Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Freaking Out

Talk about timing...

The topic is the moment where, as an author, you freak out.

Today. Today is the moment where I freak out. To explain better, let me share my most recent facebook post:

That moment where you realize in your manuscript you named these beings X and later made reference to them as if for the first time and called them Y.
This is like having a bunch of necklaces tangled and knotted together and you have to do so many little adjustments from this strand then that one and back again....*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
--goes to get another cup of coffee, and maybe some ice for the head and wonders if chocolate could fix this, or if choclate created this...--

Yes. I freak out when I realize WELL AFTER I SHOULD HAVE that I made a major goof within a manuscript. I should KNOW better. I should BE better.

Going for that coffee now...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chapter 5: In Which The Author Freaks Out

Dear Readers, beginnings of books are the hardest for me to write. It's showing up solo for a party full of people you don't know and trying to decide how best to present yourself. Wait for the hostess to introduce you to a few like-minded folks? Burst through the door and shout, "How 'bout 'dem Bearcats?" Slink around the perimeter with your coat still on, looking for the family dog? Find the smokers shivering on the patio only to recall you quit ten years ago?

So. Many. Options.

By Chapter 5, I know I've chosen the wrong one. I'm closing in on the end of the first arc and it's not lining up with where I know the middle and end are heading. The stakes aren't high enough. Or they're too high too soon. The opening "everyday" situation doesn't succinctly convey the normalcy of an abnormal world. Too many people are introduced too soon. It's too bland. It's too confusing. It's too...


Now, imagine you're in sitting in your car, just outside the party venue, getting ready to head inside. Nude lipstick or red? Handbag or just keys? Coat or no coat?

Breath mints. Definitely breath mints.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Freaking out.

In every book there comes a moment of self-doubt. It's damned near inevitable.

Sometimes it happens early on, and sometimes it happens much later. In the case of my Aliens novel it came very early on as I thought about all that had gone before, including two of my all time favorite movies. Usually it's when I'm rounding the last bend in the story.

the self doubt comes in and I wonder if everyone will realize I've been bluffing my way through the writing process this entire time.

Two bits of advice. The first is my usual statement to writers of all sorts. Sit your ass down and write. By that I simply mean finish the first draft as quickly as you can, before the self doubt makes you go back a reread a dozen chapters and start changing this. Save that for the second and third drafts, when you have more time and less to lose.

You might think that advice is counterintuitive. You're welcome to that opinion. If, however, you have half a dozen short stories and two novels sitting in a virtual drawer until you can get motivated to work on them again, you have already fallen victim to the problem with not listening to my advice. Lloyd Alexander offered a simple quote in his Chronicles of Pyrdain. He said there are three principles of learning: See much, study much, and suffer much.

Guess which one I think works the best? I've met far too many writers who never finished a manuscript because they kept going back to tweak this and that before the end of the story. Make notes, move on. that's my advice. You can always fix it in the rewrite. Same answer for research. perhaps you NEED to know the migratory pattern of the Canadian Goose. Awesome. Make a note. Look it up when yo';re done writing. the information will still be there and you will not have slowed down.

My other but of advice is the same that every coach on the planet has offered to every athlete that fell down and got scraped up or took a blow that hurt but caused no major injuries (Which is also my advice for a break up, but that ls neither here nor there.).

Walk it off.

Sure it's uncomfortable as hell. Sure your world is ending.

Walk it off.

That is all.

Added bonus, I threw the following on Facebook and my Genrefied blog, but I like it so I'm throwing it here, too. A brief section from THE LAST SACRIFICE that I found satisfactory. No context offered.

“We have come to warn you. Your father sent us. He says if you do not change your path, you will die here soon. Die, or worse.”
“My father is dead.” Beron smiled, pleased to have caught the man in a lie so early on.
“Yes, I know.” The man nodded. “That does not mean he does not look out for his son.”
Superstitious nonsense. Still, a chill walked through Beron’s body.
“You have given your warning. Was there anything else?”
“You misunderstand. He means now. Physically. You should change your path or you will suffer greatly.”
“My path is chosen. I have a great distance left to travel and diverting would only make the challenge of arriving at my destination greater.”
The lean man sighed. “I have offered the warning. May the gods be with you.
“So far, of late, they have not been.”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Writing Freak-out Moments - And Why You Shouldn't Freak Out

Our topic this week is "The part of the writing process when I freak out."

Which... it would be easier to pick a part of the process where we DON'T freak out. Writing seems to depend on freaking out in the same way stage performances feed on nerves.

Also, it really depends on the book. Each one seems to comes with its Personal, Super-Duper, Individualized Major Freak-Out Moment. You know the one - where you realize that it was idiocy to attempt that book, that it's irredeemably flawed, and that THIS will be the book to end your career.

Still - it's occurred to me that I should journal my moods on the progress of writing each book because it might be for me that the Personal, Super-Duper, Individualized Major Freak-Out Moment occurs pretty much at the same parts of the book. My big three are:

1) 20-25%
2) Midpoint
3) Last ~15%

The level of freak-out varies. It helps if I can remember that I pretty much always stall at least a little bit at those stages. And the flavor of the freak-out is different for each of these.


Usually the first 20% of most of my books goes really fast. This is the honeymoon phase. Or, as I call it, Babylove. So much potential. The concept is bright and shiny. The words come fast, sweet and hot. But around 20%, I usually slow. My critical brain kicks in and I start thinking about how I'm nearing the Act I Climax and how much needs to be set up by then. Even if I'm not consciously aware of this impending threshold, I find myself slowing, cycling back, revising and tweaking. I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing - then I realize: oh right! First Act freak-out. Finally it's set the way I want it and I move on.


The midpoint freak-out is definitely worse with some books than others. People offering writing advice will often dole out the wisdom that if your Act I is solid, you'll cruise right through the "midpoint sag" or the "mushy middle." I've never been able to draw a correlation. (Read: I think that's BS.) I do believe that *not* having the stakes set in the first act can contribute to a sagging middle (where basically the characters run around, stalling for time until the big climax), but having a sterling first act guarantees nothing. I think we've all read published books with amazing premises and openings that gradually fall apart as the book progresses.

Despite all of this, to me, the midpoint freak out is tied to the fact that it's the turning point of the story. In other words, the STORY is in freak out. It's not really the writing. Just ride the waves and know the storm will pass.

Last ~15%

Finally, I start to slow again near the end. It's weird. I do it every time and this one, at least, I've more or less learned to anticipate. It might not even qualify as a freak out - except that inevitably a deadline is looming and it's precisely the time I *don't* want to slow down. But I do. It's not always that I don't know exactly how the story ends (though sometimes I don't). It's more that I have to feel my way into it, plus I'm all emotional about the book ending, plus the emotions of the final climax, and, and, and...

Okay, it qualifies as a freak out.

Regardless, the point of all of this is that these phases are expected and part of the process. Keep on keeping on and those, too, shall pass.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who Was Most Influential For Me?

