Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Agent's View: The Holiday Myth

Literary agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about publishing and the holidays.

"All I Want for Christmas are my...Publishing Contracts?"

Rumors. They are all around us in this industry.

"Did you hear that xxx has moved to xxx?"

"I heard that the xxx line has been dropped!"

"OMG, did you see that quote from xxx? I bet that means they are starting a new imprint..."

Some rumors can be helpful, while others just spread fear and simply are untrue.

As we sneak into December, two of my favorites pop up every year.

1) Don't submit ANYTHING in December. Editors and agents clear their desks before the first of the year and you're sure to be automatically rejected.

2) The publishing industry completely shuts down in December.

Wow - while a month long hiatus sounds nice (think of all the holiday baking and shopping I could get done during the day!), the publishing industry simply does not shut down in December. Not even close! In fact, every year I joke with editors when we discuss deals that I thought that we weren't even supposed to be working until January 2.

Truly, I've found the weeks between Thanksgiving and the holidays to be extremely busy. I've sold projects, negotiated contracts, worked on cover issues and have gotten requests during that time. Checks still come in, clients still send proposals, manuscripts still get edited, emails still get sent. In fact, it really is business as usual.

The difference? December just feels calmer. Maybe it's the Christmas music I blare (the Chipmunks are singing "Christmas Don't Be Late" as I type!) or the good mood cheer everywhere I go. Maybe it's the cold air or the white blowing snow. Whatever it is, it just makes me want to work!

As for automatic rejections and clearing off of the desks? I really don't buy into that either. I would never just reject to clean. In fact, what better time of year to find a gift? A terrific new project that is itching to be represented? It's like I have a stack of presents just waiting for me to open!

Seriously, December truly is like every other month - we still have deadlines and everyday business to contend with. But, don't you just feel that magical static in the air? I wish we could carry that good-will energy with us every other month of the year.

So, please keep writing. Keep submitting. And most of all, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Salad Dressing is like a Romance Novel

I was in the grocery store today and I saw a salad dressing that the flavor was called "Goddess" and it had a really cool drawing of a woman on the label. I couldn't even tell what kind of dressing it was, but how could I turn down a salad dressing called Goddess? I couldn't. I bought it, and I knew it was destined for me. I would use the Goddess salad dressing every day for the rest of this book, and its power would help me prevail. I had found my muse!

Unfortunately, it was horrible.

I still can't get the taste out of my mouth. Blech.

Great marketing, though.

Just shows you what great packaging will do for sales.

Salad dressing: Great name, great label, I bought it even though I couldn't tell anything about the contents. Although it sucked and I won't buy it again, if it had been great, I would have been hooked for life. They got me to try it, and that's the first step.

Romance novel: Great title, great cover, great back cover copy, and you've got a sale. If your book sucks, they'll never trust your name again. If you suck them in, you've got a fan for life.

Hereth endeth the lesson on the similarities between salad dressing and romance novels.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Smooth Move of the Day

Yesterday, I was rushing off to meet my dh for lunch. I loaded the dogs into the car, grabbed the car door and slammed it shut. Just as it shut, pain shot up my arm and I realized my finger was in the way, so I yanked it free so hard that my hand flew like a wild banshee and ricocheted into my lip. End result: smashed finger and big, fat, bloody lip.

I arrive at lunch.

dh: "Wow, what happened to your lip?"
Me: "Household accident."
dh: "What did you do?"
Me: "Slammed my hand in the car door and punched myself in the face."
dh (trying not to laugh): "Are you okay?"
Me: "No. Pity me."

Yeah, I am *so* cool.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Power of Dreamers

I saw this quote the other day and I thought it was awesome:

"The power of dreamers is that even when the world changes around them, they never stop."

It's such an amazing quote. It's one thing to have dreams, it's something else to fight for them, and it's yet another thing to keep fighting when circumstances change and make your dream more distant or screw it up, or force you to adjust your dream.

Never stop dreaming. Don't let the difficulties and vagaries of life keep you from dreaming and fighting for your dream. Life is never easy, but dreams are what give you the power to get up every morning and face whatever you have to face, because you have dreams and you believe in them.

There is so much that happens everyday to try to dissuade us from dreaming, or following our dreams, but each of us has the power within ourselves not to let ourselves be deterred.

I'm not giving up my dreams! What about you?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Line Edit Hell

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This is what line edit hell looks like! I can't figure out how to put numbers on my pictures, so I will just list, from left to right, the objects, and you can amuse yourself trying to figure out what is what.

1) All the pages on the far left: the publisher style sheets that came with the line edits, so I can see how they handled differnt types of works.

2) Back left: a three-pack of Pink Pearl erasers so I can keep changing my mind.

3) Next to the erasers: a package of color pencils because I have to do the line edits in pencil, but it has to be a different color that the one the copy editor used and the one my editor used.

4) At the base of the candlestick: trail mix, to give me stamina.

5) My unabridged American Heritage dictionary, so I can check and see if the copyeditor is correct when she changes my word choice or spelling. End tally: copyeditor: 27; author: 2 (but those two make it totally worthwhile to have looked everything else up!)

6) Big stack of paper in the middle? That's the ms that I haven't gone over yet. The yellow stickies are all the copy editor's questions about what drug I was on when I wrote that particular part.

7) The small stack to the left? That's the part I've already done. Sob.

8) My blue glasses case is on top of the small stack. Too many years on the computer and reading has turned me into a reading-glasses-users at age 36. Sigh.

9) Small, dark pink object to the right of the dictionary? That's my hand pencil sharpener for my color pencils. Damn thing kept breaking off the tips. Hate it.

10) Just below that is a stack of sticky notes, so I can write all my explanations for every change I make, in hopes that my changes will make it into the final manuscript. Please, please, please.

11) To the right of the sticky notes is my Ipod and speakers to keep me from falling asleep while I work.

12) Just below the Ipod is a red pencil. This is for writing back in the copyeditor's changes when I "accidentally" erase them.

13) Below the Ipod is the manual Warner send with the copy edits describing the entire production process and what my role is at each stage. It's awesome! I have it open to the list of proofreader marks so I can understand what the copyeditor is marking on my ms.

14) Big blue pillow on the back of the chair to support my back so I will still be able to walk when I finally stand up after hours of line edits.

15) My cell phone is in the middle of the dictionary, so I won't miss the call when Steven Spielburg calls to tell me he wants to direct a movie version of my book. So far, it hasn't rung.

Friday, November 25, 2005

He Said, She Said

My dh forwarded me the below email. Not only is it funny in its own right, but it also represents what we, as romance authors, strive to do: show our men as men and show our women as women. I've taken workshops to learn the differences between how men and women think, act and talk, but the below sums it up so beautifully I had to post it. Enjoy!


Tonight I thought he was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a bar
to have a drink. I was shopping with my friends all day long,so I thought
that he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no

Conversation wasn't flowing so I suggested we go somewhere quiet so we
could talk. He agreed but kept quiet and absent. I asked him what was
wrong; he said nothing. I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset.
He said it had nothing to do with me and not to worry,

On the way home I told him that I loved him, he simply smiled and kept
driving. I can't explain his behavior; I don't know why he didn't say I
love you, too. When we got home I felt as if I had lost him; as if he
wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there and watched TV.
He seemed distant and absent.

Finally I decided to go to bed. About 10 minutes later he came to bed, and
to my surprise, he responded to my caress and we made love, but I still
felt that he was distracted and that his thoughts were somewhere else. He
fell asleep - I cried. I don't know what to do. I'm almost sure that his
thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster.


Today the Cowboys lost, but at least I got laid!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Writer's Thanksgiving List

Twelve things I am thankful for (as a writer):

1) The fact that I have a working brain. This may sound odd, but without my mind, writing would be an impossibility.

2) That I have book contracts. I never take these for granted. Each one is an amazing gift.

3) The fact I have glasses that are the right prescription. Yeah, try working all day on the computer with the wrong prescription and see what kind of a headache you have. Been there. Done that. Next.

4) That I have two awesome dogs that hang out in my office with me all day. There's nothing like dropping to the floor in the throes of a frustrating scene, only to get copious amounts of sloppy puppy love to make the world seem better.

5) That I can wear sweatpants and fuzzy bedroom slippers to work everyday. I used to have these Godzilla slippers that roared whenever I took a step, but my dog though it was a real creature and tore them up. I'm sure he still thinks he saved my foot from being eaten by Godzilla.

6) That I have the best agent ever. I shudder to hear horror stories from authors about their agents, and I realize every day how lucky I am to have someone who supports me so completely.

7) That I have the freedom everyday to do what I want to do. No boss leaning over my shoulder. Just me. I work on Thanksgiving, but I can meet a friend for lunch any day I want to. Sometimes when I am shopping at ten in the morning, I still feel like I'm playing hooky from work, and someone is going to grab me by the collar and haul me back to the little cubicle that was my home for so many years.

8) That I have healthy hands, so I can type. For someone who spent 4 years unable to type due to hand/wrist/finger problems, I treasure the fact I can type again. There is nothing more frustrating that being kept from your dreams by something so small yet so huge, like not being able to type. If I ever get in a serious accident, I know the first thing I will try to protect are my hands.

9) That I have a dh who supports my writing, and who has health insurance. Not sure which trumps...JK. Ahem. Actually, he's cooking our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner today so I can write my page quota for the day. Need I say more? The guy rocks.

10) That I can be as strange as I want in public, and everyone simply chalks it up to creative genius. Little do they know... Me, eccentric? Never. The aspargus story? A total lie.

11) That I have a built in excuse whenever I want to avoid social engagements. (Friend: Want to come to my Tupperware party Sunday night? Me: I'd love to, but I have to write. Deadline. Friend: Oh, bummer. I can't believe how hard you work. You always seem to be working on weekends. Me: I know. Deadlines are killer. Hee, hee, hee. [Is it my fault my friend didn't ask exactly when that deadline was?]

