called the grandfather to verify that they were with him. I think those of us who'd been frantically searching and panicking wanted to strangle her for totally forgetting her own plans and then blaming us.

But now I'm totally done, and the director said I don't have to come to the program tonight. I've seen the part my kids are doing. I really need to get some work done, but I'm considering a brief nap to recharge because I'm dead. I also got myself a cupcake at the grocery store on the way home because I figure I got enough exercise from chasing kids to earn a cupcake.

In other news, thanks for all the nice things you're saying about the new book and for the Amazon reviews that have definitely raised the star rating. When a book has been waited for as long as this one, there's the chance that expectations might be so high that the book couldn't possibly meet them, so I was a little worried about the reception it would get. But it sounds like people are enjoying it, and I'm glad.

And it seems that Google Books now has it available. You can either get it directly from them or via your favorite independent bookstore. Though the indies may or may not have it. I just searched a couple of independents I know of and it didn't come up in the search, even though I'd just found it on Google Books. Maybe it takes time to propagate.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Purchase Links

I have now survived my morning with the second graders. They survived, too, but not without a great deal of effort to kill each other. I lost track of how many times I had to say, "This is not a weapon."

I have more purchase links:
All Romance E-Books -- they offer both epub and mobi (Kindle) formats, as well as PDF.


If you want to discuss this book or others in the series, there is an #enchantedinc hashtag on Twitter.

The only review on Amazon right now (or the last time I checked) was three stars, which is sad. I'm avoiding reading reviews because they mess with my head sometimes, so I don't know what the review said, but if you've read and feel inclined to review, please do, and feel free to be honest. I just hope there are some who want to give it more than three stars.

And now I think I need chocolate. Or maybe wine. Not because of the book but because of the kids. There was a nasty thunderstorm last night that woke me up and kept me awake for a while, and the kids were also affected. I'd hoped that they'd be groggy, but they were really hyper, and the playground was a swamp after all the rain, so we had to stay inside for the "blow off steam" recess period.

Happy Book Day!

It's new book day! After long years of waiting, Much Ado About Magic is available in English.

Before I head off to herd second-graders around art and music camp (and since it rained all night, we may not get our playground time), here are the order links that I know are live:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Others will be added as I learn about them, after I get home from herding kids. Much as with regular bookstores, the various online sellers don't always "shelve" e-books as soon as they get them. Any other questions? Check the FAQ.

I would really like to show my former publisher just how wrong they were not to publish this book by having it be a huge smash (or I would at least like to make enough money from it to buy a new dishwasher). But to do that, I need the help of my readers. What can you do to help?

1) Buy the book (duh).

2) Mention it on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, relevant online forums and message boards, or whatever other venue you have, though standing in the street and shouting may not be very effective. You can "like" the book for Facebook from the Amazon or B&N page. Or "like" the Enchanted, Inc. series Facebook page.

3) Once you've read it, you can post a review at Amazon, B&N, other online booksellers, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc. The more reviews, the more "credible" the book looks.

Oh, and please be nice about spoilers once you've read it.

Though I must say that not everyone at my old publisher deserves to suffer. There are some cool people there. For instance, they invited me to their party during WorldCon, which is a cruise. I noticed that the cruise lasts from 8 to 11, making it a (dun dun dun!!!) three-hour tour, which we know from television reruns is doomed to disaster. I mentioned that in my response and asked if there would be someone on board who can make radios out of coconuts. The response was "If we somehow get off course and end up on a deserted island somewhere in Lake Michigan, I believe we will have a wealth of knowledge on board… enough to found our own society and eventually build a spaceship that will get us off the island." So at least they're planning for that.

However, it would be very fun to be able to swan around the party as a bestselling author that they missed out on, so tell everyone you know about this book!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jedi Mind (Game) Tricks

I survived the second day of music and art camp. The kids did, too, but a few of them barely squeaked by. I may have to ask a friend just how attached she is to her son because he may not make it. He's already pretty close to not being able to go from session to session without holding my hand because he starts goofing off in the halls and slamming other kids into the walls. Every single teacher has had to call his name multiple times. I will probably have a chat with his mom tonight at ballet. I'm not sure if he's seeking attention, hyper or possibly both. I may ask if she has some behavior strategies she uses to calm him down. I've just about lost my voice from shouting. I had to resort to my drill sergeant voice that comes from way down in the belly.