Our topic this week was to talk the person who was most influential on our early writing career. I agree with some of the others who have said that at different times in your writing life, different people will be most influential. To that end, Andre Norton is, and always will be, the most influential in terms of the original spark that set me loose to write my stories set in the stars. She fired my imagination with her many varied worlds, including the science fiction, Witch World and her ancient Egyptian novel Shadow Hawk. I just needed much more romance than she was able to include at the time she wrote. To my great regret, I never met her but she was my inspiration.

The person I really want to talk about today was the most influential in terms of my ever getting published and also on being independently published. My daughter Elizabeth. As my girls grew up, they always saw me writing away in the evenings and on the weekends. (I had a fulltime day job at NASA/JPL.) I made one or two not very serious efforts to submit a manuscript somewhere, at a time when you did it kind of the way Joan Wilder did in “Romancing the Stone” – a big messy pile of typed paper, in a box held together with rubber bands. Although I was mailing mine off to fall over the transom into the slush pile, not having drinks with my editor in NYC. I had no editor, no agent and no idea how to get one.

Beth is also a writer, among her many varied talents. A Berkeley graduate, she worked very hard at her craft and became a published author years before I did, with several books at various publishers. She did a lot of research on the industry and the new trends, including self-publishing.

One of E. D. Walker's titles
E. D. Walker
In late 2010, I decided to get serious about becoming a published author, in part because I was energized that I actually knew a published author – my daughter! I wrote a paranormal romance novella and proudly ‘submitted’ it to Beth, for a serious critique. We agreed she would lay it on the line, really provide blunt feedback and tell me what areas I was lacking in. I’ll spare you the entire list but it turned out I was making ALL the newbie mistakes, probably plus a few. Show versus tell, info dump, and head hopping were the most egregious, along with near total lack of interesting stage business for my characters to do, and ways to show emotion through actions.

 I’d asked for it.
 I accepted it.
There was about a week where I said, that’s it, I’ll never be published.
The world was dark.

But writing is like breathing to me. I HAVE to do it. And I was definitely at the stage where I wanted to start sharing my stories, not just write them down for myself…so I had to learn how to write successfully in the here and now.

I picked up the story again and tried to work through the issues. Beth sent me blog posts, how-to posts and more. She provided more feedback (as did my other daughter, who is a freelance editor). I felt I was making progress. I abandoned the paranormal novella and its flawed plot, which will probably never see the light of day and worked on my science fiction romances instead. Beth sent me a link to a Carina Press call for Ancient World romances because she knows how much I love stories set in ancient Egypt and – feeling inspired – I wrote what became Priestess of the Nile and sent it off.

And in late summer 2011 Angela James gave me The Call. Carina acquired my story.

I can’t ever express enough gratitude to Beth for all the tireless help she gave me, and continues to provide as needed.

She was also instrumental in my going into indie publishing, with Wreck of the Nebula Dream in March, 2012. I’ll save that story for another day because coincidentally, I’ve finally written the sequel to that book. It’s the sequel my readers have asked for most often and now the book is here! Star Survivor is the continuation of the story for Twilka and Khevan.

Here’s the blurb:
The survivors of a terrible wreck meet again—but this time only one can survive.

The long-awaited sequel to The Wreck of the Nebula Dream…

They survived an iconic spaceship wreck together. She never expected to see him again … especially not armed to kill her.

Twilka Zabour is an interstellar celebrity. She built on her notoriety as a carefree Socialite who survived the terrible wreck of the Nebula Dream, and launched a successful design house. But now the man who gave meaning to her life, then left her, is back–this time for the worst of reasons. Will he kill her … or help her survive?

D’nvannae Brother Khevan survived the Nebula Dream in the company of a lovely, warm woman, only to be pulled away from her, back into his solitary life in the service of the Red Lady.  Now Twilka’s within his reach again–for all the wrong reasons. Khevan will do everything within his power to discover why Twilka has been targeted for assassination, and to save her.

But Khevan is not Twilka’s only pursuer. Will allies Nick and Mara Jameson arrive in time to aid the couple, or will Khevan and Twilka’s ingenuity be all that stands between them and death?

Buy Links:

iBooks      Amazon    Kobo       Barnes & Noble

Friday, November 25, 2016

Early Influences: The First

Think back to high school. You know that unhappy kid few friends and nothing much to look forward to? That was me. I was writing stories no one ever saw. Mostly as a means of entertaining myself when I was lonely and bored. It was often in those days. Sure, I'd had a creative writing class and I did just fine writing papers and essays, but it hadn't occurred to me that I *could* write. It was just something unremarkable the bland kid in the third row (me) did to transport her out of a lackluster life.

Due to some really messed up scheduling on the school's part, I ended up taking science classes out of order. Sophomores were supposed to take chemistry, then biology as juniors. I didn't get the memo. The school plunked me in a biology class filled with upper classmen. Mr. Peter Wiles was my biology teacher. He'd been involved in early nuclear research for the Navy. We knew there were some hair-raising, compelling stories Mr. Wiles could tell, but he wouldn't. Instead, he spent his days actively interested in each and every kid who came through his classroom door. Regardless of how moody, angsty, and sometimes surly teenagers could be. He made you want to think well of you - no one wanted to disappoint him. Not even the football players who only needed a D in his class in order to keep playing. Mr. Wiles got better from them, and they all seemed happy to give him the extra effort he requested. He even took me aside one day to inform me that I was a fraction of a point behind his highest scoring student that year - another sophomore tucked into one of his classes. Mr. Wiles wanted me to push just a little harder on my work and on my tests because he knew I could close that final gap. When he introduced me to his wife one day, she brightened and said "Oh! Pete's talked about you!"

I was surprised, because who talks about miserable teenagers no matter how well they score on your tests? Then I swelled up with pleasure and pride. Maybe I really was friends with my extraordinary biology teacher. At some point that year, he assigned a project. He gave us a multistep experiment to perform. We were to write up the hypothesis, the experimental protocol, document the actual experiment, and then write our conclusions. It took us weeks to wade through, but we finally turned in our papers. Some days later, he returned them. Mr. Wiles liked to hand back tests and papers in ranked order - highest scores to lowest scores.

I'd had a good time with the assignment and I knew I'd done pretty well. I knew I had. He gave back papers, stopping at student desks and saying something good about each paper. With each one he returned, my heart sank and my alarm grew. He wasn't stopping at my desk. Never before had one of my tests or papers not been returned within the top five. High school wasn't a good time for me at all. I had very little to cling to. My academic performance was about it and here I'd gone and messed that up in some way I couldn't comprehend. I must have gotten the lowest score in the class. That meant I'd disappointed my friend. And me.

Finally, Mr. Wiles, with one paper left in hand, came to stand beside my desk. He stared at the paper a moment, then looked at me. I must have looked terrified. I don't think I'd taken a breath since midway through his trip through the classroom.

"I saved your paper for last, because it needs some explaining. Highest score. Not just in this class. Out of all of my classes. It's brilliant," he said.

I blinked.

"The writing is clear. Concise, but detailed. Specific. If you don't become a writer, I'll haunt you until the day you die."