12) I get to fantasize about hot men all the time, and I get paid for it. And no, it's not almost like being a prostitute by proxy...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I'm 157 pages into MUST LOVE DRAGONS and there's something horribly wrong. I think the heroine is great. Her issues are great. She's hilarious. But my intriciate plot isn't working, and the hero is completely non-essential to the story right now. I mean, I could never mention him again and the book wouldn't change. ARGH! This books wants to be a female-focussed fantasy, not a paranormal romance. The conflict keeping them apart isn't working the way I thought it would. I mean, you'd think that two paranormal beings who are destined to be mortal enemies would be enough, wouldn't you? Maybe I'm just not doing a good enough job with the conflict. Not injecting enough emotions into it. I'm totally lost and oh-so-confused.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bored? Kill Someone.

I'm written just over one third of MUST LOVE DRAGONS, and I was thinking that I needed some action. Something to kick some energy into the story. I didn't know what it was, and I kept writing, and suddenly one of the characters who was supposed to play a major role in this book just got accidentally killed at a booksigning-gone-wrong. How fun! Nothing like the death of a major character to throw your story outline into disarray!

A Calm Mind is an Efficient Mind

Last week, I was totally stressed about line edits and all my upcoming deadlines. On Saturday, I sat down to write and I had the worst time! I spent about six hours and I only wrote about 1/5 of what I would usually write in that time. And what I did write wasn't that strong. So, I gave up and spent the rest of the weekend doing line edits.

But then on Saturday night, I went to a Q&A with 4 professional athletes (runners) who have been to the Olympics. All of them said they run their best when they are calm and relaxed before a race. Why? Because their mind is clear, empty of conflict and distraction. The more there is going on in their mind, the less likely they will race well.

That made me think of a workshop I went to recently with a NYT bestselling author, who basically said the same thing: the brain is most efficient when it is calm. Example: if you are working on a problem and you can't get it figured out, the more time you spend on it, the more frustrated you get, and you STILL can't figure it out! So you give up, and then later, when you're not thinking about it, the answer comes to you.

Why? Because later, you weren't cluttering your mind with all this other stuff, like frustration and stress etc. And I realized that that's what I was doing to myself with my writing. I was so strung out and thinking about all these things I needed to do, that my mind was simply too busy to simply relax and create.

So, after taking yesterday off to regroup, I am sitting down today with a calm mind. I'm not going to worry about deadlines, or writing well, or anything like that. I'm simply going to focus on the story and enjoy the ride.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Anyone have a good book suggestion?

On the excercise bike this morning, I finished off Charlaine Harris's new mystery hardcover. I love her Southern vampire series, but this new one just didn't quite have the same firepower, IMHO. Or maybe there is just something about vampires that makes me quiver with excitement. Yeah, that's probably it.

Anyhoodles, I am plum out of books to read! I'm jonesin' for some paranormals. Any suggestions? PS I'm already on the band wagon with Katie Mac, Kim Harrison, LKH, JR Ward, so no need to go there!


They tried to take me out, but I prevailed! Line edits, finished at 11pm last night and due in NY tomorrow, are finished and they are in the custody of FedEx. YAHOO! I HATE being that close to deadline and it was totally stressing me out. What if I got run over by a bus on Sunday afternoon? My line edits would have been late. I HATE that! But no bus, line edits are in the mail, and life is good.

Off to buy dog and cat food. Ah, the glam life of an author.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Meg and Me

I was just over on Meg Cabot's website reading her blog. She was talking about (in a very nice, non-bragging way) how much money she has made from her writing, the Disney movies made off her books, and I noticed that her new cover doesn't just say "New York Times Best Selling Author." It says "#1 New York Times Best Selling Author."

Meg writes, YA. I write YA.
Meg writes adult romance. I write adult romance.

Meg is a superstar goddess.
I am at the bottom of the food chain.

But no worries. Meg's really old and has had lots of time to become a superstar.


I was horried to read that Meg is only THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD!


Look at what she has accomplished, and she's only THIRTY-EIGHT.

Suddenly, I feel incredibly insignificant.

I am an ant . Meg Cabot is a giant.


Wow. I have GOT to redo my goals chart.

Q&A With Eileen Wilks

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book, MORTAL DANGER?

I'm terrible at blurbs. Luckily for me, my editor is great. So this is from the back-cover blurb: "Now an agent in a special unit of the FBI's Magical Crimes Division, Lily's job is to hunt down Harlowe, a charismatic cult leader bent on bringing an ancient evil into the world. But what Lily doesn't realize is that Harlowe has set a trap--for her. And then the unthinkable happens.In the blink of an eye, Lily's world divides and collides, and she is thrust into a new and frightening reality. Hr only hope will be to trust Rule--and herself--or Lily will be lost forever . . . . "

Click here to read an excerpt of MORTAL DANGER

2) What kind of research do you do on werewolves? Are most of your rules ones you made up, or do you try to stay true to a certain amount of werewolf lore? How do you decide where to draw the line?

While I've certainly read a good deal of werewolf lore, I've done more research on wolves than on werewolves. I've never been satisfied by weres who compulsively attack and eat anything that moves. Real wolves don't behave that way; why would a human-wolf mix?Of course, wolves have long gotten a bum rap. In my "Moon Children" world the legends about mad, bloodthirsty werewolves are much like the scary stories passed on about real wolves in our own world--grossly exaggerated.Not that lupi aren't deadly. They are . . . but selectively.

3) Is Lily ever going to become a werewolf?

I don't think so. In the "Moon Children" world, it's almost impossible for anyone to become a werewolf. Of course, I don't always know what's going to happen . . .

4) In addition to writing single title werewolf books, you also write category romance for Silhouette Intimate Moments and Silhouette Desire. How different or similar are these books to your werewolf stories?

I'd like to say they're much the same, in my greedy wish to draw readers of one type to try the other. And certainly there are points of similarity--like most writers, I have certain themes that draw me repeatedly. But I explore these themes very differently in my category books than I do with my "Danger" books.

5) In MORTAL DANGER, you bring a dragon into the mix. Werewolves, sorcerers, Grandmothers with spooky powers, dragons...what’s next? Do you plan ahead all the different paranormal aspects that will be in each book, or does it evolve when you get there?

If you'd ever seen one of my so-called synopses for the "Danger" books, you wouldn't ask. I try to plan ahead, but my mind doesn't seem to bend in that direction. As a result, I'm often surprised by who (and what) shows up.

6) Who are your favorite paranormal authors these days?

I'm dying for the next Kelley Armstrong book to come out.

7) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next book?

Well, Grandmother comes back from China . . . and just in time. Cynna's back, too, with a big role to play. Rule's dealing with some control issues--he no longer has as much control of his wolf. And Lily finds out why all the preternatural beasties want to get their hands on her.

Visit Eileen Wilks on the web
MORTAL DANGER-- Buy it; Read it
TEMPTING DANGER-- Buy it; Read it

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wet Noodles

Today is my day to post over at the Wet Noodle Posse blog. Go check it out!

Teen Girl Hobby Needed!

I need to come up with a hobby for my main character in my next teen book. I had thought of horses, but that was nixed by my editor. She suggested photography, but I'm not sure I'm inspired by that. So far, I've thought of opening her own ice cream store, glass blowing and playing a musical instrument, but I'm not sure any of those are the type of idea that will make a 13 year old girl lunge for my book and grab off the shelf because she is so desperate to read about it. Granted, the hobby is merely an means to tell the story, but I need something interesting... my mind is blank here. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

An Agent's View: Show Me the Money!

Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about what inspires an agent when the going gets tough. And no, I didn't put her up to this column!

I just love a great movie. Nothing is better than sitting in a crowded movie theater munching on warm, salty popcorn, escaping from it all. This past weekend my Mom and I went to see Jarhead (or Jughead as she's been fondly referring to the flick.) The movie completely gave me an insight to a soldier's mind (you would think being married to one I would've gotten it, but sometimes it takes a whack on my head to really "get" it.) If you haven't seen it, I totally recommend it!! It was a phenomenal movie - I left there in a daze of thoughts.

Another life changing movie in my life was Jerry Maguire. The casting was unbelievable, the actors superb and the storyline amazing! I still remember the first time I saw the film. While my friends were drawn in by the "You complete me" romance plot, I was completely zoned into "Show me the money!" business thread. How cool would it be, I thought, to help someone achieve their dreams? To be the one behind the scenes cheerleading them to success. To have the contacts and the desire to push them to the top. To stop at nothing!

Yes, my dream was born that fateful day. I knew I wanted to be an agent.

Everyday I feel blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful authors. My clients are not just amazing writers, the are fantastic people. I truly want only the best for them so I strive to be their Jerry Maguire - tenacious, dedicated and persistent.

I'm also like a proud Grandma with my brag book. So, right now, let me put on my shawl and gush a little about our own Stephanie Rowe!

The road to a successful publishing career is often bumpy. As trends change, authors often have to change their course. When Stephanie and I first started working together, she had a handful of Silhouette Desires in her arsenal. She is an extremely prolific and dedicated author. So, as we were awaiting decisions from Desire, Stephanie decided to try her hand at humor. And, the rest as they say, is history.

She first contracted with Flipside for her romantic comedy which propelled her chick lit career with Dorchester's Making It imprint. Her editor at Dorchester loved her adult stuff and wanted to see some YA's for SMOOCH. We were sitting on top of the world - Stephanie had found her niche - comedy.

Now, here's where the true test of author character comes in. Flipside shut down. Making It shut down. SMOOCH shut down. After selling 10 projects in a handful of months, we were back to square one.


