Monday, September 29, 2008

My Freshman Year

As the Emerald City Writers' Conference approaches, I've gotten to thinking about the last conference I attended. My first conference. Last year's Moonlight & Magnolias Conference. (Which I won't be attending this year due to financial constraints and the fact that I now live two thousand miles farther away from Atlanta.) It was a great conference for me, but even more than that, it felt like a beginning of sorts. The beginning of my freshman year as an author, if you will.

This is not to say that I began writing thirteen months ago. Far from it. I scrawled my first attempt in a spiral bound notebook on my best friend's couch when I was thirteen years old. I completed my first book-length manuscript, proving to myself that I could do it, when I was a sophomore in college. The first thing I ever wrote that I deemed worthy of submission went out the door over five years ago. But as important as these accomplishments may have been in my development as a writer, they are only elementary school moments leading up to my career as an author.

I think my freshman year began when I found out I was a finalist in the Maggie contest, my first real writing credit. I finally had something to put in query letters to prove that I was serious about this writing biz! I was in. Ready to matriculate. The Moonlight & Magnolia conference was like the first day of high school.

Do you remember that feeling? Getting lost in the halls. Forgetting your locker combination. Overwhelmed by the enormity of it all and seemingly surrounded on all sides by people who seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where they were going. Those intimidating upperclassmen. That's how I felt at the M&M conference, like a nervous newbie wreck who didn't know anything.

I was a moron. I made mistakes and, being me, I still agonize over them today. Little things. Silly things. (A fellow author complimented me on my dress at the Awards Night and I did not return the favor. I am now neurotically paranoid that this extremely nice and helpful established author remembers me as a complete bitch who hated her dress, which of course I didn't. I was just too tongue-tied to make polite conversation. And now I obsess over my imagined rudeness. I kid you not. This is my brand of neurosis.) (I'm sorry, Alyssa Day! You looked tres hot!)

But my point was not to dwell on how ridiculous and scared I was, but rather to say I am glad I was. How awful if I had just jumped right from junior high to college! Too much success too early is bad for the soul. I needed that nervous freshman year, struggling to find my way. Imagine my dreadful ego if I had been given too much too soon! Such a boost can be so difficult to recover from. I hope the memory of that freshman fear will keep me humble as I become an upperclassman.

I'm not there yet. I'm approaching my sophomore year, but without a book in print and some promo experience under my belt, I don't feel I can legitimately call myself a sophomore yet. I'm certainly not to senior year yet (multi-published! bestsellerdom!) by any stretch, but I'm on my way.

I look forward to my upperclassman days. The cocky, not-entirely-deserved arrogance. Knowing my way around, which teachers I want or don't want, the fastest way to get across the school during passing period... The little things that you almost don't remember learning, but make you feel so much more confident and at ease.

It's been a busy freshman year. I look back on the last thirteen months and my mind boggles at all I've learned. All that has happened. My God, the firsts! First conference. First pitch. First contest final. First "good" rejection. First acceptance (eep!). Signed that first contract. Established my first web presence (and have now referred to said web presence on said web presence in a very time-space-continuum-vortex kind of way). Submitted my first follow-up. Written (and kept to!) my first business plan. Judged my first contest. Cripes, has it ever been a year! And in the middle of all that I wrote two novels & two novellas. Not too shabby for a girl with a full time job, if I do say so myself.

But there will be no resting on laurels! My over-achiever gene has kicked in. I will scale this publishing mountain! Just you watch me. Next year will be bigger, better, and I will push even harder. Starting with my first second conference. (T-minus 11 days and counting!)

I’m truly grateful I was a neurotic nervous wreck of a newbie. I've made mistakes and I’ve learned, and hopefully I’ll never forget where I’ve been. And when I’ve made it to my senior year, when I actually know what the heck I’m talking about, I promise to be nice to the incoming freshman. Wildly famous though I may be (ha ha) and wallowing in my own high opinion of myself, I will read this post and remember what an ignorant fool I once was, and that there is always more to learn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By a Silken Thread by MK Mancos

MK Mancos, another of my TMF Antho partners, has a new book out this week! (Are these ladies prolific or what?) By a Silken Thread is a dynamic page-turner of a paranormal romantic suspense. Read the excerpt on the Samhain Publishing site. Trust me, you will be dying for more.

Two women…linked by one deadly memory.
On an ice-encrusted road in New Jersey, Tara Johanan loses control of her car and drives off an embankment. At the same moment in Palmetto Springs, Florida, in an unwitnessed attack, Charlotte Durand is shot in the head and left for dead.
Both women die. Both return. But near-death experiences are not always straightforward. Tara woke up with the voice and memories of a comatose woman in her head. And she can remember a shooting she never witnessed.
Telling the family a loved one is the victim of a violent crime is the worst part of the job for Detective Marcus Danforth. When his stepsister is the victim, and the loved ones his family and best friend, it’s crippling. He’ll do anything to uncover the mystery of Charlotte’s shooting.
Believing the story of a beautiful accident victim may be too much for him—even in the face of overwhelming desire. Even as the shadows of death grow darker.

Are you not intrigued? Go! Buy! Read!

And let me just say, for the record, how lucky am I to be in such company as MK, Sela Carsen & Misty Evans in Tickle My Fantasy? Pinch me, please.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tools of the Trade

Are you a plotter or a pantser (by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer)? Have you interviewed your characters? Do you know their GMC? Have you written your outline? Constructed your collage? Selected your soundtrack? Do you have a visual representation of your plot in sticky-notes across your desk?

If not, don’t panic. You’re okay. These are not necessary steps to best-sellerdom. They are just tools. They may be good tools for you. Hell, they may be the perfect tools for you, or they may be a one way ticket to disaster.

We writers are creative people. We are not only good at creating worlds and the people who populate them, we are also good at creating systems for the creating of the worlds. At conferences, workshops, and chapter meetings, you’ll hear people swearing by these tools, but that doesn’t mean they are for everyone.

Jennifer Crusie uses collages? My God! I must use collages! Of course, that isn’t how my brain works, so the images I collected lived in a manila folder in my filing cabinet while I wrote, never to be looked at again. Perhaps there was some value in the collecting itself, but I found that the images in my mind were much more dominant than the ones I had shoved into that manila folder. Sometimes an image will set me off – my current screensaver is this spooky looking Victorian house where I am setting my latest ghost book - but collaging for me is just wasted time.

Don’t get obsessed with what other people do to get where they need to go. These tools are options, not requirements. Give it a try, but don’t kick yourself if it’s a dead end. Eventually you will find the system that works for you.

My system involves vectors (everything I need to know about writing I learned in AP Physics), the kernel, percolating, generating, tweaking, occasionally overhauling, talking to myself as I drive around in my car (no, I do not have a blue-tooth, so if you see me driving around the peninsula and I look like I’m talking on an invisible cell phone, I am just crazy. No excuses), swimming, taking long showers, telling my mother how the story is going to end (she always cheats and reads the ending first anyway), and lying on the floor moaning in Italian. All of these things are necessary steps. For me.

Find your own necessary steps. If you don’t have a clue what your process is, I recommend going to workshops, reading how-to books, studying the craft and giving a few different methods a test drive. Or maybe you’re one of those writers who does best without a system. That would terrify me. If I didn’t know what it took for me to write a book, I would never feel confident that I could do it again on command. And unless you want to be a One Book Wonder, you need to be able to do this on command, under a deadline, with distractions and obligations battling for your attention.

So create your system, write like a fiend, and someday a newbie writer will be attending your workshop at the national conference on the tools to make it to the big time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Operation Sheba by Misty Evans

Opearation Sheba, a thrilling new romantic suspense from Misty Evans (one of my Tickle My Fantasy anthology partners! Woohoo!), is available NOW from Samhain Publishing!

Hotshot spies never die. They just slip undercover.
Julia Torrison—codename Sheba—is keeping secrets.
Seventeen months ago she was a CIA superagent, tracking down dangerous terrorists with her partner and lover, Conrad Flynn. A mission was blown, literally, when a bomb Julia built exploded early and Conrad died.
Yanked back to Langley and given a new identity, she is now the Counterterrorism Center’s top analyst, spending her days at CIA headquarters and her nights in the bed of her boss. Her former life as a secret agent has been sealed off. Like her heart.
Conrad Flynn—codename Solomon—has his own secrets. For starters, he’s not dead. Going under the deepest cover possible, he faked his death to save Julia’s life. Now he must tear her life apart and ask her to help him hunt down a traitor: her new love.
Is Con a rogue agent or just a jealous ex-lover? To find out, Julia will have to enter a web of seduction and betrayal to play the spy game of her life using nothing more than her iPod—and her intuition.

Are you madly clicking links to buy it already? Want to read more? You can check out an excerpt at her website, where you can also enter her contest for a free Ipod! Also, check out where Misty is this month's featured author! If you like your action with a twist of intrigue and your spies with attitude, you don't want to miss this one!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jasper, How Do I Love Thee?

The Fourth Bear blew my mind.

I had thought that the Ffordian brilliance of a Rocky Horror Richard III from the Eyre Affair ("WHEN is the winter of our discontent?" "NOW! is the winter of our discontent") could never be matched, but oh, how wrong I was.

Plot-devise twenty-six. Pippa Pepper. The cucumbers, my god, the cucumbers. I was laughing so hard people were staring. (Warning: Reading Jasper Fforde's books in public will cause people to gape at you like you're a lunatic. This is not your fault, the book's fault, or the author's fault. Blame the people who are doing the gaping. They clearly do not have sufficient respect for the glory of the written word. Of course you are laughing. You are reading one of the funniest books in the world.)

Detective Jack Spratt (with his powerful aversion to fat) and his Sergeant Mary Mary (not quite as contrary as you might expect) investigate the mysterious disappearance of a certain golden-locked reporter while the psychotic killer the Gingerbreadman runs and runs as fast as he can out of the maximum security nut-house that has held him since the dastardly cookie (cake?) was first apprehended in this brilliant opus of ridiculous fiction.

And now that I've hyped it up beyond all belief, you won't like it. Isn't that always the way? This is why my dad didn't like Star Wars when he first saw it. Too much hype.

So, if you are planning on reading the book: The second book in the Nursery Crimes series by Jasper Fforde is a distinctly mediocre book. Expect to yawn, but give it a go anyway. It might be somewhat better than your pathetically low expectations.

And if you are not planning on reading the book: What are you thinking? Don't you realize that this is one of the treasures of modern fiction? A masterpiece of the written word? You fool! Go, buy the book! Buy it now! Then read the above notation marked "So, if you are planning on reading the book..."