I laughed, but I was so relieved I cried, too. It must have been the reaction he was hoping for. He spent the rest of the period grinning.

A few weeks later, the substitute teachers started. Shortly after, we got word. Mr. Wiles had lung cancer. He didn't finish the school year, opting for treatment instead. Early in my junior year (when I had to take the chemistry I'd missed the year before), he died. Broke my heart. But his threat to haunt me made me smile. And the legacy of his faith in me and my ability to write, survived.

He was the first person ever to tell me I *could* write. To make a big deal out of a skill that I'd regarded as a kind of life preserver. He made me look at it differently. He inspired me to appreciate what I'd learned to do. And, in typical Pete Wiles fashion, made me want to try even harder. Not because he asked, but because he seemed so delighted by what I'd done.

So I write. I may have taken a few detours through the years, but I'm a writer, Mr. Wiles. Even if I sometimes wouldn't mind being haunted - just to get to see my friend again.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Biggest Early Influence, aka Navigating the Hurricane

This week's topic is talking about someone who was a good influence on you early in your writing career (aka, someone you're thankful for).  I'm going to cheat slightly here, and pull out a piece I wrote when I was asked to do a bio for one the guests of honor at ArmadilloCon, who coincidentally, is exactly that person in my life.  (Plus, it's the holidays, and I've got plenty on my plate, so I'm allowed a bit of a blog-cheat.)

I’m in a car in the middle of nowhere on a deep, deep back-country road. Flash floods and washed out roads have forced my journey home off the main highway, and then off the side road. I’m literally in a moment one plot-point away from being a horror movie cliché. But it’s cool, because I’m riding shotgun with Stina Leicht.
All right, here’s the sitch: We were both on panels at ComicPalooza in Houston, scheduled for a last-panel-of-the-con slot at 5pm on a Monday. My wife had to drive home early, so I asked Stina for a ride back to Austin, and she was happy to oblige. So we get into Locksley—her blue Miata—and hit the road. Problem: there’s been serious flooding in Austin, and the heavy storms are making their way to us. Our respective spouses are texting us, “You might want to stay in Houston” messages. But we’re both thinking A. the storm is coming to Houston, so that’s not a better choice and B. no, we want to get home. And this is Stina Leicht I’m with. She’s navigated the choppy waters of the publishing industry, including the implosion of her first publisher, and came through with two Campbell nods and brand new flintlock fantasy series hitting the shelves. Rain ain’t gonna stop her.
The first time I saw Stina was ten years ago at the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop, my first time attending it. I was sitting in the room, surrounded by strangers and feeling a bit intimidated, especially with that panel of professional and experts at the front of the room. And then this woman walks—nay, strides—into the room like a gothic warrior intent on conquering. But, you know, cheerfully. She walked right up to that panel of experts and said hello. And I thought, “I don’t know who this woman is, but she’s clearly the champion of this workshop.” I was right about that—she finished up the con weekend getting a manuscript request from the Editor Guest of Honor. That’s not something that happens very often. Actually, having been involved in the workshop in varying capacities for the last decade, I don’t think it’s happened since.
Stina took over coordinating the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop shortly after that, which is how I got to know her. In running the workshop, she repeatedly showed her dedication and commitment to learning as much as she could about her craft, and then turning right around and sharing what she learned.
So, back to riding through that storm (spoiler: WE LIVED)—we just about made it to LaGrange when our phones lit up with TORNADO WARNING SEEK SHELTER. Stina pulls us into a gas station for a few minutes while we check the radar. The worst of it is just ahead of us, and past that? Clear sailing. If we just get through it.
Stina’s car, Stina’s call: “Let’s wait for the rain to be less… horizontal.”
Fifteen minutes later, gravity starts behaving again. We push through the downpour and past the other side. The sun is setting ahead of us, filtered through a heavy blanket of orange clouds and lightning across the sky. It’s a gorgeous alien horizon, and we talk about Ray Bradbury’s All Summer In A Day.
Then everything stops dead. The highway is flooded, and the troopers tell us to turn around. When asked for the best route to Austin, we get a shrug. I go into navigation mode and find us an alternate path that, near as I can tell, is clear. Rural country highway, but it’ll get us there. There’s already been hell and highwater, so we press on.
See, that’s the thing about Stina. She charges full-tilt. She’s not fearless, but rather looks the fear in the eye and beats it. She stood at the Gates of Mordor—or rather, the gates of traditional publishing— and proved her worth. But then she turned around to those behind her and said, “Hey, look, it can be done. Come on!” That’s what she did running the Workshop for seven years. And after a couple years of reading my stuff, she said, “You don’t need to be taking this workshop anymore. You should help me run it.”
She knows that the real secret—the honest to goodness this-is-how-you-do-it secret to succeeding in this business—has nothing to do with special clubs or handshakes or having the right cousin. It’s about doing the best damn work you can do.
Take her first two books—Of Blood and Honey and And Blue Skies from Pain. She didn’t just say, “I’m going to write about Ireland in the Troubles, so I’ll watch In The Name of the Father and get to it.” No way. She did the work. She read primary sources. She emailed people who lived through it. She took classes in the Irish language. She did everything in her power to make those books right. That’s how she works. They don’t give two Campbell nods to just anyone.
So, our country highway was also washed out. I figure out a new route to get us around that, but we are going deep into Nowheresville with this detour. Now it is totally dark, and the cell reception is spotty. We’re a breakdown and castle away from Rocky Horror territory, which we comment on. Then we miss a turn, leading us to a dead end where we see a sign that makes us both burst out laughing.
We turn back around at get back on track, eventually getting to a clear part of the main highway and back to Austin. Three hours later than we originally had hoped, but no worse for wear. We had gone through the gallows humor phase of our trip by that time.
“I mean,” I said once we were in the clear, “If we had died together, it would have boosted our careers. Well, at least mine. I’d have been the Ritchie Valens to your Buddy Holly.”
Fortunately, you’ll have Stina Leicht around for some time to come. Even still, you might want to pick up Cold Iron and pre-order Blackthorne now. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Early Influences

The obvious answer to this weeks question is: my first editor. But, because I have previously posted about what I learned during that time, allow me to step back even further, to a time before writing was a career and lingered still in that space where hopeful peeople stash their dreams.

My senior year of high school I returned to public school after six years in a private religious school. It was at this time that I met Mr. Grandy, my creative writing teacher. It was a great class; instead of the standard English class with increased difficulty offered at the private school, I finally had a class where what mattered was applying what I had learned bby diagramming all those horrid sentences.

It lasted only the last semester of the year, but it was the best part of school. We wrote and made a movie, we followed class prompts for assignments, and we got to work with fiction. The teacher took note of my work which tended to be much longer than the assigment dictated, and after we talked some he asked if he could take a look at what I had written. Delighted, of course, that someone wanted to take a peek at my words, I said yes.

This was the first time someone other than family or friends had read my work, and since he was a creative writing teacher I figured he knew what he was talking about, so when he came back with nothing but encouragement, I was happy, stunned, and motivated.

That stayed with me for years.

