Saturday, June 27, 2009

A New Conference - Romanticon

I'm really looking forward to attending a brand new conference/convention this year called Romanticon. Romanticon is being hosted by Ellora's Cave and it's open to both writers and readers. It's reasonably priced and will take place October 9-11 2009.

Because EC is an electronic publisher, my interactions with my editor and the EC staff have been conducted completely electronically. It will be wonderful to meet some of the staff who works so hard to get great books out to readers.

I've attended RWA National in the past. It was an interesting experience and I plan to attend the conference in DC this year. My favorite part will undoubtedly be the Passionate Ink Chapter Party. However, I've grown a bit disenchanted with RWA National since they have withdrawn the welcome mat for my publisher, EC and other e-pubs. This year, I'm really excited that a new conference/convention is in the works. Next year, I'll probably attend RT (the Romantic Times Con) and Romanticon.

One of the things I'm most interested in is having the opportunity to meet readers. RT is a con that mixes readers and writers, but I haven't yet attended it (next year for sure). So this will be my first con as an author. Back in the late 1990s, I attended DragonCon in Atlanta, GA which was a total blast. I think this looks like it will be similarly fun. DragonCon has a real party atmosphere and I hope that's what Romanticon will be too.
The other thing I'm excited about is meeting my fellow Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press/The Lotus Circle authors. I've been reading EC books since about 2002 so I'm as much a fan as an author. I so want to meet some of the writers of my favorite EC books. I guess I'm just a fan grrl who writes. LOL

If you're attending Romanticon, please leave a comment so I know who to say "hi" to in October!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A National Virgin

Since we’re talking about conferences this week, I have a confession to make. I’m a RWA National Conference virgin. Yep, never been to the “big one.” Oh, I’ve been to many smaller, regional conferences but this July will be my first foray into the National realm. I hear it can be quite overwhelming so if you see me wondering around looking dazed and confused, please be nice to me.

So where might you find me? Well, I was too slow on the draw to get an editor appointment, so you might find me hovering around the agent/editor check in area hoping to pick one up. I did manage to snag an agent appointment with none other than uber agent Roberta Brown – SQUEEE! But I’m not too nervous about it (yet). I’ve done my share of pitches so I think I can speak for 10 minutes without totally embarrassing myself. Maybe. I hope. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be a quivering puddle by the time my appointment rolls around.

I also plan to hit a few of the Publisher Spotlight sessions. I’ve had the chance to listen to many of them from the conference CDs my chapter purchases each year and they often provide a wealth of information. But it looks like there are lots of good workshops going on too. It’s going to be hard to decide between some of them.

And, if any of you are going to the FF&P Gathering on Thursday night, I’m going to be there with my National co-virgin roommate in tow. I’ve been a member of the FF&P chapter for over two years and have yet to meet anyone face-to-face. I can’t wait to see who’s going to be on the editor/agent panel. It should be a fun night. I’m hearing through the grapevine that there will be a lot of ladies in red in attendance.

Speaking of which, the thing I’m most stressing about is what to wear. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who lives in sweats and t-shirts. Guess I gotta go shopping. Now that’s the thing that terrifies me most!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Working Writing Conferences

National RWA conference is coming up next month, and I thought we could share some conference tips, information and experiences with you this week. I just returned from the Bram Stoker Awards weekend in Burbank, CA, and it was a fantastic con. Originally intended to be an awards ceremony and banquet, the Stokers has expanded to be its own writing con, with workshops, keynote speakers and, yes, pitch sessions.

If you've never been to a writers con or experienced pitch sessions, let me tell you a bit about them. You sign up for the conference and then may have the opportunity to sign up to see a particular editor or agent to whom you get to pitch your book or story, to get feedback and see if they have an interest in seeing what you've written. If you're lucky, you get a business card and a request for the first three chapters or a synopsis or sometimes even the full manuscript. Yay! If you're not so lucky, you'll get a "that's not for us," "what's your next idea," or " sorry, we don't publish that kind of book." Definitely a bummer, but still a good experience to learn how to pitch well.

The Stokers pitch sessions (which I coordinated) included editors from Dorchester/Leisure (Don D'Auria) and Medallion Press (Helen Rosburg and associates), small press editors Brian and Beth Cartwright (Cargo Cult Press) and Larry Roberts and Norman Rubenstein (Blood Letting Press), agents Robert Fleck and Peter Miller, and movie producers Don Murphy and Zac Sanford. We had them booked almost all day for the Saturday pitch sessions, due to the great demand.

I love organizing pitch sessions, and I also gave a workshop the day before on how to approach your pitch session, which we'll try to discuss later in the week. I had a full room and lots of people told me how helpful they found the information - if you're offered such a workshop before your pitch session, GO! The person giving the workshop may be able to give you extra information you might like to know about the person you're meeting with, so it's worth the time.

Anyway, after all that, I had two novels requested, one by each editor, and two screenplays, one by each producer, so I felt like I'd done really well, and I know others had requests as well. If you have the opportunity to do a pitch session, do it. The experience is worth it - if you don't make an a&& of yourself - and you may have material requested by someone you really want to work with.

If you have specific pitch questions, post them here and I'll try to get to them this week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Phyllis A. Whitney Says About Writing

No way around it, Phyllis A.Whitney is a blockbuster author. She has written of more than 40 novels. Novels like “Vermilion,” “Domino,” “The Glass Flame” and “Spin Drift.” (All favorites of mine.)

I remember devouring her books as a teenager. I think I read almost everything she’s written. I loved her exotic settings and plucky characters. She inspired me to seek not only her books, but all of the Gothic novels I could find.

Recently I came across her “Guide to Fiction Writing” and I thought who better to learn from? I’d like to share a sampling of the book’s nuggets.

Header from samulli

1. No one can give you the drive to write. No one can give you the special talent you’ll need. But talent can be developed from its early raw state and helped to grow.
2. We need never be afraid of so-called “rules.” They aren’t set in concrete, but only serve as guidelines.
3. Opportunity is like a train. You who may be just beginning, remember: What you do now counts. Never mind the rejections, the discouragement, the voices of ridicule (there can be those, too). Work and wait and learn, and the train will come by. If you give up, you’ll never have the chance to climb aboard.
4. As a writer, you are your own boss, and working discipline is the most important habit of all to develop. Every beginning writer, and sometimes experienced ones, suffer from the temptation Not to Write.
5. These days in my writing I try to offer, as a “plus factor,” something unusual in the way of background or profession, and something significant in what my characters must learn in the course of the story—always remembering that reading fiction should be entertaining, and that I must first tell a good story.
6. Your plus factor can be anything that will add dimension, a “certain something” to your writing. It’s that “certain something” that every editor is looking for.
7 To 10. In her advice on how to ward off writer’s block and keep the creative juices flowing, Phyllis Whitney recommends these 3 practices:
a. Put raw material into your mind. Ask questions.
b. Give yourself time for this to be “processed.”
c. Examine what has come into your mind; find the answers.
11. Probably the best way to start any story, long or short, is to show a character with a problem doing something interesting.
12. No scene should remain static, without movement or action. However small it might be, possibly even as simple as people sitting in a room conversing. There should be movement of plot, even if not of people, and a furthering of, or setback to, the character’s present problem.
13. The best way for me to handle a scene is to visualize it as if it were taking place on a stage.

Phyllis has a lot more to say about writing, including more tips and more words of encouragement. If you’re a fan or you’re looking for advice about your writing, I recommend this book. I’ve found it -- as well as many of her other books -- on or at my local library.
In closing, I ask this question: Do you have a favorite Whitney novel? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A UFO in My Own Backyard

This phenomenon occurred over the weekend at the Kings Dominion Amusement Park just 45 minutes from my home. It made the news and is all over the internet. Check out this video on Youtube and tell me what you think:

Is it space aliens? Are they making crop circles in the sky now? A possessed cloud formation? Or a smoke ring from the Volcano Blast Coaster? You be the judge.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Reading and library use

As many of you know, when I'm not writing paranormal romance I'm a librarian. As of June 2, the summer reading program at the library is underway and I have to say...I'm exhausted. I can't even imagine what the youth services librarian feels like!

As soon as school let out, the library has been a zoo! I don't mean hunky shapeshifters running around with their perfect six-pack abs on display. No, if THAT was the case I wouldn't be commenting at all. I'd be keeping the loveliness all to myself and not sharing with anybody.

No, the library is a zoo because everyone seems to be at the library. For EVERYTHING! Our internet stations are almost always booked, the children's section is all higgledy-piggledy with books everywhere. I'm being asking tons of reference questions daily and our circulation numbers are probably through the roof - certainly our reference numbers are!

Yes, I'm whining. Actually, this increased use is a good thing. In fact, my library isn't the only one to experience this surge in use. How do I know? Matt Lauer and the Today Show did a BIG segment on this very issue. I was really surprised by the very positive tone of this report, so I thought I'd share it with all of you.

So even though I'm tired, I'm really glad the people in my town use the library. We're all really proud of the services we provide. Free internet. Free book, DVD, CD book check out and more. It amazes me when people don't realize how important their library is...until it cuts back services or is forced to close altogether.

So remember that when someone standing next to you is shouting "Down with taxes." They are also saying a lot of stuff they may not realize they're saying. Like: let's close libraries. Let's cut back our police and fire service. Let's have potholes. Let's close parks or pools. And this year in my town it also means, let's NOT have fireworks for the 4th of July.

I don't like taxes anymore than the next guy/gal, but I always remember that the reason I pay them is to provide those desperately needed services to the community. (Okay we don't need fireworks - but it's really lame not to have them so I think you get what I mean here.)

Okay, this post about summer reading started out as a whine and ended as a rant. Give me a break, it's Saturday. Pay your local library a visit and check out a book or a movie today. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

13 Quotes That Celebrate Summer

Yes, I know most people mark the beginning of summer at Memorial Day, even though the calendar insists it’s officially June 21st. But for me, as a teacher and a mom, it begins the afternoon of the day school lets out. Squeee! That’s only a few days away.
In celebration of summer, I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes about this much-awaited season.
Header from samulli

1. (We’ll start with a bit of humor.) Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work 13 times an hour, she can hurt you. --Erma Bombeck
2. Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer`s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, this is by no means a waste of time. --John Lubbock
3. Then follows that beautiful season: summer.... Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscapelay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood. -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
4. Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all is right with the world. -- Ada Louise Huxtable
5. The summer night is like a perfection of thought. --Wallace Stevens
6. A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. --James Dent
7. If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance. --Bern Williams
8. Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains. - - Diane Ackerman
9. People take pictures of the summer. Just in case someone thought they had missed it. And to prove that it really existed. –- Ray Davis
10. Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more? -- Bev Adams
11. People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy. --Anton Chekhov
12. Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. -- -Henry James
13. In summer, the song sings itself. -- William Carlos Williams

Are you eager to plunge into summer ? Do you have a favorite summer quote? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Agents Go Green

Last Monday, I talked about how technology has freed up the writer so that we are no longer chained to our office desks. And part of that technology (email) has also allowed the publishing industry to embrace this freedom and I’m all for that from an environmental and cost standpoint. Nowadays, many agents have gone green. Most are now accepting queries (and sometimes partials) via email. I should know. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks sending them out by the droves – 27 queries to date, 20 of them via email.

After checking each agent’s web site (if they had one, if not I used Agent Query, Query Tracker, or Lit Match) for their submission guidelines, I found 13 of them allowed me to bypass the query stage and either attach a partial or -- for most -- paste a sample chapter and the synopsis within the body of the email. No more printing, no more SASEs, no more lugging overstuffed envelopes to the post office, no more costly postage! I was zinging emails out all day long.

A plus side has been that it seems to have enabled agents to reply faster. I definitely never got such quick responses when I was shopping my last manuscript around several years ago. The down side is they can zing those form rejections back pretty darn quick too. The record so far is 26 minutes for one. But I’ve also gotten requests just as fast – 4 so far, 3 for fulls, and (you guessed it) they wanted the manuscript emailed to them as an attachment. Yeah! We saved at least a dozen trees right there.

So thumbs up to all you agents out there for going green. We authors and the environment thank you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Small Press Education

In the Romance Writers Report (the magazine published for members of RWA), it is traditional for each issue to begin with a letter from the president, at current Diane Pershing. As an RWA member for the past 9 years, I try to read my RWR cover to cover, or at least give each article a couple of paragraphs to snag my interest.

With the rise of small presses and electronic publishing--and the struggles of mainstream publishers as their audience is increasingly drawn to less literate sources of entertainment--RWA has been in a state of flux for years. Hell, it's probably been in a state of flux since its inception. That's just the nature of the beast. The publishing world is changing, and it's difficult enough for authors to keep up with everything they need to know with contracts, rights, genres, technology, etc, much less a group of nearly 10,000 of them.

But we try. We try to educate ourselves, stay abreast of trends and traditions. Professional publications like the RWR help. The internet helps. Conversing with peers and other industry professionals helps. Every little bit helps. RWA's mission is to advance "the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy," and in the June RWR, Ms. Pershing admits that "while strides have been made in how RWA delivers information to its members, it still needs work."

Why is Ms. Pershing concerned? Because she has found ample evidence that "too many RWA members are not informed enough about the business of writing."

Oh noes! That is, indeed, a huge concern. Information is key, and accurate information can make or break a career. So what is this ample evidence? How is RWA failing us, its dues paying members? Well, let me quote the source to avoid any discoloration that paraphrasing might lend it. I will, however, bold the particular area I want to discuss afterwards.

"Yes, we have articles in the RWR, information on the Web site, online classes offered by chapters, seminars at conferences, PRO loops, and PAN loops..., but it's not enough. If it were, a member would not sign a contract first and inquire about that publisher afterwards; a member would not sign with an agency that charges a "reading" fee; a member would fully understand the ramifications of signing with an agent whose contract stipulates that the agent has a perpetual claim on all earnings that derive from the book. A member would not sign a contract for a book she's spent 10 years on for no upfront money and very little chance of earning any, just so she can say she is "published" (June 2009 RWR, Page 2).

So, according to Ms. Pershing -- who can read the minds of small press authors and know why they did what they did -- signing a contract with a company like Ellora's Cave, Samhain Publishing or any number of thriving small romance publishers is akin to signing with an agent who charges a reading fee. It's that stupid, that misguided. The fact that RWA members still sign with small publishers means RWA has failed to educate us.

If only RWA had taught me that when the 7 publishers in New York who handle my subgenre reject my novel, it means the book sucks and should be stuffed under my bed, to hide its papery little head in shame for its failure to fit in with the popular crowd. But RWA didn't teach me that, so in my sublime "ignorance" I contracted several pieces of fiction with Red Sage and Samhain. Now I have money, awards and experience to show for my efforts instead of a bunch of shameful scrap paper.

If only RWA had taught me...if only I had learned! I could be NOWHERE right now instead of somewhere, on my way somewhere even better.

If only RWA had taught authors like Linnea Sinclair, Anya Bast, Lora Leigh, Megan Hart, Cheyenne McCray, MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, Cynthia Eden, Larissa Ione, and so many, many others never to "settle" for those borderline criminal small publishers, especially ones that don't offer a proper ($1000 whole dollars!!) advance, then I guess the only thing on the shelves right now would still be Regency Historicals, Chick Lit and Romantic Suspense...all of which I love, but I love a lot of the aforementioned authors, too.

If only RWA had educated them properly. If only they had known! They could be NOWHERE right now, too, instead of on bestseller lists.

But I am sorry to tell you this, anyone who continues to cling to the misconception that the only legitimate or serious path to a writing career is to hold out for the NY the only legitimate or serious path to an acting career is to hold out for Broadway or a Hollywood blockbuster. The cat's out of the bag. The story's out of the mold. The knowledge has already been leaked. There are as many workable avenues to a satisfactory writing career as there are writers.

There are also stupid, bonehead mistakes writers make, too, which could have been prevented with a little research. So I do admire Ms. Pershing's hope that RWA can share information with its membership about certain pitfalls. But a small press, even one that doesn't currently pay an advance, isn't automatically one of them.

Perhaps a better course of action might be to educate members *about* small publishers instead of *away* from them.

Also see:


Jody W. *

Monday, June 1, 2009

Writing On The Go

When most people think of a writer at work on the next great American novel, they think of a dark, cozy study filled with shelves of books, a big oak desk, worn leather chairs and maybe even an old-fashioned typewriter tapping away in the silence of the night. Not me. Right now, I’m sitting in the customer lounge area of my local Honda dealership waiting on my rejected van to be repaired. Thank heavens for free Wi-Fi.

The era of laptops and wireless internet has changed the life of the writer. No longer are we chained to a clunky old typewriter with an ink ribbon that smears and whiteout to blot away our mistakes. We can write just about anywhere we want or need to. I’ve been known to escape to the library, the park, the ever favorite Starbucks or Panera Bread, or whip out my Alphasmart by the pool. I’ve created characters while waiting for my turn in the dentist chair and written a hot love scene on the 6 hour drive to the beach while the kids were occupied watching movies (Hurray for portable DVD players! and no, I wasn’t driving. *G*)

As 21st century writers, we can be creative just about anywhere. And sometimes, a change of scenery is what we really need. Just getting away from the office, study, kitchen table or wherever it is we choose to write can do wonders for inspiration and productivity. See, I just wrote 250 words in less than 10 minutes. Imagine what I could do if I did this every day on my manuscript? Hmmm, not a bad idea. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try working on that sword fight scene at McDonalds. *G*