A Few of My Favorite Contractors

This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about Contractor Best Practices. And already CharissaJames, and KAK have posted great articles about communication and clear expectations. I whole-heartedly ditto everything they said.

So, instead of reiterating, I thought I’d share my own favorite contractors. It’s a great opportunity to give them a shout-out. One of the best parts of being an author who self-publishes is that you become the source of work for other people. I love that I, by creating words, am a font which then flows money out to the people who do work for me. They are vital parts of my business and I’d hate to be without them.

These days, after years of honing my practices, they’re a pretty lean team.

My Assistant

First and foremost, my amazing assistant is the fabulous Carien Ubink, aka book blogger Sullivan McPig. Whenever someone asks what my assistant does for me, I reel off the list and then – for about half an hour afterward – I’m adding “Oh, and she also does this!” We’ve been working together for years now. (She could tell you how many, which is one of the things she does for me.) She’s the best.

My Cover Artist

While I occasionally use other cover artists, my go-to and favorite is Ravven. She’s done the majority of my covers and I hope will do many, many more. She has an uncanny ability to take my inadequate descriptions and hand me back a gorgeous cover that exceeds my imagination. She’s timely, helpful, goes the extra mile. No one else comes close to her in talent, skill, and clean business practices.

My Proofreader

Crystal Watanabe at Pikko’s House handles all of my editorial. She’s super fast, thorough, and a delight to work with. She also operates a business that offers the gamut of editorial services. I highly recommend checking out Pikko’s House.

My Formatter

Yes, I farm out my formatting – largely because my formatter, Paul at BB eBooks, is so fantastic. He accommodates my sometimes screechingly tight turnaround times, always doing a stellar job, and with a great attitude. There’s nobody I trust more to get the job done right.

Release Week Shenanigans

Jeffe & DaryndaWHEW!

You know, we call it Release Day, when our books hit the market, but it’s more like Release Marathon. My mom has a friend who says “the birthday isn’t over until all the gifts are in.” That’s a bit how this feels. Yesterday was like my birthday, with all of the congratulations on the release of Rogue’s Possession, and now there’s more today and for the foreseeable future.

You guys are so great!

So, there’s all sorts of things going on.

My fabuloso buddy, Darynda Jones, also has a release today, making us Release Day Twins. Thus, we’re doing a Trivia Showdown over on Facebook. It’s pretty damn funny, I think. See, I asked her five questions and she gave me her answers. I posted them as multiple choice, filling in the other options myself. Maybe it’s diabolical of me, but I get pretty tickled when people choose my red-herring answers. Today she’ll ask ME five questions. Top prize is a $50 gift card to Wolferman’s Bakery, for the sheer numminess. Book giveaways are naturally also part of the deal!

I’m also over at Here Be Magic today, with an excerpt from Rogue’s Possession, just for fun – and wishing sister Word Whore, Veronica Scott a very Happy Birthday!

There’s a couple of giveaways in progress also. Hie on over to Pearls Cast Before a McPig or, if you want to read a chat between Rogue and Gwynn (who doesn’t, right??) you can visit So Many Reads.

See what I mean?

Send baked goods!

Drawing the Line at Mining Other Cultural Myths

BUeDGlaCEAAQRk7Love this photo from Carien, Sullivan McPig and Voodoo Bride – all hugging on their copy of Rogue’s Pawn. I might not have visited The Netherlands, but my books have!

Many of you know I lived in Wyoming for a long time. I went there for graduate school, fell in love with David and ended up staying more than 20 years. Wyoming is an interesting place to live, landlocked in the middle of the country, with the smallest population of all the states. A lot of it is beautiful and a lot isn’t. But the people who live there have a fierce pride of place. There’s a certain mystique to being a resident, to combatting the ferocious winters and going without the luxuries other communities enjoy. It’s tied in with the Western Myth, the hero as a cowboy, the rugged loner and frontiersman.

When I met David – a Wyoming man, born and bred – he would sometimes comment contemptuously about the “Wyoming Wannabes,” the people who moved there wanting to be part of the mystique. There were people like this, who left the big cities and came to Wyoming thinking they’d become the Malboro Man. One writer friend pointed out that it was the only place she’d ever lived where people identified themselves by how long they’d lived there. She was right – everybody knew their length of residency and offered it up as their Wyoming cred, the longer, the better.

And,  if you hadn’t been born there, it didn’t matter how long you’d lived there – you were never a “real” resident.

I think of this when I hear someone complain about another “mining a cultural tradition.” It’s this idea that a culture – or a place or a myth or mystique – is somehow the exclusive property of one group of people. On a panel I moderated at World Fantasy Con in 2012, the Australian author Sean Williams spoke at some length of being very aware of not inadvertently mining the aboriginal culture for stories or mythology in any way. I read much of this same criticism (among heaps of others) about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Grammys this year, and how she was appropriating black culture.

It seems to be this sense that a minority or oppressed group has something precious, that should not be stolen by an imperialist culture.

What bothers me is, who decides what’s part of human culture or a place that anyone can enjoy and what belongs to only one group?

When I was a teen, I once told some family friends that I didn’t feel much patriotism for the United States as a whole, but that if my hometown of Denver was attacked, I’d fight to defend it. They were very interested in that and said they wondered if it was because I hadn’t lived much of anywhere else or traveled much. In many ways, they were right – as I’ve grown older and lived more places, my sense of the world has grown much broader. Many places are special to me now. I think about this in science fiction stories sometimes, that a day will come when we’ll identify as being “from Earth,” not just one city, state, or country, but the whole planet.

From that perspective, isn’t human culture all one culture?

I confess that it bothers me that, as a storyteller, I’m to keep my thoughts out of some mythologies. That they somehow belong to someone else, as their exclusive property. I suppose I believe that shared racial memory means among all human beings, not just the Irish/Scot/French/Dutch melange I can genetically lay claim to.

So, I’m curious to know what you all think. Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? And, if there is, how and where should it be drawn?

Platinum Cover Reveal!!

Hee hee hee.

You have to visit Pearls Cast Before a McPig to see it. Voodoo Bride is a big fan and wanted the privilege.

Here’s the official description (which I forgot to give Sullivan-oops!):

Althea Grant is doing fine. Sure, her Charleston gallery is suffering from the bad economy, and her artistic aspirations have gone nowhere. But she’s happy enough. When rugged metal sculptor Steel rides up on his motorcycle looking to rent studio space, his infusion of cash is more than welcome. But his art is raw, visceral, sexual—and completely inappropriate for her pastel world of watercolor landscapes.

Steel, fascinated by Althea’s rare albino coloring, sees in her the key to his next piece: a metal satyr that can be used for bondage games. Moving into her gallery basement is the first step; seducing the coolly polite lady into modeling for him is the second.

As Steel peels away her careful manners and tasteful outfits, Althea begins to realize her life isn’t just fine at all—it’s as pale and washed-out as the watercolor paintings she’s failing to sell. Can she transform her life and accept her most secret desires?

Out February 25!

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!

Author Intrusion – and How to Avoid It

Wow – welcome to September everyone!

(And how the hell did THAT happen, anyway??)

I have to give a little shout-out to friend and CP Carolyn Crane, whose book Head Rush is out in paperback today. This is kind of significant because the ebook version came out in 2011, but this particular publisher (Samhain) takes a long time to get their print versions out. In this case, it was too bad for hard-copy readers, because Head Rush is book 3 in the Disillusionists trilogy and book 2, Double Cross, ends on this heart-wrenching cliffhanger. It’s a totally earned cliffhanger (which I rarely think is true), as the title suggests. (If you haven’t read this trilogy, start with book 1, Mind Games – you’ll be glad you did.) At any rate, I feel for those hard copy readers, because I finished book 2 on my Kindle and IMMEDIATELY downloaded book 3. (I may have been chanting something to myself like “no, no, no – it can’t be true.”)

(Apparently I’m feeling parenthetical and all-cappy today – sorry!)

And then it was SUCH a good book. You know how some trilogies peter out by book 3, like there’s just not that much to say anymore? But in others, book 3 is the capstone, the final arch that brings the pillars of books 1 and 2 together into a magnificent edifice. (The other one that springs to mind is Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, which brilliantly tied up the heroine’s entire journey.) I love how Carolyn handled Head Rush, exploring the nature of memory and reality. Deft and wonderful.

Now, you might be sitting there thinking, oh yeah, of course she says these things because Carolyn is her friend and crit partner. She’s totally biased. She HAS to say these things. While it’s certainly true that writers support their friends, the thing is – Carolyn became my friend AFTER I read these books. I read them on Sullivan McPig’s recommendation. (She does a terrific review blog here.) And then I was so impressed by these books that I twitter-stalked her and made her be my friend.  Mostly so we could talk about her hero Sterling and how much I liked him. And so I could complain that I felt CHEATED of certain moments with him.

Carolyn, being who she is, let me bitch and we ended up having a great conversation and the rest is, proverbially, history.

This is an important point, because I *do* have one here. I reached out to this author to talk about her hero and the story and she responded to me. This is something readers do a lot – they take possession, particularly of the hero (some of the bloggers call them “book boyfriends”) and want to communicate with his handler (as the bloggers also say).

Carolyn recently suggested I read another series because she thought I’d enjoy the hero – and she was absolutely spot on. I read the books, tweeted about them, and another gal I tweet with quite a bit responded that she loved this hero, too. We riffed about him and she looped in the author, who I hadn’t met before. The author replied (good) and then started telling us about the hero in her NEXT book and he’s EVEN MORE ALPHA.

And well, hmpf.

Totally defizzled my fizz, if you know what I mean.

Now, I can see why she did what she did. Here are fangirls of her books and she wants us to be fans of not just these books that we already bought, but of her upcoming books. I totally understand this kind of marketing impulse. She’s likely thinking, please don’t be fans of just that one hero.

But I think it was a mistake. She diverted us from talking about something we were really enjoying, killing our buzz. Also, by telling us the next hero would be even more something, she subtly made us think less of the one we’d liked so much. (Who, btw, I hadn’t thought of as particularly alpha, so that sort of impinged on my fun, too.) I think the other reader felt this way, too, because this ended the conversation. We had nothing left to say.

I’m not sure what caution I’m offering here. It’s easy to obsess about social media, to be afraid of missteps. That one little mistake will be a fatal one. But I think the message is to be always wary of letting that marketing urge overtake the social one. Readers and writers love to talk about books and that love leads to sales, which is a good and organic thing. Careful though, if the “leading to sales” bit gets stronger than the “loving to talk about it” bit.

And, on that note, you should totally go buy Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionsts Trilogy. 😀

(Okay, I really just laughed and laughed at myself.)