Archive for February, 2010

Saturday, February 27th, 2010 by Sasha White

What is it about the tease that’s so hot?
You know what I’m talking about. That tingle you get between your thighs when someone exciting catches your eye, or when you catch his. The lingering looks, the hair toss, the silent communication. That time when your blood heats up and your body awakens as you feel the magic of “what if?”
It’s almost … intoxicating.
I used to flirt a lot. Men used to flirt with me. Then I got married. I haven’t gained weight or let myself go, but somehow, I’ve changed. I know it, and they know it. I think it’s because the chase is over. The magic of flirting, the heightened awareness that arcs between two people, the building of anticipation… it’s gone.
And I don’t know exactly when, or how, it disappeared.
The sad thing is, it also seems to have disappeared between my husband and me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. Grant is still very attractive in every way, and leaving him has never occurred to me. I’d never cheat on him, either.
Yet, I can’t deny that a certain restlessness has been building in me for some time.

That was the beginning of my story WATCH ME in the Kink anthology, and today I want to talk about beginnings.

For me, starting a new story can be either the easiest thing in the world, or the hardest. There really is no in-between.

When it’s easy, it’s usually something personal that has randomly occurred to me, and then as I write it a characters voice is born, and from that a story is born. Like the start of WATCH ME. The thoughts about flirting and the energy and anticipation came to me because I’d been working behind the bar that night, and I’d had a few hot guys as customers. They were way young for me, but they’d been huge flirts, and I flirted back because it felt good. I love to flirt, even when I know it’s not going to go anywhere, and those thoughts started the above opening, and by the time I was done I had a character. When I started writing it, I had no character, no story in mind, 5 minutes later I had a character (Married woman Bethany) and a story, (she missed flirting with her husband). That beginning was easy, and it fit.

Then there are the times that I think about a story, an idea, or a character, for a while. I toss different ways to start around in my mind, and soon it seems like the more I think about it, the harder it becomes to actually start the story. When that happens I tend to have several (I’m talking a dozen or so) false starts to the story before I actually find one I like.

Beginnings are important for both readers and writers. They are often the hook that draws a reader in and makes them want to read more. And for most writers they set the tone of the whole book.

I know some writers can just start, and not care that the beginning isn’t ‘just right’ because they know they’ll go back to fix it in another stage of thier process, but for me, that doesn’t work. I just can’t get into writing a story when I don’t know how it starts. And as frustrating as those false starts can be, I’ve found a way to make them work for me. They often end up in other parts of the books because they always have information in them that I think is important. It just might not be the right place to start the story.

Whatever works for you, works for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you’re doing it wrong just because you don’t do it the same way they do. And don’t worry if, like me, different beginning tactics work for different stories. All that matters is that in the end, your beginning works for you, and your story.

I do wonder though, how important readers really feel the opening of a story is. I know myself, as a reader, if I’m not at least intrigued by the first page, I won’t bother going further. What about you?

Friday, February 26th, 2010 by Rosemary
Go Big or Go Home

I’m watching the Olympics tonight (this wasn’t my original post for today) and women’s figure skater Mao Asada from Japan just landed two triple axels in her long program, the first women in Olympic history to land one, let alone two in the same program. (And three in the same competition, since she’d done one in her short program.)

The thing is, her program came on the heels of the ovation that her main competitor, Kim Yun-na of South Korea, received for achieving a record Olympic score under the new scoring system. So, no pressure or anything.

The commentators had been talking during the warm up about whether Asada would do both triple axles. One was definite, the other an option. But the thing is, at that point, she had no reason not to go for it. Her best chance was to hold nothing back.

One of the things I’ve always done–and it’s one of the reasons that I had so many unfinished books before Prom Dates From Hell–is struggled with holding something back. If I have some big, huge idea, I have a tendency to hold back from it, to “save” it. For when I’m a better writer. For when I’m more established/famous/best-selling. For later in a series, for later in the book…

All those hypotheticals are about fear. Fear I’ll peak too soon, or leave myself nowhere to go, or no way to top it. But the biggest fear of all, of course, is that I’ll blow it somehow. That I won’t execute it properly, that it will seem hokey/stupid/silly/over the top. Or that my skills aren’t up to the task.

But when it comes to writing, the stakes have to be high. For your characters, and for yourself as a writer. You’re always trying to achieve that next step up on the figurative podium, whether it’s your first sale, your first award, or your first best seller. So commit to the big ideas, and throw your heart into them.

