Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mini-Rant: There Is No Ultimate Goal

Really this isn't a rant, it's more of a reality check. I've been published for two and a half years now (or really close to it--I think I'm off by 3 days), and I've learned a few things along the way.

Prior to selling, my goal was to "get an agent." It was a noble goal to be sure, but in the interim, I've seen more than one author-friend languish while their agent either stuck them in never-ending revision-trenches or even actively tried to sell their books. An agent is not the magical fairy who will get you published. They are just one step on the path to a New York contract, and not a sure one at that. If you notice, I still don't have an agent. I'm no longer worried about it because I took a different path, one I'm very okay with.

Then I thought, if I just sell something, it'll all be okay! Truth is, it's "okay" to be an aspiring author. It's okay to toil away on manuscripts that don't sell. It's all O-fucking-kay because signing with a publisher doesn't mean your book will fly off the shelves. Reviews don't necessarily make that happen either, no matter how good they are. What does selling change? You are now a published (or almost-published) author. This is a big deal and cause for celebration, but you're still going to have to toil away at that next manuscript.

Bigger publishers, better deals, hitting lists, making bank... They are all good goals. But at the end of the day, you still have to write a great next book. Especially in the digital age, the idea of a book a year (or less often) doesn't work. The drive to get the agent or book deal or whatever? You still need it after, in fact, you might need it more.

The reality is, there's no sweet spot for most authors where they can just sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. There has to be a push to keep going in order to move forward.

The real trick? The real sweet spot? It's learning to balance that need for progress with the joy of writing. I've said it before and I'll say it over and over again: if you aren't writing because you love it--because it's a passion--you shouldn't do it. But if you can love it even when it's ugly and hard and exhausting...then you'll be able to weather all the storms that come with it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On Vacation

So, for those of you who didn't know, I turned the big 4-0 last weekend. Happy birthday to me and all that jazz. (Seriously though, I don't get the big deal about 40. Other than some extra aches and pains, I don't feel all that different than I did 10 or even 15 years ago.) Rather than clearing out my Amazon wish-list, my husband said I could plan our family vacation around my birthday. Woot!

So, right now, I am chilling in the Caribbean with the hubs and the kiddos. I may regret the latter part of the equation, but I didn't want to not include them.

This trip is also allowing me to check some of the places I use in a new romance novel. I want to make sure I get the feel (and details--at least as much as works) right. In theory, that means I could write the trip off. We'll see though.

I'm also (shoot me now before the plot bunnies eat my brain) debating an attempt at a romance novel in the vein of the married-with-kids rom-coms that have been coming out. For those of you not in that situation, it truly is a completely different world than the falling-in-love style romance. Is it better? *shrug* Maybe, maybe not (and it does bother me when movies make it seem like everyone would be better off married and with kids), but it is an area that is usually given the more serious treatment in the literary world. Someday, I'll give it a go.

You know, when I'm not sipping margaritas, listening to steel drums, and soaking up the sun... while my kids blast me with squirt guns.

Talk to you next week!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Next Big Thing

I was actually tagged by Katee Robert back in mid-December, but with the death-plague and holidays, I decided to wait until now because I'm just a rebel like that.

The book I'm using for this is the first in my new series with Entangled Publishing.

What is your working title of your book?
Gaming for Keeps, and I just found out that we're keeping the title. Yay!

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This manuscript was written specifically for Entangled's “Geek Collection” call. From there, I started thinking about when I used to play EverQuest and the drama and fun had with my guildies. The idea kind of took hold from there.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s kind of a romantic suspense. Sort of. Imagine Chuck meets DragonCon with lots of sexy thrown in for fun.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Our hero, Cal, would be played by Garrett Hedlund of Tron: Legacy and Country Strong fame (gotta love a man who can sing). And our heroine spitfire would be the lovely Amber Tamblyn from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, House, and a whole bunch of other things.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
TRAIT agent Cal Burrows just wants to spend the weekend with his new girl, Penelope, at ConDamned, but a terrorist with a taste for the dramatic puts his job as well as their lives and budding romance at risk.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was written for the submission call, but it was truly inspired by my love for quirky-straddling-the-right-and-wrong-sides-of-the-law shows like ChuckLeverage, and White Collar. With a little bit of The Avengers (minus the super-powers) thrown in. But the basic idea at its core was inspired by my guildies who taught me that a game could be more than just a game.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Gaming for Keeps is contracted with Entangled Publishing and will be released as part of their Geek Collection in September.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft? A month? It’s a novella, so that’s not at all unreasonable. Then it went to my crit partners and through some significant revisions before I ever sent it in. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I am so bad at this. I really don’t have specific books within the genre that fit both the type of story as well as my voice. So… Voice and stylistically, my work has been compared to Katee Robert's and Allison Pang's, but for story content, I still refer back to Chuck and Leverage.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
TRAIT itself is a construct of my imagination created for this book. It’s an intelligence agency composed of the rejects (though I prefer the term misfits) who didn’t make the cut for the better known agencies but were too valuable to let go. The team is full of quirks and different from your average spy network. For example, Cal is a computer genius with… we’ll call it severe anger-management issues when things get ugly.

From the inception of the agency, it was almost inevitable that a series would spring up, and I’m currently working on another story in the same world and featuring a couple of the TRAIT agents introduced in Gaming for Keeps.

Now onto the next victims! The only downside is that I can't hear the screaming through the internet:

First up is Graylin Fox.

And next is M. Andrew Patterson.

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guest Post from Steve McHugh

So excited! My first guest post of 2013 is from none other than the incredible indie author Steve McHugh. Steve is amazing, and as one of only two men in my writing group, he gets more than his share of romance in his reading (and writerly conversations). Guess a little bit of that rubbed off on him, because he's here today to celebrate his newest release, Born of Hatred, and talk about one of my favorite topics--writing sex scenes. Yummy!

Take it away, Steve!

The Art of Sex Scenes
Although a massive generalisation, it’s very quickly become apparent to me that women write better sex scenes then men. I can think of, at a push, three male writers who write excellent sex scenes in their books. I can think of at least a dozen women, right off the top of my head who do the same.
Now, of course there are women who can’t write sex scenes either, but even so, the odds are firmly in the female court.
So, it was with a little trepidation that it became apparent that my first book, Crimes Against Magic, was going to have sex in it. This was a problem for one reason. My sex scenes were dreadful. They read a little bit like an educational sex talk given by a teacher for whom the word ‘sex’ should never leave their mouth. They were dry, dull and quite frankly about as sexy as wet cardboard.
So, I tried spicing them up a bit and found a new problem. They now sounded like a porn film. All I needed to do was add a handlebar moustache and have the main character come to check on the woman’s boiler, fridge, cooker, pluming and I’d have had a career in writing truly terrible sex scenes. It’s something to think about if this whole ‘published author’ thing doesn’t work out.
So I needed to re-work it again. And this time I found some good advice. Apparently, I’m pretty good at writing action scenes. So, why not try writing a sex scene in the same way? Everyone writes action scenes in their own way, but I tend to map out where everyone is and what they’re doing, or going to be doing.
Applying it to a sex scene was actually straight-forward. Instead of several people all in the same place I only had to deal with two (although, your mileage may vary). So, I wrote it as if it were an action scene, or a fight. Once I had the backbone for it, I found it much easier to go through it and make it ‘sexier’, but having that base was necessary for me.
Since that first time, I’ve found it much easier to switch into ‘sex scene mode’ for writing and can usually manage it without the need for the clinical part first. I’m never going to write the greatest sex scenes of all time, but I hope I’m no longer in the same bracket as some of the truly terrible ones.

Steve McHugh is the author of the popular Urban Fantasy series, Hellequin Chronicles. The first book of which, CrimesAgainst Magic, was published in April 2012 and followed by the sequel, Born ofHatred in December 2012.

To learn more about Steve and his work, you can find him:

And find a copy of his most recent book, Born of Hatred, at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com 

There was a time when Nathan Garrett was feared. When the mention of his name was enough to stop his enemies in their tracks. That time has long since passed. When Nathan's friend asks for help investigating a pattern of horrific crimes, he reluctantly agrees. But his investigation leads to a serial killer who is something more, or less, than human, a creature of pure malevolence and hatred.

There are some things that even a 1600-year-old sorcerer hesitates to challenge. But when evil targets those Nathan cares about, his enemies will discover exactly who Nathan used to be. And why they will learn to fear him once more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello 2013!

Well, 2013, you look a lot like 2012 only younger. Have you had work done?

As for the rest of you, welcome to the new year. I'm celebrating with a space bar that doesn't want to register, so if you see wordsmashedtogetherlikethis please ignore them as I'm still recovering from a week of holiday celebrating with extended family.

Last night just after midnight, my son (11) asked what our new year's resolutions were. He was a little shocked when I said I don't do those. Reason? People tend to choose things that are destined to fail. They vow to curse less or eat better or exercise everyday until they puke. I'm not saying it never works out, but the loftier the resolution, the more likely it is to fail. So I don't bother with them. The closest thing I have to a resolution is to be the best me I can be.

What I do have are goals.

You see, a resolution is like a promise. Once you break it, the deed is done and can't be undone. Sure, you can start over again, but it feels like you failed. With a goal, you have the whole year to keep trying. Don't reach it in January? No worries, you still have 11 months to go! And I also set reasonable goals. I figure there's twelve months to the year. While I could stand to lose more than this, I have a goal to lose 12 pounds. If I hit that quickly, *poof* goal accomplished. I might set another one or I might just content myself with the 12.

I also have writing goals. These are a little trickier as they are out of my control to some degree.

  1. I want to make more money than I did last year. Honestly, this shouldn't be all that hard. Financially (for me), 2012 blew massive chunks and I don't want to discuss it.
  2. I want to streamline and de-stress my writing time. I already started this by making the painful decision to leave Steamed! I love that blog, but it was becoming more work than fun. I'll be making more cuts of that nature soon. The only part of my writing that should be "work" is... you know, the work part. 
  3. I want to sell more than I did last year. In 2012, I sold 5 stories (1 short, 2 novellas, 2 novels). I want 2013 to be more than that. Considering I already have one piece on sub and another that should go out by month's end (hopefully), I think I can manage that. 
  4. I want to meet more readers. This means breaking out of my comfort zone at both RT and Up in the Aether (as well as any other cons I manage to get to). 
  5. I want to wrap up at least one series. I'm pretty sure I know which one it will be, but only time will tell for sure (and this will be a late-in-the-year goal no matter what). 
  6. Streamline giveaways so I'm not confused on what I owe where. (ie--I'm only doing giveaways on other blogs if they choose the winner and notify me of what I'm sending where. Which is how it should be since it's their party.)
  7. Celebrate releases. I haven't done this in... ages. Literally, my release-celebrations last year went something like this. "I have a book out today. Oh shit. I have a fucking book out today! (cue panic) I need to get on the blog and pimp it on social media and..." Good times... Or at least I'm sure someone somewhere would consider it a good time. I kind of don't. 
  8. I want to find the joy in writing again. I lost it for a while last year, and I think my work suffered as a result. To much trying to fit inside a box that wasn't made for me left me cranky. No more of that. Writing should be fun. 

If you notice, a lot of that (though not all for sure) is about getting back to where I was before I was published. That sweet spot where writing is all a big, fun, scary adventure. I have no intention of leaving my publishers to find it. But I do want to get there again, to just embrace and run with things, rather than worrying about shit all the time. I have enough damn gray hairs. I don't need anymore, thanks.

So what about you? Resolutions or goals?