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

Monday, July 14, 2008

First Anniversary Jamboree!

Welcome to 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 summer movie are you most excited to see?

Alesia Holliday

The Mummy! Adore Brendan Fraser! Jet Li rocks!

Angie Fox
Be sure and stop by August 6 when Angie guest-blogs with us upon the release of her first book, The Accidental Demon Slayer on July 29! And if you'll be in San Francisco at RWA, stop by the literacy signing Wednesday night and say hello!Indiana Jones, hands down. I have loved those movies ever since I was a kid. You just can't beat Harrison Ford with a bull whip. Zow.

Anna Campbell

Well, in Oz, we're in the depths of winter, but the film I'd love to see is Prince Caspian. I thought The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was fantastic, really magical. And hey, PC himself looks rather cute - LOL.

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!)

Indiana Jones 4, which we saw opening weekend. My son is six and a half and it's fun to see him as jazzed about Doctor Jones as I used to be! We wore our matching hats to the movie. My husband pretended not to know us. I'm also looking forward to Hancock.

Elissa Wilds, debut author of Between Light and Dark, in stores October 08!

Sex and the City….loved that show!

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

I'm not actually excited about any of the movies I've seen the trailers for so far. I'm not really into action flicks and not into kids movies, so there doesn't seem to be anything up my alley this summer. Maybe the Thanksgiving movies will be better!

Amie Stuart

OMG just one? Ummmm Wanted or er The X-FILES …ohhhh and Hancock or maybe Babylon AD…*Grin*

Jennifer Haymore, debut author of A Hint of Wicked

Wall-E, because my kids really want to see it!

Julie Leto

MAMMA MIA. I saw the show on Broadway and I love Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and especially Colin Firth! I can't wait!

Karen Lingefelt

Mamma Mia (It stars Colin Firth AND Pierce Brosnan!)

Roxanne St. Claire

WALL-E has really captured my attention. I love the idea that the writers seemed to have broken all the "rules" for animated movies - no celeb voiceovers, no cute furry sidekicks, almost no dialogue, an apocolyptic futuristic setting, and yet, there is romance and redemption. Can't wait!

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.

Can't wait for THE DARK KNIGHT. Of course we also said that about IRON MAN and GET SMART. And yeah, I'm looking forward to the newest in the MUMMY franchise. I'm an action flick girl. What can I say?

Tessa Dare

Wanted - just for James McAvoy.

Terri Garey

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The previews look incredible, and Brendan Fraser still looks hot. :-)

Debby Mayne

"Get Smart" because it'll take me back to my childhood. I used to love that show!

Virginia Henley

Sex and the City

Today's Prize Question is:Who would you most like to have dinner with?In your comment, correctly match each author with their desired guest 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.)

AuthorsDinner Guests
___ 1.Karen LingefeltA:Edith Wharton
___ 2.Debby MayneB:Laura Ingalls Wilder
___ 3.Julie LetoC:King Charles II of England
___ 4.Virginia HenleyD:J. K. Rowling
___ 5.Delilah MarvelleE:Elvis

Friday, July 11, 2008

Get Ready for Fun - Maven Style!

Join us next week (July 14-18) as we celebrate (no, not Bastille Day) our first anniversary! Can you believe we've been at this for a year? Neither can we. And we're so, so thankful for your company. Let's hear it for our MaveFaves!

Next week's shenanigans are a Q&A with some of our favorite authors. Each day bears a new question with all sorts of fascinating answers. Plus, there's a prize question - correctly guess which author said what and you're entered in a drawing for a fabulous prize! And what is that prize, you ask? Well, there will be two prizes each day: one for a writer and one for a reader. Please indicate which one you are or "either." Reader prizes are books (natch!) and writer prizes are a Maven critique of your query letter (ooh, aah).

So get ready to party, jamboree style of course. Interestingly, we Mavens didn't answer our own questions. How about today you pose any question you want and we'll do our best to answer! Fire away!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Maven Lacey KayeThis is for research purposes only, you realize.

What is the most interesting or out-there place your characters have trysted?

Mine must be the forest. I have a scene where the h/h get it on outside her bedroom window. Sure, they could've gone up to her room, but who can wait, when passion strikes? In my current writing exercise, the h/h are going to get it on inside a club bathroom. Yeah, it's dirty, but who doesn't like a little dirty now and then?