At this point, Stephanie could've quit. She could've thought, "I'm cursed and I'm done." Instead, she went down the golden road and never looked back. She never gave up. She just worked harder. She never let these bumps get her down. Oh no! Instead, Stephanie wrote a fantastic paranormal (Date Me, Baby, One More Time) which we sold at auction to Warner. And, she wrote some unforgettable YA projects that caught the eye of a wonderful editor at HarperCollins who called last week to offer Stephanie the chance of a lifetime - to launch a new line of teen romances.

So, Steph, THANK YOU for being my Rod Tidwell. For never giving up. For doing all you needed to do to persevere. Thank you for being you.

Editor's Note: Michelle gets full credit for my success! She is so positive and believes so strongly in her authors that she'd never let any of us give up! Plus, she has great career vision and she's the one who kept guiding me to dabble in new areas until I found my niche. So, thank you, Michelle, for all that you are and all that you do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Remember how I mentioned my hints of good news in my alligator post last week? Well, one of them came thru! HarperCollins offered me a two book deal to write YA for them! I'm soooo excited! They will be sweet, like the Smooches, which is great. I'm not all that comfortable writing Gossip Girls-type books, so this will be excellent. The line launches in March 2007 with my book and one other!! I'm still totally stunned and flabbergasted and all that good stuff. I'll still be writing under Stephie Davis. I've been flying high since we accepted the offer! ROCK ON!!!

Book #1 is due 1/15/06, and since MUST LOVE DRAGONS is due 2/1/06 for Warner, I'm going to be one busy girl for the next couple months!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ladies, Start Those Engines!

Okay, I'm finally ready. Ready for what, you ask? Ready to start writing MUST LOVE DRAGONS (yes, that same ms I was talking about two weeks ago). Well, I haven't started writing yet because I discovered I had mucho more pre-work to do than I'd thought. In my old and wizened age, I am finally beginning to learn that if I start to write too soon, I end up stumped and stopped in the middle of the ms, and then have to go back and rework everything. So, I resisted my internal time clock pressuring me to get writing, and I kept fleshing out the character and plot layers. Not that I have plot outline, because I don't. By fleshing out the layers of each person and their motivations and backstory, all the plot layers evolve on their own (though the plot twists evolve as I write). I have all these different characters and now I know how they all interact with each other and how all the subplots contribute to and affect the main plot. I finished up last night, and today I'm plunging in. So...put on that scuba gear! We're finally going in today! Going deep, going long, and going to enjoy the ride.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Have severe sinus headache.
Day #5. In a row.
Will pay up to a thousand dollars to have someone lop off offending body part.

Must find way to concentrate.
Must not chisel off throbbing cheeks, forehead and eyebrows.
Must. Write.

I can do this.


(FYI, "urk" is code for "you have got to be frickin' kidding if you really think you're going to be able to write through this." But I shall persevere anyway, because writers must suffer to be brilliant, and I can use all the help I can get...)

Okay, found this cool axe below. That should do the job. A little off the forehead, a clean sweep of the eyebrows and some shaping of the cheeks. Yes, yes, I think that would solve it. Please. Someone. Put me out of my misery.
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Friday, November 11, 2005

Quiz: What age do you act?

There is no Q&A today because no one has returned the answers to their questions. Sigh. So instead, today is quiz day! It's much more fun to answer questions about yourself anyway, isn't it? It's all about us! So, the quiz topic was "how old do you act?" Sadly enough, I practically act my age. I totally thought it was going to come out that I was 18 and wild, becuase I am super crazy and fun (ahem). Apparently not. At least I don't act like I'm 77. Even when I'm 95, I don't want to act 77. What about you?

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

What Age Do You Act?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Trip Pics & Lessons from Alligators

Okay, I'm back from my trip to Louisiana. It was my first to this area of the country and it was very enlightening. We were west of Katrina's aftermath and East of Rita's, so I didn't see much of the destruction. But I did get my first field trip into a real live Louisiana swamp, gators and all.

Okay, here are my thoughts for the day. See this picture below?
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According to this sign, it's way stupid to throw anything at the gators. First, you'll get arrested. Second, you might become gator bait. I wish I had a sign like this. "Unlawful to throw anything at Stephanie." That includes rejections, bumps in the road of life, and other such aggravating nonsense. But I don't have a sign, and who says anyone would obey it anyway? So, people are going to throw stuff at me, and that's the way it is. Get over it, and move on, right? Find a way to enjoy life anyway, like the gator in my next picture, who is enjoying an afternoon nap in the sun.
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Now, if you look closely, you'll realize that the gator isn't actually sleeping. The minute we showed up, she lifted up her head and watched us. She didn't give up her spot, didn't come charging, but she was waiting. Ready to do whatever she had to do, should the moment call for it. She has huge teeth, a killer tail and enough force to snap my leg off. But most of all, what does she have? Patience. Yep, this lady isn't going to waste her energy on something that hasn't happened yet, and may never (like Stephanie being stupid enough to get within range of her teeth). She's aware. She's ready to respond. But she's simply not getting herself worked up about something bad that may never happen. Or, if she's feeling particularly bloodthirsty and would prefer it if I came within range, she's not knocking herself out over it either. If it happens, she'll deal with it. If it doesn't, she'll continue to enjoy the afternoon sun.

