Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

drive safe. watch out for other guy. be cooler than me, who is posting on my blog at 11pm instead of running around causing trouble.

funny story of the week: i went to Macaroni Grill for dinner, and after dinner, i went to the rest room. I'm the only one in there, so I'm having a litle party and singalong while I'm washing my hands, and then suddenly I realize it says "men" on the back of the door. Now, I had a little incident not too long ago where I went into the men's room by mistake and seriously paid for it, so the instant I saw "men" on the back of the door, I totally freaked and was like "OMG! I did it again! What IS my problem?" So i lunge for the door and yank it open, hoping to bail before I get bagged (fyi, the trauma from my previous incident still lingers) and I yank the door open, then I realize it says "women" on the outside of the door. So I jerk my back back ino the restroom and read the back of the door again, wondering if i was losing my mind. Nope, it really does say "Men." So I look on the outside of the door again and it says "Women." So I go thru this exercise a couple more times before I realize that the restaurant was intentionally trying to mess with me! Bastards! My opposite-sex-bathroom-psyche is way too fragile for that!!!!!! Thoroughly traumatized, I stagger back to the table and relay my horror story to my dinner companions. My dh then tells me that "Women" is written on the backside of the "Men's" door. Um, hello!?!? A litle heads up would have been nice!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ask an Author Friday

Okay, this is yet another Friday without my weekly author Q&A. It's totally my fault. Between my book deadlines and the holidays, I haven't been sending out the questionnaires to the authors. I promise to get my act in gear starting next week! But to fill in this week, I'll interview myself.

1) What is the worst date you've ever been on?

The one where I told my date I was a Martian and I had green bumps popping out of my face becuase once a month my skin turned greet and lumpy. This was said while I was hunched over with my feet on the dashboard of his car and my hands over my face, blocking this dude from making the move on me. Why didn't I just tell him to back off? I don't like confrontation. Why I thought claiming I was from Mars was easier than confrontation, I don't know. To this day, I still can't believe my mom kept a straight face when I got home from the date and told her what happened. The best part? My high school friends brought it up at my wedding. Nice, huh?

...oops! It's time to go out for our 11th anniversary dinner. I'll finish this up later!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

got no love

Last night, my computer froze up. I powered down and then when I tried to turn it back on, I got no love. I couldn't even get into Windows. So I called HP support and they said that my Operating System was shot and I needed to repair or reinstall it, and at the least it would wipe out all my documents (repair option) and at worst, it would wipe out everything (reinstall option). I asked if there were any other options, and he said no. I said I really didn't want to lose all my data, and he said there were no other options.

So, I called my BIL, computer wizard and asked him if HP was telling the truth, and he said yes and no. Yes, because my OS was probably shot, but No, because he could copy my hardrive, fix my OS and then put everything back on it. Or, if it was a hard drive problem, he could still put copy my existing hard drive onto a new hard drive and all would be well. So, nothing lost, except possibly my emails and contacts, but he's optimistic about that.

Um, hello? We paid good money for a 3 year extended warranty from HP and they can't offer that service? Data recovery would be nice, don't you think? Apparently, all the extended warranty covers is hardware and telling you how to wipe all your data off your computer, end of story. Lose your data? Not their problem.

So, I am heading off to The UPS store to ship my BIL my computer so he can mess around with it, see what the problem is, make a copy of my hard drive, fix the problem, then put everything back on and send it back. So much for the HP extended warranty, and thank heavens for my BIL.

And, for the moment, I've lost all my emails and all my contacts, so anyone who is waiting for an email from me...please email me again! Or, if you ever want to hear from me, please email me becuase I have no email addresses! I'm doing email off the web at the moment.

There's nothing like having a total sytem failure two and a half weeks before your book is due, eh?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

can you hear me screaming??

I just saw that the cover art is posted on for DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME, my paranormal romcom about the Goblet of Eternal Youth, sex-obsessed leaders of hell and no-carb pretzel moguls!!! SO COOL!!! My mom is sitting on the couch reading the newspaper, so I turned my monitor around to show her and she was like, um... that's great. I could tell she was totally thinking "Well, of course it's going to be up on Amazon. Duh." Well, yeah, but it's still SO COOL!!!

things that make you do the snoopy dance

Question: what's almost as cool as seeing your first book on the shelves for the first time?

