Terri and Cort:
Now that my (cough) vacation is officially at an end, I'm starting work on the next two proposals for the Fire trilogy and diving into revamping BioRescue and writing Antiques in the Attic. LaLaLa....I'm also in Title Hell again but I think this trilogy will be a little easier to name -- there are more and better fire analogies than there are for blades.
Keep Them Confused:
I'm starting to appreciate the vow I made last year to concentrate on the writing and nothing else. Last night I got an e-mail from a colleague who is disturbed by the fact that I do near zero self-promotion now and wants to know if it's impacting my sales, having an effect on my self-esteem, keeping my name out of the trade rags, etc.
I never have done much in the way of self-promotion. I did a mail out to independent booksellers for the first StarDoc book, three or four interviews, and a couple of local booksignings, but that was it. I've given two conference workshops and one is still being talked about two years later, and they were probably my most successful attempt to get my name out there. You couldn't pay me to do all that now, but it helped me see where most authors go wrong and where I was headed until I took back control.
The self-promotion was more damaging to my self-esteem than anything. This has never been about personal adoration or expectations of it, and the bad behavior and shark pools I've seen among other authors makes me want to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. This built up until I blew last year and made the Eff It, I'm not doing it anymore
vow. Since then, I've felt better about being a pro than at any other time in my career. It's back to being about what I love: the writing.
I'm in the trades now more often than I like, and if I could keep my name out of them altogether, I would. Ignore me, please. With Blade Dancer coming out in hardcover that's going to be tough, and if the book does well, I may have to duck and take cover in a number of creative ways. I don't know what will happen, to be honest. Maybe they'll throw a curve ball and treat me fairly, and then I'll have to take back all the bad things I've said about trades. Not exactly holding my breath on that score.
The fact remains that I do extremely well despite all my shortcomings as an author, self-promoter, and butt kisser. Why? I don't know. Maybe I fill a niche, maybe I don't. Maybe I tell a good story. Maybe I'm a flash in the pan. Whatever I'm doing, it works, because readers buy my books like crazy. And that's what I think this should be about -- not who knows who and who gets mentioned in what rag, but who sells books. The numbers are what really counts with publishers, and are the only truly honest part of this business.
Double Good News:
The new hard drive arrived today, so I put aside my techno-fears and installed it on my #1 system. Piece of cake, actually -- downloading the AOL upgrade took twenty times longer -- and tonight Drefan is busy reabsorbing everything that got wiped. Microsoft needs to do something about backing off the Doberman attitude over reactivating software, though, that was also a bit of a pain. All said and done it's been a good, if forced, learning experience for me.
First reaction came in on Into the Fire from my agent, who was pretty much blown away and made my skull inflate several more inches. My agent is not easy to impress, and I've been trying to fine-tune my romance voice, so the big pat on the back felt really good. I also had more fun with this novel, let my hair down, relaxed, and tried not to try so hard. I have to give credit to my new romance editor, too, she was incredibly helpful with retrofitting the old proposal and talking out the concept. The last of the butterflies will exit from my gastric system once my editor finishes reading it.
The Daily Challenge:
Since I can't retrieve Skimmers until 3/15 (Phillip turns his nose up at Microsoft Word documents), I'm going to try writing a replacement story today. Something totally new, I think, to clear the cobwebs and take advantage of my enforced vacation. Today is also the last day to enter the free book contest over at my author site
so if you haven't entered and want to, get moving. :)
An update on what's being scheduled for release and the final titles:
The Deepest Edge (February, available now)
The Steel Caress, May 5th
Going to the Chapel, July 21st
Blade Dancer, August 5th
The Kissing Blades, August 5th
Antiques in the Attic, January 12th (2004)
It's possible that I'll have one more release in addition to the above this year, and maybe (big maybe) two more depending on two current contract negotiations and a potential sale looming on the horizon. I now have five more books to write before December, and again depending on contracts, that may go as high as seven. I'm pretty sure my annual month-long vacation is not going to happen again this year, but like I'm going to complain.
Sleeping Cats Lie...:
...in the strangest places, I'm finding. I went to do dishes and luckily I looked inside the washer before I turned it on, because Rush was snoozing behind the rack all the way in the back of the machine. I freaked (I thought he got caught in there and was dead, I know, silly, but that happened to one of my hamsters once with the wheelie thing.) I shrieked, Rush lifted his head, eyed me, then yawned, settled down and went back to sleep. Meanwhile I'm hyperventilating and having arrhythmias. Wretched felines will put me in the ground, I swear . . .
Fred Rogers, the host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on PBS, has died
after a brief battle with stomach cancer. Reverend Rogers was one of those rare people who devoted his life to children's education, and whatever you thought of his show he reached a lot of kids, including my oldest son. The world is a little darker now that you're gone, Mr. Rogers. Safe journey.
Despite the meltdown, I will be moderating the TT on Friday and giving the first of my novel series writing workshops tonight over at FM. I'm having fun with this old computer (so old that it comes up with a little cave drawing of a flying window when it boots). I wrote StarDoc and Paradise Island on this system, so just tapping on the old keyboard takes me back.
Gone to PC Heaven (rated R for language):
I lost not one but two computer hard drives and zip drives this afternoon in less than an hour, thanks to an invasive virus that hit my internet computer and corrupted my backups before it kicked in. I inadvertantly transferred it from one computer to another before I realized what was happening, my fault entirely. Everything is under warranty or service agreement (I buy them like other women buy junk jewelry) so we're covered, and my friends at AOL will be tracking down who did it. Alas, the jerk that sent it did not realize that I also keep my files in two separate remote locations away from my home office. Better luck next time, asshole.
My new hard drives will be installed in a few days to get me back up and running, but until then I may be a little scarce.
Fun & Games:
I finally beat my friend Lily at Go
last night, after several months of getting my butt repeatedly kicked, but Mike and I have a chess game this afternoon so I'm not crowing too loud. It's hard to feel like a grand champion of anything when a ten year old can whomp you in less than thirty moves.
Games are a huge part of the revamp WIP novel for this year (aptly titled Gamers) so I've been playing more of the ones popular in different cultures, to get a feel for other-than-American players and strategies. What I've learned from my Asian friends is that the old cliche about it not being who wins or loses but how you play the game really counts with them. In our culture, winning is everything, in theirs, style and imagination are more important. Competition is also more complicated in that there are levels and nuances I'm just now seeing -- Lily plays Go differently with me than she does her husband, for example, and when I asked why she said because we're girls, which made me laugh. She explained that your regard for your opponent should also affect how your play -- not in letting them win, but in your approach to the whole game. It makes sense because I play chess with the kids differently than I would in a tournament.
Developing games for SF or fantasy stories seems like a little detail, unless you're using the game as a theme for the novel, but it adds a degree of depth that brings a world that much more alive for a reader. Try incorporating your own version of chess, billiards, or even Clue into your next book and see what I mean.
You know, ever since Google bought Blogger it takes forever to get a page updated. This is ticking me off now.
Finishing up editing "Skimmer" the web site story for March, yeah, I know, I said I was taking a week off but this is fun writing, not work writing. Fun writing is allowed during vacations. The premise for the Vatic and all its unusual graduates comes from a story I wrote waaaaay back in the 80's called The Suyin, in which New York street gangs basically prevent Armageddon. The Suyin came verbatim from one of my end-of-the-world nightmares, including the title, the meaning of which still eludes me. See why keeping journals is a good thing for a writer? Write your ideas down, in 2030 you may want to retrofit them.
Dreams have inspired writers for thousands of years, and although I am in no way shape or form psychic, I put a lot of images/ideas/characters from my dreams into my stories. The P'Kotmans in StarDoc came from a nightmare I had about an obese patient literally covered head to toe with thousands of screaming mouths, for example. Getting it down on paper seems to exorcise the dream demons, too, after I work some element into a story the dream usually doesn't come back.
If you have trouble remembering your dreams, keep a blank journal and a pen within reach of your bed, and write whatever you're thinking in it as soon as you wake up. Neat handwriting does not count, and you'd be surprised how much you can retain from your dreams during the first two or three minutes after you wake up.
I gave an interview to a local high school student this morning -- a very sharp young lady who will be a kickass reporter someday, I predict -- and we talked about living the writer life. She used a tape recorder, quoted from a couple of my books and grilled me as well as Barbara Walters might have. I was the one totally in awe by the end of the interview. God help anyone who gets in this young woman's way, because she will mow them down and chop them into mulch.
She did ask me a really neat question which I'll throw out to you guys -- which character (mine or any other author's) would you like to meet as a real person, and why?
Took me a few minutes to decide but I went with Kait Galweigh from Holly's Diplomacy of Wolves (Sherlock Holmes was first runner up, then Squilyp from my own books.) I know Kait and I have like zero in common but I'd jump at the chance to sit down and spend an hour talking to her about Matrin and Ry and the house and Crispin and stuff. Sherlock I'd give an anti-drug lecture to before I asked him about his famous cases and methods of detection, and Squilyp because I've been in love with him since he hopped onto my pages and I think he'd make an excellent friend.
Another Way Cool Online Thesaurus:
While hunting down a reference for a particular microorganism, I came across the CAB Thesaurus
of applied life sciences, which claims to be the world's largest thesaurus for agricultural sciences and related subjects:
"The CAB Thesaurus has strong coverage of terms used in agriculture, horticulture, crop protection, forestry, soil science, animal production, veterinary medicine, human nutrition, and rural studies, as well as in entomology, parasitology and mycology. It also covers terminology in applied microbiology, biotechnology, international health and tropical medicine, food security, socioeconomics, leisure and tourism, natural resources management, and sustainable development."
I entered the word "mycoplasm" and got the follow list of links:
-- and that was just page one. :) The links led to more specific terms, which while not defined allowed me to cross-reference via my epidemiology books. Found the critter I wanted in less than three minutes, thanks to the variety of terms.
Arsenic and Old Satin:
I rescue quilts with generally a lot of success, but I'm working on one that is proving to be a real heart breaker. It's a crazy quilt, circa 1930, made primarily of silks and backed with heavy old ice-blue satin, completely hand pieced and quilted. The stitching around the borders is 13-15 stitches per inch and forms intricate medallion work, and the patch embroidery is so finely done it looks like a machine did it. The composition of the patchwork is beautifully balanced as well; whoever made it had a wonderful sense of texture and color. I showed photos of it to two other conservationists and they're pretty sure from the needlework that it's English in origin.
That tragedy is that it's nearly been destroyed from neglect. The quilt was so filthy that I got my hands dirty unpacking it, and had not been washed in so long that dirt settled into the edges of the satin and turned them brown. The silks are shattered not because of rot, but because when someone did wash it, they threw it in a machine. There are fade marks that show someone left it folded and exposed to sunlight, probably for years, then left it someplace dark and damp, which caused mildew to eat a hole the size of my fist through it. Everything you can do wrong to a quilt was done to this poor baby, and the only thing holding it together is the maker's stitching and the backing satin, which happily is that extremely dense old satin like the kind that was used to make wedding gowns at the turn of the century.
I made initial repairs (mainly to hold it together) then eased it into the bathtub with a little oxy-clean last night to soak out the dirt. I had to change the water three times -- it turned black -- then I left it to soak overnight. This morning I went in to rinse it and all the colors have come back to life; the quilt glows like a chest of jewels. Now I have to find a way to restore it because nothing this beautiful should be lost.