I'm trying to learn from this gator. I got three pieces of potentially great news yesterday. All of them are harbingers of future opportunity, but none of them are concrete, or even remotely close. I spent the day stressing. One minute, I'd be so excited, desperate to find out if they were going to come through. The next minute, I'd be so bummed out, already predicting that they'd all fall through and I'd end up with nothing. You think this gator stresses? No way. She's ready to deal with whatever comes her way, but she simply doesn't knock herself out worrying about things that might be coming, that she can't affect until it gets here.

That's me. I'm going to be a gator. Ready to take off a limb if necessary, but able to stop and enjoy the good in my life right now, without stressing about what's around the corner.

Stephanie the Gator, signing off.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Agent's View: Slumps

Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about the dreaded slump.

Slumps. The pros have 'em. Politicians have 'em. Musicians have 'em. And, yes, even authors have 'em.

One slump that I'm particularly feeling this year is my beloved Green Bay Packers. At 1-7 their season is pretty much defunct. While the coaches should be planning playoff strategies, they are instead scratching their heads wondering if Brett Favre is going to return to the struggling team next year. And, Brett, if you are reading this, I'm begging you to come back.

One of my idols in the music industry is Toby Keith. Early on in his career, his record label tried to stifle his craft. They thought the blockbuster hit "How Do You Like Me Now" would be a flop and that the listeners wouldn't get it. So, a fed-up Toby left his label and tried to find a new home. It was a long, hard haul, but Toby persevered and is now one of the top male artists of all time.

So, what do Brett Favre and Toby Keith have in common?

Number one, they never give up. No matter how hard the road looks ahead, they push on and don't lose site of their goal - to be best of the best.

Number two, they are risk takers. Many of Keith's songs have a not-so-politically-correct feel to them. But, the sarcasm shines through and men and women alike are drawn to his humorous tone. Favre, on the other hand, has been compared to a loose cannon. His "get-it-done-at-all-costs" attitude has made even the strongest Packer fan cringe. But, somehow, someway he always comes out on top of his game. Even if the record doesn't reflect it, he's still beating records every game.

Finally, they love what they do. Both know that it's impossible to stay on top forever, but they will do everything in their power to stay up as long as they can. Every Sunday when Favre hits the field, it looks like it's his first day out. He plays his heart out and never surrenders.

Are you a never-say-die writer? Do you write because the stories in you are busting at their seams to come out? Every time you sit down at the keyboard, do you have that same enthusiasm as you did when you wrote your first words? Are you giving it 100%?

It's an unfortunate fact that many authors find themselves in a slump sometime in their career. Breaking into the industry is a hard enough task, but sometimes even the most established authors find themselves struggling to make that next sale.

Just like Favre on a game day, it's vital to have a gameplan to help you through the slumps. He wouldn't dream of walking onto the field not knowing what play to call, and when to call it. As an author, you need to map out where you are, where you want to be and how you plan to get there. With the help of your agent, you can come up with a workable plan.

But, execution is the key to success. The easy part is sitting down and plotting. The hardest thing is executing your plan. Do you think if Favre went onto the field with his head hung low and a ho-hum effort that his team would give it their all? Of course not. Instead, he greats his team with optimism and excitement.

If you ever find yourself in a slump, don't be afraid to throw that pass that others may second-guess, or to sing that song that people think will never work. Be your own person. Be strong, be tough and never give up.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bon Voyage

I'm off to Louisiana for a big 60th birthday bash for my MIL. All the kids are rolling into town, including my BIL from Japan. Should be quite the affair (anyone feel like sleeping on the floor?). I don't know what kind of internet access I'll have, so I might not be able to blog again until Wednesday, when our Agent's View will be back on track.

The worst thing about going out of town? Leaving my darling pooches behind. We're having their favorite dog sitter staying at the house with them, but no one pampers my babies like I do! Oh, sure, they sleep on the bed with her. Oh, sure, she takes them to the field and runs them. Oh, sure, she snuggles on the couch with them and whispers sweet nothings in their ears. But she's not mom!! Sob.

Okay, fine. I'm sure I'll miss them more than they'll miss me. I admit it. I'm a sucker for 90 lbs dogs who bark and strangers and think they are lap dogs. Sigh.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Love Me, Love My Feet

Today is my day to blog over on the Warner Women blog. You're dying to know what I wrote about this photo of my socks, aren't you? Zip on over there and find out!
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Friday, November 04, 2005

Q&A with Susan Crandall

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current release?