When I say “go big or go home” I mean within the scale of your story.  “Big” can mean the scale of your fantasy battle, your villain’s villainy, or your heroine’s heartbreak.  You have nothing to lose by committing fully.  You should never hold back from your readers, or from your best writing–it’s not fair to your readers, or to yourself. Write every book as if you have nothing to lose.

And somehow, you’ll always think of something just as big for the next one. That’s what we writers do.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 by Candace Havens

It’s odd for me this whole idea of only having a book out for a month. That’s what happens with many of the Harlequin lines. Every month a bucket of new books comes out and the others are taken from the shelves. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but it kind of is.
I feel like screaming from the mountain tops, “Hurry, go buy my book. Only a few days left.” I come from the world of single title where a book sits on the shelves from between six months to a year. If you’re lucky, even longer. That gives people time to find you. If they can’t get to the store the first few weeks your books come out, it’s okay.
I worked so hard on “Take Me If You Dare.” It was a different kind of book for me, though it’s very much in my voice and style. I didn’t work any less on it than I have any other book I’ve written. So one month for it to sell, just doesn’t feel like enough. Though, I must say, the book will still be available through online retailers and in ebook form. I guess that is something.
And to be honest, I’ve been so grateful. This change has brought me tons of new readers, most of whom didn’t even know I existed. It was my first time to have a real mass market release (in Wal-Mart, Target, drug and grocery stores), and the new fans have been wonderful. The older fans have also been supportive. I’ve had a lot of, “I don’t usually read these kind of books, but I picked it up because its you,” comments. Most of them like the new stuff too, and that always makes my day.
The big question I’ve been getting is will I write more paranormal books. ABSOLUTELY. I love paranormal. In fact we are getting ready to shop a young adult paranormal (fingers crossed on that), and I have two other ideas for paranormals that I can’t wait to write.
Right now I’m hard at work on my next book for Harlequin about a sexy New York Detective and a scientist. It’s fun and sexy, and will be out next year. If you haven’t picked up Take Me If You Dare, I hope you will give it a chance.
You only have about three more days to buy it in stores. :)
I’m curious about something new you’ve tried that surprised you in a good way. Tell me, I really want to know.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
Changes is coming

First, let me say I have a hardcover book (co-written with Jennifer Cruise) coming out from St Martins (MacMillan) on 16 March:  WILD RIDE.  Am I worried?  That’s three weeks away, light years in the electronic world.  Unfortunately, three weeks is nano-seconds in the publishing world.

Also, let me disclose that in the past month I have released six backlist titles directly onto Amazon Kindle, Smashword and other publishing platforms with another fourteen backlist and some original works planned in the next several months.  In fact, I have, in essence, become a publisher as well as an author.

I’ve been in the publishing world for 20 years.  When I teach, I always say the one adjective to describe publishing is slow.  The one to describe publishers is technophobic.  Three years from idea to bookstore.  1 year to write the book.  1 year to sell it.  1 year in production.  Except I just put six books on the market in one month.  Hmm.  Well, they did take several months to write.  The only publisher I’ve experienced who ever used Track Changes and electronic manuscript was F&W (Writers Digest).  Way back in 2002 with my Novel Writers Toolkit.  My head exploded when I saw it, because I had no idea what they had done to my manuscript.  Every NY Publisher I’ve worked with (and there are many) still use a single, paper copy of the mss, with a rubber band, pencil marks and stick-ums.  Think they’re embracing the changing technology?

What authors can’t do is think they’re on the sidelines looking at the radar screens as all these storms converge.  Or worse, that we’re in the eye of the hurricane.  This is a tremendous time of change in publishing.  I know Robert Gottleib of Trident, a very smart man on publishing, pooh-poohed the whole eBook thing recently at Digital Book World (I didn’t really see any quotes from AUTHORS on all these panels, which is curious), asking why everyone was worried about something that takes up roughly 3% of the market for books.  I think we’ve got the first answer to that.  Because this fight doesn’t just affect eBooks from MacMillan, but all books from MacMillan on Amazon.  Within a week, Gottleib also was quoted in PW saying he was considering negotiating e-rights separately in the future.  So he saw change fast and embraced it.

Also, change is coming exponentially, not linearly.  eBook sales are expected to double in percentage every year and I think that’s a low estimate as everyone is focusing too much on the platform (iPad, Kindle, flat rock, whatever) and not on CONTENT.  You can read an eBook on your laptop, your desktop, your cell phone, hell just about electronic device, except your toaster.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Authors produce content.

Readers consume content.

