Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Leap Year!

I'm still randoming about my life - finishing the new book (which goes to the editor next week - are you ready, Kelly!?), tapping beta readers, and preparing for the BIG CRUNCH at the day job.

While I was randoming, I realized this is a leap year. An extra day on the calendar. The day women are supposed to be able to propose to men, but is that really a restriction? I mean, I proposed to the Big Guy and it wasn't a leap year. (He was unhappy that I stole his thunder, btw. Told me he was planning to take me ring shopping, so no, it wasn't a surprise.)

What about those people who are born on Leap Day? Do they only celebrate their birthdays once every four years?  And of course that makes me want to have a character who is born on February 29, just so I can obsess about all that entails.

Anybody have any February 29 stories to share?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Branding- Publishers or Authors

I'm in that "pre-busy season" sprint to finish everything on my plate before the day job takes over my life.

The new book is nearly editor-ready (and my use of the word "nearly" would be pointed out to me in this sentence). I'm also judging books for a major contest - it's a simple "how would you rate this book, did it have what it was supposed to in it" and then the books pass to the next round. And before I started those books, I was in the middle of another one that I had to finish. I was chosen as an ARC (advanced reading copy) reader for one of my favorite authors, and fortunately have not yet received that book to read and, finally, one of my crit partners is also on the home sprint with her next in series book.

Wow - that was more than I expected to tell you, but here's the thought of the day. I'm a little whiny while staring stress in the face, so bear with me, willya?

As I'm reading through the contest books, I had two from one publisher, a publisher I used to bash when I was younger. It's a well-known house with a well-recognized brand. You know what to expect from the books, but even when I was younger, I spent more time noticing the editing flaws than enjoying the stories. This from a kid with an overdeveloped English gene. I never had the issue with any other publisher. The stories weren't strong enough to overcome the shortfalls, and so I vowed never to write for them. As the years have passed, their brand has become somewhat stronger, producing some very well-known authors and a couple of my favorites. Those authors have also written for other publishers. So why is this relevant today?

The first book I read wasn't bad. The second book ended one chapter with "... last final breath." which was indicative of the way the story was written overall. As opposed to the second to last final breath? I feel confident that my editor would pull out her red pen all over that phrase. She won't even look at my work until I cull out all the poor grammar and incorrect usage, yet this book made it through a major publisher.

Let me back up a minute. Many of the classics have horrendous issues with grammar and usage. It's the story or the message that resonates and allows a reader to overlook the language issues. Jane Eyre is my favorite example. I loved that book, in spite of it being difficult to read in places.

Back on task. When reading a book, do you look for a particular author, or a publisher that you trust?
When I read a "new to me" author, I don't necessarily care who their publisher is, whether its one of the big dog houses or if they are independent. It's the story, the author's voice. This current set of books reinforces for me that you can't write an old trope with bad editing. If your story isn't "something completely different" (anyone else hear Monty Python when they hear that phrase?) you'd better make sure it is well written. Without a strong story to hold my attention, I turn into an editor. A proofreader. A writer who reads. I hate that. I want to get lost in a book.

Authors and publishers preach branding. This experience has reinforced this publisher's brand for me. They may sell a ton of books, but when I'm looking for a strong story, I'm going to hesitate when I see that they've published the book. Author branding outweighs the publisher. Regardless of who publishes their books, I have several go-to authors, and that's because those authors are better than their publishers, better than their editors.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Taking a Mental Break

Still working on the next Northwest Suburbs book, and still playing around with title options. I'm hung up on the Andy Grammer song, Good to Be Alive. It's a good fit for my characters, but wondering if it's "romancey" enough. A firefighter and an active shooting survivor. They've both challenged death and won... Nearly done with the second draft, in spite of numerous "real life" distractions.

One of which was my Dear Husband, who figured I needed a break from my already crazy day job (it's not supposed to be crazy for another month, but that's another story...). We went to see "Spring Awakening," a musical with the soundtrack written by Duncan Sheik. How many of you remember the song Barely Breathing? Well, DH doesn't normally go for musicals or plays, but he humors me about once a year, and he really liked this one. Mostly for the music, even though he has no idea who Duncan Sheik is and purportedly doesn't know the song Barely Breathing. It was a nice break, and wouldn't you know it? We went as part of an overnight package, booked it last minute, and then One Young Son calls to tell me he's coming home for the weekend.

One Young Son is an educator and a coach. The good news is he was coaching for most of the time we were gone, so I didn't feel like a completely absentee mom. We got to visit some while he was in residence, and the coaching brings him home often enough that I don't feel like I missed a rare chance to visit with him (although those chances are more rare - darn kids growing up and having their own lives!).

I didn't get a lot of writing done over the weekend, although I'm rarely not thinking about where I am in the story and what I'm forgetting or what I don't need to/need to show. Notes were taken as reminders, and I'm back on track.

If you're out and about in Illinois on Saturday - I'm doing a signing with the Elgin Literary Festival at the Hemmens Auditorium in Elgin from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. featuring RISING MIST (although I'll have copies of my older books as well). Stop in and say hello!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Home Cooking

Randomness while I continue editing Matt's story.

My mother grew up on a farm. As such, she was accustomed to helping her mother make meals for all the farmhands, and one of the things she is to this day is a hostess. If you come over, you get fed. Even if it isn't meal time. Even if you aren't hungry. Even if you just ate. She was a good cook, and every now and then she'd experiment with something new - which always turned out great.

Except steak.

She'd make steak in the broiler every now and then, and the joke was that it was Bor-charred steak (those of you how know me will get the inside joke on that). We always had to eat what was set in front of us, my three sisters and I, whether we liked it or not. One of my sisters is famous for her pile of "skin, fat and bones" that she couldn't eat. Me? I remember hiding peas under the rim of my plate (we didn't have a dog, you see). How I got away with that, I'll never know. Every now and then we were served something that absolutely didn't agree with us. For me, it was asparagus. For one of my sisters, it was beets. Although my parents always insisted we try it, there were certain lines that were drawn when one day the kitchen curtains were a mottled beet-red. Or everyone was excused after the asparagus made a return trip to the plate.

As a working mother, I didn't always make well rounded meals the way my mother did, although I tried. I inherited her adventurous nature in the kitchen and often tried new meals to break out of the doldrums, in addition to the old standbys. Mealtime was important. It was when the whole family got together at the same time. I held that tradition as long as I could with my own kids, and I still remember days with my kids crying at the table because they had to "try" the peas. I know you don't like vegetables, but they're good for you! I'm not trying to poison you, honest! The funny end of that story is that now they eat their vegetables better than I do. I hear recipes from my children that I'd never make, or with ingredients I don't keep in the house. They must have learned that at school. Good nutrition. Or maybe I didn't do as bad as I thought I did...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Socially Relevant Fiction

My current work in progress deals with a very uncomfortable topic, active shooters. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to go there, being the peace-loving person that I am, but I thought it made sense, given the world we live in today.

Why an active shooter? Why indeed. Sometimes the characters will have their say, and in this case, that's exactly what happened. I didn't plan to go down that road when I started, but there it was.

One of my favorite authors writes formulaic novels about alpha hero men, all caught up in their man-ness and severely damaged heroines in need of saving who don't think they need any help from anyone. I've loved her books, even though the one I just finished might have gone a teensy bit over the top. One thing she does address is socially relevant topics, real problems for real people. She wrote a heroine who had been in a bridge collapse, a survivor struggling to come to grips with living through something like that. She's also written a cancer survivor. Real issues that people might/can relate to. So when my heroine told me about the active shooter, I decided I should go with it. (I should mention that when I say my heroine spoke to me, this is my imaginary friend who lives inside my head, but I assume you all know that, right? Writers are an odd lot.)

My son is a schoolteacher. He's always been one of my biggest fans/promoters, even though I'm pretty sure he's never read any of my books. But that's family for ya. He's worked through plots with me before (he has some pretty good imagination genes of his own), but I'm not sure he was prepared for me when I asked him protocol for active shooters, my questions falling around the holidays. If my kid is anything like me, he gets a little itchy talking about unpleasant things, even if they are a fact of life. We did have to establish when "appropriate book conversations" could be had and when they should not be brought up.

Fiction, and romances in particular, are designed to take people out of their problems. For a period of time, we can step into another place, someone else's shoes, see through someone else's eyes, with the end result being that problems can be resolved. Hopelessness can lead to happily ever after. Horror can be healed. While these topics may be socially relevant and sometimes uncomfortable (watch out, cliches ahead), there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A rainbow after the storm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Aspiring Authors - Part 4 - Copyright

The last question from my young friend: 4) anything dealing with copyrighting 

As long as you add "Copyright 2016 by Your Name Here" you are covered.  However, you can also apply for a copyright from the federal copyright office for a minimal fee. The difference is that if anyone were to plagiarize or steal your ideas/stories with the unregistered copyright, you could only sue for damages from profits they make on the story. The registered copyright gives you the right to sue for damages in addition to profits. (i.e., if they don't make any money stealing your work, you get nothing under scenario 1. In scenario 2, you can collect even if they don't profit from stealing your work).

I have read articles that say traditional publishers view you as amateurish if you apply for a copyright on your own and then submit to them.  As an independent, the option is yours.

If you have something you'd like to see answered, feel free to drop me a line!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year

Being a holiday weekend, DH and I are relaxing and watching Iron Man, and as it ends, I quoted my favorite line in the movie - "Let's all pretend we're a barrel of monkeys." DH say "I've never heard of barrel of monkeys." He was serious. Poor man must have had a repressed childhood.