Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday 20

Tonight I discovered that the only thing more painful than watching an ice skater fall during her final Olympic performance is listening to an idiot announcer rip her to shreds for it. These girls train for long, brutal years and sacrifice just about everything else to achieve this moment. When they fall, or otherwise fail to offer perfection, they deserve a bit more than "I wish she'd tuck in her laces" or "I'd say her career is over."

Finally I turned off the sound. Best thing I ever did, too, because without the fuss and noise being made over it, and even without the background music, ice skating is gorgeous to watch. Even when the skater stumbles or falls -- or maybe it's more beautiful when they do. Because if you think it takes courage to go out onto that ice to skate for a gold medal for your country, think how much it takes to keep skating when you've probably blown your only chance at it.

Writers have that kind of courage. You remember that the next time some jackass takes a swipe at you from the safety of the spectators' seats.

Any questions?

39 comments:

  1. Lleeo1:18 AM

    I admire you so much as a writer and I think you've taken some pretty big risks especially in the genre of science fiction. You've pretty much ruined me for all other authors in the genre. I always wanted a sci-fi book to absorb me so completely into its world, like the action-packed Star Wars universe (except with more alien romance) that I wouldn't notice if the book was 700 pages or contained no humans.

    Okay, I'll stop rambling... Question: Are there any particular scenes or storylines that as sort of a fringe writer at first, you really had to fight for? I felt like applauding when you had that very small, very sweet lesbian romance sub-plot in one of your Jessica Hall books.

    Also, I completely agree that for any athlete, especially in the Olympics in front of millions of people--they would literally pick themselves up and go on with the rest of their routine flawlessly, smiling. Holy moly, I don't think I could do that--smiling!

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  2. If I could reach through my TV and strangle Dick Button, I would. He never says anything nice about anyone (and, ergo, shouldn't say anything).

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  3. I'm curious, did you have any english teachers who recognized your talent in school or were they all the type that suggested you learn to cook or knit instead?

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  4. Anonymous7:44 AM

    I'm curious if trying to watch market trends ever made you feel torn between different directions? Like, X looks hot, but Y looks like the next season's favorite, yet Z is being bought everywhere, damn, what should I write right now? :)

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  5. What writing goals have you still yet to achieve? I remember you wanting to write 10 (?) books in a year but I forget if you already met that. :)

    And if a second question is okay: What's the most number of words you've written in a single day?

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  6. lleeo wrote: Are there any particular scenes or storylines that as sort of a fringe writer at first, you really had to fight for?

    I had to rewrite my first published romance seven times to make it conform to genre PC standards and suit the editor, who kept saying to me "You have to stay faithful to the grass roots of romance." It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I decided it would be the last time I homogenized myself for the sake of anyone's fear of controversy.

    From that point on I wrote what I wanted and fought for it. Jian-Shan, the hero of The Deepest Edge, is 100% Asian and his heroine, Val, is biracial. You'll find very few non-white lead couples in contemporary romance, but I managed to slip that one past the genre bigots with a minimum of fuss.

    In SF I've done things like (gasp) put sex scenes in my book; but I also show characters having romantic relationships. Apparently in the future no one is allowed to be in love, and I was advised by my editor at the time to "get rid of the mushy stuff." Alas, I never did. It's kept me out of a lot of things, but not the SF bestseller list.

    You mentioned the subplot lesbian romance from Into the Fire; I actually received a considerable amount of hate mail for that one from offended readers. One implied that it was better for a woman to stay with her abusive spouse than find happiness with another woman. It was also suggested while I was writing the story that I kill both women. I didn't. Hard as it is to believe, gay people fall in love just like straight people do, and actually have the audacity to live happily ever after. Yeah, I know, incredible, isn't it?

    I don't win every battle, nor should I. Occasionally I push too hard and go too far, and I'm the first one to admit it. I'm fortunate now that I have one editor in particular who makes me see when I am pushing my luck a little too much.

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  7. That's one of the things that I hate most about watching Olympic figure skating. Especially with regards to poor Sasha -- "Oh, she's NEVER strung two perfect perfomances together" and "Oh, she's brilliant but inconsistent!" -- Leave the poor girl alone!

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  8. Liz wrote: If I could reach through my TV and strangle Dick Button, I would. He never says anything nice about anyone (and, ergo, shouldn't say anything).

    Is Dick Button the one who was bitching so much last night, Liz? Appropriate first name. :)

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  9. Darlene Ryan wrote: I'm curious, did you have any english teachers who recognized your talent in school or were they all the type that suggested you learn to cook or knit instead?

    I pretty much pissed off every English teacher I had in school with the exception of one who taught me poetry (at 15, I intended to to be the next Sylvia Plath. Yes. Stop laughing now.)
    In their defense, I was not any more likeable as a student than I am now as an adult.

    One had me thrown out of her class when I proved to her in front of her honors class that she had screwed up her interpretation of Chaucer -- but she had a PhD. in English Lit, and having a 16 year old white trash kid correct her was probably more than she could stand. The Dean took my side but also wisely transferred me to another class.

    Most memorable comment an English teacher made to me: "You'd better learn proper English grammar. You'll need it to apply for parole."

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  10. Anonymous wrote: I'm curious if trying to watch market trends ever made you feel torn between different directions? Like, X looks hot, but Y looks like the next season's favorite, yet Z is being bought everywhere, damn, what should I write right now? :)

    I watch market trends but I don't try to write for them. Rather, I try to pitch what I have already written that might fit in the trend (Darkyn, for example, was originally pitched in 1998.) Occasionally I won't wrote something because of an emerging trend; I put aside my sixth and seventh planned romantic suspense novels because I had a feeling that the market would flood, which it did.

    Unless they're very strong and show indications that they have staying power, I don't think you should write specifically for market trends (exception: category romance lines, which have stringent guidelines that rarely change.) Figure out what you'd love to write first, then find a market for it.

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  11. When you start writing a series, how much do you know about the later books? Do you have a lot of plot details planned out, or do you have a vague idea of what they might be about, or do you have no idea about the later books?

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  12. Mark Siegal wrote: What writing goals have you still yet to achieve? I remember you wanting to write 10 (?) books in a year but I forget if you already met that.

    No on the latter. Writing nine books under contract in one year remains my personal record. I might give it one more shot this year; I'm already on book #3.

    As for my other writing goals, I've achieved three out of four big ones: I've seen my name on the cover of a book, I've hit the bestseller lists multiple times, and I've published a book I was informed would never ever be published. I'm about halfway to my fourth and final goal, the toughest and the only one I keep private.

    And if a second question is okay: What's the most number of words you've written in a single day?

    26,941 words in 12 hours, which is still my best single day total.

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  13. Ugh, I cannot stand the announcers, especially in figure skating. They just prattle on and on and on about nothing except minor mistakes. They're at the Olympics! I'd like to see Dick Button try a triple salchow!

    Hm, I think you hit a nerve. Hee.

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  14. Vernieda wrote: That's one of the things that I hate most about watching Olympic figure skating. Especially with regards to poor Sasha -- "Oh, she's NEVER strung two perfect perfomances together" and "Oh, she's brilliant but inconsistent!" -- Leave the poor girl alone!

    Someone should give those announcers a groin injury, my guy said this morning, and then see if they can take home a medal.

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  15. Zoe wrote: When you start writing a series, how much do you know about the later books?

    Depends on the series. I comprehensively outlined ten StarDoc novels before I sold the first two, with brief one-page ideas for an additional five more for a total of fifteen. Blade Dancer was outlined and pitched as an eight-book series.

    Editors sometimes request more books that I didn't pitch or intend to write. The first three Jessica Hall novels are really an unplanned continuation of my Gena Hale books.

    Then there are plot shifts requested by an editor that can derail my plans for future books. That's the problem I'm trying to cope with now on one series; everything I outlined was wrecked by a major story line changed, and I have to replot the next three books basically from scratch.

    Do you have a lot of plot details planned out, or do you have a vague idea of what they might be about, or do you have no idea about the later books?

    I usually write the basic story and plot outline, character lists and what running threads will be opened, extended or tied up in the novel. This takes a couple of pages, which I can refine into one-page synopses. Occasionally if an idea is very strong, or I'm pitching a full series to a new publisher, I'll write up a complete synopsis for each book (which I find exhausting but more likely to result in a multiple-book contract sale, especially with publishers who haven't worked with you before.)

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  16. Eliza wrote: Hm, I think you hit a nerve. Hee.

    I'd like to do more than that to that Dick guy. What a jerk.

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  17. Would you mind sharing a bit of info about ghostwriting a fiction series? I know you've done a bit of ghostwriting and despite research attempts the only thing I can find is other ghostwriters selling their services. How do you find out about GW opportunities and how does one find which series are written this way?

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  18. I have to agree. The announcers need to shut up so we can watch the skating and hear the music. I got so annoyed with them last night!

    It's a shame about the hate mail you received from Into the Fire. I'll never understand bigotry.

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  19. I find it totally amazing that figure skaters can do anything at all on those skates. Those skates area completely different from the ones you buy in a store. Razor sharp edges. It's incredible they can skate at all, much less do triple and quad jumps.

    I feel the same way about figure skating announcers as I do about football announcers. I just wish they would shut up and let me enjoy the show.

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  20. To what degree do you give your characters backgrounds. I imagine for the key protagonists and antogonists you would delve pretty deeply - know pretty much everything about them and what has happened to them in the past. But how about secondary and tertiary characters? How much screen time does a character need to warrant a major bio to be developed? What about characters who appear in perhaps only a scene or two?

    I feel like I could spend years fleshing out histories for all of my characters, but as the stories grow and the cast grows to meet the need, I realize this is not only impractical but not even desirable. I know I need to know the key players inside and out, but do I need to know the heroine's sister's husband equally as well if he's a background player?

    Thanks for any advice.

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  21. OMG! I've thought the same thing about those Olympic announcers for figure skaters. What is up with that uptight dude with the sort of British-y accent? He is SO mean!

    Scott Hamilton is the only one who seems to have a soul.

    M

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  22. Jessiegirl wrote: Would you mind sharing a bit of info about ghostwriting a fiction series? I know you've done a bit of ghostwriting and despite research attempts the only thing I can find is other ghostwriters selling their services. How do you find out about GW opportunities and how does one find which series are written this way?

    I've only worked as a writer-for-hire for major publishers, so this will not apply to ghost-writing for private parties (i.e. small press, colleges, or individuals who can afford to hire someone to write a book for them and who often advertise for ghostwriters online or in mags, newspapers, etc.) or media tie-in novels (Lee Goldberg often writes about those jobs; you should check out his blog, see the sidebar for the link.)

    I've written nine WFH novels, and all the jobs were invitational, as in I was specifically invited to audition for the books. WFH work is rarely if ever open submission (openly advertised and anyone can submit). Generally the way you get WFH work is to establish yourself first as an author. A reputation for being multi-faceted, flexible, cooperative and a fast, clean writer helps a great deal.

    If you're a fairly new author and would like to do WFH work, let your agent know to put your name out there. Often WFH jobs are decided by editors who call various agents looking for talent.

    A WFH author is generally offered a flat fee for a book with no royalties (I am an exception; I also do get royalties on one WFH series I presently write.) The average author fee presently is running around $10 - $30K. The highest fee I've heard of was $250K per book (a job for which I auditioned for but didn't get, *sob*) The publisher usually retains the copyright to the work and in the contract may spell out whether or not you can publicize that you wrote it.

    WFH fiction can be tough to write. You almost always have to work with elements, characters, plots and even style and voices thought up by someone else. You are given very strict boundaries on what you can and cannot write. The editor has the final word, not you.

    Occasionally authors are permitted to talk about their WFH work -- as I have with my GCI/Rebecca Kelly series -- but most of the time that sort of information is kept under wraps by the publisher for one reason or another (usually sales-related). Sometimes, as with V.C. Andrews novels, it's a poorly-kept secret. But remember, under contract, the WFH author may be prohibited from ever saying he/she wrote the books -- even when they hit the NYT BSL. :(

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  23. I believe it was Dick Button who was making the mean comments last night and it was irritating me also, but just for clarification, he might have fallen on the ice a time or two himself: figure skater: World champion 5 times (48-52), Olympic champion 2 times, (48, 52).

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  24. Love the post, and my question is: how many novels are planned for the Darkyn series?

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  25. PBW said: Sometimes, as with V.C. Andrews novels, it's a poorly-kept secret.

    Yes, the VC Andrews ghostwriter was hard to keep secret. Considering Virgina passed on and yet more novels kept coming out. The inside cover even mentioned a ghostwriter, but I know many fans who were not satisfied with just knowing that.

    I would rather know right off that there was a ghostwriter who wrote the book, instead of learning about it later. :) Even if they won't reveal who it is.

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  26. I didn't watch last night, but I did watch on Tuesday night. Neither announcer seemed to have much good to say about any of the skaters' programs. They had plenty to say about the various soap opera-like events going on.

    I enjoyed the Athens Games far more. I heard very little US commentary--as I recall I picked up French, German, and Arabic (I think) channels carrying the Games, and I loved watching. They didn't comment as the events were going on, letting the athlete's performances speak for themselves. Unfortunately, in the US media, it's all about the announcer and their wittiness.

    Well said about the hopes and dreams of a lifetime being dashed. I hadn't made the connection to writing until I read your thoughts.

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  27. Rinda Elliot wrote: I'll never understand bigotry.

    Me either. One of my friends calls it "cancer of the soul."

    Carter wrote: I find it totally amazing that figure skaters can do anything at all on those skates. Those skates area completely different from the ones you buy in a store. Razor sharp edges.

    Aha (Florida girls rollerskate; there's no ice down here.) That must also be the reason they put those plastic guard things on them when they walk off the ice -- to keep from accidentally amputating any toes that get in their way...

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  28. Lynn M wrote: To what degree do you give your characters backgrounds. I imagine for the key protagonists and antogonists you would delve pretty deeply - know pretty much everything about them and what has happened to them in the past.

    Pretty much. With protagonists I start at birth and work forward, sketching out the key elements, relationships and events in their lives and the ripple effect these influences have on the character's persona. From that point I can work out their assets, flaws and quirks, and create their personal dreams, emotional buttons, and deep dark secrets.

    But how about secondary and tertiary characters? How much screen time does a character need to warrant a major bio to be developed?

    Good question. With secondary character development, I judge that by how much impact they have on protagonist, the antagonist and/or the plot versus the secondary character's time on the page. Another factor is if the character will be returning in another book; often my secondary characters become protagonists in later novels.

    I'll give you an example of one of my secondary characters who came out very interesting on the page with a minimum of development -- Grayson Huitt from Heat of the Moment. Medical examiner, ex-surfer, and exotic coffee lover. He's big, blond, funny, flirts and lusts after the protagonist in a healthy way. He prefers to put people at ease but will not play head games and is often brutally honest. He treats corpses with respect and sometimes with affection that can seem a little spooky.

    Why is Grayson an ex-surfer, why does he love exotic coffee, and why is he so honest? I have no idea. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen scenarios to explain those elements, so I didn't worry about fleshing them out.

    Grayson's affection for the dead came from my experiences working with medical examiners. MES are sometimes great jokers and very enthusiastic workers. I learned that it's a cover for a deep and heartfelt anger and frustration over the senseless deaths many of their patients suffer. As for their love of their gruesome job, many of them are willing to work endless overtime to find any evidence that will nail their patient's killer, if there was one -- or in the case of unexpected natural death, give some comfort and reassurance to a grieving family.

    What about characters who appear in perhaps only a scene or two?

    Bit players. :) You don't need to do as much with these guys as you would with a major or secondary character, but you want to avoid making your bit players into wallpaper (seen but not heard) or waiters (entering only to deliver some plot point before whizzing back out.)

    After names and basic physical descriptions, I generally do three-point characterizations on bit players in the story: occupational (what do they do for a living, or what purpose do they serve within the plot frame), situational (what's going on with them at this moment in the story) and one free-for-all quirk (one of their likes, dislikes, or whatever else appeals to me.)

    This is not a formula that works for everyone, and you may chose to outline with some other elements, but you should keep your bit player characterizations to a reasonable minimum.

    I know I need to know the key players inside and out, but do I need to know the heroine's sister's husband equally as well if he's a background player?

    I think you need to know as much about him as he relates to the heroine. A nice man who was pleasant to her won't require much fleshing out, but if bro-in-law was an alcoholic who came between the heroine and her sister and beat his wife, that would have a far bigger impact on the protagonist.

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  29. Demented M wrote: Scott Hamilton is the only one who seems to have a soul.

    If he was the guy calling the different jumps as the skaters went through them, I agree -- he wasn't nearly as bad as the Dick guy and that chick dropping all the passive-aggressive insults.

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  30. Mary wrote: I believe it was Dick Button who was making the mean comments last night and it was irritating me also, but just for clarification, he might have fallen on the ice a time or two himself: figure skater: World champion 5 times (48-52), Olympic champion 2 times, (48, 52).

    Thanks for the insight, Mary -- that explains a lot. So he's a crotchety old hasbeen who never had to do those kind of jumps! Lol.

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  31. Miss Write wrote: how many novels are planned for the Darkyn series?

    I've sold a total of five, but I'm not planning beyond what I have under contract. I know the publisher would like at least six.

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  32. Pixel Faerie wrote: I would rather know right off that there was a ghostwriter who wrote the book, instead of learning about it later. :) Even if they won't reveal who it is.

    I didn't particularly care for the V.C. Andrews deal -- it seems disrespectful to keep pretending she's writing the books after her death. On the living writer front, I'm afraid with chains ordering to the net that a lot of authors are going to end up with secret identities.

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  33. Jean wrote: I picked up French, German, and Arabic (I think) channels carrying the Games, and I loved watching. They didn't comment as the events were going on, letting the athlete's performances speak for themselves.

    Oh, so they had class. I miss Europe. *Sigh.*

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  34. I'm so glad you said something. We were watching the other night and that guy kept slamming the skaters during the short program. I turned to my dh and asked who was commentating (because he was annoying me). If he's such an expert, he should get his fat ass out there on the ice and show them how it's done. I taped the long program and plan to watch it on mute.

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  35. Jordan Summers wrote: I taped the long program and plan to watch it on mute.

    Smart woman. I'll have to remember to do that the next time the kids want me to watch some athletic event.

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  36. No questions.

    Dick Button had me screaming at the TV set. That man is hideous. At one point, he said something bitchy, then tried to retract it. Even he realized he'd gone too far . . . but it didn't stop him from ripping into the next skater.

    I wish we would have thought to turn off the sound.

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  37. Lleeo2:46 AM

    Wow, I hadn't realized you'd replied to my question--your journal page kept showing "1 comment."

    You've just made me love you more with your comments, I hope you know that! ^_~ I just have to say that I am eternally grateful to you for having the nerve and the sass to shake up the romance genre because it my opinion--it needs some shaking! Badly!

    I am 19-years-old (yeah, what does that have to do with anything? ^_~) and have grown up in an Internet generation of fanfiction, anime, roleplaying, yaoi/yuri (gay/lesbian romance or sex) with a lot of this "everything goes" exploratory attitude floating around.

    I love it and I love romance novels and happy endings and I would LOVE to see the romance genre expanded and explored and diversified. I want to see gay romance novels. I want to see bi-racial romance novels. Heck, I'd like to see any other ethnic background than white Caucasian. I'd like to see romance novels with a setting in different parts of the world; people with different religions, cultures... Science-fiction romance.

    I was truly shocked when I picked up The Deepest Edge because it was like: "Wait, the hero of this romance novel is Chinese? Finally!" The next step will be to see two Chinese protagonists in a romance novel. Suzanne Brockmann did it in her book Harvard's Education with a black hero and heroine.

    It was also suggested while I was writing the story that I kill both women. Yep, the old "If you're going to have a homosexual romance, us straight folks can only empathize with the characters as long as they don't do any funny business and their love ends tragically."

    So, in conclusion: please, please, please keep pushing the envelope. Stuffy shirt play-it-safe types need a good kick in the pants every couple of days to keep them on their toes.

    You give me hope for the future of the romance genre. Please don't ever change. ^_^

    -Lleeo

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  38. I think the toughest thing about ghostwriting is the ego sting - if the ghostwritten book is successful. No one will ever know it's your book. All the accolades and image boost and PR will belong to whoever's name is on the cover. The book might rocket, and you'll be left sitting with your flat ghostwriter's fee and struggling to get a bit of promotion for your own books.
    It would be like starring in an Oscar-grabbing film under a random name and wearing a latex face-mask. Your work is praised yet you aren't allowed to enjoy it, or even use it.
    Now if the ghostwritten book flops... at least the public won't know it's you :)

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  39. LOLLOL--I just read Jordon's comment and I had to comment too :)

    Hi, I'm Dakota BTW :) I came here via Jaynie's blog.

    Dick Buttons has gotten his ass out there and skated. As a matter of fact, he's a gold medalist from like BC sometime. LOLLOL

    He's mean, and he's cranky and he says the most crass things. Yet, every year they bring his critical butt back to commentate.

    I prefer Scott Hamilton, who seems to find the good in everyone :)

    Dakota :)

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