Before my first book was released, the publisher sent me two advance copies. I jumped through some hoops but found and contacted Mr. Grandy. It had been 17 years since I'd last seen him, but he remembered me and he agreed to meet me at the local Barnes & Noble. He brought his wife. I brought my mom. I gave him one of my two copies, signed on the thank you page where his name was first. We had a fantastic time that evening, talking, catching up. It meant the world to me to share one of my advance copies with him because he was the first person who made me feel like I really could do this.

I will always be grateful that he went the extra step and took my work home to read over the weekend. He didn't have to do that, but because he did and because he encouraged me, I held on to that.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your nearest and dearest, and I hope that you remember those who encouraged you and that you take it upon yourself to offer genuine encouragement to others.

Blessed Be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Early Influences: The Naysayers

The person(s) most influential on my early writing career:

The Naysayers

I've met a lot of them. Some of them were probably spot-on about my questionable talent. A few were just assholes. Most likely didn't care enough have a thoughtful opinion. "Can't" is easier than "can." "No" is more convenient than "yes."

Alas, I'm stubborn. I was raised by an awesome family who said I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

Nannynannybooboo. Sticks & stones. I'm not giving up. 

All I needed was a clue. I'd happily work to earn success. I would learn. I would improve. I would do what it took to get what I wanted. Still will. Still do.

Somehow, I'd managed to get a degree in English Writing without learning a damn thing about the publishing process. (This was in the days long before the Internet and Self-Publishing. Back when personal computing was breaking into the mainstream.) Query letters? Synopses? Pitches and hooks?  I didn't get those answers until I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA). Gods bless 'em, they were the only group who accepted unpublished, utterly clueless aspiring authors into their ranks. They gave me the information I desperately needed, supplied avenues for networking, and set me on a path of continual learning to improve my craft.

It's been a while since I've penned a romance, but the generosity of the Romance community is something I still hold very dear.

Hat tip to the naysayers. They'll always be there. Pushing me to be better. Ensuring I enjoy every moment of proving them wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The most influential person in my early career.

There are at least fifty, all for different reasons.

So today I pick one and I'll explain at the end of my tale.

The first professional convention I ever went to was the a meeting of the Horror Writers of America. It was the same year they became the Horror Writers Association, but that didn't happen until later in the weekend.

It's Thursday night or Friday night. I think Thursday. Keep on mind this was a loooooooong damned time ago now, and I looked around a room full of authors that I had read and admired and was terrified. Seriously. Who the hell was I to talk to the likes pf Peter Straub, Rick Hautala, Charles L. Grant, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, all of whom are in the same room with me and chumming it up? Awestruck? Maybe. But mostly I was terrified. Somewhere around that same convention was John Carpenter. John-Freaking-Carpenter!!!!

So, yeah, I hugged the wall, helped myself to a diet drink and and observed the people around me, absolutely overwhelmed.

A man a few years older than me moved closer and asked me my name as he offered his hand. I shook his hand and told him who I was.. He was diminutive next to me, but let's be fair, a lot of people are. I was taller, probably weighed twice and much and I couldn't have been more grateful to someone for speak to.

For the next ten or fifteen minutes we chatted, and I relaxed and the next thing I know, this gut with longish hair and a beret and casual clothes is leading me around the room and introducing me to people I never thought I would be in the same room with and they are, as a whole, treating me with respect and and courtesy.

And when it's done and I'm suffering from a case of too much smiling because, damn, I met some really cool people, the man shakes my hand again and says "My name is Charles DeLint, Jim, and it's really nice to meet you."

Charles-Freaking-DeLint. Another writer I never expected to meet. Another writer I had had admired while reading several of his books, for his eloquent prose and amazing stories. Turned out he was an amazingly nice guy, too, who was kind enough to spend a few minutes with a nervous wreck and to make sure he met everyone and felt at home.

Believe me, he was amazingly influential on my early career.

I've tried to live up to his example at every convention. Be gracious, be kind, be welcoming. It hurts nothing and you never know....

Keep smiling and have a great Thanksgiving, folks.

I am often reminded how much I have to be grateful for.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Right Words at the Right Time - Supporting Newbie Authors

THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN will be available as a stand-alone novella on November 22! (You can preorder now at Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.) If you already have FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, this is the exact same novella in that duology with Grace Draven. You can get mine alone for $2.99 or both of us for $3.99. A deal, either way!! If you haven't read it, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN takes place between THE TALON OF THE HAWK and THE PAGES OF THE MIND. It's told from Dafne's point of view and bridges the events in the aftermath of TALON and sets up her book, which is PAGES.

Our topic this week is "The person(s) most influential on my early writing career."

This is like picking literary influences - there are so many!

But it's been fun to contemplate, thinking about those very early days in my late twenties, when I finally realized I wanted to be a writer instead of a scientist. It was really difficult for me to tell people about that.

Because, well, it sounds silly, right?

In telling people I wanted to write books, I felt like every other person who's ever made noises about "someday writing that novel." And, to be frank, many of the people I talked to about this enormous pivot in my life plans pretty much nodded, smiled, and blew it off as so much wishful thinking. Those were the nice ones.

My PhD adviser - with whom I had a contentious relationship at that point as I struggled to complete my degree - said, "I think writers need a lot of self-discipline, to work steadily on projects over time - are you sure that's for you?"


Others were kinder, but "helpfully" presented statistics on the impossibility of such enterprises. One friend, however, one of my sorority sisters from college, sent me two books on writing. She probably went to a bookstore and asked for something to send a budding writer, because they're two of the classics. More important, she sent a note with them that said, "The only people who are annoying because they talk about writing a novel are the ones who never do it. I know you will."

That meant everything to me.

I could go from there, to those early classes and the various writers who took their time to teach me - because the list is long of teachers who did so much to help me along, which is part of why I teach, in turn - but it was the people who gave their whole-hearted supported who made that initial difference.

It's easy to crap on someone else's silly-seeming dreams. Of course they don't have the writer's discipline yet. That comes over time. Of course the odds are stacked against making a living as a writer. They're even higher for the person who never actually writes the book.

So, this goes out to Sandy Moss, who sent me those first books and - most important - the faith at exactly the right time.

Turns out, you were right! As always.

Much love to you, too, in TTKE.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fuel for the Fire

I love all of this week's posts. Excellent, thoughtful, high-minded reasons for writing. I wish I could jump on the band wagon. But I can't. Cause I stand firmly on a line. It reads 'CRAZY'. Allow me to explain.

You know when you think you're alone and you aren't just talking to yourself, you're having entire conversations? The voices in your head are addressing you and it would be super impolite not to answer back? Only you do so aloud and it turns out you weren't alone and now everyone is looking at you like you belong in a straitjacket?


Only me? Damn. That is totally why I write. Why I have to write. There's a throng in my head. I mean, sure, we all know we have voices residing in the gray matter. Mostly the voices of our parents and other loved ones, right? Most of us can still hear Mom telling us that if we keep making that face, it's going to stick that way. Those are the normal ones. The expected.

That's not all that goes on for me. It's crowded upstairs - crowded with a bunch of people and voices whose names and faces I do not know and never have known. From time to time, one or two edge out of the crowd, pull me aside, and they tell me who they are. From that point, I have no choice. If I don't start writing, I'll be on my way to an involuntary hold in a psych ward some where because those voices will not leave me alone ever again until I get their story down.

I get that this sounds like hyperbole and I can see you rolling your eyes from here, but I swear this is a thing. I can call my mother. We'll be chatting about everything under the sun BUT writing and out of the blue, she'll say, "You aren't writing, are you? I can hear it. Get off this phone and go work before it gets any worse." Every single time, she's right. There's a pressure that builds up inside - a little like that Alien movie - something trying to claw its way out through my sternum. It isn't comfortable. The only remedy is to get words down. Get a story on a page.

That's the fuel. And so long as I use it wisely, I avoid psychoactive medications and I eventually get a book out of the deal. So while I'd love to tell you I have some great intellectual drive or will of iron that gets from Chapter One to The End, it's more a feeling of responsibility to those voices inhabiting my head because each individual in the crowd is awaiting a turn - a chance to come to life on the page.

So maybe, the real truth is that the fuel for writing is as much a god complex, an over developed sense of responsibility and stunning hubris.

Or I'm just nuts.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What Fuels The Words

I've been talking the past few weeks about driving forward, about the endurance, doing the hard work. That's really the only way books get written.  So then when the next question comes and it's, "So what drives you to do it?", I have a hard time answering.  Because, to me, it's almost like "why are you breathing oxygen?"
In the latest episode of Westworld-- without giving serious spoilers, when confronted with why he's done the things he's done, he answers, "I just wanted to tell my stories".  I feel very much the same way.  I know the stories I want to tell, I'm never plagued by writers' block, at least on a macro level.  (On a micro level, I sometimes don't know how a scene is supposed to work, and that's frustrating.  Sometimes a project isn't quite coming together and gets put to the side... but there's always more projects in the works.)   
Of course, right now I'm in a position of privilege.  I'm writing books that are already under contract-- doing work that I know where it's going to go.  Back when I was writing books without an agent or a publisher?  There I was fueled just by the fire in my gut-- that I had to tell the stories of Maradaine, and get it out there in the world.  Someone once told me that writing novels was a thing you only did if you can't imagine not doing it. I think that's about right.  And I'm still not satisfied.  Each novel, I'm hungry for.  
And I bet you are as well.  So get down to those word mines, and get to work.  No one else is going to do it for you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Inner Drive

Last evening, my family went to the movie theater to watch the filmed version of the National Theater's production of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. (Amazing. Go see it if you have the chance.)

It was not a live feed, but it lost none of the live theater vigor and momentum that a film simply cannot reproduce. Film is distanced by editing and changes of scene and setting, but in theater they do all that right before your eyes, right now. The actors and crew work magic and transport you from your seat to another time and place. They sing, dance. They deliver lines as if they've just revealed their deepest heart and you weep with them. I've worked around theater. I've been to some big productions. I used to play in a rock band. Live performance can transmit an enormous amount of energy between performers and audience and back again.

My son, who was a good kid drifting through his youth as many kids do, decided a few years back that he wanted to try acting. I encouraged it. He landed a decent role in the smaller of the local theather's next production. He was amazing...line delivery, at ease on stage. And that kid blossomed. Grades went up, confidence increased, and he stopped drifting. He had realized he had a motor and could decide exactly where he went and how fast. He learned he was in control of his life.

Much has occurred since and now he's about to embark on a role in a web-series. He is beyond excited. So am I.

I knew seeing this stage play (even tho filmed) would be good for him. At intermission we talked and it became clear that he had just realized the bar could be set much higher than he had previously thought. Do you have any idea how awesome it is to see a kid's eyes sparkle because he's humbly admitted to you that he knows he has a lot of work to do--and is eager to get started?

That kid works out regularly. He eats right. This has influenced me; I've lost fifteen pounds so far.

I recognize his inner drive. It brings joy to my heart. All I have to do is encourage and support him, scope out the next steps, shine the light on them and get out of his way. He wants to do it. He is willing to work. He is willing to learn. He makes every effort to be prepared for the next opportunity as he climbs.

I was like that once. I'd drifted.... Good at art. Good at writing. Really good at playing music. I decided to focus on the band. As a seventeen year old girl who had been playing guitar for a year and could rock on-par with local fellas of twenty-one to twenty-five who'd been playing for six or seven years, a chick who could play the solos but tended toward more melodic emotive notes than the blazing jibberish so many did...I had something. I had talent and drive inside me. I played for hours and hours every day because I wanted to.

But I didn't have parents who understood how good I was or who had a clue how to help me be what I wanted to be, even if they had wanted that life for me -- which they didn't. They permitted me to be in a band and rehearse and play in the bars, but they set up road blocks as well. Eventually, my fire for that turned to embers. I allowed it, influenced by family ties and a near-deadly experience with electricity. Besides, too many people (read as too many attitidues + too many decision-makers + not enough of my interests) needed to be involved and it wasn't sustainable without total support.

But words...I didn't need three other people to be on board with the story to write it. I didn't need to use the car to go write. If I was up late writing, my folks didn't have to wait up for me.

I allowed their path for me to become mine. It failed. After I'd tried it their way, twice, I did what I had originally wanted to do. I went to college, but I did it as a mother of four and still managed to graduate summa cum laude. I've had six novels published by a major NY house.

I'm not done yet.

My drive is still on. My motor is churning hard and there's fuel a-plenty to burn.

Recognize that thing you do that gives you some joy. You know, that thing you do for you, the thing you're passionate about, the thing you've worked hard to nurture your talent around. That thing you willingly give your 'free' time to, it's your thing. Like the energy transferring from actor to audience and back, when you do your thing, you feed your fire and that fire feeds you. Be willing to work and learn. Be willing to fail and try again. Make every effort to be prepared for the next opportunity that comes. Never give up. The pursuit gives you not only joy, but personal character. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Motivated Writing: Embrace Your Weird

What motivates me to put words on the page? All my glorious and sundry weirdness. Oh, I know some of you think I'm a stickler who doesn't need to buy diamonds because I can poop my own. That's...occasionally true. However, being an introverted control freak does not limit my very special brand of odd. It fuels it, dear readers. It totally fuels it. How so? ~cackles~ Allow me to list the ways:

  1. Many of the conversations I have with myself are awesome and need to be inflicted on the world.
  2. After I've properly organized all the items on a store's shelf, I pay for my goods (when the cashier asks if I want paper or plastic, my answer is usually "you too"),then go home to pen total chaos inspired by shampoos in the conditioner rows.
  3. When invited out to dinner, I order pie. Preferably cherry, though apple will do in a pinch. 5-course meal? Lovely. Bring me a new slice each round. Oh, and add ice cream for the main course. In my worlds, that's no reason for a date to leave. It's how the protagonist levels up her magic. 
  4. Thanks to anxiety attacks, I will randomly get up and walk away, out, around, through...whichever direction keeps me in motion and distracted. Yes, socially, that's considered beyond the pale of rude; though, it is a fascinating character study in diverse reactions to a single unconventional action. Once I make it home--safe within my refuge--writing the revolt and abandonment scenes are rather easy. 
  5. Finally, control. Complete. Total. Mistress of the Universe control. I have a plan, a list, and a timeline. Life is perfectly under con--wait, what the hell is that?  When did the sole of my shoe start flapping like a duckbill? The dog has ten minutes to do his outdoor business, why is he taking fifteen? The niblings are invading two days early and one has the bubonic plague? I have the next five pages word-for-word ready to roll from my mind, why is Windows taking thirty minutes to update?  ~shakes fists at sky~   KHAAAAAAAAAAAN! Godsdamn life. Full of plot twists.
Embrace your weird, dear readers. It's all the motivation you'll ever need.

Monday, November 14, 2016

What Motivates Me?

I haven't written much this week. It has nothing to do with the election and everything to do with the fact that I am busy.

I have a day job. We had a discussion, me and the management. The thing is the coffeeshop is understaffed. I appreciate that. For the last two weeks it's been just at 40 hours per week. As of today, I'm back to around 25-30. That is acceptable.

Along with my frequent partner in crime, Christopher Golden, I am teaching a writing course that's taking approximately fifteen hours of research and editing each week, plus three hours each Sunday for the actual class itself.

Now and then life gets in the way and there goes a few more hours lost to contemplation as a widower freshly on the wrong side of fifty. We can file that one under "shit happens and get over it," but that doesn't stop the way my life changes and I have to deal with it.

I'm starting the second book in a trilogy. It's fighting me. That, too, goes under "shit happens and get over it."

I have a lot of friends who are positively reeling from the election results. I mean staggering emotionally as if Rocky Balboa unleashed a few hundred blows on their souls instead of their bodies.

We are reaching that time of year when I tense up. I'm aware of it. I know it will happen. There is nothing I can do about it. Saturday night at World Fantasy fell on the 29th of October. That would have been my twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. The 27th was the thirty-first anniversary of my first date with the woman who shared a very large portion of my life with me.

December 23rd will be the seventh anniversary of the day I came home from work and found my wife dead.

And again, it all files under "shit happens and get over it."

There's not much to say about that really.  I will look at these issues, I will reel from them, and then I will move on, because as Stephen King once said (and I'm paraphrasing) "There are two choices in this world, get busy living, or get busy dying."

I still prefer to live.

And then Tuesday happened and the common sense I expected to prevail did not. A great number of people are staggered, as I have already stated. I am not.

I do not agree with any racist policies. I believe that people who want to have same sex lovers, or who have had that choice removed by their biology, should be allowed to do as they please so long as they do not force themselves on anyone. I believe that any transgender going through a grueling process that is harsh under any standards, physical or emotional, should be allowed to identify as they see fit. I believe that this country embraces freedom of religion, not just certain faiths. I firmly stand by my belief that the color of a person's skin, or the gender of the person in question, is not a significant or proper way to judge them. I prefer to judge the character and actions of a person instead and I expect the exact same courtesy. I believe that we should be allowed to say whatever we damned well please, because of the First Amendment, but I'm okay with each and every proviso added to that Amendment. I believe that green cups issued by Starbucks are just green cups that were meant to encourage unity and not an attempt to corrupt the universe. I also believe the red cups showed up a week or so later.

I believe that once upon a time I had a beautiful, wonderful wife and she died. I believe she suffered a lot in the process and I suffered with her. That partner in crime? Chris Golden? He was my anchor for a lot of that. He helped me get my perspective back. He pointed out, and rightly, that a lot of my time was spent in anger when my wife was at her worst, because her illness was something that I could not fix. It cost me a small fortune and medical bills drove us into bankruptcy. That was medical bills AFTER insurance.

All of the things that I have mentioned are the fuel that helps me write. They are facets of who I am.

My next books starts off with a husband trying, and failing, to save his family. Every event that takes place from that scene on is directly connected to his actions and to the actions that brought him into play as a man on a mission of salvation, redemption and revenge.

Don't think the connection is lost on me. it wasn't conscious when I started writing, but, yes, I am still dealing with the death of my life partner. I'm still looking back from time to time and wondering how different my world might have been if we'd had children.

I still contemplate the fact that I could not help her more than I did. As I have said many times in the Dinner for One essays, it is what it is. These are events that shape my worldview. They are only the smallest sampling.

The next few years could well be some of the worst this nation has seen. We don't know one way or the other. Time will tell.

Now that I've said that, I'll go ahead and point something out to you.

Mostly I'm a happy person. I've cut a lot of the negatives out of my life. The emotional vampires, the people who made me miserable with their attitudes, they are gone. I moved away. I moved on.

Mostly I'm an optimist.


When I am not, when there are things that anger me or make me afraid, I tend to work them out i n my fiction. Not all that long ago a customer pissed me off in the worst possible way. Ratter than drag his ass outside and tune him up the way I wanted to, the way my inner savage very nearly demanded, I let it go.

Then I killed said ass in a book instead. No one could ever prove who I killed in a court of law and the customer in question is alive and well, but I know who I was killing. I still see him regularly and we get along fine. And if he pisses me off again, I'll tear his soul to pieces in another story or book.

And I'll do my best to remain optimistic, regardless of what the world throws my way. I may not always succeed, but I will try.

On Wednesday morning I went to work from 4:30 AM until 1:00 PM. I did not post onFacebook or twitter or anywhere else. I contemplated the forthcoming change in my country and my world.

Instead of going on a rant or contemplating how royally screwed we are as a nation if the man who is going to be our president keeps his words from the campaign trail (he won't, not all of them at least, none of the POTUS do) I thought about it and posted the following advice that I will try to live by while I contemplate the darker anniversaries coming my way and President trump's ascension into the Oval Office:

It's exactly this simple: Lead by example. Be the person you want to be. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be optimistic in the face of your dread. Hatred solves nothing. Fear is the tool of terrorists, and I will not live in its shadow. Hatred weakens us all. 
Don't fall victim to the tools you find offensive. 
Don't use those tools in an effort to strengthen yourself. 
But, also, be ready to defend yourself if you have to, and to defend those who are hurt or weakened. Do not tolerate bullies.
Be a good person. In the end that is all we have.

It is what it is.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Channel Your Outrage into Art

Can our calendar guru see into the future? If so, I want words with KAK on if she saw these elections results coming!

Maybe it's just me reading in. Our topic this week is: Writing fuel - taking caffeine (coffee and tea) off the table, what fuels your words?

Lemme tell you, folks - I've been writing a lot this week. And it's not because I upped my caffeine intake. It's no secret I was super excited to elect the first woman president of the U.S. I've also long admired Hillary Rodham Clinton and her stellar career. Along with her skin that must be six inches thick, because I don't know how she stands all the muck that's been flung at her over the years. And then she lost to a man who, while I understand he may be the hope of those who've felt silenced, has embodied the worst of human nature. Greed, selfishness, hatred, racism, bigotry. Those who voted for him assure us Trump won't be as bad as he seems, that he didn't mean everything he said, or that it's been exaggerated by the media.

We can only hope.

And keep vigilant.

Also, I've been writing a lot.

One thing about outrage, anger, and other strong emotions - they channel well into making art. My Twelve Kingdoms books started as my answer to despotic patriarchy. The series is the story of the fairy tale three princesses, each more beautiful than the last. They're the daughters of High King Uorsin. This is a spoiler if you haven't read the books, but Uorsin is not a nice guy. In fact, he's a tyrant, and he becomes increasingly unhinged over the course of the initial trilogy.

I found it interesting that some reviews of the third book, THE TALON OF THE HAWK, said that I took Uorsin too far, that he didn't need to be that awful. And yet real world examples easily that awful and worse.

None of that mattered to me, though. He met the sword of justice just as I wanted him to - and by the hands I felt should serve his sentence. And the women triumph.

I may have been working out a few things.

But that's what we do with art. We take that emotion, those experiences, and we channel and transform them. Art communicates a message. Stories do, too.

I've been writing a lot this week. I hope you all are finding an outlet for how you feel, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Success Is A Moving Target

Whatever success I have attained as a writer is due to the fact that I write. Daily. I sit in the chair at my great grandmother's desk and I ignore the cats and the social media and everything else (certainly I ignore the dust bunnies) and I WRITE.

I don't have daily goals of any type. I write until the passion of that particular writing session has passed, whether it's half an hour or four hours. If it's a day I really don't feel like writing, I try to at least open the current WIP and get a few hundred words on the page. Usually I end up writing many more than that, once I begin.

This leads to a subpart of the secret to my success - I don't edit and criticize and doubt myself as the first draft moves from my head to the page in whatever mystical fashion this process occurs. I KNOW the first draft will be clunky and have problems and feature inelegant sentences and need tons of revisions. That's the process, folks. But the words have got to get out of my head and onto a page (which nowadays is actually a WORD file) before I can start making them pretty. I've known people who are just paralyzed because they feel like every word has to be a jewel, set into platinum and gold, the first time it's written down. Um no. Not for me at least. That would be great if course, but it's not how books get written in my house.

Additionally, any success I accrue is due to the fact that someone other than me enjoys my book in its final, fully edited and copy edited state, and is willing to spend hard earned money to buy it. I love my readers and am continually amazed and enthralled and excited to have people who want to read my books. And talk about them! And review them!

I qualified the headline that success is a moving target because not too long ago I found a  piece of paper in the filing cabinet where I'd jotted down my goals a couple of years before I actually got published. At that time I pretty much defined success as being published. Period. Thank you, Carina Press, for picking up Priestess of the Nile. Success!

Only to be rapidly overtaken by a new definition of writerly success - get the next book written and sold. Then I wanted to be self published....

I won't take you book by book but somewhere along the way I switched goals to defining success as the moment I could leave the day job and write fulltime because the books would be doing so well. Yup, have now checked that box as of nearly two years ago....

But I want MOAR. I want to write a book that sells huge numbers of copies, breaks out and becomes a blockbuster movie! Yeah, being a scifi romance author, which is currently a small niche, that may prove to be a problem LOL. But you never know and that points me back to where I began this post - the secret is to write. I may never see my name in very tiny print on a movie credit scroll BUT for sure I won't if I don't write diligently and keep producing good new books.

Every book completed and released into the wild is another opportunity for good things to happen,  to give my readers a few hours of enjoyment, to find new readers, to maybe find LOTS of new readers and even someday have that movie deal.

Of course then I'll probably want the theme park ride to go along with the movie....and the action figures and....oh, I can stop now?

The Author with a stationary target in high school where her definition of writerly success would have been getting a story published in Analog magazine. (She didn't BTW.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Success Doldrums

Success and the secrets thereto. I have few of one and the other - well - let's call it a work in progress. You can probably guess which is which.

I do have a vision of what success means to me - a benchmark, if you will. It has yet to be met. In truth, it has yet to get past my second mark (a specific amount earned.) But that's okay. Because while I recognize that I am currently in the doldrums Jeffe described in her post (doldrums she has navigated clear of) I also recognize that getting free of them is up to me.

I told you last week that Dad had a heart attack. The day after I mentioned it, he suffered another. We really thought we'd ended an era there. It was a sucky weekend that culminated in me moving off the boat with my cats and moving into my parents house because my miraculously recovering father cannot be left alone just now.

Dad is the one who fostered and fed my love of science fiction. He's the one who taught me to problem solve - which might not actually be a good thing because engineer and there's always an exquisitely complicated (but fun!) way to accomplish something in weeks what would take normal people a day to do. He'd hike me into the desert and up mountains just so we could break open rocks and see what was inside. He taught me to sail and once I got married to a landlubber, he helped me convert that landlubber into a sailing addict.

At the moment, writing is lost in the honor of being trusted to help him. We manage the ebb and flow of medications. Encouraging Dad to eat just a little bit more. Going for several 7 minute walks a day with my arm tucked through his to provide him a modicum of stability.

Getting to provide for my parents in this way was never on my success radar. It should have been, because it meshes so closely with one of my writing success goals - being able to support my family with writing. So while my writing 'success' is, indeed, very much a work in progress and I freely admit to being really sad right now because I'm SO CLOSE to the end of a novel that I cannot finish on schedule, there will be no giving up. If ever I am to meet my goals it will be solely because I am too stubborn and spiteful to quit.

If you want to win contests, you have to enter. If you want to publish books, you have to write them. If you fall down, you have to get back up again. And you know, if it is possible to develop super powers, that's the one I'm working on - the getting back up part. Over. And over. The novel will get finished. So will the next one. And then the one after that. And maybe somewhere in there, I'll cross another marker on my way to career success.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Knocked Down and Back Up

It seems almost inappropriate to me to talk about things like process and business of writing and writing careers right now.  It feels... well, describing how I feel would probably devolve into a rant of inarticulate swearing.  So when I look at the topic of the week to be "what does success mean to you and how do you define it?", I'm not even sure what I could say about that right now.
But then I also think that art and craft matter.  Especially when things seem bleakest.  Fundamentally my job is to help you, the audience, slip your brain to somewhere else for a little while.  That I can make someone's day a bit brighter, a bit easier... that means so much to me.  I recently heard from a fan who had to spend all day in a hospital waiting room while their daughter had a battery of tests, and they were grateful to have one of my books with them to get through the day.
I take those little scraps of joy every chance that I can, because at the core, that's what it's all about.  This business-- just like everything else in this world-- can grind you down so hard.  It will crack you across the face and not even have the decency to watch you fall down. 
Succeeding, to me, is finding the strength to stand up again, bloody and battered, and giving the world a tiny smirk and asking, "That all you got?"  
And that's what I'm gonna keep doing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Success, to me, is a layered thing. Let me tell you how I view some of those layers.

1.) Knowing the "who, what, when and how's" in order to make a solid and feasible attempt at getting your writing published. 

Seems obvious, right? But don't scoff. Let me tell you a small aside here:
     At a local library signing thing a few years ago and I saw a woman I recognized from somewhere. (You know how that is.) She visited my table and after I mentioned that she looked familiar, she said the same. We figured out that she had been a former supervisor when I was eighteen and employed at a mall anchor store. She was at the signing to sell her books as well and she mentioned how impressed she was with the look of my mass-market paperbacks.
     "How much did they cost you?" she asked.
     I was honestly dumbfounded. I said, "Simon and Schuster's imprint Pocket Books published them."
     "Right, but what did it cost you?"
     "Nothing. They paid me."
     "They paid you?" She seemed shocked.
     "Yeah. They bought the rights to publish them."
     It was her turn to be dumbfounded. "How'd you get them to do that?"
     I'm certain I looked as confused as I felt. "Well, with fiction, you can either submit to a literary agent who may or may not take you on and may or may not sell the book for you, or you can submit to publishers on your own and hope you make it out of the slush pile." I wasn't being snide or condescending at all but she seemed irked.
     "I'll have to try that next time." She walked away.
Knowing that I won't just 'get' published is part of success. Sure, there are some authors who could let their cat type a hundred pages of jibberish and with one call to their agent would 'get' a book deal for that stuff... but that isn't how I define success. Knowing that I need to go to conventions and join groups and still do research on the industry and publishers --especially since I write genre fiction-- to know who publishes that type of novel, knowing that I have to do some work that isn't writing at all and knowing that if I don't or if I do it wrong the chances of getting published are nil, is essential to finding success in this business.

2.) Being published. 

I've never had trouble writing novel length stories, but it took a long time to learn how to write good, publish-worthy novels. That learning should never stop. (Again with the 'knowing' stuff.) No matter who you are, you can always learn more about the craft of writing and hone your skills to be sharper than yesterday. My library of how-to books continues to grow. The constant challenge is what I love about writing, and loving what you are doing is key to success.

3.) Staying published. 

The 'staying' part means maintaining creativity so I have new, fresh tales to tell.

The 'published' part of this is easier nowadays with legitimate self-publishing options available to everyone. The problem with that is, in a world of traditionally published books, small press books, and self-publishing, there are so many stories available for the readers out there that the author's hardest job may not be the actual writing of the novel, but navigating the choppy waters of advertising, media, and generally spreading the word in a positive, worth-while return on investment, attention-getting manner.
a.) I have a new novel coming in May 2017, unrelated to the Seph series. Will announce formally and do a cover reveal (unless you've been to a convention and picked up my sampler and seen it already...) early next year.  
b.) I am working on #7 in the Persephone Alcmedi series and hope to have it out next year. Have had some setbacks and am talking to a small press publisher about it. Details to come as I have them. 
c.) I am also working on two other novels (as time permits, which it often doesn't as a and b get the most of my time, well, and sleep.)

4.) Peers as Friends

The authors of those books I loved, the ones I stood in line and waited for them to autograph my copy, I had the good fortune to be on a panel with them. I've had the good fortune to be on panels with people whose books I read afterward and they have become friends who I can call and text and message, who will give me cover blurbs, who get cover blurbs from me, who brainstorm with me, who have drinks and hang out with me at conventions. Being welcomed into the family at whatever convention, signing or event I attend, those hugs between friends I haven't seen since last year, and that absolute sense of belonging right there among them...that is so awesome.

Writing is perhaps the most solitary art form. Because of that, social inclusion by my peers is incredibly special to me. For me to jump the mental hurdle and allow myself to feel as though I belong there (despite years of imposter syndrome keeping me at the edges) this has become a huge part of how I feel successful in this tough-and-getting-tougher business. 

Linda Robertson is the author of the Persephone Alcmedi series, several short stories and has a new novel Jovienne coming in May 2017. *details to come


FACEBOOK:  - personal  - fan page

TWITTER: @authorlinda

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Vote Today! (It's About More Than the President)

For all our US readers, please make sure you vote today. If you've already done so, THANK YOU. I'm not going to tell you for whom you should vote. That's not my business. I am going to remind you that your vote matters.

Federally, we have 469 seats in the US Congress that will be decided today. 34 in the Do-Nothing Senate. 435 in the Toddlers Throwing Tantrums House of Representatives. I say again, your vote matters.

If you hail from a state that made the national news for epic embarrassments in the judicial and the legislative branches: LUCKY YOU. Your vote can demonstrate your displeasure and bring back state pride by kicking the louses to the curb. Got a governor who tumbled into a time warp and forgot what the "civilized" part of "civilization" means? Your state might be one of the ones ready to wash that turd right out their collective hair in this election. (No, not all governors are up for election this year. Sorry. Some of us are still stuck with the disappointments.) Again, your vote matters.

Lastly, there are actual issues tagged on your ballot. Might be as small as granting a liquor license to the business down the street, as broad as approving a tax to improve education, or as contentious as the right to Die with Dignity. One more time, your vote matters.

Please, please, please, dear readers, if you can vote, do vote.

If you have any issues with intimidation or problems voting, contact 866-OUR-VOTE

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Secret Of My Success

Once again, Jeffe is wise.

Here's a bit of dialogue that has played out in my world about a trillion times. I can never decide if I am amused or annoyed. I tend to aim for amused. And maybe a little sad.

Person X: "So, you're a writer?" (Keep in mind that I am also a barista, which means that this question many times comes from a bored individual who is waiting for the elixir of life, AKA coffee.)

Me: "I am."

Person X: "What do you write?"

Me: "Science fiction, fantasy, horror, political thrillers. A little of this, a little of that."

Person X: "Had anything published?" You can SEE the interest waning.

Me: "About forty novels."

Person X: "Self-published?"

Me: "No. Some small press stuff. Some bigger houses."

Person X: "I always wanted to write a novel."

Me: "What's stopping you?"

Person X: "I never have the time."

And now MY eyes begin to glaze over.

I've heard the excuse almost as many times as I've heard I always wanted to write a novel.

There are variations on this, by the way, like the guy who assumed I had written a self-published novel and that I sold them exclusively from the back of my car, who then ran across me at a signing. That's one of my favorites. he broke down and bought several of my books. He continues to buy vente soy lattes from me, too.

Some of these people seem sincere enough. Whenever I was talking to my wife's doctors, they meant it. Considering their workload, I could see that. On the other hand F. Paul Wilson managed to find the time and also managed several NY Times best sellers. A few lawyers managed it too.

And me. I managed it. Sat my butt in a chair every day and wrote out comic scripts. A few even sold. Then when I couldn't stand to write another one page pitch for a comic script, I sat down and wrote out that image that simply would not leave me alone. 170,000 words late I was finished. It took a few years, but I sold it. It also took several hardcore edits because I learned as I wrote, but that's a story for another time.

When I was done, I believe I celebrated by taking my wife out to dinner.

I did the same thing again when the next book came out.

The slogan I am best known for is this: "Sit your butt down and write." There are several variations of this comment, of course.

To quote Doctor Frankenfurter: "Don't dream it. Be it."

The choice belongs to the individual, of course. But if you want it. FIND A WAY.