Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cass Gets Her Kicks: What Was I Thinking?

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." - Toni Morrison

That was basically the idea behind Cass Gets Her Kicks. I wanted something to read that wouldn't take me long, would be entirely self-contained, and wouldn't require any thought on my part. In fact, I specifically needed something I could read in half an hour on my Kindle.

Searching Amazon proved fruitless. I had a few titles by Delilah Devlin, but they were too long. (She is a fantastic smut writer, so I did stick it out several times for her work.)

On top of that, I had a story germinating in my head that featured a mechanic from Kansas, a crappy motel room, and Magic Fingers.

So I wrote.

I admit that I focused on the stories so intently partly to get that first release out of the way. It's kind of terrifying doing something big for the first time like that, and Cass was safe. I knew--I know--I can write smut. I've won peer-voted awards for it. I like it, I'm decent at it, I'm comfortable with it. Young adult paranormal fantasy is a bit out of my comfort zone, and while I'm all for pushing the boundaries of that comfort zone in my writing, I felt like I should do something I know I can do for my first time out.

It was something I wanted to read. If I wanted to read it, chances were that someone else wanted to read it, too.

Cass will be a recurring character for me. I already have ideas for her when she gets to California--that girl has a lot of experimenting to do. And I have a lot of new things to explore with her... and whoever else she encounters.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Writing: Won't Someone Think Of The Letters?!

Language is constantly changing. Old words that are no longer useful or fashionable drop from the language, new ones are added, and then we make more up. Spoken language and informal language directly influence formal language. Still, there are some poor, abused letters that end up strung together to create not-words or, worse, to help people who don't pay attention misuse perfectly good words.

A bastardization of the phrase "all right," this one-word spelling is very common and, these days, seems to be widely accepted. It makes me cringe. Even an attractive, talented man can't make me like this word.

Hyperbole and a Half has a fantastic post on this word-as-a-thing. This is not a word. It is two words. I distinctly remember devoting an entire week of spelling lessons to this not-word. There aren't even any results for this at!

Apart (as in, "apart of something great")
Like alot, this word is a commonly-mashed-together not-word. Apart is a real word. It just doesn't mean what people seem to think it means. "Apart" is separate and "a part" is a piece. When you speak, "a part of something great" sounds very much like "apart of something great," so it's pretty easy to see why it ends up written the way it is. This (and the next entry) wouldn't be a problem if the people who make this mistake would simply stop and think about what they're trying to say.

Of for Have (as in, "should of," "could of," "would of")
Yet another victim of spoken language, "of" used in place of the contracted "have" has become far too common. Should have, could have, would have. Should've, could've, would've. "I should of gone to the concert" makes absolutely no sense, but when you say, "I should've gone to the concert" aloud, they sound very much alike. Just looking at the first part of that last sentence makes my skin crawl.

Ir- and -less are both negative, which--according to the double negative rule of English--means that the prefix and the suffix cancel each other out. What this word essentially means is "in regards to" and I have not heard or read this word used in a context that implied "in regards to" was the intended meaning.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Miscellany

It was 94 degrees here last week, and this week, it's hovering around the 60 degree mark. It's fabulous. The kid has so many cute pajamas and we took her shopping for new cooler-weather clothes this weekend. Another bonus of the colder weather: baking! I made two separate batches of cupcakes (I use this recipe for chocolate cupcakes, and I add about half a teaspoon of lemon extract to bring out the flavors of everything; you can also use lemon zest). Cold-weather food is also on the menu. We're having meatloaf for dinner tonight, and I think I'm making lemon-herb roast chicken for dinner tomorrow night.

If Facebook wasn't such a necessary social networking tool, I would get rid of my personal account and my author page. Every time they "improve" things, my privacy settings end up altered and I have to waste half an hour of my precious time fixing those settings. I am not one of those people with hundreds or thousands of friends. In fact, I have 42 friends--and 27 of them are my in-laws or friends of my husband. I use my personal account for keeping up with loved ones and sharing pictures of my daughter. If I believed my family and friends would check their email regularly, I would switch to a mailing list.

Late last week, I started reading Amelia James' blog. You should, too. She's clever and funny and she writes pretty sexy stuff. I enjoyed her post about balancing writing and family life. It made me think. Our kids are about the same age, it seems. I tend to write while the kid is asleep--she's napping right now, actually--but my little one likes her alone time, and several times a day, she deliberately separates herself from me to do something she likes. (Usually, she pretends to read a book or she plays with one of her larger interactive toys. Sometimes she just sits at the back door and watches the trees outside.) I use that time, too. If I'm all caught up on my housework, I write or cook or read. Things can get kind of tense if I feel like I'm on a deadline and she's being unusually needy, but for the most part, she and I work well together. It doesn't hurt that I keep my sense of humor about things ("Do you want to go to college? Then let Mom write!") and that I have no problem parking her butt in her swing, jumperoo, or in front of her favorite movie for half an hour while I get things done. I'm fortunate enough to be a stat-at-home-parent and part of the point of me staying home was to get my writing career off the ground. It's slow going, but then I knew it would be.

This week's blog posts are probably going to cover the subjects of words that are not words, what I was thinking when I wrote Cass, and why I don't think self-publishing is career suicide. Those are the posts I'm going to shoot for finishing, at least. That last one about self-publishing was inspired by an email I received from a local milspouse who claims that no publisher is going to take me seriously now that I've self-published. It was also sort of inspired by this post by Ciara Ballintyne.

I checked my Distribution Channel Manager over at Smashwords this weekend, and it looks like Cass Gets Her Kicks should be showing up at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Diesel in the next couple of weeks. I'll keep you updated.

However, if you've made it all the way through this post and you're interested in reading my first release right now, drop me a comment here or send me an email at ldotleonadavisatgmaildotcom and I'll send you a coupon code to download a free copy from Smashwords.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blog Roundup: August 22 - 28, 2011

Chuck Wendig made another "25 Things" post, this one about what writers should know about social media. Read it. Absorb it. Use what you need. (Especially relevant is this: "People want to follow other people." So, you know, be a person.) Also, he used the word "behooves."

Amanda Hocking made a good post about bullying. Let me say, first of all, that bullying as a pet cause annoys the hell out of me. I'm jaded by all of the anti-bullying chain status updates on Facebook, though. I do think that the Internet has revolutionized bullying and I think it's worth educating yourself, especially if you have kids. I also think it's important to take a personal stand against bullies, no matter how non-confrontational you are.

James Killick posted about rejection and why it has to hurt. The quote about writing being easy, just sit down and "open a vein" came to mind when I read it. In real life, I'm pretty stoic and reserved. This has come from a lifetime of extreme emotional ups and downs. When it comes to my writing, I'm broody, moody, emotional, and deathly afraid of rejection and negativity. None of that stops me. I guess I'm also stubborn and determined.

This week, I discovered a blog dedicated entirely to ideas for promoting your book for free. It has been a couple of weeks since the last update, but the ideas there seem like good ones. In any case, it certainly can't hurt to check it out and see if there are any ideas you can implement.

You should be reading Sirra's blog. This week's post was about voice in writing, but it's worth going back to read her post about douchesm in promotion, too--the comments exploded in a snarkfest of hilarity.

Stella Deleuze posted about conflict in a novel, which was helpful to me because it's something I struggle with. Remember how I mentioned I'm a non-confrontational person? And how I tend toward the stoic and reserved? I don't "get" confrontation and high emotion, so it's something I don't feel I write well. The other kinds of conflict she discusses, more internal conflict, make more sense to me, but those sorts of conflict are difficult to convey effectively. I think it's worth identifying them and working on them. She also posted about how to annoy your social network contacts. Especially if you're new to this game of self-promotion, check out the post. Read it in conjunction with Sirra's post above. Learn what not to do.

It looks like this was the week to learn about how to use social media for professional purposes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SitRep Saturday: The Cowboy Next Door

This week, I finished the first draft and started editing. At the end of the draft, it was 14,688 words. It currently sits at 14,693, but I'm only on the first page. Things can change.

I've decided to add a "bonus" chapter. The main relationship is so charged that I thought it could use some couple time. Plus, I really enjoy the hero and I'd like to see him get what he wants.

The layout of the book is basically designed, from chapter headings to summary to acknowledgments. I plan to include an excerpt of Cass Gets Her Kicks.

And, finally, last night, I designed the book cover. Weeks of searching Dreamstime finally paid off, and I found the perfect cover image.

Yes, that image is relevant. (It's my favorite scene, actually.) Does it make you laugh? It makes me laugh.

So! That's what I've been up to this week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Self-Publishing: Judge Me By My Cover, Do You?

We've all heard that old idiom. You know the one. The fact is that books are judged by their covers, and now, with bookselling happening online, books are judged by thumbnail-sized digital images representing what may or may not be an actual cover. 

You need a great cover. You can't just skate by on your superior writing skills. No one is going to click on your link if your cover doesn't catch their attention. Ideally, you'll hire a professional cover designer. (Might I suggest my friend Kelsey and her company?) But what if you can't afford them? What if you decide to DIY your book cover? I have some tips for you. 

Look at covers for similar books. 
Go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and check out the top ten best-selling books in whatever genre your book is. Look at the book covers as thumbnails and as full-size images. What do you like? What grabs you? What don't you like? I recently spent some time on Harlequin's website looking at Blaze book covers, since the story I'm currently working on has the same sort of feel as those books. You can do the same at other publishers' websites.

Read graphic design and book cover review blogs. 
If you're not visually inclined, reading graphic design blogs can be daunting. Those wacky artists talk about all sorts of things I don't really understand. Read them anyway. It's the same as any other research; Google any terms you don't understand. You will eventually absorb some information and figure out how to use what you learn. As for book cover review blogs, I like Your Cover Uncovered, even though it's relatively new. 

How-to guides on graphic design are good for you.
Read about things like how color affects people and which fonts are a bad idea. Watch things like how to design a book cover. I'm not saying be a copycat. I'm saying learn something. 

Download free photo editing software.
I use Photoscape. It's not as sophisticated as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, but it's pretty good. I've heard good things about Picasa, too. (My father is a photographer and he uses Picasa when he's away from Photoshop.) After you download it, play with it. A lot. Watch tutorials. Share what you create with people who will give you their opinions, and listen to those opinions. Get better.

Use royalty-free images.
Back when I was designing the cover for Cass, I Googled "free royalty free images." (I ended up creating the neon heart shape on my own. Please don't ask me how, it was a fluke and I doubt I could ever recreate it.) I ended up finding Dreamstime, a website with an enormous free stock image library. Their prices are reasonable ($10 per image seems to be industry standard); I may actually end up buying an image for the next book cover. Just be sure you read the terms of service. At Dreamstime, you can use free images for up to 10,000 sales, and paid images for 500,000 sales; online use is unlimited. Don't forget to give credit where credit is due on your copyright page.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Writing: When You Can't Call Everyone "Darling"

I hate naming my characters. There. I said it. For many years, I refused to name them, and I stuck with the pronouns only. Then I started writing homoerotica, and names became necessary because more than one "he" and if you're not careful, you have one guy doing all sorts of dirty things to himself. Some of those things are physically impossible.

But I digress.

Now that I name my characters regularly, I still hate it, but I have a few ways of going about it that make the process easier. I believe you should give thought to your character names, but I also believe--especially in fiction based in the real world--that the names should make sense. Conservative, wealthy parents from New England aren't going to name their daughter Rainbow Moonbeam, and die-hard Secessionists from the South aren't going to name their oldest son after the bastard who burned Atlanta to the ground. There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule, and true life is much stranger than fiction, but I think you get my point.

So here's what I do.

Visit the Social Security Administration website.
The SSA has a site dedicated to baby names. What I do is determine the year my character was born, and then I search "popular names by birth year." I try to pick a name from the top 1000. By doing this, I give my character an extra dimension of realism. Her parents were fully grounded in reality. Plus, it makes naming characters so much easier.

Let the characters name themselves.
It's a bit like letting a child name itself, but sometimes, it works. In Strawberry Moon, the main characters were originally named Lydia and Elaine, but it just wasn't working. When I sort of gave over to the muse and just started typing, they named themselves Jessica and Amy. I wouldn't have chosen these names on my own because of real-world connections to a Jessica and an Amy, but the names work, it's unlikely the women my husband knows will ever read the book, and so I'm going with it.

Consider the character's parents.
I mentioned the conservative New England parents and the die-hard Southern parents. Think about the character's origins, where she came from, who would have named her. What were her parents thinking? What did they hope to accomplish with her name? Parents generally put a lot of thought into their child's name. And some don't, which says something about their character.

Use what sounds good.
I confess: Cass got her name because it sounded good. It's a good sex name: one syllable, easy to say in the heat of passion. It sort of embodies the character and her story. Her name is short, it sounds like "sassy," it even has the vulgar word for buttocks in it, and if you've read the book, you know that kind of figures into her thinking. The current character I'm writing, Lilah, got her name in a similar fashion. It just sounds good. I like the way it rises and falls, I like that it flows nicely with her middle name and her last name, and I like that her parents chose an old-fashioned, Biblical name for her but shortened it to something more modern and flower-like.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Miscellany: Why I'll Be MIA Tomorrow

First, I'm a thousand words into the second chapter of The Cowboy Next Door. The first chapter has been drafted and comes in at just over 4,000 words, so I think the chances are good that this story will be about 15,000 words. Not bad.

I also did a very rough action-draft of the first part of the book on self-publishing I plan to work on next. I wouldn't normally start a second project like that, but it was nagging me, so I gave in.

Tomorrow, my daughter turns a year old. I know, right? I can't believe it has already been a year. This morning, we took her out so she could pick out gifts with the birthday money her great-grandmother sent her (she chose a toy espresso machine, a toy laptop, and a plastic foam dinosaur) and it was only when she laid down for a nap that I realized I haven't done anything that I normally do today. You know. Blogging, tweeting, checking Smashwords and Amazon... So it occurs to me that I will probably be MIA from social networking for the next day, maybe even two. We have a lot of playing to do.

With the weather here in Germany being so, um, unpredictable, I'm not ruling out much of the next few days being spent at the pool. We went all summer with relatively cool days and lots of rain, but the last few days have been hot and icky. I'm so glad the pool in Kaiserslautern is so nice.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blog Roundup: August 15 - 21, 2011

I love this post from Amanda Hocking. I think it's important to have these sort of re-realizations sometimes. I also love this post, because it's such a totally exciting thing that her books are getting new covers.

I am not exactly sure what Ms. Charbonneau is getting at in this post. Not only did I not notice Amazon doing the rounding-up (which I guess is the point), but I also can't find evidence of it on the site (but maybe I just am not looking in the correct place). I understand her skepticism, but I'm just not that skeptical.

James Killick blogged on why you should give up writing right now. I'm still not deterred.

Keystrokes & Word Counts came through yet again with two great posts this week. One on social networking and not over-extending yourself and one on not feeding the trolls. If you click on no other links, click on that one.

Don't be a douche. Listen to Sirra.

Stella Deleuze blogged about creating believable scenes. Think about what you write. Even if a scene is science fiction or fantasy, I don't think it hurts to act it out and make sure that it makes sense.

The Bookshelf Muse has a post on impulsive as a character trait this week. I think I'm writing a character who could be described as impulsive...

Your Cover Uncovered took on a new book cover. I love this blog for the explanations behind the writer's opinion. I wish it was updated more frequently simply because I'm not very graphically inclined and this is such a great blog. (Yes, I'm being selfish.)

Chuck Wendig posted about the bare-bones secret menu of writing advice. I think all of his advice is pretty sound (or it makes me laugh, whatever), but this really strips it down. Also, I think I want animal fries now.

Wow. It looks like it was kind of a light week for blogging.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SitRep Saturday: Cass Gets Her Kicks and Announcing The Cowboy Next Door

Cass Gets Her Kicks is for sale at Smashwords and at Amazon. It has been accepted into the premium catalog for distribution at Smashwords, so it'll be available at B&N, Sony, and Apple in the next two weeks or so. The first story, "Galena, KS," is available on the website as a sneak peek and the first 35% of the book is free to preview at Smashwords.

This week, I outlined and action-drafted the next project, a romance novella set in a fictional town in Colorado, starring a Navy widow and a cowboy. The working title is currently The Cowboy Next Door. I'm shooting for a wordcount of 15,000 - 20,000 and I think I can make it, but we'll see how it goes. My hope is to have the whole thing drafted by the end of this week. I started the first chapter last night and got about 200 words in before I decided that I should go to bed early.

I've already been looking at possible cover images, but I haven't found anything that just calls to me the way Cass's pink-and-black image did.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Science Fiction Books Worth Reading Right Now

If you've read my blog or Twitter, you probably realize that I like science fiction. Star Wars. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I may even have mentioned Star Trek, I'm not sure. So today, I'm going to share a list of some of my favorite science fiction books.

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe, and Everything, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless are the five books that make up Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide "trilogy." I read these books for the first time when I was about twelve, and I nearly died laughing. I own so many copies of these books, and I have owned even more since I first read them. These books. They are so funny. Seriously. If you haven't read the, go pick them up at the library or buy them or something and read them immediately. Go on. I'll wait. Then come back here and tell me how you died laughing.

2. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

These two go together because they tell the same story from two different points of view with two different backstories. In Ender's Game, we meet and follow Ender Wiggin, the hero of the war against the Formics. He's a child selected for military training and, in the end, proves to be the military genius the international fleet was hoping for. In Ender's Shadow, we meet Bean, a street urchin from Rotterdam who is recruited into the Battle School and basically becomes Ender's right hand man. Each book stands alone as a brilliant piece of hard military science fiction, but the fact that they star children makes them, I think, far more thought-provoking than they would be if Ender and Bean were a couple of twenty-something Navy officers. We think of war as an adult thing, but here the Battle School exists to train very young children to do adult work. If you read none of the other books in the Ender series, these two are must-reads.

3. Heris Serrano trilogy by Elizabeth Moon

Heris Serrano probably deserves a post all to herself. At the very least, I should have included her in my Heroines post. She's strong, brave, competent, and a total badass. I discovered Elizabeth Moon's work when I was seriously considering joining the Navy, and I admired Captain Serrano for her leadership skills. She stars in Hunting Party, Sporting Chance, and Winning Colors, first as a disgraced officer from the Regular Space Service of the Familias Regnant hired on to command a rich old lady's personal yacht, then continuing in that role as she and Lady Cecelia foil various political plots, and finally as a restored commanding officer in the Fleet. The books are full of military action, political action, and fabulous character development.

4. Esmay Suiza trilogy by Elizabeth Moon

Once a Hero slightly overlaps Winning Colors, but focuses on Esmay Suiza, a junior officer in the RSS. Whereas Heris is an established adult, we actually get to watch Esmay grow up. Esmay's books--Once a Hero, Rules of Engagement, Change of Command--focus more on RSS military action, on the development of Esmay as a command officer, and on her character development. There aren't a lot of horses in this trilogy. I loved watching Esmay come into her own, and, of course, Elizabeth Moon's space navy action is second to none. As a bonus, check out Against the Odds, which is the seventh book in the Familias Regnant series.

5. Star Wars: X-Wing books by Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston

I still remember the exact moment I became a Star Wars fan. We rented the first movie in the summer of 1997 because my dad wanted me to see the original films before he took me to see the re-release. It was the Battle of Yavin, and Garven Dreis (Red Leader) said, "Lock S-foils in attack position." The X-wings opened up and I was hooked. The series contains nine books and a tenth one is due out next year. Rogue Squadron, Wedge's Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War, and Isard's Revenge (book eight, not five) were all written by Mike Stackpole, an astonishingly talented technical writer. Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, Solo Command, and Starfighters of Adumar were all written by Aaron Allston, a writer I always imagine to be the bastard child of Mike Stackpole and Douglas Adams. They're a fantastic introduction to the Star Wars expanded universe even though they don't focus on the main characters of Luke, Leia, and Han. They're technically sound, full of compelling characters, and even if none of that is worth checking them out to you, Aaron Allston's humor should be.

6. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Jules Verne is probably my favorite science fiction author. Journey to the Center of the Earth is a prime example of why. It's fun, it's adventurous, it's interesting, it's everything I like my science fiction to be and it places an emphasis on science. The thing about his books, though, is that you have to be careful. There are some crappy translated versions out there, and a bad translation can ruin your whole read.