Everyone else is in the way to an extent.  Yes, we need agents and publishers, but their roles are changing.  As we said in the Infantry:  Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

In all the conversation about who gets what percentage no one seems to be falling on their sword to make sure AUTHORS get more money.

I look at change as opportunity.  There are many things I don’t control as an author.  I don’t control what Amazon does (except choose not to buy there as a reader).  I don’t control what MacMillan does (except choose not to get published there as a writer).  The power to say no is truly one that authors have, but not very profitable.

What I do have is the power to do is study the changes, sit down with others and war game and try to figure out where things are going.  I see tremendous opportunities coming for authors.  Who can produce good content (which means less than 1% of everyone with a manuscript sitting on their computer in their pizza box lined basement while mother pounds on the door upstairs).

So.  Authors.  Write like the wind, but a good wind.  And don’t expect anyone else to take care of you.  Lead.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Joe Nassise
Cover art

We’ve all heard the old saw that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that what’s inside the book is far more important than what’s plastered on the front.  But I have to admit that I’m one of those people who is guilty of doing just that – it is often the cover art that attracts me to a particularly work, that makes me pick it up off the shelf in order to find out more.  I’ve never purchased a book simply because of the cover art, but it is certainly a factor in my overall decision.  If I’m on the fence about a particular book, having decent cover art can tip the scales in the book’s favor.

While rearranging the bookshelves in my office the other day, I spent some time pondering my own cover art. I was particularly intrigued by the way different artists and publishers had chosen to portray the same work.

For instance, here are the US, German, and Polish covers to my novel HERETIC.

Of the three, I’d probably be drawn to the Polish cover first, as it portrays a character from the book (in this case, Knight Commander Cade Williams) and gives me a clearer sense of what the book is about.  The Polish cover art also conjures up a greater sense of mystery for me – it makes me want to know more.  Who is this guy?  What’s with the sword?  Why is his face scarred so badly?   The other two covers are nice, but they don’t reach out and grab me as much as the final one in the group does.

Moving to the cover art for the second book in the series, A Scream of Angels, I found the same thing held true – I was more attracted to the art that prompted a sense of mystery and curiosity in me over the others.  In this comparison, I used the US, German, and Russian editions (as I don’t have a Polish edition of this book yet) and it was definitely the US edition that caught my eye.

So what about you?  What are some of your favorite covers and what attracted you to them?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
In the Beginning…

I’m about 18,000 words into writing a new novel (the ninth Kitty novel, for those keeping score).  After all the revising and copyediting and tedious post-production work I’ve been doing for the last two months, it’s so great to be delving into a new project.  This is about my favorite part of the whole process.  I can keep throwing ideas into the stew to see what happens to them.  I haven’t yet arrived at the “this book is kicking my ass” stage, when I have to start trying to tie those ideas together.  (That’ll come at about 35,000 words.)  I’m meeting new characters, setting a new stage, finding that new direction that will set this book apart from all the others.  I’m researching — not for details, but for ideas.  What would happen if I included this idea?  This bit of folklore?  Could I use that later?  Would it complicate the plot?  Yeah?  Awesome!  I’m making lists, drawing maps, writing my outline, trying out choice bits of dialog.  I don’t have to worry yet about where it’s all going — I’m gunning the engine, the car is picking up speed on a downhill slope, the wind is in my hair, and it’s exciting.

You know what’s really encouraging?  I’ve been writing full-time for three years.  Four, if you don’t count the year of sporadic temping I did as a transition.  The book I’m writing now will be my eleventh published novel, if all goes as planned.  The sixteenth novel I’ve written total.  And I’m still so excited.  I still love this.  I still wake up some days amazed that I get to do this.

Now, stay tuned until next month, when I write a post complaining about the “this book is kicking my ass” stage.  Or the month after that, when I write a post complaining about deadlines.

But until then:  Onward ho!

Saturday, February 20th, 2010 by Sasha White
Around the Web

I’ve been surfing the web a lot this past week. Part for Olympic news and fabulous clips to re-watch,(Canadians can watch on, Americans on, not sure about the rest of the world but I’m sure there’s a local network for everyone.) and partly because I’ve been finding so many great posts. So…instead of writing a great post, I thought I’d point you to some that are already out there.

Author Delilah Devlin has a great one on POV called Whose Head Am I In now?

Therese Walsh has on on The Uniqueness of You that I LOVE over at Writer Unboxed.

The Intern has a primer on Book Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

Agent Rachelle Gardner shows us what A Day in The life is like for her.

Writers has an article with some Agent Listings.

Have you found anything interesting on the web lately? Please share in the comments if you have.