Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scent on the Shelves

At Barnes & Noble in Phoenix, Arizona:

Thanks, Danne! You're entered to win the cool grand prize.

What does it look like on your shelves?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SCENT contest!

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear Suuuuuu-san.....

Oh, right, you want to hear about the CONTEST.

Today, other than being my birthday, is the official release date of Vicki Pettersson's THE SCENT OF SHADOWS. Y'all, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time--and I'm not saying that because she's my friend. It's absolutely-frickin-true. The pacing is impeccable; it's one of those books you can't drag your eyes up from, even when the kids are calling or someone's waving chocolate in front of you. The main character, Joanna, is flawed, but in the same way that real people are. She got into my head, and I worried about her even when I wasn't reading. The setting is kickass and original, and will totally draw you in. In short (too late, I know), you'll love it. You've GOT to read it, as soon as you possibly can.

So I'm going to help you. The contest:

SCENT should be on the shelves in at least every major bookstore, starting today. But that abstract knowledge isn't enough--I want to see it, on the shelf of your bookstore. So....

1. Go to the bookstore and find SCENT OF SHADOWS. If you can't find it, ask your local friendly bookseller. And, you know, feel free to talk up all the great things you've heard about this book. Booksellers can be some of the best advocates in the world if they like something.

2. Take a picture of SCENT on the shelf, in all its glory. I don't care if you take it with the camera on your phone or a Canon Rebel, or what. Just so we can make it out.

3. Send said picture to me at susan . adrian @ (run together, of course) and tell me the name of the bookstore and your town. I'll post 'em as I get 'em. (I'll only use YOUR first names or online IDs, though, I promise)

(Er...if you want to buy a copy or two in between steps 2 and 3, that wouldn't be bad either)

4. I'll give you a week to send me pictures. Next Tuesday I'll do a random drawing among those who sent me pictures, for the grand prize:

A super-cool zodiac pendant, in keeping with the Zodiac theme of Vic's series. Yep, I'll even let you choose your own sign, though Joanna's Archer glyph is pretty darn cool....

So what are you waiting for? Celebrate a fellow author, check out a cool book, AND win a prize!

(I'm really looking forward to seeing these pictures)

Edited to say two things:

1. If you're not US-based and SCENT isn't released in your area yet, let me know. We may have a non-US-people rule.
2. Sara Howe is having a parallel contest for the SCENT release, where you can win cool personal scents. Go see her too!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Small, knowable world

The party went really well on Saturday--big relieved sigh from Mommy here. Not as many kids came as I expected, but it worked out perfectly, and they all made their crafts (homemade windchimes), played Hullabaloo with great joy, and scarfed down cheese pizza, super-frosted cake, and pink punch and apple juice. We have videos of them all bouncing up and down after balloons, and photos of all the Art etc. She'll remember this party fondly, and I'm so glad.

My birthday's tomorrow, but whatevah. We'll do something fun, but I don't have to worry about it!

I'm reading STORY very slowly due to Life, but ran across a very true bit from it this morning that I thought I'd share (small bit copied under fair use):

"Limitation is vital. The first step toward a well-told story is to create a small, knowable world. Artists by nature crave freedom, so the principle that the structure/setting relationship restricts creative choices may stir the rebel in you....The constraint that setting imposes on story design doesn't inhibit creativity; it inspires it."

This immediately struck me as true. A vast, ill-defined, or vague setting puts the reader off. They can't picture themselves in it, imagine themselves as part of it. Think of books you've loved, books that have made you spin off in your imagination into that world. For me an example is THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper. The setting is very specific, a small village in north England. But it's clear that it's "real" to the characters (and the author) and I can completely picture myself there.

I'm feeling confident that I can create this small, knowable world a heckuva lot better in this book than I could in any of the ones I've worked on before.

What do you think? Does this bit ring true for you?

OH, and there will be a major Announcement tomorrow relating to the release date of Vicki's book, THE SCENT OF SHADOWS. Watch this space.

Friday, February 23, 2007

5 years

Five years ago today my daughter was born. At the time I knew nothing about babies but what I'd learned in our hour-long parenting class at the hospital, and here we were presented with this little, fragile, red-faced, wrinkly person, who we were supposed to protect and care for well. I had the urge to hand her back, in panic. Shouldn't somebody who knows how to do this take her? What were we supposed to do now?

But we made it through the first couple of days at the hospital, when she was so hungry we had to supplement with formula...bottle after tiny bottle. We made it through the first 3 weeks of torturous breastfeeding. We made it through the fact that she never slept for longer than 45 minutes at a time, for nearly her first year. We proceeded on through her first cold, colic, an ear infection, through falls, cuts, bruises, and tantrums. Through a move, and preschool, and separation anxiety. Through time-outs and tears.

Along the way we also experienced the inexpressible joy of seeing her first smile, hearing her first laugh. Getting open-mouthed baby kisses on the cheek. Sleeping with the sweet, heavy weight of her on my chest, or curled next to us in our bed. Helping her learn to eat with a spoon, suck from a straw, walk. Hearing her first words grow into more, and more...until now, we can have real conversations together. Seeing her concentrate fiercely on a puzzle, and then leap around the house with joy when she did it--by herself. Reading to her, and now listening to her read. Singing to her, and then with her. Dancing. Playing. Getting daily hugs and kisses. Hearing her say "I love you" and watching her sleep.

She's not my baby anymore, I guess. But I think she's probably the coolest 5-year-old in the world. And these have been the best 5 years of my life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A little bit of pixie dust

Writing is going well. I'm having that feeling again where I'm thinking about the book often; I can't wait to get to it and find out what happens. Of course it helps, for suspense, that I have a MC who won't TELL me critical parts of the world. I ask, there is silence. I planned and brainstormed, and it immediately morphed on me. So I'm going with the flow. This might be one of those things I need to write to see.

In other news, planning is hot and heavy for Child's 5th birthday party. Birthday is Friday, party is Saturday. We did something Completely Different for here and are having an Art Party at our new Arts Center (otherwise known--heck, ubiquitously known--as "the Old Y"). We hired an artist for an hour, and she's going to do a project with the kids where they paint clay animal figures and then string them with beads and bells to make a windchime. Sweet! (Bonus: these are our party "favors" for the kids to take home.) We also will have a table with paper, stamps, stencils, crayons, markers, scissors, etc. to do with as they will. Plus pizza, a Tinkerbell cake, and games. Doesn't that sound awesome? Yesterday we went and bought Tinkerbell plates, cups, and napkins, and Happy Birthday banners and stuff to decorate.

We originally weren't going to have a party this year--we thought maybe we'd have one every other year--but then we looked at each other, realized she's only 5 once, and said "why not?" Requested birthday present: a fish. Our first pet. (We're allergic to furry and fuzzy animals.) We'll see how we do with pets!

I have meetings and class today, so I'd better go--though I really wish I could just open up the Word file and hunker down. Maybe later.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Further progress

Well, hello out there.

Had a full and satisfying weekend and am now back at work, if not fully awake. Senator Tester is on campus today, so I'm going to hear him talk in about 10 minutes. (Hmmm, must put on shoes for that.)

I'm still reading STORY, and continuing to flag wisdom I want to remember. There are flags all over the place!

I also had a plotting breakthrough on The New Book this weekend that I'm very excited about it. It's all going to tie together--and I love it. AND...drum roll, please...I started writing today. Yay, me! Yay, New Book!

That is all. :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Story, first read

I got my copy of Robert McKee's STORY through interlibrary loan today (one of the benefits of working on a university campus).

I only read the Introduction, but I already found two lines I love:

--"The archetypal story unearths a universally human experience, then wraps itself inside a unique, culture-specific expression."

--"Rather than agonizing over the odds [of publication], put your energies into achieving excellence."

This man knows what he's talking about.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tag: 5 things

Hey! Right after I posted I saw Diana had tagged me. So 5 little-known facts about myself, eh? I don't know how "unknown" these are to my blog readers, but here ya go:

1. I was, for a brief period, a professional ballet dancer.

2. I have a thing for dangly earrings and pretty watches. Really the only girly things I wear.

3. I believe in ghosts and have had several paranormal experiences. I don't talk about those much because people think I'm crazy enough already.

4. I have an autograph somewhere from Dorothy Hammill.

5. I can flip a goat to check its teeth.

Moving On

I've simply had no time to blog the past couple of days--Tuesday I went on a ski trip with Child's preschool, and when I got back I had a work "emergency". Fortunately it's turning out fine, almost done.

I've had a couple of people ask me how I'm doing with the Big Change, and whether I'm feeling a sense of loss.

Short answer: Nope!

I rather thought I would. After all, I've let go of my first book, shoved the poor thing under the bed for now, and am dangling over the precipice of the unknown. Right? I should be mourning or something, shouldn't I?

Actually I was Without WIP, honestly, for about half a day. The very night I "let go", I couldn't sleep for all the ideas pouring into my head. A MC popped in whole, made herself comfortable, and settled right down to tell her story. So far it's pretty interesting, too. I'm not actually writing story as yet, but I'm doing a daily writing journal where I brainstorm the character/plot/world etc., and it's working. (Yes, Vic, I have brilliant friends.)

I'm going to keep it to myself for a while, but thought I'd let you know that I've already moved on, and yes, it's fun again. Yay. I think that transition might have been one of my best writing decisions yet. Onward!

Monday, February 12, 2007

A good rant

Bookseller Chick has a top-notch rant today about chick lit, urban fantasy, "women's fiction" and our own right to read whatever the hell we want. Go read it.


There are some big changes going my head. {s}

On Friday I took a hard look at what I'm doing--what my writing goals are, what I'm passionate about, what kind of career I want to build. And what's not working for me now. With the help of a good friend, I realized that if I want to change course I need to do it NOW, before I get stuck on a track I don't want to be on.

In short, writing historicals isn't making me happy right now; it's making me UNhappy. I dread the research, I'm bored with characters whose lives I already know, in a world I can't experience yet have to stick to. I feel like I'm writing with both hands tied behind my back, and it's stopped being fun.

I'm yearning to write something of my own, a story that's wholly mine. Where I don't have to stick to a script--I make up the script. Where I can include elements that excite me, where I can let go and use my real voice, instead of trying to re-create someone long dead.

And I was thinking, la la la, I can write this new book, in a new genre for me, and still try to sell TMT.


If I sell it--and I still think that I could, if I spent some time really improving it--I will be expected to write historicals for a good long time, to build my career. And I don't want to do that.

I made a list of all the things I love to read about, to think about. Of the things that I love from my favorite authors of all time (the humor of Douglas Adams; the other worlds of Susan Cooper; the adventure and pacing of Mary Stewart, etc.). And folks, I am going My Own Way.

So you will see a change already in the blog...the Book 2 counter is gone. The references to historical fiction are gone. And guess what--instead of that medieval lady over there in the profile that I was hiding behind? There's me. (Well, a cartoon representation of me, but that's the closest you get for now.)

And the Medieval Word of the Day? That was nice, wasn't it? But I'm sorry, that has to go too.

My word of the day: transform: To change the form of; to change into another shape or form; to metamorphose.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Susan needs

Laziness this morning. Here's the meme where you search for your name and "needs" in Google and list the results. Mine were so amusing (to me) that I had to share.

1. Desperately seeking Susan needs all your love and money. (Why not just start out asking for it all? {g})

Susan needs to understand that she needs to be building up her language production. (Does that mean writing? How did they know?)

I'm thinking that Susan needs a set of t-shirts graced with silly cliches that, nevertheless, exemplify her willingness to step off the cliff of safety (I think this is better than I Ching or the Magic 8-ball. Write! Be daring! Buy T-shirts!)

Susan needs opportunities to practice literate speech (writing again)

Susan needs a tray, six inserts, center bowl and metal spinning rack (okay, maybe not this one)

Susan needs to succeed in the face of and despite this madness (YES!)

7. Susan needs cash on run (Hmm.)

"Susan needs to make a choice," the planner says. "She can keep the house and go without six-month stretches in the tropics or sell her house" (Wait a minute...give up my 6-month stretches in the tropics? WAAAHH)

The next question that Susan needs to ask herself is this : Is my goal realistic? (I ask myself this all the time)

Susan needs to understand that each employee should be supervised according to his or her own needs. (Less interesting. But I am a supervisor. Hopefully, I do that.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Starman Analysis

I watched STARMAN on TV last night, and was reminded again what a good story it is. (Yes, Jeff Bridges does some really strange acting in it--my husband did a wonderful impersonation of the stare, and had me rolling around laughing--but it fits.) This time I was noticing how well the plot was constructed.

It's really a relationship movie, and it's a hard relationship to portray well. In 3 days the woman has to go from encountering an alien who looks like her dead husband (she watches him grow from a freaky alien BABY, for goshsakes) to wanting to stay with and help him, to being completely in love with him enough to want to (a) have his baby and (b) venture off to a different planet, if he'd let her. Wow. That's some transition to try to get viewers/readers to buy into. Here are some of the reasons why I think it worked, and is still a good movie lo these many years later:

  • There's a really good reason why Jenny doesn't shoot him at the beginning, even when she's scared to death and is holding a gun on him: he is the image of her dead husband. As a new widow, she just couldn't shoot him until she found out more about that.
  • She really does try to get away. She doesn't just give in and happily say "okay, alien, I'll help you." She nearly hits another car just to get the driver's attention; she leaves a note in a gas station bathroom; and even when she's beginning to like him, she plans to dump him and catch a bus.
  • You can see her decide to stay, and understand why. It's only after she witnesses him perform an unusually caring, miraculous act (bringing a deer back to life) and then sees him get beaten for it that she understands that he's an amazing being, that he can't do this without her in a world so strange to him, and that she will help.
  • The love comes gradually, but is visible. There is a transition: fear, interest, respect, gratitude, friendship, love.
  • Each of them takes risks for the other. She stands up to a group of bullying (big) men for him; he carries her through a fire, and brings her back to life. She tracks him down and gets him away from the cops; he gives her the gift of a baby who will be part him and part her husband (so he's giving her back a part of her husband, in a weird way).
So it works, at least for me. There are a couple of moments that are clearly parallel to the Jesus/Mary story as well, I think (the woman is left with an "unexplained" baby who will "know all that I know and become a teacher"), which gives further food for thought. But mostly on this watching I was picking up hints for how to pull a short-term, high-transition love story off in fiction. {s}

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Forest (for the trees)

Diana Peterfreund has a wonderful post today about pacing, holding onto readers, looking at the story as a whole...well, you read it.

I feel like I am mentally pulling back from TMT enough (FINALLY) to see it as a whole. I see now that I didn't spend enough time on rewrite dealing with plot weaknesses, with pacing problems, with being utterly ruthless. I didn't necessarily make scenes pull double and triple duty like I should have. I left things that I wasn't quite happy with, even after strengthening (like Richard). It's better, but it's still not as good as it could be. I didn't go deep enough in revision, allowing the possibility that maybe I needed to drastically change some things instead of just tweaking here and there.

Mind, I don't feel bad about this--I really did the best I could from where I was at the time. Hell, it's my first book, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm figuring it out as I go. Yes, I've sent it out to quite a few agents and been rejected, but I don't consider them "wasted" queries either. Of 14 queries, 6 agents read a partial and 2 read a full. All but 2 of those gave me personal, detailed feedback. I've applied quite a bit of the feedback, and I'm getting closer...but now it's time for me to take a totally different approach, from the bird's-eye view, and make it shine. This time when I send it out, I want to be really happy with it, to know that it's STRONG. And then if it doesn't work out? I'll accept it, and keep going on Book 2. A few of the agents who rejected TMT asked to see my next work, so I have a couple of chances here.

Anyway, I'm making notes on things that I want to do with TMT, points I want to strengthen, subthreads I want to lay in. But I'm also going to print the whole thing out and edit it that way--not line by line, but scene by scene. What is happening in this scene? How can it work better? I'm also going to change much about the beginning, I think. Make Richard come in sooner. Make the break with her father much stronger, with deeper and additional reasons. Make the beginning matter more.

Make it shine.

Medieval Word of the Day: grusnen: To cry out with fright.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Today is the birthday of two of my favorite people, writers both--Happy Birthday, Linda and Daryl!

Actually, a very high percentage of my favorite people, many of them writers, have birthdays in January and February. Kinda makes me wonder if there's really a preponderance of aquarian/pisces writers, or if I just notice them more because I am one.

The chicken, or the egg?

Give a shout out if your birthday is in January or February too!

I just updated the TMT excerpt, for fun. :)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Good Things

I'm here, I'm just distracted!

We got back in very late Saturday night/Sunday morning, and spent the weekend lazing around, playing, doing laundry, grocery shopping...stuff like that there. It was a nice vacation, but it's always good to be home too.

Oddly enough, it's much warmer here than it was in Sacramento. Our last couple of days it was about 30 degrees and foggy/damp; right now it's sunny and 52 here. Of course I vastly underestimated the heat, and I'm dying in a turtleneck sweater in my steam-heated + outside-heated office {pant}. Mental note: wear layers tomorrow!

1 Good Thing: people seem to have simultaneously (a) noticed that I was gone and missed me and (b) managed to limp along all right without me, with no major crises.

2nd Good Thing: I just scarfed a yellow cupcake with dark chocolate fudge frosting that Child and I made together yesterday. Yum.

3rd Good Thing: Pandora Internet Radio. Does anyone else know about this? It's free. You tell them one or more artists or songs you like, and they create a playlist for you. Then you give them feedback and they refine the selection, or you can add/subtract artists you like. It's awesome, and I'm addicted. I started out with Cole Porter, then added Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and I'm pretty darn happy with the results. Yes, I am a throwback musically, and that's okay. One point about it that I love is if a song comes on that I don't like, I just hit the thumbs-down symbol and it immediately stops and never plays again. Cool.

I am limping a bit with the writing goals, but still progressing. Never give up. I'm also working mentally on how exactly I'm going to chop TMT up and put it back better, so that's coming down the pipeline.

Back to work now (and sweating).

Medieval Word of the Day: hidel-like: Secretly.