Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I'll return to the Wednesday writing posts next week when I'm back home for a while. Right now, I'm too scattered to think of good material, and I'm sure I'll pick up a few ideas at this conference.

I found my new purse yesterday -- just the right size, good side pockets for things I might need to reach for often without having to open the main section where the wallet goes, both handles and a detachable shoulder strap. I might even be able to fit a slim paperback book in one of the side pockets. And while I was out, I found a new dress I couldn't resist. I hadn't even planned to go into that department, but I did just on a whim, and there it was, a knit dress of the roll it up and throw it in a bag variety, my favorite color, a really interesting design and in my size. So that's what I'll be wearing for the conference. I'll wear the black knit dress I was planning to wear to the conference to travel on Thursday.

Next week, I plan to get to work on those book revisions that got put on hold by travel and copyedits. Then I have a week of music and art camp, but in my spare time I plan to engage in a cleaning, decluttering and organizing frenzy. And then I'll get some repairs and replacements done, like the dishwasher and the upstairs toilet. I'm looking at giving myself a "staycation" extending over the Labor Day weekend.

But during this time I have some plans. One is to try writing a short story. For real this time. I want to have something new to read at FenCon, and if it's any good I may even try submitting it. I've been reading a lot of short stories during travel (all those Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines I keep getting at conventions are good for that -- if there's a story I want to keep, I can tear it out, but otherwise I can toss the magazine when I'm done with it), so I think I'm starting to get a sense of the pacing. And then I have some non-fiction plans that tie into promotional activities. The Plan for World Domination may get some updating. And then I'll start brainstorming and researching the sequel to the steampunk book.

In other news, my viewing (and snarking) of Sharknado 2 will have to wait for the weekend (or later) because I want to get to bed early tonight and be rested for tomorrow, and I don't think that impossible weather events in the city I'm heading to will be conducive to that. Not really for nightmare reasons, but for mental rewriting reasons.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Home for a Moment

I'm home from ArmadilloCon, but not for long. Late Thursday, as I was wrapping up that day's work, I got an e-mail asking if I was available to speak at a conference in New York a week from then -- and they'd pay my airfare and hotel. Hmm, let me think .. Yeah, I'm a little tired of travel right now, and it's been a long time since I spent an entire week at home, but it was hard to pass up the opportunity to speak at a Writers Digest conference in New York (and get to attend the conference) without having to pay the airfare/hotel. It'll be a whirlwind trip, though, flying up Thursday morning (with just enough time to meet with my editor that afternoon), the conference on Friday, and then leaving soon after I speak to fly home. It's too short a trip to even use my new "weekender" tote bag. I've got a knit dress that rolls up into a small package that will fit nicely in my businesslike tote bag. Since there is a time crunch and my flights leave early in the morning and return late at night, I'm going to splurge and park at the airport -- not at the terminal since I'm flying on two different airlines and that would actually be more of a hassle, but at the express parking where the van picks you up at your car and takes you straight to your terminal.

I may, however, try something new for getting back to the airport in New York. Since it will be late on a Friday in the summer, a cab can be really slow because it has to use roads at the same time as everyone else. But there is a way to catch the subway to Queens and then take a special bus from there to the airport, and it looks like it cuts the travel time in half. I may actually try that on the way into the city because it looks like it's faster than being on the roads and the train from Queens goes straight to my publisher's office (well, actually I'd want to take the express, then change at Herald Square to the local that goes straight there). Car is not a fast way to travel in Manhattan.

My other splurge is going to be a new black purse. My standard black purse is more of a handbag, not great for hands-free operation. Then I have a huge messenger bag that gets heavy and that's starting to look its age or a small clutch-sized bag I usually stick into my tote bag to get past that "personal item" limit, but that only holds my wallet and phone. So I need to find a nice medium-sized shoulder bag that will hold my wallet, phone, sunglasses and reading glasses.

I'm going to try to have lunch with my editor on Thursday, if my flight's on time and things work out. Then I may do some research/sightseeing. I'll have had a very early morning and will have to get up early for the conference the next day, so I doubt I'll be doing any nightlife or trying to hit a show. I have a feeling I'll be out cold by about ten.

As for ArmadilloCon, I had a really good weekend. I feel like all my panels were well-attended, and I heard a lot of stuff that got my creative juices flowing. I also got to revisit some familiar places from my college days and see a few college friends. I don't know if it's a sign of age or maturity or what, but I found that I could revisit that stuff and acknowledge the good times I had at that point in my life without having a strong urge to go back there and relive it all.

But before the next trip, I need to get the copyedits shipped off, I have to review some e-book files and cover copy, and I probably need to do laundry.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moving On

My itchy feet/urge to move was not helped by a letter I got in the mail today from a Realtor who has a client who wants a house in my complex, and there are none currently on the market that suit his needs, but mine is one that fits what he wants (the letter also went to other people with my floor plan). Unfortunately, I've got at least a month of heavy work on repairs, decluttering and cleaning before my house would be remotely ready to show, and I'd really like to see how the new books do before I commit to a new house so I'll have a better sense of what I can afford, so I'm afraid this client is going to be disappointed. But it is a good sign that I may be able to sell when I'm ready. That may be a benefit of living in Little India. There are a lot of young professionals coming over to work in the tech industry or at the medical center, and I've got a condo on the bus line with easy access to the medical center and the tech employers in this area, and there aren't a lot of places like mine in this neighborhood, where you can usually either rent an apartment or buy a large house.