However, I did gain some credibility with some of the boys by being able to discuss Star Wars, and that led to the idea to stop all the puppy brawling that seems to go on when you get a group of boys together. I told them that if they want to fight, they have to be Jedis and use their lightsabers. Only the blades (which are imaginary) touch the other people. So they wave their hands and make "bzzz" noises and leap around, and they get the fighting out of their systems, but no one gets hurt. However, I've discovered that I automatically go into the fencer's crouch even when pretending to do a lightsaber fight with a group of kids. I wouldn't have thought that one semester back in college would so ingrain a behavior, but if I even think about holding a sword, I instinctively go into position.

Sometimes I think about getting back into fencing, but I'd have to learn to fight left-handed because my right knee can't handle all the lunging. Plus, I'd get the chance to say "I'm not really left-handed!" during a bout.

Meanwhile, during the singing class, the choir director made me help demonstrate one of the parts that required a soprano, and because I'm losing my voice, I had to use the full-on classical voice (it's less straining to use the really proper technique), and the kids were all "ooh, opera." I'm pretty sure I'll be mocked some by the kids tomorrow.

The book comes out tomorrow! I've seen that Barnes & Noble is offering pre-orders of a paperback version for release August 31, but I don't know what that's about as we don't yet have a paperback in process that B&N would have access to. What seems to have happened is that they've pulled from the ISBN registration, where August 31 was put in as a placeholder. When I know about paperback availability, I'll announce it.

Now I have to do some promo work and try to get some writing done even though what I want most of all is to crawl in bed for a while. Morning came very early this morning.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

In a bit of a scheduling oops, back when I didn't know what else would be going on with my life this week, I agreed to volunteer for the summer music and arts day camp at the church this week. So, on the week that I have a book coming out and need to be doing PR kind of stuff and while I need to get a book written, and worse, coming off of several days being rather sick, I have to spend all morning at the church Monday through Thursday of this week. I have the second graders, and all I really have to do is get them from one session to the next and keep them from being too insane along the way. Fortunately, I have a lot of teen helpers, and they were all on the choir trip earlier this summer, so they know me (I got an enthusiastic hug from one of the Crazies when she saw me). I don't know any of these kids, but one is the son of one of my ballet friends. It wasn't too bad today, though I'm not quite at 100 percent. I mostly had to make sure they washed their hands after the craft project, which involved molding dough, and keep them from killing each other with the rhythm band instruments. There are a lot of boys in this group, so anything that can be weaponized will be weaponized.

The group dynamics are always interesting in this sort of thing. I'm amazed at how easily boys make friends. The girls are a little aloof and cling to the other girls they already know without being too welcoming to newcomers. The boys were immediately clustered in a circle, talking about lizards they'd seen in their yards, and as new boys arrived, they'd widen the circle to include the newcomers, especially if they had a good lizard story to tell.

Speaking of lizards and other creatures, the season premiere for Grimm is tonight. Yes, on a Monday, and yes, this early. Apparently, they're trying to capture any holdover audience from the Olympics. The episode will also be repeated in the usual Friday timeslot, in case you forget or didn't realize that they were doing the Monday thing for a few weeks.

In case you'd forgotten or just somehow showed up here, Book 5 in the Enchanted, Inc. series, Much Ado About Magic, will be released Wednesday. Just a couple more days! And then remember that book 6 is coming in October, so you don't even have to wait that long to find out what happens next.

And then there's this, a trailer for Terry Pratchett's next book. It looks like he's doing Dickens, with Dodger. I'm mildly irked because it sounds similar to part of a story line I have in mind for a future project. Mine has a lot of other stuff going on that I doubt will be at all similar, but it still has enough similarities that I might look like I'm following a trend. Then again, in publishing these days, it takes clout like Pratchett's to start a trend. They aren't keen on anything that's too different from other stuff.

And now to see if I can get my brain into work mode. I've finally stopped sneezing and sniffling, and I only cough when my throat gets dry. I guess the storms that blew through last night wiped out whatever has been making me miserable.

Friday, August 10, 2012

So Not Impressed

I don't know what's in the air, but I am currently dying of allergies. I need to make a sling so I can more easily carry the tissue box with me wherever I go. That kind of killed my productivity yesterday, but I think my subconscious was hard at work. I came up with an idea that I think will really add a level of tension to the plot, but I need to think more coherently to be able to figure out exactly how to use it. (Achoo!) Then last night as I was lying on the sofa in a Benadryl haze, watching Olympic diving, I realized that I'd left out a very important scene. It was one of those "steps in a plan" scenes where we'd already seen them carry out a similar step, so I'd figured that we knew how the pattern worked and didn't need to see it repeated, so it could take place off-stage. But then I realized that there are all kinds of ramifications to this particular one, so that doing this step would be a big decision. And, really, that same thing applies to all the other steps, just not as intensely. I need to think more about this. If I could stop sneezing for a few minutes. (Achoo!)

I'm kind of glad that the Olympics are drawing to a close. I remember watching them obsessively, but I can barely get into it this year. I can blame the Internet in part because I can find out who won early in the day, and if it doesn't sound like something I want to watch, I don't watch it. When I do watch, mostly the gymnastics and whatever they have on the same nights, the broadcasts are so painfully bad. Most of the announcers are inane, and the camera work is insane. Like with the gymnastics, where the competition is about what they do with their whole bodies, and for some strange reason, they just zoom in so tight on their faces that they're practically giving them an endoscopy. "And now that we've verified that the gymnast has no nasal polyps, she'll do her final tumbling pass." They did the same thing with the diving I was watching last night. The diver would be pressing to a handstand on the edge of a platform 10 meters above the water, which is an impressive feat, and instead of showing the diver's whole body while doing this, they're zooming in on her face, which tells us nothing. Really, NBC, I take it as a given that someone competing in the Olympics is focused and determined and fierce or whatever it is you think this shot is showing me. But this is an athletic competition, not a nose-hair grooming competition, so show more than a tight close-up on the face. Not to mention the fact that they seem to have written their scripts for their coverage well before the events and they have trouble straying from those scripts even when the events don't go that way. It's like, "We're going to show you everything this one person who was supposed to win does, and oh yeah, by the way, this other person we barely bothered to show you actually won the event." Since the prime-time coverage is tape-delayed, there's no excuse for not being able to present what actually happened.

I can already tell you, McKayla is not impressed. In case you haven't seen this meme, American gymnast McKayla Maroney was supposed to win the vault but had a bad performance and was seriously pissed-off at herself when she got the silver. A photographer caught a rather unfortunate facial expression. And it went viral, with a very unimpressed McKayla superimposed on all sorts of amazing (or not) things. I would consider it kind of mean because I know what it means to have the kind of facial expressions that show up looking evil when photographed. Most candid photos of me look like I'm about to cut a bitch. However, she seems to be taking it with a sense of humor and is having fun with it, even Tweeting her favorites. I was thinking about making a new LiveJournal icon with it, but my photo editing skills aren't that good and I don't have good software for it, so I thought I'd go searching to see if someone else had already done it. Bad idea. LiveJournal is difficult to search, and you never know what you'll find. Like, say, real-person slash stories about the women's gymnastics team getting it on with each other. And now I need a gallon of brain bleach. I'm pretty sure McKayla would not be impressed.

Now to go lie on the sofa in a Benadryl haze with my tissue box at hand and see if my subconscious can solve all my book problems for me. Achoo!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Shelving Decisions

Tuesday night's ballet class has suddenly hit me full-on. Ouch. I thought the muscles in my legs were pretty good, but I'm discovering muscles I didn't know I had. It looks like I'll need to do some yoga today if I want to be able to get up and down the stairs.

On the other hand, once I'm done with the stuff that requires Internet today, it might not be a bad thing if I can't get upstairs. Then I can sit downstairs and do a lot of work. I think I've figured out the next part of the book, so I should be able to write for a few days before I have to do more thinking and planning.

I did finally succeed in buying myself a birthday present and in doing my errand shopping at Target, except of course I realized after I got home that I forgot a few minor things. But I did hit the school supply sale, so I have notebook paper and pens and spiral notebooks and note cards. I also got a couple of pads of drawing paper because they were calling out to me. I'm not sure what I'll do with them. Maybe I could try mind mapping or brainstorming with colored markers or something like that. At any rate, I just felt like they were somehow going to be essential for something, and they were cheap. I did resist the urge to go skipping through the school supply section, tossing items into my basket with reckless abandon, like in those "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" commercials. Oh, but I wanted to, so very, very badly. I always loved school supply shopping when I was a kid because I was picturing my ideal school experience that was like something out of a book or a movie and that was probably about a decade out of date. I felt like my whole life would just click into place if I only had the right pencil box and binder.