(If your answer is "not me," don't answer. Then you'll make me feel dirty, and that is so not the intent of this post :-)

Be sure to stop by every day next week when we'll be celebrating our first anniversary! Join us for a week-long Q&A with our favorite authors. And, of course, fabulous prizes!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

World Building II: Research

Maven Darcy BurkeSince I just shipped out Her Wicked Ways to my agent I am now focusing on my new ms, Their Wicked Bargain. (Check out the new teaser blurb on my website!) But, wow, it's been awhile since I started a new book! I, er, forgot how hard that can be. I actually started the book a couple of times recently, but neither effort was "right." I'm armed with GMCs, inciting incidents, turning points, and black moments. I even know (I think) how the HEA will work out. Why then, have I spent a week working on the first scene and I'm still not done?

Research, MaveFaves.

One of the reasons I write (and read) historicals is the research aspect. Last week I talked about world-building and that's the other reason. And, unfortunately, you can't have the latter without the former. The more you know about the period in which you're writing, the better the world you build. For example, the heroine lives with her cousin and his wife. Her cousin is fifteen years older than her and well established in a career. Now, what kind of career would a guy living outside the second-largest city in Wales have? Turns out he's an agent for a copper smelting factory. So far anyway. There's still some research outstanding. I've read about how smelting works and how dirty and awful most factory conditions were during this period. Will I use this information in the book? Not most of it. But, just knowing it will make the heroine's cousin more real. And the more real the characters, the more real the world.

Sometimes I get caught up in what some people might call ridiculous details (okay, that's what I call them) - how far places are apart, actual names of towns and landmarks in the area, what day it is, you get the picture. But to me these things are important and I'm beginning to see how they impact the world I'm building.

How do you feel about research? Best part? Rather stick a machete in your eye? Ever written around having to do research or chosen a path that wouldn't require you to fact-check? True confession time: do you have Wikipedia bookmarked?

Be sure to stop by every day next week when we'll be celebrating our first anniversary! Join us for a week-long Q&A with our favorite authors. And, of course, fabulous prizes!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What your characters feel...

Maven Carrie RyanWhen you read this... I'll be asleep.  Or I might be out crabbing.  Or reading.  Or sitting in the sun watching the tide change.  As I said last week, I'm taking a few days off this week and that means not spending a lot of time online either :)  One of the things I'm reminded of being at the beach is ambiance.  Those things that are hard to remember when you're far away -- the random sounds in the background, the angle of the sun, the feel of the breeze and the way spartina bends in the air.  We're told as writers to incorporate the 5 senses into our writing and even when I try to remember to do this, it's easy to forget those senses that constanly hum in the background.  Those sounds that we take for granted.So it's nice to be here remembering all of that since my current WIP is set near the ocean.  I close my eyes and imagine my characters, wondering what they'd be doing.  It's led to some interesting plot ideas :)What do you do when you find yourself in settings or situations that your characters may face?  Do you ever wonder what your character would do?  Wonder what they'd experience taking a few mental notes?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth!

Maven Jackie BarbosaI'm blogging today from beautiful Lindstrom, Minnesota, where we're visiting my aunt and uncle for a week before driving back to sunny Southern California. Naturally, there has been no writing for the past few days, but plenty of inspiration as we drove through places like Monument Valley (Tony Hillerman country), Durango, Colorado, and along the Mormon trail through South Dakota. On the way back, I'm hoping to hit Deadwood. Who knows, maybe I'll get the inspiration I need to write that hot Western historical (I hear they're making s comeback).

Since I'm on vacation and I imagine a lot of you are, too, this will be a brief post wishing you a safe and happy holiday weekend (assuming you're in the US, of course!) and all the hot dogs and fireworks you can stand!

Take care and we'll see you next week!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A pretty Schick way to promote

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about possible marketing and promotion options for a new website-slash-product/service he is about to launch. I mentioned jump-starting his own viral marketing campaign by contacting people who have access to his market and asking them to work with him to promote his product. As an example, I mentioned that I had been contacted by YouCast Corporation to promote the new Schick Quattro for Women razor on my blog.
There's a few cool things I learned about marketing and promotion while working with a representative from the YouCast team. First, it is definitely okay to contact people out of the blue and ask them to try your product. The worst they can say is no! Second, once you do, you have absolutely no control over what they decide to say or do about said product promotion. For example, I am convinced YouCast didn't mean for me to make this post about their marketing and promotion service, instead of about the Schick Quattro. Third, it's a good idea to have more than just a sample of your product to share when you're looking to generate interest. Schick Quattro has a contest, but more, they've created a "Dream Date" widget that cracks me up. Check it out, then think about ways you could create a widget or tool that is fun and interactive. Something your friends, fans, and family (and virtual strangers) could post on their MySpace (or other social networking site -- I don't claim to know what the cool kids are doing these days).

YOUR TURN: What do you think? Would you or have you ever asked strangers to post about your product online? Do you think it helps? Have you ever tried a Schick Quattro (so silky smooth!)? What are some of the newer-fangled techniques for promotion you've used, seen, or heard about?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

World Building

Maven Darcy BurkeWhen I think of world building I usually think of fantasy or paranormal books. Harry Potter. The Golden Compass (which Mr. Burke is currently reading). Etcetera. Only recently did I start thinking world building in terms of the genre in which I write: historical romance. I began to see it in my own work when I didn’t want to leave my characters and their “space,” meaning the little world I created just for them. And, of course, that world is the only place they exist.

As I start my next book, I'm very mindful of world building. The story takes place entirely on the Gower Peninsula of Wales (where the city of Swansea is located), and in 1817 this is a very rural area. Populated with people who speak English in addition to their own language. (Since I don't speak Welsh, that will be tricky on its own - not that I plan to have long passages in Welsh!). I'm very excited to establish a place and set of characters that are unique and that will draw my reader into a world they won't want to leave.

In thinking about creating a world that is inviting, exciting, and satisfying I come up with the following components:

This might seem like the "duh" part in that isn't a world a place? Well, yes, but it's so much more. Place is the geographic location, the settings (you might also think of settings as a separate component that might encompass smell, taste, sound), the overall feel of the surroundings.

To me, this is more than just historical, contemporary, or futuristic. It's a time of life as well as a time of setting. The story you tell is affectd by your characters' time, if that makes sense.

This is huge. A world is only as interesting as the people who inhabit it. This includes the nameless redshirt as well as the hero or heroine. One might argue that characters can even be part of the setting. To me, it's all part of building a believable and entertaining world. A world where the reader wants to spend their free time.

I'm sure there are tons more (do share!), but these are just the things that come to mind as I write this post. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Your turn: What kinds of things do you think of in terms of building your world? Do you consciously think of this, or just  write your story and characters and believe the "world" will come out?

And a Big Thank You
I'm mailing Her Wicked Ways off to my agent this week. I want to thank all of the people who read either parts or the entire book and provided such valuable feedback. I could not have crafted this without your help and support. So thank you, thank you to Angie, Lenora, Tessa, Courtney, Barbara, and especially Janice who really put the screws to me (in the best possible way). And I would be completely lost without my plotting partners/CPs, Mavens Erica and Lacey who constantly challenge and inspire me to write smarter and better. I'm so fortunate to have met such generous and gifted writers and friends. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Refilling the well... again :)

Maven Carrie RyanAnd the winner of last week's contest giving away a copy of Diana Peterfreund's Rites of Spring (Break) is.... Jessica Burkhart!  Jess, email me with your address and I'll pop it in the mail to you straight from Amazon!

So this week's post is going to be short.  It's almost vacation time and I can't wait to refill the well!  The past month have been a bit of a blur -- getting ARCs for The Forest of Hands and Teeth, going through first pass pages or uncorrected page proofs or unbound galleys or whatever you or your house happen to call them, getting pictures taken for the cover and website, trying to figure out what the website should look like, writing book two, day job.... and er... supposedly I'm planning a wedding as well. 

I'm not going to lie, June was one of those months that was more "hold on and make it through" rather than "achieve balance."  I had grand plans to get a lot of writing done over the July 4th Holiday -- JP and I are heading to the beach with his family like we do every year.  I LOVE going to the beach for the Fourth.  It's always so laid back and easy.  I do a lot of sleeping (his family is amazed at my ability to sleep so much), reading, crabbing, eating, playing games.  Every year I have grand plans to write and every year I... don't. 

But you know what?  Even though I have internal deadlines set, I think I might just allow myself not to write this weekend.  I think sometimes you gotta let things slide a bit and enjoy the process.  I can't wait to pick out what books I'm taking with me!!

What about y'all?  Any big holiday plans?  What are you going to do just for yourself this weekend to refill the well?

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens