Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday 20

This is the last Q&A of the year. Ever since I started the Friday 20 back in January, we've gotten together almost every week to talk shop. You guys have asked some great questions, and I hope that some of my answers have helped a little. You've kept me on my toes for sure.

I don't know about you all, but the holidays wore me out, and I'm trying to recharge my physical and mental batteries. An orange a day, a long hot bubble bath every night, and doubling up on my morning meditation time have helped a bit.

The weather has railroaded my long afternoon walk all week, and cabin fever was starting to set in, so I took the kids to the mall yesterday to walk off some of the claustraphobia. One cheerful discovery while we were there: despite the January laydown date, Plague of Memory is already out on the shelves at Waldenbooks and BAM here, and evidently B&N.com is shipping it out now, too.

Cooking Light magazine has put out a cool 20th anniversary issue for January/February, the print version of which came in the mail today. Lots of recipes I want to try, and also some good ideas on how to improve your health by making small food and fitness changes instead of big ones.

One item in that article made me laugh: they suggest cooking at home more often, and starting out by making dinner at home once a week and working your way up slowly from there. Do people really eat out that much now? Except for anniversaries, birthdays and rare special occasions, I make dinner at home seven nights a week; I don't have to change a thing in that department. We won't talk about increasing the amount of whole grains and nuts in my diet; squirrels are already starting to look at me with lust in their beady little eyes.

So what's up with you guys? Recovered from the holidays yet? Got any final questions for me before we head into 2007?

35 comments:

  1. I don't know if I've said this, but I just discovered your blog yesterday. Ha ha, it's awesome.

    Okay...questions, eh? I guess you can't answer "What is the meaning of life?" can you? Darn, that one's reall been bugging me. That and why they have brail in the drive through at the bank.

    Our holiday was great. We spent much time at my grandparents house and Christmas I got a much needed printer/scanner and a digital camera.

    I like your blog. I'm gonna start reading it everyday. Nice to meet you,

    Jason

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  2. The magazine quote made me laugh. I cook at home seven nights a week too, and have done for the last 20-odd years. Partly because eating out is expensive, partly because I can cook better than most fast food outlets or franchise restaurants, partly because we have a garden and if you're going to grow vegetables you might as well eat them :-)

    My only question is, how on earth do you write so much, run a blog and still have a home life? I can manage the latter two and a job, but never get to do as much of the first as I'd like.

    Happy New Year!

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  3. Since only the husband and I are at home now, we eat out probably 4 or 5 nights a week - unless he cooks! When the kids were all here (or even some of them were here) we cooked most every night.

    But now we enjoy sitting down and visiting with each other while eating, sharing what's gone on during the day, and not having to deal with any prep or clean-up! The advantages of being an old fogey, LOL!

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  4. Jason wrote: I don't know if I've said this, but I just discovered your blog yesterday.

    Welcome! I hope you find some stuff here to help out.

    Okay...questions, eh?

    Every Friday. I try to answer anything writing- or publishing-related.

    I guess you can't answer "What is the meaning of life?" can you?

    I can take a guess: Whatever meaning you want it to have.

    That and why they have brail in the drive through at the bank.

    If you find out the answer to that one, let me know. That's been bugging me, too.

    Nice to meet you

    Same here, Jason.

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  5. hmmmmmm.... well, until the DH went to night shifts, three days a week, I cooked probably five or six nights a week, sometimes seven.

    then he went to nights and cooking a full out meal for me and two kids who aren't much into eating yet didn't make much sense. We do still eat at home most nights but it usually the chicken noodle soup or tv dinner type of thing unless the DH is home

    I've been wanting to ask this for months but figured I should wait. But if Plague is on the shelves, I can ask.
    :P when is the next Stardoc book coming.... you said you might have news in January if there was going to be another one.

    I have absolutely no patience.

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  6. Carla, the homebody like me, wrote: ...how on earth do you write so much, run a blog and still have a home life?

    Aside from the insomnia -- I only sleep three or four hours a night -- I live pretty quietly, don't watch television, rarely go out, that sort of thing. I don't have to deal with a day job like most writers do. I write when everyone is asleep or at work and in school, and I'm naturally a fast writer, so I usually get a lot done. Blogging I do in chunks, writing seven or eight posts at a time. The rest of my time is spent being mom, puttering around the house, etc. It's not terribly glamorous, but it suits me.

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  7. Alison wrote: Since only the husband and I are at home now, we eat out probably 4 or 5 nights a week - unless he cooks! When the kids were all here (or even some of them were here) we cooked most every night.

    There you go -- I keep forgetting everyone doesn't have kids at home like we do. I think you can connect over a restaurant dinner as well as home-cooked, too; I'm just a food snob and would rather make my own so I can control portions, ingredients and so forth. Cooking is one of my frustration therapies. :)

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  8. Anonymous10:02 AM

    I know in the past you've said you plan ahead for what you think will be forthcoming in the publishing world - do you think that your forecast has been right for this year or did you see any changes?

    Plague of Memory is out in RI and in my hot little hands.

    Marie

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  9. Shiloh wrote: We do still eat at home most nights but it usually the chicken noodle soup or tv dinner type of thing unless the DH is home.

    My guy is forever on the road or out of town, so I'm often cooking for only three. One way I combat take-out is to make big batches of things like marinara sauce, chili, and soup on the weekends and then freeze enough to make dinner for the three of us. I stir-fry a lot, too.

    I've been wanting to ask this for months but figured I should wait. But if Plague is on the shelves, I can ask.
    :P when is the next Stardoc book coming.... you said you might have news in January if there was going to be another one.


    I wish I had some concrete news to pass along. My publisher would actually like two more StarDocs, and I've revised my proposals for book eight and nine as per their wishes. While we haven't struck a deal yet, it looks pretty promising.

    What's holding me back is the need to work out what I want to write for the rest of the series before I commit to another new contract. I don't want to end up leaving the readers hanging again for a couple of years, and I have to be practical about the commercial future of the series.

    StarDoc has always sold well and made money for me and my publisher -- they wouldn't have brought the series back if it hadn't -- but SF slots are dwindling and most publishers simply don't want to invest in any long-term SF projects. With a series like StarDoc, that makes every contract a roll of the dice, and every end book on a contract the potential final print book in the series.

    I know that's depressing stuff, but if they dump me again, there are other options like small press or self-publishing. I'd just like to get as many books into print with a major publisher as I can before I'm forced to go that route.

    I guess the only concrete thing I can say is, I'm not done yet, and they won't stop me from doing what I want with StarDoc. :)

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  10. My hubby and I ate out quite a bit when the children were small. That came to a halt when I opened the Discover and had to pay $700 in restaurant fees. This is when my two boys went from eating off the kids meal to expensive plates (they ALWAYS choose the expensive plates).

    My question which has probably answered a million times but here it goes

    Who has the final say on the cover of a book and how is it decided?

    I was wondering because sometimes the cover is sooo racy that if I buy the book it will not leave my house because of the cover. I also shy away from some of these books after the guy at Half Price Books made a pass at me.

    Some books also have what I call two covers. The able to leave the house and open at work cover. The racy one that screams romance novel under it. I know, I know it should not matter but I work as a chemist and if the dork at the book store thinks he can hit on me the Geeks that talk to me every day of my life do not need to go there.

    Do romance authors worry that some covers will make their readers shy away?

    PS
    Thanks for the books I received. Night Lost was great!
    Maggie

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  11. Gee... can I answer this one?

    Do romance authors worry that some covers will make their readers shy away?

    my answer, from my experience, Hell, yes.

    I guess the only concrete thing I can say is, I'm not done yet, and they won't stop me from doing what I want with StarDoc. :)

    YES ... That's good enough for me. Just don't take my fix away.

    The food thing is a problem I'm going to have to fix. We can't keep eating canned soup and tv dinners~I'm tired of them already. Guess this is my New Years resolution...fix the food issues.

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  12. Maggie wrote: This is when my two boys went from eating off the kids meal to expensive plates (they ALWAYS choose the expensive plates).

    I know how that goes. My daughter, the gourmet food-lover, usually wants the most expensive dish on any menu. She's this tiny little delicate thing, but that kid can put away two lobsters and half my dinner in one sitting.

    Who has the final say on the cover of a book and how is it decided?

    Unless you're an author at Stephen King's level, the publisher. It's rare that authors have any say in what goes on the cover of their novels. Occasionally we're asked for input. I've requested many changes with mine, but have only been able to change things on three out of thirty-five covers for my books.

    I was wondering because sometimes the cover is sooo racy that if I buy the book it will not leave my house because of the cover. I also shy away from some of these books after the guy at Half Price Books made a pass at me.

    Yikes. One thing I do with taking a book with potentially offensive cover art on it is to put a book cover over it. You can get them at any school or office supply store. That way I can read without making any of the ladies in the doctor's waiting room faint. :)

    Some books also have what I call two covers. The able to leave the house and open at work cover. The racy one that screams romance novel under it. I know, I know it should not matter but I work as a chemist and if the dork at the book store thinks he can hit on me the Geeks that talk to me every day of my life do not need to go there.

    If that's the reaction you're getting, then yeah, I'd stick a book cover on it or leave it at home.

    Do romance authors worry that some covers will make their readers shy away?

    Ugly, poorly-composed or controversial cover art is a problem for any author, but I think romance authors take the most criticism, and end up losing readers because the cover art chases off buyers in the store.

    What's sad is that anyone who makes fun of the author for their cover art aren't ridiculing the people actually responsible for it: the publisher. But the publisher's name isn't on the book -- the author's is.

    Whatever art ends up on the book, the author has to shut up and take it. We're not supposed to say anything negative about it because that pisses off the publisher. We also have to put up with whatever ridicule is heaped on the book because of the lousy art. But that's simply part of the fun and glamour of being an author, and after enough disasters you get used to it.

    It's also the reason you readers out there should never judge a book by its cover. Some of the best books I've read had the most God-awful covers in existence slapped on them.

    Thanks for the books I received. Night Lost was great!

    You're very welcome, and thanks for the kind words (Maggie is the first person outside my editor to read Night Lost, so I'll take this as a good omen.)

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  13. There are a lot of people who wish Maggie evil right now. *g*

    Is Tang Kuei Fei in the White Tiger Swords trilogy named after the famous, but equally ill-fated Yang Kuei Fei?

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  14. Questions, questions...


    Hmmm, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Hmmm? Answer me that.

    Or, if Peter Pepper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Pepper pick?

    Quit screwing around with the meaning of life and get to the important stuff.

    Happy New Year,
    Mark Terry
    www.markterrybooks.com

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  15. Or is it Peter Piper?

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  16. This is pure nosiness on my part. What's the worst piece of writing related advice you ever received?

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  17. Wow. I didn't realize it's the last friday of 2006, but it is! Where did the time go?

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  18. May wrote: Is Tang Kuei Fei in the White Tiger Swords trilogy named after the famous, but equally ill-fated Yang Kuei Fei?

    She is, and her character is based in part on her legend. I'm very impressed; you're the first reader who ever picked up on that. :) I arranged her name to be Tang versus Yang to get a little back at the emperor who ultimately was responsible for the real Kuei-Fei's death.

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  19. Mark wrote: Hmmm, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Hmmm? Answer me that.

    700 lbs., according to a researcher in New York who actually weighed the amount of dirt a Marmota monax (the woodchuck) digs out to build a burrow. You can find anything on the internet. :)

    Or, if Peter Pepper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Pepper pick?

    One -- he picked A peck of pickled peppers.

    Quit screwing around with the meaning of life and get to the important stuff.

    I might embroider that on a pillow. :) Happy New Year, Mark.

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  20. Mark wrote: Or is it Peter Piper?

    I believe it is.

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  21. When I'm in Alabama, I cook one day a week, store leftovers in meal size containers, and nuke for the rest of the week. If I don't do that, I just nuke a pizza when I get home from work, and that's not good. When I'm home, we eat out unless hubby cooks (and since I've switched to vegetarian and he hasn't, that makes eating out more likely). We always pour fresh cat food and dog food into the respective kids' dishes though (although I wound up putting dog food in Natasha's dish by accident and didn't figure out until I was packing up to leave why she wouldn't eat it).

    No evil wishes for Maggie, but she is one lucky person!

    Yeah, I guess I've recovered from the holidays. I still need to do my Christmas shopping, though. I did get the leaves raked and bagged at the house in Texas, two trees cut up and hauled home for firewood from the ranch, and five of the logs from one of those trees split once we got them home. This weekend, I rake and bag the Alabama leaves, clean house, get back to writing work, watch Bowl games, and do a ton of other things I'm not thinking about right now.

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

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  22. Anonymous9:22 PM

    When we were both commuting, we didn't get home until 9PM. If we ate at home, by the time we shopped, cooked, ate, and cleaned up, the evening would be over. So we didn't. Now that we work from home, we have a food service that delivers a weeks worth of customized, pre-cooked meals. (Neither of us can cook nor do we want to spend the time on it.)

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  23. I have the week between Christmas and New Year off. But... no rest; One third of the family came for Christmas and left late on Boxing Day. Second third turned up on Thursday and won't be leaving until tomorrow, when the last of 'em turn up and stay until Tuesday when I'm back at work.

    As for eating out and only on special occasions. I prefer to cook and if I don't, sandwiches work just as well (or is that cooking, too?).

    I've been hunting for A Plague of Memory (got a bookstore gift card, yay!) but I've been told it won't be out here until February. Hah! I'll just contact the Galaxy Bookstore in Sydney. They'll send it to me.

    Happy New Year, P.

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  24. Darlene wrote: This is pure nosiness on my part. What's the worst piece of writing related advice you ever received?

    Every damn thing my ninth grade English teacher hammered into my head about writing, but especially her insisting that I not use "said" as a dialogue tag. She demanded more "illustrative" tag words like like "retorted" "cooed" and "smirked" because she felt they demonstrated creativity as well as a superior vocabulary.

    Because she was an adult and teaching the stuff, I believed her.

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  25. Cora wrote: Wow. I didn't realize it's the last friday of 2006, but it is! Where did the time go?

    I have no idea, but if you find it, I need a couple of extra weeks, lol.

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  26. Jean wrote: We always pour fresh cat food and dog food into the respective kids' dishes though (although I wound up putting dog food in Natasha's dish by accident and didn't figure out until I was packing up to leave why she wouldn't eat it).

    Pets are weird. My picky cats love the pup's food, while the pup loves the cats' food, his food, our food, the neighbor's poodles' food, and any other edible that might be within jumping range. I found him snitching candy canes off the Christmas tree last week.

    Keeping everyone's nose in their own bowls requires separate feedings, but I'm not sure why the pup is such a food hog. He's definitely getting enough to eat, according to the vet, is the proper weight and we don't feed him from the table. It might just be that he wants to chew rather than eat. At any rate, we have to be really vigilant about not leaving food within his reach.

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  27. Jaye wrote: As for eating out and only on special occasions. I prefer to cook and if I don't, sandwiches work just as well (or is that cooking, too?).

    I consider any meal prepared in the kitchen cooking. I want credit for making even the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. :)

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  28. Anonymous wrote: When we were both commuting, we didn't get home until 9PM. If we ate at home, by the time we shopped, cooked, ate, and cleaned up, the evening would be over. So we didn't.

    If I had to deal with that sort of schedule, I'd likely eat out, too.

    Now that we work from home, we have a food service that delivers a weeks worth of customized, pre-cooked meals. (Neither of us can cook nor do we want to spend the time on it.)

    What a neat idea. There's a catering service that does something like that in a town near me, but you have to go there and pick out what you want, which they assemble for you, and then you have to take it home and cook it. I think it's meant for people who have trouble putting the elements of a meal together or can't get the ingredients right.

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  29. PBW wrote "I'm not sure why the pup is such a food hog. He's definitely getting enough to eat, according to the vet, is the proper weight and we don't feed him from the table."

    You've just described Hershey -- who will eat everything. I have to closely monitor what he eats. He's regained a glorious figure that I'm envious of (and his vet approves). Of course, if I had someone who limited my food every day, and I had no way of getting any more, I might look as good as my dog.

    A food service delivering custom-cooked meals? I used to think that would be too expensive, but I'll bet it's cheaper than eating out everyday...Hmmm....

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  30. Just one that probably you are tired to hear :) Is there any chance of another Jessica Hall book in a near or not so near future?
    Happy New Year!

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  31. How many books did you write before you felt you really hit your stride as an writer? Are any of those books now published?

    I find the hardest type of writing is re-writing an entire novel (ie...going back and fixing immature writing). What about you? Have you gone back and rewritten older novels once you 'hit your stride'? Er...that was three questions. I guess I'm full of 'em tonight! I hope you have a great New Years, PBW. :)

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  32. I just wanted to make a comment. Saturday afternoon, I checked your blog and saw that Plague of memory was already on some store shelves. I literally left dust in my tracks heading to my local bookstore. Praying to the mother of all houses they would have it, I began searching the stacks. My path must be blessed, because I got their only copy. 13 hours later, I just finished it. Hold on, I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I laughed again and I was barley able to finish the book cause of all my blubbering. I was only disappointed about one thing. That I read it so fast. I just hope I don't have to wait to long for the next one. I didn't think I was gonna be able to hold out another 3 days. Thank the mother of all houses I didn't have to. Once again Mrs. Viehl, you have out done your self.

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  33. Juliet wrote: Just one that probably you are tired to hear :) Is there any chance of another Jessica Hall book in a near or not so near future?

    My publisher decided to remainder the last couple of Jessica Hall books last year, and are more interested in me writing paranormals. However, I've got some new options. Nothing is concrete yet, but stayed tuned to the blog -- when things solidify I'll announce it here.

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  34. Patrice wrote: How many books did you write before you felt you really hit your stride as an writer?

    I don't think I've hit my stride yet, lol. The number I wrote before I felt comfortable with writing a novel, about ten.

    Are any of those books now published?

    Not in their original form. Rebel Ice shares some elements with the third novel I wrote, The Diary of Sebatina Hariski (the only copy of which my English teacher heartlessly destroyed back in 1978.) Sun Valley was based on Pursued, a novella I set in Wyoming back in the 80's. Home for the Holidays is a modified version of my seventh novel, Bearing Gifts.

    I find the hardest type of writing is re-writing an entire novel (ie...going back and fixing immature writing). What about you? Have you gone back and rewritten older novels once you 'hit your stride'?

    I don't have time to rewrite them, so I've kept them as storehouses of ideas, characters, plot lines, etc. For various reasons I've already destroyed four of them, mostly to keep them from being published posthumously.

    I'll probably burn the rest someday. They're not written at professional level, and even if they were, I have very strong objections to people helping themselves to a writer's work after the author is dead, as was done to Robert Heinlein. I learned a lot from watching what they did to him.

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  35. Atari wrote many kind things about Plague of Memory, and: I just hope I don't have to wait to long for the next one. I didn't think I was gonna be able to hold out another 3 days.

    Thank you for going to all that trouble to invest in PoM. :) You won't have to wait long; reader response has been so positive that I've decided to write a StarDoc novella that I plan to give away as a free e-book in 2007 -- probably around March or April. The working title at the moment is Wing Rule.

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