PROMISES TO KEEP (March 2005) is the fourth in the Glens Crossing series. Those of you who haven’t read the first three, never fear, you can read them in any order – but I would suggest reading THE ROAD HOME before this one, if you plan to read them all. BACK ROADS, THE ROAD HOME, MAGNOLIA SKY, and PROMISES TO KEEP all have independent plot lines.

In PROMISES TO KEEP, Molly Boudreau (the youngest and the last of the Boudreau siblings to get her story told) has the career she’s sacrificed for all her life; she’s a doctor. Yet something is missing. She yearns for a soul-stirring connection – and her prayers are answered in a way she could never have predicted…

A pregnant woman with a past cloaked in secrecy shows up at Molly’s clinic, only to be murdered after she gives birth. Molly made this young mother a promise, and now risks her career and safety as she flees with the baby to her hometown. With everyone assuming the infant is hers, she has no trouble hiding the much more explosive truth – until Dean Coletta, a reporter, arrives in town and starts asking probing questions. Dean has his own agenda and a shocking secret that threatens Molly and the child she loves more than life itself.

Click here to read an excerpt of PROMISES TO KEEP

2) BACK ROADS, your debut novel, won the 2004 RITA for best first book. Congratulations! Was that the best moment ever? Was there a time where you wondered whether that book would ever sell, let alone win the top award in the industry?

Oh yeah, that was one fabulous conference! Not only did BACK ROADS win a RITA, it also received two National Readers Choice Awards. I’d never in my wildest dreams imagined such things could happen to me. Needless to say, I was floating around in shock for days after I got home.

For the second part of your question: The road to publication was long and … well let’s just say long. I’d been writing for about eight years. My first five manuscripts are still collecting dust – I like to think of them as my “education.” I started out writing with my sister. She took off to bigger and better things. BACK ROADS was my first solo work. I’d decided if this one didn’t sell, I was throwing in the towel. (Of course, I’m a writer, I could never actually quit writing. But I was threatening it really loudly.)

Shortly after I finished the manuscript, I landed an agent who was very enthusiastic about the book and about me as a writer (which isn’t to say several agents didn’t reject both me as a writer and that manuscript). There were a few publisher rejections that followed, too. I ended up selling to Warner Books before they started the Warner Forever line. Once they decided to do this major push into romance and women’s fiction, they moved my pub date back by eight long months to put BACK ROADS in that line. It was very much worth the wait.

So all you writers out there take heart! It can be long and it can be hard – but you can make it. And, writing is a reward in itself (I know, easy to say from this end of the ordeal – but it’s true), try not to lose sight of that. As many of my writer friends say, “This business ain’t for sissies.”

Click here to read an except of BACK ROADS

3) You’re from Indiana, and PROMISES TO KEEP is set in an Indiana town. How much of the story is based on real places, and how much is fictional? How do you decide how to balance the two?

BACK ROADS gave birth to Glens Crossing, Indiana, the setting for three of my first four novels. I decided to use a fictional town in a fictional county because I wanted a small town setting. And small towns and rural counties are much different than big cities; there’s much less anonymity. That being the case, it’s more difficult to name a real place and not have people looking for the truth in the fiction.

Glens Crossing is an amalgam of many small towns. People who live in my home town will see things that they recognize, but this town, this county and its sheriff are all purely products of my imagination. It’s the spirit of the small town that I draw from reality.

4) When you read for fun, do you evaluate the books your reading? What do you look for? What books have you really enjoyed lately?

Once you start writing, you can’t help but evaluate the books you read. I take each book that I read as an opportunity to learn more about the writing process. However, sometimes I’m halfway through a book and realize I haven’t been watching for how the writer constructed the story and engaged me as a reader. That’s when I know there’s something really special about that book – I’ve been so distracted by being entertained that I’ve forgotten to study.

I look for all sorts of things. How does this author connect me with the characters? How do they evoke emotion? How did they present the story, what tense, what point of view – and what are the advantages to that particular presentation for that particular story. And sometimes I just sit back and am in awe of some authors’ skills.

Now, as for books I’ve enjoyed lately, let me see … I’m currently reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and really liking it. I liked Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. I’ve loved all of Deborah Smith’s books, Saving Grace being the most recent.

5) How did you decide to become an author? Was it something you’d always dreamed of, or did you fall into it at a later date?

I’ve always loved words and been an avid reader. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I never dreamed of writing. Writing actually found me … via my sister. She came to me with something she’d been working on and asked my advice, which led to editing her work, which led to collaborating, which eventually led to writing on my own. Now I’m as addicted to writing as I am to reading.

6) How about a sneak peek at your next book?

ON BLUE FALLS POND will be released in January, 2006. This story has love, family, dogs, secrets, betrayal and just a hint of danger.

