Jan 22

I obviously need that push

This is why I take on blogging challenges such as Holidailies. Otherwise, as you can see, I find reasons to put off blogging and then, before I know it, a week has gone by since my last post. Sheesh.

Anyway, proofs are done and turned back in. I ended up sending back 52 pages that needed things fixed, though only nine of those pages had changes of my own. It was cool reading the book in actual “book” form, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it has an actual cover!

Speaking of covers, I have cover flats! (I would post a scan of one, but my scanner is out in my office, which I haven’t been to in a few days because it is frickin’ COLD out there. However, I will make the trek out there today so that I can scan my cover flat in all its beauteousness!)

I’m also dissatisfied with the layout of my website, and am musing on a redesign. I’m usually competent enough at that sort of thing that I can handle it on my own, but there are a few features that I want to incorporate that may require the intervention of someone who knows WTF they’re doing.

Otherwise, work continues on the thriller/police procedural, and I’m finally at the point where I can see that mysterious thing known as the “end,” which is a good thing since I’m at the point where I’m more than ready to be done with this thing, at least for a while.

Jan 13

FedEx Fail

Well, I didn’t intend to stop posting as soon as the Holidailies challenge ended, but page proofs arrived last week, and I’ve been head-down working through those.

Actually, there was a bit of a challenge involved with the proofs. I’d been informed that I should be expecting them to arrive last Thursday. Well, Thursday came and went, and no proofs. I figured that maybe there was some sort of delay with sending them, and I wouldn’t start to worry until Friday afternoon. Friday morning the doorbell rang, and Fedex delivered to me a box.

A large-ish box, actually. The 12×12x12 variety. My first thought was that maybe it was ARCS or something, except that I’d very recently asked my editor’s assistant about those and he’d informed me that I shouldn’t expect those for a couple of months yet. Plus, the box seemed a bit too light to be full of books. Also, the return address on the mailing label did not say Random House. Instead it merely had the address of the FedEx facility in Memphis.

I opened the box and saw this:

Beneath the mangled envelope was this:

What you can’t really see in the above picture is that the pages were quite damp. Oh, and it was also only the first 226 pages of the book. Moreover, beneath the stuff that was actually intended for me, was yet another envelope portion that was addressed to someone who was Not Me, and beneath that was a 3-inch stack of wet/damp paper that was apparently all sorts of sales information for the Random House Children’s Division.

Needless to say, I made a quick phone call to my editor’s assistant. He was accomodating and apologetic (even though he didn’t have anything to be apologetic for. This was a Fed-Ex screwup, I’m sure) and FedExed a new and dry copy of my proofs out to me. I, in turn, FedExed the stuff that was not mine back to them, so that they could figure out who was supposed to get it.

Still, even damp, it was very cool to see my book beginning to look like a book!

And here’s the dry version of the same. :)

Maybe this is what happened to the first set of proofs?

Jan 8

Urban Fantasy–An Analysis

Carrie Vaughn, author of the truly excellent Kitty werewolf books (Kitty and the Midnight Hour, etc,) has posted a three-part in-depth analysis of the Urban Fantasy genre. Definitely worth a read!

Part I

Part II

Part III

Jan 6

Networking 201: How to “work a room”

How to work a room:

When attending a social function–whether it’s a small gathering at someone’s home, or a political fundraiser, or a room party at a convention–you are being gifted with the opportunity to meet, mingle, and make contact with a wide variety of people.

Unfortunately, most people do one of two things: They either cling to the people they already know, or they cling to the first few people they meet at the function. What I intend to do here is give some pointers on how to get the most out of any social gathering, whether you’re there for business or for pleasure.

First thing is to do a general scan of the room. Most likely you will see that people have broken off into clumps, or small groups. If there is anyone there that you know, go greet that person first. That will break the ice for you, and give you a comfort zone to start from. If this person does not then introduce you to others in the group, you should go ahead and introduce yourself, saying something like, “I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m [name].” Or, “Hi, I’m [name]. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” If someone looks familiar and you can’t remember their name, it’s absolutely perfectly all right to say, “I’m so sorry, I feel certain that we’ve met before, but I’m rotten with names.” Very few people will be offended that you could not remember their name, since 99.9% of the people in the world have a similarly lousy memory for names. The important thing–to them–is that you recognized them. As an added note, if you’re not sure if you’ve met someone before, err on the side of caution and say the “I feel certain we’ve met before” line anyway. If they then insist that there’s no possible way you’ve ever met before because they’ve been living on Moon Base Alpha, smile and shrug it off and introduce yourself anyway, saying, “Well, then, it’s good to meet you now!” Or something of that ilk.

Okay, you’ve met your first group of people. Now is the time for polite conversation on the order of, “Have you ever been to a convention before?” “Are you a friend of [candidate for judge]?” “Are you a neighbor of the Smiths?” Simple “ice-breaking” easy questions. Then you can move on to slightly more probing questions such as what people do for a living, etc. Try your hardest to wait for someone to ask you about yourself or what you do before talking about yourself. If you are at the party with a friend or associate, this would be a good time for you to “plug” them, i.e. “Mark here recently sold three books to Orbit!” Mark will love you for this, because he desperately wanted to shout this to the entire group, but since you did it instead, he can now appear modest instead of obnoxious. And, hopefully he will return the favor and do the same for you. (In fact, it’s a thousand times more effective to work a room with a partner, but that’s a topic for Networking 301–The teamwork approach.)

It would be incredibly easy and comfortable now to stick with this group for the majority (or entirety) of the party. Resist the urge! If there is anyone else you know at the party, this next step will be easier. Otherwise this will be the hardest step you will ever take. But you absolutely must excuse yourself from your comfortable little group and move on. Do so politely, saying something like, “Would you excuse me? I see someone I need to say hello to.” Or even just a plain, “Excuse me,” as you step away from the group. If you’re moving to another group where there is someone you know, simply repeat the introduction process from the first group. Otherwise, here are a few simple tricks:

Get another drink (though you should be extremely careful that you do not become intoxicated!) Attempt a bit of small talk with others waiting to get drinks. Introduce yourself. “Great party. Have we met? I’m [name].”

If there is food, get a bite or two to eat. Make small talk to others near the food about how great the food is, or (if the food isn’t very good) how pretty the tablecloth is. (Do not disparage the food or the drinks or the party in general at any time that you are at the party. You never know who might hear you, and it’s not a way to win points with the host or hostess.) Introduce yourself. “Great party. Have we met? I’m [name].” (Sensing a pattern here yet?) Also, you should definitely find the host or hostess or organizer at some point and thank them for the party. “Hi, I’m []. I don’t want to take up your time, but I just wanted to let you know that this is a great party. Thanks!”

If you don’t feel like getting anything to eat or drink, gently ease to the edge of a group that doesn’t appear to be having a private or intense conversation. At some point there will be a lull in the conversation and someone in the group will notice you, and might perhaps give you a questioning look. This is when you should give a friendly smile and say something like, “Hi, I’m doing my best to be sociable and meet new people. I’m [name].” Now you are back to the process you were at with your previous groups. See? Easy!

Also, if you are in a group of people and you see someone hovering at the edge, pay the social karma forward and invite the hovering person forward. “Hi there. Have we met before? I’m [name] and this is [name], [name], and [name].”

Continue to repeat this process, however don’t flit from group to group so quickly that it’s obvious that all you are trying to do is meet people. Also, resist the urge to constantly scan the room to see who’s there. You don’t want the people you’re with to think that you’re just killing time with them until someone better comes along. A good rule of thumb is that you should stay with a group long enough so that you know some sort of detail about each person there. (I’m not saying that you will have to remember the details later, but this will also encourage you to ask questions and allow other people to talk about themselves.) Then, excuse yourself from the group at a point where the others will be sorry to see you leave, instead of relieved to see you go. Sometimes this is difficult to determine, so earlier is always a safer bet. It gets easier to judge this with practice.

With luck, persistence, and a friendly smile, this process of mingling will allow you to have a few minutes with the majority of the people in the room.

A few notes: A social gathering is not the place to do business, even if it is a business-related social gathering. You can mention the business that you’re in, or the business that you’re interested in, but if you happen to encounter someone who could be of benefit to you in your business, it is far better to make arrangements to meet later. “Perhaps we could discuss this later at the bar? I’ll buy the first round.” This is especially important to remember for authors who might be shopping for agents and/or editors. Most agents and/or editors are very nice and polite creatures who might ask you if you are a writer. If the answer is yes, control yourself to absolutely no more than TWO sentences about your writing and your work. “Yes, I’m a writer. I just finished a book about a homicide detective who can summon demons.” Then stop talking. If, and only if, the agent and/or editor asks for more information, say, “I’d love to tell you more about it, but I don’t want to take up all of your time at this party. Perhaps we could meet at the bar later? I’ll even buy you a drink.” This would also be an appropriate time to hand over your card. (I once wrote “Good for one free drink” on the back of my card before handing it over. The editor thought it was hilarious, and did in fact meet me in the bar later. Months later, she remembered who I was, even though I never ended up sending anything to her. It’s best to be remembered in a good way.)

If the editor/agent declines your offer of a later meet up, realize that it is most likely not a rejection of you, but more likely due to the fact that they have little to no free time to meet up with someone who is not already a client. If your offer is declined, smile graciously and ask if the editor/agent has a card and then say, “I understand. If it’s all right with you then, I’ll just send you a proposal according to your guidelines.”

Other notes:

-If the room is absolutely packed to the gills and noisy as all hell, you might be better off staying outside or in the hallway. People will eventually gravitate out to cooler and quieter areas, and then it will be possible to carry on actual conversations.

-Eat only very small bite-sized things that you can clear out of your mouth quickly.

-If you are holding a drink, hold it in your left hand so that your right hand is a) free for handshakes, and b) it is not cold and clammy from holding a cold drink.

-If you smoke, try to resist going out to light one up until you’ve done a fairly thorough circuit of the room.

Good luck!

Jan 5

A buffet of random thoughts

The scene this morning at the bus stop: mothers shoving their little darlings onto the bus, then breaking out into spontaneous song and dance. “They’re back in schoooool! Oh happy daaaaayyy! Hooray hooray!”

I made chicken with artichoke hearts for dinner tonight. Major yum, and healthy too! I think I’ve spent less than $50 to feed the family for at least a week, which pleases me.

I’ve become addicted to the BBC show, How Clean Is Your House. It makes me feel absolutely terrific about the state of my own house!

I’ve realized that I need to get a P.O. Box for writing-related author-fannish mail stuff. Never thought about it until I started getting requests for writing-related author-fannish stuff that required mailing.

I think the Kid grew half a foot in the past month. I’m going to have to stop feeding her. Either that or she’s going to have to get used to all of her pants being capri-length.

Google alerts is telling me that Mark of the Demon is starting to appear on peoples’ Amazon wishlists. Now that is just too darn cool.

Speaking of Mark of the Demon, I can now say that my book will be out this year. Whee!

Jan 4


I made Turkey Soup today! And it’s good! [g]

This was a pretty big accomplishment for me because a) I’ve never been much of a cook, and b) I didn’t really work from a recipe. I did look online for some tips on how to make turkey stock, but other than that I mostly went by what I thought would be good. Last summer I started getting serious about learning how to cook–or rather, learning to be comfortable cooking. Six months later I’m not any sort of top chef or anything, but I’m pleased that I’ve managed to absorb enough of the basics of how things go together and what works that I could pull off cooking soup completely from scratch. Go me!

In a very marginally related note, I’m watching Superstars of Dance right now. The ability to dance is another skill that I lack, but at this point in my life I doubt that there’s much that could be done about that other than perhaps some ballroom dancing, or some mediocre improvement in rhythm. And I’m cool with that. However, I love watching really skilled dancers, and so far this show seems to be pretty full of them.

And Freaky Robot Guy? Wow. Just wow.

Jan 3

Original post redacted for being excessively insufferable

I had a lengthy blog post written–a quasi-whine about how I haven’t had any extended time to write in the past few days, and how I’m pushing hard to get books written so that I can get more books under contract, and how this whole writing gig only gets harder and the stakes only get higher, etc…

But, by the second paragraph, even I was sick of reading about “oh poor me, I’m living my dream and it’s really hard work too” and if I’d been in the room with me, I’d have slapped myself and said, “HEY! Get over yourself! Just write yer damn books and shut up!”

So I’m going to shut up now and go write some damn books.

Jan 2

Doctor #11

Tomorrow is apparently the day that the BBC will be announcing who will be playing the next Doctor. I’ve been listening to all of the talk and whining and moaning from the die-hard David Tennant groupies who insist that they will never watch the show again after he leaves and that they will no longer be Who fans…

Speaking as someone who has been a hard-core Doctor Who fan for close to thirty years, I would just like to inform the aforementioned whiners and moaners: You don’t get it.

You just don’t get that the regeneration of the Doctor is one of the key things that makes this show so terrific, and is what has allowed it to last as incredibly long as it has. There are many shows that have lasted a long time where cast members have come and gone, but the characters they play have always come and gone as well. With the Doctor, the show essentially gets a reboot every few years, without having to change themes, story, or essential character traits. Every few years the show gets new life breathed into it as the main character suddenly develops an entirely new personality, without losing any of the core concepts that made the character so appealing. It’s a wonderful mix of continuity and dynamic change that allows each actor who plays the Doctor to build on the character that every previous actor has helped to create. I think David Tennant is a very fine actor, and yes, I think he is up there with Tom Baker as one of the better Doctors. However, I’m not sure Tennant’s character would have been as strong if not for Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal, brief though it was. Eccleston was able to give the Doctor a dark and tortured edge that was necessary for the revival of the series, and then Tennant built upon that dark foundation, tempering it with boyish good looks and a lighter sense of humor.

I could wax poetic about the show for eons, but my main point is: Stop saying you won’t be a Who fan when Tennant leaves, because if you’re saying that, then you were never a Who fan–you were a Tennant fan. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a Tennant fan, but you really should be aware that you’re missing the point of what makes Doctor Who great enough to last for so many decades.

Jan 1

I hide my shyness well

We did nothing exciting last night other than go to bed about an hour later than usual, which meant we were asleep before the clock turned midnight. Since there were so many firecrackers/fireworks in the area, we let the Kid sleep in the bed with us.

Today we went to a New Year’s Day/housewarming party, and since we were with another couple, we ended up going to a couple of other party/gatherings after we left the first one. There was no loud music or heavy drinking or anything like that, but they were all the kind of gatherings where I had to put on my “social face” and be “On,” i.e. do the whole smiling and friendly and charming and interesting bit. I’m fully capable of doing that, but it completely wears me out, and by the time we got home I just wanted to crawl under the covers and drink up about half an hour of dark quiet.

I can’t remember where I first heard the term “gregarious introvert,” but it most definitely applies to me. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years as an awkward, lonely, socially inept outsider. During college I was lucky enough to fall in with a great group of friends who had similar interests and goals, with whom I was able to learn some of the finer points of social interaction and general public behavior. Then, after college, I worked in a casino for several years, where I learned how to “fake” being gregarious and outgoing–vitally important in any service-industry profession that relies heavily on tips for income. Over the years I’ve developed some pretty good social skills, but it’s never stopped being work. This is one of the main reasons why I almost never share a hotel room when I go to conventions. After a day of being “On” at a con, I need that quiet place of retreat as much as I need food, water, and sleep. It’s worth the extra money, because otherwise I won’t make it through the entire con.

Looking back at today, I realize that I should have found some quiet corner at some point to do some mini-decompressing. It was a fun day, and we met a lot of interesting people, but the day loses its luster when I feel completely strung out and frazzled at the end of it.