7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

At one point, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I loved Journey to the Center of the Earth, so I figured that a book about a submarine should be right up my alley. I didn't know the narwhal existed before I read this Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Captain Nemo is one of my favorite sci-fi characters of all time, so complex and compelling. What is most interesting, I think, about Verne's writing is how far ahead of its time it is. This book was written in the 1860s, and it stars a submarine. How cool is that?!

8. Shade's Children by Garth Nix

This is one of those books that haunts me. I read it twice in the late 1990s and I haven't touched it since, but I remember it, and thinking about it still creeps me out. Shade's Children is about an uploaded brain and personality and renegade teenagers in a post-apocalyptic world run by Big Baddies. Ella in particular caught my attention (I guess it's obvious that I have a type) and the Drum/Ella non-relationship has stuck with me. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under about twelve or thirteen, but I bet if I were to go back and read it now, I would notice a ton of new things. This is a thoroughly creepy, fascinating novel.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On Writing: Beating Writer's Block

Writer's block is a horrible, nasty, terrible thing that plagues every writer at some point or another. It's awful. But here are some tips that I use to get through it without, you know, resorting to drastic measures.

1. Read.

Re-read one of your favorite books. Read an article. Read a magazine. Read a newspaper. Read some fanfiction. Read a new book. Just read something. Reading the written word will remind you that, hey, you can do that!

2. See a movie/watch TV.

Seeing a movie puts you in a dark theater free from distraction. You can lose yourself completely in the story, shut out everything else, and just focus on enjoying that movie. It's harder to shut out distractions when you watch TV--what with all those commercials--but watching TV on DVD can help. Pick a show and get into it. Focus on the story, the characters, the dialogue.

3. Listen to music/go to a concert.

Shut off everything else, put on music, and just listen. Really listen. Identify each instrument, each beat, each rhythm, each melody. Think about the singer's voice, or imagine the musician's fingers working the instrument. Think about the lyrics, what they mean, what they might mean, how the lyricist wrote, what she was thinking or feeling when she did.

4. Go for a walk.

Never underestimate the stimulating power of fresh air, sunshine, and unplugging. Take at least half an hour, more is better. Of course, if you live somewhere that is super ridiculously hot, change this to going to the pool, going to the gym, something. Do something physical and don't think about your writing.

5. Have a drink.

Obviously, this is only an option if you are legally allowed to drink or have your parents' or spouse's permission to legally be allowed to drink. Alcohol loosens your inhibitions and, in my experience, can loosen the gunk clogging up your brain and loosen your fingers. There's a good reason a number of famous writers are also alcoholics. I'm not saying this is a good thing. I'm just saying it makes sense.

6. Take a shower.

I do my best thinking in the shower. I'm not alone. I've seen and heard many other writers claim to have solved problems and broken through writer's block during a long, hot shower. There's something about the steam and the mundane, automatic act of scrubbing down that gives you time to think free from pressure.

7. Write meta.

If you can't bring yourself to work on your work-in-progress, try writing about it. Write about your protagonist. Tell how she got her name, a painful childhood memory, her first romantic experience. Write about his relationship with his father, his political ideals. Explore what you hope to show over the course of the story, how you hope to develop her character, and where you want her to be at the end compared to the beginning. No one has to see this; this is just for you.

8. Write anyway, edit later.

Some would argue that this is the number one tip. Writing anyway, forcing those creative muscles to work and those juices to flow, secure in the knowledge that you can come back to what you're writing and rewrite, revise, and edit, can be good for your block. Once the block is gone, you can fix what you've done.

9. Take a break.

There are times when a work-in-progress is like a fight and you just have to walk away. Walk away for a few minutes, a few hours, a few days. I don't suggest any longer than three days, because after that, if you're still blocked, you may not want to come back to it.

10. Talk to someone.

Ideally, you're already a member of some writer's forums, or you've made friends on Twitter, or you have some non-writer friends who don't mind listening to you and letting you bounce ideas off of them. If you don't do or have any of these, get some. Sometimes, talking about your block can help you get past it faster than anything else.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ten Great Heroines

Inspired by this post at Amy Lunderman's blog, I'm going to share with you my favorite heroines from some of my favorite books. These are the women and girls I grew up with, looked up to, admired, questioned, respected, and loved.

1. Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew mysteries

Nancy has been around since 1930. My mother had a bunch of the original books, given to her by her mother, and gave them to me when I was in third grade. I like the original Nancy Drew, the badass young woman who drove a blue convertible, kept her boyfriend at arm's length, and solved all the mysteries on her own or with the help of Bess and George. I like her outspoken, willful, fearless, and determined. I also like the old, unedited versions of the original stories. Those are the copies I will be giving to my daughter. I did, however, like the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys super mysteries that were available in the late 1980s through the 1990s, but that was mostly because I shipped Frank Hardy and Nancy something fierce.

2. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind

Scarlett is a selfish, self-centered, entitled, spoiled, bratty little bitch. And I love her. Gone With the Wind is my favorite romantic novel, and I try to re-read it every summer. Scarlett is my favorite character. Despite all of her flaws, she is determined, strong, a hard worker, and a fantastic role model. She's shrewd. She knows exactly what she wants. She's manipulative. She's willful. The part about her that I most identified with, however, is her inability to fit in. Scarlett tried to be a good southern belle, but she just wasn't cut out for it.

3. Tricia McMillan/Trillian Astra from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Is there any surprise that Douglas Adams' brilliant astrophysicist-turned-space traveler is on my list? She's just a little bit odd, wildly intelligent, and one of the only two humans left in the galaxy. She stands alone, beautifully, and does not need Arthur, or Zaphod, or any of the men in her life. I used to want to be like Trillian when I grew up. I considered even trying to make myself smart enough to be an astrophysicist, but I just didn't have the attention span for the textbooks I checked out of the library.

4. Bronwyn Lewis from How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn't Called You Back?

I've posted about this book before. Bron is the quintessential teenager: sullen, sulky, having an identity crisis, and self-centered. But she's also brilliantly talented (with the piano and with cars), smart, and thoughtful. She makes a lot of mistakes along the way, but she owns up to them. In the end, though it does take a tragedy to shock her, she does the right thing. She grows up. She realizes how important family is. She finds herself.

5. Josephine Alibrandi from Looking For Alibrandi

Josephine is graceful and compassionate. She has her typical teenager moments, but she's a good girl, trying to do the right thing, and in the end, I think she succeeds. Her story is very much a "caught between two worlds" story. She shows compassion for her grandmother when the family secret is finally revealed, compassion for her friend when he kills himself, and compassion for herself. Her grace, especially when the secret is revealed and in the aftermath of her friend's suicide, and her grace in dealing with the "bad boy," are something I admired quite a bit.

6. Vicky Austin from The Austin Family Chronicles

My first experience with Vicky was in A Ring of Endless Light. Like most of Madeleine L'Engle's heroines, she has a quiet strength. She has her awkward adolescent moments, but she also has her family, and herself, and she knows that. I like the way she handled the boys after her, and I like the way she handled the death of the child. Vicky is thoughtful and intelligent, and she sorts through her feelings in a way that made a lot of sense to me.

7. Meg Murry from the Time Quartet and The Arm of the Starfish

Meg is really hard on herself, something I think most young women can identify with, but she--like Vicky--has a quiet strength. She's good at math, something unique for a female character in the 1960s and something I really admired. As I read through the Time books, and The Arm of the Starfish, I got to see her grow from the awkward teenager who was too critical of herself to a confident mother of seven. It was encouraging.

8. Polly O'Keefe from A House Like a Lotus, An Acceptable Time, and Dragons in the Waters

What can I say? Madeleine L'Engle wrote a fantastic heroine. Compared to Vicky and her mother, Meg, Polly is a modern young woman. She's feisty, self-conscious, compassionate, and determined. I liked Polly's strength of character. She's the oldest of seven children, so I think I identified with her oldest-child status. I was in awe of her language skills and how well-traveled she was. I think, of the three, Polly has the most self-confidence.

9. Jaina Solo from the Star Wars Expanded Universe books

I grew up with Jaina. I mean this quite seriously, as I started reading about her when I was about 12 and she was about 13, and now that she's in her mid-thirties, I'm still reading about her. She's the oldest of three, she's tough, she doesn't rely on her emotions as much as her logic and her skills, she has a bit of darkness in her. Jaina is probably my best friend from a book, as cheesy as that may sound.

10. Kristy Thomas from The Babysitter's Club series

The Babysitter's Club was Kristy's idea! She, like Jaina, is tough, resourceful, and practical. Kristy, actually, was my Jaina before I started reading the Star Wars books. She's business-minded and still a fantastic friend. Her moral compass is pretty much impeccable. She quietly dealt with her own pain, much as Jaina did. I would have liked to read more about Kristy as she grew up. What kind of adult did she turn into? I bet she ran a Fortune 500 company after she overachieved in college.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick Giveaway!

The first five people to comment on this post with their email address get a coupon code to download Cass Gets Her Kicks for free!

Over 18 only, please!

Monday Miscellany

Last week, I mentioned splashes of color for my living room. I never made it to IKEA, but I did make it to a local furniture store here in Kaiserslautern that had curtains in the clearance bin. So I bought them. Several panels. I only hung up two panels, but I just love the color and how they make the living space look!


Chuck Wendig is running another promotion. Check it out! I bought his "250 Things" book and loved it. I'm going to have to download COAFPM soon. Maybe I can use that as a reward for getting the action draft of my next project done.

Because, yes, once I finish formatting Cass and getting it up for sale on Amazon, I am diving straight into the next project: a romance novella. I have a rough outline worked up, and I think I have a title for it. I know the characters, I started identifying conflict peaks last night, and I am pretty sure I can finish it in just a couple of weeks since I'm shooting for about 15,000 words.

For my last bit of miscellany, I'd like to share that my website has been updated with links to Smashwords and one of the stories in the anthology as a sample of the writing. Let me know what you think!

Release News: Cass Gets Her Kicks is at Smashwords!

Cass Gets Her Kicks, published under my pen name Ellie Davis, is available at Smashwords!

Here's the "back cover" summary:
Cass Reed is recently divorced and determined to make a new life for herself far away from her ex-husband and his pregnant mistress. She sets out on the Mother Road in a 1955 Chevy, bound for Los Angeles and hoping to forget the pain of being rejected and replaced.

At the end of her first day on Route 66, she stops in Galena, Kansas. Cass meets the younger Gavin in a roadhouse a few blocks from the Galena Motel and, on impulse, takes him back to her room. She learns that some men can take direction and that the Magic Fingers have not outlived their novelty.

Mid-morning on her third day, Cass stops in Santa Rosa, New Mexico for laundry, lunch, and something that will get her off the road for a few hours. She meets beautiful Felicia, who invites her for a swim in a private lake and an afternoon that makes her rethink things she thought she knew about herself.

Finally, in Flagstaff, Arizona, Cass heads to the Hotel Monte Vista cocktail lounge for drinks. There she meets the pretty, trim Angela and her tall, dark, and handsome husband, Kevin. Cass is invited to celebrate Kevin's birthday with them in the privacy of the hotel's famous Jane Russell room.

Each erotic short was written to be enjoyed in half an hour or less. The stories contained in this anthology are sexually explicit and intended only for mature audiences.
It will be available on the Kindle soon, and I'll have the first story up on the website along with links to online retailers for preview consideration.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog Roundup: August 8 - 14, 2011

Roz Morris tweeted a link to this post from James Killick, which is pretty relevant to me right now since I'm in the formatting-for-publication stage of work with Cass Gets Her Kicks and am planning to take a couple of days off before I start the next project. I think I'll watch the third season of Supernatural and maybe even try to read Death Troopers.

There's a cute post over at A Chick Who Reads about what to do if the battery in your e-reader (specifically, NOOK) dies. I feel her pain. Sort of. Early on in my ownership of my Kindle, it crashed on me. I thought my life was over. All it needed was a hard reset.

Do Some Damage has an interesting post this week on spoilers. I avoid them when it comes to things I like. (I am still kind of bitter that the last Star Wars film was spoiled for me back in 2005.) The Internet and camera phones make it so easy for there to be a deluge of coverage now. I'd rather be surprised. Though, I won't lie, I'm considering reading Dexter spoilers, because watching last season episode-by-episode was hell on my blood pressure.

Erica Lucke Dean's post on growing up made me laugh. Growing up is so overrated. One can be a responsible adult and still enjoy animated films, iced animal cookies, chocolate milk, and coloring books. (Can you tell I'm still secretly five years old?)

Rik Davnall's post on passion vs. money in writing is worth reading. I would like to add that it might be difficult for writers who have written and shared their work online for free might also have a difficult time with the "charging money" aspect of publication, even self-publication. Personally, it has been odd to not immediately post Cass Gets Her Kicks in my usual channels. (By self-publishing, though, I know I have the potential to reach a much wider audience.)

As usual, Keystrokes & Word Counts comes through with more than one post worth reading. First up: on self-censoring. I think that certain opinions have the potential to lose you followers and fans (I doubt I'll make many friends with my unpopular dislike of certain books mentioned in a previous post) and maybe even make it difficult for you to be taken seriously. I think, though, that it really boils down to choosing your words and how you present yourself very, very carefully. I also really liked the post on the self-publisher's query. This is a huge problem in fanfiction and in amateur writing. "I'm not good at summaries" in the summary always irritates me. If you're not good at summaries, then I don't believe you're good at anything else, so I won't even bother. A well-written summary is key to hooking potential readers. I treat mine the same way I treat the body of work: it gets at least three rounds of editing.

Sirra once again collects her Twitter #writetips into a single blog post. Read them. They're worth the click.

Desirae posted about mood music. I've mentioned music in a previous post; the write piece of music can put me in the right mood to write a scene. Sometimes, a piece just needs a specific playlist. And sometimes, the right music has nothing at all to do with what you're writing, but the sound of it inspires your muse, who in turn can inspire you.

Paul Dorset posted about editing this week, which caught my attention because of where I was with Cass. I find it hard to believe that there are indie authors who do nothing more than run a spell check when they "edit," but, then, I also find it hard to believe that there are people who think that writing is a get-rich-quick scheme. I edit, revise, and rewrite until I'm sick of looking at my work and I'm sure it's as good as I can possibly make it. And even then, I'll probably give it at least one more read-through before I release it for public consumption.

Your Cover Uncovered has got to be my favorite "new" blog. This week's post reviewing Old Scores is so informative. I'm tempted to submit the cover for Cass, but I don't know if I'm that brave yet. I do know that I will continue checking her blog to make sure I don't commit a cover faux pas for as long as I'm designing my own.

This guest post from Smashwords founder Mark Coker is old, but it was new to me. I had no idea that Private Label Rights articles were being thrown together into shoddy ebooks and sold. It was kind of horrifying to read, though it was definitely informative.

I also read this article on the "new midlist" about self-published authors who earn a living. It was encouraging. Really encouraging. It was nice to see hard figures and to get a real idea of the kind of success I can strive for.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SitRep Saturday: Cass Gets Her Kicks

Last night, I edited the first page of "Flagstaff, AZ," and then created author accounts on Smashwords and at Kindle Direct Publishing. I also created a new PayPal account (since my old one is under my mother's name because I got it when I was 15) and linked it to my bank account.

This past week, I have edited and revised and rewritten "Galena, KS" and "Santa Rosa, NM" to within inches of their lives. After I finish "Flagstaff, AZ," I'll read everything out loud as I format it, but right now, I'm pretty confident that the series is as good as I can make it.

"Vega, TX" was scrapped because it didn't fit with the other three stories. Cass wasn't really ready for Joe and Miguel. I'm already planning to rework it a little bit and offer it as an "in-between" story on the website, or possibly put it in another Cass-based anthology.

I'm so, so close to releasing Cass Gets Her Kicks. I mean, we're talking days.

Friday, August 12, 2011

On Writing: How To Be Productive

When it comes time to write, I invariably suddenly want to do something else. Something that does not make me want to engage in self-destructive behaviors like drink heavily or overeat or try to shop at the KMCC, or just generally destructive behaviors like throw the netbook through the TV. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Writing is hard. Anyone who says otherwise either isn't any good at it or is trying to sell you something. So here are some of my favorite tips for productivity.

1. Set a specific time for writing.
During the day, I write whenever I can: while the kid plays, those last few minutes before the dryer stops, during dinner. But when the kid and the husband go to bed, I kick the writing machine into gear. From 10:00 pm to 2:00 am, the house is quiet, no one needs anything from me, and I can focus. And I do. Most of Cass Gets Her Kicks was written during that four-hour span.

2. Stick to it.
If I don't write, I feel like a miserable excuse for a human being. So I do my best to stick to that specific time. There are some nights when I crash pretty much as soon as the kid does, some nights when she refuses to go to bed and I have to play with her, but if I can't get in my four hours then, I get in four hours some other time, or I double up. If I don't write, how can I expect to finish anything?

3. Eliminate distractions.
Turn off the TV, turn off the music, turn off the wireless (I've gone so far as to unplug the router from the wall), turn off the lights, chase everyone out of the room, and focus. You really have to be self-disciplined to write.

4. Set a goal. Meet the goal.
The last few nights, I have not allowed myself to go to bed until I've finished editing one story. Each of the three stories in Cass Gets Her Kicks are just over 4,000 words, so it's not unreasonable to expect myself to complete an editing pass in four hours. Sometimes I set lower goals: write a page, write a summary, write an action draft of one scene. Setting the goal and then meeting it helps me feel like I'm staying on track.

5. Reward yourself. 
So I've mentioned Supernatural a few times. Dean Winchester is a pretty, pretty man, and the Impala is probably the sexiest car on TV right now. I also love to bake, like a Jack and Coke, and love my Kindle like it's my bastard child. When I meet whatever goal it is I've set, I reward myself. When the writing itself isn't the reward, something else has to be.

6. Stay accountable.
Every Saturday, I post a situation report entry in which I summarize what I accomplish that week. It keeps me accountable. If I don't want to humiliate myself or look like a lazyass in front of my blog readers, I have to be productive. Fear of public embarrassment can be a powerful motivator. Don't underestimate it.

7. Remind yourself why you write.
I write because I love it. (I am a masochist in that way.) I write because one of my two fondest dreams in life is to be a published author. (The other, if you're curious, is to be a practicing archaeologist in the American Southwest.) I write because I have all of these stories living in my head, and the only way to get them out is to write them down. I write because I don't ever want to go back to working in an office with bosses. (Not that I've ever had a bad boss--all of mine have actually been beyond awesome--but I just don't want to do it.) I write because I want to affect someone the same way I was affected by my favorite authors.

8. Look at your bank account. 
We're a single-income family and I am a stay-at-home-mom. I miss my old paycheck. Our bank account could definitely use some padding. Writing, and achieving even the most modest success, might help me acquire some padding.

9. Imagine being successful. 
It's going to feel so good when I'm selling books, when people are reading me, and when I can write comfortably knowing that someone, somewhere, is going to enjoy my words. I know this is silly, but whenever I imagine being a successful writer, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

10. By any means necessary.
Sometimes I bully myself. Sometimes I let my muse bully me. Sometimes I deny myself things until I accomplish my goals. Do whatever it takes to write. Lock the family out of the room, don't sleep, unplug the wireless router, shut off the electricity in the office, download Write or Die, tell everyone you know and then imagine what they'd think of you if you didn't deliver... Whatever it takes. I choose to write. I damn well better be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

YA Flashback: How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn't Called You Back? by Valerie Hobbs

How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn't Called You Back? is a young adult novel from Valerie Hobbs, released in October of 1995. It's one of my favorite books and is easily my favorite young adult book not written by Madeleine L'Engle.

Set in 1960 Ojala, California, it centers around 16-year-old Bronwyn Lewis and is, as you'd expect from any teenager-coming-of-age novel, all about Bron finding herself and learning her place.

She and her family are from New Jersey, but after her father tried to kill himself, they packed up and headed west. They finally settled in the sleepy desert town of Ojala, where her parents open a family restaurant and she and her little brother start school locally. She references being "the girl from," laments the effortless cool of her California classmates, resents her parents for uprooting her and her father for shaming the family, and abandons her academics and piano playing in favor of cars and boys. She ends up in a love triangle with local cowboy and eventual West Point student Will Harding on one point and drag-racing bad boy J. C. on the other point. In the end, of course, Bron does discover who she is and where she belongs, but not before she makes plenty of mistakes.

The end of the book makes me cry every time. It doesn't matter that I know what happens, I still read it hoping it won't end the way that it does.

It's an excellent book. There's frank discussion about sex, sexuality, and even a mention of an abortion, and there are lessons to be learned about the value of family and the dangers of peer pressure. It's a book I plan to offer my daughter when she hits the same age I was when I first read it, twelve or thirteen. If I were to teach a middle school or high school freshman English class, I would want it on the syllabus. It stands up well over the years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Writing: What I Learned From Fanfiction

Fanfiction is exactly what it sounds like: fiction written by fans. It has a long, distinguished (like Slider's Johnson, haha) history, most of which we can thank sci-fi fans for. (Thanks, Trekkies!) I enjoyed my time in several different fandoms. Here are some of the highlights of what I learned.

1. "Crap" floats.
"Crap" is always going to be at the top of the most read list. The story may be good, or it may not; it might be vaguely offensive, badly edited, long-winded, or something else that just makes it difficult for you to read and enjoy, though "most" readers certainly seem to have no problem with it. Don't get mad. Obviously, it has some worth, otherwise it wouldn't be so popular. Read as much as you can and learn from it. What you may find is that the average reader is willing to overlook things like an ethnocentric author, awkward sentence structure and unfortunate signs of dating abuse, and wordy pretension in favor of a good story. Let that knowledge take some of the pressure of creating a perfectly edited manuscript off of you; focus instead on your story.

2. There are two types of readers.
There are readers who read for fun, enjoy what they read, and appreciate the efforts of the authors. They make the choice to read, because it's what they want to do. The other type of readers are the ones who do it because of others. They read because it's an assignment, or because "everyone else" is doing it, or because they want to feel "smart." They might even be doing it because they want to impress someone or because they want to hide their porn. (Housewives and teenage girls alike can tell you that the best way to hide your sexually explicit material is by reading it.) Hone your skills and craft for the first type of reader and hone your story for the second type.

3. There are three types of reviewers.
There are the people who love everything (or are possibly afraid of confrontation or hurting someone's feelings); they are always going to give everything four or five stars and when prompted to discuss the work, they use vague and positive wording. There are people who are angry and negative (or possibly just bitter and overly critical); they are going to flame you, leave negative reviews, and tell everyone how much you suck. Then there are the people who mean it (who read the work and have Opinions); they are going to give you an honest, thoughtful review, even if they didn't like it. The last type are my favorite. You learn the most from them.

4. Community is great.
No man is an island, right? Writing is a solitary endeavor, but having friends you can count on to get you through the emotional highs and lows of creating is a glorious, glorious thing. If you don't have people who understand--or people who at least try to understand--things can get lonely and madness can set in. There's a reason writers are frequently alcoholics. Reaching out to other writers you respect can ease that loneliness and prevent liver failure. The same can be said for reaching out to readers you respect. Having a community you can count on can lead to better writing.

5. We're all still in high school.
I never went to high school, so my knowledge of it is based on pop culture. It's possible that this "high school" mentality is specific to fandom, since a vast majority of fans are teenage girls, but I've seen the pettiness in adult communities, too. Just beware of the drama, cliques, flame wars, sporking, and snark. Don't get dragged in. Seriously. You do not want to end up like Cassandra Cla(i)re or Ms. Scribe.

6. Beta readers are necessary, even if you think they aren't.
It does not matter how good you are. You can always be better. Always. And the lame excuse that crap gets published is just that, a lame excuse. You are fully responsible for the quality of your own writing. Find beta readers. Use them. Yes, readers. Plural. I view beta readers as academic sources: you need three solid separate sources to come to any reasonable conclusions. Beta readers make you better. But don't fall into the trap of only using yes-men as betas. Find readers who aren't afraid to hurt your feelings.

7. Be a good beta reader.
Being a good beta reader is about more than reciprocity, being part of the community, or getting the first look at your favorite author's newest piece. It's about learning to spot the problems and errors in someone else's writing so you can better spot them in your own. When you beta read, you get to read without being the one doing the writing. It's easier to see things like abused commas, overused dashes, repeated words. You get into the habit of spotting those things, which makes you better at self-editing.

8. Know your audience.
In fandom, the best way to learn who is reading and what they're reading is to get involved. Join forums. Join mailing lists. Join communities. Watch. Read. See what they like, what they gravitate toward. If you want to be at the top of that most-read list, write what they read. By watching the community, you'll know how they're going to react to your work, which will make those negative reviews and constructively critical ones easier to handle.

9. Respect your audience.
They're reading you, so they have some taste, right? Right. Don't talk down to them. Don't write like you're smarter than they are. Without them, you would be just another aspiring writer. Respect them. They deserve your gratitude. Embrace them, because they are the reason you get to do what you love.

10. Read. Read more. Keep reading.
If the only work you read is your own, you will stagnate. So read. Read others' work, read work outside of fandom, read articles, read encyclopedia entries, read meta, read blogs. Don't forget to read real books and magazines, too. Read everything you can get your hands on.

11. Write. Write more. Keep writing.
Writing is a skilled craft, and to hone those skills, you have to practice. You may have the raw talent, but that doesn't mean much if you don't use that talent, refine that talent. So write. Write emails, letters, blog entries. Write meta--on your own characters, on others' characters. Write reviews. Write short stories if you're a novelist, write a novel if you're a short story writer. Write poetry. It doesn't have to be good and you don't have to share it, but you should write as often as you can. Experiment with different styles, with different words, with different points of view. Unless you want to bore your readers to death.

12. Think outside the fandom.
Alternate universe fics and crossover fics are popular. The author gets to mash her favorite things together. Readers get to discover something they may not have previously known about. It's fun. It's different. The writer has to think, the readers has to think. This can be done in fiction, too. Mash up genres. Write a space romance. Write a western horror. Write a splatterpunk comedy. Get creative. Okay, that sounds obvious (We're writers. Creativity is what we do.) But just give it a little bit of thought. You may surprise yourself.

13. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get.
One person reads, loves it, tells her friends. Her friends read, love it, and tell all of their friends. The next thing you know, you're in the mall on a Saturday standing behind a couple of people who are talking about you and your work and don't even realize it. (That is a true story. I ended up following a couple of guys who were discussing my slash threesome trilogy. One had read all three stories, and one had only read the first two. They were talking about which one was the best and why. I have no idea how I managed not to embarrass myself by making small, squeaky noises of glee.) All of the hard work you put in to marketing and promotion can be immediately surpassed (or undone) by word-of-mouth.

14. Quality over quantity, but being prolific never killed anyone.
Do your best work every time you write. Don't release anything unless you are 100% positive that it can't be any better. If you can only produce one quality piece every ten years, so be it. But quantity that is also quality is the ideal. Like Stephen King. Or Nora Roberts. The more you have out, the better chance you have of being read.

15. Sex sells.
There is a good reason that porn is the number one rule of the Internet and that romance and erotica titles sell so well. Something about sex fascinates humans. We like to have it, we like to watch it, we like to read it. Especially in the last fifteen years, women in particular have become more vocal about what they like, and they like the boysex. There's nothing wrong with this. It's possible to have a good story and good sex. If it wasn't, Harlequin Blaze and Ellora's Cave wouldn't do such great business.

16. Learn to accept criticism (gracefully).
By sharing your art, you are inviting criticism. You may not think you deserve it, but not everyone is going to love you or even like you. (See above. Eat, Pray, Love, the Twilight books, and the Harry Potter books are all crazy popular, and I don't like any of them.) Be graceful about this. Does it really matter to you that a few--sometimes very vocal--don't like you? Okay, maybe if you're one of those insecure types who needs everyone's acceptance it might matter, but you're a writer. You're stronger than that. Learn to say, "Thank you for sharing your opinion, I will take your points into consideration" when it's necessary. By "necessary" I mean "when the criticism is constructive." You can pout and brood in private all you want. Want a good example of how not to behave toward a reviewer? Read this post and the comments below. Negative reviews that are not constructive criticism are to be ignored at all times.

17. Fans are the personification of love.
They're passionate. They're articulate. They love. They hate. They invest their time, energy, effort, money, tears, and blood in what they love. It matters to them. If you're ever lucky enough to have fans, appreciate them. Try not to alienate them. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Miscellany

Man, interior design is hard. I think the kid and I are going to plan a trip to IKEA in Mannheim later on this week. It's time to give the living room a bright, fun update. I'm thinking turquoise, lime green, and white with splashes of hot pink and orange.

I've finished the rewrite of "Flagstaff." In my early-morning delirium, I realize that "Vega" doesn't fit with the rest of the stories, so it'll have to be lifted out. This is fine; it will make final edits easier, and make the overall story clearer. I can also edit it and offer it as an extra short for free on the website.

With a little luck and a lot of hard work, I'll be done with Cass Gets Her Kicks by the end of the week, and I can start work on The Widow & The Cowboy while I start the rewrites for Strawberry Moon.

Your Cover Uncovered is an excellent blog that reviews book covers. It's relatively new, but I love it already.  You should check it out!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog Roundup: August 1 - 7, 2011

Struggling with POV? Sirra's post on the different types of third person point-of-view can help.

Joelle Charbonneau's post at Do Some Damage about the proper care and feeding of a writer has some no-brainer advice, but it always helps to remind yourself to do things like sleep, eat more than coffee and granola, and take time off.

Rik Davnall talks about book prices, the marketplace, and business sense. For what it's worth, I don't think the $0.99 price puts us in the ghetto, either; I fully intend to make use of that price when I finally start to publish. Like Rik, though, I am thinking of using it as more of a promotional tool in certain cases, and to me, that just makes sense.

I like this post about the celebrity of authors. I would recognize some of my favorites, but for the most part, authors are kind of a faceless bunch. (I have an anecdote about being recognized in fanfiction and not being recognized that I'll save or my What I Learned From Fanfiction post.)

Desirae Jeffers posted about choosing a penname this week, and I think it's worth reading. I know that I struggled with choice of penname. As my husband advances in his career, he becomes more of a public figure within his units, and the military spouse community can be... trying at times. I don't necessarily want everyone to know that I write and what I write, so I chose a version of my maiden name as my primary penname, and I chose a second penname that is a play on the first in order to separate my young adult work from my adult work.

There was a post over at The Bookshelf Muse about charisma as a character trait, and another about conflict versus tension. That whole blog is just a gem of information.

I discovered this blog this week, and it's so packed with good advice, neat tips, and excellent writing that it's hard not to get lost over there.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

SitRep Saturday: Cass Gets Her Kicks

This week, I finished editing all four stories, dumped everything into a single word processor file, and started rewriting. I finished "Galena, KS" and "Vega, TX." I had hoped to finish rewrites of all four, but I've decided not to stress about it. I'll get it written, I'll get it out, and I'll start on the next project.

From my years writing fanfiction, I have several excellent friends who are also just fantastic beta readers. The best advice I have ever read about editors says that you should find one that hates you. I agree... to an extent. I think you should find editors/betas who like you, but are still willing to tell it like it is. If they like you, they're willing to read your work. If they're friends (true ones, not the crappy kind), they want to see you succeed. And if they're willing to tell it like it is, they're going to straight-up say, "This? It sucks. Get rid of it." I have friends like this. The first two stories are currently with four of them, and I have notes back from two of them.

I'm plugging along. Progress is considerably slower than I would like it to be, but I've been telling myself to just let it be. It's not like I'm stopping anytime soon. I'm too stubborn and too determined.

Friday, August 5, 2011

On Writing: Less Common Homophones, pt. 2

Continuing my posts on homophones (there are two more, here and here), I present the second half of the list of some of the less common ones that are still pretty frequently misused.


hangar is a large covered space where they store aircraft. A hanger is something on which you hang your clothes. You could hang your clothes on a hangar, but a hanger would probably make more sense. 


Hear is what you do with your ears. Here indicates location. (As a bonus, "hear, hear!" is the correct spelling of that expression.) Hear him here.


To hoard is to accumulate stuff. A horde is a large group, usually of people. If you hoard toilet paper before the apocalypse, an angry horde will come after you.


A levee is a barrier. To levy is to impose or collect a tax. Local officials will levy a tax on your levee.


Lead is the bad stuff in paint. Led means guided. He led us through the field of lead.


Loath is unwillingness. Loathe is intensely disliking. He is loath to loathe anyone.


To lose is to be without something. When something is loose, it's wiggly. Don't lose the loose bolt!


A miner mines something. A minor is lesser or underage. Minors shouldn't be miners.


Nay is an expression of dissent. Neigh is the sound a horse makes. Nay, I will not neigh.


Passed is the completed act of passing; past is a designation of time. I passed that class in the past.


Peal has to do with sound. Peel is removing a thin later of something. She peeled the fruit to peals of laughter from her friends.


A plane is a flat surface, or a location. A plain is simple. It is a plain plane.


A principal is a person in a position of power. A principle is a rule. The principal has principles.


Reign is a period of rule. Rein is a leather strap or the act of controlling. During her reign, she reined in the parliament.


Threw is the past tense of throw. Through is about going in one side and out the other. He threw it through the hoop.

...and I'm done! Finally! These posts were so dull and I apologize for that. I felt like they needed to be written, though, as much for my own benefit as for anyone else's. I do hope they come in handy for someone, but even if they don't, I know I have them to refer back to.