Friday, July 29, 2011
It's one of my standard dreams - you know the familiar ones you repeat over and over. Like the being on stage and not knowing your lines one. Or taking the final exam without ever having gone to class. Or being naked in public except for some feathers and a beak.
What, you don't have that one?
At any rate, Water World is a water park in Denver. No, this has nothing to do with Kevin Costner. It's one of my very favorite places to go, though I haven't been in the last couple of years. I love riding the donut tubes down all the different swirly slides. It makes me feel like a kid again, to spend the day in my swimsuit. At the end of the day, my hair is wet and snarled, I'm sun-baked and water-soaked, deliciously exhausted.
Damn, now I want to go!
My Water World dream is one of those "going there but never quite making it" dreams. It's not a a bad or frustrating dream. We just spend the day going through the admissions turnstile and getting different color wristbands. We get distracted and have to go save people or find treasure. We spend a lot of time in the parking lot, seeing the rides from a distance. Elements from Elitch Gardens, the amusement park of my youth, which has since been relocated and transformed into a Six Flags conglomeration, find their way in. The giant rise of the wooden roller-coaster always figures prominently.
It's actually a fun dream, full of the anticipation of arriving. I'm eternally poised to have the best day ever. It's also familiar and, in an odd way, comforting. It's part of who I am. The sum of so many experiences.
These are the kinds of qualities it's difficult to give characters. Someone recently told me that common wisdom is that novels about dreams rarely work well, because dreams inherently have no structure, which gives the story a "mushy" feel.
I can totally see that.
In fact, one of the "rules" writers like to cite is that you should never have dream sequences. That editors hate them. I suspect this is the "mushiness" coming into play. Usually if a character has a recurring dream, it's a nightmare, as JD Robb's heroine, Eve, experiences. Of course, she has the marvelous latitude of an ongoing series to use that dream as a theme, a device that reveals where Eve is emotionally.
Now I totally want to do something like this. Damn the rules - full speed ahead!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
So, yesterday was a pivotal day for me.
I received a contract offer on Obsidian.
This is the novel that started it all. That took me from nonfiction to fiction. My red-headed firstborn. This is the one that everyone told me they didn't know how to market, because it's hopelessly cross-genre. One famous author friend who graciously read it said it's like I wrote an epic male fantasy from a very female perspective. She also said I was forging a new path with it and that it would feel like wading through waist-deep snow.
Boy did she call that one.
So, yesterday, after 3.5 years of wading through waist-deep snow, I finally broke through.
I can't even tell you how it felt. I sat in stunned silence for quite a while, just exploring the feeling of not STRIVING any more. All those feelings of hope and grief and anger and determined outrage I'd been piling on all that time, just let go. I giggled. I burst into tears when my mom sent flowers. What a ride.
I have to admit - I wouldn't have felt this so much if it had happened right away.
Now, I've let (Possible) Agent who has Obsidian know that I have an offer, as she asked me to do. I'll wait to see what she says and then move from there. But no matter what, Obsidian will see the light of day and I'm just so, so grateful.
Rain for everyone!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
For those of you old enough to remember this song, you're welcome for the ear worm. You know, aren't we due for a really good cover of Both Sides Now? Someone should really get on that.
So, it's been an interesting week in the publishing world, vis a vis agents and electronic publishing.
On Monday, much-sought agent Jessica Faust announced on the Bookends, LLC blog, that the literary agency would be developing an epublishing arm. At the time I'm writing this, there are 152 comments on the post. See, they're not the first agency to announce that they're partnering with their authors to assist them with self-publishing their backlists. Bookends, however, is taking this one step farther and plans to establish an entire epublishing arm, which would involve them screening submissions, editing books, electronically publishing them and marketing. For this, Bookends would receive an unspecified split of the revenue.
This is a huge move, from agenting to publishing.
Yesterday, Courtney Milan, romance author and lawyer, posted an excellent breakdown of the situation in An Open Letter to Agents. Now, she does not specifically address any agency in particular - I'm the one drawing this correlation. Courtney lays out the situation in a clear and logical way. She promises a second part today, which I'm interested to see.
What it comes down to for me is Conflict of Interest (COI). Now - full disclosure - COI is a fairly large part of my day to day considerations. I work for a private environmental consulting firm, funded largely by government contracts, primarily EPA. We have meetings about COI fairly often, because we owe it to our clients to do so.
For example (and you can totally skip this part if it's too boring), a company that analyzes water samples contacted us. They've developed a database system for wastewater plants that processes the results of their water tests, compares the data to EPA's regulations and tells the plant operator where they are in compliance with the law. This company would like to develop something similar for drinking water. They came to us, because we're the drinking water experts. All fabulous, right?
Well, no. Because one of the things we do for EPA is assess water system data and their determinations about whether they are in compliance with the law. I'm essentially an auditor. So, if I were to help design a program to determine compliance, while I'm also assessing how well a system using that program does it, then I have the appearance of a COI. Because I could skew the results in my favor.
Now, I would never do that. I'm an objective scientist with strong personal and professional ethics. None of that matters - our company could lose multi-million dollar contracts if there's any chance of COI. Because my client, EPA, awarded me this contract to be their agent and no one else's.
We had several meetings on this issue and eventually decided any role we'd play would have to be one step back. I can explain the federal regulations and the nitty-gritty of compliance to the program developers, but how they set it up is up to them.
So, let's look at a literary agent publishing her clients' work. A writer engages a literary agent to represent her work to publishers. The agent has the contacts, the sales experience and the business savvy to get her client the very best possible deal. The agent represents the writers' interests.
If the agent becomes a publisher, she now has an interest on the other side of the fence. To my mind, this is more than even just the appearance of COI. Arguably, agents who are also writers have this same conflict. Breezily declaring that, oh they have no COI and, besides, they have integrity simply means nothing at all.
In fact, that some agents fob off COI as irrelevant says to me that they haven't seriously considered the issue.
I'd believe that. It might be that you only really think about these things when you have to go through three meetings investigating all the possible COI ripples for each new project, that it becomes a serious consideration.
The thing is, it's only a consideration for them if it becomes a problem in their contract with their clients: the authors. Just like I would be in trouble if I violated my contract with my client, EPA, an agent would be in trouble for violating the terms of their contract with their client, the author, only if the author came down on them. Now, EPA and the federal contracts office can come down on us like Armageddon. Will an author come down on her agent in the same way?
I think we all know the answer to that.
I venture that this is why literary agents aren't terribly concerned about COI. There's really no reason for them to be. The only people hurt by any COI on their part is the writers.
It remains to be seen whether we'll do anything about it.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This monsoon season has been a tease. The clouds loom, promising rain, and then evaporate. I watch it on the weather radar - the greens condensing, flashing orange and red - and then it dissolves away again.
As I mentioned yesterday, I've been in revision mode, refining The Body Gift. Actually, now that I think about it, I've been in revising/editing mode for quite some time now. Between revising Obsidian for a revise & resubmit, working on developmental,, line and copy edits for Sapphire and Feeding the Vampire, and now adding to TBG to send to this agent, I haven't done any real drafting since March.
Sure, some of this has involved adding new words, but really, working on a story that's already *there* is a different process.
You know how sculptors (it might be a specific one, but I forget who and I'm feeling too lazy to try to find it) say that sculpting is carving away the extra stone, to find the shape that already exists within? (Maybe it was Michelangelo?) I've always loved this idea. This is how writing and revising often works for me.
Once a draft is complete and the story is pretty much *there* (this is a technical word I've used twice now. feel free to borrow, but use carefully - it's a powerful term), it's like a block of marble. Maybe it's like a rough outline. Or like the horrible, globulous beings that are what remains of people when the transporter malfunctions. Kind of shaped like something, but not really discernible. Not alive, for sure.
I think it works this way for me because I don't really plan my stories. It's more like I download big chunks from elsewhere. Unlike A.S. Byatt, however, I don't get mine in perfect dictation. So there I am, with my amorphous thing, that has some really lovely bits and some pretty damn icky ones. That's when I begin carving.
Revision is an acquired skill, I believe. It takes care and judgment. You have to be brave enough to knock off big pieces that must go, but also patient enough to do the detail work. Over and over, you have to step back and see how you're doing. It takes objectivity and precision.
And, oh yes, you can ruin it. I truly believe that.
There comes a point where, instead of refining and polishing, you're hacking it to bits. Sure, with writing, you can always add it back in. This is the advantage the writer has over a sculptor who accidentally whacks off the nose. The story, however, that brilliantly alive creature, can slowly suffocate, wither away and die if pummeled too much. You're left with a corpse. Maybe a pretty corpse, but a dead body nonetheless.
I know no one wants to hear this. We all want to believe that, with enough crit, enough time and dedication, we can make the book PERFECT. Maybe a truly practiced writer can. But, just as with sculpting, it takes skill and experience.
This is what I'm learning about revising: it's important to keep the final image in mind.
We all start with a seminal image or idea. That changes as we go along. But, at some point in the process, (yes, yes, I know you pre-plotters claim you know it before you even start writing) you have to decide on what you want it to look like when you're done. All revising should be directed to that idea. Don't get halfway through polishing your Running Dog sculpture and then think, hey! a Running Cat would be way cool! Write down the Running Cat idea and go back to working on the DOG.
Having editorial notes helps with this, because you can keep going back to the line where your editor says "do this." I've started keeping a list of what I'm revising towards. To remind myself of that final image.
I imagine that few sculptors create a perfect sculpture on their first try. This is why most writers I know have at least one novel under the bed, maybe several. Those are the corpses.
Like clouds promising rain, sometimes they don't produce.
May they rest in peace.
Monday, July 25, 2011
We spent the weekend with family, celebrating David's birthday and Tobiah's a bit late. It's fun to do these things, to see everyone, but I ate lots of food I don't normally eat, got no writing done and got all out of my routine.
I know - I'm cantankerous.
I think this is why so many people dislike Mondays though. It's much easier to stay with a routine than to start it up again. My folks are retired and they don't notice the days of the week so much, except for planning events. Sometimes I think that's the best way, just to let the flow of time be even. When I'm home for the weekend, though I sleep a bit later, it's not by a huge amount - maybe an hour - and my exercise and writing schedule is pretty much the same. Then Monday isn't so much of a shock.
This morning, though...
So I'm gearing up. Lots to do this week. I'm almost done revising The Body Gift. I've been strengthening the hero and it's working. I found myself mooning over him the other day, which is lovely, because he's been very difficult to get to know. I'm 70% done, with 15 chapters to do over the next 7 days. Totally doable, right?
(There is the small matter of adding an entirely new scene where my characters end up in this very particular image I have in my head, but I don't really know how they get there or what happens. The story magic will fill that in, right?)
Then I send it off to my (potential) agent who is enthusiastically (I like to think) waiting for it.
Okay, off I go to catch a wave. Wish me luck!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
I don't mind a bit. It seems right to me that my Kindle should look like my paper books - well-used and a bit tattered from being carted about hither and yon. I've had it for coming up on three years now and I still love it.
Last night we did drinks and dinner with another couple to celebrate David's birthday and the gal was asking me about my experiences with e-publishing. She wanted to know if I *could* get paper copies of my books. I told her it varies with my contracts, but I vaguely recall that the Carina contract promises me some bound paper copies for promotional purposes, but I'd have to look at it again to be sure. And, if the book sells well or seems likely to do well in print, they have the right to do that. Which is why they call it "digital-first" publishing.
"But if you ever decided to have these books published, you could, right?" she asked.
"They are published," I tell her.
"Right. But if you wanted to have them really published, so you could hand a copy to your mother or something - could you do that?"
I didn't mention that my lovely mother has a Kindle of her own.
It will be interesting to see how long this notion of "really published" lasts. She seemed to think I'd be longing for the validation of a print book. And, to be fair, I know plenty of authors - especially ones looking to get their first book published - who really want that. They make what I think are dubious decisions between publishing houses, because they want print books, too.
This is not something I care about.
I have a print book. (Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel) It's very pretty; it has many stars on Amazon. Book resellers will nearly pay you to take it. I've sold in the neighborhood of twice as many copies of Petals and Thorns, which apparently doesn't really exist, as they ever printed of Wyoming Trucks.
If that sounds like I'm bitter, I'm really not. It's all well and good to have a hardbound university press book and have people say lovely things to you about it. But having people actually read what I write is far more rewarding.
It doesn't get any more real than that.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
This has become a dual anniversary for us, because it was two years ago today that we arrived in Santa Fe, in a pouring rain storm, to start house-hunting here. Amazing to us that it's already two years. And now just one more until he's done with school.
We always say it, but time flies on by.
The days rush past, with all our little ups and downs, until something reminds us that this isn't a given. On Tuesday, one of my college friends died. I've long had his blog on my blogroll there on the sidebar. The title is now ironic: I'm Not Dead Yet. He'd been battling pancreatic cancer with courage, humor and determination for several years. He hoped to beat the truly terrible odds of this devastating cancer, and did for quite a long time. Eventually his body gave out. He turned 45 in March; I'll turn 45 next month. I'm still here and he isn't.
Life - and death - are strange that way.
A few days ago, the young woman my cousin is engaged to posted to Facebook that her grandfather has cancer and we should pray for him because cancer is caused by sin. She's a Southern Lutheran and he's now a Lutheran minister. I wanted to comment that my cat died of cancer and I'm pretty sure she wasn't sinful, but I refrained. There's no arguing with that kind of belief system.
I think we'd all like to know why. Why one person gets pancreatic cancer young and another does not. Why some live to be very old and others don't live to see their children grow up.
The one thing I do know is, I'm glad to be alive. I'm happy to be celebrating another year with my friend, partner and lover. I hope never to take this for granted.
Happy birthday, my dear!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Yeah, I know it's fast. See it's a "Quickie" (har har) because it's a short - only 7K words. And Ellora's Cave turned it around really fast. Their editorial process, in face, is very slick. My editor, Grace, is very sharp and delightful to work with, too.
You didn't really know I'd written this one?
Well, see it's my post-apocalyptic vampire erotica. I know, right? My critique partners just shake their heads at me. But it's not like I*plan* these things. Sometimes I think it would be cool to be one of those writers who plans what they'll write, but I'm just not.
Here's the blurb:
Feeding the Vampire
Through good luck and healthy cowardice, Misty has survived the earthquakes that have torn the world apart, but has no skills to speak of. Or so she thinks. She does have blood, and someone must feed the vampire who has offered his protection and strength in exchange for sustenance. Feeding Ivan is a priority, and Misty finally serves a purpose.
But when she awakens tied to his bed, an unwilling gift to Ivan from the townspeople, she discovers he has hungers other than blood. Hungers he expects her to satisfy in the most carnal manner. Under his seductive persuasion Misty discovers she has the power to sustain Ivan in all ways, while experiencing unspeakable pleasure herself.
See, they all come from dreams. Sometimes daydream-type images, but this one is an honest-to-god full-featured dream. In fact, the excerpt below is pretty much what I dreamed and I built the story from there:
I was compelled to feed him. I had no choice, really.
Earl cleared his throat. “Thank you.” Our town administrator looked around for agreement, but they weren’t meeting his eyes either. Like kids ducking the teacher’s gaze. “Thank you, Misty. We all appreciate your…” He trailed off uncomfortably.
Sacrifice? Surely no one wanted to hear that word aloud. Martyr to the cause? No, not much better.
Earl shuffled the papers in his lap. Waiting for me to get to it, I supposed. Well, he had just said that feeding Ivan ought to be the first order of business. We couldn’t very well make plans for our community while the guy in charge of our defenses wilted before our eyes, especially since we needed him alert and focused. Me? I was pretty damn expendable. I hadn’t brought much to the table so far, except my survival, which really was accidental. Right place at the right time. Turns out stolid New England was just the right place to be for the particular form this apocalypse took. Granite bedrock and all that.
My boring hometown was a safe haven and everyone wanted in on our resources. The people turning up every day were let in or turned away depending on what they offered. I counted my lucky stars I’d been grandfathered in simply because my neighbors didn’t have the heart to kick me out. Excellent keyboarding skills and a customer-friendly personality didn’t count for much in this economy. Especially without, um, customers or working keyboards.
I couldn’t afford to be a useless mouth to feed. Their hearts would harden—they already had. Tonight was pivotal. We’d acquired a vampire of our own for defense. Everyone felt better about our future—if we could keep him happy. At least I knew how to make blood. You could say I was a natural.
And yet, the certainty that had propelled me to my feet seemed to be bleeding away, frightened off by Ivan’s fixed intensity and everyone else’s obvious relief. They waited, restless, for me to just get on with it. Uncomfortable silence.
Hi, I’m Misty and I’m a Fool. I haven’t done anything really unwise in twenty-seven days. Kind of a record for me really. Apparently I was due.
The vampire just stared at me.
I set my yellow pad on the chair and made myself walk across the circle to where he sat in the tacky folding metal chair. My sandals slapped lightly on the tiles, making tinny echoes. Ivan’s roving gaze sent tremors of anticipation up my thighs.
A few murmured conversations resumed. They probably didn’t like the creepy silence any more than I did. I appreciated their polite attempt not to gawk. I’d never seen a vampire feed—probably none of them had either.
I stopped in front of Ivan. He leaned back, long legs sprawled out in careless indolence. He tilted his head at my hesitation and held out his hands as if to help me down from a carriage.
“Perhaps we should step out of the room?” I tried.
“I haven’t the strength to stand.” His grave eyes watched me with avid intent.
If I ran, he would definitely find the strength to hunt me down. After all, he’d walked into this room. Heck, he’d arrived at the bridge leading to our sleepy town only last night, offering his protection in return for our shelter and sustenance. He had to have gotten there somehow.
He wrapped his long fingers around my wrists, cuffing them with bands of steel. Exerting steady pressure, he drew me closer, parting his lips. White fangs gleamed with fluorescent highlights. My heart thumped in panic, hot fear filling me.
“Will it hurt?” My voice sounded thready, weak.
Hunger flared in his eyes at the question. “It always does.”
Ivan snapped me against his hard body. The sharp movement splintered any second thoughts. He pulled me astraddle his lap. My cheap cotton dress hiked up alarmingly. The chafe of his dark denim jeans sent tremors up my fully exposed thighs. Shame and terror flashed through me.
Then all thought and emotion burst in flame, immolating me through the fierce violence of his teeth sinking into my throat. The agony of the deep puncture, fear feeding pain, fired through my blood. I struggled like a wild thing, without thought. Animal instinct screamed at me to flee, to escape by any means possible.
The vampire held me trapped. There was no escape for me, the mouse flailing under the cat’s paw.
My will, never my strong point, snapped. The fight ebbed away with the tide of my blood. The steady drop of pressure left me enervated, without resistance. Darkness filled my brain, prickled with sparking stars. I wilted, becoming a bit of detritus washed upon the shore of Ivan’s body.
Pain filled my veins, pumped through my heart. It replaced my blood, spiraling through my body from the insistent penetration of Ivan’s teeth in my throat. Helpless against the crashing waves, I relinquished my last hold on consciousness and sank into the hot, tarry sea of oblivion.
Yeah. Now you know why I remembered THAT dream so clearly.
At any rate, you can see the story Here.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
This is easy to do, because the gym is just up the road and the grocery store is right across the street. On my weight-lifting days, David usually stays home and does his own work-out. Apparently shapely thighs are not a high-priority for him.
Oh! And many of you have asked why there haven't been Crazy Gym Lady stories lately. At first I stopped telling them, because I thought it wasn't healthy to take notes on how much she irritated me, just so I could regale you on the blog. Then she got fired. Yes, she did! There has been much rejoicing in Mudville ever since. Incredible difference for us. We go to the gym, work out, nobody bugs us, we leave. Ah, blessed peace.
At any rate, this morning I paid my dues to the Gods of Shapely Thighs, then stopped at the grocery store. This woman was walking in who looked very familiar. This is our local store and we've been here two years, so a lot of people are looking familiar now. I knew she was out of context, wearing a shapely black skirt and jacket. But she's very tall with tousled curly hair that's quite distinctive. So I'm studying her as she walks in, trying to place her. She stops, just inside the door, at the greeting card carousel and starts flipping through them, frowning.
In trying to place her, I'm thinking she usually looks relaxed and happy. This morning, she was anxious, stressed. It was a bit after 7 and she looked like she would be heading into town, but had to stop to buy a card first. As I did my shopping, I thought about who the card might be for and how pleased they would be to get it. Or she was dressed to attend a funeral and the card would be for sympathy and would likely make the person weepy to read it.
Regardless, whoever gets that card likely never will think about the effort it took for my familiar lady to stop, pick one out and buy it on the way into town. A matter of minutes, but it cost her a bit of stress.
People in our lives do so many things for us, large and small, daily and annually. Some we expect. Some we don't. But they all feed into the vast blood supply that supports and nurtures us.
I'm giving a bit of thought to that today.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Last week, I received the quarterly newsletter from the Ucross Foundation. This is a really wonderful group that supports artists of many varieties. They sponsor a residency program where you can go stay for two to six weeks and, well, create full-time. I particularly like the Ucross take on this because the 8-10 residents at any given time can be writers, composers, photographers, painters, sculptors, etc.
Getting a residency is competitive and you have to pass several stages of admission. Once there, they give you a room to sleep in and a study. I had this amazing study that was like a library, with a little deck off of it. We were on our own for breakfast, which we pulled from this amazingly well-stocked kitchen. At night, we all convened for dinner and always fascinating conversation. For lunch, they would creep up outside your study door and leave a sack lunch. I never heard anyone come or go. It was like we were curing cancer.
This was an incredible experience for me and something I highly recommend to any writer.
This was the first time for me that my identity, and sole purpose for two whole weeks, was entirely about writing. It was a huge transformation for me and will always be an experience and memory I treasure.
They follow their former residents and include news of their careers in the newsletter. The five writers who had stories in Best American Short Stories, the gallery showings, the concerts. All pretty fabulous activities.
I wasn't in there.
And I'm not saying this as a Poor Me thing. The reason my news isn't in there is because I haven't sent it to them. So this got me thinking.
Why haven't I told them about Petals and Thorns, or the upcoming Feeding the Vampire and Sapphire? I don't think I'm ashamed. However, clearly I'm not proud.
Or I would have told them. Right?
I know some of this comes down to the eternal battle between literachur and genre. I noticed that a couple writers I know reported fairly minor journalistic publications for listing. I probably would do that, too, before I'd send out notices about my very naughty novellas.
It surprised me that I think this way and I haven't decided what to do about it. I did a little Twitter poll on the topic and most people said to own it, be proud and send in my info. One gal told me she wouldn't do it either, but then, she was still "festering" about the people in grad school. Something I totally get.
So, I haven't decided. Am I eternally seeking approval from the academics? Do I trumpet my work, which is selling far better than anything else I've ever written, and spread the good word about careers in digital-first publishing?
What would Anais Nin do?
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Love those thunderclouds. Rain all you like!
Yesterday, Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press and savvy social media maven, tweeted this:
Me to agent: "I'm going to pass on this author. She's had occasion to be very rude to me & others in the past." #pubtip : Be professional
This is noteworthy because we've all suspected it's possible for this to happen. The publishing community is quite small, often insular, occasionally incestuous (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). Whether at conferences or online, we are in each other's laps much of the time. There are no secrets. When questioned, Angela followed up with:
This is pretty much what I would have predicted. Angela is at the helm of a digital-first imprint of a major publisher. She knows that online interactions play a huge role in this world. The days - if they ever really existed - of a writer getting to play the diva and curse anyone who crosses them are well and truly over.
It reminds me of the small town thing.
When I moved to Wyoming for grad school, I went from living in Denver and St. Louis, to a town of 26,000 people. Functionally the population is half that if you only count the year-round population. Now, I was an *ahem* aggressive driver. Not rage-driver, but definitely big-city driver. Other cars were never about people to me - they were simply "traffic." Nothing personal.
Imagine my surprise when people called me out for it.
"Hey, you cut me off this morning!"
"Geez, how fast were you going down Grand yesterday afternoon??"
"You tailgated me all the way to Safeway - what's up with that?"
Once I got over the fact that these people actually looked in my car and recognized me, I discovered I was now accountable for my driving behavior in a way I'd never been before. No longer anonymous, I had become part of a small community, for better or worse. I had to change my behavior.
I suppose you could argue this impinged on my freedom to be obnoxious. Small towns can be oppressive because they do limit freedom of thought and action. The social mores can be restrictive. But, there's always the option to leave that community. If the reasons to stay are compelling enough, you'd better learn how to get along with your neighbors.
And if you want them to hire you or elect you to city council? Find a way to be congenial.
It can't be said often enough: watch what you say in public. Imagine that everything will be heard and remembered, and absolutely held against you in the court of public opinion. People will forgive you the odd slip, but a pattern of continued bad behavior? No no no. My writing buddies and I have the Cone of Silence. All snarkiness must occur inside the Cone.
Make sure it's really on, too.
What was most amazing to me about yesterday's exchange was an author replied to Angela saying:
Oh, shit, I said I was *sorry* I called you "picky."and
I'm crying now. You're such a b*#$ch.
I didn't include her tweet info here, because I think she's an idiot for posting those and I'll save her this extra bit of self-induced humiliation. The tweets are still up, though, for anyone who cares to see... and to track that her data matches up to Angela's author-in-question.
Perhaps it all comes down to learning to take criticism. Live and learn.
When you do get called out for something, like I did? It's an opportunity for course-correction. Apologize and fix the problem. People will forgive. They'll eventually forget.
But not if you keep behaving badly.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Last night one of my old high school friends came over. Her husband is in town for a conference, so they and their three kids came out to see the house. Then they dropped off the kids to make spaghetti and the four of us went out to dinner at Pink Adobe.
We probably didn't need to order that second bottle of wine.
But it was fun to show off the house. The evening turned out to be just lovely, so we were able to sit on the patio and enjoy the view. It's good to have new people come visit, to remind us of just what a lovely spot this is.
So, today, in honor of too much wine last night and by way of counting blessings, I'm sharing this hummingbird video.
They never cease to delight me.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So, when I was in Memphis a few weeks ago, talking to the River City Romance Writers (many thanks to LaTessa Montgomery for inviting me!), we had a long and winding conversation. I asked them what they wanted to hear about from me: career path, digital first publishing, writing erotic, writing short, writer's life? They said, yes.
We ended up talking about all of those things, which made for an interesting conversation.
The thing about being a professional writer, and by that I mean, wanting to make money from your work, is that most discussions about it naturally include both aspects of creativity and considerations about the market. Neither aspect can be escaped. Stories must come from our creative selves. I know there are some authors who say they care nothing about art and treat writing entirely as a business. I suspect they simply view their creativity in a different way. And, no matter how much other writers cling to the purity of art over commercialism, we'd all like to be paid well for our stories. The demands of the market cannot be ignored.
However, I'm a believer in making sure these things occur in the correct order: creativity first, then market. If you put these two things too close together, guess what results? Yes. Shaken baby syndrome.
See, our new stories, or even story ideas, are like infants. They have soft spots in their skulls. Their plot backbones can't hold up their heads. They can't stand alone, much less feed or defend themselves. When we have a new story, we must cuddle it close and nourish it. Lots of quiet. Some silliness and fun. Maybe long walks and wordless humming. It's a special, intimate time.
When your story is new, you can maybe show it to a few special people. The ones you know will coo and tell you how beautiful your baby is. They might cuddle it too and speculate on what a fabulous future your baby might have. Choose these people carefully.
Because there are other people who won't be so careful. There's the selfish love-interest who'd just as soon kick your baby into a closet, all the better to have your attention. There's the careless teenager who criticizes your baby. Worst of all are the industry professionals.
It's their job - and they're good at it - to take your baby and shake it. To shake it hard and see if it's neck snaps. Then they'll hand it back to you with a sorrowful look and suggest that it might be brain-damaged. They'll tell you your baby can't hack it in the market.
Of course it can't - it's just a little baby. And now they've damaged it. Perhaps fatally.
Now if you grow your baby up, feed it the best nourishment, work with it to make it strong and smart then, when it walks into your agent or editor's office, it can take a bit of slapping. And likely give back what it gets. Then they give you the happy smile and say, yes! Now this kid has got what it takes. Let's send her out on the town! She'll take the city by a storm!
I know this can be difficult, especially when you have an agent. After all, an agent's job is to look over your babies and tell you which ones might make it and which she thinks you should just smother in their cribs. This happened to a friend of mine. She took her new novel idea - that she was tremendously excited about - to her agent and the agent said, Meh. She said there were too many other kids out there like it. Don't feed it, she said. Let it die.
My friend isn't working on it. But I know she still has that baby tucked into a back room and she's feeding it on the sly. She can't let it die. She loves it.
I'm totally behind that. I think she should grow this kid up, like the princess hidden away in the deep, dark forest. Then, when she's sixteen and more beautiful than anyone else in the kingdom, she can trot her daughter out and say, see? Look at *this* kid! She could be Queen of the realm.
So, my point is, baby your new stories. Realize how fragile, how vulnerable they are. It might take a lot of time for them to be strong enough to take the vicious blows of the marketing end. Don't expose them to that. Protect them. Be good to them. Love them.
Then bring out the tough love and put them through the wringer before they face the world.
Your stories will go on to lead brilliant lives. I just know it.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I know a lot of you out there have had WAY TOO MUCH rain, but we so have not. In fact, the first six months of 2011 made for the driest year on record for New Mexico. And for a place that's already a desert, that's saying something.
This has been a dry like I've never known. Now I know where all the buried soaker hoses run, because only the plants right next to them stayed green. Our skin has itched like crazy with the dry, which no amount of lotion seems to affect.
Then there are the fires. Blazing on the horizon, filling the sky with smoke. Filling our lungs with particulates from Los Alamos that are nevertheless, we are assured, perfectly safe. It's difficult not to feel the press of the Apocalypse under these conditions.
But, ah, the rain.
This storm filled our rain barrels and soaked the ground. We've been hitting 95 every day and having to run the AC through the afternoon, but the rain dropped the temperature to 58. I put on a sweater because the windows had to stay open, to let that sweet, clean, moist air fill the house.
This morning we walked out of the house and David said he smelled smoke, still. I said no, you're smelling petrichor.
He said, "what the hell is petrichor?"
I scoffed at him. "It's the smell of rain on dry earth, duh." (This is only one of the delightful features of living with a writer.)
But it's a real thing and once you know what that smell is, you'll always remember how it feels when the rain returns.
Monday, July 11, 2011
I hadn't realized that before.
A lot of the things we do day-to-day are reflexive. We don't really think about the influences that shaped us, the expressions we use.
A little while back, I was on a conference call with my boss. She lives in New Hampshire, but grew up in the South. The call was set up by a guy in the company who usually moves in different circles than we do. He brought us together with another company, which planned to bid on a project and needed the expertise my boss and I have. So, most of us don't know each other - and Laurie and I are the only two women on the call.
He starts off saying, "Why don't you lead off, [Dan], since this is your wheelhouse."
She and I are on IM together. So I type to her "Did he say wheelhouse? Is that a boating metaphor?"
She says, "Isn't it trains?"
I say, "No, no - that's roundhouse."
From there they talked about us being in a huddle, running the ball down the field, shooting from outside and loading up the bases. I kept playing "try to guess the sports metaphor." It took some effort, because I am just so not a sports kind of gal.
The guys didn't mean to be exclusionary, of course. If we'd pointed it out to them, they'd have been abashed and apologetic. We've told this story a few times and a number of men have said that half the time they don't know what the sports metaphor means either.
But my boss and I have decided to Take Back the Metaphors. It's time that those of us who did not grow up playing team sports introduce our own views of success. Some possibilities.
"Let's run that one down the catwalk and see who snaps a picture."
"With shorter hemline and some creative accessorizing, this could be a whole new project."
"All we're doing is slapping a fresh coat of cosmetics over the wrinkles - we need a full facelift here."
And, offered by my niece while camping in Wyoming:
"That lipstick will never last 12 hours."
So, please, join our movement. Use the metier of your choice and Take Back that Metaphor!
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
So, with no need to attend the business meetings, we took off on a long walk with my roommates. The lovely Tawna Fenske already did a blog post (she's so efficient) about me and Marcella as bunk mates. The thing is, we had a great time together. I wanted to see Rockefeller Center, Tawna wanted to see Central Park.
Of course we did the carriage ride.
Our driver had a lovely Irish accent, too. Amusingly his patter consisted of him pointing out sites where movies had been filmed. Most of which we'd never seen. I finally asked him if he's a movie buff and he admitted that, no, it was just part of the job. He seemed surprised to be carting around a carriage-full of romance writers, particularly when I told him what I write.
More and more, conference for me is about spending time with friends like this. People I usually only "see" online. Laura Bickle is one of those. She arrived later that day, with just enough time to tie a little wine on before I had to work the registration desk before the signing.
Turns out that's a great time to work the desk, because a lot of the big authors arrive right before the signing. The best part? They're all registered under their REAL names.
So when Eloisa James stepped up and I couldn't find her packet, I had to ask her if she has another, legal name. At this point, they look abashed and glance around to see who's nearby. She leaned over the desk and said, "..." See, I swore not to tell. But I learned at least five secret identities. And yes, it's totally enough just to know that I know the secrets.
The other funny thing was that the big speakers, like Diana Gabaldon, were done the great favor of having their registration stuff put in their rooms. Only a lot of them hadn't BEEN to their rooms yet. Ironically, they couldn't enter the signing without a name badge. When I told Diana her stuff was in her room, she gave me the terrified puppy-dog eyes. This was half-an-hour before the signing. She was afraid that, if I sent her to check-in and go to her room, she'd never make it through all the people in the lobby.
I ranted once before about how writers will never be rock stars. But Diana Gabaldon at a huge gathering of romance writers and readers? Totally a recognizable rock star.
We printed her up a special name badge. She was charming and grateful.
As I do every year, I also attended the Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood seminar with Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This time I asked how they've maintained their friendship over all these years - if they have strategies. They seemed taken aback by the question and I wondered if maybe it wasn't always easy. Finally they said that they don't live near enough to irritate each other.
See? Just another reason to value those online friendships.
But it was really lovely to spend some in-the-flesh time with them, too.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I know you're all still waiting to hear how the big outfit went over. You know, the one I angsted about, that took the combined efforts of at least five people to figure out?
I don't really have any good pics of it, but I'm posting this one that I don't like for posterity's sake.
The outfit was fine, I think. It didn't quite gel, I wasn't Katy Perry in Gautier, but it was good enough.
Or it would have been, except for Cat Woman.
See, I dressed as Cat Woman for the FFP Gathering (lead pic with the ever vivacious Michelle Miles). It was a crazy evening for me. I made sure The Gathering was set up, went to the Carina Press cocktail party, then back to The Gathering. So I just brazened it out and wore the Cat Woman outfit to the Carina Press cocktail party.
It was a total hit.
I thought I'd get some funny looks and snide remarks, but no. Everyone seemed to think I was making a fabulous statement. I kept explaining I was double-booked - they didn't care. Angela James said she had the urge to grab my ass, but thought it might be sexual harassment, even though she's not technically my boss. Thankfully I managed to persuade her that she has ultimate power over whether Carina accepts my work and she refrained. She did, however, attempt to talk me into wearing the Cat Woman costume to the formal Black and White Ball later that night.
"Um, this is not a formal outfit by any stretch," I said.
"Those are totally formal ears!" they assured me.
The upshot is, I put on my very fancy, extremely complicated, layered outfit, that really did look pretty close to what I'd imagined and everyone was disappointed. Over and over they stopped me saying, "Oh no, why did you take off Cat Woman??"
I would respond, "hey, I worked really hard on this outfit!" And they would say it was nice, but I could tell they didn't care.
They only wanted Cat Woman.
One woman said to me, "you should have worn that costume - then no one here tonight would ever have forgotten the name 'Jeffe Kennedy.'"
There's a moral to this tale, though I'm not sure what it is. Any guesses?
Would you have worn Cat Woman to the formal ball?
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I talked a little bit about the RWA Conference on Word Whores on Sunday. I'll keep filling in with the stories this week. But since I already started with the Harlequin party on Word Whores, I'll finish telling you all about that.
So, I headed over to the Harlequin party late. This is because I was at The Gathering through the PRISM ceremony. (Petals and Thorns took second place - alas no trophy for me! It was still a way fun party.) I dashed out of there, changed clothes, and went down to the taxi stand. The bell captain was loading another group of gals into a cab, so I waited. This pretty young woman walked up to me and asked if I was going to the Harlequin party and would I like to share a cab. We laugh, because we're both dressed in black and white, so the "going to the HQ Black & White Ball" is such an obvious flag. I am, of course, delighted to share the taxi ride.
She introduces herself: Nalini Singh.
Yeah - way famous, mega selling author Nailini. And, it turns out, nicest person in the world.
We chat on the ride. When we get to the Waldorf-Astoria, she sticks with me and introduces me to people. I got pulled away at one point and lost her. Later I ran into her again and I apologized for poofing. She laughs and says that's how these parties are. Then she asks if everyone is being nice to me.
Everyone was so great to me.
This party was AMAZING. The DJ played every girl power song you can think of while everyone danced barefoot or in our party-favor Harlequin footy socks. I had a mini-chocolate eclair with gold leaf on it. The coffee stations had bottles of liqueur lined up to be added to your cup at will. I drank flute after flute of champagne. There were stations manned by handsome young men where you could build your own ice cream cone or cupcake.
After lots of dancing, I decided I deserved a cupcake. I chose a red velvet cupcake and the handsome young man swirled cream cheese frosting on it with a pastry bag, then added my choice of chocolate shavings. It was a thing of beauty.
Proudly I carried it, and my champagne up to this balcony area. There I see Candy Havens. We hug. We chat. I feel my plate wobble. We both watch my special cupcake tumble from the plate and splat, icing-down, on the carpet.
We start to giggle. Yeah, who invited us to the fancy party?
I recover and reach to pick it up, but even as I do, this woman facing away from us, taking a photograph, takes a step back to position herself. Candy and I watch in impotent horror as her stiletto heel impales the crumpled cupcake, then rides off with her as she strides away.
We totally lost it. Gasping with laughter, we are unable to stop her, to tell her. She disappears into the crowd.
And, of course, because we were laughing so hard, I hadn't picked up the frosting splat before another bare-footed guest stepped squarely in it.
Oh, and I did get another cupcake. After I cleaned up the first.
I sat down to eat it.