But first I need to finish dealing with copyedits on this book. I'm done with the part that needs to go to the publisher, so if I had to, I could send it off today. I just need to enter the edits into my file so I'll have my own copy and can compare the galleys to my file. Then I need to revise a book. And start that decluttering project. Well, resume it. I started and then stalled.

I'm off tomorrow for ArmadilloCon in Austin. I won't be too terribly busy, with just a reading on Friday, a panel on Saturday and two panels on Sunday, so I can attend a few things. Mostly, I'll get to hang out with friends and see some of my friends from college.

One place I won't be is at the Romance Writers of America conference being held in San Antonio the same weekend. I'm letting my membership in that organization go. It was a great help to me when I was starting out because that's where I learned about the publishing business. The conferences were so exciting because that was the rare time when writing seemed glamorous. I'll admit to feeling a bit of a pang when I see the pictures and reports on Facebook. But that organization doesn't really fit me anymore. What I write isn't considered "romance" by the organization, so I technically don't qualify for full membership, and they've dropped the "strong romantic elements" category from their awards. I've also come to realize that I don't even really like romance novels. I love having love stories in other things, but I don't like the structure and form of the romance genre. There's a lot I'll miss about the group, but I've been pulling away for a long time, and no one seems to have noticed. I dropped out of my local chapter a few years ago and haven't been to a conference since 2007.

Instead, I'm trying to get more involved in SFWA. I might have offered/been recruited to work on publicity for next year's Nebula Awards weekend, and I should probably go to that anyway because it's that organization's equivalent of the RWA national conference, only smaller and more focused on published authors. That's where I can get my business info, and then I can focus on getting publicity at other conventions.

It does feel like the end of an era, since I joined RWA in 1991. But the organization and I have grown away from each other and it's time to enter a new phase.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel Strategy Recap

I made it about halfway through the copyedits yesterday. I'm doing my own editing pass, re-checking the things the copyeditor changed, taking my last chance to make any other changes and fixing a few things the editor asked about. I may finish this round today, but the more serious tweaking comes in this part of the book. Some of the things I was worried about fixing just needed a line of dialogue or two added, but I think I have a scene that will require more serious reworking. Then I'll just need to go through the manuscript and insert the changes into my file.

My travel with a tote bag was so successful that I bought a new bag at Target yesterday (it was on clearance). My bag is good, but the form factor doesn't quite work. It's vertical rather than horizontal, and while you can put the straps over your shoulder, they're designed more to be carried by hand, and when the bag is full, getting the straps on the shoulder is a challenge. The new bag is about the same size and shape as my rollaboard suitcase, so it's a little bigger than my existing tote, and it has a detachable shoulder strap in addition to handles. Now to complete my traveling light ability, I just need to get a tablet so I don't always need to carry my computer. My other size/weight item is my travel-sized hotpot, since most hotel coffeemakers make water that smells and tastes like weak coffee, and that's not good for making tea. The hotel on this trip had the kind that uses pod packet type things in a slide-in holder, and the holder was separate from the coffeemaker in the basket containing the coffee pods instead of in the coffeemaker, so it looked like they actually remove the only part that touches coffee and clean it thoroughly between guests. On the last morning, when I'd already packed, I was able to make decent tea, so I wouldn't have needed my hotpot on this trip, but that's not the sort of thing you can plan for. My hotpot is about the size of a lunchbox thermos and isn't too heavy, so it's not too big a hassle to bring.

Since this weekend is a road trip, I can bring a real suitcase and full-size toiletries. Luxury! Though I probably will fit everything I need into a carry on-sized suitcase because that's how I roll. I just need to figure out what to wear. I generally dress up for conventions, mostly because I like wearing nice things and leave the house so seldom that I have to take advantage of every opportunity to wear something other than sweatpants. But while I have one new dress I haven't worn yet that I've got an outfit planned for, I'm drawing a blank on what to wear the other days because I'm kind of in a "I hate all my clothes" phase (and I might have put on just enough weight that not everything fits quite right, so I have to start being good after this trip).

And after this trip I can stop talking about travel strategy and get back to talking about books, writing, geeky stuff, etc.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Milestone Anniversary

Today is a milestone anniversary, as it was ten years ago today that I sold Enchanted, Inc. to Ballantine Books.

I went into the day with a good chance that the book would sell that day because a publisher had expressed interest and it was going to auction, but after the auction announcement, most of the publishers who hadn't already rejected it started sending in their rejections. Oddly enough, the publisher that triggered the auction ended up not actually bidding, and Ballantine swooped in from out of the blue to buy it.

That means that the Infamous Red Stilettos are also ten years old, since I went out and bought them that day to celebrate. Yikes. They haven't come out to play for a long time. Maybe I should bring them to ArmadilloCon this weekend, even if I don't wear them for long.

To give you a sense of the process of going from idea to book sale, here's a timeline:
January 2002: I got the first glimmer of the idea for the book.
July 2003: I'd figured out more about the book, but hadn't really fleshed it out. I mentioned the concept to an editor at a party, and she immediately handed me her card and said she wanted it (she ended up rejecting it).
September 2003: I started researching the book and made a research trip to New York.
October 2003: I started writing the book and sent a proposal to that initial editor.
December 2003: I finished the first draft, thought I might just have something, and started researching agents.
January 2004: I queried an agent I thought might be a good fit and she asked for a proposal.
March 2004: The agent asked for the whole manuscript and offered representation (we're still together).
April 2004: I did some revisions on the book.
May 2004: The book was submitted to publishers.
July 2004: The book sold.
September 2004: I got copyedits on the book.
October 2004: I started writing the sequel.
November 2004: I saw the cover.
Late May 2005: The book was published.

That's actually a pretty short timeline, compared to my next couple of books (one: idea in 2009, wrote in 2010-2011, sold in 2013, published in 2015; the other: idea in 2009, wrote in 2009-2010, revised in 2011-2012 and again in 2013, published in 2014).

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Traveler Returns

I am now home from my adventures and tempted to embark on my second nap of the day, but I may just sit and read and then go to bed early. I was up at 3:15 Eastern, which is 2:15 my time, to catch the 4 a.m. airport shuttle for a 6:20 flight. I would have been home by nine, but the choke point in the journey is the fact that the bus from the train station to my neighborhood runs only once an hour, and my train came in about five minutes too late, so I spent most of the hour sitting at the station and reading. The bus was really full, so maybe ridership will spur them to increase the number of trips. As it was, I was home about 9:45, in time to eat some breakfast and then take a nap. I was going to force myself to work today, and then I decided that I'd planned it as a travel day, and if a more favorable flight had been available, I'd have spent most of the day in transit. As it is, I just have more time to rest between the travel and going back to "normal." And I'm enough of a zombie that I don't think trying to edit would be a great idea.

I had a good convention, on the whole. I managed to do some fun stuff in addition to my "obligation" stuff. One of those things was attending a demonstration on Western European sword fighting that turned out to involve audience participation. With live steel that had a very sharp blade. The guy running the demo figured out that I was a former fencer and let me do some minor sparring. I'd never handled a broadsword before, and this was a left-handed sword, which was different, but it was a very cool feeling.

I also went to a filk singalong, where I finally got to hear some of the songs I hear talked about a lot. Since I don't play an instrument I can accompany myself with, don't know any of the songs and still have a bit of stage fright, a filk circle is kind of scary, but they did a session where they just had everyone sing along, campfire style, and that was fun. Business-wise, I got some good networking done and may have come up with a solution to the problem book cover.

I broke my streak of eating along a river at the end of a convention because the riverside restaurant was really pricey and wasn't actually on the river. It was across the street from the river. Instead, I decided to see at least a little bit of Detroit and took the People Mover to Greektown and had some Greek food.

Now this week I need to get back into copyedits, and then I leave town on Friday for ArmadilloCon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day One

I'm gearing myself up (and trying to get my hair to dry) before my second day of Detcon. Yesterday I had a reading, and there were even people I don't know in the room! Then there was the children's session, which I ended up winging because the kids were tired and cranky and not really up to organized activities. I put on music and everyone just danced around. I also learned a new version of musical chairs that I may want to use with my choir kids in the fall. Today, I'm a bit sore and creaky from an hour of dancing, but it was probably good for me, considering the way I've been eating. Today I will make it my mission to find a salad or some kind of vegetable.

Today I've got a panel and my first kaffeeklatsch session at a con this big. I've only done one before at a smaller local con. I know some friends are coming, so I won't feel entirely like the nerdy kid in the cafeteria whom no one wants to sit with. I seem to have lots of opportunities to gain new readers here because I don't seem to be too well-known here. It's an entirely new world to conquer!

I actually made it almost to midnight at parties last night, then managed to sleep late, thanks to figuring out how to completely close my curtains. My windows face almost directly east, so I really get the morning sun, and yesterday I didn't have the curtains set right.

There's a mass autographing tonight that's supposedly a rather loose thing -- not necessarily sit behind a table, but move around and snag the authors you want to find. I don't necessarily function well in that kind of environment, so we'll see how that goes.

Otherwise, there are sessions I want to attend where I hope to learn things.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Smooth Sailing

Greetings from Detroit!

Despite starting with a minor glitch, I had a fairly smooth travel day. The glitch involved the city bus I catch right behind my house to go to the train station where I catch the train to the airport (well, for now the very final stretch is on another bus, but the train will go all the way starting in a few weeks. I may plan a trip just so I can do that). I was heading out to the bus stop about ten minutes early to allow myself time to get there and be sure to be there when the bus arrived, but when I rounded the corner from the driveway, I saw that the bus was already sitting at the left-turn signal -- and my stop is right after the left turn. After sprinting across the street and to the bus stop, I noticed that the bus hadn't moved in spite of the light being green. And then it didn't move on the next light cycle. For a moment, I wondered if this was just where the bus was waiting out being ahead of schedule, but it still didn't move, and then I noticed that it was actually partway into the intersection, so it must have been stalled. I was starting to think about a plan B because the bus only runs once an hour when another bus showed up, the passengers on the stalled bus were loaded onto it, and it continued the run. It turned out that the stalled bus was actually from the previous run, and that weird grinding sound I was hearing inside my house that made me think my neighbors were using power tools early in the morning was that bus. The one that showed up was the one I was planning to catch, running about five minutes late, but I still caught the same train. After that, everything went smoothly. I somehow got designated as pre-checked by the airline, so I got the security line where you don't have to take off your shoes or take your computer or liquids out of your bag.

Traveling with a tote bag instead of a wheeled suitcase was so much easier. There was all that running to the bus stop, getting on and off buses and trains, and it's easier to navigate around the airport. There may be something I wish I'd had (like a pair of sneakers -- if I'd known I'd get the easy security line, I'd have worn them and packed my smaller, lighter shoes, and then going on walks would be more pleasant), but I'm definitely a fan of minimalist travel. I need to get a tablet to cut out the computer weight, though I'm really liking having my computer with me.

It'll come in handy, too, because the person who was running the children's session I'm doing got stranded by car trouble, so I'm pulling a plan together, and having my computer means I have my iTunes library (which I guess I'd have on a tablet, if I bothered to move everything over, but I don't know if I'll have speakers, and the laptop's probably louder than a tablet) so I can find a few songs for "music and movement." As I assured her when she e-mailed about it, I do this once a week during the school year, so I've got a lot of material in my head. Google even came through and got me the lyrics to some of the funny "repeat after me" songs that I couldn't quite remember all of.

Otherwise, I have my reading this afternoon, and I have been notified that there will be fresh baked goods present, in case anyone who's reading this and in the area needs an incentive.

My big challenge for the weekend may be finding food. The convention hotel is in the same building/complex as the GM headquarters (there are even cars in the lobby -- it's like a showroom), and it's kind of a mini-mall with a food court. But it looks like the food court shuts down for dinner and on weekends. I'm in the hotel across the street, connected by a skybridge, and there's a Chinese restaurant in this complex that's open at night, so I was able to get dinner. We may be limited to the hotel restaurants on the weekend, but my hotel's restaurant isn't open on Sundays. The one restaurant I'm sure will be open Sunday night is a fancy Italian place overlooking the river, so I may follow my end-of-convention tradition of waterfront dining and allow myself a little splurge.

Now I'd better make sure the files I might need for my reading are easy to access on the laptop because I don't want to be one of those authors who spends most of the reading slot going "Now, I know it's on here somewhere."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Content and Stuff

I actually have my act moderately together. I'm packed except for the things I need to use between now and the morning, and it did all fit into two tote bags. One bag has the clothes, etc., and the other has stuff like the computer, phone, purse, knitting, a book, etc. If I get absolutely desperate, I think both will fit under the seat, but because the clothes bag isn't at all rigid, it can get jammed into overhead bins in spaces where rollaboard suitcases won't fit, which was my reason for doing this. Also, when you don't have the frame and wheels, the bag is a lot lighter to lift. Next time I go to New York, I'll try to pack this way because getting up and down stairs and through turnstiles is so much easier without wheeled luggage, as long as the luggage is reasonably lightweight. If I can do this for a six-day trip, I should be able to manage easily for a couple of nights.

So now I just have to do some final laundry (sheets and towels) and tidy the house so I don't cringe upon reentering the house. And then I may even try to get some writing work done or otherwise relax instead of running around the house like a madwoman. That was yesterday's fun, all those "where did I put that thing I last saw last year at Worldcon?" moments.

When I get done with the summer conventions, I have some ideas for blog content. Would there be any interest in a kind of "DVD commentary" on my books, like me going chapter-by-chapter to discuss where various elements came from or what I was thinking (if I can remember it) and answering questions?

What about doing a rewatch discussion of a TV series? Jenny Crusie has been analyzing Leverage from a writing perspective, and I've found that interesting. Would someone like to see me do that for something else?

My current somewhat regular features are the Book Reports of things I've read and the how-to writing discussions. I do the writing discussion every other Wednesday (though I'm skipping this week because I'll be traveling), and I usually do the Book Reports on Tuesdays, if I have something to discuss.

Blogging seems to be less of a thing now, so I'm trying to keep it somewhat fresh and interesting. I may eventually delve into Twitter, but I wouldn't count on ever seeing me on tumblr because I just don't get it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Early Bird Drinks More Tea

I was up freakishly early this morning -- to the point I was at my desk at about 7:30. On the up side, that allowed me to look out my office window and see when the city bus really does come by (the published schedule is confusing because it seems to be based on the time the bus is supposed to pass certain points rather than the times the bus is at particular stops). So now I know when I need to leave the house Wednesday morning to catch the bus to the airport. I figure it'll also help me get accustomed to the time zone I'll be in for much of the week.

Now I'm down to the wire in travel preparation, but now it's just those last-minute things, like the final loads of laundry and starting to actually put stuff in bags.

I joked last week when I put my sweatshirts in the Space Bags that people could thank me if there was a freak cold front. Well, there's a polar vortex hitting this week. I don't think it'll quite be sweatshirt weather here, but there's a chance of highs only in the upper 70s for a couple of days. In Texas. In July. It'll be much cooler where I'm going, and it's all coming to an end and going back to normal about the time I get home, for an even bigger shock to my system.

I actually spent most of yesterday's first 100-degree day of the year outdoors, since I was at a pool party. Being in the swimming pool most of that time made it a lot more bearable. I guess that means it really is summer. Until Wednesday.

In addition to the packing, cleaning, etc. today, I hope to take another look at the end of the book to fix a few spots. Then when I get back from Detroit I can deal with the heavy part of the steampunk copyedits and maybe get one book to my agent and the other back to my editor and then have all my major projects temporarily off my plate. Then I'll need to start researching and brainstorming the next thing I need to write, which will probably be a sequel to the steampunk book. I want to take some time off in August for organizing/cleaning and maybe a mini break, but I want to get enough work done to have some actual free time in the fall for travel and/or just relaxing and enjoying the season.

But first I have to get through the next couple of weeks and figure out what to do with the rest of my morning, since I'm done with my usual morning routine before 10. My bed's even made, complete with pillow shams.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Procrastination and Accomplishment

I have discovered that the key to productivity in some areas is procrastination in others. I've taken care of most of my pre-travel to-do items while mulling over some book things I need to work on. Now I need to get back to the book work, though I did load up on cleaning supplies at Target this morning, so I'll be ready for the post-travel, post-book(s) cleaning frenzy that may be coming (unless it wears off once I no longer have something else I'm procrastinating on).

It's a good thing I was checking the convention schedule, as I've apparently been added to some items I wasn't aware of. I'd offered to help with children's programming, and they're having me help with a music and movement session. I'll load some of my children's choir favorites onto my phone and bring my ballet slippers. Then there's an additional panel that, oddly enough, I'd written down as something I planned to attend. So now I have two panels, a reading, a Kaffeeklatsch and a children's session. And I've realized that the convention is taking place in a riverside complex, so I can continue my tradition of having a riverside dinner at the end of the convention.

Meanwhile, my house is relatively tidy (downstairs -- upstairs is a lost cause). The grout in the bathroom is currently being bleached (I had an obsessive moment). I've obtained everything I need for my trip, including some frozen food I can have when I return so I don't have to deal with anything that first day. Tomorrow, I'm making blueberry waffles or pancakes (haven't decided which) to freeze for a late breakfast when I get home, since my flight arrives at 8 a.m. I don't really have much else to do but write and practice a reading selection for the convention.

That means I may make it through a relatively social weekend, with events on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday is supposedly a barbecue and pool party, but I don't know how many people are actually going to swim or if it'll just be the kids. If I'm going to be wearing a swimsuit in daylight in front of people, everyone better have sunglasses because the glare off my skin will be blinding.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Packing Decisions

I feel like I've accomplished a lot already today, and it's still morning. The dishes are done, the trash is out, the bed is made and the house is generally more or less tidy, though the sofa's a bit of a rat's nest, as it's piled with manuscript pages and knitting projects. I've also taken care of a lot of items on my pre-travel to-do list. I'm trying to decide if I want to go to the store to get supplies today or wait until tomorrow morning.

My plans for extremely light packing have been somewhat thwarted by the weather forecast, since it's apparently going to be fairly cool in Detroit. I've never been there, so I don't know what a particular temperature feels like there. On my last trip to New York, I felt like the day I arrived was rather warm -- very much summer weather. I got back to my hotel room and cranked up the AC, then watched the local news. They teased the weather forecast by talking about how the forecast high for the day was way off. It had been in the mid-80s, which is rather cool for that time of year here, so I figured it had gone into the 90s instead. But then it turned out the temperature was much lower than expected, not even reaching 80. If it's below 80 here, I don't turn on the AC and I may even need a sweater. I'm not out buying ice pops in the park. So I don't know if Detroit will be like that and 75 will feel like 90 or if it will really feel like 75. I was planning to bring skirts and short-sleeved tops and a cardigan that goes with all of them, but I may throw in a couple of pairs of tights, and I may wear long pants instead of capris to travel so I can always switch out if it's cooler than I expected. Not that I'll be leaving the hotel much, but I also don't know how they air condition there, if it's reasonable or like the hotel in Houston, where I'm planning to bring my winter coat to next summer's convention.

I've been given a Kaffeeklatsch session at the Detroit convention, which is new for me. I guess the idea is that people can just come and sit and chat. That could be fun, or could be a total flashback to high school, sitting alone at a cafeteria table while everyone else sits with the popular kids (the reason I spent my freshman year lunch periods in the library). So, if you'll be there, drop by and say hi. I'll bring my knitting and it can turn into a stitch and bitch session.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Home, Not so Sweet Home

I made it through the first pass of copyedits, just going through the manuscript to see what had been changed and dealing with the little things -- suggesting a different change, okaying changes with questions, rejecting changes that were incorrect. I don't have a lot of the latter. Usually, I can see what the problem is with the thing being changed, but I disagree with the way it's changed and suggest something else rather than saying to just not change it. I've flagged a few things I need to go back to and think about because they're more about actions and events or worldbuilding rather than actual edits. That will be today's task.

Otherwise, I'm in full trip-preparation mode, with some housework thrown in because tomorrow someone's coming to check the foundation. I don't have a problem, but my neighbor (I live in a four-plex) thinks she does, so they have to come measure the floors in the whole building, and that means the floors need to be cleared. It's not like I have to do a panic clean, but I do want to tidy up a bit more, and that's part of the trip preparation, since I hate coming home to a messy house after spending time in a hotel. My goal in getting ready for this convention trip is to not be running around like a madwoman on the last day before I leave. I want just about everything done, so that on Tuesday I can just put the things on the checklist in my bags, and then on Wednesday morning all I have to do is eat breakfast, wash the dishes, make the bed, get dressed and throw the makeup/toiletries I use that morning into my bag before I leave for the airport. To make that happen, I'm starting to work through the to-do list now.

Meanwhile, I've decided for sure that I'm going to start looking for a new house next spring. I've met one of my big financial goals for making that possible, and it looks like the others will also fall in line. The main thing holding me back is getting this house ready to sell, which will require a massive decluttering project and some repairs. There's also updating that needs to be done, but I'll probably want to talk to a Realtor before I do too much work because I'd rather cut the selling price and let the buyer do their own updating the way they want it than go through the expense, hassle and upheaval of remodeling, only to sell it. It just depends on how hard that will make it to sell, if people in the market for this kind of house just want a turnkey situation or if they'd be open to remodeling. In my wildest dreams, my neighbor who's a contractor and who gutted and remodeled his own house might be interested in buying mine to remodel and flip. It would be convenient for him to have a project to work on that's a few steps away. I just know that if I'm going to go to the expense and hassle of remodeling a house, I want it to be one that I'm going to be living in for a while, since there's a good chance that I'll want or need to do work on the new house to make it what I want.

I love this house, and it was exactly what I needed when I bought it, but it would require a lot of work to get it to the point where it will continue to be comfortable to live in, and it still wouldn't entirely meet my needs because there's nothing I can do to make it have more kitchen counter space, more kitchen storage space, room to have more than two friends over at a time (and nearby parking for guests), or a guest bedroom in addition to a home office. It would also be good  for tax purposes to be able to have the home office be just an office and not also a storage space for everything that doesn't fit elsewhere in the house.

I saw a listing for a house in a part of the neighborhood I like, even closer to the library than I live now and closer to the riverside park, and it had a pass-through fireplace between the master bedroom and the master bathroom, so that the fireplace was over the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. I was already picturing the reading nook I'd set up by the fireplace in the bedroom. And that house was even in my price range. Fortunately, the good thing about subdivisions is that there are probably at least a dozen identical floorplans in the neighborhood, so the odds are good that another one will be up for sale when I'm ready to buy.

But first I need to write a couple more books and get this house in some kind of order.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Girly Swashbuckling!

I took care of one time-consuming item on the pre-trip to-do list and got about four inches whacked off my hair, which was getting out of control. With my hair, no one else will notice, but it'll be easier for me to deal with. It's gone from just past my waist to halfway down my back, but the combination of the cut and the increased curl coming from less weight will make it look like it's just past shoulder-length. Now I have the whole afternoon for looking over copyedits and doing laundry.

One nice thing about taking a weekend mostly off is that I got to do some reading, and I have two very different books to talk about.

First, Coronets and Steel by Sherwood Smith. This is a contemporary fantasy, though the fantasy elements are pretty light and subtle in this book (it looks like they play more of a role in the sequels). It's about an American grad student who's taken the summer off to travel to Europe to try to track down her grandmother's mysterious heritage. She starts having strange encounters -- sometimes seeing what she thinks are historical re-enactors that no one else seems to see, sometimes having people approach her and act as though they know her and then get insulted or angry when she doesn't know them. Then she gets drugged and kidnapped and eventually ends up in an obscure Eastern European country that seems almost untouched by time. There's no cell coverage or Internet, there's barely any electrical or landline phone service. Modern guns don't work all that well. And even the seemingly sophisticated, educated people firmly believe that some pretty strange legends are absolutely true.

Basically, this is a Prisoner of Zenda-like story with a heroine who's a ballet dancer and fencer. So why didn't I know about this book before now? The Prisoner of Zenda is one of my favorite books (they still haven't made a film version I'm entirely happy with), and it's so much fun to have a very girly swashbuckler. Our heroine's fencing skills come in handy, and the physical conditioning from ballet also helps make the things she has to do to survive more credible. She's pretty smart most of the time, making only a couple of plot stupidity moves, and even there, you can kind of understand why those moves seemed like a good idea at the time, since she doesn't know she's the heroine of a novel. There are sequels, and I plan to read them soon after all the upcoming travel.

Then there was what I guess you'd call paranormal chick lit, Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster. Our heroine/narrator is a TV psychologist, kind of playing the Dr. Phil role on an Oprah-like show about doing life makeovers. In spite of her success, she still obsesses over the way she thinks one of her sisters is favored by everyone. Her sister is overweight, uneducated, only a hairstylist, and living in an apartment in their parents' basement. So why does everyone love her so much? Then the show gets bought by a network that wants instant results with minor celebrities. She can't cure someone of a phobia in one session. The show's New Age guru has a possible solution: astral projection, putting herself in the body of the subject so they can film the person overcoming the fear. Strangely, it works. And you can probably imagine exactly where this is going.

While this was a fun book, and I sometimes really enjoy the "bitch gets a comeuppance" kind of story, this one is oddly paced. It's halfway through the book before the astral projection thing kicks in, and the real main plot, the thing you spend the whole book waiting to see happen, doesn't happen until the last few chapters. I wanted a lot more of that part of the story. But it's still very funny and rather satisfying -- the kind of thing to read when you're in a really bitchy mood that you need to work through.

Now to go brave the red marks on my manuscript and do more laundry.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Now, That's a Holiday!

I had a remarkably productive holiday weekend. I got through a read-through of the book, with a little editing. I don't think it'll take any major rewriting (though I may find out otherwise when my agent notices something I didn't), though once I'm done with copyedits on another book, I'll take another look at the second half. I did find a fair number of typo type errors because I was apparently in the zone and just frantically writing. In fact, there were a few spots where I got caught up in the suspense when reading and didn't remember what happened next even though I wrote it and not that long ago.

Meanwhile, I cleared a lot of the clutter from the bar in the living room where mail goes to die. And I cleared off the Chair of Doom from my bedroom, where things that I wore once for about an hour to go to the grocery store sit to wait for another short outing rather than going back to the closet or into the laundry hamper. And then pile up over time until it's easy to lose track of the chair itself.  I finally accepted that it's July and threw all the sweaters and sweatshirts from the Chair of Doom into the laundry basket so I can wash and then stash away in the Space Bags.

And yet, with all that work, I feel somewhat energized. I think I needed a good extended period of alone time and a weekend with nothing scheduled other than church. I'm trying to use having to get up for yesterday's early service as a jump-start to ease my body clock toward eastern time so dealing with a convention next week won't be such a shock to my system.

Today I will be moderately social as I'm having lunch with a former coworker who's going to work at a place where I used to work, so I will be sharing all the scoop. There might also be some shopping. And then I have copyedits to tackle, along with a lengthy to-do list.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Post-travel Minimalism

After spending a few days at my parents' house and then turning around and spending a few days in a hotel, I seem to have entirely forgotten my housekeeping skills. For instance, last night I found myself surprised that I didn't have a bowl for salad. I guess I forgot that one has to wash dishes every so often. And then there's the problem with the bed not being mysteriously made while I'm out of the room. I was trying to make a grocery list, and I couldn't remember any dishes I know how to cook. Though much of that has to do with summer, as most of my cooking is of the cold-weather variety. In the summer, I seldom do a lot of cooking. I might cook some meat on the electric indoor grill, but otherwise I eat a lot of fresh fruits and salads. But I may also be either coming down with something or just mildly under the weather because the thought of food, in general, isn't very appealing at the moment.

I spent yesterday obtaining groceries, and today I don't have to do anything that requires leaving the house, so I'm going to really dig into reviewing the book I've been working on. I've re-read the first 100 pages, but this is the part that's already been heavily rewritten. Soon, I'll get to the new stuff. I'm a little surprised by how much I'm liking it so far, and not just the characters and the story, but the writing itself. I'd like to at least have a read-through done and some notes on what needs to be rewritten before I get copyedits on the other book, which likely will be early next week. So far, all my notes have been reminders of things I need to incorporate later in the book.

I'm already looking forward to having both these big projects off my plate for the time being because spending time in hotels gives me cleaning urges. I love the minimalism and simplicity of a hotel room. I'm such a terrible slob at home, but I'm a neat freak in a hotel. Everything has to be put away before I leave the room, and it's so restful to return to a clean room. I really wish I could get that feeling at home, but it's going to require getting rid of a lot of stuff. I may do a massive cleaning/organizing project as a way of clearing my head before I dive back into writing. At the end of the project, I'll allow myself a bit of a "staycation" to enjoy it.

Speaking of minimalism, last night I think I figured out that I can fit everything I need for DetCon into two tote bags. Yes, wheels are handy at times, but when you're competing for overhead bin space, it can be good to have bags that can be shoved into random spots or put under the seat. I managed four days in one of these tote bags when I was traveling by train, and that was in cooler weather that required bulkier clothing. This trip is four days of convention and two travel days. I shall have to test this before I plan further. I doubt I'll ever get to the point of being able to go around the world with just a backpack, but it would be nice to get close to that ideal.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Life Cycle of a Book

Aspiring authors are often surprised to find that selling a book isn't the end of the process. It's only the beginning of the journey. What happens next? Here's a rundown of the life cycle of a book and what it takes -- and what you may have to do -- to get it ready for publication.

Editorial Edits
An editor buying a book doesn't mean the editor thinks it's perfect. It just means the editor can see commercial potential in it. The editor may expect you to revise it -- sometimes to the point you wonder what she saw in it to buy it because she clearly hates it and doesn't understand it at all. But just think about what she must have thought about all the books she didn't buy. I've gone through anywhere from no revisions at all to four rounds of revisions. At this point, the editor will ask you to clarify your worldbuilding, tighten up the plot, expand scenes that seem too cursory or that need "telling" turned into "showing," fix continuity issues, cut or combine scenes, or anything else that needs to be done to make the book better. There may also be line editing -- fixing the flow of words, cutting out "pet" words that get overused, and anything else that makes the words work. I generally suggest making a different file for each round because I've had editors change their minds and want to restore something I cut, or they start editing their edits, and it's good to be able to go back to a previous version and copy and paste.

After the editor is satisfied with the book, it gets turned over to a copyeditor, who is essentially a professional nitpicker. The copyeditor will check grammar, spelling and punctuation (anything the editor didn't find). The copyeditor also follows continuity -- making sure the characters' names are spelled the same throughout, making sure descriptions are consistent, making sure the timeline works. You may get questions like "She was wearing a hat at the beginning of this scene. Is she still wearing the hat, or did she remove it?" Or, if you have the copyeditor I work with most often, who has declared herself the Official Jewish Mother of my books, "How long has it been since they've eaten? I'm worried about them." One of the copyeditor's jobs is to conform the manuscript to house style. Often, there are multiple spellings, grammar usage or punctuation, but each publisher has its own version of what to use, so while you may be technically correct, the copyeditor will adjust it to the way that publisher does it. One of the big areas of house style is when to use two separate words, when to use a hyphen and when two words should be smooshed together. The copyeditor will also insert typesetting codes for things like italics or special characters at the beginning of a chapter. You get to go over these and quibble with any that you think change your story or are otherwise incorrect. This is also your last real chance to make any changes.

I haven't worked with electronic copy edits for a traditional publisher, where you would have the electronic file of the copyedited manuscript, but if you get paper copyedits, I would recommend inserting the edits into your file so you'll have a clean version of the final manuscript. That will come in handy when you need an excerpt for your web site, when you want to do a reading and need bigger type, when a foreign publisher wants an electronic file or when the rights revert to you and you want to self-publish it as an e-book. I would also recommend doing these changes in tracking mode or otherwise highlighting them in some way, and highlighting anything coded that doesn't need to be changed. That's for the next stage.

Page proofs or galleys
After the copyedits are incorporated into the manuscript, it goes into typesetting, and then you'll get a copy (either hard copy or PDF) of what the interior of the book will actually look like. You get to review this for one last check. You don't generally get to do any significant rewriting at this point -- I had one contract that stated authors would be charged for a certain number of changes that weren't the publisher's errors. Mostly, this is to make sure nothing got screwed up when the copyedit changes were made. That's why I recommend having a copy of the copyedited version with the changes highlighted. That way, it's easy to find the things you need to be looking for because that's where the errors tend to pop up. Even professionals have the occasional slip of a mouse finger and end up highlighting a whole paragraph to delete instead of just a line (I've had it happen). Make sure the right words are italicized and that the words on either side are intact.

But there may sometimes need to be other changes made at this point. I once had a book where they used a different spelling of a character's name on the cover, and they'd already printed the cover flats before I saw them. So I had to go through at the line edit stage and change every mention of the character's name to match the cover. I've also known of writers who had to make changes at this stage when world events significantly altered things and it was supposed to be a contemporary novel. If your setting suddenly no longer exists or if something has suddenly become a lot more sensitive, you may need to do a little last-chance rewriting.

Along the way, you may also be asked for input on the cover, approval or suggestions on the cover copy (but not always -- hence the name issue), and a bio or approval of a bio. Otherwise, you're done with the content of the book.

And, usually, all this stuff is happening while you're trying to write the next book.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Book Report: Steampunk and Lost Things

I'm back in the "office" after a weekend convention trip. There were panels, I read some stuff, I hung out with friends. It was good. Now I have about two weeks before I do it again on a bigger scale and farther away, and in those two weeks, I have a lot of stuff to get done. I have to go over some books we're preparing for release (the first four Enchanted, Inc. books in digital for outside North America -- now the Brits, Australians and other people who read English will be able to get legal digital versions). I've worked on cover suggestions for the steampunk book, and I'll have copyedits to review on that one, plus a marketing plan to look at and add ideas to. I have a book to revise. And then there's all the pre-travel stuff.  So I guess I'll be busy, and I may disregard this weekend's holiday. There was also a minor panic attack when I looked at my calendar and realized that after this weekend, I don't have a "free" weekend until August. I may stock up on supplies tomorrow and then barricade myself in my house.

I have been doing some reading, so I have a couple of books to report on.

The Havoc Machine by Steven Harper may be one of the better steampunk books I've read. I was a little worried when I read the intro because it mentioned something zombie-like, and I am soooo tired of zombies in steampunk (also, vampires and demons), but it turned out that this was more part of the set-up. It's really not a zombie book. The idea is that there's a virus going around. Some people who are infected turn into zombies if they survive. Others who survive the virus end up being enhanced -- better strength, reflexes, thinking, etc. -- except they also start losing their humanity and become utterly focused on their inventing, research, etc. They can do great things, but because of the loss of their humanity, they can also do terrible things, and their inventions are where the steampunk part comes in. This book is actually a later one in a series, but it stands alone as it spins off what was apparently a secondary character into his own adventures. In this book, Our Hero is a member of a traveling circus who has a sideline in killing these "clockmakers," since one killed his son as a part of one of his bizarre experiments. He gets hired to steal a device from a clockmaker, with the chance to kill him a bonus, and gets way more than he bargained for. I'm kind of a sucker for stories set in old circuses, and this definitely has the rollicking adventure feel that I've always wanted (and seldom got) from steampunk, so I'm going to look for the rest of the books in this series.

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst. Sarah has been writing middle-grade and YA fantasy (and winning or being nominated for tons of awards in the process), and this is her first adult novel. Our Heroine gets lost while driving in the desert and finds herself in a strange little town that she can't manage to leave. Lost is where lost things end up, and no one can leave until they find what they lost. With some unlikely allies, she has to struggle to survive, and then make some decisions about what to do if she ever does find herself. I just about read this in one sitting and am now anxiously awaiting the sequel. It's rather creepy and eerie, and I would suggest reading it with a glass of water nearby because the desert setting made me feel really dry. I'm impressed that she managed to put a spin on the urban fantasy "tattooed bad boy who's ridiculously attractive" type that actually made me like him.

And now back to the epic to-do list.