Answer: seeing a good friend's first book on the shelves for the first time.

Today I was in Waldenbooks and I saw Michelle Rowen's BITTEN & SMITTEN on display! Not only was in on sale, but it was in a 4x4 (4 rows of 4 books each) wooden display right in front of the cash register with Janet Evanovich and Carly Phillips. There were only 16 books in the display and one of them was B&S! Talk about AWESOME product placement!!! Seriously, I had to step around this display in order to get to the register. So I bought it and bragged to the register lady that I knew the girl who wrote it and I was so excited to read it and I've heard it was so good, etc. etc.

And, in an equally cool moment, I was in the grocery store three days ago and I saw another good friend's first book on sale as well!!! There weren't many books in the book section, but front and center was Janice Lynn's JANE MILLIONAIRE, face out, of course!!! I was so excited and I dragged my husband over to show him (he was the only one around, sadly) and pointed it out, and then bought it and bragged to the register girl. That cover is HOT and the book is supposed to be just as HOT so I'm so excited to read it!

So, the question is, do I read vampire first or H-O-T first...or do I write the book that's due 1/15 and put off reading until I turn in my book?

Dang it. I couldn't have stopped with the first part of the question, could I? No... I had to ask the second part. Idiot!

Off to lock my new books up so I can't touch them for another three weeks.

Monday, December 26, 2005

excerpt up!

The excerpt for my January Intrigue just went up on my website. I'm not sure I chose the best scene for an Intrigue. It's one of my favorite moments in the book, but I'm thinking maybe I should have posted a more dramatic and scary moment, since it's a romantic suspense. If you read it, let me know what you think. I might have to change it...

making your reader bleed

In the last ten days, I have started and restarted and restarted my new YA, until I was seriously wondering whether I actually owned a single brain cell capable of creating a story that anyone would ever read. I brainstormed with my family (which I never do--I'm totally a do-it-yourself kind of girl), reworked the story, then brainstormed some more. I contemplated trashing the entire story and starting over (every single book I write has a moment or two where I become certain that it's unsalvageable and must be tossed. I think it's a rite of passage). Then finally in one brainstorming session, I created a new twist on my story and my main character, and suddenly more spinoff ideas started forming. I wrote several pages of notes, felt like I'd made some progress, then went back to my story and started rewriting. And it's working! What a brilliant feeling!

And I realized, as usual, that the key development that is finally making the story start to fly is that my main character is starting to develop into a really interesting and compelling character. She's got spunk, she's sympathetic, and I love her. She's not boring, she's got some serious issues and some flaws, but she's compelling, and I adore her, reminding me that no matter how good my plot is, the thing that makes any book compelling is the characters, even if it's a mainstream thriller heavy on the plot.

The simple truth is that your reader MUST care what happens to your character. They don't have to like them (though that helps), but they MUST care what happens to them.

Think of it this way: you get a call from a friend who heard that your fifth grade teacher died suddenly in a car accident after crashing into the abominable snowman. You never liked your teacher, you haven't thought of her in the 10 years since you were in the class. So, you're mildly interested in the fact she died, but really, you're much more interested in the fact that the abominable snowman actually exists. But when your dog runs in the room trailing the remains of the presentation you were up all night working on, you forget about your old teacher and the Yeti and chase your dog upstairs, threatening to withhold all ball playing for at least a week if he won't relinquish it.

Now, imagine you get the call from a friend who says that your best friend has just died in a car accident after crashing into the abominable snowman. Reaction? You could care less about the abominable snowman, other than to hate it because it killed your friend. Dumb hairy beast deserves to be extinct. Your dog runs into the room trailing the remains of the presentation you were up all night working on, and you stare at him and realize how little work actually matters in the grand scheme of things, because you're too shaken up by your friend's death to care at all if your boss hates you.

The only difference in these two scenarios is in how much you care about the person who died.

It's the same in a book. Your reader has to bleed with that character, has to feel that character in their heart and soul and worry about them. If you don't have that, nothing else matters.

It took me a long time to really believe that. I was so into plotting and twists, and (surprise, surprise) I couldn't sell a thing. It wasn't until I started really focusing on character that things started to happen. I still have to remind myself how important character is, but I can SO tell the difference when my characters finally become compelling.

That's where I am right now. The protagonist in my teen book just became compelling. Which means, now the fun begins.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hello, my name is pond scum

Today I was in Barnes & Nobles doing a little holiday shopping. I checked out the teen section and the romance section and was delighted to see that they had two Stephanie Rowe titles and one Stephie Davis title. Yay! So I gathered them up and skipped to the customer service desk, showed them my pile, identified myself as the author, and asked whether it would be okay to sign them. Two lovely people helped me. I was signing, they were stickering, all was great.

But right next to me, a man was talking to another customer service rep. He needed to buy a book for some female he didn't know at all, and he had no idea what to get her. The customer service was being entirely unhelpful (example: rep: "What does she like?" man: "I don't know. She likes to eat, I guess." rep: "I could recommend a book on eating disorders.")

So I chime in and I ask the man how old the girl is. He says she's in ninth grade. So I beam and hold up the copy of my teen book that I'm currently signing and I say "You should get her a teen romance."

So that customer service rep gives me the poisonous look and snaps, "I have to get away from you before we get in an argument." The venom and disgust in her voice made me feel like the scourge of the earth. Hello? Did I look like the type to kill puppies and small children for amusement? So I try to wipe the shock off my face and say, "Do you have a problem with romance?" And she goes, "I have to get away from you," with the most venomous tone I think I've ever heard in my life, and then she grabs the customer and drags him off.

I was so shocked I honestly didn't know how to respond. Now, I've run into plenty of people who like to knock romance, and I can live with that. But never have I run into anyone who made me feel like the illegitimate daughter of Satan. Seriously, this woman was oozing poison like nothing I've ever experienced.

The two nice reps who were helping me made no comment at all, and I finished signing the books up, totally shaken up. I offered to put the books back so I could make sure they were face out, and as I was carrying them back, the Evil Woman was returning to the front of the store. She walked right past me and wouldn't even make eye contact. Obviously she figured out that I torture and destroy humans merely by making eye contact... ????

Ironically enough, when I got back to the teen section, the man she'd been helping was walking out with the book she'd apparently gotten for him, and it was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which is basically the same type of book I write, except in that series, there is actual sex going on, and mine never do more than kiss. Evil Customer Service Rep and I need to have a little educational session? Or some sensitively training?

I'm kidding. Nothing is going to help her.

So anyway, I was totally wigged out and I didn't know what to do. First of all, as a romance reader, I was so disconcerted by her hostility that I would totally take my business elsewhere. Second of all, as an author, I was so disconcerted by her hostility that I wouldn't want to go back to that store again to sign stock.

She was too vehement for me to bother talking to (I knew there was nothing I could say that would change her mind), but I seriously debated whether I should talk to the manager. In the end, I left without saying anything. Why? Because I have talked to many booksellers who have had an author appear at that store, had the author do something they didn't like, and consequently blackballed the author from their store. I knew I was in the right, but I felt that I could not risk causing a stink, even a really nice, friendly stink. What if the manager chastised this woman, and then this woman went on a rampage about me to all the other staff members? I'm not there to defend myself, story gets distorted, suddenly a very big chain in a very busy location doesn't support me.

I discussed it with family members when I got home, and the general consensus was it wasn't worth the risk to my career to say anything. I still feel like I should have said something, but I'm terrible at confrontation, and I really don't know if I could confront the issue without causing more damage than it was worth.

So instead, I'm sitting here at the computer fretting about it.

What would you guys have done?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A sign it's time to call it a night

I'm sitting here working, then I suddenly noticed that it was totally quiet. I was like, what's up with that? Then I realized my headphone were in my ears, so I was even more confused. Until I realized I'd never turned my Ipod on.

Then, ten minutes later, the quiet started bugging me again, and I realized I still hadn't turned my Ipod on.

Headphones were in, but those really don't do much good without music actually being piped to them.

Time to shut down and move on.

Hurts So Deep

Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees yesterday.

The Yankees. As in, bitter enemy who deserves no forgiveness for anything, including the mere fact they dare to exist.

Johnny Damon has been the spirit of the Red Sox. And now he goes across enemy lines?? I don't understand it. He was offered $10m/year with the Sox, and he took $13m/year with the Yankees. When you're making that much money, does three million really mean that much?

Johnny is going to be so sorry when he shows up for spring training and discovers that baseball is no longer a game and no longer supposed to be fun.

Sadly, I like him so much I can't hate him for donning pinstripes. But man, I saw an awesome red sox santa hat today and I had to look away in pain.

Being Sox fan might actually be more emotional stressful than being an author.

And I'm both. There's no hope for my sanity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Travel Nuggets

I spent the day far above Mother Earth today, flying the friendly skies with United. I usually hate flying, but today was smooth sailing (meaning, I didn't have to spend the night in the airport due to cancelled flights. It's always a bonus when I get to skip that part of my trip. Although the last time I slept over at O'Hare International, I did get to see Danny Glover. It made me feel better to realize he was stranded as well. Even the rich and famous can't force magic when it comes to air travel!)

Anyhoodles, at one point in the flight, the pilot got on his speaker and said, "If everyone will look out the left side of the plane, you're probably wondering what that bright light is." It was night, so the bright light stood out. I'm thinking maybe it's some natural wonder. Or a forest fire. Or a bunch of fairies doing a mating dance.

Um, sorry. Try again.

It was Dow Pharmecutical doing its annual 3-day burnoff of industrial waste.

Is that a reassuring thought or what? Breathe deep, ladies and gentlemen, and you might be able to star in your real life version of the X-Men.

For the record, if starring in my own X-Men meant that Hugh Jackman as Wolverine would be showing me the ropes of mutant life, I'd be SO down with inhaling that industrial waste three day burnoff.

While I was contemplating exactly how distrubing the 3 day burnoff was, I took a gander around me. I was sitting in first class, courtest of my well-traveled dh's free upgrades. There were twenty-four seats in first class. Guess how many women?


Me, up there by virtue of my dh's free upgrades.
A business woman up there on her own firepower.
And a family with a teenage daughter.

Of the twenty-four seats in first class, guess how many went to people of color?


The business woman who was up there on her own firepower.
A family of three.

The seats of money and power had gone to the white men. Again. As usual.

When I was working the day job, whenever I was in leadership meetings, I would always look around the room and count heads. Usually, the ratio was about 20 men to 2 women. One person of color (usually Asian or African American). That's what it looks like at the top of the corporate food chain, gals. I could have stayed there and fought for my place in those meetings, been that female representative climbing the food chain. I could have done that, but I bailed. I hated that life, I hated the politics and I loved writing. Should women stay in the workplace so they can even out the imbalance for women coming behind them? Or is it okay to be selfish and say my life isn't worth this grief? There's no right answer, but sitting in first class today surrounded by men, a part of me wanted to march back into corporate america and do some damage.

The same issue comes up in the writing world. Tess Gerritsen has recently been talking on her blog about readers reading across differences: men reading books by women, whites reading books by Asians or African Americans. She talked about how she worked hard to transcend a label as a Chinese author and as a female author, and basically said that the only way to be a best-seller is to transcend those labels. Moreso with the race issue, but as a mainstream suspense writer, she had to get male readers and white readers. She even said that before her first book came out, she lobbied her editor and agent hard not to have her photo put in the book so her books wouldn't be labeled by her race. As it turned out, her picture went in and she has become a superstar, but it certainly makes you think.

Did you know that the reason JK Rowlings goes by JK Rowlings is because her editors were concerned that no boys would buy her book if they knew a female wrote it? Of course, now everyone knows who she is, but in order to break out, sometimes you have to hide who you are and what makes you special. It may be the truth, but there's something so fundamentally wrong about it.

Is the world more open today than it used to be? In some ways, yes, but in so many ways, we are all still fighting the same battles and the same prejudices. But you know what? In romance, being female is an advantage. Male romance authors often have to take gender-neutral names to succeed. Romance is a field where the top of the food chain, where first class, where the corner offices are primarily occupied by women.

Most fields that are primarily female-dominated fields have lower pay, but not the romance genre. Romance is the place to be if you want to be an author who makes a living at her job. Romance is female power. Romance is the big bucks, yet it's a niche made and driven and created by women. Women readers, women authors, women editors. In genre fiction, the female dominated industry is the top.

Romance rocks. May the rest of the world catch up to us. Please.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Starting over can be soooo tough sometimes

I started writing my YA today.

Then I deleted five pages I'd written and started over.

Then I decided that it was still wrong and took a break.

Now I'm back, and I'm going to delete everything and start over again.

It seems that the better I get at writing, the tougher it becomes to write. Why? Because I can see now when things don't work. When I first started writing, everything I wrote was brilliant (in my poor deluded mind, that is) and the books flew off my fingers.

Today, when something is off in my writing, I see it. Usually. Well, more often than I used to. On the one hand, that's great because substantially raises the quality of my writing. On the other hand, it can make for some really slow days, because I have to keep deleting what I've written because it's flawed.

By flawed, I don't mean that I have an awkward sentence or I didn't put in enough description. Those are easy fixes to be addressed during the revision phase. By flawed, I mean, the main character has become a snide, sniveling cretin who should be killed instead of playing the lead role in the story. Or the entire tone of the book is veering off into the wrong direction. Or I detest the characters (the ones I'm supposed to like), which means my reader will detest them too. Or I am suddenly shedding tears of anguish while writing a scene in a book that's supposed to be a comedy. These are the big problems, the kind that make me stop in my tracks and realize I'm going to have to highlight too many pages and press DELETE.

Once I get two thirds of the way through a book, I usually have enough set up that I don't run into this problem anymore. But starting a book is a whole other ball-o-wax. I think I started MUST LOVE DRAGONS six different times. In the end, I loved it. But those were some frustrating times.

And now I'm facing the same problem again. But I'm trying to stay positive. I'm trying to stay confident. I'm trying to remember that every time I start a book, this happens, and it always ends up okay. I'm trying to remember that the reason I'm running into this problem is because I'm experienced enough to realize what's not working (that's a good thing). Frustration will make it more difficult to work though it, and it is unnecessary.

Now, the trick is to make myself remember all that, live by it, and get this book off the ground without banging my head on the keyboard and crying repeatedly for hours on end. Although it might be worth it if it gets my dh to suggest going out to dinner to cheer me up... hmm...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cover Alert!

Today I had an awesome surprise waiting for me when I got home from the gym! My cover flats for my May paranormal romance arrived!! I'm SOOOO excited! I love the cover! It looks even better in person. The title is raised, which doesn't show up on the scan. I was so worried that the cover wouldn't scream "I am a paranormal," but I think they did a great job with it. Yay! For your viewing pleasure (okay, fine, for my viewing pleasure), I've scanned in the front, the back and then the whole thing so you can see how it looks together, because I think it looks particularly striking when you see how it all comes together. I'm really digging the contrast of the black, white and pink. And the font kicks butt! To read more about my new cover and getting high on the highs, zip on over to the Wet Noodle Posse blog, because today was my day to post!

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The Talented Ms. Stephanie

I did spinning class this morning and hurt my thumbs. Spinning = riding a stationary bike. Thumbs = not involved in the activity. Yet somehow, I managed to hurt both of them. A lot.

Now that takes talent.

Almost as much talent as getting my elbow stuck in a trampoline (I was a kid).

Or getting my index finger stuck in the handle to my desk drawer (two days ago).

Or getting fairly serious burns on my arm from a heat pack (three weeks ago).

Or clocking myself in the head with my tennis racquet while playing (yesterday).

I'm sure you're completely shocked to learn that the list goes on and on and on and on....

Friday, December 16, 2005

Set up Grindstone. Press Nose Against It. Repeatedly.

Today, I finally got the editoral direction from Harper Collins on the YA I'm writing for them. I'm really excited with how my editor tweaked my idea, and I think it's going to be a great story. Yay!!! The only problem? It's due January 15.

Yep, January 15.

As in, less than a month away.

As in, I have my two page outline and my editor's two page email and that's it. No other notes or idea on this story. I can't start writing today. Or even tomorrow. Or probably even Sunday. I need to spend those days working on the story and characters before I can even think about writing. Which gives me even fewer days to write.

As in, I'm going to be spending two weeks with relatives over the holidays, relatives who don't think it's too polite for me to be hiding at my computer when I'm supposed to be socializing, relatives who live on the other side of the country who I really want to hang out with because I never see them! I guess I won't have time to help clean up after dinner... ah, the choices we must make as dedicated writers!

Yep, it is SO time to set up that grindstone and get to work.

But, on the plus side, I turned in MUST LOVE DRAGONS to my agent for a read thru, so at least that's out of my hair for the moment. That was a HUGE relief!!!!!!!!! PHEW!

And now, off to brainstorm...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stress Solutions

I got some news today that totally stressed me out. Like, major stress.

Solution: bake myself a cake and eat the whole thing by myself in two days.

There is nothing like sugar to make you feel fat and stressed instead of just stressed.

An Agent's View: Brownies, Santa & Plotting

Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about Brownies, Santa & Plotting

Brownies, Santa and Plotting

When I was a little girl, I swore I was going to be a teacher. The dream lasted through my second year of college when I discovered business. The rest, they say, is history.

Now, I'm living the best of both worlds. I'm raising two fantastic kids and helping them learn new things every day. Plus, I'm getting to run my own agency where I'm surrounded by smart, successful writers.

Late this afternoon, I ran my daughter's Brownie troop meeting. Today, they earned the "Let's Pretend" badge. The girls learned tools to help them perform in front of a crowd. After a rowdy game of charades and some breathing exercises to help them project (ummm, not a smart plan since 6/7 year olds are pretty good at doing that naturally), we broke into three groups where each group was given the task of writing and performing a Christmas play in front of their peers. I gave each group about 15 minutes to come up with an idea, to select roles and to make props.

My other two co-leaders and I didn't know what to expect. Could first graders pull something like this off? Boy, were we pleasantly surprised! The girls not only pulled it off, they excelled! Each group came up with fun, unique stories and plots. They learned to work together as a team to achieve one common goal.

They also learned to brainstorm, and to throw ideas around until they found the right ones. And, when it was time to get up in front of the group to perform, there was no fear. No nervousness. No apprehension. Rather, there was just joy and fun! At the end of the meeting they girls came up and asked me if they could write another play!

So, what did I learn this afternoon watching these amazing girls?

1) No idea is a bad idea. When you are plotting your fiction, let it all out. Don't be afraid to let your mind go. Write down all your thoughts and review them. New ideas might spur from your old ones.

2) Trust your friends. They are there to support you and to help you succeed. Listen to their thoughts, but never settle for anything less than your convictions.

3) Act silly! Life is meant to be enjoyed. Laughter really is the best medicine.

4) Perform like there is no one in the audience. If you quiz adults on their biggest fears, one that always appears toward the top of the list is public speaking. But, my girls today got in front of their peers and their families with no reservations. With no fears. With only excitement and yearning to tell their story.

5) Pay attention to your surroundings. The girls gave their undivided attention each other and sought out details in their environments and utilized them into their skits.

Most of all, they gave each other a warm, loving place to showcase their creativity. I am so proud of these girls. In the short hour that we were together, they showed me the real meaning of friendship and the joy of the season.

Wishing you many wonderful memories this holiday season!

Thoughts on Website Contests

I just finished picking the winner for my contest in which I'm giving away a free pair of running shoes, and I had quite the entertaining time.

First of all, the contest rules state that you can win only if you sign up for my newsletter. Well, I had almost 2000 entries and only 200 new people sign up for my newsletter. Hello? Do they think I'm not going to check? I went through 47 people who answered the question right but hadn't signed up for the newsletter before I found the winner. Total time drain, but I SO wasn't going to succumb!

And then the answers...too funny! Okay, to answer the question, all the entrant had to do was read the excerpt on my website. Not too much, right? Well, the question basically asked what the main character (Paris) thought of her boss (Thad). Answer: she sort of has the hots for him, but he's her boss, plus she's dating someone else, so he's off limits, so she uses him as her fantasy lover. Pretty simple, huh?

Well, here are some answers I got:

Tootsie (What contest was this person entering??)

Eric (got this one twice. Didn't make sense the second time either)

32 (32 what? I have no clue, and neither does this person, apparently)

if the shoe fits (um, hello? that's the title of my book. Good guess, but still wrong!)

don'e like her (first of all, her boss is a guy, not a girl... no brownie points for typos either...)

sleeping with him (um, no. that's the whole point, that she's not)

dallas (dallas?? Whatever.)

dk (again, i'm so confused by this answer I don't even know where to start)

browns (browns...hmm...a football reference???)

toenail (I don't even know how to respond to this one...)

chiquita (Was she hungry when she was entering my contest?)

fattie huge (My, my, someone was feeling hostile, weren't they?)

very hot! (This answer came through on 90% of the entries. This answer was posted on a sweeps website, so although it was in the ballpark of correct, I deemed it wrong unless someone had added enough other info to show they'd actually read the excerpt. That's all I wanted: an little excerpt reading.)

So, this contest was a success because I got 2000 entries. But how many actually read the excerpt or signed up for my newsletter? Once again, we ponder the usefulness of a website contest...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Clinging to the Edge of the Cliff with my Fingernails

So sorry to have gone MIA the past few days, but after I finished my book, I was completely and totally FRIED. I couldn't think, let alone sit down at the computer. Today I am finally back and trying to work my way through emails and other computer things I need to do, like posting on my blog!

But the most important item of the day is to announce Michelle Rowen as a goddess. A few weeks ago on my blog, I asked for recommendations for paranormal authors, and she suggested Rachel Caine. Well, I just finished ILL WIND last night and it was awesome! I totally enjoyed it, so thank you Michelle!!!! I am already off to find the rest of the books in the series. Michelle, I totally owe you!!

PS Michelle is going to be sitting next to me at the RWA signing in Atlanta (or so we expect, given our last names), so I'm very excited to cause trouble with I mean, sip our tea in a dignified and professional manner... yeah, that's it. Dignified and professional.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bad Gifts

Today on the radio the DJ was taking calls about the worst gift people have ever received. This woman called in and said her ex-husband once gave her a black plastic donkey that pooped cigarettes. Apparently, you shove a cigarette in its ear and then it poops it. And as if that wasn't hilariously awful enough, the poor woman had stopped smoking three months prior!!!! Clearly, we can all understand why he is her EX. Omigosh. I am still laughing.

I tried to think of the worst gift I'd ever received, but nothing even came close to that one. Although I did bring a dead plant to a white elephant gift exchange once. I thought that was pretty hilarious. No one else did. Go figure.

Anyone else have horrendous gift stories?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

So Close I Can Taste It

Page Goal: 390 pages
Current page count: 409 pages
Chapter count: About to start writing the epilogue.
Current State of Mind: Euphoria laced with disbelieving pride and an empowering sense of accomplishment. If I could make it through this, I can make it through anything!

Did you hear me? I am about to start writing the epilogue. The epilogue comes at the END. After the rest of the book is finished. I am almost at the end!!!

I AM ALMOST FINISHED! I AM SO EXCITED! I had so many subplots that I was afraid it wouldn't come together seamlessly, and I think it did! I think I might have succeeded! And if it's not quite right, I know I can fix it because it's in pretty good shape.


An Agent's View: Sticky Contract Clauses

Agent Michelle Grajkowksi of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about sticky contract clauses.

Today I feel like a bear. Not the grumbling, scary kind. Rather more like a soft, squishy, playful bear cub, wanting to play in the snow, but knowing it's better to pack on the pounds and hibernate for a while. Instead of sleeping, though, I'm frantically trying to get through my To-Do list.

And, apparently the publishing world is too! As I'm knee deep in contract negotiations with a few houses, I thought now would be a good time to make you aware of some clauses that you should pay close attention to before signing an agreement.

Just as it sounds, as an author you are granting your rights to the publisher to publish your novel. The clause will normally mention what the territory of your sale is (worldwide, North American, etc.) and will also usually note what rights you are granting (motion picture, audio, etc.)

Generally, both the territory and the rights are negotiable. And, what rights we relinquish depends a lot on the publisher. In a Harlequin category sale, for example, it makes sense to keep the foreign rights with the publisher because Harlequin has a fantastic global network in place and oftentimes the authors find their books spreading across the ocean. Some of the other houses, however, have terribly large lists and your book may get lost in the foreign rights shuffle. Therefore, many times it is better to keep those rights for yourself.

When you are reading through the grant of rights, proof it very carefully. Sometimes publishers will throw in a non-compete statement in the clause. It's crucial to understand what you are signing.

Another clause to pay especially close attention to is the non-compete. In this clause, Publishers sometimes try to keep an author exclusively writing for them by putting in restrictive language. Your best bet is to whittle this language down as much as possible. Try not to box yourself in to writing for only one house. The flexibility of being able to move is always beneficial. Also, try to strike any language which will force you to keep a series with your Publisher.

Publishers want to protect their investments. A book is expensive to produce, especially when you factor in all the hands that much touch it, the packaging and the promotions. Publishers do not want just a one hit wonder. Therefore, most houses include an option clause. The option is the timeframe for the editors to evaluate the next project that an author writes after the contract books are complete on their current contracts. My best advice - if you are writing light, humorous paranormals, limit your option to read "light, humorous paranormals." Don't settle for next work of fiction. You will be extremely limited, and if you have a wonderful mystery that wants to pop out of you, you are not going to be able to send it on until your option is fulfilled.

These tips are only the tip of the iceberg. My best advice is to hire an agent or a literary attorney to help you navigate the contract before you sign.

Finally, always remember to look far into the future when you are negotiating a publishing contract. What sounds good today might not be the best for your career tomorrow. I like to play the "what if" game. "What if" my client gets a great offer for her ongoing series from house B but we've already signed off on those rights. "What if" my client has a great idea for a new, unrelated series in a different genre mid-contract but the option states fiction? While "what if's" can make you crazy in your everyday life, play that game as you are signing your contract. With over 100 contracts under my belt, the "What if" game has helped me negotiate the best deals I can for my clients.

That, and the fact that this sweet little bear cub can morph into angry mama bear if things aren't going my way...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

SDR on the Web

Today (yesterday) was my day to post on the Warner Women blog, so surf on over there to read my brilliant and earthshattering insights on losing your mind.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Is it Just Me?

Am I the only one who gets so consumed by the huge mass of things that must be done, aren't done, and won't be done at any time in the foreseeable future, that I feel like my head is going to fall off, my chest is going to explode (and no, not from my obscenely large breasts), and my computer is going to start laughing at me so hard that it pees in its pants? Is it just me, or are there others out there who feel like this?

Usually when I get to the home stretch in a book, things start flying. Not this time. Instead, I have a tube of superglue sitting on my desk so that I can stick my head back on my neck when it spins off and goes shooting out the window.

I. Am. Losing. My. Mind.

Or what little there was to begin with.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Poor Strategical Decision

It is a really bad idea to read one of Christine Feehan's books while you are on the homestretch of your own book. Why? There is nothing like comparing your own work to that of a genius to make you feel horribly inadequate. Sigh.

Is this woman actually mortal?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I just passed the 300 page mark on my WIP. I'm on the home stretch! Only 90 pages to go! YAHOO!!!!