Nearly two years after tragedy drove Glory Harrison from her Tennessee hometown, she finds herself called back to care for her ailing Gran. The serenity Glory draws from Blue Falls Pond is short-lived as she is haunted by buried memories of the brutal fire that took her husband and unborn child. Glory finds herself assaulted by reminders she’d rather avoid … including fire chief Eric Wilson, the man who saved her life that fateful night. Eric’s strength and kindness conspire to break down the walls Glory has built around her heart – and each moment in his powerful embrace makes it that much harder to tear herself away. Can she gather the courage to face the dark truths lurking in her past and build a future with the humble hero who made her believe in herself – and in love – once again.

Click here to read an excerpt of ON BLUE FALLS POND

Susan Crandall

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My thoughts on Agents

A few days ago, Miss Snark posted that if a best selling author turns in a subpar book, neither her agent or her editor will tell her that the book is bad, because the author will fire the agent, buy back her contract, and find a new agent & house that will tell her she's great.

The more I think about this statement, the more it upsets me. I count on my agent and editor to be my guides. To fight for me, but to also help grow my career. If I can't depend on them to tell me when my book needs work, who can I count on? It doesn't matter if you have the highest profile agent in the industry--if she won't be your conscience and your guide as well as your advocate, you have nothing. A great agent/author relationship is a two way street. It's not a one-way trip down Admiration Lane. If my agent didn't stop me from making bad decisions, then what am I paying her for? So she can stand back and let me crash and burn? No way.

But I guess that's me. Some people simply want an agent who gets them money and then gets out of their way. Not me. I'm not an idiot. I don't have delusions of grandeur that I can succeed on my own. I know I need a partner, a team, and it starts with my agent.

Any good agent can sell a good book.
Any good agent has contacts with editors.
No agent is flawless in every way. No person is flawless. It’s what makes us human.
But a great agent can make every author feel like the most important one in the world.
A great agent has boundless energy and enthusiasm
A great agent truly cares and lets her clients and editors know it.
A great agent can drive a client’s career forward through her belief and conviction in that client.
A great agent has the kind of relationship with her authors that allows for frank discussions about an author's career, books and decisions.
A great agent can deliver tough love when necessary, and a great author gets down on her knees and thanks her agent for it.

Editors can sense that enthusiasm that a great agent has for her authors. That commitment. That belief. That relationship.

Editors respond to it. It makes a difference. It gets an author to the computer every day to fight for her career. It gets an author to keep her chin up when the rejections roll in with reckless abandon. It makes an editor sit up and listen, even if no other credentials are on the table. It is what makes the relationship continue to prosper and grow over time, no matter what little blips in the road might appear. Industry contacts can be made and improved. Contract expertise can expand over time. Negotiating leverage builds with each sale to a house. These things build over the years, over the decades.

This other? The intangible? It’s there or it isn’t. If you don't have it with your agent, demand it, and be grateful when you get it.

An Agent's View Will Have to Wait...

An Agent's View will return next week at its regularly scheduled time. It has been pre-empted this week by a visit home from a dh who is currently deployed in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Did you hear that door slam???

Thought for the day: when one door closes, there has GOT to be another one around that's at least unlocked. I'm going to find that door and kick it open, and you heard it here first!

Eyes Wide Open

As I embark upon day #3 of brainstorming for MUST LOVE DRAGONS, I have discovered a truth. The truth is that the reason I didn't feel ready to start writing MLD may indeed have been one part fear, but in fact, it simply wasn't ready to write. I needed to do brainstorming to flesh the story and characters out. And after two days, I still need to do some more. The story and characters are coming together nicely, but there was no way I would have been ready to write a good book if I'd tried to go forward based only on what I'd put together for the proposal. So sometimes, maybe what looks like writer's block based on one cause (fear of failure), may actually be the smarter part of your brain saying "Hey, you numbnut! This book isn't ready to write, as is! You need to dig deeper before you start pumping out prose, so get to it!"

Off to brainstorm.

An Agent's View will be coming up later today... stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the Presence of Greatness

I'm sooo lucky! At a recent booksigning, I (that's me, in the leather jacket up front) got to sit between Hobbes the tiger and NYT Bestselling author Lisa Jackson (Lisa was extremely cool, btw). Lisa and Hobbes got plenty of attention, and some I was able to parlay some of their adoring fans into sales for me by waving my books at people and bribing them to buy my book..ahem...allowing them fulfil their deepest fantasies of having an autographed copy of a Stephanie Rowe/Stephie Davis book. I'm going to invite Hobbes and Lisa to my next booksigning. Or Hobbes at least. I mean, seriously, is that the greatest facial expression ever??? I think I'm going to steal that poster next time I'm at that store. That way, the next time I have a bad day and someone asks me, "How's it going?," I can just point to Hobbes and nod wisely.

Other attendees were Lisa Jackson's sister, Nancy Bush and her dog Biggsie, who was very good and got lots of attention. In the black shirt is Carly Alexander and standing up is my good pal, Shirley Karr.

This booksigning was at the Border's Express in the Vancouver Mall, in Washington. We all left signed books (and so did Sherrilyn Kenyon, as you can see by all her books on the shelf behind us), so feel free to zip over there for autographed copies.

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