Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How DO you do it?

Every writer has heard the question. "How do you do it? How do you sit down and write a whole book?" Or even better, "I wish I could write a book. I have this great idea..."
Recently it's come out to more of my coworkers that I write. I've never kept it secret, but it's also not something you usually bring up at the latest staff meeting. Still, the question was asked, "How do you find the time?"
Ah, time.
So elusive.
See, here's the thing. I don't know that I FIND time. I MAKE time, certainly, but it's not something I usually run across at the grocery store.
Personally, I blame my upbringing. Mom has never been good at just sitting back and relaxing. She's always felt she needed to be up and about, doing, being productive in order to feel worthy. Okay, you say, so it was modeled to you.
Weeeeelll, not exactly. I also attended a school for 14 years that strongly believed in their motto, "A strong mind, in a strong body." They ran us ragged from early on. Sports, clubs, community service, school name it, they threw it at us. And there was no room for slacking, either. They fostered a healthy edge of competition everywhere you turned.
So what was a girl to do? Learn how to make time, of course. On top of all that was required, there was also the stuff I wanted to do, like reading and writing. I learned to get to school extra early so I could sneak into the computer lab and work on my latest short story. I learned to actually use my study halls to, gasp, study! Then, when I finally got home at 0-dark thirty, I'd be able to crawl on to my bed and read.
These habits have stuck with me to today. It's why I'm able to juggle all that I do. It's also why I have a horrible time actually relaxing. Once summer break comes around, it'll take me about a week or longer to truly accept that I have the entire day to do what I want, when I want.
Despite the drawbacks, the hectic schedule, and the manaical gleam often found in my eyes, I wouldn't have it any other way. I like keeping busy. I enjoy the challenge of balancing it all. Do I wish the balancing act were a little easier? Sure. But it's an important part of what has made me successful to this point. So I guess I'll keep at it.
For now.
Please note, if the contest win from last week isn't claimed by Friday, I'll be posting another opportunity to win Gerri Russell's latest WARRIOR'S LADY.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snowshoe adventures...

This weekend The Boy and I decided to try snowshoeing. I know, I know. We all know how much I hate the cold. But snowshoeing came highly recommended, and I was in the mood for a bit of an adventure. So early Saturday (early for him, not me) we gathered our snow gear and drove east to Snoqualmie Pass.

Once there we checked in, and after a quick jaunt over to the ski area, returned to sit in front of the fire and wait for our guide.

I learned some important things on this little hike.
  • snow shoes are one size fits all...and you better hope you're that size.
  • some people can walk in them, some can run.
  • some can't do either...and you don't want to be behind them on the trek.

sometimes running down the hill is easier than walking.

it is possible for a tree to stay alive, even when lightening and a fire have eaten away the entire core.

  • woodpeckers peck perfect rectangles.

  • you can stay warm while treking through the forest...but once you're done you'll freeze your tuches off.
  • it is possible to change back into jeans from your snow pants, in a car, without anyone seeing.
  • this is a very COLD way to change your pants.

The last thing I learned? I like snowshoeing. Not sure I'd climb a mountain with them on, but I had a lot of fun.

***And now...for the winner of my contest. Genella! Genella, please email me at erin @ with your mailing address and I'll send out your prize. Congratulations!

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine's and a contest...

As a romance writer, I feel it's my job to support all romance-oriented holidays. How can I not enjoy a holiday that's all about the Love?
A good friend pointed out to me that as a child, her father was vehemently opposed to celebrating Valentine's Day, as it is a "Christian/Catholic" holiday (St. Valentine anyone?). Being as they, too, are Jewish he didn't go for it.
This has never been a problem for me, mostly because of the commercialization of the holiday. Let's face it, folks. It's become all about the Hallmark card. The funny thing? I couldn't care less about the gift giving aspect. I just love the idea of an entire day devoted to the very thing I'm basing my writing career Of course, as little as I care about the gift, I do love the card (and I got a wonderful one this year).
So, in honor of Valentine's Day (even if it's a little late), I'm holding a contest. Entering is easy. Just leave a note in the comments section by Sunday at 5pm and you're automatically entered to win a copy of Gerri Russell's Warrior's Lady, the last in her Stones series.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

At what point

Does it become possible you have too many books waiting to be read? Is it when they start to teater on your shelf? Or when they actually fall out? How about when your guy mentions the clutter in your apartment (in a nice way of course), but is pointedly looking at your books?
Or is it simply impossible to have too many waiting to be read?
Valentine's Day brought with it movies and booksignings (and of course, with those signings, more books). The ever fabulous Dona Sarkar, Alexis Morgan, Pat White, Shelli Stevens and Lacy Dane teamed up for a special signing. Of course I couldn't leave without buy one or two...or four.
So many books to read...but which one first?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taking a moment...

So, the other day I decided to finally clean up my home desk and file away some of the many papers that have piled up in the last few months. I go through the process about 4 times a year, which isn't nearly enough, but it's all I can handle. I'd apparently forgotten to file away some of my more recent rejection letters, so that became the first order of business.

And yes, I keep them. Every. Single. One. I figure one day I'll get one welcoming me, instead of rejecting me, and then I'll want to be able to look back on how far I've come. I'm very good at not letting these rejections get to me. Okay, mostly good. Every so often one sneaks in at a vulnerable moment.

And still I keep them.

Today, while filing a few more recent ones, I decided to look back through my collection. Just to remind myself how far I've come.

You know what? I've come a long way. Sure, none of them were welcome letters, but I saw a theme. I'm a good writer. Maybe some agents don't believe I'm great yet, but I've got the start, and I've got the drive, to become even better. That, my friends, is what will get me published down the road.

So sure, I have a stack of rejections. Most writers do. It's how we get better. These rejections are like fuel to the fire. They make me put everything I've got into my story. They make me stronger.

They make me put everything I have into get to "The End."

And one day, I'll get the other letter. The one that says they love my writing, and representing me is their dream come true.

This day will come, and I'll dance in my living room when it does. Until then? I'll keep on writing.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Questions not to ask...

I attended a lovely community brunch this morning, where the author of The Devil Wears Prada was the guest speaker. Once they finished with the community business, the event launched into her speach, which was actually done in a Q&A format.
After listening to a few questions, and feeling my blood pressure rise (Mom confirmed when she told me later, "You started to get red."), I came up with a short, but important, list of questions not to ask a visiting author.
  • Never ask the author what you should send out to an editor or agent, in terms of a proposal. First off, she's in a different position than you. Second, every agent and house is different. Every publishing house, and almost every agent, gladly lists their submission preferences on their website. If there is no website, write to them. Their assistant will let you know their process.
  • If you write Childrens books, don't expect a Romance author (or Chick Lit/Mystery/Thriller/Historical author for that matter) to know your market. That's your job. Almost every genre has some kind of group that will help you learn the ins and outs of your market. Romance Writers of America is a fabulous example. Find them. Join them. Learn.
  • If you're going to ask how they got published, please understand that each case is different. Not everyone can pick up an agent AND an editor with only 100 pages of their very first manuscript completed.
  • Don't ask where they get their ideas. Every author I know hates this question. Even the unpublished writers I know hate this question. There is no grand universal answer to it. We don't go to the store and buy them. We don't have them mailed to our houses on a regular basis. Our ideas come from everyone and everything in our life. You may be the inspiration for our next nosy neighbor. I'm just saying...

So there you have it. My little bit of advice to help you better enjoy your next experience with a published author.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger - Emily Bryan!!

I'm always excited to welcome guests to my blog, and this is no exception. Emily Bryan is a good friend and fellow chapter-mate, though she moved East a few years ago. I interviewed her the other day, and here's what she's had to say.:

EB: I’ve mentioned on my blog tour that I was previously published as Diana Groe, writing my Dark Ages Viking romances, but we haven’t explored it very deeply.

Me: What prompted the switch? Was it the market? A desire to try something new? Your editor or agent?

EB: It was all of those things. I had just finished the manuscript for SILK DREAMS. It’s a harem tale set in 11th century Constantinople and not for the faint of heart. Some of my most complex characters live in that story—most notably Damian, the eunuch spymaster that many of my readers had a love/hate relationship with.

And I killed off a character I really liked. Of course, it had to happen that way. I will not cheat on the needs of the story. But I wept while I did it. I love SILK DREAMS. It’s a “thinking” book, a book that readers have told me stayed with them long after they finished it, but it is not a “safe” story.

I owed Dorchester another book (SILK DREAMS being the first of a two book contract) so I was toying with the idea of trying to write a comedy. I feared it would be like a hippo trying to waltz, but I wanted to give it a go. Artemisia, the artistic duchess in DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, had begun to take shape in my mind. She started whispering her secrets to me.

About then, my editor called.

It seems the American market is not terribly friendly to historicals that aren’t set in Regency England or Scotland and the closest my Vikings ever got to Britain was the monasteries they looted. When I told my editor I was thinking about writing a light-hearted story set in the early Victorian era, I could almost hear her doing back-flips over the phone.

Me: Do you have fun writing in this new voice?

EB: Oh, yes! I wake up each morning wondering what strange situation I’ll put my characters in so I can work in some witty repartee or unexpected twist. As you may know, Erin, I used to sing professionally. I’ve often compared my Diana Groe books to Grand Opera, full of angst and drama. My Emily Bryan titles are more Gilbert & Sullivan . . . with sex! I used to sing both dramatic and comedic roles. Why wouldn’t I write both?

And actually, I’ve combined my Emily and Diana styles in my upcoming release, VEXING THE VISCOUNT. The primary love story between Daisy Drake and her viscount is set in 1731 London, Emily’s playground. The secondary love story between a Caius Meritus, a freedman, and a Celtic slave girl takes place in Roman Britain, 405 AD—pure Diana Groe.

Me: Is it more of a challenge for you?

EB: The biggest challenge is the comedy. It’s much easier to make a reader cry than laugh. Physical humor, the kind we’re used to seeing in sitcoms is hard to make funny on paper.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. In my stagework, the comedic moments required much more rehearsal than the dramatic ones. It’s all about timing. Once I had to sing a duet while running around the stage, timing my movements so I could surprise the audience by leaping out the window at the last moment. I threw myself over the pretend sill to land on a well-placed, if not very thick, pad off-stage.

Another time, I had to throw a pie in someone’s face. This is not as easy as it looks. Choreographing our movements so the event appeared spontaneous, even accidental, required hours of practice. And I was ever so glad to be the “pie-er,” not the “pie-ee.”

So the comedy was a steep learning curve. But I think something must be working with my switch to light-hearted stories. DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS has just been nominated for an RT Reviewers Choice Award!

Me: What was the hardest part about switching subgenres?

EB: I had to research another historical period, but I enjoy that sort of work.

The hardest part is making sure my more serious Diana voice doesn’t sneak into my light-hearted Emily stories. Yes, I still sometimes kill characters off, but in the words of Harry Renquist from TRUE LIES, “Yeah, but they were all BAD!”

Me: Have you ever considered writing contemporary?

EB: Actually, I have written a romantic suspense which is being considered at a major house. The editor loves it and kicked it as far as marketing, where it seems to have stalled. We’ll just have to wait and see. Publishing wheels grind with glacial slowness. Patience is a required character trait for authors.

ME: Does contemporary work well with your voice?

EB: It hasn’t quite sold yet. At the risk of sounding like Sybil, I think I have a third voice that comes out in the contemporary manuscript. Clean, crisp and brief.

Have you ever read Crichton’s EATERS OF THE DEAD? The movie called The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas was based on this story. The tale is told from the POV of Antonio’s Arab character and the voice is entirely different from any of Crichton’s other books.

Like everything else, the author’s voice is an element which must serve the story. That means it is malleable.

What is voice? Word choices? Yes, but it’s more. It’s the unique way the author has chosen to tell the story and I think the nature of the story itself dictates how that happens. Thus, voice is something that changes depending on the needs of the story.

Thanks for letting me visit with your readers, Erin. If any of them would like to try my many voices, I invite them to visit and I’m looking forward to being in Seattle March 10th. I’ll be giving my NEUROTICA workshop about adding comedy to your prose to EASTSIDE RWA! Can’t wait.

Me: Neither can I!

EB: And please leave a comment or question here. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of VEXING THE VISCOUNT to someone who lets me know they’ve stopped by!

**Well, you heard the woman! Leave us a note letting us know you stopped by, and you just might win. And as always, stop back soon.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Things you need to go buy...

  • Your own copy of What Would Emma Do?
  • A tea latte
  • velcro (because it always comes in handy)
  • a copy of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
  • Australian red licorice (because why not?)
  • pretty flowers (preferably not roses)

It's been a long week, and it's only Monday night. Is this is a sign? Should I be concerned? The above listed is prompted by a) things I own that you should too, b) things I want, but don't have currently, and c) one thing I need to go pick up, but I'm too lazy to stop by the store.

Bet you can't guess which are which.