Breaking News!!

headerI’ve been sitting on this news for a couple of weeks, so I’m SUPER EXCITED to finally get it off my chest!

You all know how I am – not much for keeping interesting news to myself. Ask me to keep a secret and I’ll carry it to my grave. But fun, exciting news like this, that I just have to hold onto until a Specific Day? Gah!

So, what? You haven’t skimmed ahead yet? You have. I know you have.

Okay, okay.

Fabulous Piece of News #1

The amazing Agent Pam has announced today that she and Laurie McLean have left Larsen-Pomada and are forming their own agency!!


When Pam called a couple of weeks ago to tell me their plan, I didn’t hesitate to tell her I would go with her. I have great faith in Pam and Laurie’s abilities and ambitions. They have exciting plans and I’m thrilled to be part of them. I feel so lucky to have signed with Pam when I did and privileged to be part of this grand, new adventure.

Also, now that the agency-thing has been settled and is public and all….

Fabulous Piece of News #2

With Pam’s assistance, I’ve agreed to a two-book deal with Carina Press for the next Covenant of Thorns books!!! Yes, all you Rogue fans – this means two more books to round out the trilogy! Yay! Looks like Rogue’s Possession will come out around the beginning of October. I know, I know – it’s a long time from the first book. 🙁 BUT, the plus side is that book 3 should come out about six months after that! Whee!!!

All very exciting, isn’t it?

I think so, too.

Directing Creativity – Managing an Infinite Resource in Finite Ways

So, the big news is, I officially finished the draft of RP2, now officially dubbed “Rogue’s Possession.”

Exciting, yes – but the above pic truly encapsulates how we celebrate around here. Ahhh….

It’s so interesting to me how creativity works. We often talk about it like it’s a well, where the water flows at a certain rate, can be drawn down, needs time to replenish, and – horror of horrors – could maybe run dry. But I wonder if this is really an accurate metaphor? After all, creativity is a kind of energy, but it’s not subject to the physical laws of the universe. It almost belongs to the spiritual realm. My physical body might tire – the brain that translates the story, the hands that type it – but it seems to me the creativity itself should be endless.

Yet, it never feels that way.

Here it is, October 26, and I haven’t put up my Halloween decorations. I *love* Halloween. I have two great big bins of decorations sitting in the garage. I’d thought maybe I’d put them up last weekend, but I spent my time writing 10,000 words on Rogue’s Possession.

I know that’s not my usual thing, but I was experimenting. David was out of town for the weekend and I really wanted to finish Possession so I can get started on Ruby (book 3 in Facets of Passion) which is due to fabulous editor Deb at the end of November. So, I tried writing five 60-minute blocks each day. In between, I walked the dog, cooked meals, did dishes, that sort of thing.

Did not put up decorations.

It just felt like too much. Though it would have taken very little time, really.

And I did it! I wrote a little over 5K each day, did not feel exhausted and it let me finish the book early. The ending can be like that for me – I just have to keep going with it, because if I stop, I can lose the threads. Somehow, though, that extra bit of tangential creativity, putting up some decorations, seemed absolutely impossible.

I’ve done this at other times in my life, when things going on just absorbed so much of my personal energy that other stuff just had to be dropped, totally and completely. Shut the door and sever the cord. I used to quilt and loved it, but finally faced that I had to stop and divert that energy into writing. That choice made a huge difference in my writing productivity.

Now that the book is finished, I feel that energy bubbling within. Which is great news for Ruby!

Maybe I’ll get those decorations up this weekend…

Also, if you’re online this weekend, I’ll be participating in Coyote Con – an online free writing conference. I’ll be on a panel for Fantasy Romance, 6-7pm Eastern Time tonight. Tomorrow, 2:30-3:30pm ET, I’ll be on a panel with some fab friends “THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE GIRLY & THE MANLY” and another panel tomorrow night (Saturday 10/27), 9:30-10:30pm ET, on erotica and erotic romance.

Next weekend, I’ll be in Toronto for World Fantasy Con – provided Frankenstorm doesn’t raze the city. And, while I’m in Toronto, I’ll be signing cover flats at the Ellora’s Cave booth at the Everything to Do with Sex Show on Saturday evening, November 3, 7-9 pm.

How Not to Be Distracted by Distractions

I got my trophy in the mail the other day for Sapphire’s win in the OKRWA International Digital Awards. It’s very pretty. I may or may not sit and gaze at it from time to time. Especially during day job conference calls.

My big boss, head of our 60-some person team, Chi Ho really hates it if we’re not paying attention to conference calls. For people in the office, he makes them come to the conference room for big meetings, instead of phoning in from their desks, as many would prefer. Chi Ho says that there’s no such thing as multitasking, that if you think you are, you’re really not paying attention to any of the several things you’re doing. I think he does have a point.

Yesterday I was talking on the phone with a gal junior to me who’s doing a whole bunch of work on my projects. She’s very sharp, organized and I trust her with a lot. We were doing long-term strategizing about finishing out projects for the rest of the year. As we were talking, an email from Chi Ho popped up on my screen and I scanned it – then realized this gal had asked me a question. I rewound the tape in my head, but no, I didn’t have it. I had to confess that I’d been reading Chi Ho’s email and had stopped listening and what was her question again? She started laughing and said “caught you multitasking!”

I’ve been reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, which was a gift from the lovely Laura Bickle. It’s a very interesting take on creative and leading an artistic life, because Twyla comes at it from such a different perspective. As a dancer and choreographer, her creative process is in some ways the polar opposite of a writer’s. She is physical where we are sedentary, working with large groups compared to our solitary dreaming. But the differences point up the similarities in how we create and nourish new ideas. I’ve been highlighting a lot and this one struck me:

The irony of multitasking is that it’s exhausting; when you’re doing two or three things simultaneously, you use more energy than the sum of energy required to do each task independently. You’re also cheating yourself because you’re not doing anything excellently. You’re compromising your virtuosity. In the words of T.S. Eliot, you’re “distracted from distractions by distractions.”

 It’s a challenge to cut out multitasking because we all get a frisson of satisfaction from being able to keep several balls in the air at once. But one week without multitasking is worth it; the increased focus and awareness are their rewards.

That’s Twyla’s idea – that cutting out all distractions for a week improves creativity. She’s pretty draconian about it, saying that when she’s working up a new dance, she cuts out all input for a week before – email, TV, music, newspapers, everything. This is where I see a big difference in being a writer. I suppose there was a time when a writer prepared to Write The Next Book and would do this creative preparation. However, these days, I think most of us are writing pretty much all the time. I know I have to. I finish one project and move on to the next. So, while seductive*, it’s not practical for me to create this well of silence around my creative process.

*And it’s totally seductive to me. I have this idea that I would love to be a cloistered nun and take a vow of silence. Except that I’m not religious and I really like sex and other hedonistic activities. But still.

Instead, I think this silence can be created on a temporary and daily basis through dint of habit. My ritual now is turning on Freedom for two hours. (Those keeping track at home will notice that I upped the time. Deadlines – they be looming.) This silences the internet. I turn off the phone. The more I make myself sit with no other stimulation and simply focus on the story, the more it flows.

And for the day job? When I talk on the phone, I turn my back to the computer screen.


Please Don’t Post Bitchy Little Notes

I had a choice of using another photo similar to this one, with more clarity and better composition. But in the end, I just loved the full-on dramatic blaze of color in this.

I suppose our choices aren’t always rational ones.

Lately, despite my INTJ nature (if you know what that is, you’re nodding in understanding; if you don’t, don’t worry about it), I’ve been the Queen of Non-Rational Choices. At least when it comes to writing. This is part of the mister curse. I rarely ever feel like I get to control a story or make decisions about it. It’s like this great slippery many-tentacled thing that I’m trying to wedge into a Vera Wang gown. Never mind the make-up and hair-I just want the story to be able to walk down the runway without turning into a pile of goo.

So here I am in the middle of RP2. Just past the middle, actually. I’ve got about 63K written and I’m predicting I have about 48K to go. And bizarre things keep happening. I get one tentacle neatly tucked in and three more pop out.


It’s times like this that I wish I could pre-plot, when I’m envious of all those neat little outlines and well-behaved characters who simply suit up and behave. I know, too, that I simply need to slog through this part, that the story is trying to communicate something to me and I have to find out what it is. Writing the words then becomes like saying a rosary or Kaddish – you sit your butt down and put in the time, trusting that the transformation will take place.

Meanwhile, I’m all kinds of cranky. If I were the sort of writer who locked themselves in an attic room, demanded that food be left outside the door and threw temper tantrums, I would SO be doing that right now. But I don’t have that luxury, so I plug along, observing my rituals and routines to stay more or less on an even keel.

This morning, after I lifted weights at the gym, I put the check for the water bill in the dropbox. Taped to it was a note. You know the kind of note I mean. The passive-aggressive kind. It said something along the lines of “Please do not repeatedly slam the dropbox door. The bills will drop easily on the first try.” Clearly this person’s desk is on the other side of the wall the dropbox is attached to and said person is tired of hearing the dropbox door repeatedly slammed.

Now I want to type up a little note of my own and tape it on there. Something like “Please don’t post bitchy little notes.”

Ah, the irony.

This, my friends, is how my crazy writerliness manifests.

Maybe you should all just find me an attic room after all. Just leave food outside the door.

Meeting Real Writers and Readers

I had to be in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the #dayjob this last week. One of the best parts of traveling for the job is getting to meet the people I usually only talk to online. On this trip, I got to meet two people, one who was already a good friend.

In the last six months, Carolyn Crane has become first a favorite author, then an online friend and then a critique partner. We were hooked up through a bit of savvy writer-matchmaking by Sullivan McPig. This was our first time, after increasingly copious online conversation, to meet in person.

We had dinner twice and, yes, talked a whole bunch. She even introduced me to her husband, who was a little dubious about who the hell I was, anyway. Carolyn got to meet my boss, Laurie, who joined us for some wine. We ruminated on how much the internet has added to our friendship connections this way. Without the internet, it’s highly unlikely that an enthusiastic reader in The Netherlands would have connected me to a writer who lives in another city and with whom I share so much.

The other person I met up with is Susan Doerr, who works at a book publisher (U. Minn Press). We had drinks after work and chatted about books we both love. She’s been lovely to me about my own books and asked lots of questions. When I told her about plans for stories I’m working on (*cough*Rogue’s Pawn 2*cough*), she actually jumped up and down with excitement about getting the “inside scoop.”

We may also have gossipped a little about various industry folks. Shhh….

But the whole conversation made me think about what readers like to know about the authors they read. I fill out the blog interviews and it’s hard to answer some of the questions because I often feel like so much of it is old hat. What can I possibly say about myself that everyone doesn’t already know? It’s easy to forget the enthusiastic readers on the other side of that equation – even though I am one, too.

So, I’m back home again at my house in the country, and savoring the wonderful in-person conversations I was privileged to share with these two very sharp, totally fabulous women. And I’m going to try to remember that, despite the physical distance and the lack of cocktails, real people are on the other side of these conversations.

Here’s to internet friends!

On Reanimating Old Outtakes – a Cautionary Tale

Now that the weather is turning cool, I’m getting more frequent cuddly desk companions again. I’m sure it’s me they love, not my warm lamp.

I used to have this writing teacher who did not believe in revising via word processor. Yes – she was old school. But she was firmly convinced that the advent of word-processing software had created lazy revisers, because writers could cut, paste, rearrange and massage the existing words. Before the software, revising meant retyping or rewriting by hand from beginning to end. She thought that recasting the story from the beginning led to greater insights and a more cohesive product. She exhorted us to resist the urge to revise the existing document and instead, type it again from the beginning, the old-fashioned way.

Of course, we all rolled our eyes at her and totally ignored this advice. I mean, who has the freaking time? When you have this great technology that lets you tweak an existing document, why on earth would anyone spend all that time and effort to type it all out again?? So none of us followed her advice.

More and more, though, I’m starting to think she’s right.

Not that I do it.

Those of you keeping track at home know that I’m deep into writing the sequel to Rogue’s Pawn, fondly known as RP2, because I haven’t decided what title I want to propose. I’m kind of waiting to see how the story turns out.

(I love to say things like that, just to imagine all the plotters clutching their heads with anxiety.)

A couple of days ago I realized I’d forgotten to weave in a thread that I needed and that a scene I’d cut from Rogue’s Pawn was exactly what should go there. For all of you readers who bitched noticed that there were some questions left unanswered in the first book, this is part of why. There were chunks that had to be cut out, just to find some kind of reasonable conclusion. I always knew they’d work into the later stories somehow (or hoped), but I wasn’t sure where or how.

So, on Wednesday I pasted in this 5K chunk and yesterday I set to massaging it into place. A task I thought would go quickly.

Um, no.

In fact, having cut half of it and writing a whole bunch of new stuff, I’m still nowhere done with that section.

Worse, I’m starting to realize that if I’d just rewritten the scene, I’d likely be done already.

It’s difficult to explain why, but it’s somehow more challenging to wrestle old work into a new mold that to just write something fresh in the new vein. A lot has changed in the story. This is a scene between Rogue and Gwynn and their dynamic has come a long way. So the way they talk to each other, touch each other, where they’re at in their heads, their goals and desires – all of these things have changed. And that all requires subtle reworking of what they say, how they say it and when, the tone, pacing, word choice.

Yeah, I’m clutching my own head. I totally deserve that.

So, will I just rewrite the damn scene from the beginning? Probably not. It’s reworked now. I did end up just cutting the rest of the scene and I’ll write the second half of it fresh, because a lot of that part no longer applied.

I did a post about six months back on Letting the Babies Stay Dead. It elicited some lively debate on whether outtakes (those babies that need to be “killed” or cut out) should be kept or ditched entirely. In that I said I wondered if I should give all of mine a decent burial, instead of keeping them around in case I could reanimate them.

Clearly I didn’t do it and now I’m looking at the monster I brought back to life by patching new flesh onto old and I’m thinking that if I hadn’t saved that scene, I would have had to retype it from the beginning. Just like my teacher advised us to do.

One of these days I’ll learn my lesson.

Why You Just Don’t Start with Back Story. Really.

It makes it difficult to keyboard this way, but I cannot withstand the cuteness.

I took the day off yesterday – from both day job and writing. We went for a walk, had breakfast on the patio, watched the 4th of July parade and then hung out. I did a lot of reading under the grape arbor. There may have been wine-drinking involved.

I’m reading a Famous Series by a Famous Author. I’m coming in after the series is complete. Some time ago I picked up one of the books in hardback, because it looked intriguing and right up my reading alley. Also I had really enjoy this author’s historical/time-travel romances. I tried several times to get into it and never got past page 52. (I know this, because when I got it out this weekend, that’s where I’d left it marked.)

Recently, several readers mentioned that Rogue’s Pawn has similarities to this series. When I said I’d never read it, they insisted I just must. (And no, this is not Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghost series. A reviewer made that comparison and I’m just tremendously flattered. Stacy’s on her 5th book in that series and, if you haven’t read it, this review might convince you.)

At any rate, convinced that my mistake had been in not starting with Book 1 in the series, I figured out what the title was by going to the author’s website. I couldn’t tell by looking at Amazon, and read it on the Kindle. And okay – it was definitely better that way. I understood more of the story, was more invested in the characters and was willing to continue. I’m told that if I read the whole series, the payoff is big. That’s when I pulled out the hardback again and started over.

And I discovered why I’d gotten so bogged down before.

She starts the book off with recap of the story so far and lots of back story. Really boring “and this happened and that happened and then…”

The other day I posted about not slavishly following the rules, but boy howdy – that rule about not starting with back story and info-dump? Totally confirmed.

So then, I’m trudging through all this recap and she mentions stuff that I know didn’t happen in Book 1. But nowhere on this book does it tell me where it falls in the series. I went back to the author website and discover my hardback is actually Book 3. I buy Book 2 on my Kindle and start reading.

Guess what? It’s almost exactly the same damn boilerplate recap she started Book 3 with. Clearly she wrote it for Book 2, then just slapped it into Book 3, with a few additional details for things that happened in Book 2.

I just don’t get it. I mean, I know it’s not easy weaving in back story. My friend Allison Pang really bled over that when she wrote her Book 2. All I can think is that the author is Famous enough that her editor let her get away with this.

Thing is – it’s awful. And it absolutely stopped me from getting into her series when I blithely picked up Book 3 without knowing it.

Now I feel much better about how I’ve handled back story in RP2.

If I ever do this boilerplate thing? Somebody slap me!

Breaking through Plot Walls

Jackson demonstrates a little kitty yoga for you. Dare you to replicate this position.

I’ve been working away on the sequel to Rogue’s Pawn, simply titled RP2 for now. I had been going fast on it, then I slowed down. It happened right as I neared the Act I climax. Usually I don’t have this problem, but usually I’m not writing a sequel.

Now, for those of you not hugely up on story structure, most stories fall roughly into three acts. This is traditional, embedded-in-the-subconscious hum storytelling. Jokes traditionally come in three parts. Magic tricks have three stages: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. (Brilliantly demonstrated in the movie The Prestige.) Shakespeare’s plays generally are in three acts (if there’s  an Act IV, it usually serves as an epilogue). You can think of it in the classic terms of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back” or “get your hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him back down.”

So, Act I for a sequel is all about getting my characters back up a tree. I say specifically “back up the tree” because I just finished getting them out of a damn tree in the first book. It’s not that easy to get them back up the tree without making them seem stubborn or stupid or just plain self-destructive.

Plus, in the sequel, you need to ground readers in the world and ongoing threads established in the first book so that they know enough to skip reading the first book, but not so much that readers of the first book throw the second one against the wall in frustration. (A reader recently told me she did this with the most recent book in an ongoing, very long series. She felt like every other paragraph was devoted to summarizing “the story so far,” to the point that would have thrown it against the wall, except she values her ereader.)

It’s a lot of stuff to fold into the first act. Especially if you want the story to be interesting, too.

I felt like I was up against a wall, in that final scene of the first act. I’d built and built up to that point, I had an idea what needed to happen, where everyone needed to be mentally, to catapult us into the rest of the adventure (hurtling rocks – coming right up!), but I just couldn’t seem to get it into place.

Now, some writers will switch off at this point. They’ll switch to another project or write a scene from later in the story. I can see why this works – it relieves the pressure of having your creative face mashed up against that plot wall.

But, for me, all the juice is in sticking it out.

I went back and reread what I had so far – about 100 pages – and tightened and polished as I went. I worked my way back up to that wall, my steps slowing with every page as I neared that final scene. Yes, it was painful and unfulfilling. The last 20 pages took me two days of sticking it out.

Finally, the wall crumbled.

The resistance gave way and the world on the other side opened up.

Juicy, indeed.

Is It Really Harder Writing a Sequel?

These are scarlet gilia blossoms – big favorite with the hummingbirds. Such a vivid color.

It’s interesting how each new book I write is a different experience. Over the years, I’ve heard writers make note of this, but I suspect it’s one of tose things that, when you experience it for yourself and it hits home, you have that big “ohhh” moment.

In some ways it’s a satisfying feeling. “I’m a big girl writer now and I get what all these other long-established writers have been talking about.” But it’s also kind of daunting. Because you suddenly realize that you do not have this gig down. That you will never have this gig down. That each new book brings a new set of challenges.

Which is a good thing, right? All that learning and growing and development of craft and art.

This is on my mind because it came up in comments on yesterday’s post and also because I’ve started the sequel to Rogues Pawn, which will be Book 2 in the Covenant of Thorns series. Kev suggested I call it Rogue’s Spawn, which I am just SO tempted to do, if I didn’t think the Carina marketing team would kill me for it. It wouldn’t be inaccurate since Rogue does want her firstborn child – and that’s not a spoiler because it’s right there in the blurb. So, for now, I’m just calling it RP2.

Thing is, this is the first sequel I’ve written. The other follow-ups are same world, same general idea, but new characters, new story. This is the same characters and a continuing story.

And it’s HARD.


Usually I love drafting a new story, but this has just been a slog so far. The first chapter has taken forever. I have to keep going back to the first book and my notes to make sure the continuity is right. It’s kind of pissing me off.

So, I did what every good writer does: I whined to my CP Laura Bickle about it. She cheerfully came back with “Oh yeah – writing a sequel sucks.”

Which took me aback. She’d never mentioned.

“The first half is always a slog. I never feel good about it until I get halfway,” she continued, all perky. “You’ll be fine. Just keep slogging.”

So, now I know.

So, how about you all who’ve written sequels? Can you verify Laura’s assessment? Any tips or tricks?

Or chocolate?

That works, too.