Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hectic Weeks

Last week was extremely busy, and this coming weekend is going to be even more so. Despite all the craziness--mostly involving the dentist, a Girl Scout Thinking Day costume, a belly dance performance and a contest submission--I did manage to get another scene written for Shifts last week. I'm going to work on the next scene a little tonight, though the cold I caught isn't helping matters.

I remember one time I was so miserable with a cold, I wrote a cold into the manuscript--infected one of my characters just for...I don't know...spite, maybe. But a cold doesn't fit into any part of the scene I'm writing now, so even if misery loves company, I won't have any this time around.

At least after this weekend, the kids' piano Festival will be over for another year, as will my younger daughter's Irish Dance recital. Maybe after this weekend, I can make up for some lost time--though as the contest submission was for a writers' contest, I can't exactly say that I made zero progress this last week-and-a-half.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Casualties of Writing

You've probably heard the rule "kill your darlings." It doesn't mean that you have to nix every sentence that you find particularly grand and wonderful. While every writer may have a tendency to wax flowery and verbose now and then, not everything that comes out of those wild moments of inspiration is garbage. It's just that sometimes we love our work so very much that we lose the ability to see when something we wrote just isn't hitting the mark--or when it's hit the mark so hard that the mark has been obliterated.

I've thrown out pages before, and I'll do it again. It's just sad that the words on the page--or this blog, for that matter--represent minutes of my life that I'll never get back. I hate throwing out words because when I do that, I'm throwing away minutes, half-hours, hours of precious time. But when it's necessary to make the story better, it's necessary, full stop.

What brought this on? I'm about to kill a page. Not too much of a sacrifice; it could have been a whole scene or chapter. But I didn't get a lot of writing time today, and man, do I hate to throw it down the virtual shredder.

I started the scene in the wrong place, is all. Sometimes it's necessary to expend effort on something that later must be ditched. If it helps you find your starting point or better understand a character or situation, then it was worth the sacrifice. The paragraph or page or scene was a casualty of writing. But it's okay; revision is part of writing. Often, it's not the writing that's great, but the rewriting.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Between what I wrote during the wee hours last night and the last couple of hours this afternoon, I've got almost eight pages for today. This last scene, which I wrote in two sessions, wrapped up, two...of my plot threads, and comprised the end of Chapter 13--all twenty pages of it. I'm past the middle of the book, and now things are moving rapidly toward the climax. Literally. There's a big sex scene coming up in Chapter 15...but that's still about a week away. I'm averaging about a chapter per week lately, which is good. If I can keep up this pace and still get the kids through their schoolwork, the book should be finished by about May 1.

It's so good to be writing in the Ondine universe again, and so good to be nearly finished with my trilogy. No matter what happens, at least I'll have done that. An entire epic fantasy trilogy. Cool. At this stage, I'll celebrate whatever accomplishments I can.

Now I need to go run a few errands, while it's still daylight.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Roses for the Writer

I got nearly five pages today, and during the afternoon, at that. Gary came home early from his work to take the kids to their piano class (it helps when you're one of the owners of the business) and so I was alone in a quiet house for a whole hour-and-a-half. I worked through the must-putter-online stage and into making actual pages before they got home, but most of the pages I got today actually came into being after the family had returned. About three-and-a half pages into the scene, Gary walked into the room with a big bouquet of roses. I wasn't quite done with my scene, way was I going to yell at my husband when he had roses in his hands! He can interrupt me with tea, food, or flowers if he wants. It's the surest way not to get snapped at...approach the feral writer with caution, preferably bearing gifts. Well, the roses are not a standard day's fare--they're for Valentines' Day, but hey, it bears noting that I can be successfully bribed.

And then, of course, I do love the man. After sixteen years together, I'd better. So, all in all, a good day. The roses are beautiful. So are the five pages.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Into the Frying Pan

A blog reader asked a good question the other day. Exactly how did I get myself into this mess, anyway? Okay, maybe mess wasn't the exact term used, but...basically, who the heck am I and how did I get into the writing gig?

Without going into my life history and boring everyone stiff, here's the short version. I started writing at about age five--short stories and such. Nothing all that stellar, but at least it established the habit of writing creatively. I wrote my first novel at the age of sixteen--a short, sweet little confection about unicorns, which shall forever remain in my closet--unless someone drags it out after my death just to see how bad it was. I messed with that for about eight more years, as I went through college and tried to have a "normal" career as a nurse. About the time I got burnt out on the nursing, I got married and decided to have a couple of kids. During that time frame I wrote another novel--another closet feature I'd be embarrassed to have anyone read nowadays. Good practice, though. I racked up lots of rejections from agents during that time--thank goodness. If anyone had actually picked up that turkey of a book, I'd be really worried about his or her judgment.

The real training ground began during the period from 1997 to about 2001, while my two kids were small. As soon as I could reliably leave them with their father for entire weekends without me, I started attending writers' conferences and pitching my third novel to agents. A few looked at it and I got a few encouraging compliments. No takers, though.

During this time I also got a few good comments (one was even from Marion Zimmer Bradley) on short stories I wrote and sent to the various fantasy magazines. But again, no sales. With MZB, I apparently missed it by a hair. I got the rejection letter that read, "This is a perfectly good story...unfortunately I have already purchased something similar...."

When I could not sell any of my short stories, I started a miniature book business, Pookatales Press, and sold the short stories in mini-book format for mini-book collectors and collectors of dollhouse miniatures. This didn't result in a large print run, as I hand-bound the volumes myself, but it did give me a way to be paid for my stories at last, and gave me experience in running my own small business.

My fourth novel was called Aspects of Illusion, and garnered some attention from an editor at Roc, who said if I revised it, she'd look at it again, or alternatively, she'd look at anything else I wrote. Now I was finally getting somewhere! I went to more conferences, took more classes, notably agent Don Maass's "Breakout Novel" classes, revised again, and finally hit the jackpot. The revised fourth novel gained the attention of Bob Mecoy during the fall of 2002. He became my agent and has stuck with me ever since, for which I am eternally grateful. Aspects of Illusion is the first of an epic fantasy trilogy. I have since written the middle book, called Shadows of Memory, and currently I'm halfway through the third book, Shifts of Perception. Unfortunately, all we've managed to get for these books are compliments partnered with regrets from publishers that they did not have a spot to offer us in the lineup. Epic fantasy has proven to be a hard sell, and these books are fairly lengthy, which no doubt doesn't help matters. First-time authors have a hard time publishing at lengths of more than 100,000 words. I am finishing the trilogy because I still believe in it, and because maybe at some point its day will finally come.

In 2006-2007, I wrote a new book in the urban fantasy genre, called From the Ninth Wave. This one is sleek and fast, and happens to be in a genre that is still hot and still doing well in the marketplace. In December of 2007, I completed the last revisions that Bob asked for, and by now it'll be going out to publishers. I'm at the wait and see stage with this one, so while I'm waiting to hear the initial feedback on it, I'm finishing the epic trilogy so it's done and out of the buffer. Next on the docket is to plot a second book in the urban fantasy world of my character, Brenna Callahan, so if someone picks up the first one, there'll be the possibility of more Brenna books in the future.

That's about it! No awards, no legitimate publications, no track record except that of hard work and stubborn, stubborn persistence. My entire career to date is riding on this new book--so any positive energy sent in its direction is greatly appreciated! In a few months, weeks, or days, we'll have a much better idea of just how much longer I'll be an unpublished writer. The one sure thing is that I'll be a writer for the rest of my life, and one day, my books will be on the shelves. Then I'll be out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New Blog

I've created an additional blog for the people who are interested in environmental or green issues, the locavore lifestyle, gardening, etc. That way, if you just come here for the writing-related posts and don't really want to see the other, you'll get mostly writing-related posts. Or if you'd rather read about the green stuff but don't care much about the writing, you can go to Green By Choice and read my environmental musings there. If you're into both...right on. A few things may occasionally slip from one blog onto the other, but for the most part, I'll try to keep the subjects separate. Either way, thanks for reading.

Friday, February 08, 2008


A writer's time is one of the most delicate and precious things in our lives, and yet somehow it seems as though it's the easiest thing to have taken for granted.

I've read published writers' blogs which detail what must, to them, be a really perplexing problem. They're successful, some of them so much so that they hardly have time to write due to all their other writing-related responsibilities--press, online interviews, chats, book tours and signings, travel to and from the above, and the ever-present edits. Some have more than one series on the table at any given time, and they're expected to do both.

I don't have any of those responsibilities yet, but I have others, and mine are such that sometimes I truly wonder whether if I ever get to the level of published-author-in-demand, I'll be able to meet all the writing-related responsibilities due to my current level of non-writing-related responsibilities. I'll make it, somehow. I'll have to, therefore I will. There's not really a choice in the matter. But at the moment, I admit the prospect of juggling all those balls is a little daunting. And to think I once thought just getting a publishable manuscript into the hands of an agent was the most challenging hurdle to face.

I'll cope. I'll find a way to do it all. But just once, I wish we could value my writing as the important career it is, and find a way for me to give it the attention it deserves, every day. Actually having it bring in some income will help, but even before that happens, I have to find a way to have my cake and eat it, too. If I could draw a salary for all the things I'm currently responsible for, my price would be simply this: time. Time to write, time to create, and maybe even a little time to just be.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Major Re-org

I went through my chapter outline for Shifts of Perception and decided to do some shuffling of scenes in chapters 1 - 12. It's not so much that things were in the wrong order--they weren't--but some of the chapters were extremely long, while the last one was short. That isn't a problem and I've certainly read plenty of books with wildly varying chapter lengths, but for whatever reason, my test readers seem to like it if my chapters have a consistent length. More importantly, each chapter also has to end in such a way that a reader will want to keep reading. Not always a cliffhanger, necessarily, but a definite intriguing note that makes people wonder what's going to happen next.

Kudos to Patricia Briggs and her latest success, Iron Kissed, which not only made but topped the NYT bestseller list and is one of the type of books I just mentioned--the type that keeps you wondering what happens next, so that you have a very hard time putting the book down.