March 28, 2010

On Golden Hearts

This week is always a big week in the romance writing world because the RITA and Golden Heart finalists are announced. The RITA and Golden Heart awards are run by the Romance Writers of America and are essentially the Oscars for published and unpublished romance writers respectively.

So big congrats to all the finalists...especially the Aussies (yes, slight bias) Kelly Hunter, Bronwyn Parry and Elizabeth Rolls for the RITAs and Robyn Enlund (extra woot for my crit buddy), Kylie Griffin, Vanessa Barneveld and Gabrielle Luthy for the Golden Heart.

Enjoy the ride everyone.

Being a finalist in the Golden Heart is pretty exciting stuff. It's a big credential for your writing when querying agents and editors and winners and finalists have a good history of selling. What's interesting though is that, anecdotally (not sure if anyone has ever actually done stats) is that winners and finalists also have a history of quitting writing after the Golden Heart.

So here's the thing....don't give up. There's sixty odd finalists each year in (currently) ten categories each year. I was a finalist in 2007 and we probably had the same sorts of numbers...maybe a few more. Now, most years, a couple of you will sell the GH book or another book before results come out, at least one winner will sell the book at conference or very close to and there will be other sales throughout the year. I'd like nothing better than for everyone to sell their GH book (and snag themselves a fab agent as well) and have it be the kickstart to a glorious career. But most likely, that won't happen. Not everyone will sell their GH book this year, or maybe at all. Not everyone will pick up an agent out of it. And I think that for those who give up at this point, the fact that they don't sell or don't get the agent somehow equals "this is never going to work for me if I can't sell a book that finalled in/won the freaking Golden Heart".

In fact, finalling or winning means the opposite. It means you are a good writer. It means you have what it takes. But you might still have to grit your teeth and keep writing and keep walking the bumpy road of publishing a bit longer before you get that perfect combination of agent, book, editor and market that equals a sale. I sold this year...not quite three years after I got the finalist call (and I was a double finalist, though granted, I switched focus and have only really pursued one of the categories I finalled in since). It wasn't my GH book that sold, it was a few more books down the path. I would still love to find my GH book a home one day because I do love it but to date, it hasn't sold.

Of the gals in my GH year, there's been a steady stream of sales, some of Golden Heart manuscripts, some of other books. Some of other books then Golden Heart manuscripts but not everyone has sold yet. But I know they will if they just keep going. Because GH finalists have what it takes. How do I know? Well, of the 2007 gals, there are five RITA nominations this year. Not too shabby for a bunch of gals who were all unpublished three years ago.

So good luck to everyone, I hope you all sell fast. Enjoy the fun of being a finalist but keep writing and don't give up!

March 21, 2010

After the call

So I thought I'd keep a record of when various things happen between getting the call and my first book actually hitting the shelves. With the caveat that every publisher is slightly different, so this is how it works with my editor (Jessica Wade), my agent (Miriam Kriss) and Ace/Roc (I'll just call them Ace for now until I know which arm I'll be in). Also, I'm in Australia, so I'm 15-17 hours ahead of New York depending on the time of year. So I'll give the dates that things happened for me but don't get confused if some of them are Saturday morning because that's Friday afternoon NY time.

For my actual "call" story go here. The actual call for me was Saturday February 20th after which there was a weekend of much celebrating and smiling and telling my news to lots of people and pinching myself to believe it was real.

23 February 2010 - My agent asked me if I had dates in mind to hand in book 2 and 3. At this point I had about 100 pages written of book 2. I will admit I wasn't expecting to be asked, I thought the publisher would probably "suggest" dates. It wasn't an easy thing to figure out without knowing what the revisions on Book 1 were going to be like. (At this point I found out the revision letter date was probably going to be around 1 April). So I consulted published friends and pondered and eventually came up with some dates. Given this is my first go around, I gave myself a fair bit of wriggle room, figuring that I'd never written a book while dealing with revisions and line edits and copy edits and all that other stuff. I also asked my agent to check if Ace were fine with M.J. Scott as my pseudonym.

26 February 2010 - Miriam confirmed M.J. Scott was okay with Ace and that she'd passed my details onto Jessica, so that I should hear from her soon (I will note that I had spoken to Jessica during the acquisition process). At this point I blogged the news, though I'd already told people on various loops and on Twitter). I also updated my website.

27 February 2010 - Got an email from Jessica to say hello etc. I replied and we organised a time to speak in person.

5 March 2010 - Spoke to Jessica (hopefully more coherently than during the acquisition process lol). She confirmed I could expect my revision notes around 1 April and went over what would happen throughout the process. We spoke about the title and biz stuff like international taxes (not an issue if you're in the US) and general answering of my newbie questions. We also spoke a little bit about covers and I got her okay to put a pre-official blurb blurb up on the website.

23 April 2010 - Miriam receives my contract.

29 April 2010 - I receive my revision letter.

30 April 2010 - I think a lot about the revisions and how I might address the points and send some ideas off to Jessica. (Luckily this was one of my no day job days!)

1 May 2010 - Jessica and I talk about the revisions and my ideas on how to proceed with them and come to some conclusions and then I start getting stuck in.

9 June 2010 - Started talking some more about the cover and found out my publication date is June 2011! Exciting!

22 July 2010 - Got my contract via email, asked my agent a couple of questions and ran around Melbourne finding a printer who'd print it for me on US Legal paper (which is a very odd size to we Aussies!)

23 July 2010 - Contract signed and mailed back to Penguin.

27 September 2010 - Miriam got the signed contracts back (and btw, finally got paid after um, three years and nine months of working for me)!

4 October 2010 - I got my copy of the signed contract from Miriam.

17 October 2010 - Handed in book 2

6 November 2010 - Another round of revisions of Shadow Kin.

11 November 2010 - Found out my publication date had been moved to September 2011

10 December 2010 - Got the first look at the cover copy and discussed with Jessica

17 December 2010 - Handed in my second lot of revisions for Shadow Kin

22 January 2011 - Another look at the cover copy with more discussions

8 February 2011 - Got my first look at my very first cover (yippeeee) though not allowed to share it at this point

And that's what's happened so far...I'll keep updating this post as stuff happens!

Still marooned

Still without home adsl. Apparently it's meant to be fixed tomorrow. At this point I'm sceptical but fingers crossed. On Thursday I got sick of trying to keep up with everything online via the iPhone (not to mention was getting concerned about my data allowance for the month) so I decided to go buy a prepaid mobile wireless internet modem. Have to say, so far it works pretty well. Pity that we get so severely ripped off for mobile data in this country. But it will come in handy for travels within Australia in the future plus I guess is tax deductible, so not a complete loss.

In other news I have given myself a week to ponder my plot and the best the girls can come up with is "it's mostly right but we don't know much more than that" so I'm going to just keep writing while I'm waiting for my revision letter (eeek!) and see what happens. (The joys of pantsing!) In the meantime the muse has wanted to watch Gossip Girl and Bones and read J.D. Robb. No idea what that combination is likely to produce in the brain but should be interesting.

Yesterday was the first ballet of the year - The Silver Rose - which was interesting but not the world's best music I have to admit. The costumes were gorgeous (all art nouveau inspired) and the dancing was fab but the music was just a bit meh which spoils some of the drama. And it's a very "operatic" (as Terry Pratchett would say) plot. Given it's inspired by Der Rosenkavalier this makes sense but the plot doesn't, really. Never big on the "man dresses as woman and another man falls for him instantly" plot. Still, well worth a look if you're ballet inclined and in Australia.

March 13, 2010


Thanks to the gods of communications who decreed that fixing my landline = breaking my adsl I am without Internet at home and can only get online via the iPhone (have I mentioned how much I love my iPhone?)

So I'll be tweeting a bit and checking emails but otherwise scarce as things like blogging are tricky on teeny screen. Plus I can't update my template on the phone so here's the latest wordcount....45k!!! Yay that is hopefully over half way of first draft page count! Aiming to get to 50k by tomorrow night which should be doable given have less ways to procrastinate with no Internet on the computer!

More when I'm back in the land of the wired.

March 10, 2010


Just a quick post to let you know that I've posted a quick teaser blurb for Shadow Kin on my website.

Hope you like it!

And now, having violated the pages before other stuff rule, must knuckle down to do my pages for the night....hopefully Write or Die and the girls will come to my rescue!

March 08, 2010


Well, I didn't quite make it to 40k which was my goal for the weekend, thanks mainly to a fit of the tireds yesterday and a fit of the generally uninspireds today. But I did still manage 7 pages today so that's not a complete write-off. If I do six tomorrow I'll hit the 40k mark.

The words are still coming but still not entirely sure how this book is going to hang together. There are a few different goals being pursued which are pulling people in completely different directions and I still haven't had the flash of inspiration as to how it all fits. Hopefully that will still arrive, otherwise there will be much revision whining to be had.

Otherwise the weekend has contained crit meetings and dinners out and wrestling with recalcitrant fridges and recalcitrant phones. I can claim (I think) victory over the fridge but we're waiting on the repairman to check out the phone line. Luckily whatever is affected the voice calls doesn't seem to be bothering my ADSL so I still have internet. So as long as Melbourne doesn't have any more completely crazy weather (which luckily my little house survived unscathed) which makes using a mobile phone ill advised, I'll just have to rely on the cell for awhile.

This week I have a couple of presentations to do at the day job, including one Friday morning which means my day off will be shortened so all will be busy busy but I'd still like to get another forty or so pages written. At times like this, when you're not sure what's going on with the story, being a pantser means just keeping on putting one damn word down after another and trusting that the girls know something you don't.

I also need to get a bit more focused back on the food and exercise. There have been many celebratory dinners and lunches and I think the indulgence is one reason I'm feeling tired. Plus I didn't get my last run for the week in yesterday or today so have to make sure that happens tomorrow to try and pep myself up again. And cut off the cravings for cake and chocolate and champagne which are rearing their little heads a bit too much after being allowed out too often! I've still been pretty good but pretty good can slide to not so good and then before you know it to really not good if you let it. I feel better when I'm eating healthy most of the time and doing my exercise so it's back to the routines this week.

And now, I think I'll go watch Big Bang and get an early night because the first of those presentations is tomorrow!

March 04, 2010

The awkward stage

If my wip were a person right now it would be a teenager. A slightly sullen, earphone wearing, far-more-interested-in-texting-their-best-friends-than-talking-to-someone-as boring-as-the-person-writing-it teenager. It's at that awkward stage. It happens every book.

I'm not a plotter, so I tend to plunge into a book with a shiny crunchy idea and see what happens. What usually happens is that the shiny crunchy idea and initial book rush gives me enough momentum to get about a bit less than a third of the rough draft in (around 100 pages for one of my long books) and it gets tricky. I start to realise I have no idea what's happening, feel like there's no plot and can't really remember what was exciting or interesting about the idea in the first place. It all feels flat and dull. The words come more or less (though there will be a point where I'm just stuck for a bit and have to keep circling back through what I've written while I think) but they feel off kilter (even though when I come back to revise they'll be no better or worse than the rest of it). It's the bit where my analytical side starts to try and take over and say "we NEED to know what's going on. you NEED a plot. The sky is falling etc etc".

Depending on the book, this means brainstorming or whining to my crit partners or just ignoring it and plowing on or skipping ahead to some of the bits further on in the book that I do know and getting those down in the hopes of shaking something that will pull it together loose. This particular book, I have only the vaguest idea of later scenes. I don't even have a very good idea about the last scene (and I usually know that) though I'm starting to get glimpses. And I've done some brainstorming but haven't yet had the lightning bolt idea. So I'm thinking that I just have to put my head down and keep writing.

Of course, for this book, for the first time, I know that in a few weeks it will have to be put on hold for a bit while I do revisions on Shadow Kin. And I know that what changes in SK will have an impact on this book. But that's really just going to be situation normal from now on. I will be interrupted to do revisions or copy edits or whatever publishing throws up. I will have to chop and change. So I'm using this as an opportunity to learn how to do it. Learning how to plot in advance might be more useful but I've been doing this for eight odd years now and have never really managed to find a way of plotting that doesn't send the muse screaming from the room...I know I'll probably have to do outlines or proposals in the future but I'm not under the illusion that the books will end up much like those proposals. Or that I will enjoy doing them.

So for now, it's much like dealing with a teenager, stay positive and just keep moving forward. My goal for the next four days is to get to 40k. Should be do-able. I might even get the blinding flash of inspiration.

So what about everyone else? Do your books have awkward stages? Are you pantsers who sometimes wish desperately for an industrial strength flashlight to show you the way like me or do you wrestle with the story in advance while you plot and then just write your way through? Any tips or tricks for coaxing a story out to play?

PS Don't forget: comment on any of my posts this month and you're in the running to win a copy of Robin McKinley's Sunshine (details here).

March 01, 2010

Paying it forward or Contest!!

Like most writers, I came to my love of stories by reading. I learned to read young and haven't stopped since. I have even, in the past, been accused of eating books. My favourite authors have provided me with countless hours of pleasure, distraction and comfort when I've needed it. They've also taught me a lot about being a writer and what makes a good story. They're the ones who make me want to write better, who inspire me and keep me on this path. There is almost nothing in the world I like better than discovering a new fabulous author or sinking into the world of an old friend book.

It's still a little hard to believe that sometime next year people will be able to pull my book off the shelf and (hopefully!) enjoy their time in my stories. But it's true and to celebrate that fact, I've decided to celebrate some of the authors who've given me so much enjoyment over the years and have some role to play in the type of writer I am today.

So every month until my book comes out, I'll be giving away one of my favourite books on my blog to hopefully introduce some old and new favourite authors to some new readers. To be eligible to win all you have to do is comment on one of my posts for the month. If you comment on more than one post then you get more than one entry into the draw (though multiple comments on one post still only get you one entry). Each month I'll post the giveaway book around the 1st or 2nd and draw the previous month's winner. (I am reserving the right to vary the rules from month to month as hey, this is my contest : ) ).

Given I read in a wide variety of genres, there will be a variety of books...books I hope you'll love like I do but as with all things in life, taste is individual : ). I'd imagine a large percentage of them will end up being fantasy, romance and urban fantasy but you never know what might turn up.

Eventually I'll have other contests to do with my books but until then...let's get the ball rolling...

This month's book is Sunshine by Robin McKinley. A book that Neil Gaiman describes as "Pretty much perfect" and I tend to agree.

I've blogged about Sunshine before but it's a book that I resisted for a while. I kept picking it up in the bookstore, reading the blurb then putting it back down. But one day I thought "there's a reason" I keep picking this up and I bought it. That was probably in 2007 and I hadn't read anything else of Robin's at that point. I took Sunshine home that night, opened it up and pretty much didn't move from my couch until I was done, so smitten was I with the book. I've re-read it many many times since then and I love it more every time. I own two copies because I'm wearing out my first rapidly.

Sunshine is one of those cross genre books that's hard to describe. The closest I can come is alt-earth paranormal with a smidge of horror fantasy romance. It's funny and scary and romantic and full of food that will make you starving hungry every time you read it. The heroine is cranky and delightful and very real. It's a very unique world and Robin has a wonderful voice. Sunshine is definitely one of my all time favourite books. Since reading it I've read all Robin's other books. Other favourites of hers include Chalice, Dragonhaven, Spindle's End and The Blue Sword. I'm eagerly awaiting Pegasus, her next book which is due out in November this year (way too long to wait, so I'll just have to keep re-reading until then).

To whet your's the start of the back cover blurb...

"There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it's unwise to walk. But the lake had been quiet for years... She never heard them coming. Of course, you don't when they're vampires."

So comment away this month and a copy of Sunshine could be winging its way to you next month!

PS I'll be posting the winner and will give them two weeks to claim the book after which there will be a re-draw of the prize. So if you don't want to miss out, don't forget to check back or subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter so as not to miss the announcement.