Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: a year in review

It is the last day of the year, and of the decade . . . Wow. How did that happen?

It has been an interesting year for me, and by and large, a very good one. As I am writing this post, it is hard to believe that this is the same year I was sitting at my desk at work reading about all the layoffs in publishing. I remember all the doom and gloom, of people saying no new writers would be published and only the already established bestsellers had a shot in this market. Not that there isn't a lot of darkness hanging over publishing right now, but I have always chosen to be cautiously optimistic, and well, this year, it certainly paid off.

Career-wise, here are my 2009 highlights:
    I signed a deal for five more books in the Haven series.
    Lucienne sent the first book in a new Urban Fantasy series to New York, and within two weeks we had an offer. After the book went to auction, I ended up with a three book deal from ACE/Roc.
    Not exactly career, but . . . I wrote and revised two and a half books in 2009, almost all of that while working full time. It gives me hope for what I can do in 2010.

Here are some non-career highlights from 2009:
    I learned to hoop dance and am now one of the founding members of the Columbia Hoop troop (which made it in a front page article on following World Hoop Day) and of the performing/teaching group Lunatrixs.
    I ended up on stage with the members of Cruxshadows during their Dragon*Con concert.
    I spoke on a panel with Charlaine Harris.

There are probably more things I should list, but I can't think of them at the moment, so I think those are both pretty healthy lists. It was a good year, and I'm hoping 2010 will be even better. What are your top highlights from 2009? Are you looking back on the previous year favorably, or hoping the new year brings new luck?

For anyone interested, I've been invited to join The Magic District Blog. I posted for the first time today. You can check it out here.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I have now uploaded an except from Twice Dead. If you would like to read the first chapter, check it out HERE. Enjoy!

I'll upload the second chapter closer to the release date, so check back often. And remember, Twice Dead will be available in print and electronically February 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Number 1?

I found out this morning that ONCE BITTEN is currently #1 on Amazon's Fantasy list and Horror list!!

Thank you everyone who took advantage of the Christmas special on the kindle edition of the book. I hope you enjoy the read, and be on the look out for the sequel, TWICE DEAD, which will be released in February!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas (and free books!)

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a joyful and safe holiday. As a special Christmas gift, my publisher has released my first book, ONCE BITTEN, free for kindle on Amazon. If you haven't had a chance to read the book yet (or you've read it but would like a kindle version) check it out HERE.

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Revision Game, Part three--4th drafts: Micro edits

In the second draft we made sure our story was all on the page. In the third draft, we made sure each individual scene carried that story along. So what is left for the fourth draft?

Micro edits.

The micro edit is where I really focus on the writing. I know, I know, all the stages are about writing, but in all the previous drafts I was focused on getting plot and characters and such on the page. Now I'm really focused on the actual words.

This is the stage where I pay special attention to which verbs I'm using, and I try to replace weak verbs for strong ones. This is the time to nix over used words and phrases, to tighten and polish until the sentences sing.

Tips from the trenches (because I am revising right now)
-Try reading it out loud. You can hear clunky phrasing.
-"Be" verbs do have their place (trust me, just try to write a story without any) BUT, do evaluate their use in your sentences. Can you use a stronger verb or rearrange the sentence to make it stronger without the 'be' verb? Try it. Again, read it out loud to hear the difference.
-Prepositions are fickle friends. Okay, I admit, that is a strange sentence, but overusing prepositions clogs sentences. Directional prepositions are the worst culprits. "She stood up." Well, unless she's standing up to her superiors, or submitting and standing down, the direction is implied. "She stood." If you find you have two prepositions back to back, that is probably a good sign one is unnecessary. (rule of thumb, but not always true.)
-Problem words. We all have them. If you know what yours are, pay special attention to them (maybe to the point of using find all --> highlight so they really jump out at you.) One of my words is "just" I can fit it in just about any sentence without noticing. (Hey, just look at that. There it is again ^_~ [yes, those were intentional]) Common problem words include "That, just, even, sudden, frown, smile, feel/felt, start, and begin". That is not a definitive list, and everyone is going to have their own overused words which sneak into their manuscript and multiply like bunnies, so be on a look out for your own.
-Cliches. Yes, I chose to list cliches next because I used one in the last sentence of the previous example. Use them cleverly or sparingly (or not at all) just know and recognize when you use them, and make sure you do it intentionally and there isn't a better, more original, way to phrase the sentence.
-Adverbs. Okay, again I'm playing off the previous point (this time to drive one of my critique partners nuts.) Some people adamantly hate adverbs, particularly 'ly' adverbs. I'm not one of those people (as you can tell by my liberal use in these last two sections). That said, don't litter your sentences with adverbs, and for goodness sake, don't use them after said. "She said animatedly" No. Just no. One, it is bad writing, and two it is lazy writing. In a case like that, either the dialogue itself should show her emotion, or you should use an action tag. One of my critique partners twitches during critique every time I use an adverb. I laugh. My best advice is to read the sentence and see if it says the same thing without the adverb. If the adverb doesn't add anything, nix it.
-Write with authority. Certain words and phrases are weak, no way around it. Words like 'Almost, Seem, and Nearly' make the world and the writing very wishy-washy. "He seemed to be angry" "She was almost a head shorter than him." "I nearly always hated broccoli." Bleh. You're the writer. Does it seem to be, or is it? Is something almost true, or true? A little ambiguity is fine, but don't let wishy-washy statements muddle your writing.

Okay, that was a lot more than I intended to list. I might have gotten a little carried away. The point being, this draft is when you let your inner editor run free with his/her red pen. The fourth is the most meticulous draft and is saved for last because it is too easy to get stuck polishing the same scene forever if I try to focus on story and the writing all at once.

Well, that wraps up the revision game. At the end of this draft, the manuscript should be polished and shiny--at least until critique partners, agents, and/or editors rip into it. Then the stages for drafts three and four are repeated (because hopefully they didn't find anything so large you have to repeat draft two--but big logic issues could cause that.) I can't tell you how many drafts it will take before a book sells or ends up on a bookstore shelf--there are just too many variables. But, keep writing, keep polishing, and don't get discouraged. While one project is out on submission, start a new one.

Best of luck everyone! I hope you found this blog mini-series on revisions helpful.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Delayed post

I didn't have a chance to write the post I planned for today because I didn't finish my writing goals in time. The real writing comes first. I'll try to get the last revision post up tomorrow.

Sorry about the delay.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Revision Game, Part two--3rd drafts: Scene by Scene

Continuing on with our revision topic . . .

Now that the second draft is complete, I know that the manuscript tells a full story, I haven't dropped any plot lines, there are (hopefully) no huge logic flaws, my characters progress naturally, and the plot arc is in place. The big picture looks pretty good--just don't look too close because I haven't focused on the actual writing yet. The book is not ready to be seen by anyone but me, and there is a lot of work to be done before it can be taken to critique.

More than likely, at this stage, the dialogue meanders at times, there are a couple backstory dumps that need to be spread out, there is either too much or too little description, and the action doesn't quite work all the time. I know the story as a whole works, so now to break it down and focus on individual scenes.

I know some writers who break this stage down further and make one sweep (draft) just for dialogue, or just focused on making sure there are no large clumps of backstory clogging up the story. Then each subsequent draft they focus on a different element. My suggestion is to do whatever works best for you. If you open the file and are looking at the scene and you get overwhelmed trying to fix it, break the process down to just one or two elements per draft. For me, I work well looking at one scene as a whole at a time. If you find you spend an entire week working on just a couple paragraphs, stop. You'll actually save yourself time going through it multiple times than getting stuck in the first chapter for months. (**Note: All my suggestions are just my own experience and opinions and may not work for everyone. Every writer you ask with will have a different process and opinion.)

Some tricks that can help when focusing on scenes:
-Read the dialogue out loud--just the dialogue; skip everything in between. You'll be able to hear issues you might not notice with action and narrative breaking it up. Dialogue that doesn't really say anything, monologues, and characters answering questions that aren't asked are some issues to listen for.
-When looking at action scenes, pay close attention to cause and effect. That means, don't have your character react to things before they happen. Sounds like a no brainer, but it is actually a very common mistake I catch in my own drafts, see in critique, and read in contest entries. Clauses and the word 'as' are often the culprit, but sometimes entire sentences are out of order.
-Look for your descriptions. Do you ramble on for paragraphs describing everything? Or are your characters featureless, naked, and wandering around empty space? If you supply the reader with two or three key details, they will latch on to those and typically fill in their mental picture. Remember to reinforce them once in a while and to firmly root your reader near the beginning of the scene as to the location of the action.
-Backstory is a tricky one. I've heard people say not to include any backstory in the first three chapters--that doesn't mean make chapter four all backstory. The best idea is to weave it in as seamlessly as possibly when needed for the reader to understand what is happening. The best analogy I've ever head (and sorry, I don't remember who said it) is to imagine the entire backstory written on a plane of glass. Then break the glass so it shatters into tiny slivers, each with just small bits of backstory. Slid those tiny slivers into your story.

Once you've edited every scene, you've completed your third draft. You now have a complete story filled with good dialogue, action, and nice, tight scenes. At this point, you can probably send the story out for critique and the feedback you receive will be helpful and not stuff you knew you needed to fix anyway. But, you're not quite done revising yet.

Stop back Monday for part three (4th drafts: Micro Edits).

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Revision Game, Part one--2nd drafts: The Big Picture

Last month Cher asked me to go into more specifics about how I revise novels. I didn't get a chance to post on the topic during the NaNo challenge, so I thought I'd delve into it now. In parts. Yes, I'm breaking it down that much.

Those of you who won NaNo last month are hopefully still racing toward those magical words "The End" (or maybe some of you have hit them already). But what do you do after you reach those words?

Personally, I close the file. Then I don't open it again for at least two weeks (if at all possible). During that down time I work on other projects, write a short story, talk to my neglected husband, read as many books as I can without my eyes rolling out of my head, whatever--the point is to let the dust settle on the story I just finished. (**Note: I highly recommend still writing something while letting a first draft sit. It takes about 3 weeks to form a habit, so if you slip out of the habit of writing, you have to force yourself to the keyboard again.)

After letting the first draft sit a while, I've found I can return to it with much more objective eyes. Once the dust has settled, I read the draft in its entirety, just to see what is on the page. I also make notes as I'm going along. Not in-line, nit-picky notes, but big picture notes. Reading a first draft can be painful, and it's sometimes hard not to jump in and start fixing stuff right away, but it is important to read through the whole book. I usually run into some scenes that make me cringe with how bad they are, but I also run into scenes that go unexpectedly well, or where I laid a foundation for a plot element I didn't even plan to work with but now I see where it could fit and make the story so much stronger.

By the time I finish reading, I typically have a lot of notes. Things like: Such-and-such character is flat or goes through an abrupt personality change in chapter X; ABC plot line totally dropped; XYZ scene lacks tension; and so on. For the most part, everything I list in my notes affects the book as a whole or at least several scenes. So, my second draft is focused on fixing the issues in my notes.

This is the big stuff. I'm not going to slow down and make sure all the dialogue and descriptions are perfect at this point. I'm just going to work on the big issues.

Mostly fixing these issues are about asking myself questions and implementing the answers. Character has a personality problem? What is their motivation through out the book? What are they thinking? What do they need/want? Plot line was dropped? How can I weave it back into the chapters? Scene not working? How else can I get from point A to point B? What is the worst possible thing that could happen at this time? Can it happen? (etc.)

If I didn't work this way, if say, I polished chapter 1 until it was 'perfect' and then I got to chapter 11 and realized 'hey this is a cool plot element, let me work it in early to set this up better' or 'huh, this character doesn't work. She hasn't been acting at all in character' I would have to go back to the beginning and I would lose a lot of the work I did. So, big stuff first. Second draft (for me) is all about making sure the story is being told.

Okay, I think I've rambled on enough for one post. Check back later for part two (3rd drafts: Scene by Scene).

Happy Hump day everyone!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

We have winners!

We'll, I finally went through all the posts to pull out the entries for the month long NaNo contest held here on the blog.

If you need a refresher on what this contest involved, here are the pertinent facts:
-Everyone who participated on the blog and completed the 50k word challenge during NaNo will be listed in the acknowledgments page of my February release, TWICE DEAD.
-Of those writers, I picked a randomly generated 'grand prize winner' who will receive Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King as well as a copy of my up coming release.
-Also, everyone who participated on the blog, regardless of whether they completed the challenge, was entered to win a copy of TWICE DEAD.

Okay, without further ado, time to announce the drawing winners. (Remember, each progress comment earned one 'ticket' in the drawing. There were a total of 109 'tickets'.) The random number generator has spoken, and the winner of a copy of TWICE DEAD is:

Demon Hunter (Tyhitia)

Now for our grand prize winner. Five writers completed the 50k word challenge, and out of them, the winner of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and a copy of Twice Dead is:


Mega congrats to both of you, as well as to the five writers who completed the 50k word challenge, and everyone else who participated and captured words on the page! Thank you so much for hanging out and writing with me this month. I hope you all continue to stop by my blog.

Ginger and Tyhitia, please email me at Kalayna (at) Kalayna (dot) com with an address where I can ship the books. I will not be shipping Twice Dead until February (unless I get ARCs, but most small presses don't have advanced reading copies), but Ginger, I will go ahead and ship the editing book this month.

Okay, it's back to revisions for me. Happy Hump day everyone!

Er, yeah, it's December . . .

Hey, sorry everyone. I didn't realize how much time it would take to tally up how many entries in the contest everyone has. As such, I didn't allot enough time to do it today.

So, winners will be announced tomorrow.

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNo day 30: The End?

It is about to be midnight here on the east coast (some of you might have a couple hours yet). So, how did you do? Did you cross the finish line?

I scratched out the last words I needed to finish NaNo, but my book is not yet finished (very few genres accept 50k word books) so there is writing left to be done. Unfortunately, this shiny now has to take a complete backseat for revisions and contracted books, but I do plan to continue working on it in my spare time. How about you? Did the NaNo goal allow you to finish your first draft, or are there words left to be written before you reach the magical words "the end"?

I encourage you to celebrate the end of NaNo and the madness, but also to keep on writing. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit, so everyone is now in the habit of writing. Try to keep that habit in the coming months. Did you know that even if you write only 500 words a day (that is about two pages double spaced) you can write two 90k word first drafts in a year? ^_^

Some of you might still be finishing up, but here are the people I know about who are dancing in the winner's circle: (What, you didn't realize you were dancing?)
Did I miss anyone? Congrats to all of you! You just pulled off an amazing feat! 50k words in 30  days. Woohoo!!

For those who didn't make it this time, keep writing! You have more words on the page than you started with, and no one can take those words or that experience away from you.

Okay, it's almost tomorrow here, so I need to get this post up. Again, congrats to all winners! (and don't forget to email me with what name you'd like listed in the acknowledgements of Twice Dead.) I'll be drawing for prizes tomorrow. See you then!