While I was making the decisions of how to classify my new books and getting frustrated over the fact that the place where they were shelved in physical stores was the one place none of the readers seemed to be looking for them, a publishing news item came up about a publisher trying to create a new category but running into resistance from the bookstore chains in not wanting to shelve it that way. They were trying to create what they called the "new adult" category, which was a bridge between the teen young adult books and the regular adult section. That makes a lot of sense because in the past several years, YA has been one of the more profitable categories for both publishers and booksellers. But those readers do grow out of reading about teenagers. Are those huge swells of kids and teens who got into reading with Harry Potter and Twilight being retained as book customers? Adult fiction sales don't seem to be getting the kind of surge you'd expect, considering that the kids and teens who were in the right age range when those books were published would be mostly adults now.

Making that transition from the safe boundaries of the kid and teen sections to the adult section can be difficult. When you're 18-25 or so, you may not want to read about teenagers anymore, but you're also not all that interested in forty-something parents, and it's impossible to tell which books you might find interesting at a glance. The idea for the "new adult" category was to have books for readers in that age group, with characters in that age group who were doing things that happen with that age group -- finishing school, going to college, getting that first job, being on their own for the first time, etc. But apparently the bookstores totally resisted the idea of creating a new section. They thought these books should be shelved either in the teen fiction or in the relevant adult sections, I guess because they don't like making money or have no interest in retaining their best customers.

As a fantasy reader, I guess I had it easier in making that transition from teen to adult because the heroes/heroines of fantasy novels at that time tended to be very young. We had the late teen farmer/apprentice who gets chosen to go on the quest kinds of stories. In fact, a lot of the adult books I read as a teen have been reissued with new covers and shelved in teen fiction (I don't recall having a designated teen section when I was a teen -- books about teens were mixed in either with children's books or with adult books). I do remember standing in the tiny science fiction/fantasy section of the mall bookstore, which was probably smaller than my science fiction/fantasy bookcase in my house now, and flipping through the books to find those that fit my criteria. I wanted either a heroine I could identify with or a hero I could fall in love with, and I didn't want it to be an "old" person who was over 30. I can't imagine doing that in a superstore. The adult section can be overwhelming, especially if you don't come from a family of avid readers where your parents have already started introducing you to the authors they read. That was my other transition aid. I was in fourth grade when my parents started giving me the Alan Dean Foster Flinx books to read. In those early books, the hero was a teenager, and I'd have considered them good "new adult" reading as adult books that younger readers would enjoy.

Apparently, the chains were worried that the new adult category would limit who would buy those books -- that adults wouldn't shop there and that teens might not find it, and that's such a narrow range (never mind that they're the age range buying most of the books these days). That brings up another bookstore question: why not cross-shelve? They'd sell a lot more books if the books were easier to find. Create a new adult section and stock it with some of the older teen and younger adult books, and then also stock those books in their relevant sections. Once readers have found those authors in "new adult," they can then transition more easily to the regular adult shelves, and then the bookstore has secured a long-term customer. Because if I'm selling books and I look at the statistics about what's selling, I'm definitely going to want to do anything I can to hold onto that vast YA readership and make sure they keep buying books as they enter their adult years and have jobs and money of their own.

But alas, I don't rule the world and the bookstore chains are very mired in their old ways of doing things, resisting the changes that might allow them to survive. One advantage of digital publishing that I'm seeing is that you can "shelve" a book as contemporary fantasy, fantasy romance and chick lit. I've even been tempted to throw in paranormal mystery, since that's where my books seem to pop up in Goodreads and since most of the "people who bought this also bought" items for my books are paranormal mysteries, but since they aren't technically mysteries, mystery readers might be annoyed. I also don't think they're technically romance, but it does seem like a lot of readers view them that way, so who am I to argue?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Preparing to Be a Novelist

I sort of failed at birthday yesterday. My plan was to take a little shopping trip, pick up the Grimm BluRay set and get some other fun stuff at Target so I'd get gifts on my birthday. I went to Best Buy first because their advertised price was lower and it's closer -- on the way to Target. But they didn't seem to have it even though their web site said it was currently available for immediate pick-up at that store, and I couldn't find any employees to ask for it. When I went back out to the parking lot, the sky had turned a sick color of black and I thought it might be best to get home rather than be caught in a nasty storm. Then we got all of about three drops of rain. That was when I made some of my Magical Cake. I just reheated leftovers for dinner since ballet started last night. I had my first intermediate class, and my thighs currently hate me. I came home and had more cake. So I ended up doing nothing much special for my birthday. Yay, me. And I was just about to go do yesterday's shopping, but the sky got black again and now there's thunder. It's a conspiracy. Rain would be nice, but the way Texas storms can be, I try to avoid being out in them because I don't want to have to deal with hail damage to my car.

