Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shaking the Foundation

In the wake of the recent plagiarism scandal, I expect there will be a lot of blogs dealing with the subject of one author stealing the work of another – or, as in this case, several others. I’m not interested in heaping shame on the person involved, because there’s plenty of that going around, but I still feel the need to address the issue and how deeply it affects the writing community and the romance neighborhood specifically.

When someone makes the choice to pass off another author’s work as their own, it obviously hurts the targeted author as well as readers. As we’ve seen, it can wreck the career and reputation of the perpetrator. [Well, sometimes. There have certainly been authors who have maintained a presence in the industry even after they’ve admitted to plagiarism.] What I’ve witnessed in the last few days, though, is the effect it has even on authors who were not directly involved.

A number of people have expressed dismay that they didn’t realize what was happening, and guilt that they should have done something in some way to prevent the crime, but I don’t think that’s possible. Those of us who work hard to bring our own stories to the public aren’t to blame for the few who try to get there the easy way, by stealing from those who are more prolific, more professional and more talented. Unless someone had made the connection between the stolen works and the original manuscripts and said nothing about it, they can’t be held accountable. Perhaps it’s in our nature to feel we could always have been doing more…being more vigilant, being more insightful, being more proactive…but unless someone has the time to read every work by every author and compare them, it’s just not feasible. These types of crimes are often discovered by chance. The right person who happens to be intimately familiar with one author’s work recognizes words they know they’ve read somewhere else. This is why plagiarists tend to believe they can get away with it, because many do, only because of the sheer volume of words available and the small likelihood someone will read two similar passages in close enough proximity to even recall they were alike.

Authors are also wondering what they can do to prevent this from happening again or happening to them. I’m also not sure that’s possible. There will always be opportunists and there will always be people who feel they can’t or shouldn’t have to work as hard as others to reap the same rewards. Apparently fear of getting caught and losing not only their credibility but the respect of those around them isn’t enough of an incentive. Legal issues tend to be murky, and the burden usually falls on the victim to prove and to prosecute, which can add to the stress involved. Unfortunately no amount of surveillance or safeguards can prevent someone from taking our words and using them for their own gain.

All we can do is continue on and not be discouraged. Every day we take the chance that our work could be pirated or plagiarized but because writing is who we are, not just what we do, we don’t stop.

The authors whose works were stolen have my sympathy. I hope they are able to recoup some of their losses. The author who admitted to stealing all of the work she passed off as her own has my pity. She must have wanted it too badly and had no faith in her own abilities. I wonder what she might have accomplished if she’d tried to develop her own talent rather than trying to ride on the success of others. I hope she’s learned something from her mistakes and that she understands the depth to which she’s shaken the foundation of the community she wanted to be part of.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Deadlines - Love 'em or hate 'em?

Me? I LOVE deadlines. I like knowing exactly where the Finish Line stands.

So far I've met all my contracted deadlines. Sure it's involved me wailing, "I'll NEVER finish this on time." or "This deadline is going to kill me!" but I can't imagine not meeting a deadline. That would just freak me out. (Yes, I know, there are plenty of contracted authors who have a fluid view of the due dates written in their contracts, but I'd feel too guilty to miss one.)

Someone recently asked if that means the work I do when I'm on deadline is inferior. I don't think so. I think a deadline forces me to focus and allows me to shut off all the extraneous crap that rolls around in my head. I actually think the work I do is better.

I'd rather have a deadline than not. If I don't have one, either because of a contract or because I haven't set one for myself, I tend to procrastinate. I tend to get so caught up in making each sentence "perfect" that I get next-to-nothing done.

My intention for the week is to finish the massive rewrite I'm doing based on the suggestions of my agent for my new book. I've given myself a deadline of finishing it by Friday. I'll let you know next Monday how I fared.

Tell me Killer Friends: How do YOU feel about deadlines?
I set deadlines for myself with lots of things in life. Do you? Are you succesful at meeting them?
 If you're a contracted author, have you missed any? Do you love them like I do? Or do you absolutely hate them?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie Review: This Means War

This weekend I did something I hardly ever do. I went to see a movie by myself. [Well, my husband and the kids were in a different theater, so maybe it doesn’t really count], but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It was mostly fun because the theater was nearly empty – nobody yakking on a cell phone, no one kicking my chair. I sat with my chocolate covered raisins and had a fine time.

I picked THIS MEANS WAR because it’s gotten marginally good reviews and it looked cute. I wasn’t expecting epic romance, and I certainly didn’t get epic romance, but for a romance novelist, the movie had it’s interesting points.

SOME SPOILERS!!

The plot follows Lauren [Reese Witherspoon], a product tester, whose insane married best friend [Chelsea Handler] posts her profile to a dating site, which ends up snagging her earnest and lonely CIA agent Tuck [Tom Hardy]. After a great first encounter with Tuck, Lauren is wandering through a nearby video store where she bumps into Tuck’s partner, FDR [Chris Pine]. They don’t hit it off at all, but he pursues her anyway because he’s that kind of guy, always looking for a challenge. When Tuck and FDR discover they’re both dating the same girl, they forge a gentleman’s agreement to let the lady choose between them and they vow to respect her decision.

Of course, they plan to do everything they possibly can [and most of it illegal] to influence her decision.

What I liked about the movie:

1.       Two hunky male leads. I have to admit, through a good portion of the movie I was distracted by Chris Pine’s incredibly blue eyes – and by thinking about the next Star Trek movie…
2.       The bromance rivalry between Tuck and FDR – they fight over Lauren relentlessly, but they fight harder to keep their deep friendship intact. It’s cute.
3.       FDR’s evolution – he’s the ‘bad boy’ of the team and yet he falls fastest and hardest for Lauren and it changes him. That’s the stuff good romance novels are made of.

What I didn’t like:

1.       Chelsea Handler – as Lauren’s manic, potty mouthed best friends she was abrasive and mostly ridiculous.
2.       Lauren – she spends most of her time whining about how conflicted she is by dating two gorgeous guys. Poor girl. [eye roll here]
3.       The over the top stuff – of course there were wild car chases and explosions. I can forgive those, but the scene where [SPOILERS - highlight to read] both men tiptoe around Lauren’s apartment planting bugs and she’s so busy singing to herself she doesn’t notice? Seriously. Way to make the heroine look utterly out to lunch, and speaking of lunch, the scene where Tuck and FDR beat the daylights out of each other in a restaurant and when it’s all over and they’re lying amidst upended tables and broken glass, there’s not a single staff member there calling the police on them?

Over all, the movie was watchable, and it did have it’s funny moments, though there could have been a lot more comedy. It was entertaining, but I recommend waiting for the rental.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Notes from an Editor -- Part 2

Last Monday I talked about what it was like to work wit Charlotte Herscher, my editor at Carina Press, on THE FIRST VICTIM.

This week I'll tell you what it was like working with the lovely Lucia Macro, my editor at Avon/Morrow, on CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN.

My experience with Lucia was quite different, in that my agent, Victoria Marini, brought the manuscript to her and Lucia came back with her offer. Because I felt that it was absolutely imperative to maintain the voice/tone of Confessions, I asked to speak with her before I made any decisions (since I did have another offer from another publisher on the table). I didn't expect her to tell me the book was perfect "as is" but I did want to make sure we shared a similar vision.

Lucia was absolutely delightful on the phone and I could tell pretty quickly that we were on the same page as to where the story should be headed. She not only "got" the quirky humor, she loved it.

Once I'd agreed to accept Avon's offer, Lucia sent me an edits letter that was less than 800 words, but chock full of great suggestions.

I made the changes, and she graciously allowed me to make some more changes when it came time to do the copy edits. I'm thrilled with how the book turned out...and if early reviews are any indication, so are the readers!

Tell me Killer Friends: Are there any questions about what it's like to work with editors I can answer for you? If you're a writer, what won't you budge on in your story?

If you've read Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman did you like the tone/voice?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hard Numbers

Over at Romance Divas there’s a discussion about income from indie vs. traditional publishing . A NY Times bestselling author mentioned she was surprised to discover [as were many of us] that indie publishing had made up the lion’s share of her profits for 2011.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I sat down with all my tax paperwork and a calculator to figure out the same. I thought I’d share some numbers with you. The title of the post may be a bit misleading because these are only percentages rather than actual figures, but I think they’re interesting nonetheless.

Total household income: 100%

My husband’s income:  59%
My total income:  41%

My total income: 100%

My part time ‘day’ job:   23% of my income           9.3% of total household income
Traditional publishing:    60% of my income           25% of total household income
Editing:                               9% of my income             3.4% of total household income
Indie publishing:               8% of my income             3.7% of total household income

Total:                                     100%                                     41% approx.

So, while that NY Times bestselling author is now making most of her income through indie publishing, this year, the lion’s share of my personal income still came from traditional publishers. I have a feeling next year will be significantly different – I wish I could say it would be because I plan to make so much more money from my indie publishing, but the truth is, I’ve cut back on my work for traditional publishers to concentrate on indie because I find I revel in the freedom of it. I’m not sure I’ll get rich, but I like the idea of having so much more control of my product, over my covers, my release dates, etc. I always said I never wanted to be a publisher. I always wanted a partner in publishing to take the burden off of me to make all the decisions, but having had the opportunities I’ve had this year, and despite making the most from traditional publishing that I have in any year since I’ve been published, I still want to pursue indie.

I’m looking forward to next year’s breakdown and I wonder where the differences will be.

If you indie publish, would you like to share what percentage of your income came from that vs. traditional publishing?

Monday, February 13, 2012

What do notes from an editor REALLY look like?

First please indulge me for just a moment. Did you see that Susan Elizabeth Phillips recommended my book to her fans on Facebook last week??

Holy Carp!

Okay, now onto the day's regularly scheduled programming...

Last week Lindsay N. Currie said she wanted to know more about what it's like to work on "real" edits. It's a good question and I'll do my best to answer it, but please know that I'm pretty sure that the process is different for every writer, every book, and every editor.


I'll do my best to explain what happened to me as I worked through the process with both THE FIRST VICTIM and CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. Keep in mind they're two very different books in terms of tone and subject matter. Plus,  I worked with different editors and for different publishing companies.

Before I begin, I have to say that I enjoyed working with both my editors (Lucia Macro of Avon/Morrow and Charlotte Herscher of Carina Press). Neither of them was the fire-breathing taskmaster I'd had nightmares about. ;-)  They're both talented women committed to the work they do.

I'll start today with THE FIRST VICTIM and next Monday I'll spill all about CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. Otherwise this post will go on and on and on and on and...

I subbed 1st Victim to Carina Press on my own after parting ways with my former agent. That meant it went straight into the slush pile. A couple of months passed and then I received a "revise & resubmit" letter...which was exciting and nerve-wracking. In case you've never seen an R&R letter before (I hadn't) it starts with something like this:

After careful consideration of your manuscript, there are some issues that prevent us from extending a contract offer at this time. However, if you would be interested in addressing these issues through revisions and resubmitting the manuscript, we would be willing to take a second look at it.


Basically the editor is telling you it's good....just not good enough.

Charlotte had put a lot of thought into the letter (it was more than 900 words long) and she wanted some major changes. How major? She wanted a POV character changed to a secondary character and a 2ndary character bumped up to a major role. (If you've read The First Victim imagine that Bailey had a minor role and that FBI agent Chase Morgan had a major one...not a love interest, just a much bigger part.)

I'll admit my initial reaction (right after celebrting I'd gotten my first R&R) was defensive. I thought she was off her rocker. There was no way I could do what she asked and no way I'd want to. (Seriously, I should have just thrown myself kicking and crying on the floor and unleashed my inner 2-year-old's temper tantrum.)

And then I read her note again...because after all she'd edited all of Allison Brennan's books up to that point and I'm a HUGE fan of Ms. Brennan. On the second read, I realized that some of her suggestions made a lot of sense, but there was still no way I could pull them off.

Then I read it a third time...after sharing it with a couple key supporters (who basically told me that I was the one off my rocker)...and I realized that 90 percent of her suggestions were freaking brilliant and would make the story stronger, BUT...there was still NO FREAKING WAY I could pull them off.

But I told her I'd try.

I started with the small things, the ones I knew I could actually do...and then I tackled the bigger (wayyyyy scarier) things.

Eventually I resubmitted my manuscript to Charlotte.

And spent some more time waiting.

And finally Carina Press offered to publish the book!

Hurrah! I'd done it!

Or had I????

Because as soon as the offer was made, Charlotte sent me another revision letter. This one was 1600 words AND there were a gazillion comments in the manuscript.

Yes, that's right. First letter 900 words...Second letter 1600...

It made my head spin.

It felt as though things were getting worse instead of better.

Once again, I started with the small stuff. The things I wasn't afraid to try to fix and worked my way up to the big stuff.

Did Charlotte's suggestions and all the revision make the book better, stronger, more bionic? You bet.

I learned a bunch along the way too. (Like I should keep my inner-two-year-old in a permanent time-out.)

I haven't covered copyedits in this post because quite frankly they make my eyes cross. They also incite me to curse at the computer....a lot. But like regular edits, they're a necessary evil, that help to make a book stronger.

Next week I'll cover the process for CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN.

Until then, Killer Friends tell me this:

If you're a reader: What makes a book a good read for you? Characters? Plot? Pacing? Dialogue?

If you're an unpublished writer: What do you fear about working with an editor? What do you hope happens in the process?

If you're a published writer: What has your experience been like? What has surprised you about it? What do you wish you'd known about edits beforehand?

Friday, February 10, 2012

How do you like your bad guys?

Guest blogger, Sorcha Mowbray, decided to try her hand at writing "smexy" after she discovered the works of authors like Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Today, she tells us about her latest release, Love Revealed, and what makes a really good bad guy.

Mythos, Murder, and Mayhem….uh am I in the right place? *glances around* If anyone asks I have a very sharp sword and I am not afraid to use it. LOL! I am here because I have a debut release this month and Jennifer was nice enough to invite me over. In Love Revealed there is one scene that contains mayhem. My heroine is gasp attacked! I may have enjoyed writing that scene almost as much as I did writing the smexy ones.
It was interesting to put my characters in a difficult situation and see how they reacted. Katherine struggled, but as usual the hero saved the day. That’s all I’ll say about it, but I wouldn’t have guessed that writing a bad guy could be so much fun.
I like all kinds of baddies. I like them when they are smooth and sexy, tempting in their own way until the evil really comes out. Like Cal (Billy Zane) from Titanic. I also like it when they are as ugly outside as they are inside Freddie Kruger anyone?
I have a hard time choosing between the two. LOL! The mild mannered, almost non-existent types of bad guys really don’t work for me most times. It takes a special twist to show just how hideous they are to make the persona work.
I’m curious, what makes a good villain for you? Read any really good bad guys that stuck with you? One commenter will win a copy of Love Revealed in your choice of format. Just include your email address so I can contact you.

Love Revealed
by Sorcha Mowbray
Blurb:
Lady Katherine Drummond plays by society’s rules, even after the Ton turns on her. Shunned by her peers, she keeps up appearances by day but allows her true self out in the privacy of The Market. There, in the arms of one man, she comes alive. So much so, she signs a contract to be his for six months. Despite never having seen his face and knowing him only as Sir, she fears losing her heart to the man who breaks through her defenses.

Lord Raymond Tarkenton, the Earl of Heathington, despises being one of the most sought after bachelors of the Ton. He could never ask a woman of his circle to submit to his sexual needs, and a mistress would never be an option. For now, one masked woman at The Market holds his undivided attention. When he realizes that his masked lover and Lady Katherine Drummond are one and the same, he must find a way to convince her that they are bound together by more than the straps at her wrists and the contract they signed. He must reveal himself and his love to her. But will she accept him for more than a sexual escape.

~Excerpt~
“Why is it you were compelled to make me wait when you were aware I was here and ready? This is not how we should start this arrangement.”
“I was delayed.” She met his gaze, hers teamed with desire, hope, defiance, and perhaps even a tinge of fear. Mostly promising reactions, the defiance would need to be addressed.
“You will of course be punished.” He paused. “When I am ready.”
“Yes, Sir.” Her eyes lit up with his pronouncement.
“Not when you are, and it is clear you are.” Yes, Kat was the exact woman he needed in his bed. She fit him, was a perfect foil for him, for his base compulsion. No. He must be caught up in the moment. She was no more than a desirable woman.
He sat next to her on the bed and caressed the outer edge of one breast. “It was good of you to tell me the truth, Kat. You must always tell me the truth, just as I will always tell you the truth. Do you understand?”
“I will always be honest with you, Sir.” Surprise flitted across her features as the truth of her vow rang through her words and warmed him.
“Do you trust me, Kat?” Curiosity got the better of him.
She hesitated, her thoughts whirling like crazy behind her beautiful eyes. “No.” She finally responded and dropped her gaze. He stopped caressing her soft flesh.
Trepidation reared its head before logic squashed the anomaly. His pulse thrummed through his veins. “And yet you let me restrain you. Perhaps you trust me more than you think?”
She glanced up at him. “Maybe a little.”

Want a copy? Get it at:
To learn more about Sorcha, she can also be found at:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Expectations

This post is dedicated to B.E. Sanderson, who gave me food for thought with her comment on JB’s Monday post.

The publishing business is full of expectations – some are met and exceeded and some are nothing more than pipe dreams.

Before I was published, my expectations were sky high, so much so that even thinking about the idea of having a book accepted, seeing it in book stores, holding it in my hands, filled me with emotion. I would literally get choked up thinking about getting ‘the call’. I was ten when I caught the writing bug, and I remember hanging out with my girlfriends and we would imagine our futures. One wanted to be President, one wanted to be a rock star, and I wanted to be a famous author. JK Rowling famous. Of course, no one knew who JK Rowling was back then, but I knew exactly how famous I would be when I was her.

Fast forward 28 years, give or take. I never actually got ‘the call’ – my first acceptance came via e-mail on New Year’s Eve, and of course I was thrilled. I’d arrived. This was the beginning of everything. I remember getting my first cover art – I was so nervous I could barely open the e-mail attachment, and when I did, I was…stunned. My first cover for the second story I’d sold, called RENNA'S SACRIFICE, and the art is…well, go see for yourself.

Since then I’ve gotten covers that have thrilled me and covers that… not so much, but it’s always been exciting.

I remember the first time I received ‘galleys’ from a publisher. I walked around for a week telling people, “I’m working on my galleys…” [say that in a slightly pretentious tone to get the full effect]. I’d always heard authors talking about ‘galleys’, and having my very own set was better than sliced bread. Now, after having done galleys a couple dozen times my reaction is more like “Oh crap, galleys? Can’t this be done already?”

My first release date was ambiguous…having an electronic release is fun, but it’s not quite the same as a print release. There was no party in the book store, no table full of copies for me to sign. It was mostly e-mailing people with a link to the book and waiting patiently for my first royalty check to see if I’d actually sold more than just the five copies I could attribute to close friends. [When that first check came I was pleasantly surprised, and since then I've had checks that were barely worth the postage necessary to mail them and checks that made me hyperventilate just a little bit.]

The day I received my first print copy was a bit more auspicious. I opened the box and pulled out a copy of CONJURED IN FLAMES and I think I kissed it. This was the moment I’d waited a quarter century for [give or take], and it was as sublime as I’d imagined. My name was on the cover of a book I could hold in my hands. That’s something you never forget, and it doesn’t get old.

Looking back over the last seven years since my first ebook came out, I can see the highs and lows. I suppose I’m happy that none of the lows were as low as I could have expected, but none of the highs were quite as high as I expected either. I’ve had the one-star review and I’ve also seen my book climb to #2 on the Amazon Romance best seller list [Nora Roberts was at #1]. I’d say those two things were the extreme ends of the spectrum for me. I can’t complain.

As for my expectations for the future…I still like to dream of seeing my name on a national best seller list, but the idea of getting ‘the call’ doesn’t reduce me to tears anymore. Contracts coming in the mail don’t elicit the Snoopy Dance, but royalty checks still do. I suppose I’m jaded now and that’s okay…but it is something I never expected.

How about you? Has the writing life met, exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wanna chat?

Writing is a solitary activity, but the beauty of the internet is that you can chat with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

I've made some great friends via the net. Sometimes I strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on a message board and before I know it we've swapped email addresses to become crit partners, sounding boards, and the modern day equivalent of pen pals.

Now I'm getting the chance to chat with readers about CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN and I've got to say, it's pretty cool. I've followed the progress of readers on GoodReads as they've read their way thru the book (seriously nerve-wracking, but ultimately rewarding). I've gotten some AMAZING notes from both reviewers and readers about the novel. I've asked and answered questions on Twitter, blogs and Facebook and I've had the chance to share some of the incredible early reviews the book has received.

Not to mention that once a week, I get to chat with you here. Which is wonderful. And awful. Because there are just some weeks when I can't think of what to talk to you about. Like this week.

I could shout from the rooftop that CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN is coming out in paperback tomorrow!!!

Or I could tell you to stop by THE WRITING SPECTACLE tomorrow to check out the interview with Godzilla.

Or I could BEG you to stop by the Avon Romance Blog and tell my editor that she was freaking brilliant to buy my book and you want her to buy the rest of the series.

But really, I can't think of what to chat with you about.

So tell me Killer Friends: What would YOU like to chat about over the next few weeks? Because I'd really like this to be a conversation, not just me spouting on about the subject-of-the-week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Zero Draft

I’ve found a new buzz-phrase to add to my writer’s vocabulary list:

Zero Draft – this is the stuff that comes before the first draft, the stuff that’s so full of holes and constructed of such flimsy stuff it’s little more than a collection of notes. This blog post by J.W. Troemner goes into more detail about the concept.

I’m in love with the zero draft because it’s helping me do what I’ve had an immensely hard time doing for the past year, and that’s get words on the page.

I used to be obsessed with making my first draft a perfect draft, something that would ultimately need only a whisper of editing, a sprinkling of commas, a once over for those sneaky typos that manage to defy spell check. I felt that if I got it all right the first time, I wouldn’t have to waste so much time later tinkering.

Doing all the tinkering first led me to produce very little new words in 2011. So for 2012 it’s out with the ‘hallowed attempt at producing amazing greatness’ and in with the quick and dirty ‘zero draft’. I’ve got words on the page, and I can work with them [Lord knows I need to work with them], but that’s okay. The tinkering will come later when I know where the story is going because I’ve already gotten there, when I’ve sketched out where all the pieces fit.

In the words of Scarlet O’Hara, as God is my witness, I shall never write myself into a corner again! [She said that, didn’t she? Or words to that affect.]

Thus far my Zero Draft approach has produced 73,321 words [in 30 days]. I can’t guarantee any of them will appear in my Final Draft [well maybe ‘the’], but I feel good that I have a framework in place. When I really sit down to ‘write’, I won’t be working without a net. It’s like plotting for the pantser in me.

Do you practice Zero Draft? Or something like it? If so, how has it worked for you?