Friday, March 22, 2013

Longread Friday

The Dixie Chicks, the Nashville machine, and the perils of speaking your mind.

Lots of similarities between the music industry and the publishing industry.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to respond when you get a book deal.

We recently made a (two!) book deal for a terrific steampunk romance novel by Christine D'Abo; she'll be published this fall by Grand Central Forever Yours.

Congratulations, Christine!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Longform Friday.

A delightful piece about ghostwriting Sweet Valley High books. I tended to prefer The Baby-Sitters Club, but this is fantastic nevertheless.

The Ghost Writes Back. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Your entries in the "childhood fears" contest last week were so great, I resorted to to pick a winner. Congratulations, Amy! I sent you a message to talk about what book you would like as your prize.

Here's Amy's winning entry:

Oh dear. I was so scared of many things as a child. 
Fire safety lessons in elementary school terrified me, and I was afraid of burning up if there was a candle nearby.
My dad mistakenly took me and my sisters to see Ghostbusters when only my oldest was old enough to see it. The opening scene freaked me out so much that every bird rustling in the bushes outside my windows was a ghost to me for at least three months. It wasn't until college that I could sit down and watch that movie again!
And last but not least, I was afraid of someone in the house come to get me! You know the movie _Signs_? Stupid movie, but it's freaky to me because the aliens get into the closed off house, and are coming to get the family, who has to hide in the basement. My sister and friends and I could work ourselves into fits pretending things like that, and then pretending so well that we began to believe it! Yikes!
I have worked through most of my fears now, but the last one would still freak me out if it ever came true! I just have to work to not pretend that sort of thing anymore!

But I loved all your comments so much I'm going to post them ALL:

Pauline says:

When I was a child, I was freeze-up, pee-in-my-pants, silent-scream scared of possums. They lived in the woods behind my house (the Hill Country of Texas.) I would sometimes see them creeping around on big rocks and then I'd end up standing wherever I was for minutes on end in paralyzed horror.
Jessica says:
Geese. I still think they're out to get me. Staring at me with those beady eyes... 
 Kaye says:
Ghosts hands down. The house I grew up in was built sometime in the very early 1800's and used to be a dance hall and pony express stop. I grew up listening to stories of at least one shooting that had occurred in dance hall days- with my mom swearing that there was a bloodstain on old wood floor that her mother covered with carpet. Needless to say, something was always following me, and I remember talking to it/them on more than one occasion- something to the effect of "please just go away so I can sleep." ( There was one that always came and stood at the end of my bed and stared at me when I was trying to fall asleep.)

All of my family members have stories (probably feeding off one another:)) My mom claims to actually have seen a ghost on 2 occasions, my sister swore that someone always filled the wood fire when she was home alone. I heard my dad clomping down the stairs in his big old work boots and had a whole conversation with him (one sided of course) before he came in from outside- no one else had been in the house but me.

The best part is when the weather is right and you hear a kind of muffled crowded room noise- The first time I thought it was a tv on somewhere.... as I'm writing this, I'm thinking I need to write a story about this stinking house!

In the daylight, in some other place, I'll tell you I don't really believe in ghosts- but not standing in that house, creeping down into the old, dark Michigan basement on some errand, or glancing up at the old lead glass windows of the third story. No. Way.

PS: I was also scared of opossums for a some time when I was little- it's the teeth. Have you seen the teeth?!
 Lauren says:

My childhood fear is, alas, something I still haven't conquered. In pre-school, one of the boys in my carpool group popped a balloon in my face, and I've been terrified of balloons ever since. This phobia had its way of turning so many supposedly joyous occasions into awkward ones. Birthday party invites meant having my mom accompany me to the door of the party so that she could explain why I might have a freakout halfway through the party. The last few weeks of school always held the possibility of "fun" science experiments or crafts involving balloons, nevermind the celebrations that might occur on the last afternoon before break. 
(The day of our balloon-filled science experiment, though, I was granted an all-afternoon library pass, which I used to churn my way through Little House on the Prairie for the first time.)
The fear coupled with an active imagination led to the prediction of all sorts of balloon-related catastrophes. I outgrew some parts of the phobia (at least I can walk by a bunch of balloons at a supermarket now), but I didn't outgrow that. Take the me of a few years ago: Free tickets to a concert on New Year's Eve? Oh, great! Wait a minute... they could drop balloons from the rafters at midnight. They could. Better call the arena and ask, and then talk to one of the ushers when I arrive, just in case, and scout out all the nearby exits, and spend most of the show shaking in my boots. 
Christi says:
My dad let me watch the movie Cujo when I was WAAAAAAAY to young. Like around seven years old.

Now you'd think I would have petrified of the bloody, ruthless, big dog with the rabies that was a death machine, but no.

I ended up with a horrific fear of the car the mom and boy were stuck in. Like whenever I saw a yellow Pinto it freaked me out to no end, and though those cars have long since disappeared, seeing a small yellow car gives me the shudders even to this day.

Rational? Naaaah. But no one ever said writers are a rational bunch :)

Christi Corbett

PS. And in another stunning display of a massive parenting fail, my dad let me watch "Children of the Corn" around the same time. Needless to say I've NEVER watched a horror movie as a grown-up!

Lizz says:

I was terrified of the end of the world; I was especially scared it would happen at recess. 
I was raised a Jehovah's Witness and taught the world would end in a violent firestorm but I would survive, because I was part of the religion. I used to imagine the firestorm would arrive at recess and I'd have to watch all the "worldyl" kids on the playground run around in terror while I was protected by some sort of divine bubble. I was scared they'd run up to me and knock on my bubble, screaming, and I wouldn't be able to let them in. And I grew up in Southern California so every time there was an earthquake I would get this horrible feeling that "the end" was happening. 
My second biggest fear was that I would die in the firestorm because I'd broken the rules of the religion and loved to read "worldly" (not religious) books. I thought my love of Judy Blume condemned me.
And my parents wondered why I went goth as a teenager. . . :) 
Thanks for all the great entries, everyone. I would love to hear more about ALL of these-- I knew you'd have some great stories. Let me know if you want to do a guest post about childhood fears for me! ;)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Infographic mania! How to write a scene

I am on an infographic tear this week, it seems.

I really liked this one at Galleycat: How to Write a Scene.

Did they miss any steps?

Monday, March 4, 2013

WhipUp's tips on staying creative.

A lot of good advice here. 

Are creativity and productivity the same for you? It sometimes feels that way to me.

On that note, I'm going to step away from the computer for a while...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Longform Friday.

"The Great Escape," by Joshuah Bearman, from Wired Magazine in 2007. The story that became this year's Best Picture winner, Argo. 

(Happy March! Tell me in the comments what your goals are for this month.) 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pantsing, and a NEW CONTEST.

I feel like we haven't talked about "pantsing" in at least two weeks, so I can't resist.


My sister-in-law was terrified of that movie as a kid, so in honor of my having just seen her last week, let's have a CONTEST about childhood fears. Tell me, in the comments, about something you were scared of as a child. I'll mail the winner a book, and you can read it under the covers at night with a flashlight for full effect. I'll give you a choice of a couple of books-- but it'll be something awesome, I promise.

Contest will be open until Monday the 4th, or whenever I get around to turning off comments on this post. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't register your copyright before you query.

Here's a great post from Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware explaining why you don't need to register your copyright before querying agents or publishers: in short, your work is automatically legally protected as soon as you put the words on the page. 

Here's something she doesn't mention in the post: to include your copyright information in your query letter or on the manuscript itself looks amateurish. If you wrote it, of course it legally belongs to you; that's what copyright means. Amateurish, and maybe a little bit paranoid too; I admit it's a bit of a red flag for me, in a query letter, that the writer may prove difficult to work with. Good relationships are built on trust, and that's a poor way to begin.

(That whole thing about mailing the work to yourself and putting it in the freezer is a myth, too, of course.) 

Can you think of any other publishing- and writing-related urban legends? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Winner, winner!

I'm going "not random" for once, in picking a winner from last week's "sell me on February" contest; I loved all of your entries, but Anne Shirley's comment made me laugh out loud:

For everyone who has survived February in the past (presumably anyone reading this), the knowledge that February was named after an ancient Roman purification ritual should surprise no one. After all, there is no month like February when it comes to testing one's character.

These tests take many forms, beginning with the screaming pile of bills from Christmas. Inanimate and yet still saying so much, these bills provide a wonderful excuse to ignore the income tax paperwork lying on your counter. The weather also offers many opportunities. Whether it's the snow plow who promptly re-fills your driveway after you've shoveled or the furnace repairman who can't come for another five days, the chances to embrace your inner Yogi are endless! (And hey, you DID just resolve to lose twenty pounds this year, so hop to it!)

Of course, the greatest challenges in February come from family. By the seventeenth snow-related school closing, when your daughter is bo-o-ored with her new 'Dora' videos (the ones you memorized the day after Christmas) and your son demands to 'go to Disneyworld like Bobby's family!', you can cheerfully improve your math by tallying the minutes until they'll be at college. And when your husband refuses to help carry in the groceries because 'Canadian men are genetically mandated to watch hockey', you not only get to test your patience, you get lots of extra exercise!

The survival of February is a celebration. It proves I am the master of my own domain, or at the very least the master of my own impulses (disproving what my mother said about me thirty Februaries ago back when I put my Barbies in the oven 'to see what would happen'). And in three days I will smile at my adoring family and hold my head high, serene in the knowledge that I'll almost certainly allow them all to live another year. Huzzah!

Congratulations, Anne Shirley! Send me an email to let me know which prize you'd like: a critique or a book. (Sorry to say I don't have any raspberry cordial.)

Thanks to all who entered-- we'll do another one soon. Tell me in the comments what would make a good contest. I'm loving the creative entries.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Longform Friday.

Here is Zadie Smith on joy, with perhaps the best description of parenting I've read in some time:

Occasionally the child, too, is a pleasure, though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy, and now must find some way to live with daily.

The link to the piece is here.

What's giving you joy these days?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tell me in the comments why February is the best month of the year. If you disagree with this statement (and I actually do), here's your chance to show your debate or fiction prowess and convince me otherwise.

Winner wins something, either a book or a two-page critique on the blog, your choice.

You can have TWO entries if you make your pitch for February in a comment and post about the contest on Twitter; put a link to your tweet in the comments section.

Contest is open till I close the comments, which will probably be on Monday the 25th.

So, whatcha got?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Three day weekends.

Do three day weekends feel like a good break to you? Or do you cram five days' worth of work into the four remaining days?

I'm traveling this week, so posting may be a little infrequent, but I'll be back to my regular schedule a week from today. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Longform Friday.

There was a vampire panic in New England in the 1890s, it turns out. This folklorist's work sounds utterly fascinating:

The Great New England Vampire Panic

Also, Buffy fans, I'd be remiss if I didn't pass this along:

Buffy recaps in limerick form

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tell me a love story.

Or a no-love story, if you prefer.

This series at Narratively might get you started:

Tales from the dating scene

Happy Valentine's Day! If I could, I would send you each a box of those chalky conversation hearts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why writing a novel is like running a marathon.

I started running not quite two years ago, and I'm actually kind of terrible at it: I'm not naturally athletic, I'm really slow (as in, I'd love to run a sub-30 minute 5k), and when my work or personal life gets busy, the running tends to be the first thing out the window. But I love it anyway, maybe in part because it does not come easily to me, and sometimes it's nice to work hard at something for the sake of the hard work, rather than for some extrinsic reward. (The cardiovascular health is nice, too, though.)

My big "someday soon" goal is a half marathon, not a full, but I could still identify with a lot of the points in this:

Marathon training to finish your book

Any "training techniques" you'd like to share in the comments?

See also Jessica Brockmole's terrific NaNoWriMo piece on running and writing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Privacy on the internet

I'm prepping a talk for a group I'm going to speak to this weekend, and my talk deals in part with authors' responsibilities in promoting their books, especially online via blogs and social networks.

I haven't been in publishing long enough (about eleven years) to remember a time when authors weren't expected to participate in publicity and promotional efforts, if indeed such a fabled time ever actually existed. But especially in working with romance authors (a genre where pseudonyms are the norm), I think a lot about how difficult it can be to promote your work and yet maintain some semblance of a private life.

I'm a rather private person by nature; I don't really write, as longtime readers know, but even in high school, when I dreamed of being a bestselling author, I was absolutely certain that I would use a pseudonym. I wanted to be famous, but I didn't want anyone to know it was me, I guess.

At any rate, this is something I think a lot about, and as a result, a lot of the points Stacey May Fowles makes in her article really resonated with me:

On not putting yourself out there

(Link via @sarahw, I think)

For those of you trying to make a name for yourselves, where do you draw the line? Do you have rules about what you do and do not "put out there?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

High school is forever.

This one's primarily for the YA authors reading this: a New York Magazine piece that argues that ages 15-25 are the most important and most poignant of our lives:

Why You Truly Never Leave High School

Do you still feel connected to your adolescent self? If so, does it benefit your writing?

Bonus question: if you're friends with your high school classmates on Facebook, does that ongoing connection affect your sense or your memories of that part of your life?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Longform Friday.

This was just excellent.

No Evidence of Disease

Nonfiction writers: do you try to incorporate the element of surprise into your work? How do you get the reader invested in your story?

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I'm in the mood to try something different, so here goes: have any random publishing-related questions you'd like me to (try to) answer? Ask in the comments, and I'll respond, either in the comments or in a future post!

Here's one from Jenny in the comments from a couple weeks back to get us started:

What the heck does it mean when you see a romance that says, "first time in print?" Like, did it have a life as a movie or something before? I've ALWAYS been confused about that. Unless it's meant to differentiate from a re-release of a backlist title? But how often does that happen?
I typically see "first time in print" on the covers of books from the big names in the romance industry: Madeline Hunter, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, and so on. What do all of these have in common? For one thing, they've been publishing for a while-- long enough that there's a good chance that their earlier works (say, with Harlequin series) are out-of-print.

Every publishing contract has, or should have, language that defines when a book is deemed officially out-of-print, but what's considered OOP varies from publisher to publisher. Moreover, the onus is typically on the author to ask for the rights to be reverted, and even if the author sends the requisite letter to the publisher, the publisher usually has six months to get the book back into print before they have to grant the reversion. So the publisher might re-publish the book to hang on to the rights, or they might let the author have the rights back so she can self-publish the work, or relicense it to another publisher if she chooses.

All this to say, yes, re-releases of backlist titles happen pretty frequently, especially for the "household names" of the romance genre. The "first time in print" is a way to flag to that author's fans that yes, this is indeed a new book you hold in your hands (or are preparing to download to your e-reader).

What else do you want to know?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Decoding query rejections.

Rachelle Gardner, as usual, has a lot of smart insights on what your query rejection might mean:

Decoding Query Rejections

I can concur with her anecdote about some queriers writing back to argue with a rejection, by the way. I've never understood why some people do this; trying to pick a fight with me is a poor way of demonstrating what a great working relationship we're likely to have.

Query etiquette wise, here's a bit of free advice I'm not sure I've given in this space before: please, please, please do not use your author website (the one linked in your query letter, or to your Google Plus account, if you use it) to blog about the query process. I tend not to look at queriers' sites unless I'm liking the pages you sent with the query, but if I see that you've been querying hundreds of agents for months, and you have a long post from a few weeks back about how your dream agent said no and you're on to Plan B, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It also doesn't strike me as terribly professional; if you get in an argument with your publisher over the cover design, are you going to document that on the blog, too?

I know we live in a confessional age, but I think there are things you just don't want a permanent record of. Once it's on the Internet, it's no longer private-- and you can't take it back.

Have you Googled yourself recently? Do you like what you see?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Did you all already know about this and you didn't tell me?

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

(Happy 200th anniversary, Pride and Prejudice... last week)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Longform Friday

There's something incredibly moving about this piece-- an Esquire article from fall 2012 about Teller, the magician.

The Honor System

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do audiobooks count as reading?

Does listening to an audiobook "count" as having read the book? I say yes.

Listening to Books

(Spoiler alert, if you haven't read Roots.) 

Speaking of counting, does anyone want to tally the number of times the author mentions running in the piece? Maybe I am just super-sensitive today, having been "too busy" to keep up my own (unimpressive) exercise regimen lately...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Slow living.

My client Kathreen Ricketson is on a year-long road trip with her husband and two school-age kids right now. She'll write a book about the experience (to be published by Roost Books in 2014) when it's over, but I'm loving her occasional dispatches for now:

Some thoughts on slow living

Those of you in cold climates will either love or hate her sunburned descriptions of a lazy beach day.

Do you have any daily rituals you do with extra care, extra mindfulness?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Would you make more money if you self-published? Maybe. Maybe not.

A thoughtful post from John Scalzi, in which he tries to put real numbers to the question of how much more money he would have made, had he self-published his most recent novel.

The eBook Path to Riches: Possibly Steeper Than Assumed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How a fantasy cover is made, plus contest housekeeping

I thought this was terrific (I wrote "fantastic" and then changed it, you're welcome!): artist Michael Whelan's extremely detailed blog post on the process of developing the cover for the final book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

The Making of A Memory of Light

(via Galleycat)

Also, as I never heard from Kinley re: her contest win, let's move on to the next winner. I am rushing a bit today so I'm not going to cut and paste images from the site, but our new winner is.... (drumroll)...


Stephanie, I've sent you an email-- provided you're still interested, let's talk details on the critique.

The new year has brought lots of good things my way, but it's keeping me extremely busy, too. Hope the same is true for all of you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Paging Kinley Baker!

Kinley, I still haven't heard from you regarding your win in the critique contest! Please get in touch with my via email ASAP so we can set this up-- if I haven't heard from you by Thursday the 10th, I'll run the random number generator again and give someone else a shot.

Happy New Year, all! How are those fresh new writing projects going? I hit the ground running with work projects last week and haven't come up for air much (I do love a mixed metaphor, don't you?) but I miss all of you on the blog. Any ideas for posts you'd like to see?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

CRITIQUE CONTEST: And the winner is...

Kinley Baker, come on down! Email me and we'll talk about the critique details.

Everyone else, thanks so much for entering. We'll do this again very soon.

Happy New Year!