Friday, December 08, 2006

Four Score & Friday 20

The winner of the Three Wise Women giveaway is Joely Sue Burkhart, who should e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com with your ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Having family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic makes the holidays a bit hectic, especially when we try to juggle airport dropoffs and pickups with the seasonal school, church, and neighborhood functions. Then there are the translation duties (Ou sont les toilettes?) the minor culture clashes (your children eat breaded fish with cheese and tartar sauce on a bun? Yes? And they do not puke after? No?) and the occasional wardrobe malfunction (Why can't I sunbathe topless in the yard? Don't Americans like tanned breasts?)

I've celebrated my holidays in a lot of different places, including Lackland AFB during basic training. I'd rather be home with the family than anywhere else, but if I had to spend Christmas elsewhere, it would be near Yosemite National Park in California. Ansel Adams got me hooked on the place with his photographs, and when at last I was able to visit, I saw things that my beach-girl brain almost refused to grasp: waterfalls frozen into ten story-tall crystal sculptures, eternities of trees and silence, and mountains so towering that clouds floated below them.

One of my favorite authors, Peter Mayle, shares that same kind of love for Provence in his books, and has a reprint of A Good Year out this month in the stores. You might notice it because it shows Russell Crowe laughing on the cover; he's playing Max Skinner in the Ridley Scott film based on the Peter's book. I'm sure there will be plenty of hoopla about it because of the movie, but I think the book itself is one of the author's best, which is why it's the fourth very cool book of December.

We're going to do the regular Friday 20 today, so if you'd like a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post ask a writing or publishing-related question as usual (or, if you have none for me today, just name a place other than home where you'd like to spend the holidays) by midnight EST on December 8, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of A Good Year by Peter Mayle and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

63 comments:

  1. Last year I spent Christmas in China, which was rather unfestive at that time of the year. :D This year I'll be spending it at home in Singapore. Given a choice, I think I'll like to spend the holidays in some place where there's actually snow. Maybe Scotland. I have this really romantic view of Scotland.

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  2. This year I'm spending my Christmas in Italy. 'nough said, =)

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  3. Mary22:42 AM

    I'd love to spend Christmas in Arizona with my special someone. I was there a few years ago and loved it and he loves the desert.
    Second choice: anywhere without snow :) Only people who haven't had a foot or more of snow in the last couple days are still wishing for snow ...
    Mary

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  4. I'd love to be somewhere with snow. If I can't get snow then maybe somewhere where daytime temperatures are about ten degrees C cooler! (why the English cricket team tours Australia every summer is one of life's great mysteries)

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  5. Crista3:16 AM

    I think, if funds and time were of no concern, I would rent out one of the big old gorgeous mansions in Savannah, Georgia, or any of the pretty lowland cities, and bring the entire Rucker clan in bring in the holidays. We could spend the week in the house and really enjoy the holiday in style.

    Crista

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  6. I hope to one year spend Christmas in Paris,France.

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  7. Cinderberry4:02 AM

    Christmas somewhere warm would be nice. Australia particularly appeals right now!

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  8. Ireland.

    :O)

    but as long as i have my family with me, i'm good.

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  9. The Gower, a peninsula of Wales

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  10. Anonymous5:24 AM

    Somewhere with a light sprinkling of pretty snow, which disappears by boxing day!

    Joanne

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  11. Congrats, Joely!

    Since it's 6 degress this morning, my first thought is to spend it on a tropical island, on the beach, with a fruity drink in one hand and a good book in the other.

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  12. Well, my husband and I are going to Florida this year for Christmas, and hitting Epcot at Disney on Christmas Eve. That is definitely where I want to be for the holidays.

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  13. I'd like to spend my holiday someplace warm and devoid of snow. I want to wear jeans and a t-shirt and be comfortable in the sun. San Diego sounds nice right now, San Francisco and Seattle are cities I've always wanted to visit at Christmas, even though they are a bit on the colder side.

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  14. I would love to spend the holidays somewhere tropical. I hate cold weather.

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  15. I'd like to spend Christmas in Hawaii.

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  16. Woo-hoo! Huge thank yous, PBW! I feel the mindcontrol nanites kicking in already!!

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  17. I wuld love to spend the entire holiday in Italy. travelling and eating.

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  18. I would enjoy a wonderful stay in Hawaii.

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  19. The best place I would love to be is Spain.

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  20. Since I never travel and now would love the opportunity to experience a wonderful trip I would love to see France, and Italy.

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  21. As a little kid I enjoyed snowy Christmas in England, as an older kid it was Christmas in Spain, and now as an adult I enjoy Christmas here in Australia with my family. Once you get used to 100+ F on xmas day it's rather special, and there isn't anywhere I'd rather be. This year is my 23rd xmas in a row in Western Australia, and the 10th in a row hosted at my house. Bliss.

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  22. Since I'd love to move to New Zealand someday, perhaps there. I'm used to hot Christmases, being from southern CA.

    I do have a question, though: how in the world do you find time to blog every day? And such informative stuff, too.

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  23. PBW: did you ever feel crippled by the thought, "I'm sooo faking this, and my readers are going to see right through me"? I haven't had a particularly special/eventful/traumatic life, and I'm always suspicious of the work I have produced because the experiences I drew on while writing them are quite mundane. If the quality of my life determines the quality of my work, I don't think I'm a memorable writer.

    Most of this is in my head, I know, so I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to fool my brain into being less critical of completed work.

    I'd also appreciate your thoughts on how you've grown since you started writing, whether your work has changed much in this time, and whether you'd advise a writer in her early twenties to "live a little" before attempting to write about life.

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  24. The year I spent Christmas in Tucson, it actually snowed. About a quarter-inch, and it vanished as soon as the sun hit it. It was great.

    Christmas in Boston is good, too. It's usually cold, but doesn't snow too much, and the reserved New Englanders open up and laugh a bit more than usual.

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  25. Bridget Medora9:42 AM

    Congrats Joely!! =D

    Australia. I've always wanted to go.

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  26. I'd love to go somewhere I could take a sleigh ride in the snow, complete with horses and sleigh bells and a starry sky and afterwards I'd have hot chocolate and warm up again in front of a log fire.... But instead it's Christmas at home as usual.

    Okay, take a writer who's been working on improving her craft for a few years, but still hasn't quite "got" there. She doesn't really know what to do to get to the next level. What one thing could she do to give her writing that boost? Take a course? Read a bunch of classics? Join a face-to-face writing group? Something else?

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  27. I would love to spend Christmas in Ireland or Scotland. Here is good too though! :)

    Happy Holidays all!

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  28. PBW, is Beyond Varallan the StarDoc book with a cliffhanger ending? Because if it is, I must remember to get Endurance before getting to the first page of BV.

    Yes, fellow PBW fans, I must be whipped for not getting to the Stardoc series sooner.

    Oh and is Night Lost the only book you have scheduled for 2008? Surely not?

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  29. Take away budget constraints, and my ideal Christmas would be spent in the Canadian Rockies, preferably at some nice Heli- or Cat-ski operation where I can carve pristine bowls all day, and relax with my family in the evening. Snow by the metre! Yum!

    A question, similar to some above, is how do (or did) you face that confidence crisis, where you type the words in and they just feel like crap. I keep telling myself to get them down, put the bones of the story down, even if it makes revision more work. What do you do to keep the doubts at bay? (Or what did you do, presuming your confidence is pretty high by now)

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  30. I think it would be wonderful to spend Christmas in Bethlehem.


    Have a great weekend ; )

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  31. A little red stuga somewhere in northern Sweden, with lots of snow and silent fir woods around, and maybe a moose visiting in the morning. A lake for ice skating, and if you add a sleigh drawn by two spirited Iceland ponies, I'd be a happy lass. :)

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  32. I'd love to spend Christmas in Ireland.

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  33. Anywhere at all so long as my kids and their families can be there too. This year all will be home, so THAT is where I most want to be.

    There's no place like home for the holidays...(but you don't want to listen to me singing it, trust me!)

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  34. Since I can't be "home" with my family this Christmas, of course that's the only place I want to be.

    Pam

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  35. I think next year hte kids and I are going to Florida or skiing for Christmas.

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  36. Nir wrote: ...how in the world do you find time to blog every day?

    Ruthless scheduling. :)

    Seriously, I write a lot of my posts about a week or two ahead of when I actually post them, so I'm never scrambling to write something, and if I need to skip writing for the blog for a day I can. I also try to stock up in advance with ideas and drafts for blog posts, links I can put together in lists, and so forth.

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  37. i would love to be back home in the great white north of canada with my family and friends instead of bitterly muddling through the season with the US inherited inlaws ;)

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  38. Wendelin wrote: PBW: did you ever feel crippled by the thought, "I'm sooo faking this, and my readers are going to see right through me"?

    Occasionally; I think we all do, especially when we're writing outside our life experience. I don't let it stop me from trying to write out there, though -- I think it's good exercise for the imagination to regularly go beyond the boundaries of personal experience.

    I haven't had a particularly special/eventful/traumatic life, and I'm always suspicious of the work I have produced because the experiences I drew on while writing them are quite mundane. If the quality of my life determines the quality of my work, I don't think I'm a memorable writer.

    Well, look at the life of C.S. Forester: he tried to get in the military but failed the physical, studied to become a doctor but never made it, and then gave up everything for writing. His life experiences were commonplace, often a little ridiculous, and yet he wrote the Horatio Hornblower books, and earned admiration from such tough-guy literary writers as Hemingway.

    Forester had no naval experience; had not lived during the time of Lord Nelson, and probably never wielded any weapon mightier than the sword. Imagine how much fiction would have been depriced if he's thought, "Well, can't write these books about a swashbuckling naval hero because I don't know a bloody damn thing about it except what I've read in books."

    Most of this is in my head, I know, so I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to fool my brain into being less critical of completed work.

    When you're writing outside your personal experience zone, research everything meticulously, drawing what you need to know from at least three different credible sources. If you're writing a character like a modern homicide detective, see if you can make an appointment to interview a real one. Then give yourself permission to get into that character's head and write from their perspective, not yours -- because a character with a very different life situation isn't you, it doesn't have to be about you and your experience, but what you imagine theirs to be.

    I'd also appreciate your thoughts on how you've grown since you started writing, whether your work has changed much in this time, and whether you'd advise a writer in her early twenties to "live a little" before attempting to write about life.

    I started writing at a very young age, so I've gone through a lot of changes that reflect just what was important to me at any given age. At eight I was determined to write great dog stories (think Lassie meets Die Hard); six years later I abandoned prose for poetry because I knew I was destined to be the next Sylvia Plath. I don't think my writing stablized until I was in my twenties and got all the angst and experimental stuff out of my system.

    I hope my work has changed a little since I wrote dog stories. :) Honestly, I try not to analyze it too much, because I'd rather let it happen than worry about why it does or if it's any good or whether or not it will leave any trace of me in the sands of time. I'm a bit superstitious that way; by letting the writing just be what it is I think I avoid most of the self-doubts that create writer's block and dry spells.

    As for my advice on "living a little": If you're alive, you're qualified to write about life; I don't think age or experience has anything to do with it. What you choose to do with your life should be about more than writing; live your life the way you think you should and do the things that are important for you to do while you're here. It gives you a solid foundation of self-esteem that no one can touch, and no matter what happens, you'll have very few regrets.

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  39. Forester had no naval experience; had not lived during the time of Lord Nelson, and probably never wielded any weapon mightier than the sword.

    Uh, the above sword should actually be a pen. (smacking myself.)

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  40. depriced = deprived, too. (I am the Queen of typos today.)

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  41. I would love to travel to Tahiti and then to Australia. What an experience that would be. Wonderful!

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  42. After a number of years with brown Christmas, my new home is all I could want ... we've got 4 feet of snow on the ground and more is expected before the holidays. I also have access to a horse drawn sleigh. It's doesn't get much better!

    On the writing front: A couple of years ago I worked with someone on what we hoped would be a co-authored book. After a few months she no longer wanted to work on the story. I find myself coming back to the work, wanting to finish. I have all our original work and all of our correspondence regarding it. My intent was to excise her contributions and rework what had been written before continuing on with the story. I've spoken to her in regards to my intent and she gave me a "thumbs up" ... I was wondering if I should get something more formal from her if I intend to submit the work for possible publication?
    Cheers,
    Connie

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  43. I'd like to spend Christmas in Martha Stewart's house AFTER she's cleaned cooked and shopped, and BEFORE she comes back from feeding her chicken to find her front door jammed.

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  44. I'd like to spend the holidays in Europe just because I've always wanted to go there.

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  45. Telluride, Colorado or Santa Fe, New Mexico. I always wanted to spend Christmas in the mountains and take real sleigh rides. I've also always wanted to see the Santa Fe square at Christmas time, smell the pinion.

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  46. What if you wrote a book you truly believed in, but which no publisher wanted to buy perhaps because the topic is a controversial one or just because it didn't fit into the market/popular genre? Do you give up and start another story or go the self-publishing way?

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  47. Buffysquirrel wrote: Okay, take a writer who's been working on improving her craft for a few years, but still hasn't quite "got" there. She doesn't really know what to do to get to the next level. What one thing could she do to give her writing that boost? Take a course? Read a bunch of classics? Join a face-to-face writing group? Something else?

    I don't think there's one thing that I can guarantee would work because each writer is different. All of the above ideas you mentioned are good ones, but while they might help Writer A, they might not do anything for Writer B (and they might cause Writer C to freeze up, etc.)

    I've seen the most results in boosting my own work when I shake things up drastically and challenge myself to do something I've never attempted, but I like writing with that kind of high wire, no-safety-net pressure -- but again, that's me and may not work for other writers.

    I always think making a change is easier when you're doing something that you like or that appeals to you on some level; you won't feel resentment or start fighting yourself in process. So, if you enjoy taking classes (or the idea of taking them if you haven't) find one you think can help further you along and sign up for it. Same thing for a crit group, or joining a local writer org, etc. You never know if it can help you until you give it a whirl.

    One thought on reading the classics: it's always a great idea to see what the generations of writers who came before us did, and soak up whatever you can get out of their storytelling, but I think it's more practical to read the bestsellers on the market today, especially in the genre you're writing in. Classic authors show us from where we came, contemporary bestsellers show us where we're going.

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  48. May wrote: PBW, is Beyond Varallan the StarDoc book with a cliffhanger ending? Because if it is, I must remember to get Endurance before getting to the first page of BV.

    That's my cliffhanger -- and please don't read it unless you have Endurance at hand, because you'll probably want to strangle me, lol.

    Oh and is Night Lost the only book you have scheduled for 2008? Surely not?

    You mean 2007? I've got Plague of Memory being released in January and Night Lost in May so far. Evermore doesn't have a release date yet, and everything else is still up in the air or I can't talk about it. :)

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  49. I would love to spend the holidays in Michigan, with family we don't get to see very often.

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  50. My question is about world-building. How much is enough? I suspect I could get sucked into it and spend way more time on it than I'd need to.

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  51. Thank you for your response. That Forester thing is getting printed and going on my cork board.

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  52. No entry for me, please. Congrats, Joely!

    danetteb: The Eiffel Tower looks great in its Christmas splendor.

    The trip to Australia wasn't one I managed to pull off during my globe-trotting assignment. I tried, but other priorities prevented it from working out.

    May, No apologies necessary. It's clear you got a bad batch of nanites that were slow to activate. They clearly have you in their clutches now.

    Hubby would never go, but Christmas in Iceland is wonderful.

    I second PBW's comments on Forester's Hornblower series. It's addictive and a wonderful study in leadership.

    For both of us, Christmas together at the ranch and in our adopted small town is tops on the list, but we'll probably spend the actual Christmas Day in San Antonio this year. There's talk we'll meet at the ranch next Saturday night (it cuts three hours off my fifteen hour drive for the day...).

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  53. For me I would love to spend xmas where there was a lot of snow or a beach somewhere

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  54. I would like to spend Christmas in Denmark with family there to see how they celebrate

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  55. Rowan wrote: ...how do (or did) you face that confidence crisis, where you type the words in and they just feel like crap.

    I know this is going to sound dumb, but I don't think about what I'm writing when I write, and I ignore all feelings except the good ones that help me along. I make a deal with myself every day to write straight through and do a one-pass edit. I wait until the manuscript is finished before I take the choke chain off my internal worry-wart and let her angst and fret during the final full edit, when I can really use her.

    I keep telling myself to get them down, put the bones of the story down, even if it makes revision more work. What do you do to keep the doubts at bay? (Or what did you do, presuming your confidence is pretty high by now)

    You're telling yourself the right things, because every time you get the words down, you're becoming a better writer. Look at every failure or imperfection as an opportunity to polish your skills. When you write a terrible scene, and then go back and edit it back into shape, you're learning to polish your work. When you drop the ball with your plot, the next time you plot something you'll remember what you did and make changes (and a lot of this is subconscious, too.)

    I think any writer's self-confidence comes from setting attainable goals and reaching them. I'm well aware of my limitations, so I always write for one reason: to tell a story. When I finish my story, I've achieved my goal. If I can sell the story that's great, and if people like it that's even better, but my goal has already been met, and my expectations fulfilled. That's why everything that happens after I finish writing the story has no impact on my sense of accomplishment. I've already accomplished what I set out to do.

    None of us are immune from doubt. I've got a stack of decisions to make in the next couple of weeks and I'm stalling on all of them because of my doubts about the future. I can't let that happen when I'm working on the page. I remind myself when I write that I'm doing the one thing in my life that other people can't, and that the world can't spoil or take away from me.

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  56. Anonymous9:26 PM

    What was your hardest book to write? Just curious.

    Crystal B.

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  57. Connie wrote: A couple of years ago I worked with someone on what we hoped would be a co-authored book. After a few months she no longer wanted to work on the story. I find myself coming back to the work, wanting to finish. I have all our original work and all of our correspondence regarding it. My intent was to excise her contributions and rework what had been written before continuing on with the story. I've spoken to her in regards to my intent and she gave me a "thumbs up" ... I was wondering if I should get something more formal from her if I intend to submit the work for possible publication?

    I am a bit hesitant to give you advice on this because there are legalities involved, and I'm not a lawyer.

    If it were me in the same position, I'd have an attorney draw up a legal version of the agreement and have the co-author sign it so there would be no question in the future as to whom the work and any earnings from the work belongs.

    If you can't afford to go that route, I'd still recommend putting the specifics of your agreement in writing, and having it signed by both of you and notarized.

    I'd also recommend getting a second opinion on this question from someone with actual legal experience -- I'm really not qualified to answer it.

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  58. Jeanette J, I can tell you that in Denmark, it's one party after another, with buckets of booze and groaning tables of food. (My brother lives there now.)

    I'd like to spend Christmas in New England or Colorado. While living in England, I drove from Norfolk to Scotland so I could have a white Christmas; it didn't snow in Scotland where I was, but it did snow in Norfolk, sigh.

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  59. Abookworm wrote: What if you wrote a book you truly believed in, but which no publisher wanted to buy perhaps because the topic is a controversial one or just because it didn't fit into the market/popular genre? Do you give up and start another story or go the self-publishing way?

    I would start the next book, but I wouldn't give up on your hardsell. A couple of examples of what I've done with difficult, controversial and not-like-the-herd novels:

    My Darkyn series was originally and resoundingly rejected back in 1998. One editor told me I couldn't write vampire stories; another said one wanted to buy them, a third assured me that there were tons of better authors than me writing them and I couldn't compete (that's a polite way of telling a writer that they suck.)

    The Darkyn series proposal sat on my shelves for five years, until I saw the paranormal trend on the rise and decided to try pitching them again to the same publisher, different editor. She went nuts for them and bought the entire series. And suddenly the books that wouldn't sell, that no one wanted to buy, and that so obviously sucked? Put me on the USA Today bestseller list.

    There's not always a happy ending, because there are some novels that you simply can't sell. Here's a quote from a heartbreaking rejection letter that an NAL/Dutton editor sent me for Night of the Chameleon back in 1999: "The energy and the incredible plot twists of NIGHT OF THE CHAMELEON is what kept me up all night reading it, even as I knew that it wouldn't work for NAL." It killed me to read that, but I knew I had her interest, so I bit my tongue and kept pitching her other ideas. I ended up selling to the same editor six other romances.

    As for Night of the Chameleon, after many other rejections I decided to use it as a means of self-promotion and gave it to my readers for free. As I posted in my note to Melissa today, it's now over there on the sidebar in the freebie section.

    Rebel Ice, my sixth novel in the StarDoc series, sat on the back burner for three years. I was told I could try to sell it as a serial to some SF magazine, but as far as the series was concerned, it was dead. The editor even announced that Eternity Row was the final book in the series, without my permission or even consulting me, as if it were all to be decided by them.

    Maybe it was supposed to be, but I refused to accept it. I wrote and self-published StarDoc stories and novellas for my readers and self-published them on my web site to keep interest in the series alive. I asked my readers to keep the faith and spread the word about the books, and they did. And I waited for the right time and opportunity to get the series rolling again. When it came in the form of a new editor I pitched Rebel Ice, and sold it and a seventh novel. She now wants book eight and nine.

    If you really believe that much in your book, fight for it. You can keep submitting it while you write the next one. If you can't find a market now, shelve it and try again in the near future. If you never find a market for it, as what happened with my NOTC, you can still find uses for it.

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  60. If I could spend Christmas anywhere, it would be somewhere in Europe with snow. Specific, huh? And my whole family would be there, and my boyfriend, and his mother and siblings, and my grandparents, and there would be a huge stone fireplace in the great hall that would always be lit...this is the kind of place I've never actually been to, but would always love to see. Actually, now that I think of it, I have a second place: here, Mohon Mountain House in New York State . saw it online, have wanted to go since.

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  61. Darlene wrote: My question is about world-building. How much is enough? I suspect I could get sucked into it and spend way more time on it than I'd need to.

    I'm going to cheat and send you to read this post that I wrote back in August, because I think it ansers your question and defines my style of world-building pretty well. There are also some decent links at the bottom of the post to other writers' take on world-building. I'd pay special attention to anything Holly Lisle says on the topic; she's a master world builder.

    One final thought: less is more, and I've always found it easier to add more details than it is to subtract them once the ms. is finished.

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  62. Crystal B. wrote: What was your hardest book to write?

    One I can't talk about much because it was a WFH job. :)

    Second hardest: Blade Dancer. The amount of research about buried me; I took fencing and sparring lessons and got my ass kicked once a week for six months (how many writers do you know who would voluntarily get beat up for their art?) and then just facing the sheer terror of the writing itself. Was a total blast, too. :)

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