However, I did manage to write nearly 3,000 words in spite of being kind of a slacker. I think I'm at the halfway point in the story, also known as the part where I've been saying I'd figure out exactly what happens when I get there. In the synopsis, I spent most of it on the first quarter of the book, a page or so for the middle, and then I wrapped up the last half of the book in about four paragraphs. I guess that means I need to figure it out now.

For this week's writing post, I had a reader question about getting started as a writer. If you're a young person who aspires to be a novelist, what can you do?

I think the most important thing to do is read. You'd be surprised by how much you absorb about storytelling and character development from reading the kinds of books you want to write. When you read something that really grabs you as a reader, re-read that book and think about it as a writer. What was it that grabbed you? How did it affect your emotions, and can you tell what the author did to affect you that way? What is it about the characters that made you care about them? How does the pacing work -- is it a non-stop thrill ride, or did you find yourself enjoying the smaller character moments? Identifying what works for you as a reader is a good step toward finding your voice as a writer. It doesn't hurt to do a similar exercise with a book that you wanted to throw against the wall. Why did you dislike it? Were there plot or character elements that bothered you, or was it the writing style? Look at online reviews of that book to see what it is that other readers liked or disliked about it. You can sometimes learn a lot by trying to understand why people love a badly written book. Obviously, they're responding to something.

While you're still in learning mode, I recommend reading as widely as possible. Read from a variety of genres and read a mix of current releases and classics. That will help you figure out exactly what you really want to write. Once you start narrowing in on a genre, read as much as possible in that genre. That will make you more likely to know how original your plot and characters are, which will push you to move past the genre cliches.

It's also a good idea to learn about the industry. When I was a teenager, one of my favorite things to do at the library was to read the writer's marketplace books -- those listings of publishers and agents, what they publish and how to submit to them. It was mostly dreaming at that time, but it meant I learned the difference between a legitimate publisher and a scam, I knew what a query letter was, what a proposal was, and about how long a novel should be for the publishers I wanted to target. Those books tended to be in the reference section, so I couldn't check them out, but I'd sit and take notes. Most libraries also have a pretty good "how to write" section -- even my neighborhood branch library has good stuff -- and you can teach yourself a lot by reading the books you find there. The Writer's Digest series on the elements of writing fiction is particularly good. I also like reading screenwriting books for story structure.

Other than reading, the best thing you can do to learn to be a writer is to write. You don't have to be writing publishable stuff at this point. Just write. Write plot outlines, even if you never write those stories. Create characters and think of situations you could put them in. Write short stories or scenes. Let yourself explore and experiment. I have spiral notebooks full of this kind of stuff that I did when I was a teenager. Most of it will never see the light of day, but there are a few characters that started back then that I've worked into books, and I think all that writing ended up being part of those however many words you supposedly have to write before you can write something worth publishing.

When it comes to formal education, there are a few degree programs in commercial fiction. However, most creative writing programs lean toward the literary side of things, so you won't find much support from your instructors or classmates if you try to write something like fantasy or romance. There aren't really any "entry level" jobs for novelists, so you may need to major in something that will allow you to earn a living until you sell enough books to make a living as a novelist. Otherwise, I'd recommend taking courses that give you something to write about. If you want to write science fiction, take astronomy to satisfy your science requirement. History can be useful for writing fantasy. Psychology and communications courses are wonderful for character development. Acting classes are also good for character development. I majored in journalism, which helped me have a way to earn a living as a writer, but I think it also taught me to meet deadlines, write quickly and have a writing style that's easy to read. Even so, it's my non-journalism courses that I tend to draw upon the most in my career as a novelist.

So, bottom line: To become a writer, read and write.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Much Ado About Magic FAQ

I have learned the secret to great writing productivity: Have your Internet connection go down for most of the day. Starting sometime between 12:30 and 1 p.m., I lost my Internet access. I had network connectivity, but the network wasn't connecting to the Internet. That sometimes happens intermittently, so I figured I'd just write until it came back. After a couple thousand words, I checked again. No dice. After another couple thousand words, still no Internet. After another 2,000 words, I called tech support and got a recording saying essentially, "we know, and we're working on it." I ended up with nearly 8,000 words, which may be a one-day record for me. The Internet is back today, and it's funny that AT&T hasn't sent any kind of acknowledgment or apology to its customers, although I've seen reports that it was a system-wide "rolling blackout." Maybe I could get them to take down the Internet more often. I'd get a lot more written.

Fortunately, it was back in time for the flood of birthday wishes on Facebook. I feel so famous and loved.

Among the messages and e-mails and reviews I couldn't deal with yesterday without Internet (oh, Internet, never leave me again, unless I need to write) were a lot of the same questions I've been getting about the new book release. Since I suspect some of the regulars are tired of seeing the same questions come up in the comment threads whenever I post about the new book, I thought I'd do a nice Frequently Asked Questions file and maybe deal with them all at once.

Will Much Ado About Magic be available for Nook, Kindle, Kobo, other e-readers?
Yes. It will be available in the mobi format for Kindle and epub format for other readers and will be offered for sale at most of the usual e-book outlets, starting with the on-sale date of August 15. It's currently available for pre-order at Amazon and Apple's iBookstore because those are the outlets that allow pre-orders of self-published titles. Some of the stores, like B&N, are good at making the books available almost immediately. Others take a while. That's not too different from the way physical bookstores work. Some have the book out even before the official on-sale date. Others may take a few days or longer to get the book out of the box and onto the shelves. The digital world seems to work the same way. We're making the title available to all these outlets at the same time. It's up to them when they want to start selling it. There will also be a pdf version available at some outlets, and it will be made available for the Overdrive system that libraries can use to offer e-books.

Will there be a print edition available?
Yes, there will be a print edition available through Amazon's CreateSpace, but it may be later than the digital edition is ready because there's more to be set up to get the print book ready. It will be a trade paperback like the earlier books in the series, and it should be available through the various global Amazon outlets. We're also working with Ingram for a print version through their system, and it's possible that bookstores could order that, but it likely won't be appearing in the major chains that way. You'll have to either special order the book through a store or order online.

But I don't have an e-reader and I don't want to wait for the print version. What should I do?
If you're reading this, then you can read an e-book. I don't have an e-reader, but I've been able to proof the e-book files by using free software to read both of the major e-book formats. There will be a pdf version, as well, that just about any computer can read using the Adobe Acrobat reader or Preview on a Mac. I've also got some e-reader software on my phone. If I can manage to review these files without having a reader, then I think it's pretty easy for just about anyone to access this book. It may not be the way you normally choose to read, but you can do it.

Will I be able to buy this book in bookstores?
Probably not. Bookstores tend not to stock self-published titles. You may be able to special order it, and some really supportive independent stores could choose to stock the title, but this is one you'll probably have to order online.

That sucks. I wish I could just go to the store and buy it instead of having to order it or deal with an e-book. Why are you doing this to us?
The original publisher opted not to publish this book and the other publishers weren't interested in continuing a series started by someone else. The Japanese publisher did want to continue the series, which was why I wrote this book in the first place, and then I finally forced myself to admit that the US publisher was never going to see the light, so I'm doing what I can to make this book available. This is the best I can do without the support of a publisher, so it's either this way or keep waiting for a publisher to come around. Would you rather read this book in a way that doesn't entirely fit your usual reading preferences, or would you rather not get to read it at all? I have to admit that anticipation of this gripe was one of the reasons I held off for so long, and while most readers have been joyful and appreciative, there's been enough whining to validate my concerns in this area and to dampen my enthusiasm. "There's a book I've been dying to read for years, and now it's available, but it's not available in the way I want it and that makes me angry" is such a first-world problem.

If I buy a print copy, can I get it autographed?
Because these books probably won't be available in stores and because bookstores hold author signings to sell books, I probably won't be doing bookstore signing events. If you're going to be at a convention I'll be attending and if you want to bring your copy, I'll be happy to sign it for you. If a library or writing group invites me to speak, I'll sign books there. If a store wants to sell copies and have me do a signing, I'd be open to that. But signing opportunities for this sort of thing will naturally be somewhat limited.

Will this book be available in other countries?
This e-book is being offered in English worldwide and with no DRM (but I'd best not find it pirated). There is a Japanese edition already available. Other foreign translations will depend on publishers in those countries buying translation rights. I'm not in a position to do self-published translated editions. Something is possibly in the works to make the English versions of the first four books available digitally outside North America, so stay tuned for that.

I'm a reviewer. Can I get an advance copy to review?
A review copy is available via NetGalley. You can easily get a NetGalley membership and submit a request. I would recommend that your profile include the URL for your blog or review site and information about it, as well as where else you might post reviews, what your audience size is, etc. When I evaluate requests, I make sure the site is appropriately targeted, has been updated somewhat recently and frequently, and is moderately professional. If you meet those criteria, then you'll get a review copy.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Happy Monday!

I survived Friday, but got next to no writing done because the non-writing part of work was pretty consuming. There are a lot of upsides to self publishing, such as actually getting stuff out there when publishers are being weird about it, but I have to say that in my ideal world, I'd send a novel to a publisher and let them deal with all the major and sometimes even minor decisions so that I could focus on writing. Spending time worrying about white vs. cream paper (and how do you define "white" and "cream"?) isn't really my thing. I've often thought of myself as a control freak, but it turns out I'm really not. I guess I want to be in control of the things I care about (the story) and I'd prefer for someone else to make all the other decisions.

I was even so busy that I never got my cake on Friday. Fortunately, my birthday week started early on Saturday with a group gathering that wasn't actually about a birthday but at which we had a true CAKE to celebrate several birthdays that all fall within the same timeframe. It's very convenient when you can jointly celebrate a birthday with others.

Now today I hope to catch up on the writing. I napped on Sunday and still ended up going to bed early and sleeping very late, and now I finally feel somewhat rested (if a wee bit groggy). I even know what comes next. I also know what I'll need to fix in the next draft, but I think I'm going to get to "the end" before I revise, except in cases where I need to fix something to move forward.

It was a big movie weekend, as I got together with friends for a big movie-watching (and cake) day. I got a nice college flashback with two movies that were a big part of my college days but that I don't think I've seen all the way through since college: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Real Genius. My college years were amazing because that was the first time I'd been surrounded by geeks. I had been the lone weirdo in my high school who was into that sort of stuff. Some of my friends were kind of into it and we did have a group trip to see one of the Star Trek movies, but they graduated before I did, so by my senior year, I was pretty lonely. Then I ended up on the geek floor in the dorm and it was like coming home. We were a lot like the gang in Real Genius, except for not having an evil professor stealing our work to sell to defense contractors (that I know of). I could quote most of Holy Grail by the time I saw it at a midnight movie on campus because it was just part of the group's vocabulary. The group of friends I have now is a lot like that college bunch (and some of them are friends with my college friends), so the day was both a nostalgia trip and a reminder of how lucky I am to have the friends I have.

Finally, in case you don't have anything to accomplish today, here's a good way to waste an hour of so. It's a collection of snippy (and hilarious) notes posted around offices. Some people are very creative about reminding their co-workers to clean up after themselves, make more coffee and unjam the copier. It's a nice reminder of why I'm so glad I don't work in a real office anymore. Since I've had nightmares about having to go back to work (restless nights are one reason I've been needing extra sleep lately), I think I'm going to go work on my book now.

Friday, August 03, 2012

It's Another CAKE Day

It is a really good thing I have CAKE supplies because today is really going to test my limits. It started with frustrating news. Then I went grocery shopping and ran some errands, and it seemed to be Who Let the Idiots Out? Day. There was the couple who apparently decided that the place to sit in their car and have some kind of discussion was in the middle of the entrance/exit lane for the library parking lot, and right down the middle, so there was no getting around them as they entirely blocked the parking lot that was full of parking spaces for, you know, parking. When I finally gave a short honk of my horn to draw their attention to the fact that they had blocked me in, they just backed up but stayed in the driveway instead of pulling into a parking spot. Just around the corner, I got behind a lady who decided that the four-way stop with no traffic coming in any other direction was a good place to do her makeup, and then I got stuck behind her at the next light, where she finished her makeup job during the green light, barely making it through on yellow, so I was stuck there for another cycle of the light. At the grocery store, the theme for the day seemed to be "park your cart diagonally across the aisle while you peruse the shelves and then act affronted when someone needs to get past." And then my favorite checker wasn't there to snap me out of my bad mood before I went home. I hope he's okay because this is around the same time I always go, when he's always there. Maybe he just got a day off.

But the fun wasn't over. I got home and found the sheetrock guys to fix the hole in my bathroom wall waiting on my front porch. The contractor had said he'd call to let me know when they were coming, and since I hadn't heard anything, I'd figured it would be next week, so of course they showed up the moment I left the house. The first call I had from him was a message saying his guys were there. Um, thanks, that's helpful. It was a good thing I was already so irritated by the drivers that I changed my mind about doing some additional shopping while I was out. And then there turned out to be a conference call I was supposed to be on at that time, but my invitation to it had bounced, so I just got the "why aren't you on the call?" message. Fortunately, that was able to be rescheduled so that I don't have to be dealing with a conference call with workmen in my house.

To heck with CAKE, I may need wine. And I may start the CAKE at lunch. I should probably avoid human interaction as much as possible for the rest of the day because they're all out to get me.

On the upside, I got more than 5,000 words written last night, and the US continued our women's Olympic gymnastics all-around streak.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Teaser Time

It appears that not only do I run out of words at a certain point, but if I go over my limit, I can't dredge up any the next day because I barely got anything done yesterday. I did ultimately force myself to at least review the previous day's work and then finish the scene I was in the middle of, which added about a thousand words. Though I'm not sure I can blame the previous day's success for the slump. It was kind of a "Squirrel!" day, with the pre-orders going live and all the questions that came up from that and then the excitement of very briefly making a couple of the category bestseller lists on Amazon. Alas, I've dropped down again, but it was fun and exciting for a while, and very, very distracting. I think I know the next scene to write, and I don't have any appointments today to force me out of the house into the heat, so I hope to get back on track. I was enough ahead that one bad day won't make me miss any deadlines.

In the meantime, we've got all sorts of preview-y goodness going on. They released the teaser trailer for the next season of Doctor Who, and I can hardly wait:

And there's a teaser for the third season of Haven. I tried their embedding link, but it didn't seem to work, so try this link.

But I have to finish a first draft before either of these shows come back. Maybe that will make the time fly.

While I'm teasing things and talking about my books, there's now a teaser excerpt of Much Ado About Magic up on my web site. This is the first scene that opens the book. I hope it whets your appetite for the book itself, coming in just under two weeks.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Pre-order Book 5!

Wow, it's been a busy morning, and my day hasn't really even started yet. First, the big news: You can now pre-order book 5 for Kindle at Amazon. Or if you're in the UK, here's the link. It will be available at most of the other major e-bookstores, but this is the one that's currently allowing pre-orders that will guarantee that the book downloads right away on release day (supposedly at midnight). It should be available at B&N on release day, but possibly not quite at the stroke of midnight because of the lack of the pre-order option.

I celebrated by going to the dentist for a teeth cleaning. Woo hoo! And then I enrolled for my fall ballet class and went grocery shopping. Now I have to actually get work done.

I think I may have a limited number of words in me per day. Yesterday I wrote 5,500, which is good and better than normal, but although I had some time left, I just fizzled out at that point. It was a rather productive day, as I did more in less time, but still, I think I could produce even more if I made good use of the time. I hear all the time from writer friends who talk about spending eight hours a day writing. I manage about three hours of actual writing time and get about 5,000 words done in that. If I wrote for eight hours at my usual pace, I could write a book in a week, though I think there's a diminishing returns issue, since I accomplish most in the first couple of hours and by the eighth I'd be getting about a word a minute. Still, if I even spent five hours a day writing at my usual pace, I could write a draft in a couple of weeks. Maybe I need to work up to it. Part of the issue right now is that I'm getting ready to have a book published while I'm doing this, so there are business decisions and publicity activities I have to take care of, and that means I can't spend a full workday writing and I can't just stay off the Internet all day because there are e-mails I need to deal with.

I did take some time for Olympics viewing last night. I'd deliberately spoiled myself on the gymnastics, so I was able to watch it without having a heart attack, and I'm very proud of our girls. Boy, that sport has changed a lot since I was a kid. I was in gymnastics during the heyday of Nadia (and funny, I was taking gymnastics classes in Oklahoma while she was competing for Romania, and now she's coaching gymnastics in Oklahoma), and the desired body type was that willowy waif who just sort of floated in the air. Today's gymnasts are about thirty pounds heavier and muscle-bound so they can do a lot more powerful stunts. My joints never would have held up to the pounding it takes today, though I do think today's gymnasts need to take more ballet. They were corkscrewing on their pirouettes instead of keeping form. They need to find more of a happy medium between power and grace.

Now to get my day started after the initial excitement and the oral health interlude.