P.S. if you haven't checked it out yet, scroll down to today's other post to see the cover for Twice Dead.

Cover Art for TWICE DEAD

I'm thrilled to say that I have received permission to release the cover art for TWICE DEAD, book two in the Haven Series. I think my publisher did an amazing job with this cover, so I hope you like it just as much.

TWICE DEAD will be released in late February, so look for more updates soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNo day 29: Did you see the size of those ninjas?

Okay, I admit it, the title of this post has practically nothing to do with the content. A friend tweeted the saying to another Wrimo who is pushing toward the finish line, and it made me chuckle and think about how zany first drafts can be.

Have you noticed this month that sometimes, when you maybe have no idea what should be happening next and you just need something to happen, a plot ninja (meaning something totally unexpected and probably a little out there) sneaks on the page? And yeah, you might cut that craziness in the second draft, but maybe it leads you on a cool new path you would have never considered without the weird ninja. I've detailed my pre-plotting routine, and I am very much a plotter, but I have to tell you, I do love when a plot ninja shows up and gives me a new twist to work with.

Anyone finding an abundance of plot ninjas? Any really interesting plot ninjas?

Well, we are pushing toward the final moments of this challenge. I'm almost back on track, and should finish up tomorrow. Here is my current word count:

48198 / 50000 words. 96% done!

How is everyone else doing? What is your wordcount as we enter the final day?

Big Congrats to Ginger, our first writer to cross the 50k finish line!! Wooohoo! *happy dance* Ginger, please email me at Kalayna (at) Kalayna (dot) com and let me know how you'd like your name listed in the acknowledgements of Twice Dead. (Each of you, as you finish, should email me unless you want me to use your screen name.) Also, I'll be drawing winners on December 1st, so make sure you stop by and post your final word count before then. (If you need a reminder of what is in the drawing, you can find out here)

Good luck in the final day! I hope to see a lot more of you cross the finish line!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaNo 26: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I've never taken a picture of a turkey, but I tend to snap far too many pictures of big cats, so today, Lions will be representing Thanksgiving on this blog. ^_^

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaNo day 25: Thanks!

We are hours from Thanksgiving, (officially--sleep still needs to happen. LOL) and while I sometimes forget and mark the day down as a scary'food holiday', it really isn't. It is a day to remember our blessings and give thanks.

So, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone out there reading this blog. A lot of amazing things have happened this year, and I've been thrilled to be able to share them with you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this bit of the net with me.

I hope you are well blessed, have safe travels if you are visiting, and have a wonderful holiday!

I bet a couple of you Wrimos are so near the finish line that you can taste it. (Or maybe you crossed it already?) Let's see those word counts!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNo 24: Piracy

I like pirates. The fictional kind. You know, big hats, swords, and a penchant for rum. I really like sky pirates in their clockwork ships.

I don’t like internet pirates. Not at all. They make me sad.

Google alerted me this morning that someone made a copy of OB available for download. It was suggested that I should feel flattered that someone liked my book enough to give it away. I don’t feel flattered. I want to cry.

On average, authors make 8% of the cover price from books (that means, on your average 7.99 mass market book the author makes about 64 cent) but they make 0% on pirated downloads. Everything comes down to numbers in publishing, so not only do pirated downloads affect an author’s bottom line, but they can actually jeopardize her ability to convince publishers to purchase future books from her. Which translates to no sequels, and the author possibly having to use a pseudonym to sell another series.

Now, one little download site on my one little book isn’t the biggest concern in the world, and I’ve already earned out my advance and received a second contract. But this is still not a happy thing. So, this is a friendly message to remind people that if you like something, whether it is a book, a song, a movie, ect., please support the artist, not the pirate.

Thank you everyone who already does support the artists. I *heart* you! ^_^

P.S. Sorry for the short rant, but it really did make me sad when the site showed up.

So, how are the word counts going? Let's see some numbers. I have one follow up question from Cher I’ll be addressing later this week, and then I'm out of questions. Does anyone else have any questions or topics they’d like me to address?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaNo Day 22: Pay to play? No Way!

There has been a lot of internet chatter recently about a certain big press, Self-Publishing, and Vanity Publishing. I'm not going to go on a tirade here because other people have said it better, but I am going to hit the high points. So lets talk business.

In publishing:
  • Money should always flow toward the author.

  • Be wary of anyone who refers you to a service.

  • Do your research before you start querying.

  • Okay, I'll expand on each of those points in a moment, but first I guess I should explain why I'm thinking about this today. Earlier in the week, Harlequin announced their new vanity publishing venture. Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America (probably the three largest and most influential writing organizations in the US) took a stand against Harlequin, and basically told them that if Harlequin was going to pee in the sand box, they weren't invited to play anymore.

    Why would they do this? Because these organizations have their authors' best interests in mind, and vanity publishing isn't good for anyone but the publisher's pockets.

    First, let me say that vanity publishing and self-publishing are two different things. Self-publishing occurs when an author decides to hire a press like to bind their book. They pay for this service and the supplies, and then they own X copies of their books which they sell at a price they determine. Vanity publishing is when the author pays (usually an exorbitant) fee to have their book published, and for that fee they then collect only a percentage of the sales--the publisher keeps the other percent.

    Sound a little shady? It is.

    The fact that Harlequin Horizons is set up as a vanity press, that it is being advertised on the Harlequin website, and that information about the press will be included in Harlequin rejection letters, is extremely shady. The fact that all of this is being done by one of the Mega NY Publishers is just down right terrifying. Personally, I'm glad the writing organizations are making a stand.

    I'm going to steer off the topic of Harlequin in particular, but if you are interested in learning more, all the organizations I linked earlier have press releases, and author Jackie Kessler wrote some amazing blogs about it which you can find here and here.

    Now, returning to the points I made earlier:

  • Money should always flow toward the author.

  • This means that if someone is asking you for money to publish or represent your work, you should take your words and run. Fast.

    Publishers pay writers to write. That is the way it works. They need books to sell, writers produce those books, and publishers pay for the right to print them. When you sell a book, you should receive an 'advance' (advance against royalties) which is basically money the publisher gives the writer up front because they anticipate the book will sell well enough to (more than) earn out that advance. I'm not going to go into the nitty-gritty of money in this post (though if you're interested LViehl has an interesting post about the money breakdown for her recent NYT bestselling novel) I simply want to stress the point that you, the writer, should not be paying to be published. (Yes, shady vanity presses aside, self-publishing is a legitimate option for some people, and you do pay for that. There are a few very specific reasons a person might choose to self-publish, but for a novelist who wants a career in writing, it isn't really an option.)

    So what about agents? They are the author's inside man with the publishers, and they aren't charity workers. They basically work for authors (strange relationship where they screen the person they work "for") but agents only make money when authors do. 15% is pretty much industry standard for agents. Fifteen percent of Zero isn't much, so your manuscript has to sell before your agent starts making money (which, I imagine, is why agents are so selective of who they take on as clients. They have to really love an authors work because they are working for free until that first MS sells.)
    Red flags when dealing with prospective agents include reading fees, client dues, postage fees, and editing fees.

  • Be wary of anyone who refers you to a service.

  • This is where Harlequin is looking exceptionally shady. They are telling authors they aren't good enough for H to pay them to be published, but hey look, if you really want your book in print, you can pay H to print it. Also, some less than reputable agents refer green and gullible writers to in house editing services (which the author must pay for). This goes back to my first point. Watch out for scams.

  • Do your research before you start querying.

  • This is important on many different levels.

    For starters, you want to make sure the agent or publisher you a querying is legitimate. A good idea is to check them out on sites like Preditors and Editors , Writer Beware, and the Absolute Write Forums.

    But maybe you already know the agent/publisher is legit. You still have some research you need to do. You need to go to their website (or look them up in Publisher's Marketplace) and find out what they are looking for and what their submission guidelines are. Then you have to follow those guidelines. If the agent says they are looking for Women's Lit, Romance, and Mystery, don't send them your Science Fiction Space Opera--that's not what they are looking for. (And especially if they specifically say that are not looking for something, do not send them that type of novel anyway with a note that says 'I know you don't usually represent XYZ, but . . . ) If you are submitting to a publisher who says they accept a query letter and the first five pages, don't send thirty pages(and do send the first pages, not your favorite). It sounds like common sense, but you wouldn't believe the number of panels I've attended where agents and editors begged the audience to follow the guidelines. It will save you from unneeded frustration and a guaranteed rejection letter.

    Okay, I'm going to end with that unless someone has questions (Anyone? Anyone?) because, wow, that ended up being really long. I wish I were being that verbose in my fiction today. LOL.

    Here is my current word count:

    31406 / 50000 words. 63% done!

    How is everyone else doing? We have a full week and a weekend left, but that week is interrupted by a holiday. Will Thanksgiving give you extra time for words, or will you be juggling your wordcount and cooking/hosting/family/ect?

    P.S. For those who haven't seen it yet, here is a video of me fire hooping last night.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    NaNo day 21: Boring scenes? And FIRE!

    I’m going to answer questions today, but first I want to talk a bit about, well, today.

    Today was the annual lock-in. Every NaNo, my Co-ML and I host a day long write-in. The outcome of this event tends to be huge one day word gains (for me today that is about 5k words, but we’ve had two writers cross 10k for the day so far) as well as a lot of laughing and silliness because if you lock a dozen writers together for 14 hours, silliness occurs. The one thing we never get enough of at these events is exercise. So, abi showed up in the middle of the day with hoops to force the writers to move. He returned after dark for another exercise break (isn’t he awesome, and he’s leaving to run off to China) and this time he brought the fire hoop

    Yes, if you are looking at the picture right now, that is me, on fire. Okay. No. I’m not on fire. The hoop is on fire. But still . . . It was just . . . amazing! This was my ‘virgin burn’ (which means this was the first time I’ve ever fire hooped) and wow, this is an experience I’ll never forget. It’s a rather chilly night, and while everything was being set up, I was wearing both a hoodie and shoes, but I stripped down to essentials once it was time to actually light the hoop. I was shivering both from excitement and the cold, but once the hoop was lit, I had enough fire around me (and I was moving enough) that I worked up a sweat. It was amazing, and the fire was encompassing, burning away the world. I couldn’t see past the fire swirling around me, and the roar drowned out the voices and music. Okay, it’s been over an hour, and my endorphins and adrenaline are still soaring, so I’ll stop sputtering and carrying on.

    So, on to questions:

    Kailia’s question: “have you ever had to write a boring part in your novel?- if so how in the world do you keep how do you write to boring parts and get to the exciting good stuff? as i was writing yesterday, i had to fill in some space in between one action scene and another and i was getting annoyed writing the boring stuff....”

    My answer: I’ve had to really think about this one. My first instinct is to say “if it’s a boring part, it doesn’t belong in the novel. Cut it.” But I’m not sure of the exact situation. There are certain scenes we look forward to writing more than other scenes. So maybe the ‘exciting stuff’ is just what you are anxious to write. I would hope that the ‘boring part’ is not actually boring.

    If it is, or if you are honestly bored with it, you need to either scrap it or step back and evaluate what is wrong with the scene. You might be missing a key element or motivation that could give the scene back its zing. One thing is for sure, if you are bored while writing it, that boredom will show. (Just like your excitement shows in scenes you love.)

    If it is a transition scene that is the problem, remember that the reader doesn’t have to follow the character through every waking moment. “Don’t walk the dog,” as they say. That means, cut, condense, and get through the ‘boring’ day to day stuff. Only keep scenes that progress your plot and develop your characters.

    Does that make sense, Kailia? I might actually expand on this at a later date. It is a good topic.

    Okay, if I don’t post this soon, it will be tomorrow instead of today. Here is my current wordcount:

    30002 / 50000 words. 60% done!

    How is everyone else doing? And since the first part of this post is about one of my hobbies, what (besides reading and writing) do you do for fun? Are you fitting any of it in with NaNo?

    **updated to add a disclaimer** This is my 'don't try this at home folks' note about fire hooping. I was using a hoop specifically designed to be lit on fire; I did it under the guidance of someone who had experience fire hooping; I got a crash course in safety before we started; and we had safety measures standing by (as in, the entire time I was hooping, someone was standing about 15 feet away holding a fire blanket in case I caught fire, and we had a fire extinguisher in case I caught something on fire.) Please use proper safety measures anytime you play with fire.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    NaNo day 19: Changing the routine

    Today was a day of hard won words. The muse clearly gave me the finger and went her own way this morning. After a couple hours in front of the computer with a diminishing word count (I know, I know--no deleting in NaNo. Do as I say not as I do.) I decided it was time to switch things up, change the routine.

    It is amazing how freeing it can be to do that. To step away from the pressure of the keyboard and write long hand for a while.

    It helped. A lot. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to transcribe the words into the computer yet, so I haven't a clue my current word count.

    So how was your day 19? We are about to be 2/3rds through the challenge. How is your story coming? Loving it? Hating it? Have you gotten stuck? Tried changing your routine, write somewhere else or with something else? Did it help? Let's see those word counts!

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    NaNo Day 18: The Process of writing a novel

    Alright, back to answering questions. (Just one today, because this is a big one.)

    Cher asked: What process to you go through during the writing of a novel? Also, something that keeps popping up is the use of scenes and sequels. I'm a little confused about the differences. I understand the functions but when I look at other's writing I can't point out which is which. Any suggestions or examples?

    My answer: There are a couple different ways I could interpret this question, so if I don’t hit on what you are really asking for Cher, please let me know. (*Disclaimer* this is the process that works for me and I am not claiming it will work for everyone.)

    Anyway, my process for writing a novel goes something like this:
    I start out with brain storming sessions where I figure out my world and my characters. I tend to work with pen and paper in this stage, and the result is typically a mess. I rarely start with plot ideas, so this is truly just figuring out who I’m dealing with and what the world around her is like. My world and my main character tend to develop simultaneously. As I figure out what interests me about her, I learn about what the world around her must contain, and as the world fleshes out, I learn the rules and the pressures that will have shaped her. It is very organic—thus the mess. Once my idea start to solidify, I tend to write down the major rules to my world so I don’t forget. If I’m lucky, during this process, other characters and a plot have emerged, but not always.

    The next step I take is what I call ‘post-it note plotting’. Basically, I write down every idea for a scene I have, in whatever order it hits me, on a post-it note. Then, once I have a whole lot of such scene ideas, I try to arrange them into a coherent plot. I blogged on this process a few years ago if you’d like to see a picture of a complete post-it note plot arc.I used to do this on actual post-it notes which I then stuck to my wall, but these days I use a program called scrivener which has an amazing outline/post-it note feature.

    Now that I know the structure of my plot, I transfer the scene list from post-its to my computer. (Obviously, I now skip this because I use a program these days.) I then take this scene list and flesh it out into a full and fairly detailed outline. I have yet to write one of these the same. My first outline was based on time. Night one: list of scenes of occurred on that night in order. One outline I structured based on key points such as ordinary world, inciting incident, rising action, turning point one, ect. and listed the corresponding scenes under those points. I’ve written outlines broken down by chapters. I tend to go with whatever feels ‘right’ in my head at the time I’m organizing. It’s very trial and error for me. As you’ve probably noticed from my early posts this month, I didn’t actually go through any of the stages I’ve mentioned for this year’s NaNo novel—that is one reason it is stalling out at times. I’m a plotter and I like the road map, even if I don’t follow it. (Oh yes, I should have mentioned that. Despite the fact I write very detailed outlines, I still deviate from them as I write, but they do let me know where it is I think I should be should I get stuck.)

    After all the pre-writting stuff, all that is left is to sit down and write the novel. (Easier said than done, right?) Once I start writing, my only processes to to write one word after another. I know that doesn’t sound very helpful, but it is true. In a first draft, my concern is to get the story down on the page. I don’t consciously focus on scene and sequel, or the heroes journey, or any of the writing rules I’ve studied. I just write the story.

    I’ve taken numerous online writing courses, read dozens if not hundreds of writing craft books, and sat down and picked apart my favorite novels for how and why their writing worked for me. As I sit down to write a first draft, it is my hope that all the information I’ve gained has merged with my subconscious and my inner story-teller so it will be applied without my conscious effort as I write. Also, with any luck, my pre-writing plotting has already dealt with things like character motivation and logic issues, so they are already in place when I write.

    Once the first draft is finished and the whole story is on the page, I start worrying about consciously applying writing principles. I evaluate the story as a whole and by scenes. I’m condensing what is actually a whole lot of work into a couple sentences, but I’m not really sure how to explain revisions. There are Macro story edits where I evaluate logic ensure I have rising tension through out the scenes, that characters grow, that I don’t drop story threads, and such. Then there are more micro edits where I look to ensure each scene serves a purpose to the story (or better yet, two or more purposes) as in, does the scene progress the plot, show character development, create tension, ect. and does the scene start and end at the correct spot. (As in, not too far before or after the main purpose and action.) Then I go to the very micro edits where I evaluate the flow to sentences and my word choice. After all this and some polishing, I send the manuscript out to my critique partners so they can poke holes in it. After more revisions, the MS then goes to editors, who poke even more holes in it. Yet more revisions, and then I have a very tight book which (hopefully) won’t have any holes left for readers to find.

    So, that is my whole process, from idea to polished manuscript.

    As far as your question about scene and sequel in particular, I have read books and taken classes on the subject, but I have the same issue you have Cher. I understand the principle, but I can’t tend to pick them out unless there is an obvious ‘rest’ beat. By the way, that is how I tend to think about scene and sequel—scenes are ‘action’ beats where the character is actively taking action to achieve a goal and sequel I translate to a ‘rest’ beat when the character is reflecting/planning/deciding what action to take next. The important thing to remember is to keep ever increasing tension in the story. Even in a ‘rest’ beat, the end result is the decision to take action (always better when the decision is between two bad choices.) Make sense? Like I said, I don’t consciously write thinking “okay, this is a scene. Now this one is a sequel.” I just tell my story, and hope that I’ve assimilated enough of these principles that I follow them subconsciously.

    For more about writing craft, here are books and classes I highly recommend:
    Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham —This is a great book both about the structure of single scenes, and the structure of scenes throughout an entire book.
    Goal Motivation Conflict by Debra Dixon —This is an amazing book to help make sure your characters are moving forward logically and that you throw the right things in their path.
    Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King —This is a micro editing style book—I love it. (This is also part of the grand prize package for the NaNo competition)
    Margie Lawson Teaches several amazing classes, in particular the EDITS class, which help you break down your scenes and really see what you have on the page.
    Mary Buckham Teaches an amazing class called POWER PACING. I highly recommend it. She is also the co-author of the craft book Break into Fiction.

    Okay. This has been an obscenely long post. So I’m signing off with my wordcount:

    25551 / 50000 words. 51% done!

    How is everyone else doing? Cher, did that answer your question? I have only one more question to answer, unless anyone would like to chime in with more. Feel free to ask!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Nano day 16: There are no sick days

    Hey guys. No questions answered in this post. No impressive word count either--most of my gained words are from yesterday. Most, but not all.

    Today I must admit to being sick. The coughing-headache-fever kind of sick.


    Thank goodness for laptops. I did get a few words in today. Mostly I've been watching Buffy and sleeping. Fun.

    So, short post.

    22759 / 50000 words. 46% done!

    I hope the rest of you are doing better than me. So how are those word counts coming? Good night everyone!

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    NaNo: Start of week three

    Hey gang! Sorry I missed a couple days there. Go ahead and post your word count here, and I’ll add your name in the drawing for the days I didn’t post as well.
    So, I asked for questions, and I’m very pleased to have received quite a few. I’ll answer them all in the next couple posts, so don’t worry if I don’t get to yours today.

    Demon Hunter asked: “What's your word count goal every day? Does your daily goal vary depending on real life, or do you just make that goal every day no matters what happens?”

    My answer: I have had all kinds of goals worked out in the past. At different times I’ve had daily page goals, word goals, and chapter goals. I’ll be honest, I prefer chapter/scene goals to word goals. If I’m tired and aiming for say 3k a day, I’m more likely to write filler-garbage just so that I feel better about hitting that number of words. If my goal is to write so many scenes (or specific scenes) or so many chapters, the writing tends to be of better quality, though at the end of the day, I might end up with less words than I’d like.
    I do try to hit my goals—no point in setting them otherwise. That said, I plan in breaks and such when I know there will be conflicts because guilt can only motivate a person so far before they stop caring.

    Kitt asked: “What do you do to ease the burnout? And how long (or short) is the optimal break from writing on a very long, focused day? How many words does it take for you to warm up and after how many is it just time to stop and come back to it later?”

    My answer: If time allows, I usually read when I’m feeling the edge of burn out. Getting out of my own head and living in someone else’s can really help revitalize me. Exercise is also a great release. It gets all those endorphins moving. Watching movies might also give your brain a bit of a break. The trick is to not take too much time off. They say it takes about three weeks to establish a habit, but only a couple days to start to dissolve that habit. My suggestion is that if you are feeling a little burnt out, do take some time off, but make sure you spend at least a little time in front of the keyboard each day.

    As for the second part of the question about warming up and time to stop. That is hard to say. Sometimes you really have to force yourself to be at the keyboard. I remember one day nothing was working. Every word a I wrote fell flat, my characters were acting like marionette with loose string, and I just wasn’t ‘seeing’ anything. But I had to move forward. I’d been scratching out only a few hundred words a day, and I needed to make the story move or give up on it. It was a Saturday, and I’d blocked out the whole day to write. I think I wrote maybe a thousand words in the first three or four hours. Then it was like the dam broke, and I wrote and wrote (and wrote through dinner and on way past I’d planned to) and had like a 7k word day. It was amazing, but if I had given up in the first couple hours, it never would have happened, and I would have been just as stuck the next day.

    Typically I don’t force myself to stop if the words are coming unless I have to. As in, I have some obligation I can’t break or it is so late at night I wouldn’t be able to function at work the next day unless I go to sleep now. It rarely burns me out to write that way, and I’m always afraid the words will disappear if I don’t capture them while they are available. If the words aren’t coming and I’ve been at it a long time, I usually take a break and hope getting away from the pressure of the keyboard helps. I read a short story, take a walk, hoop, talk to friends—that type of thing—but I try to make sure I come back. If there are still no words after that, I tend to write out in narrative summery where I think the story should go next. Lots of times as I am writing the worst ‘synopsis’ of events to come, I’ll suddenly start seeing details again or hearing dialogue. If nothing else, this method at least lets me know where I’m going when I come back to it the next day.

    Okay, this post is getting ridiculously long, so I’ll end it there for the day. I’ll answer more questions tomorrow, and feel free to keep asking them. I will get to everyone. I haven’t posted my word count for a while, so here is the current meter:

    20175 / 50000 words. 40% done!

    How are you doing? We are about to head into the third week, which Chris warns is when the ‘slump’ tends to occur. How are you feeling about your story right now? About your words?

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    NaNo day 11: Another day, another blog post

    I've been trying very hard to keep my daily NaNo blogs short but interesting. I'm accomplishing the first, but I'm not too sure about the second, and I doubt very much they are useful to you guys. So, I think that means this is a good time to open the floor for questions.

    Anyone have questions for me? Maybe a writing topic you'd like me to blog about? Something about my process? About the publishing world? About my books in particular or the genre in general? Now's the time, let's hear those questions!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    NaNo, the one third mark.

    It is day 10 of NaNo and this marks the 1/3 point of the challenge. I covered a lot of ground today, and I'm very happy with my story progress, but, my word count is a little short of the one-third mark. Tomorrow will be my day, I can feel it. The plot is starting to come together now.

    Word Count:

    14091 / 50000 words. 28% done!

    In other news, look what I found today: I'm on the RavenCon website! Of course, I've known I'll be a guest for a couple months now, but this is the first time I've seen my guest link. Very cool. If you will be in the Richmond, Virginia, area between April 9 - 11, you should definitely come out and see me.

    So how are you doing? Several of you passed the 1/3rd mark days ago *huge cheers for you!* Others should be right on track to be hitting it tonight, and a couple, like me are dragging a little behind (don't worry, we'll catch up!) So, let's see those word counts!

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    NaNo Day Nine

    Not much to report today. I ran off to the zoo and did a little writing, but mostly took pictures. If I were writing about gorillas, I would have fascinating new material because I spent a good bit of time chatting with a keeper, but alas, no gorillas. (Maybe I can create some shapeshifters in the Dark Haven series whose second form is that of a gorilla . . . )

    Chugging along. Definitely not crossing the 15k mark tonight, but I'm not unhappy with the words I wrote.

    11522 / 50000 words. 23% done!

    Let's see those wordcounts. Anyone learn anything new and fascinating today?

    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    NaNo: The start of a new week

    Week one of NaNo is now behind us. While I decided I hated my shiny yesterday, I am once again very much in love with it. I am still plotting and fleshing out characters, but things are falling into place. I'm behind, no more than yesterday, but not significantly less either. I'll have to work on that.

    In the mean time, I'm happy it is shiny to me again, and I am looking forward to working on it again tomorrow. I'm not sure if it was the plotting, or the fact I spent a little time out of my head read someone else's work, but I see the potential again.

    Do you fall in and out of love with your words? How do you renew their vigor and gleam?

    Current wordcount:

    10017 / 50000 words. 20% done!

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Nano Day 6: Belated

    Opps. I didn't post yesterday, so there will be two posts today. I am ashamed to say I have fallen a good bit behind. I didn't write on Thursday. No excuse except that I was very busy and very exhausted after the craziness of my final day at work. (Oh but look, here is a picture of the cake from the awesome farewell party they threw me.) I had grand plans for making up the missing wordcount on Friday, and maybe even pulling ahead. Two things got in my way:

    1) I hit the point at which I had to admit I'm not a pantzer. There were no more scenes, and I had no map. eeks! So, I spent my writing hours yesterday working on plotting and outlining (actually, I spent most of today on that too.)

    2) This is a big weekend for the Columbia Hoop Troop. We are hosting Lara from GA's Super Hoopers. She's in town to offer local hoopers free classes to spread the joy of hooping. Large chunks of yesterday were spent preparing for her arrival and getting the space for the classes ready. But, we had an absolutely amazing turnout! Here is an image I snapped of the beginner class. (You can't even see everyone in this picture.)

    I'm actually headed out to set up for the next hooping class, so (with a little embarrassment) I'm going to splash my wordmeter up here and then run. I'll post for day seven later tonight.

    8193 / 50000 words. 16% done!

    I've been watching your word counts, and you guys are amazing! I'll catch up soon. How was day six for you?

    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    NaNo Day 5: News and a Poll

    Today was my very last day at the day job. It was a hectic one as I ran around trying to anticipate any issues I could preemptively fix, but now it is over. I had a lot of friends I'll miss and I hope to keep contact with. The department threw me an amazing farewell party, and my boss said the sweetest speech. I guess it was kind of like having a funeral--people say all the good stuff--but I was alive to hear it.

    Well, this page of my life has now passed. Tomorrow is my first day as a full time writer. Guess that means I have to write an impressive amount tomorrow. X_X

    In the mean time, I'm entering a contest the brilliant Faith Hunter is hosting, and I'm trying to decide which picture to use. What do you think?

    Photo 1

    Photo 2

    Photo 3

    I hope you are all finding good words today! Write on!

    Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    NaNo Day 4

    It has been a crazy busy day. At work I'm wrapping up everything I can and preparing things to be taken over by the new 'me' (whoever that turns out to be) so I ran around in crisis mode most the day, just trying to keep up. There were errands to take care of at lunch, so I lost my extremely important writing hour. Luckily, there was a write in tonight, and I pumped out some much needed words.

    I would really like to be building a bit of a cushion right now so that I'm ahead when my revision notes hit, but currently, I'm just scrapping by with the minimum daily word count. I can deal with that.

    I'm enjoying this story. Every scene I write leads me to new discoveries about my characters and plot. It is a lot of fun. But, I need to do some research at some point. I keep inserting words like "SHOES" which I intend to replace with a name brand. The thing is, unlike my character, I know absolutely nothing about big name fashion. Anyone out there know anything about designer shoes? Particularly ones that would interest posh and preppy teenage girls?

    After my rather tiring day, I think I'm going to turn in early. Here is my current word count:

    6757 / 50000 words. 14% done!

    Week one is now more than halfway over. How is everyone doing?

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    NaNo Day 3: It's a plot!

    It's day three of NaNo, I'm almost 10% of the way through my word count, and I have now, finally, discovered my plot!

    It's not a complete plot. It's more of a glimmer. A direction. But I'm happy to have it. (That pantzing thing is hard and totally not for me.) So, I am very excited today because I know where my shiny is going (and it's going great places!)

    Obviously it is sill early in the day and there are many more productive writing hours to come, but I'll go ahead and splash up my word meter.

    4476 / 50000 words. 9% done!

    I have hooping tonight. Then I will buckle back in and take this shiny new plot idea for a ride. How is day three treating everyone else? Anyone discover something new about their story today?

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Day 2: Logic in fantasy

    It's day two of Nano, and I'm tripping over the fact this shiny has no prewriting work. World building is one of my favorite parts of writing, and I like to know (at the very least) the basic rules before I release my characters into a brand new story. Not this time. I'm writing blind. It is a fun in an experimental type of way, but writing blind also means my main character has to spend time figuring out what I, as the writer, should already know (which means the words won't last the second draft.)

    Every new idea brings with it a mass of new and interesting questions. Want teenage vampires who are going to grow up to be adult vampires and not stuck at sixteen forever? How does that work? How can an unageing/immortal being age? If a character can walk through a shadow and end up in another shadow, what happens if light is brought to the shadow while he steps through? What type of portal is a shadow? Logic has to come into the answers of world building questions and "Because it's magic" or worse, "Because I'm the writer and I say so" doesn't work for me. The great thing is, while figuring out answers to strange twisty questions, the world not only gets richer, but the possibilities of what the character can encounter tends to get far more complex.

    So, with that in mind, I have decided that since I've reached the word goal for the day, I will spend the rest of the evening world building. Here is my current word meter:

    3771 / 50000 words. 8% done!

    How is everyone's day two going? Any interesting world building questions spring up while writing today?

    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    NaNo Day One

    Day one of NaNoWriMo is finally here and the writing has started! We hosted our first write-in in my region this afternoon, and I have clocked my first 1700 words. The thing is, they are words in the wrong book.

    Yup, you heard that right. Wrong book.

    I had a plan. I had a plot. I even had a logical reason I needed to write what I'd intended. That all went out the window when I opened my laptop today.

    I was supposed to start GW2 today. Instead I'm working on a shiny. My critique partners are ready to kill me, but I managed to convince myself the shiny was the more logical book to write. I know, I know. With six books in my que, there is no real logical reason to write something not contracted. But . . . I haven't received edits for GW1 yet, so major things could change that would possibly reshape the direction of the second book. (It sounded more convincing in my head.) I'm also probably going to get interrupted by two different revision notes this month, so working on something completely unconnected seemed like a good idea. We'll see. It's just one month out of the year, right?

    This should be an interesting NaNo. My shiny is little more than an idea and a single character, so I'm totally pantsing this. So far, so good, but keep your fingers crossed for me.

    The night is not yet over, but I've crossed the official 'nano goal' of the day, so I'm going to go ahead and splash my progress meter on the page. There will hopefully be more words after dinner--or at least some plotting.

    1724 / 50000 words. 3% done!

    So how is everyone else out there doing? How has the first day of NaNo treated you? Did the words flow out like you opened the flood gate when you opened your word processor, or are you struggling into a new story? Anyone's story already take an interesting turn you didn't expect? Anyone else start the wrong story (okay, not 'wrong', but an unplanned one)?

    Good luck and write with abandon! Now, let's see those day one word counts!

    Saturday, October 31, 2009


    For the last few years, Halloween has become 'NaNoWeen' for me. There is still dressing up and giving out candy, but at the stroke of midnight, it is officially November and the writing begins.

    My Co-Ml and I hosted the annual Kick-off party in our region today. We gave out cool (or at least, I thought they were cool) goody-bags and we played several 'games' like draw your inner editor in jail
    (or in some way locked away where he/she can't bother you) and sealed plot ninja gifts (where everyone wrote a plot twist and sealed it in an envelope which were then randomly distributed for Wrimos in their darkest hour of writer's block.) We had a great turn out and a lot of fun. As you can see in the pictures, fellow Tri Mu Tori and NL Berger dressed up with me, but luckily we weren't the only ones (though we did get some interesting looks walking into B&N.)

    Well, midnight is almost here. I can hardly wait! Are all of you out there participating in the challenge with me ready? Get your thinking hats and writing, uh, gloves(?) on. The madness is about to begin!

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    A novel writing challenge: NaNoWriMo and the madness, plus PRIZES

    Every year around this time I start blogging about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and while I am obviously once again blogging about NaNo, I've decided to do something a little different this year. This year, instead of just blogging about how I am doing in the challenge (and it will be a challenging year as I am expecting revision notes for two different books any week now) I want to know how YOU are doing. Oh yeah, and there will be prizes(so read on!)

    For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is a month long challenge where people all over the world attempt to write 50k words during the month of November. If you have ever wanted to write a book, this is a great time and a great challenge to get you noveling. I wrote THE END on my very first novel during NaNo 2005. That novel was ONCE BITTEN, which was released this past January. So, as you can guess, NaNo is a challenge I really believe in.

    Officially, the 'prize' for participating in NaNo is typically a certificate and the satisfaction of reaching the goal. While writing 'THE END' for the first time (or the second, fifth, sixtieth time) is definitely a thrilling reward, I want to sweeten the pot a little for my blog readers.

    Here is what I'm proposing:
    -Everyone who participates on the blog and completes the 50k word challenge during NaNo will be listed in the acknowledgments page of my February release, TWICE DEAD.
    -Of those people, I will pick a randomly generated 'grand prize winner' who will receive Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King as well as a copy of my up coming release.
    -Also, everyone who participates on the blog, regardless of whether they complete the challenge, will be entered to win a copy of TWICE DEAD.
    (I'll decide how many I'm giving away once I see how many people participate.)

    Sound good?

    Here is how you participate:
    I will post a blog entry every day during November. In the comments section of that post, leave a quick message telling how your writing is coming and your current word count. (**Note: if you are reading this anywhere but my Facebook page or my blogspot blog, please bookmark as only responses in these locations will be counted toward the contest.**) Feel free to talk about the triumphs and struggles as we all pound through this challenge, and I would encourage you to cheer each other on. I will comment as often as time allows, but I would love to see an active community grow through this challenge. Also, try to stop by and comment several times a week. Every new day's word count will give you another entry in drawings.

    Easy enough, right? So who will be noveling along side me this NaNo season? I'd love for you to go ahead and introduce yourself in the comments here. The madness is coming, so good luck to everyone who plans to pound out some words!

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Pictures from Moonlight and Magnolias

    This post is late (story of my life) as I returned from Moonlight and Magnolias over a week ago, but hey, better late than never, right?

    Tori Pryer, NL Berger, Cera Daniels, and I attended M&M this year and among the four of us, brought home four requests for partials. As I sold a three book deal (on top of the 5 book deal I already have) a week before the conference, and I am neither suicidal nor a writing machine, I did not pitch. Now, if you're doing the math, that means one of my critique partners brought home multiple requests! (Congrats Cera!)

    We had an absolutely fabulous time at the conference. There were workshops to attend, authors and industry professional's to chat with, a book signing (more on that in a moment), and, of course, the Maggies Award dinner and dance. As you can tell from the photos, I toted my hoop out onto the dance floor and introduced a whole gaggle of romance writers to hoop dancing. A hoop on the dance floor was clearly a first for a lot of people, but it was tons of fun, and several women tried it out. I have to say one thing though, while I am getting better at hooping in strapy heels, I do not recommend hooping in a strapless dress! That was almost a disaster.

    Speaking of firsts, as I briefly mentioned above, I took part in the book signing this year at M&M. Aside from a signing for my college friends, I haven't actually had any signings to date. Talk about being nervous! The room was full of strangers, and there was my name on the wall with a stack of my books on the table. There must have been twenty five authors signing in the room, and Sherrilyn Kenyon's line lasted a full two hours!
    (By the way, on top of being an amazing writer, Sherrilyn is an inspiring speaker. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk, jump on it.) I signed a couple books for people who had already read ONCE BITTEN, which was way cool, and several other people walked by, looked at the cover, flipped it over, and then ended up buying and having me sign it. I think I manged not to shake too much, and I probably owe that to the amazing women who sat on either side of me. It was fun, if nerve wreaking. Someone tell me it gets easier with time? ^_^ (Btw, any one out there have a picture of me from the signing? I didn't think to ask anyone to snap one, but I know several were taken.)

    All and all, my adventures at Moonlight and Magnolia were amazing. It is wonderful little conference that I highly recommend to anyone in the south east. With M&M over, my Convention and Conference circuit for this year is now at an end, but I am already making plans for 2010. I have been asked to be a guest at RavenCon, so I will definitely be there and at Dragon*Con next year. I hope to get a chance to go to more places and meet more people next year, so stay tuned for where I'll be in 2010!

    What are your upcoming con plans?

    Friday, October 09, 2009

    Wish I could blame this on the pain meds, but all they gave me was Novocaine . . .

    Dear Novel,

    I appreciate your wish to remain lodged deeply in my mind and not be torn away, pressed into a manuscript, and then sent out into the world. It warms my heart that you like me so much, you are clinging to the shadows of my subconscious and refuse to be parted from me. That said, you need to take a deep breath, jump into words, and become a book.

    I love you dearly, and because I think you are so 'wonderful', I wish to share you with others. Know that being read by other people will not tarnish you nor will it diminish you in any way. In fact, it is likely to do the opposite. It is my greatest wish that you to grow up to be a bound book people can buy and enjoy.

    So, this is an official letter to inform you that you are being evicted. Understand that it is with greatest love I have made this decision. Now, please proceed in an orderly and climatic fashion down to my fingertips, into the keyboard, and onto the screen. Thank you.

    With love,
    your novelist.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    A writing soundtrack

    (X-posted at the Tri Mu blog.)

    I know I've posted on the topic of music before, but well, I'm a massive consumer of music so I'm going to talk about it again. I'm not a fan silence (unless I'm trying to sleep) so if you run into me, you'll probably find I have wires running from my ipod to my brain ears.

    Now, as a musicwhore consumer of music, it is a bit of an understatement to say I have a large music library. My tastes are diverse and I can get a little itunes happy once in a while, so I'm pretty sure if you hit shuffle on my library the auditory experience will be the equivalent of living inside a schizophrenic's brain. (Side rant: Shake to shuffle is NOT a feature on the ipod nano--it's a menace. Anyone know how to turn it off? /rant)

    Recently I've been on a Darkwave/Industrial kick. I have a manuscript due, uh, tomorrow, and I have a good power mix playing that has been great for this last push of revisions. Here are a list of the bands in the mix:

    The Cruxshadows (of course)
    The Birthday Massacre
    Emilie Autumn
    One-eyed Doll

    So what are you listening to? Do you have a 'soundtrack' for certain activities?

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    More News, More Books

    So things have been really crazy recently, and the last week I've been rather quiet on twitter for fear I would get too excited and say too much, but I can finally release my news.

    I am very happy to announce that I have signed with ROC/ACE for a brand new urban fantasy series!

    The first book in the series (tentatively titled GRAVE WITCH) is about a broke magic-eye for hire whose case with a sexy reaper, a dark cop, and a ghost-silencing killer has more than her rent on the line - it may cost her soul.

    I do not have information about release dates yet, but I promise to post more information as it comes available.

    Happy Tuesday Everyone!

    (Now to go bury myself in revisions again. I have an October 1st deadline I'm racing.)

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Remember to move

    This is a busy time for me. I have deadlines approaching and side writing projects popping up here and there. I've been skipping a lot of activities recently just to stay caught up. A typical day currently consists of spending eight hours at work and then going home and writing for another seven hours. That adds up to a lot of time in a chair.

    Certain things should be self evident, but everyone needs reminding sometimes, and this week, my reminder came from fellow Tri Mu, Tori. She messaged me to see how the writing was going. It was only about nine o'clock, but I was tired and feeling rather worn down. Her question:

    "Have you gotten any exercise recently?"

    No. No I hadn't. I'd skipped hooping all week, and for the most part, I only stood up and stretched when body parts started falling asleep. Under her advice, I took a break, turned the music up loud, grabbed my hoop, and just let go.

    I only left my desk for about fifteen minutes, but I returned energized and ready to write. It really is amazing what getting blood flowing to your brain can do. ^_^

    So, here is my advice for the weekend. Remember to move once in a while. It really does help. ^_^

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Exciting News

    I've dropped hints that I've had news of late, and as I now have a signed contract in my hands, I'm finally ready to share. It is my pleasure to announce that I am being represented by the amazing Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency! She is currently shopping a new series for me, so hopefully I will have more exciting news to share with you soon.

    In other news, I will be speaking at a local high school tomorrow on the importance/joy of reading. This will be a first for me, and I'm very excited. Now to be girly and waste massive amounts of time fretting over what to wear. ^_^

    Switching gears again, I already announced this on the Tri Mu site, but I some how neglected to mention it here (I know, I know, my blog readers are supposed to get news first! Forgive me.) The title for the second book in my Dark Haven series has been approved. It will be called TWICE DEAD and will be released in February 2010. I have seen a mock-up of the cover, and the book is going to be gorgeous. I don't have a cover image I can post yet, but I promise to release the image here first, as soon as I do!

    Okay, that is all the news I have to share today. (Surely that was enough.) I just want to wrap up by saying thank you to everyone who emailed about getting a signed bookmark. They have now all been claimed, but look for more giveaways as the release date of Twice Dead approaches.

    Happy Tuesday everyone!

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Want a signed bookmark?

    I mentioned in an earlier post that if I had any bookmarks left after Dragon*con, I would give away several on the blog. I did hold a couple back, so here is your chance to get a signed bookmark. I'm giving away ten (10) in total, and I'm willing to mail internationally. If you are interested click on the contact link on my webpage and send me a message with who you'd like the bookmark made out to and the shipping address where you'd like it mailed. There are no special rules to this give away, it is just first come first serve until I run out.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    UPDATE: All bookmarks have now been claimed. Thank you everyone who entered. Look for more giveaways as the release of TWICE DEAD approaches.

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    Celebrating World Hoop Day 2009

    While I try to keep this blog focused primarily on my writing, I am diverging today to share my favorite hobby with you. If you follow my twitter feed, you probably know I started hoop dancing about eight months ago.

    Well, today is World Hoop Day and the Columbia Hoop Troop gathered to draw attention to hooping. We had hoped to take hoops to the local children's home, but that plan fell through (and is in the process of being rescheduled on a weekend--World Hoop Day being on a Wednesday was the issue.) Instead, a group of about eight of us showed up at the State House in the middle of downtown, turned on some belly dancing music, and just had fun hooping on the green.

    We got a lot of stares and a couple tourists snapping pictures of us, but we also talked some of the suits walking by to hoop with us. It brought a lot of smiles to faces, and there was a lot of laughter. All and all, it was a great way to spend my lunch hour.

    If you are wondering about the draw of hooping, I can tell you that I hoop for several reasons. For starters, the number of calories you burn per hour is super high. It is a low impact cardio workout that also tones muscles. So Hooping is Healthy.

    Secondly, hooping is a social activity for me. Writing is a time consuming job, but I also work full time and have family obligations. I don't have a lot of spare time to socialize, but I get to see and meet new friends while hooping. We meet for the drum circle once a week, and a second time to practice and learn new tricks, so for me, Hooping is Community.

    This list could go on and on, but I'll wrap up with the fact hooping inspires a childlike joy. You are moving, you are dancing, you are laughing. Your endorphins get going. The hoop hits the ground a lot in the beginning, especially when learning new tricks, but you pick it back up, laugh at your mistake, and try again. You learn new things and cheer at your accomplishments. So, Hooping is Fun.

    We celebrated all these things today and more. We also invited everyone to celebrate with us. As we were packing up, we got a crazy idea to decorate the statue of George Washington with hoops (who knows, when he was alive he might have enjoyed hoop dancing if he'd been given the opportunity.) We snapped a couple pictures, and then broke up, going our separate ways with hoops over our shoulders and smiles on our faces.

    Happy World Hoop Day everyone!