Saturday, January 30, 2010
Between the day job and writing, I don't have a lot of spare time. These days most of my outside reading consists of reading friends' work - which I love - but I do wish I had a little more time for other outside reading. My favorite genres are fantasy, historical, urban fantasy, romance (of course), non-fiction and young adult. Oh how I love YA.
I'm not exactly sure what the draw is, but I love it. I also love introducing kids to particular books and then discussing. My niece Alli is a big reader, and we share books back and forth. My youngest son, Corwin, has become an avid reader over the last year (yay!) and we share books, too. I think it helps that I run his lit circle in school - it's really opened him up to reading and he's even asked for a specific series of books for his birthday. Gasp! Right now, my oldest, Killian, is reading Good Omens and I couldn't be more delighted.
My favorite YA authors are Donna Jo Napoli, Charles deLint, Neil Gaiman (not specifically YA, but he does do some), Alice Hoffman, Jim Hines, T.A. Barron, Jane Yolen, O.R. Melling and my new fave - oh how I adore her - Maggie Stiefvater. She, Melling, Hoffman and deLint have a gift for visual imagery like no other and the ability to write real, raw emotions without being mellow-dramatic or overdone.
I'd like to share a few of my all time favorite books with you, including a shiny new one I got for Christmas that I'm really eager to read - Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
On those rare occasions I hunger for something a little less naked, I usually turn to horror. There is nothing better than curling up in my leopard print Snuggy and reading the latest Stephen King book. Sure, I am usually angry with him by the end of the book, (as his novels do not end, rather they just stop.) But still, I love the man. Can't help it.
I do enjoy 'traditional' romance as well. Though lately there aren't any more clothes staying on in those books than in our books, so the difference is debatable.
I am also a HUGE fan of biographies. Especially Autobiographies. Funny women writing about their hilarious and yet sad lives make me happy. Cybil Shepherd, Carrie Fisher, Vickie Lawrence. I just adore this stuff. I love to learn about people and the deeper they'll delve into their own lives and spill the better.
Obviously I will read anything related to vampires in any genre. I don't always LIKE it, but I'll give it a try. Any new twist someone can put on this topic is worth reading. I may not like and/or agree with the change to the legend, but at least people are still trying to leave their impression on the vamp world and I respect that.
All of this is fun reading, things I do for pleasure to relax. But there is another kind of reading that responsible authors do:
Yes, the sometimes dreaded research books. It's not all position manuals and lists of what men crave from their women. No, for historical authors there can be a TON of research required, (which is part of the reason I do not write that genre for I am lazy.) For people writing about areas in which they do not live there are city guides and maps to study. Details are very important in books and anything you get wrong will be caught by someone. So most authors really do their homework before finalizing their manuscripts.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In my opinion, you need to read a lot in order to write, otherwise all of your stories start sounding the same or they imitate someone else's a little closely. Reading about the creation stories from one or more cultures, may spark and idea for a character which can be paired with a character sparked from prime-time tv with an event that came off the eleven o'clock news. Reading outside the genre can also help with plot plausability, language enrichment, character development, and general facts about the world your characters inhabit. Or things you may want to avoid.
Besides the benefits to writing, there is the fact that, your brain can relax and enjoy the story you're being told and it's just plain fun. If reading wasn't enjoyable, writing wouldn't be.
Friday, January 22, 2010
First off, congratulations, you did something amazing. Not only did you finish a book, but you made a leap of faith and submitted it, and had someone love it enough to buy it. That's an amazing feat in and of itself, and you should be proud! Heck, I'm proud of you and I don't even know you. But I do know what it's like to sweat over your prose and learn your craft. It's wonderful and frustrating and mind-numbing all at the same time.
When you make that first sale, it's almost impossible to think of anything else, because, yes, it's just that cool. However, please remember that while your friends and family are going to be thrilled for you, they're not going to want to hear about it 24/7 for the next year. A couple months is usually a good time frame to start reeling that stuff in. It's great to be excited and want to share. It's not great to drive everyone into a coma.
Also, while selling a book is awesome and a huge accomplishment, it does not immediately make you a demi-god within the publishing industry. Just because you sell a book one day doesn't immediately mean that the next day you're an expert on all things publishing. It means you sold a book that an editor liked. It means that you have a whole lot to learn about this business.
Speaking of editors, listen to them. Please. If they tell you that certain words, scenes or glittery pink unicorns aren't allowed at their houses, don't argue with them and demand to use said word, scene or unicorn anyway.
If you disagree with an edit, let them know why and help figure out a solution. Don't ignore the edit, don't stomp your foot like a toddler and pout, and please don't throw a hissy-fit.
If your editor gives you a deadline by which you need to turn in your edits, do whatever it is you need to do to get them in on time. If there is an emergency that precludes getting your edits in on time, let your editor know as soon as possible. Leaving your publishing house hanging until the last minute is not only rude, it's not good for you. Your editor may be far less likely to take your next book.
Please, for the love of all that's holy, don't be a diva. Yep, you sold a book and that's honestly one of the coolest things ever, but that doesn't make you better than anyone else or more important than anyone else. That goes for your friends, family and fellow authors. Your editor and publisher have the same amount of time for you that they have for the rest of their authors. Try not to monopolize it.
Ultimately, this is a small(ish) industry and editors move houses (a lot) and they also talk. It's very easy to get a reputation as being difficult. This is the last thing you want.
Everyone has deadlines. Everyone has passions. Try to remember that yours are no more important than anyone else's.
So, new author, enjoy your success, revel in the awesomeness of your first sale, but please don't drive everyone around you crazy.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
1. Accept the fact that you don't know as much you as you think you do and be prepared for a whole new set of worries.
2. Ask for help and information from those who are already published.
Write and Be Happy.
Monday, January 18, 2010
So You’re Published; Now What?
“…and they lived happily ever after. The End”.
“Dear Kenzie, We’d like to offer you a contract… Here are your edits… Here’s your cover…. Your release date is…”
Wow. Now what? Your book, which you’ve worked so hard to write, submitted it to a publisher and had it accepted, bitten your nails to the quick over edits, and approved your cover, is finally available. But what comes next?
Throw yourself a release party, first and foremost. This is an accomplishment, after all. Go out to eat; enjoy some cake and ice cream with friends or family and celebrate a little. And hopefully if you blog or belong to chat loops, you’ve already posted the news, an excerpt, and the cover all over cyberspace and your website. Soak up the applause and bask in any guest blogging comments on your friends’ sites.
And get a good night’s sleep, because the real work begins the next day.
What? Oh…you didn’t know? Aren’t you glad I’m telling you this now?
Your publisher has done their job. Now everything else is up to YOU, the author, to get the word out. Watch for calls for guest bloggers or interviews. Promote your work on any promo days on the chat loops you belong to. Show up at chats with your online friends and rebuild relationships with those you’ve interacted with before, but maybe neglected while you were busy editing.
Sign up for a Google Alert on your title and name, and put quotes around them; otherwise you’ll get hit with any or all uses of the words. One of the groups I belong to is the marketing for romance writers, and the members are very generous in answering any questions pertaining to promotions.
Have some bookmarks made up, or postcards to send out. VistaPrint.com is a wonderful source to find inexpensive promotional items, as well as your local office supply store. I sent my local Office Max a copy of my cover and pay about eleven dollars for one hundred bookmarks.
If your book is coming out into print, look around in the community for places to network. My alter ego placed a few copies of her books in gift shops on consignment. I’m considering doing the same at a local adult gift shop with my own books. I’ll buy a copy of my own work, download it to CD and set the price accordingly. Don’t forget to leave a few of your business cards with the owners. I’ve also set up at local festivals, contacted book stores to set up signings, and set up booths at craft fairs at Fish Fries around my area. If you don’t know who to contact, call the fire station once you see the signs and ask to speak to the person in charge of the booth rentals. Call the local Chamber of Commerce to find out about when the festivals take place. And if it’s too late to set up, go and talk to the vendors. Ask about fees, who to contact, and the hours.
And above all else, don’t stop writing! Because at some point, someone will ask ‘What is your next book about?”
Kenzie Michaels is the proud author of All She Ever Wanted, available now at Freya’s Bower. Her second book, Teacher’s Pet, will be arriving sometime in late spring/early summer, also with Freya’s Bower. She can be found HERE.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Brynn brought up a lot of good points - particularly the one about choosing your cover art battles wisely. I'd like to add a little something to that, and that's know your publishing house's policy before you complain about cover art.
Some houses will work until they get it right. They'd rather know that their author has a cover s/he loves and will be likely to work that much harder to promote the book. Some houses have a 'you get what we give you' mentality and get upset when you ask for revisions. This could become problematic for you in the future if you complain about every little detail.
Now, I'm not saying you should keep your mouth shut if you get a ghastly cover, but be polite, be considerate of the cover artist's feelings. He or she is trying to create art that's a visual representation of your art. It's not always easy. Please don't pull out the diva routine. It might get you a cover that you like at the moment, but it will also likely hurt you in the long run.
Once, I received some cover art where the couple in the photo looked like an undead, ice dancing zombies. The concept of the cover was lovely - the couple was...not. In my note, I didn't say that I feared the couple would do a triple lutz while losing body parts after eating the brains of the audience members, but I thought it.
Instead, I explained that I loved the concept and the colors but that the couple didn't accurately represent the hero and heroine. Then I included more pictures of what I was looking for. The cover artist was gracious, and I ended up with a lovely cover.
To close this post, I'd like to leave you with my favorite cover thus far.
Friday, January 15, 2010
My theory on covers is the same as my theory on life: Pick your battles carefully.
If your hero’s hair is the wrong color, get it fixed. If you don’t like his nose, get over it. And by all means, do not tick off the cover artist. Here’s a good way to avoid that: fill out your cover art form very carefully. Make sure your details are right. Nothing will irritate your artist more than you saying “the heroine’s hair is red not blonde” if your form stated blonde. Make sure you tell the artist what you want to see on the cover and what you don’t want to see. If you don’t say “no butts” and there are butts on the cover, you really can’t complain much about it.
You need to be realistic. Sometimes what you’ve asked for isn’t feasible. This might be because of financial constraints in cover creation. What you’ve asked for might be possible, but very expensive. Or far too time consuming. Many cover artists use stock art to create covers. Often the exact thing you’ve laid out on your form isn’t available. Be flexible!
Take a good look at your cover before you approve it. Recently, I got an awesome cover and I loved it. I blew it up to look at something and discovered that you could see the female model’s jeans through one of the icy swirls. That just wouldn’t do since the book took place in a non-specific “old world” European era. I had to mea culpa to my publisher and beg for it to be fixed since I’d already accepted the cover. Oops.
Finally, if you don’t like a cover, you can discuss it with your friends, but don’t broadcast it all over the free world. There are lots of people out there who would give up body parts just to have a cover to call their own. To them, we are lucky indeed.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I have been incredibly fortunate to get some beautiful covers. Kudos to my publishers for having such talented cover artists on staff. And such nice ones who don't complain when I ask for different boys. Want to know a secret? I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you this, but on Mitch we went through 5 Jared's before finding that one that is juuuust right. It's crazy how picky we authors can be over our heroes. And even when a cover looks perfect to you, there could be a little thing that no one would ever notice until someone points it out to you. But here is a fun little contest for you. I will give away one autographed print copy of Mitch to anyone who can look at the cover and tell me...
"What's wrong with this cover?"
And no being mean! There is something legitimately off about the cover. Look carefully. Contest ends either when someone guesses correctly or at midnight EST. I don't have to give away this book, so search the cover and answer quick.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As a reader what draws me to a book - any book in any format is the cover. I prefer covers with hot men on them over cartoony or generic landscape scenes. I also don't prefer covers with submissive women on them, because I'm not.
When I received my cover, I loved it. Two hot men, and a lighthouse in the winter which fits great with the book. A suggestion to improve it was made, but it took me a couple of days before I could make any decision on that. There was too much squeeing going on. For the next book I have coming out with TEB - Knight of Pleasure, I did ask for an over all tie-in because it's the first in a series, but I don't know if they used the suggestion I gave them or went in a different direction.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
This post almost didn’t happen this week. It wasn’t that I forgot. I’ve been waiting to have my say on a few of the things I support. No, this week, my husband had an emergency appendectomy. When is an appendectomy surgery not an emergency? It’s not like getting a non-cancerous but annoying mole removed. Generally if it’s done, it’s absolutely necessary. You really have two options here. Get the appendix out or die.
We went with option one. And we’ll be paying for that option for years to come. You see, I have to respectfully disagree with Simone. We need a public health care option in the United States. Frankly, other westernized countries have had this for years and they think it’s insane that the United States, one of the leading countries in the world, doesn’t have one. Barring that, our medical system needs massive health care system reform – and that includes the insurance companies who are ruling over people’s fates and have premiums so high that they’re prohibitive for small companies and individuals.
How can we not care for our own people? How often do people survive their illnesses but not survive the resulting bills? Many people live in fear of getting sick, really sick, because they know they would never be able to pay for treatment. Forty-four million people in the US are uninsured. Eight out of ten of these people are workers. Thirty-eight million more people in the US are under-insured. That’s one third of Americans who worry about and forego health care on a regular basis.
I’ve tried to downplay it, but my husband was within inches of dying this week. Though he was in extreme pain, he didn’t want to go to the doctor because we’re uninsured and he didn’t want to put the burden on our family. The pain came on Monday night. He didn’t tell me. He mentioned discomfort during the day on Tuesday and by Tuesday night when he got home from work, I knew it was his appendix. I hoped not, but I knew. He wouldn’t go in. Wednesday morning, I forced him to go to the hospital. He wanted to try his doctor or the med center – they’d probably be cheaper. I said no dice. He was going to the ER.
As it turned out, he had a ruptured appendix and became a case study for the interns’ morning classes. The senior surgeon said it was the worst one he’d ever seen. Actually, everyone involved said that. Worst appendix, swollen all the way up to his ribs, the size of a small baby. And here was someone who needed to choose between getting care and staying home. It’s not a choice that should ever face someone.
But we’re uninsured because though we both work more than full time hours neither of our jobs have insurance programs. This is something that faces people every day. They work, they pay taxes, they scrape by without public support, but they pray they don’t get sick because it could financially devastate them.
Then there was the man in the bed next to my husband’s. He went home yesterday after being in the hospital for a month. He’s hopeful that some program somewhere will help him to pay his hospital bills. He doesn’t have a job or good insurance anymore. He gets blood clots and no one can figure out why. This was his 40th hospital stay in six years. He worked for years, but now that this sickness has come on, he’s lost his job… He’s lost just about everything. He now “Robs Peter to pay Paul”, to try to pay his bills and get his medicine and pay for the hospital. This isn’t a man who’s lives high on the hog. He drives a 10 year old car and has a small apartment. And finally, now, six years later he’s destitute enough that some program is kicking in to pay the medical bills that his partial insurance doesn’t cover. Should people lose everything they worked for their entire lives to pay medical expenses?
I don’t want to sound like a whiner. I’m probably the least whiny and the most “I can do it myself” person I know. I have no desire for handouts. But there’s no question that something must be done about health care in the United States – and I’ve been saying it since long before this week. And I’m not the only one. For a Hollywood-made video on this, go here.
Friday, January 8, 2010
here are a few - in no particular order.
1. Gay Rights. It's ludicrous to me that in this day and age, much of American society treats homosexuals like they're hell bent on the destruction of civilization as a whole. It enrages me that my sister, my niece, and my friends and tons of other people I don't know and likely will never meet are denied the things the rest of us take for granted. Discrimination is never acceptable.
2. Sex Education. My sister, Cait, graduated from high school almost six years ago. During her senior year, she had the following conversation with another seventeen year old girl in her class. Please note, the girl in question was utterly serious.
Girl: I'm afraid I'm pregnant.
Cait: Well, when did you last have sex?
Girl: I didn't. I'm a virgin.
Cait: I think you're probably safe.
Girl: No...I did the other thing that can make you pregnant.
Cait: Experienced an Immculate Conception?
Girl: No...the other thing.
Cait: There's only one way to get pregnant without a turkey baster or Divine Intervention.
Girl: Duh - there's two.
Cait: What do you mean, two?
Girl: Well, there's the regular way. (points to the vicinity of her vagina)
Cait: Yeah-huh...what do you think the other way is?
Girl: Swallowing - duh! How else are those sperms going to make a baby in your belly?
Cait: (staring in gape-mouthed horror) Those sperm aren't going to make a baby in your belly.
You don't carry a baby in your belly - you carry it in a magical place called your uterus. It grows with the baby. In fact, it pushes your stomach up into your diaphragm.
Cait: Yeah-huh. All swallowing sperm does is gives you the potential to contract an STD and gets digested with the rest of the food you eat.
Girl: OMG! Do you think it has a lot of calories?
Girl: How do you even know this stuff, anyway? You're gay.
Cait: Being gay doesn't mean I'm ignorant of how the human body works. Besides, my mom and my sister told me everything I need to know.
Girl: Ewwwww...you talk about that with your mom and your sister? That's weird.
Cait: Right. From the chick who thinks you can get pregnant from swallowing.
Now, this girl, who shall remain nameless, wasn't stupid. She was carrying an almost 4.0 GPA with quite a few advanced level classes. However, she was ignorant as hell. Granted, this is an extreme case of ignorance, but the point of sharing this story is that kids don't get all the info they need to know about their bodies in a trimester long health class. They certainly don't find out what they need to do to protect themselves before becoming sexually active. Informed kids make informed decisions. Uninformed kids risk sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. I firmly believe that more needs to be done to educate our youth. This conversation took place in 2004 - there's something really wrong with that.
3. Universal Health Care. I've been uninsured or underinsured for the majority of my adult life. As a professor's kid, I was covered by amazing insurance. Most of the time there wasn't even a co-pay. Then, I graduated from college and was no longer on my mom's insurance. Surprise! I found out first hand how insanely difficult it is to function without afforable medical care. I got a cold that went untreated. It became bronchitus that went untreated. It turned into pneumonia that went untreated. It went untreated because there was literally no money in our budget to go to the doctor - as it was, we could barely make our house payment and buy groceries. Then my lung collapsed and I had no choice but to seek medical care. I ended up hospitalized for almost a week. The whole time I was there, I begged my husband to take me home because I knew there was no way we could pay the bills. I was lucky - the hospital I went to had a grant that some wonderful nameless benefactor donated and a lot of my bills were paid. The problem is, that was sixteen years ago. More and more people are out of work or underemployed and funds like that are running out or gone all together. We need to change the way healthcare works in this country - because it's not.
4. The Environment. Yeah, big surprise. The hippie is hugging trees. I'll keep this short and tell you what my mom told me when I was little. There is no such place as "away" - so we're never really throwing things away. We're dumping them in landfills, sending them away on garbage barges, or shipping them to other states. If at all possible, recycle. Reuse if you can. Donate what you don't need. Don't buy stuff you don't need. (Books don't count.) ;) We're a nation of consumers, and much of the time we don't really use the things we fill our houses with that eventually create more waste when we get rid of them.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I would have to say this is the most important cause near and dear to my heart. Gay rights has always been important to me. I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not adore gay men and women.
It still amazes me that these people have to fight tooth and nail for basic rights. I may never understand hating a group because of who they love. It's ridiculous.
Now, I did not grow up during a time of racism. By the time I was born the people I interacted with did not differentiate between the color of someone's skin. Men and women could marry regardless of race, color, or creed...sort of. All people are equal in the eyes of the government, oh wait. Not you. You guys sit in the back of the bus. You gay people have to use this other water fountain. You cannot marry another man because God says it's a sin.
What happened to seperation of church and state? How can you base laws on religious beliefs? Whose business is it anyway if two people love each other and want to express that love in the legal bonds of marriage which give them equal rights in parenting, insurance, and beneficiary situations?
It took way too long for equal racial rights. Please don't let this drag on forever. Let love prevail.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Soapbox issues and platforms are like assholes, everyone has one. These are issues that controversial because it strikes us at the core of what and who we are. My question is do people disagree with something because it actually infringes on them, they think it infringes on them, personal belief, or because they aren't strong enough in their beliefs to stand up for them without laws defending them. My personal is opinion is that it very rarely the first one and generally a combination of the others - in varying pieces and parts.
I have a strong interest and opinion on several issues - and these may come as a surprise but maybe not, considering I'm a well-educated, open-minded, liberal spiritualist who doesn't want more government.
I support a woman's choice to have an abortion - yes I think there should be some regualtion so it's not used as a form of birth-control - but, it should be kept legal, because outlawing just prevents doctors from doing properly not from it happening - not only that everyone's definition of when life begins is different - never assume yours is the same as mine or your friends. Prostitution is illegal, but it still happens - now, if it was legal, the government can collect taxes and the prostitutes can carry pretty little cards that are checked off every so often at a clinic that says they are disease free. It doesn't legalize adultery or make it any easier to cheat on a spouse.
I do not support social health care - I don't support insurance companies either and I have the opinion that insurance companies and the government medicaid/medicare paying 33cents on the dollar are a really big reason on the sky rocketing prices of medical. I also want to know what is the contingency plan for financing when money for this new social health care runs out five months before the new budget hits or when congress needs more money for their paychecks and take it from the social health care. Social programs should be used for a hand up, not keeping people down and not doing anything. I also think that getting antibiotics for everything and always sterilizing everything leads to worse diseases.
I do believe in equal rights for everyone - period - regardless of who they love or what they believe or look like. I do believe homosexuals should be allowed to married. I don't think marriage is something that should be entered into lightly by any party, but I don't think it belongs to one group and not another.
I happen to believe in polyamoury among consenting, adults and see no reason why it can't be allowed. Brynn writes great poly stories.
I believe in a strong military, because freedom isn't free and it's protected by those who are willing to fight and die for it. "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." Benjamin Franklin.
I almost took the easy way out and said I refuse to discuss politics and religion so as to not offend anyone... however, if anyone were to ask me in person I would answer - possibly more diplomatic, but maybe not. This is, as of now, a one-sided conversation. It doesn't change how or what I write. I'm sure my opinions differ from the other writers here and readers here - difference does make the world go round - and it won't change how they write either - it simply changes the way we interact because I've given you a key into who I am, and that is probably the scariest thing I could do.
On the back of my friend's car, she has a bumper sticker that says "Speak your mind even if your voice shakes" which goes great with Aaron Tippin's advice - "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything". You don't have to agree with me, but you should stand for something. I can still be your friend - I have kids well kid - they can be friends with anyone and everyone until an adult interferes...
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Negativity is a creativity killer. It's easy to get sucked into the mire of negativity and lose sight of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.
Comparing myself to others is pointless and never leads anywhere good. The important thing is that I like what I'm going and I'm enjoying the journey. If that ever stops, it's time to do something different
Be present in the here and now. Imagining how much better things will be when X, Y and Z happen lessens the focus on what I'm doing now and sucks away the joy. The here and now is pretty damn good and is meant to be enjoyed.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Friday, January 1, 2010
|1.||firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion.|
|2.||characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper, spirit, actions, etc.|
On these things I will be resolute in 2010. These are not the sort of things that start today and will fade away by Feb. 15. These are things I can work at all year long.
This year, no matter what is going on, I will make time for my writing. I won't shove my writing away into a closet in favor of something else or someone else's drama.
I will not let my writing and my career take over my life. I will make ample time for my family and for myself. This will mean less evenings strapped to the laptop and more evenings doing things that require face-to-face interaction with other humans.
I will un-sidetrack my spiritual life.
I will strive to remember I don't have to do everything on my own and I don't have to be in control of everything.
I will take more time to simply breathe and enjoy.
I hope you all have a fantastic new year and no matter where your resolutions or life might take you, that this year is your best yet.