Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pale in the Mail

The manuscript is off to New York. It came to 93,074 words, which is a perfect length--not too long, not too short. Now I'll just have to wait and see.

I can hardly believe it's in the mail. Once I was able to focus on it exclusively, the writing went quickly. I looked back at my previous blogs to find out how long it took, and apparently I played around with the outline and the first three chapters for several months, starting in March of 2006 and then finally launching full force into the rest of the book in September. (I was still mostly writing on the third epic fantasy last summer.) So the bulk of the writing of Beyond the Pale occurred between September 2006 and January 2007, including edits. It seems strange knowing that it's done.

I've finished 2 1/2 other manuscripts between the year 2000 and now, but they were all part of the same epic fantasy trilogy. Each manuscript had an individual story arc, but I guess in my mind it felt more like one very long story that I still haven't quite finished yet. So it's interesting to have completed something so vastly different than what I've been writing for most of the past six years. In a way, I'm still not sure what to make of it. On the other hand, I have this very strong feeling that this is the book that's actually going to make it through the publishing gauntlet.

I called Bob last Wednesday and left a message to tell him the book was done, and he returned the call the next day. I told him I wanted to do the last little bit of polishing and then I'd send it out the first part of this week. I was hoping for Monday, but then the synopsis needed to be revamped, so it all went out today (Tuesday). He should receive the manuscript around Thursday or Friday since I sent it Priority Mail. He told me he liked the first half, so I'm hoping he likes the second half as well. It'll be interesting to see what publishers' reactions will be, but while I'm not going to hold my breath or make assumptions...I still have that strange half-panicky feeling that tells me we're on the verge of something major here.

Or it could just be all the caffeine I had to drink while I finished the manuscript.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Taking Back the Past

Memories can be funny sometimes. As a child, did you ever have a favorite toy or a favorite game that you later lost or your parents got rid of for some reason, and yet somehow that toy persisted in your memory for years and years? For me, it was the Which Witch game by Milton Bradley. They put it out in 1970, when I was four years old--just old enough to remember how much I liked it and how much fun I used to have playing it.

I don't usually go into deeply personal stuff on this blog, and I'm not going to now except to say that I've recently been learning how important it is to deal with unresolved issues from the past. For me, the Which Witch game represented something that was taken from me without my consent. I'm not trying for a laugh when I say that my grandparents burned the Which Witch game in a fit of religious fervor--simply because it had a theme that involved "witches". They acted according to their convictions and I can't really fault them for that, but thirty-plus years after the fact, I decided that I hadn't given permission for that game to be taken from me and, dang it, I wanted it back. So I bought one on eBay. It arrived today and I played it with my kids. They love it, and it meant a lot to me to be able to share it with them.

Does it live up to my memory of it? Yes...and no. Yes, it's played just the way I remember and it's as much fun as I remember. But it's also a lot smaller in size than I thought it would be. For some reason, it was much bigger in my head. My teenager tells me that it probably seems that way because when I played it, I, too, was much smaller. She's probably right. Once I got used to that little slice of reality, it was fine. I'm glad I reclaimed that part of my childhood.

Brenna, my main character in Beyond the Pale, has a past that comes back to bite her in the butt. She needs to deal with it, take it out, examine it in the light of day and decide how it's going to affect her in the future. Memory can be an incredibly powerful thing, depending on what you decide to do with it. You have to decide whether you'll have power over it or whether it will have power over you. And you have to be willing for it to be either better or worse than the picture in your head.

Here's some food for thought: If you find your memory-turned-reality drastically altered, did the reality change...or did you change?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Go, Dresden, Go

I just watched the pilot episode of the new Dresden Files TV show on the Sci-Fi channel. I liked it; I'll watch again next week. I had high hopes going in, and then my estimation of the writers went up further when they didn't automatically make the ravens the bad guys. (If you watched the episode, you'll know what I mean.) We'll see how things go in future episodes.

Today at the Moxie meeting I got most of the manuscript edits back. I still have a few more chapters due in this week, but I have enough to start working on inputting changes for the first several chapters. The corrections I made via my own paper editing over this last week are plentiful--not too extensive in terms of content, but I did notice a few details here and there that didn't agree with each other. The best part of the crit/edit process was when one of the Moxie said she stayed up until 3 a.m. last night reading the manuscript when she could have left the rest until morning. She said she'd gotten to "the good part" and didn't want to put it down. Yay! (Hsst...Val...what was the good part?)

Now that I've had my meeting, eaten dinner and gotten my Sci-Fi TV fix, I'm going to start inputting edits. The night is young.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Curve Ball and Victory

When the Garda press office replied to my last email question, I found out a little about their weapons regulations laws, and the news was a bit disappointing, at least in terms of my book. Let me see if I can clarify that without giving away the farm:

My main character needed to use a certain weapon. Turns out, the weapon is illegal in Ireland. That was the curve ball I got thrown at the eleventh hour and for which I had to come up with a work-around, just hours before I needed to leave for the crucial Moxie meeting. The ladies were going to view my last two scenes, which included the major climax. No, I couldn't just let things ride, bring what I had and try to fix the problem later. They needed to read the crucial scenes in as final, polished a condition as possible, because I intend to mail the complete manuscript off to Bob within a week and a half or so. And yes, the weapon in question was crucial to the climax scene. Terrific.

I did find the work-around, with a little help from the Huz. We took an earlier idea of mine and a new one of his and combined them, to good effect. Disaster averted for now. The Moxie ladies each have a copy of the complete manuscript to read this week, and we're meeting again this next Sunday. In the meantime, I'm going to read through the manuscript once and make my own corrections to whatever I find. I always do a final check to eliminate as many of the extra occurrences of "and", "ing", and "ly" as I can. Barring the Moxie finding any previously unnoticed glaring errors, I should have the edits and final polish done by next Wednesday or Thursday. Then it's off to the Post Office and we'll see what happens.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Miscellaneous Post-Book Ramblings

Beyond the Pale is done. Total word count 93,293 words, give or take whatever edits I may need to do after the Moxie looks at the manuscript tomorrow. I also need to fire off one last question to the garda PR office in Ireland.

This is my sixth finished manuscript, and I've already written the opening lines for the sequel, if it turns out that I need one. While I work up an outline for the new book, I'm going to pick up where I left off on Shifts of Perception, the third book of the epic fantasy trilogy that Bob's been marketing for me. Whatever happens with Pale, I want to finish the trilogy. It may yet find a publisher.

I just went to the Astronet website for the first time in weeks. Get a load of my horoscope for yesterday:

"Pursue your goals with fierce determination. Distractions have no place in your life at this moment; all you can think about is the desired outcome. With that kind of attitude, success is pretty much assured."

Assured? Can I get that in writing?

Now that I'm awake for the day and considering it's a Saturday, I'm going to haul the family out to celebrate. Maybe dinner and a movie.

Friday, January 12, 2007

All Over But the Shouting

Just one more scene left to write, and that one's just a brief wrap-up of the last tiny loose ends. Shouldn't take more than a few hundred words. I've already taken a Microsoft Word word count on the rest, and this book's going to end up between 90,000 and 100,000 words, which ought to be perfect. I haven't written a book this short in years.

The last two big scenes were very important, so I had to make sure they went right. I threw out all schedules for the last week and just worked, ate, slept whenever. I've had an ear infection this week and I'm still trying to kick that, but I just slept for about seven hours, so I think that helped.

On Sunday I take the complete manuscript to the Moxie for their final crits. With any luck, Beyond the Pale will be ready to mail no later than the 22nd, sooner if I can manage it. Then I need to do damage control on all the real life issues I let drop while I finished the book.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Thanks to Mhici, one of the wonderful Irish writers I met via the Forward Motion website, I've been able to get answers for most of my Ireland-related questions. This particular lady has been kind, courteous and helpful. She always answers in detail with just a little more information than I actually asked for, and it's always right on the mark and contains some valuable little gem of uniquely Irish insight that I know will make Pale a better book. I don't know what I would do without her.

Sometime within the last 36 hours, I sent her an email with several questions, and this evening I got her reply. I've already used the information to make a couple of corrections in the manuscript. Email amazes me. The internet amazes me. It's like magic. I can send a message to a friend in Ireland and get a reply back with only a short delay. Sometimes the entire exchange of emails takes place within a 24-hour period. So much faster than all the old methods of international communication, and so much less expensive than a phone call! When I was in Ireland in 1992, I sent a postcard to our house-sitters back in the States. My husband and I arrived home before the postcard did.

One of my questions involved some Irish language pronunciation, so Mhici's going to consult an Irish-speaking friend for me. Her help has been so far above and beyond that I really, really owe her one. Or several. I hope I can repay the favor someday.

Writing progress: I wrote one of the last three scenes of the book (over 3,000 words) on Tuesday night. It was a tough battle scene with lots of magic flying around, but some things about it didn't feel quite right. Last night I realized that it just wasn't working for me. I didn't feel comfortable leaving it as it was, so I scrapped it all and started over. I like the rewritten scene much better. It's also shorter, which should leave me a little more word count budget for the last major scene and then the brief wrap-up afterward.

Monday, January 08, 2007


The Huz just installed one gig of new memory on my computer, and it's working a lot faster than it was. It had a quarter gig, and apparently 52 processes load at startup. WTF? How could that many processes need to load at startup? Makes no sense whatsoever. After the book is done, I'm going to pick up a copy of Windows XP for Dummies and see if I can find out how to fix that. The Huz is a brilliant computer guy, but he...well, let's just say, he dislikes Windows. So I figure if these little maintenance issues are things I can learn to handle mostly on my own, I'll save him the hassle. I'm actually not too bad a trouble-shooter, considering I have no Computer Science background. (I'm sure programming bubble sorts in C and word processing in Superscripsit on a TRS-80 in High School doesn't count!)

Gad, can anybody remember Superscripsit? I shake my head in wonder. When I wrote my first novel, I was 16 years old. I'd taken Typing 1 and Typing 2 in high school, and just before I got ready to go off to college, I got special permission to stay after school a few times and use the Superscripsit program in the computer lab to enter that novel and save it to a floppy disk. Years later after the Huz and I were married and bought our first computer together (awww!) he was actually able to access those files on that floppy and bring them across into a spiffy new word processing program called Word Perfect. It didn't look perfect, but the data was there.

You know, the story of writing that novel and saving it for posterity makes a better story than the novel itself. The idea was cute, but the actual writing You know the old saying that a novelist's first million words are garbage? Yeah, pretty much. I was no Paolini. But I really have to hand it to my teachers--they rocked. My English teacher used to deliberately ignore the fact that I was writing a novel during his class; as long as I could answer a question when he asked it, he let me alone. I'd make my own corrections and hand-copy those pages neatly, then take them to the school office, where they let me copy them on the Xerox machine. Then my English teacher critiqued the novel on his own time. He marked his crits and comments on these horrible blue rubbery copies of my handwritten pages; I still have them somewhere, I think. Later, after I'd gone into the Typing 2 class, I'd distribute my neatly handwritten originals to a couple of other students in the class, and the typing teacher would ignore the fact that the three of us were typing out my novel rather than the class material. As long as we produced typed pages, he didn't care. The Superscripsit saved on the floppy disc was the culmination of two years of work on this same novel, which I continued to tweak for the next eight years or so while I went through college and tried out a nursing career. Writing-wise, I switched from spiral notebooks to an electric typewriter of my own, but my second finished novel was the first one written entirely on a computer--the same one I mentioned before with the Word Perfect program. Blue screen, white letters. Ugh. At the time, I thought it was completely wonderful. I had no idea how rapidly the technology would advance.

The Huz makes fun of me because I use the "page width" setting to type--I mean input--my novels into the Word program I have now. I like it, okay? It looks like separate crisp white paper pages. Call it a quirk. I've got more where that came from.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Almost Finished

I'm almost there. Two scenes to write, and Beyond the Pale is done. I'm taking it to the Moxie tomorrow to see what they think, and then I'll polish and edit for a week or two, depending on what issues come up, what details I need to verify with the nice Irish internet friends who've helped me with fact-checking, etc. I tend to write lean on description, so I may need to add in a layer here and there. But the end of the book is very close, now. In fact, I'll probably write at least the first part of the big climactic scene tonight.

I can hardly believe it's almost done. I started this book last March. Sheesh, that's nine months. Congratulations, folks, it's a book. For a moment there, it seemed as though that took a little longer than I'd planned, but then I remembered that during the same time I started Beyond the Pale, I was still writing Shifts of Perception. I only got to write on Pale a little bit here and a little bit there for roughly the first six months, until I finally just caved and told Bob I was going to set Shifts aside for a while to finish Pale. Now we'll see whether the switch to urban fantasy paid off.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Fear of Success

A friend and I were talking about what makes writers tick (or not tick, as the case may be.) One thing mentioned was fear of success, and whether it engenders writers' block. As writers, many or even most of us worry about what will happen if we don't make it. But the flip side of that is what will happen if we do.

Yesterday, I was reading Laurell K. Hamilton's blog. Some people had come to her site and done some Laurell bashing--on her forum, mind you! Her forum, not theirs. How rude. She mentioned that they hated her and hated her books. Sheesh. Hate is a pretty strong emotion to waste on people you don't even know and books you could just as easily set aside with no harm done. But what really stuck in my mind was that one day if I'm very, very lucky, that type of bashing could be directed at me or my books. Wait. What did I just say? That's right, I said if I'm very lucky. No, of course I don't want to be bashed or flamed online or otherwise. But the idea that everyone will love my books and no one will hate them is just unrealistic and more than a tad shortsighted. If I'm remotely successful, bashing is bound to happen sometime. It's better that people either love or hate an author's writing then that they're merely indifferent to it. If they just go "meh," turn away and shrug, that could be a much worse sign then if they get excited and buy dozens of books just so they can stage a book burning. What, you think I'm kidding? I heard that actually happened to J.K. Rowling. The story is that every time a group buys a bunch of her books to burn, her sales take a leap upward. Even if that's just an urban legend, I love it. We should all be so unpopular! Does the idea of being a target for flames scare some writers off? Maybe. Probably. It's not inconceivable that some writers are shy enough or sensitive enough that they'd rather write in obscurity indefinitely than expose their work to the flamers. And that's okay. Can't say I blame them. However, I obviously don't belong in that group or I probably wouldn't have written this paragraph.

What else can we turn over and examine? What about marketing? I've talked to some writers who hate the idea of touring and promoting their books--not because of the time or money it takes, but because of the public appearances. "I'd love to be published, but I hate the idea of having to dress up and do book tours and talk to all those strangers, etc," is a common theme. Well, sure, talking to people can be intimidating, especially if an author is shy and meeting strangers isn't his strong suit. Not every school kid wants to get up in front of the class and give his book report, and some never get over that fear. But hey, there's a reason TLC's Clinton and Stacy have a TV show that teaches people what not to wear. Shy humans can be taught! All the necessary book- and self-marketing skills can be learned. Groups like Toastmasters can help. Style guides help. A great haircut and some new clothes can work wonders. But yeah, I can see where shyness might overcome the desire for success in some of our writer colleagues. I feel for them. I hope most of them don't let it hold them back, but I know that some will. Good luck to them anyway. I try to look at it as putting on a hat. Today, you have on your writer hat. Tomorrow, you might put on your schmoozing hat, or your pitching hat, or your marketing hat. Dress for the job you want. Look the people in the eyes and smile. Like chocolate against dementors, it helps. It really helps.

One last fear topic for today. Fear of being a one-trick pony. That may be the worst fear of all. Let's say you had a little success. First book was published, you won an award, maybe you had a great sell-through. Now looms the big question. Can you do it again? Would it be better to go out on a high note and never write again? For some, maybe. For some, the possibility of not being able to live up to high reader and publisher expectations may be a crippling problem, especially given the midlist crisis that many writers face. Yeah, I said midlist, not midlife, but the symptoms are similar. What if all that you stand for, all that you believe in and all that you've built suddenly fails in the pressure cooker of today's market and you're forced to reinvent yourself right in the middle of your, career? It happens all the time. Perfectly good authors get dumped due to bad sell-through, and as I've seen several authors explain in their blogs lately, sometimes the career is dead before the author even hears the rattle and wheeze. For some people, the pressure to recreate former or current success might be too much.

Certainly, it would be easier to leave off while you're ahead. That way, there's no Book Two for Amazon readers to cite as "disappointing," or bad sophomore sales numbers for editors to frown at and then decide to take a pass on the option for Book Three or Four. But the old cliche "better safe than sorry" just doesn't play well in my head. No risk, no gain. Book Two is always going to be a risk. But so is every subsequent book, no matter which number it is. And you can't possibly hit on target every time. If you do, you're golden. I salute you. But if you finally do write the book that bombs, don't throw away your keyboard! If the phoenix can rise from the ashes, so can an author. If one idea doesn't suit, another will. I have to believe that. It's not the rose-colored glasses talking, I swear. It's just that the only guarantee in this business is that those who don't chase the dream won't ever catch it. And I can't help myself. Yep. That's me.

And these are my thoughts on this New Year's Day, 2007. Ask me again a year or so after I've finally caught that elusive success. See if I've thrown it back in the pond and gone off to hide in the closet. I'm a little precognitive, so I feel safe in saying that no matter what might be in the closet, it won't be me. I'll still be out in my office applying fingers to keyboard, still cranking out the stories in my head and trying to pawn them off on all of you who care to read them. I guess I'm just stubborn that way.