Sunday, October 31, 2004

NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow kicks off Chris Baty's sixth annual National Novel Writing Month, during which thousands of aspiring novelists will be racing toward a goal line of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I'll join in (unofficially) and post my daily completed wordcount here.

A lot of published authors turn up their noses at NaNoWriMo and mutter about the rabble, but I'm all for it. Publishing always needs new blood; the more rabble, the better. It's also a put up or shut up for all those people who talk about writing a novel ad infinitum.

I don't recommend anyone starting out on their first NaNoWriMo try for more than 50K on your wordcount. If you've never done it before, you'll likely burn out quick. There's nothing wrong with writing 100 or 500 words a day, either. Everyone has to work at their own pace. You just won't get the nifty NaNoWriMo winner icon to post on your weblog (save that goal for next year.)

And for those of you experienced novelists who want to pace me? Reset your goal for 150,000 words. That's what I write every month.

Boo

Generally speaking I don't believe in magic, the paranormal, or the occult, and I refuse to dress up in costumes, so Halloween is kind of wasted on me. I like the candy, though. The kids always save some mini M&M packs and Hershey bars for me.

In the category of things that scare me, in the early eighties I had an elderly patient I was walking from the hospital out to his car have a heart attack in the parking lot. We were talking and I had a light grip on his arm, and he stopped speaking and walking and dropped like a stone.

I was by myself, and it was the first time I ever administered CPR to anyone. I thought for sure I was breaking his ribs, and I had to yell for help while I was doing compressions. To this day I can't tell you what I yelled. It felt like forever before someone came to help. When we got him into trauma I looked down and saw blood on my whites. I'd scraped all the skin off my knees, kneeling and shifting on the asphalt, and hadn't felt it.

Patient died on us after a second MI.

Scariest moments of 2004: seeing the first outer band of Hurricane Charley fill the sky. Trying to get hold of my parents for three days after Hurricane Frances's eye passed directly over their house and getting that all-circuits-are-busy recording. Watching the roof lift as Hurricane Jeanne roared over us. Realizing the "wrist" my son supposedly "sprained" (according to the school nurse) was actually a broken arm. Waiting for his father to come out of surgery.

To save someone you love from being scared: get your cholesterol checked, quit smoking, quit using alcohol and drugs, and lose some weight. And Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Market Research

Most published writers will leap like starving Dobermans at the chance to tell you what you should or should not be writing. I used to be pretty free with my opinion, too, until I realized that some aspiring writers were treating my ideas like gospel.

I did the same thing. I believed a respected industry professional who told me I would never get a vampire novel published, which made me stow the Darkyn novels proposal for three years before I took a chance and showed it to someone else. And sold three vampire novels in one shot.

Anything can happen in this industry. No one knows it all, and anyone who says they do is a moron. Chisel that in stone.

Writing for the market is a different matter. It's like investing in the stock market: you have to follow the trends, see where you want to commit your time and work.

When I read for market research, I target the genres I'm writing for or would like to write for. I watch authors who are very hot with publishers, who consistently hit the bestseller list and who have the largest reader following. I talk to my agent. I watch for patterns in sales and bestsellers. Then I see where I fit in.

Market research is not to predict the bestsellers of 2004-2005, because those books were sold at least a year ago. Right now you should be getting a handle on what will be hot in 2006 or 2007. Watch what popular authors are selling (you can find this info from sources like Publishers Lunch or Publishers Weekly.)

Here's a random sampling from my market research TBR pile: Northern Lights by Nora Roberts; Blind Alley by Iris Johansen; Lost Boy Lost Girl by Peter Straub; The Demon's Daughter by Emma Holly; 1968 by Mark Kurlansky; Queenmaker by India Edghill and Spice by Jack Turner. I haven't read any of these except Spice which I first read for enjoyment, and all of these books belong in fiction or non-fiction genres I either write in or am interested in writing in.

As for trend predictions . . . well, couple of years ago I predicted that Jim Butcher would Do Well and no one paid much attention. Now I understand that he's making the move to TV, where I expect he'll Do Very Well. We'll watch and see.

26

Author copies of my new novel Promises to Keep arrived yesterday. It's a pretty little green and blue book, with a story about my GCI protagonist Louise and Viola, the town bookseller, becoming involved with a poetry club and a track team from the local high school.

In PTK, the club analyzes my favorite verses by Dickinson, Keats and Shakespeare while they wrestle with the ethics of funding for the arts versus sports programs. I slipped in a poem I wrote in high school. I was the art editor for my school lit mag from '77-'79, years in which ten of us killed ourselves raising money to publish our little mag while the principal handed over all the available funding to the football team.

I wasn't nice like the kids in my book, though. They used to refer to me as the girl "most likely to be denied parole."

This book is a landmark for me in a bunch of ways. I'm now officially over the midway point toward fifty published novels. I've never published any of my own poetry before this. And I got literary -- my kind of literary, anyway -- and honored the poets like John Keats who kept me dreaming and writing instead of giving up and accepting my life lot. I made a promise, way back then, that I would do that someday.

Took twenty-five books and years, but I kept that promise.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Talent

Today I did something I've never done before: I hired a voice actor to read/record an excerpt from If Angels Burn. I'll have eight minutes of the book for you all to listen to once the new site goes live.

The site project manager asked me if I wanted to read it myself, and when I was done laughing I politely declined. A few years back, after observing other authors read from their own books, I had to make one of those never, ever, ever vows. As in, I will never, ever, ever drink Coca-Cola -- or anything -- while I'm in close proximity to a very famous author in a Versace cocktail dress. Again, I mean.

The gentleman who is doing the reading will do a terrific job. I listened to forty seconds of his work and was spellbound. And considering my normal speaking voice waffles between Florence Henderson and Daisy Duke, you should thank me for not subjecting you to it.

Show of Hands

Random sampling of weblogs this morning turned up the usual playground politics, escalating to a sadly hilarious, hysterical pitch: Bush is the AntiChrist. Kerry is the Usher of the Apocalypse. If you vote for Bush, you're {insert favorite nasty anti-Conservative slur.) If you vote for Kerry, you're (insert favorite nasty anti-Liberal slur.)

Immigrating to New Zealand is starting to look good again.

How many people will be glad when this Presidential election is over? It's okay; you don't have to answer until after you're done beating each other to a pulp.

eeeee & e.e.

You know, just when I think biotech advocates can't get any stupider or more short-sighted than they naturally are, I read stuff like this. Hello, we've already figured out we don't want to be eternally happy. Don't any of these guys watch the original Star Trek series? This was like covered two or three times. Oh, right, he's probably all of twelve. (thumbing through appropriate cultural references) We covered this again in the Matrix.

Okay, so when we do develop this drug, and I am absolutely convinced someone with that much money will, can I be the one to administer it to Jon Sperling?

Poets are self-absorbed miserable human beings -- aren't we all, as long as Jon doesn't have his way -- but there's a new bio out on my man e.e. cummings. Or maybe not so new, if you believe the reviewer's last little gripe.

I turned down a new two book offer that came out of nowhere yesterday. Would have taken it, but the short deadlines could not be squeezed into the schedule. So that should suck a little green out of those who think I'm a selfish harpy who gobbles up all the available publishing contracts. I throw some back now and then.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

In the Works

I'm about done writing SF series book six (or book nine, if you count the three hardcover standalones) in the StarDoc universe, Rebel Ice. No scheduled pub date yet, but I'm hoping it'll follow up Afterburn in August or September. Then I'll write book seven/ten, ClanSon and that will the book when I decide whether to wrap up Cherijo's story, keep going, or shift into a Blade Dancer spin-off series.

My romance alter-ego, Jessica Hall, is taking a short hiatus while my Lynn Viehl vampire series debuts with If Angels Burn in April. The last two JH books have done so well I'll probably try to work a new one in the 2005 schedule, but it really depends on sales and what the publisher wants.

I'm contracted to write three more Christian series and biblical historical novels through 2005, and my agent and I are kicking around a neat idea I have for a new Christian historical series, possibly YA.

My first fantasy novel is at the midway mark and will take another couple months to finish. Then I'll have to obsess over it some more and decide where I want to go with it. It's so good I may sit on it for another year, but more than likely it will make the rounds in summer or fall 2005.

I also have a straight -- well, for me -- mystery series brewing. I know, with my schedule, I'm insane to even think about it. But this little town I moved to is such a perfect setting: endless little corners and niches, an eventful history, and all these colorful character types just walking around. I think it's all the old architecture, twisty oaks and Spanish moss infecting me, too.

Writing has become this constantly busy, sometimes snarled, occasionally conflicting, pulling-me-in-all-directions daily carnival, but I run the show now. And I love it. I'm having fun, and that's all that really counts.

Movies

I haven't watched a movie since God Knows When, and with the man home I decided to hit Blockbuster and rent everything I haven't seen that relates to my job or interests me. I don't watch broadcast television anymore; I just read TV Guide. Which is faster and more fun for me than wasting hours in front of the TV set.

Ron Perlman has been one of my favorites actors since the first time I saw him making a character come alive while wearing forty pounds of makeup and prosthetic devices. Thus Hellboy was a personal interest and a big treat for me. Interesting premise, too (alas, I'm too old to have read the comics.)

The one movie I wanted to see most, Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman, wasn't bad, either. Seemed a little odd and too fast-paced at times, maybe, but fun. Hugh was cute.

Ben Affleck in Paycheck, eh. Pretty sure this is another Phillip K. Dick novel-turned-movie, but I'm too lazy to check. I like Ben, so I watched it. Did Cameron Diaz lend Uma Thurman her hairdresser for this flick or what?

Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie was likely the most disturbing film I rented. I liked the forensics and the relationships in the film, but this is dark, violent, often grotesque stuff and definitely not for the queasy of stomach or faint of heart. Beginning and ending scenes are real shockers, and whoever wrote this movie understands suspense.

And yes, I finally rented and watched Return of the King. I figure it's like reading The DaVinci Code: you simply have to brace yourself and get it over with. Like pinching your nostrils shut when you take nasty-tasting cough syrup. The things I do for my art . . . anyway, I discovered that if you take off your glasses during the big battle scene, you get a fuzzy deja vu, something like, "hey, aren't those the empirial humpback walker things from the ice planet battle in Star Wars movie #2 or #3?"

Now all I have to do is read The DaVinci Code and I'm done with my culture catch-up for the year. Or are they making a movie out of it? Hey, a girl can hope . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Miss Mail Manners

Digging through the paper correspondence pile, I find an envelope made of some beacoup expensive linen and printed with a professional-looking return address, forwarded from my old P.O. Box. I open and remove three beautifully typed, single-spaced pages from a stranger who has a lot to say to me.

I won't pull an Okrent and publish any of the contents, but the opener isn't complimentary. The rest looks fairly whiny -- as in (still not quoting here) how can a hack like you be so published while my genius goes unrecognized? -- but unfortunately the writing is so convoluted I'm not inclined to read the balance.

I do appreciate the nice letterhead, though. Adds a real touch of class to my Unbalanced Folks and Potential Stalkers file.

If you're going to write to an author you hate, please at least try to be interesting. We have to plow through a lot of correspondence, and we're more likely to actually read the really good, creative insults (my new personal favorite is from a hip young reviewer who wrote to call me his "nemesis.") Plus it's excellent preparation for the crap you'll have to read if/when your little gem makes it into print and you get mail from someone who hates your guts.

Reads

One good thing about writing alternate and Biblical history: it allows me to feed my passion for books about history and archaeology. But there are some good mags out there, too, and these are a bit cheaper if you're looking for specific info.

Example -- my favorite mag Archaeology Nov/Dec 04 print issue has some killer articles about Alexander in Asia, alchemists' labs and contemporary chef Julie Powell's efforts to recreate such yummy ancient recipes as Mesopotamian turnips stewed in blood and Mongolian lamb liquor. The latter really helped me get a handle on ancient cooking methods, but Jul, don't invite me to dinner, 'kay?

Biblical Archaeology Review has some very cool articles in their Sep/Oct 04 issue about Herod and Caesarea Maritima. I wish they'd do more of these, and dump the articles debating over Oded Golan's allegedly forged James ossuary.* I have to agree with editor Hershel Shanks's "trial by leak" commentary -- Golan has rights, and being tried in the academic media is no way to pursue this case. The Israel Antiquities Authority should charge the guy or drop it, and let BAR get back to covering Biblical archaeology.

As for books, I'm just diving into William Harlan Hale's Ancient Greece ISBN 0-7434-3469-2, but the book has some interesting architectural reconstruction pics including the Delphinion of Miletus, Kition's inner harbor sheds and the Zeus temple of Olympia.

*For those of you who aren't obsessed with archaeology, the James ossuary is a bone box dating back to the first century C.E. which is inscribed with the words James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Manly Flowers

African violets are, apparently, manly flowers. I did not know this, but they are what FTD delivers as a get-well bouquet for a male recipient. As to why someone sends a man recovering from abdominal surgery a basket fill with ten pounds of processed cheeses and meats . . . and these people are his friends.

I can use the basket for hauling stuff around at Christmas, and the cats will eat the violets. Summer sausage with hot pepper jack cheese, anyone?

Et tu Betty

My man is home from the hospital, and we're fine. Better than fine. He's up walking around, eating regular food and growling over politicians and proposed county tax increases. I'd say we're practically back to normal.

I won't have to do revisions on my latest novel. My editor put a couple of notes in the margin -- wanted some one-liner explanations here and there -- but sent the ms. straight to copy-edit. This is the second book in a row that's happened with, and while it's very flattering, it also makes me nervous. Yeah, I've written a lot of books, and I can write consistently at a professional level. Would not have sold all these books if I couldn't. But I'm not a perfect writer, and I never will be. I can't improve if I think everything I write is flawless. Maybe this makes me the most unnatural writer in the world, but I like the editorial process. I learn a lot from it. I want to be edited.

There's an inferiority complex involved in all this, too. I can see its pointy little head sticking up between my backlist and my pending contracts.

I will never be comfortable in this industry, I guess. Most of the time I feel like Betty Crocker in the court of Caligula. Best I stay out of sight in the kitchen and keep cooking.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Varieties of Luck

All went well with the surgery, and tomorrow I bring him home.

The hospital is an hour away, one-way. Forty-five minutes if I don't have the kids in the car with me, and I feel like flirting with the possibility of a speeding ticket. I've spent thirty-six hours on the road, just getting to him since he went in.

The surgeon found the cancer and cut it out of him. Now we wait and test and pray that was it, that was all.

It's always hard going to the hospital. I shift into the old self, the watchful, on-edge bitch who had to work within those hallowed walls for so many years. I wasn't in post-op recovery with him for more than five seconds before I called a nurse to correct five errors, including a backed-up abdominal drain reservoir that looked like a blood-filled hand grenade about to explode.

Tonight I suggested it might be nice to check and remove the drain, which hasn't produced anything for thirty-six hours, and earned a gushy thank you from the nurse who was too busy to notice or chart this. We're short-handed this week, she said, sorry about that.

He's sore and tired and ready to come home. I want the same, because I miss him dreadfully, and if he doesn't soon get out of that place understaffing will kill him, or I'll strangle one of these pinhead nurses.

A thunderstorm fried my internet computer's modem the day of his surgery, so this post is coming to you gratis his laptop. I called and ordered another new computer yesterday; the toasty one is three years old and I've rebuilt the damn thing five times.

The road trips have been good for the career. I've plotted three new books, all on the hand-held recorder as I drive. Keeps me from trying to run down nurses I see in the parking garage, too.

To say I'm tired and strung-out is a bit of an understatement. Too much lousy coffee, too many hours on the road, too many nights staring into the dark and knowing too much and thinking the wrong things.

Tomorrow I bring him home, where he belongs, where I can care for him and make sure it's done gently and timely and correctly. Tomorrow the world rights itself, and we go on.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Out of Here

Tonight's post will be my last for a while. Tomorrow I'm shutting down the computers to spend my day with my love, who goes into the hospital for surgery on Wednesday. I'll be at his side, and hope to bring him home Friday or Saturday. If it all turns out well, this will cure his cancer, and he'll live to see our children grow into adults and maybe our grandkids.

I don't think about what happens if it doesn't turn out well, but we've planned for that, too. We are meticulous planners, my love and I.

Eight years ago I stood in an emergency room and tried to make a phone call to this man, to tell him what the doctors had told me. Our toddler son had contracted a lethal bacterial infection, one that had already killed two other children the week before, and there was a strong possibility he was dying. I've delivered that kind of news to hundreds of families, but I couldn't make that call. Even though I knew he would want to be there with us, I could not tell the father of my child that we might lose our son.

I refused to believe it. Our son survived.

We waited for months before we told the children about their father's cancer. They are old enough to understand how serious it is, but young enough not to believe all those things I was so careful to explain. In their opinion, that stuff doesn't actually apply to their father. Daddy is indestructible, because he's Daddy.

I know better, but I'm going to pretend I don't. I'm going to reach back and grab that blind faith that kept me awake and hanging onto my baby son's limp hand for three days in ICU Hell. I don't think I'll need it this time, but I'm going to carry it with me, just in case.

Template, Take II

Blogger is just as cranky and bad-tempered as it was a year ago. Maybe more so. I guess I should thank Google for that?

Template, Yum

Blogger just ate half of my template. Guess it was hungry. Back to rebuilding the weblog links section . . .

Lynx

For those authors who want to know if they've written something everyone/anyone is talking about, there's Bookwatch.

Know the Cherokee for "ghost spirit"? Or the Manx Gaelic for "chicken-hearted"? Try the searchable online English-Cherokee dictionary at wehali.com and the multiple searchable English-Gaelic dictionaries at ceantar.org.

How many people are residing in America, at any given moment? Check the estimated total whenever you like at the popclock.

New Weblog links up: Hill Country Thoughts (Christian) Loobylu (Artist) and Maud Newton (Writing).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jem

The protagonist of my second vampire novel introduced herself today as I was putting together my notes for writing the synopsis. I've been waiting for her to solidify out of the rather nebulous ideas I had about her, and in keeping with other characters who have popped up out of nowhere (Jericho, Jory, Jadaira) she promptly gave herself a "J" name -- Jema -- and set up house in my head. And she brought all her books and journals and baggage with her.

Lucky me.

There are writers who talk about their characters as if they're real people. I try to avoid that happy state, because when you start believing your own fairytales, it's generally time to seek professional help. Jem is not real. At the same time, Jem has to be real enough for me to make her come alive on the page, or I can't write this book. It's like being Dr. Frankenstein: I know it's not alive, but gimme an Igor, a lab, and some lightning, and let me see what I can do.

Jem presents a number of challenges as a character. At heart she's a true academic, and on my favorite-type-of-person scale, that ranks just above #99, the personal injury attorney and #100, the telephone debt collector. She's also lived an ever-sheltered, uber-protected life of privilege and wealth, another thing I view as unrealistic, utter nonsense. I know it's going to be very hard to choke-chain my dislike long enough to get into Jem's head.

Why don't I like her, and why did she show up? Jem is who I might have been, if things on the life path had taken a couple more left turns. If I'd become a Jem, I know I wouldn't be here. I'd be teaching, or still in college, collecting degrees, or married to some other academic and . . . why can't I imagine it being anything more than an intellectual stupor? Man, I have got to tighten up that choke chain.

The working title I chose for Jem's novel is Private Demon. I didn't know her when I picked it out, but I guess it was meant to be. This time, I think I have to face a few of my own.

News

Happy Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons. Hard to believe players have been throwing the dice and checking their character sheets for thirty years. And yeah, twenty-five years ago, I was a player. D&D never got to me the way chess did, but I enjoyed it.

Belgium has produced statistics which indicate that men are far more willing to have sex with their bosses than women. At least, in Belgium they are. I'm sorry, but did someone pay real money to generate this data?

The folks at the annual CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) conference in Thailand made some excellent decisions this week, including one to continue to protect the minke whale from Japan and other whaling nations, which hunted it almost to extinction once before. Bravo, CITES.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Symphony, Poetry, Harleys

The last two Christian series fiction novels I've written revolved around plots involving classical music and literary poets. Having the chance to severely indulge my love for Debussy and Keats made me look forward to the next book, which was planned as a take-off on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Alas, my editors shuffled positions, and the CT book was put on the back burner. My next Christian book plot involves a circus and a biker. Something of a departure, to say the least.

The biker plot comes at a time when I'm getting an avalanche of e-mails about another book I wrote, just released, in which the protagonist rides, and does other things, on a Harley. There are some people who aren't happy with this, as they feel romance heroines should not ride motorcycles, and certainly not do anything else on them. Yet there are always people who take it upon themselves to police your work. Odd that they keep buying my books, no matter how unhappy they are with me . . .

Despite the disapproval, the most frequently asked question in e-mails about this romance with the Harley rider is, "Did you make this up, or did you really do it in real life?"

I've lived a very interesting and eventful life, traveled quite a bit, and had my heart broken a few times, so I do draw a great deal on personal experience to write my books. I haven't done or seen it all, though, so everything else I must research and invent. I then lie to the reader and write as if I've actually done them.

So which is it with the Harley rider? You'll have to decide for yourself, 'cause I'm not telling.

Ten

I've already written seven books this year, and I have two more to finish before December 31st. All nine of these novels are sold to major publishers, and eight of the nine will be published in 2005, making this my most prolific and successful professional year.

Other writers have told me that it's frightening and intimidating that I can write this fast and sell this much. But that doesn't matter. There is always someone who can write faster or sell more. I'm not in competition with anyone but myself, and I already know that I'm a bitch to beat.

Nine books are just shy of a personal goal of mine. I want a ten book year.

It's not about having more books in print, although a healthy backlist is never a bad thing. It's about speed, and ability, and memory, and trust. I want to push myself to the limits, and ten books in twelve months is the fastest I think I can ever write (although when I write ten I'll probably shoot for eleven afterward. I'm never satisfied.) I feel I have the ability to write ten books that fast if I stay focused; I've written up to nine. Memory, which is a huge part of writing, is not a problem. Trusting
myself . . .

I didn't get here by allowing people to shake my confidence in myself. Oh, my ego has been dented, plenty of times. But the basic foundations, built long before I ever met another writer, go deep. Say whatever you like about me, and no matter what it is, that foundation doesn't twitch. I write fast, and I write well. At the moment -- which in this industry could change, at any other moment -- I am selling like crazy. I've written and published more books in the last six years than most writers publish in a lifetime. I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore.

Except me. I'm not done, and I'm not satisfied, and I'll be damned if I'll sit back on what I've accomplished and pretend it's enough.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bookselling Bits

Borders blames the Prez election, hurricanes, and lighter-than-expected store traffic as reasons to forecast a 1 to 3 cents per share third quarter loss.

Lighter store traffic is a legit excuse for losing money, just as three hurricanes is a reason for me not to finish my books. Should have thought of that before I wrote a 105K book on a battery-operated PDA . . .

Last but not least, this seasons's crop of anticipated bestsellers.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Flap Source

Michel Basilières explains why SF hasn't been taken seriously. Next up: S.L. Viehl will explain why Michel Basilières isn't taken seriously. Kidding.

Yikes

After a couple years of no new babies in the circle of friends, today two different pals told me that they're pregnant. I'm trying not to feel old and jealous.

Stands

A Presidential election campaign in America is never a happy thing, but this one has reduced supposedly intelligent people to such ugly and hateful levels that it's become tragic, too. I'd throw in some links here, but I don't think I'm going to do myself any favors by pointing out whom I consider to be the brightest & ugliest & most hateful among my peers.

It falls in with my personal political philosophy, too: I don't believe in discussing politics with anyone. Rest assured that I'm informed and I've made my choice. I think it's my business, and no one else's, and I wouldn't presume to tell someone else how to vote, just as I wouldn't tell another woman what to do with her reproductive system. We have to make our choices in our hearts, and follow what our conscience tells us, and not because someone calls us names or makes threats.

I am a strong believer in the electoral process. The right to vote as we do is part of that little thing called liberty that so many of my ancestors died defending. Happily voting is still considered a private matter in America, or at least it is at the booths.

Privacy is another issue. This one is via the NY Times, which I am linking to because I think it needs to be read. If you write e-mails to journalists, and you expect those e-mails to be afforded privacy no matter what the content is, you should read it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Zones

I wrote into another discomfort zone today. It's that place in your head behind bank vault doors welded shut and bound by several thousand yards of titanium chains, buried under a thousand pound bundle of unstable TNT, and spiked with pressure-sensitive vials filled with the ebola virus.

Okay, maybe not in your head.

The first time I used pry bars to get inside that place and use what was inside for my writing, I wrote what I presently consider the best scene of any book I've ever written. When it was done, I went and threw up and couldn't sleep for three days.

The scene isn't gory or controversial or something anyone might consider even mildly offensive. It's simply a conversation between two people, a child and an adult. People who have read it have commented that the scene makes them feel teary-eyed, particularly for the positive note on which it ends.

Only I know how it was, and how it really ended. That is the part you don't use. Sometimes it goes back into the vault a little easier than the first time you stuffed it in there. Sometimes you have to beat it with the pry bars, and weld it in, and bind it with chains and dynamite and plague vials.

Until the next time you need something.

Inspiration

Working with fibre and fabric is therapy for me, but I didn't have a lot of time for sewing and crocheting over the summer. Part of me shrivels when I can't work with my hands away from the keyboard. I think it's facing two-dimensional black words on a white page day in and day out. I become starved for color and texture.

During the last hurricane, I taught myself to knit. I've always wanted to learn, and you can learn anything from a book. Knitting School A Complete Course (ISBN 1-4027-0519-0) helped, as did the Tibetan recycled silk I'm using to make my first scarf.

I love working with silk, but this yarn is something special. The skeins I ordered from Patterworks print catalog are hand spun from every jewel-tone color you can think of, in no particular order or consistent thickness, so the ombre and texture change with every inch. The feel of the silk fibre is very different from silk fabric; it dances on the needles. Not something I'd recommend for knitters who like even, smooth or uniform knits, but if you're seeking inspiration, the colors and textures will take your head on some interesting jaunts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Editors & Reviewers

Anne Rice defends* her response to Amazon.com reviews of Blood Canticle.

I don't have the same attitude about editors or responding to reviews, although I've been subjected to working with a couple of difficult editors. I can work with anyone, and I don't read reviews. Makes my life a lot simpler.

*May require registration to view

Marketing

I don't read much fiction anymore. The majority of my reading time is now devoted to research and analyzing the market, both of which are work, not pleasure. In September I only read one published novel that had nothing to do with work, No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry. This is the first of a new WWI mystery series for the author, and it's a solid read with a killer end twist. Not surprising, as Anne Perry never disappoints.

Roger Payne's 1995 Among Whales isn't a new book, but it is an amazing read, whether you're passionate about cetaceans or just curious to know why people devote their lives to studying them. I will also forever be grateful to Roger Payne for explaining to me why the world suffers from -- and I'll quote -- "testosterone poisoning."

For market analysis, I read five books, all bestsellers. I should say, I read the first fifty pages and then skimmed the remainder, which I do unless it holds my interest. Nothing grabbed this time. One recently-released doorstopper I had to set aside, as it was nothing more than a perpetual boink-fest. Not because I was offended, but because after the fourth or fifth boink it became cut-n-paste repetitive. Kind of sad that no one bothered -- or was allowed -- to edit that one, even just to kill the typos, more of which it had than I've ever seen in a published novel.

The other four were, like most published novels, competent and well-written but fairly bland. Bland and safe books flood the market at any given time, but there seems to be a lot more of them this year than last. This is actually good news for writers like me. When you push the envelope, the blander and safer the market is, the more chance you have to stand out, catch some attention.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Another First

My ever-mute romance persona, Jessica Hall, finally speaks to BellaOnline's Romance Novels Editor Elizabeth Darrach.

Peeled

I bought a new computer a few weeks ago, a powerful, sleek black 80G monster that by coincidence matches the cover of my next novel, If Angels Burn.

New Cover Art

I name all my computers, and this one was Mrs. Peel from the minute she came out of the box. I also bought and built a black and chrome desk for her, and locked her in the bedroom so none of my progeny were tempted to hook her up to the internet. Mrs. Peel is my work computer, and will stay internet-free until she has to be replaced.

Except for a mouse pad, there is nothing in, on or around Mrs. Peel and the desk. The setup looks very futuristic, as if it would fit perfectly in Tom Cruise's Minority Report. I didn't do this for the visual effect but to remove all visual distractions. When I bought Mrs. Peel I decided no internet, and zero clutter; I wanted simply a writing computer and a clean, junk-free work space.

What clutter I have is out at the internet/printer/scanner desk, and that's going somewhere else as soon as I can clear it out. I wouldn't mind having some of the stuff at a writing desk, where I can sit and hand write my journals and letters, but three desks for one person seems a bit much.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

SF Bestseller

The paperback reprint of my novel Blade Dancer debuted at #4 on the SF paperback bestseller list. At least, I'm assuming fourth place by counting down from #1; whoever typed it up has me and China Mieville starred versus numbered.

I can't account for my excellent showing, other than knowing that the hardcover did very well last year. Even then, Blade Dancer was not given any special promotion that I know of. The publisher bought an ad in Locus and sent out the standard amount of reviewer copies, but I think that was it. Except for an excerpt on my web site, I didn't do any promotion for the hardcover or the paperback in July. I don't make public appearances, don't do readings, booksignings, or go to conventions. I've abandoned all self-promotion except for my web site, and I haven't touched that in a year.

I'm not posting this to smirk at all the writers who do self-promote. I'm just as stumped as everyone else is as to why my SF sells so well when I do nothing but write the books. I'd like to think I'm writing what people want to read, but that can change from one book to the next, and you should never make that assumption. When you're too confident of your readers, you get lazy and self-indulgent. In this industry, every book is a fight for numbers and readers.

Change of Direction

Hurricane Jeanne didn't do me many favors, except one: she got my head straight about the writer I am. That writer doesn't need to shine a spotlight on literary crime or write tickets for what other writers do wrong. Nobody made me the Publishing Cop.

My written journals have always been about the journey, not the people who get in my way. Another Jeanne revelation; people only get in your way if you let them. You can always find a way around any block.

My journals have always been honest, too. This is who is talking to you: Sheila Kelly. I'm a professional writer, and I've sold nine novels to major publishers in 2004. I have twenty-four books in print now, and have sold thirty-one novels, all to major publishers, since 1998. I write under the names Gena Hale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly, Lynn Viehl, S.L. Viehl, and one other I am not able to disclose due to the terms of my contract (but will if the publisher gives me the green light.)

I've had one other weblog, StarLines, which I shut down mainly because the deranged comments and e-mail I received in the last month of writing it. I hated that -- hated being driven away from something I loved -- all because of a couple of internet idiots. I didn't know how to handle it, either, except to shut down everything.

As I have in so many ways, I'm now following the example set by my friend, Holly Lisle, who has an online writing diary. Like her Silent Bounce, there are no comments or e-mail here. I've also stopped playing Publishing Cop, so no one should feel any urge to threaten me or my loved ones.

There will be more later. I just shipped out three manuscripts, a combined total of 280,00 words, which I wrote in six weeks, and survived three major hurricanes. Today I'm not going to write anymore. I'm spending the rest of the day with my love and our kids.