Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Maven Erica Ridley Most of you know how I feel about goals. Last year around this time, I yammered on about how they must be specific, quantifiable, realistic, and attainable, and how above all, you (er... I) should be accountable for sticking to them.

Somewhere around mid-year, I fell off the write-every-day wagon.

How did this happen, given that I am the self-professed queen of making specific, quantifiable, realistic, attainable goals and sticking to them like bubble gum on shoes?

Because... I missed a bullet point. I should've added this tiny detail here:

  • Goals must be a priority

Even a goal like "get out of bed by noon" won't come to pass if it seems more important to lay in a sea of pillows with the TiVo remote and a plateful of comfort food.

So. My #1 goal for 2009 is:

Write/Revise/Plot/Daydream about my WIPs every single day, even if a few stolen moments is all I have.

1b: Because it matters.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Quick Update

Maven Jackie BarbosaSince MaveFave Vicki posted yesterday asking how the Mavens are doing, I thought it was the least I could do to pop by for a really quick update and...well, an utterly shameless squee.

As always, the day job, the family, and the writing are keeping me plenty occupied. I am (still :P) working on my option book proposal for Kensington. After writing about 8K, I found myself in a corner I didn't know how to get out of and realized I needed to retool the story from the ground up. Sigh. It happens!

A little over a week ago, I discovered a black and white, low resolution version of the cover art for my Kensington release, Behind the Red Door. Finally, after many excruciating day of impatient anticipation, the color, high-resolution version is here and I can share it with you.

Let me know what you think! But I warn you, it's mine, mine, all mine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

And, It's Off!

Maven Jackie BarbosaAnd by "it," I mean the completed manuscript of Behind the Red Door, my novella anthology which is slated for release by Kensington Books in the summer of 2009! I emailed the file to my editor yesterday (my official "extended" due date) with a follow-up hardcopy hitting the regular mail today.

Yay me!

As you may remember, I started a 30K in 30 days challenge to help motivate myself to finish. I wound up not only meeting, but exceeding my 30-day goal, although it wound up taking 32 days for me to put the final finishing touches on it. I literally closed the file ten minutes before I emailed it out.

So now, I'm free. (Breaks into a refrain of "I'm free to do what I want any old time.") It's a rather odd sensation, actually. I've been bound to that book for so long, I feel a little rudderless.

Oh, it's not that I don't have ideas. No, no, never that! It's more that I have a plethora of them, and since none of them are contracted, it's hard to prioritize. That said, for the next couple of weeks, I'm going to kick back and do some fun projects--a short story for a freebie Christmas anthology Anna Leigh Keaton is putting together and a short Christmas novella for Cobblestone Press.

After that, I reckon I'll get serious again by putting together a proposal for an option book for Kensington. And then we'll see what happens.

YOUR TURN: What have you been up to the past month while I (and the other Mavens) have been hiding in our caves? Tell us all the news. We'd love to hear!

Monday, September 15, 2008

30k in 30 Days Challenge--Update

Maven Jackie BarbosaI planned to check in a little more often than this, but actually doing the writing seemed to eat up most of my time. (Wonder how that could have happened?) I have been managing to update my daily word count on my blog, but that's about it for updates so far.

So, yesterday marked Day 15 of the challenge. I'm a little shy of 15k at this point, but that's primarily because yesterday was Sunday, and Sundays are always iffy for writing (this funny little thing called "family time" seems to get in the way, lol).

The good news, however, is that this method seems to be working. Making sure I sit down and write every single day with a specific goal in mind has made a huge difference in my productivity. When I do get a good, solid block of time, I am writing faster and more efficiently, and finding it not that hard to meet or even exceed the 1,000 word goal.

Which is a good thing, because I've now completed two of the three novellas that are due on October 1, and it's going to take me more than 1,000 words per day to finish the one I'm writing now. My math tells me I now have to average 1,400 words to write THE END on that one by September 29, the last day of the challenge, giving me a whopping ONE DAY to polish it up before sending it in. Am I worried? Nah! I'm freaking terrified. LOL.

YOUR TURN: Update us on your writing progress for the last fifteen days. If you're in on the challenge, how's it going? If you're not, what are your current goals and how are things coming along? Remember, we love to hear from you, even if we are pretty quiet ourselves!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That Crazy Internet

Maven Darcy BurkeHowdy Mavenland! I had to share something I learned this evening from my brother...he found our cousins. Were they lost? Not really, just lost to us. Long story short: Our father had one sister and she moved to Denmark in 1951. I only met her once in the early 80s. We lost touch with her (and consequently our cousins) after our grandmother died in 1987 (my father died the previous year). I'd always wondered what was going on with them, but it never, ever occurred to me to Google them.

And how stupid was that.

See, my aunt was an actress, and a rather famous one in Denmark. She has a page in Danish Wikipedia! And my eldest cousin, Kim Sagild, was in a successful latin/jazz/funk band (Buki-Yamaz - they have a myspace page with super groovy music!) and went on to do something in music (he came to visit once also - I remember him as being so, so, so cool - I think I was maybe 9?). My other two cousins, Paprika (if you go to her page here at Internet Movie Database, click on the first trailer for The Substitute and watch what happens to her at the end!) and Nikolaj Steen were also artists, but I'd no idea Paprika won the equivalent of the Danish Oscar - for both best actress and supporting the same year! Wild.

My brother gets credit for finding them and is trying to make contact. I hope he's successful and that we'll be able to swap photos and stories. I'm certain we have much to share about our families and I'm really excited about the possibilities.

Ah, Internet, sometimes your powers are far more good than evil.

So what's the Internet done for you lately?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Guest Maven Delilah Marvelle - Go Buy Her Debut Book!

We're thrilled to welcome Delilah back to the Mavendom to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Mistress of Pleasure. You might recall Delilah sharing her call story with us last year. Her years of dedication and persistence have finally paid off, culminating in this fabulous day! Congrats Delilah!

Mistress of Pleasure is finally here. Purchase a lesson...if you dare!

Today is a very exciting day for me!!! Why? Because my first book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, officially hits stores. (Gleefully clapping hands here.) Instead of the usual throwing of pitches and excerpts and whatnot, I decided to keep it simple.

Behind every book, there is a story. And needless to say, behind my upcoming debut, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, which centers around a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, there are several. Because I don’t want to write a book about THE book, I’ve decided to elaborate as simply as I can about the inspiration behind the creation of MISTRESS OF PLEASURE. That inspiration first coming from my research, when I stumbled upon Ninon de L’Enclos, a French 17th century courtesan.

Truth be told, I find it rather astounding that this fascinating woman somehow disappeared into the shadows of history. She is but a ghost whenever the topic of courtesans arise. For we usually hear of the same old, same old courtesans like Kitty Fisher, Cora Pearl or Harriette Wilson. Let me be the first to tell you, however, that none of these women could possibly rival Ninon de L’Enclos or her life. But don’t take my word for it. Research her on your own and come to your conclusion. Bottom line, Ninon’s thoughts, philosophies, and her approach toward men and sex went beyond anything I have ever seen in a woman of her day.

Much like other courtesans, she kept her bedroom door open to aristocratic men, yes. But unlike other courtesans, she kept that bedroom door open for more than just sex. This woman actually held meetings and classes in the confines of her bedchamber where men of all ages would come to visit in order to discuss topics of sex, philosphy and love. These so-called meetings fascinated me and in turn, began to create the growing threads of what is now Mistress of Pleasure. The more I researched, the more excited I became. For there was almost too much to work with. For instance, Ninon had various lovers, as you might imagine. But to one lover in particular, she birthed a son. A son who was raised apart from her to never know who she was due to her being a courtesan. Then one day, when her son was a grown man, he happened to one day meet Ninon. And fell madly in love with her. (And no, I’m not bloody making this up…). Though she had sworn to never reveal her identity to her son, because his advances were growing more and more passionate and he altogether outright refused to leave her be, she finally told him the truth. That she was in fact his mother and that was why there would never be a sexual relationship between them. Her son was so overwhelmed and distraught by the confession, that he left her house and committed suicide by falling onto the blade of his own sword. Another story, somewhat less morbid, was about one man who begged and begged Ninon to admit him into her bed. She refused him time and time again and finally told him, “Return when I am eighty. Then I shall bed you.” The besotted fool took her words quite literally and arrived on her doorstep many, many years late, when she turned eighty. Ninon was so amused, she ended up bedding him, after all.

As you can tell by the stories I am selecting, it is the older Ninon that ultimately fascinated me. Which created a dilemma for my writing. Because my heroine couldn’t possibly be an elderly lady. It would never sell. But then I got to thinking. What if she were a grandmother of the heroine? Now THAT had possibilities. At about the same time I started writing AN IMPROPER EDUCATION (which is what I called it before the publisher changed it), MY grandmother re-appeared in my life. After 20 years of complete and utter silence. Which is a whole other story I don’t have time to go into… Soon, I discovered that the grandmother I never knew was actually an opera singer who had married into American Aristocracy and was living the life of a queen. My grandmother had an air of royalty to her and was quite beautiful for a woman her age. She had a heavy accent, walked with a sashay and always used amusing little words that I’d never heard before. For instance, she referred to sex as “Poom-poom.” She amused me so much so, that I could not help but morph her and Ninon together to create the fictional character that ultimately became Madame de Maitenon, who is both the creator of the School of Gallantry and the grandmother of my heroine, Maybelle de Maitenon. And so, I ended up with a story about a retired French courtesan who opens up a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, and the granddaughter who is unexpectedly forced to take over the operation of the school and educate all the men. Even though she has very little personal experience. Life certainly makes for some interesting fiction. And I have to say, I’m glad for it. At least in the case of this book. For an excerpt, more information or to sign up for my newsletter, please head over to my website.

Delilah Marvelle

What a fabulous story, Delilah! Anyone else use true stories or characters for their books? Dish!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The 30K in 30 Days Challenge

Maven Jackie BarbosaSince I last posted right before leaving for the RWA National Convention, I've been swamped by the day job. My company holds a conference for its clients every year in late August or early September (depending on when we can get the hotel), and I'm a major contributor to the effort. This year, I gave four presentations, none of which were remotely close to being developed at the beginning of this month. I had four weeks to get my act together, and believe me, I needed every one of those weeks.

So NOW, I have another deadline looming over me. I've promised all three of the Red Door novellas by October 1st. The first novella is (thankfully) already complete, but the second and third are sitting at 5,000 words (of a projected 25K) and roughly 20.5K (or a projected 30K). Soooo, to finish and ship the printed manuscript off to New York in time, I've got to write an average of 1,000 words per day for the next thirty days.

That's more than doable, of course. But since I've been "out of the saddle" for a full month now, it seems more than a bit daunting. And so, in an effort to motivate myself, I'm setting down the 30K in 30 Days Challenge. My friend and critique partner, Emma Petersen, even created this graphic you can post on your blog or website if you decide to jump on the bandwagon:

The challenge officially begins today, Sunday, August 31 and ends Monday, September 29, but you can jump in any time with your own start and end dates. If you'd like to engage in periodic check-ins, support, encouragement, commiseration, advice, and the occasional ass-whuppin' when you need it, simply leave a comment on this post. I'll be posting again next week to let you know where things stand, and you can let me know how you're doing, too. In addition, I'll be keeping a calendar on my personal blog to show my progress. There's nothing like a little shame and humiliation to keep me on track!

YOUR TURN: Want to join the fun? Leave a comment and I'll blogroll you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We're Still Here!

Maven Darcy BurkeHey Mave Faves! We're still here, we're all just swamped. Busy writing fabulous stories for you! (I'm working on book two of my Wicked trilogy - Their Wicked Bargain - it's so fun!) We'll post when the mood strikes, or if anyone has questions, we'll answer those too.

I'm so thrilled to share that our dear friend Courtney Milan just announced her first sale - a two-book deal to HQN. Feel free to squee congrats here or over on her blog (see link). We're so excited for her!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guest Maven Angie Fox Dishes Demon Slaying, Research, and Biker Dogs

Guest Maven Angie FoxWe're so thrilled to welcome New York Times Bestselling* Mave Fave Angie Fox! Her debut novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, was released last Tuesday - buy it now! Angie answered some burning questions for us. She'll be around today if you have any more you'd like to pose. Plus, she's giving a signed copy of The Accidental Demon Slayer to one lucky poster!

How do you develop your plots and characters?
With The Accidental Demon Slayer, I started off with a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a bad boy demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I started writing and let the story evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. And I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
For me, it’s both. For example, when I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’ Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard).

It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I had fun with it. In fact, I suspect Pirate the dog is my editor’s favorite character. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Pirate helped talk my editor into buying The Accidental Demon Slayer.

So did plot influence character? Maybe there it did. But I can tell you that as the book evolves, Pirate the dog does his share of influencing the plot too. Bottom line? I think the most important thing when you sit down to the keyboard is to be willing to follow your story in new directions, because if you’re enjoying the surprise, chances are your readers will too.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Loads, actually. First off, the biker witches ride Harleys, and I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Second, I had to figure out how to get Pirate the dog onto a bike.

I went online and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).

After a few outings with my new biker friends, I was able to make my geriatric biker witch characters a lot more realistic. And I took home some great pictures, too.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I’m always trying to outdo myself, especially at the end of a book. It drives my critique partner nuts. Typical feedback will come like this, “What are you doing? Don’t get me wrong. I like it when you come up with quirky new hideouts for the Red Skull biker witches. But we’re heading into the climax of the book. Why do we need a new one?”

I usually don’t have any good answer to questions like that except, “I did it because it amused me.” But, really, if I’m entertaining myself as a writer, won’t my readers have more fun too? At least that’s my excuse. In the case of the new hideout, it worked out. The Red Skulls end up on this abandoned riverboat that they’d enchanted years earlier (while drunk on dandelion wine). Now they not only need a safe place, but they need to catch the Choking spells, Lose Your Keys spells, not to mention the Frozen Underwear spells ready to attack from around corners and behind the old jukebox.

Do you have anything else to add?
Sure do – check out the What’s Your Biker Witch Name? quiz. You can post your cool new biker name here, or even on my blog, where you can enter to have your real name in my next book.

Ooh, cool contest, Angie!

Angie Fox is the author of The Accidental Demon Slayer. Critics call it, "fresh, unique and larger than life," Angie simply calls it fun. That's because she gets a kick out of surprising herself, and her readers, with plenty of plot twists, magical moments and sizzling romance.

*Updated August 8 upon learning The Accidental Demon Slayer is number 34 on the NYT Bestsellers List. Congratulations Angie!! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

San Francisco Photo Album

Maven Darcy Burke

Hello Mave Faves! I had a great time in San Francisco! No, I didn't win the Golden Heart, but honestly I was just thrilled to be a finalist. It was so great meeting all of the other Pixie Chicks (that's what we 2008 Golden Heart finalists call ourselves). We even had t-shirts!

It was especially wonderful to see so many great friends: Julianne, Santa, Manda, Elodie, Tessa, Amy, Sara, Courtney, and so many more! I also loved meeting for the first time Leigh, Louisa, Anna, Elisabeth, Angie, and all the Pixie Chicks! I have to give a special shout out to my roommate, Pamela Fryer, who won the Golden Heart for Best Series Contemporary Action Adventure! Yay Pam! (Here are pics of me with J Perry Stone, Courtney Milan, Anna Campbell, and Pam Fryer.)
And here's a pic of some of the FanLit alums from two years ago:

And last but not least, here are the Mavens! Unfortunately Carrie couldn't be with us and I've no idea how to crop her in.

It was an exhausting four days, but I learned a lot and networked my little tush off. (Actually, it's still there. Pesky thing.)
Be sure to stop in tomorrow when Angie Fox is our guest Maven. You want to find out your Biker Witch name, don't you? Post a comment and you could win a signed copy of Angie's brand new debut, The Accidental Demon Slayer. I'm reading it now and it's hi-larious.

How was your conference? If you weren't there, how productive were you without us to bother you?

Friday, August 1, 2008

My Heart (and More's) in San Francisco

Maven Jackie BarbosaBy the time this post appears (thank you, Draft Blogger, for the ability to manipulate time and space!), I'll be in San Francisco at this year's RWA National Conference. Based on my experience at last year's Dallas event, I'm sure I'm already exhausted, overwhelmed, and giddy with pleasure.

Last year, I have to admit that I spent most of my time a) hanging out friends, b) hovering around the pitch room, and c) in the booksigning area snapping up free, signed books. What I didn't do was attend a whole lot of workshops, perhaps in part because I couldn't decide which would be useful to me and which wouldn't. A few that I went to were very worthwhile, but many wound up not addressing my needs in one way or another and I ducked out before they were over.

This year, I'm still expecting to spend a lot of time on a) and c), though not quite as much on b), since I don't need to pitch either agents or editors (and believe me, I'm as shocked as anyone by that). I would like to chat with some editors informally about some of my other projects to see if anyone seems really interested in seeing any of them when I'm ready to submit. Hence, I volunteered to help in the pitch room on Friday afternoon.

I'm also hoping to meet my Kensington editor, John Scognamiglio, since I hear he'll be in attendance, and I know I'll be having dinner on Saturday night with my wonderful agent, Kevan Lyon, and some of her other clients (can you say networking, baby?). Since I'm bunking at a family friend's house, I've set aside one evening to get away from it all and have a quiet dinner with her.

Beyond that, though, I haven't made up my mind what to do with myself. I've marked a few workshops/sessions that sound interesting/useful to try to attend. I will probably check out the PAN retreat on Thursday afternoon.

I have to be honest, though, and say that if I had my druthers, I'd find a quiet corner somewhere in the hotel to hole up and write. Because three whole days away from the demands of husband, kids, house, and the day job is just too seductive an opportunity to ignore. Especially with a deadline hanging over my head.

YOUR TURN: What would YOU do it you were me? Suck up as many conference goodies and workshops as possible, or find that quiet corner?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Conferencing We Will Go!

Maven Darcy BurkeI apologize for the brevity of this post, but I still have eleventy billion things on my to-do list before I leave for San Francisco bright and early this morning (as you read this, it's "this morning").

I am thrilled that one of our very own Mave Faves, Angie Fox, will be guest blogging next week to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, which went on sale yesterday. If you haven't yet purchased your copy, run to the bookstore! I plan on picking mine up tonight at the Literacy Signing and getting it autographed to ME! Congratulations Angie!!!

And that, I'm afraid, is the end of my post today. Next week I will post a newsy summary of all the fabulousness that was the 2008 RWA Conference. I am so excited to see old (and new) friends and partake in the roller coaster ride of being a Golden Heart finalist. I am especially looking forward to the champagne reception Friday afternoon for GH finalists and RITA nominees (and their editors!). I promise I'll take pictures!

Ciao, Mave Faves!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on the work/live balance...

Maven Carrie RyanWe've been talking about it around here recently, the work/life balance conundrum.  And recently, my fiance JP also blogged about it.  Plus, I've been struggling with the whole balance issue myself recently, so I thought I'd blog about it.

I think JP brings up a lot of good points, one of them being:

My other thought is that you need to take the time you need to get things done right. And that means that sometimes writing needs to win out, and that means sometimes the Day Job or other things need to win out. The trick is to keep one from pushing other off the face of the map, particularly writing. Too many people let the stress of life be an excuse not to write, myself included. Conversely, though, you shouldn't let the drive to write add more stress to an already stressful period.
 As JP points out in his post, there are a lot of people who will say that if you truly love writing, if you truly are a writer, then you'll find the time to write.  No matter what.  You'll sacrifice everything else before you'll sacrifice writing.  But I think that is unreasonable when you've also got other things going on in life: day job, raising kids, moving, a budding relationship, etc.  It's just a fact of life that sometimes, other things will have to come first.

Conversely, I hear from a ton of writers who never put writing first.  Family, job, cleaning the house, volunteer work, exercise, cooking, etc. always comes first.  This is also unreasonable if you want to be a professional writer.

We all know that a writer writes -- it's the bottom line of the profession.  How that happens?  That's the difficulty.  And yeah, it's going to take sacrifice.  If you want to sell a book, I don't think you can just throw writing on at the end of your priorities and have that be enough.  Just the opposite, I think that it has to come first (and has to come first a lot).  That's why I'll be eating a frozen dinner tonight.  And tomorrow night.  And every night this week -- because it takes a lot of time to cook and that's time I could be writing.  That's why our house is often messy -- because we write rather than clean.  That's why our garden isn't winning us any awards in our neighborhood.

We had to prioritize.  One of the first things to go -- most TV shows.  Did I *really* need to know who the last Cylon was right when the rest of the world found out (or has it even been revealed yet)?  Nope, that's what Netflix is for.  Do I *really* have to see the million different shows about planning a wedding?  Nope, that's what eloping is for (just kidding mom!).  Even when I go online and find myself following comment trails on blogs and message boards I ask myself: do I really need to spend time doing this?

And sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes other things must take priority.  Yes, JP and I take the time to walk the dog and spend time together.  We take the time for our day jobs because we happen to like our house.  But we looked at what could go, and we cut it.  I do think often that's the investment writing to go pro requires.

But you know, the thing is, sometimes life just gets in the way.  You meet someone new.  You get buried at work.  Sometimes, even though it's a big priority, writing just has to get bumped down for your own sanity.  For me, the key is then to ENJOY that time not writing.  I think of it like dieting, if you're going to eat that tres leches cake, enjoy it!  Don't sneak it in, pretend you're not eating it -- no! sit there and savor it!  Same thing with time off -- admit that you're taking time off.  Live with the decision, and don't beat yourself up.  But also acknowledge that taking that time might mean extending personal deadlines -- again, you have to make that decision knowingly and honestly and then live with it!

In the end, remember that you're going to mess up.  We're human, it happens.  Sometimes the alarm will go off at 5:30 and you'll jump out of bed ready to write.  Sometimes you'll keep hitting snooze until your fiance rips the clock cord out of the wall.  I think it's a constant struggle and it constantly needs tweaking.  Bottom line, I think you just have to be honest with yourself.  It's way too easy to fritter away time rather than being conscious about the choices you're making.

All that being said... I have some pages to write :)  What are y'all's thoughts on the work/life balance?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Writer's Log Jam

Maven Jackie BarbosaLike Darcy, I was going to blog about my pre-conference preparations, jitters, and excitements this week, but another topic has been pushed to the forefront of my mind by recent events. You see, I'm in the throes of writing my two contracted but as yet unfinished novellas, and I'm realizing that I have a problem. It's kind of like writer's block, but not exactly. It's more like writer's log jam.

You see, I'm not suffering from a paucity of ideas. Quite the reverse. I have too many!

The novella I'm currently writing (the third chronologically in the anthology, but the second I "conceived") is giving me fits because I'm afraid it won't fit within its 25K-35K boundaries. I have at least a dozen more scenes rattling around in my head that could and/or should go into this story, but I'm already pushing 20K and I'm still miles from the Black Moment. The result is that I'm finding it difficult to decide which scenes I should write and which I shouldn't. Worse, I'm an incredibly linear writer, so I can't just write the scenes out of order and put them together later. I have to know for certain what happened before the scene I'm currently writing, or I can't write it.

To make matters worse, other stories are plaguing me. Driving through the Black Hills on our way back from our vacation in Minnesota the week before last got me itching to write a Western historical (which I never thought I'd do, but the place is just do darned evocative!). Add that idea to all the others taking up space in my brain (there must be at least a dozen, if not more, begging to be written), and I'm finding it quite difficult to concentrate on the projects I'm actually obligated to complete! The words for the stories I must write are getting jumbled up with the words for the stories I want to write.

So, is there a solution to this dilemma? Short of just plugging away and doing what I have to do, I doubt it. But somehow, putting my finger on the root of the problem has me feeling a bit less anxious if nothing else. "Writer's block"--the possibility that my ideas will dry up and I won't be able to write anything at all--terrifies me. Being caught in an idea traffic jam doesn't make me nearly as nervous!

YOUR TURN: Do you suffer from writer's log jam? How do you overcome your selfish desire to set aside the project you're currently working on to start a new one? Or do you just give into temptation?

P.S. I'm also blogging today at the Aphrodisia Authors blog and guest-blogging with my critique partner, Emma Petersen, over at Shiloh Walker's blog. Drop by and see me if you get a chance!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can't.Pick.Title.For.Post. (too wiped out.)

Maven Lacey KayeThe past two weeeks have been absolutely, unbelievably, wonderfully, insanely, unforgettably stupendaculous. Let me summarize:

WED: Do a little research on trysting. Find it highly entertaining.

THUR: Kayak from Renton to Mercer Island (and back).

FRI: Poker night with the guys at Bryan Crancy's.

SAT: Attend a party at the invitation of a friend's brother. Go with said friend to said party (and take own friends), ready to party, only to find out it's a Celebration of Life party i.e. funeral. @#%!.

SUN: Watch 1080p Batman Begins on friend's new PS3 (BluRay) in the comfort of own living room. Sweet.

MON: Crash friend's fitness club's 2 hour boot camp session, followed by wrecking same friend's motorcycle, ended by a cozy heart-to-heart with friend and friend's husband at dinner.


WED: Hurt like hell. Browse craigslist for motorcycles.

THURS: Hurt like hell. Sign up for motorcycle licensing course in September.

FRI: Feel marginally better. Dinner with the girls. One crazy story after another.

SAT: Work 12.5 hours, dash home to walk dog, have first-ever experience at a Turkish restaurant, followed by quality time at Del Rey, capped off with shocking drunk-text from completely inappropriate person. Delicious.

SUN: Work, then host barbeque for friend's birthday and attempt to give food poisoning to 12 people.

MON: Get food poisoning. Be rushed to medical when 2nd level manager decides to mobilize the troops at the end of a meeting. ("Have a good day out there, everyone. And oh, yeah. You guys better take care of Lacey 'cause it looks like she's dying.") Cue frantic shuffling, coddling and general insanity.

Spend rest of day wishing actually were dying.

TUES: Drag poor, cramped, burning stomach into work. Because am covering for manager. Oh. Almost forgot about that.

WED: The angels are shining down because somehow calendar magically becomes devoid of commitments. Discover no weight has been gained in past 2 weeks of slackerhood. Pay bills. Organize tickets and logistics for upcoming San Francisco and Vegas trips. Make it home while it's still daylight. Go running. Clock in under takt time. Get blog post written.

Think about sleeping sometime.

Enjoy being alive.

:-) See you in SF!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Only Thing that Matters at Conference

Maven Darcy BurkeAnd no, I'm not talking about Spanx (which is still really, really important). Anyone else shocked the RWA conference is next week? I can't very well say this crept up on me, but wow, did time fly. I'm feeling slightly more prepared than last year, but that's probably only because I don't have to ready the one thing that gave me fits last year: pitching. Not that I'm not, er, ready with a two-line spiel about Glorious, my GH-finalist manuscript. From what I'm told, the GH-finalist ribbon on my nametag will practically ensure that anyone and everyone will ask what my book is about. So, I'd better be ready! Especially if one of those somebodies is an editor with Glorious on their desk!

As for the rest:

Outfits? Check
Preprinted handouts for workshops I plan to attend? Check
Highlighted schedule? Check
Business cards? Check
Cool new name tag holder with various pins? Check
Extra space for copious books? Check
Insane amounts of excitement about hooking up with all my writing pals? Double check!

Neuroses? In spades, baby because this list nowhere near covers everything I need to remember - both what I'm bringing to San Francisco and what I need to organize for the Burkettes at home. See, I need to be extra organized because Mr. Burke is joining me in San Francisco for the Golden Heart/RITA ceremony Saturday night. He flies in Saturday afternoon and then we're heading home Sunday.

Doubtless you've read a gazillion blogs over the past couple of weeks about conference: what to wear, what not to wear, how to pitch, how to network, best uses of your time, blah, blah. The only bits of advice I offer is to try to get enough sleep and have a great time. (Yes, I realize the first might preclude the other, especially if you're a night owl and can't say no to an invitation to hang out with agents, editors, RITA-winning authors, that cool writer you met at lunch who loved The Dark Knight as much as you did, ahem.) We've talked before about how great local chapters are for the writing comaraderie. Well the RWA National Conference (I guess it's really international as I know plenty of folks from Britain, Canada, and Australia are joining us) is a fantastic way to OD on that kinship and love of all things writerly. So, go forth and have fun. I hope to have some with you!

Any advice about conference? What's your favorite part? Anything in particular you're looking forward to this year?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What you wish you had known...

Maven Carrie RyanTonight I'm giving my first ever talk to a group of writers.  To be fair, I'm a last minute substitute and I'm talking to a very small group.  We're all both writers and member of the local bar (i.e. lawyers) and I wasn't given a topic.  We're all in very different stages with different goals -- some have been published in short fiction, some poetry, some are writing non-fiction and historical.  And so I've had a hard time trying to figure out what to focus on in my talk. 

Many of them aren't ready to worry about how to find agents and the ins/outs of submissions.  And my path to publication with a YA novel will be different from someone writing poetry or nonfiction.  It's been a really wonderful exercise trying to figure out what to talk about because it's made me realize just how much I've learned about this business over the years.  But it's also made me wonder -- how much do you need to know?  I spend a fair amount of time reading blogs, industry sites, books.  I check out message boards and talk to other writers.  That's the kind of person I am (and I know it often drives my friends crazy): when I'm faced with something I don't know, I research the heck out of it.

But there are other people I meet who didn't bother with any of that.  They wrote their books without paying attention to markets and trends.  They found agents by looking a few up online and submitting.  They don't pay much attention to industry gossip and forums and blogs about which agents prefer what.

I feel like there's so much information out there that's so readily available that it makes me wonder how people ever made it in publishing before the internet and chat rooms and blogs!  But they did.  At the same time, I've heard anecdotally that the internet has raised the bar for agents and editors: they have less tolerance for those who don't know how to write a query or format a manuscript because such information is so readily available.

So it's made me wonder (a) what I can share with this group that they can't find/haven't found out on their own pretty easily and (b) whether anything I have to say will be useful or helpful.  Because there are no rules in this business and mine is just one story out of thousands -- it should be taken in the context of all those other stories.  But then I remember that we're all writers (and lawyers which makes us analytical) so we enjoy sharing stories.  Hopefully that will be enough!  Also, hopefully they'll have a lot of questions :)  And just in case they don't... I'm turning to y'all for help!

So if you were just starting out in writing, what questions would you have?  What would you want to hear a soon-to-have-a-book-on-the-shelf author to talk about?

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Anniversary Jamboree!

Welcome to the final day of the Mavens' First Anniversary Jamboree! Thanks so much for being with us this week and celebrating our first year. We want to especially thank the guest authors who bared their souls this week:

Alesia Holliday aka Alyssa Day
Angie Fox
Anna Campbell
Amie Stuart
Debra Dixon
Debby Mayne
Delilah Marvelle
Elissa Wilds
Jennifer Haymore
Julie Leto
Karen Lingefelt
Roxanne St. Claire
Tanya Michaels
Teri Brown
Terri Garey
Tessa Dare
Virginia Henley

Now, before we announce this week's winners, we have one final question to share.

If you could pick one of your books to make into a movie, which one would you choose and who would star in it?

Alesia Holliday aka Alyssa Day

7 Ways to Lose Your Lover starring Katherine Heigl.

Claiming the Courtesan (although it would definitely have an adult rating!) with Richard Armitage as the Duke of Kylemore and Olivia Hussey in her 20s as Verity. I'm assuming I can time travel on my casting!

True Pretenses starring Eric Bana and Kate Winslet.

Debra Dixon
Check out her YA story in the WITCH HIGH anthology coming in October. Debra's Belle Books has great summer titles available and is excited about the launch of Belle Bridge Books.
BAD TO THE BONE. Without a doubt. Starring Eliza Dushku and Daniel Craig (but that's just because I rarely cast in my head and time is too short to seriously consider the male lead. I mean really. One would need massive amounts of time to review their photos and then to audition. )

Tanya Michaels, author of A DAD FOR HER TWINS, a "State of Parenthood" book from Harlequin American Romance, in stores Sept 08! (Tanya's also a speaker at RWA this year!)
One of the most exciting things that's happened to me in my career is that a production company showed some interest in my book MOTHERHOOD WITHOUT PAROLE...sadly, nothing ever came of it. I think MAID OF DISHONOR, my debut romantic comedy, would have made a great movie, but movies about the maid of honor trying to stop the wedding have been DONE (most recently, and cutely, by blue-eyed Patrick Dempsey). Hmmm. I'm honestly not sure. I can see DATING THE MRS. SMITHS or NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS being pretty solid women's movies, but the latter would definitely make people cry. I'd rather make audiences laugh, but they'd lose the humor in the characters' thoughts--unless I took a page from Meredith Grey or Veronica Mars and relied on voice-overs. Must think this over more before I issue a casting call... Oh, wait, I got it! I have a comedy coming out next spring, MISTLETOE CINDERELLA, which will be the third in my Mistletoe series, kicking off Nov 08. It's a funny mistaken identity story with (IMO) charming and misguided characters. I like Jewel Staite for Chloe, because Jewel (probably best known for Firefly/Serenity) can be believably awkward/nerdy but is also charismatic and lovely. For the hero, Dylan... maybe Jensen Ackles.

Amie Stuart
Probably NAILED because I could SO see Eliza Dushku bashing in Wynn’s knee with a bat and then not apologizing for it. She’s hot, sexy and tough. For Wynn……hmmmm that’s a tough call. Maybe Nathan Fillion even though he doesn’t really LOOK anything like Wynn I could see him pulling the part off (and he’s hot in that cute aw shucks sorta way).

THEN YOU HIDE with Paul Walker and Scarlett Johanssen.

Jeremy, the hero of Goddess of the Hunt, was quite consciously modeled after Clive Owen. And maybe a brunette Amy Adams as Lucy - she doesn't look much like her, but she could pull off the sass and physical comedy perfectly.

Between Light and Dark. I think it would make a bang up action/romance. For the hero: Clive Owen. For the heroine: that one’s more difficult. When writing it I sort of pictured a younger, plumper Sandra Bullock. Could it be me? I would love to star with Clive.

Oh, definitely DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY. The heroine would be played by Zoeey Deschanel, and the hero by David Boreanz.

Virginia Henley
A WOMAN OF PASSION starring Catherine Zeta Jones.

Our winners this week are:

Phyllis Towzey
Cynthia Sherrick Mitchell
Elyssa Papa

We have five books (3 by Alesia Holliday aka Alyssa Day, 1 by Debby Mayne, and your choice of Notorious or Infamous by Virginia Henley) and four query letter critiques. Email the Mavens to claim your prize. It's first come, first pick!

Who would you invite to dinner:
1) Karen Lingefelt - B, Laura Ingalls Wilder
2) Debby Mayne - E, Elvis
3) Julie Leto - D, J.K. Rowling
4) Virginia Henley - C, King Charles II of England
5) Delilah Marvelle - A, Edith Wharton

Five MaveFaves were 2/5 with their guesses, but that's the best anyone could do!

Who traveled to the Orkney Islands north of Scotland? Since we were talking about distances, if you know Anna Campbell lives in Australia, you might've deduced this is quite a way to travel! All of our MaveFaves correctly guessed Anna!

Which three authors have been to the Philippines?
Alesia Holliday, Tessa Dare, and Amie Stuart. Kimmyl got the only 100% right answer this week on these two Tuesday questions!

For karaoke, our favorite authors sing...
1) Terri Garey - C, Crazy for You by Madonna
2) Elissa Wilds - E, Wake Me Up Inside by Evanescence
3) Teri Brown - G, Ah Leah by Donny Iris
4) Virginia Henley - A, New York, New York
5) Anna Campbell - B, Tainted Love!
6) Jennifer Haymore - D, My Sharona
7) Amie Stuart - F, Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks

These were tought! Our authors are brave souls! Let's see who we can get to sing in San Francisco...

Extreme activities...
Delilah Marvelle climbed the Mayan ruins in Belize
Karen Lingefelt is the hero raising an autistic son
Jennifer Haymore sailed across the Pacific and swam with sharks
Alesia Holliday repelled down the side of a mountain
Roxanne St. Clair white water rafted in Idaho
Amie Stuart took a dare and went parasailing
Debra Dixon allowed herself to be pulled on a a glass-bottom boat
Virginia Henley braved the Skiddaw and Helvellyn Mountains in England

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Anniversary Jamboree!

Welcome to Day Four of the Mavens' First Anniversary Jamboree! Thanks so much for hanging out with us the past year. We've enjoyed sharing successes, frustrations, and milestones. Here's to another year!

We've asked our favorite authors to answer some burning questions and every day this week we're giving you the inside scoop. Be sure to read the bonus question and answer Monday through Thursday for the chance to win fabulous prizes. And please, share your own answers...if you dare!

How old were you when you got your first crush? Do you have a current crush? (For the purposes of our survey, we disallowed significant others and spouses.)

Alesia Holliday
13. I was a math geek and was alternately crushing on the other math geek in the class and the swim champion (I like brains *and* brawn, evidently. LOL). Toss up between Gerard Butler and Hugh Jackman, but only in bad boy roles.

Debra Dixon
Check out her YA story in the WITCH HIGH anthology coming in October. Debra's Belle Books has great summer titles available and is excited about the launch of Belle Bridge Books.

I was probably 14 and had an agonizing crush on my best-friend's big brother. And I'm currently crushing on any number of men. It's a hobby. My husband is aware of it. Robert Downey, Jr. in IRON MAN was totally crushworthy.

Tanya Michaels, author of A DAD FOR HER TWINS, a "State of Parenthood" book from Harlequin American Romance, in stores Sept 08! (Tanya's also a speaker at RWA this year!)
Kindergarten. His name was William. We played superhero on the playground. He was my first kiss--giving me chicken pox just in time for vacation! I don't have a steady current crush, although I'm infatuated with several different television characters depending on how great their plotlines and dialogue (and their eyes...and their smiles) are in any given episode. I'd feel bad for my husband, being saddled with such a fickle wife, but since he has some pretty big crushes of his own, I'm guilt-free.

Julie Leto
Probably VERY young and on that little boy who was on HR Puffinstuff. My current crush? Colin Firth. Alan Rickman. If I was seventeen again, it would be Daniel Radcliffe. I'm such a Harry Potter geek.

I crushed out of control on Jimmy Gallagher in second grade - green eyes, crooked smile, sandy blonde hair. Today, I'm writing a hero named Dan Gallagher - green eyes, crooked smile, sandy blonde hair. Some dreams die hard. I crush on my heros, and the occasional celeb, and this hottie that lives down the street who's home for college. Fortunately, my husband is both tolerant and gorgeous, so my crushing is a source of amusement (and writing inspiration) only.

Oh, probably like 5. It was either Ricky Schroeder or that kid who played Albert on Little House on the Prairie. And of course I still have celebrity crushes now. I'm a currently a slave for Clive Owen, Colin Firth, James McAvoy...really, I could go on all day.

Honestly? Third grade. His name was Mark Murray and he had horses. It was a double whammy! LOL. The first serious crush (first kiss), was in the eighth grade, when I was thirteen. My current crush is singer Chris Cornell.

Ten. Do I have a current crush? Yes. But I ain’t telling.

Virginia Henley
I got my first crush at 13 - it was Robert Wagner. My current crush is Johnathan Rhys Meyers.

Today's Prize Question is:

What's the most extreme activity you've ever done?...

In your comment, correctly match each author with their extreme activity and you'll be entered in a drawing for a cool prize! (In the event no one gets all matches correct, the person with the most will win. In the event of a tie, we'll draw.)

-Rappelling off the side of a mountain
-Sailed across the South Pacific Ocean in a 42-foot catamaran. Swam with sharks, got deathly ill from fish poisoning, and skirted hurricanes along the way.
-Raising my autistic son
-White water rafting in Idaho - terrifying, exhilerating, unforgettable.
-Climbing the Mayan ruins in Belize. I hate heights and so climbing it was the most extreme thing I have ever done. When I reached the top and looked out onto the endless landscape of the jungle and ruins, I cried. Because of the height and the beauty. Getting down was a whole other adventure. I don't do extreme sports because I am clumsy as all hell and I know I would kill myself trying to do it. And I rather like life, thank you.
-When I was young and stupid, I'd pretty much ski or ride anything you could pull behind a boat. And we tried to ski some very interesting things behind some very interesting boats. And if you're wondering, you can get enough speed out of a 14 foot, flat-bottomed fishing boat with a decent motor to surf a door. It wasn't that exciting but we felt someone had to at least see if it could be done.
-Parasailing (just once, against my will)—don’t ask.
-Climbed Skiddaw and Helvellyn Mountains in Cumberland, England

Delilah Marvelle
Jennifer Haymore
Roxanne St. Clair
Karen Lingefelt
Virginia Henley
Debra Dixon
Alesia Holliday
Amie Stuart

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Anniversary Jamboree!

Welcome to Day Three of the Mavens' First Anniversary Jamboree! Thanks so much for hanging out with us the past year. We've enjoyed sharing successes, frustrations, and milestones. Here's to another year!

We've asked our favorite authors to answer some burning questions and every day this week we're giving you the inside scoop. Be sure to read the bonus question and answer Monday through Thursday for the chance to win fabulous prizes. And please, share your own answers...if you dare!

What's the best Halloween costume you've worn?

Alesia Holliday

Pirate, complete with parrot on my shoulder.

Debra Dixon

Check out Debra's YA story in the WITCH HIGH anthology coming in October. Debra's Belle Books has great summer titles available and is excited about the launch of Belle Bridge Books.

I honestly can't remember. I'm not much of a costume person. My favorite costume of my son's was when he was about 3 and we dressed him up as a "rebel without a cause." He was a dinosaur one year and that was funny. And oh! My nephew was only a few days old at Easter so I made him a carrot costume (complete with leafy hat) and we took pictures of him in the flower garden.

Tanya Michaels, author of A DAD FOR HER TWINS, a "State of Parenthood" book from Harlequin American Romance, in stores Sept 08! (Tanya's also a speaker at RWA this year!)

Possibly the witch costume from last year, because it included some killer high-heeled black boots. Plus, I managed not to fall in them while trick or treating, so, bonus.

Delilah Marvelle

The guillotined Marie Antoinette. I was historically luscious and scary.

Teri Brown, author of READ MY LIPS, her debut novel released June 3!

When I was a little girl my mom made me a fairy princess costume... real silky material, gauzy wings, the works. I felt magical that night.

Amie Stuart

I hated Halloween. We always had homemade costumes and I coveted those hot fake masks all the other kids got.

Julie Leto

Probably the one I haven't yet worn--the Professor MacGonagal costume I've yet to find that I like. Okay, actually worn...either the sexy devil woman or the Aztec princess when I was in 8th grade.

Tie: A daisy as a five year old (with a cardboard cutout around my head) and Little Red Riding Hood at 20 - that got me into every club in L.A. that night!
I made myself a sweet little "I Dream of Jeanie" outfit for a Halloween dance in high school.

Ooo, TOTAL Halloween fiend here, so this is a tough one! Last year I was a "blithe spirit", in a flowing white gown, flowing white wig, and white makeup. One year I was a hideous witch, with fake nose, fake teeth, etc., and nobody recognized me. That was fun!

Virginia Henley

Norma Desmond (Can the Mavens say they'd love to see a picture of this? Totally awesome.)

Today's Prize Question is:

You're up for karaoke and your song is...

In your comment, correctly match each author with their song and you'll be entered in a drawing for a cool prize! (In the event no one gets all matches correct, the person with the most will win. In the event of a tie, we'll draw.)

__ 1.Terri Garey
A. New York, New York
__ 2.Elissa Wilds
B. Tainted Love
__ 3.Teri Brown
C. Crazy for You by Madonna
__ 4.Virginia Henley
D. My Sharona
__ 5.Anna Campbell
E. Wake Me Up Inside by Evanescence
__ 6.Jennifer Haymore
F. Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks
__ 7.Amie Stuart
G. Ah Leah, by Donny Iris

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Anniversary Jamboree!

Welcome to Day Two of the Mavens' First Anniversary Jamboree! Thanks so much for hanging out with us the past year. We've enjoyed sharing successes, frustrations, and milestones. Here's to another year!

We've asked our favorite authors to answer some burning questions and every day this week we're giving you the inside scoop. Be sure to read the bonus question and answer Monday through Thursday for the chance to win fabulous prizes. And please, share your own answers...if you dare!

If banished to a desert island, what one book would you take along?

Alesia Holliday

How to Build a Raft and Escape Desert Islands

Debra Dixon

Check out Debra's YA story in the WITCH HIGH anthology coming in October. Debra's Belle Books has great summer titles available and is excited about the launch of Belle Bridge Books.

The omnibus edition of THE BLACK JEWELS trilogy by Anne Bishop

Tanya Michaels, author of A DAD FOR HER TWINS, a "State of Parenthood" book from Harlequin American Romance, in stores Sept 08! (Tanya's also a speaker at RWA this year!)

Just one?! Probably Crazy for You or Faking It by Jennifer Crusie. They make me laugh no matter how many times I've read them. But there are lots of other great books that I would try to sneak along with me!

Jennifer Haymore

Oooh, that’s a hard one. Probably the thickest complete encyclopedia out there, so I could use it to help me survive. But if the island was well stocked, I’d probably take Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Julie Leto

Well, I've always actually wanted to read the Bible from cover to cover, so maybe that would be my incentive. If not, the Complete Works of Shakespeare. There's always something new to discover there, too.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Oh, tough one. Maybe Atlas Shrugged, because the inspirational message of the power of hard work would spur me to find a way off the island. Plus it would take a good month or two to really read it, and not skim the seventeen page orations at the end.

The Norton Anthology of World Literature. (I stole mine from my senior high school English class because I couldn't bear to part with it.)

The Children by Edith Wharton. I could read that book over and over and over again. Which obviously I would have to if that were the only book I could take along...

Virginia Henley

The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain and The Walsingham Woman by Jan Westcott.

Today's Prize Questions are (today we have two questions, and two winners!):

In your comment, correctly guess the authors and you'll be entered in a drawing for a cool prize! (In the event no one gets all answers correct, the person with the most will win. In the event of a tie, we'll draw.)

Which author has traveled the farthest - all the way to the Orkneys, north of Scotland?

Virginia Henley
Anna Campbell
Julie Leto
Tanya Michaels
Angie Fox

Which three authors have been to the Philippines?
Tessa Dare
Teri Brown
Alesia Holliday
Amie Stuart
Jennifer Haymore
Karen Lingefelt

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens