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?

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens