Thursday, January 31, 2008

Delurk. C'mon, you can do it.

Today I'm going to take a page from my favorite cynical dad blogger, Chag.


If you've never commented before, please leave a comment. If this is your first time here, please leave a comment. If you're a regular commenter or one of my BFF who read my rambles devotedly, please leave a comment. That goes for you feed readers too.

Say hi! Wave! Tell me where you're from. Tell me what you do, or what you're writing. Or just say hi and stick your tongue out at me.

Also, feel free to ask any questions you'd like me to answer on future blog posts. Because I am such the fount of knowledge.

If we get over 50 distinct commenters, I'll do a random pick and offer a prize.

(prize, prize. Thinking. I'm a little low on the cashola for a real prize. I am an editor, though, and I have a good eye. Would anybody want a 5-page crit? Hey, you can answer that too! In your COMMENTS!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Yes, I got tired of brown. Wonders never cease. {s}

Back back back

The last couple of days have been a change, writing-wise.

Sunday night I had a sudden wave-of-brain, and realized I'd stepped the wrong way in the story. Well, it's first draft, so not wrong exactly, but not best. If I took it another way the later plot would go in a much better direction, include the characters and settings I'd rather be exploring, etc.

So. Halted headlong progress. The 1500 or so words I wrote on vacation will likely stay buried in the GhostGirl2 file--I'm now working on GhostGirl3. I rewound several chapters, found the misstep, and cut about 1800 words yesterday. More will be hacked today. I also wrote 900 new words, though, and will write some more cool new it evens out. Better now than a much more tangled later. Much better for plot.

In going back over the old stuff, though, I discovered a few things (AGAIN) about Things I Do on First Draft.

Annoying things:
--My characters breathe a lot. A lot a lot. Take a slow breath, a shaky breath, exhale a long breath. Struggle to breathe. Mind, that last is a fairly important issue for my MC during some parts, but the rest? Geez. We know you're breathing, Nat, you're still talking to us. Stop. It.

--Dialogue tag repeats. I cannot believe how often I do this. "Blah blah blah," X said. He did some random action. Every time I read through a section I have to do a delete on all those "X said He" bits. {sigh} Thank goodness for later drafts.

Positive things:
--I made myself laugh, reading bits, and I'd totally forgotten I'd written some of them and was pleased. This is a good sign, for later. After cleanup.

So what do you do in first draft, and always have to fix later? Do your characters nod too much? Walk? Grin? Do you have to yank out useless adverbs?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Liar's Diary

This post is part of Patry Francis Day. 300+ bloggers strong are taking time on their blogs today to write about Patry Francis and her book, The Liar's Diary.

Complete details are here:

Patry Francis is a writer like many I know--she had a full-time job, 4 (4!) kids, and still managed to scrape time together to get the writing done. She finished a book. She found an agent. She sold the book.

And then, unfortunately, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, just as her book was due to be released.

That timing sucks. Okay, cancer sucks. My grandfather, aunt, and mother-in-law all died of cancer. My mom has cancer that must be treated regularly, with experimental treatments. I have a particularly close fear--and hatred--of that nasty bastard.

So Patry, heck yeah I'm joining in to help promote your book on its release day, so you can concentrate on getting better and beating this cancer. I'm going to go check out your book myself, once I'm done writing this.

THE LIAR'S DIARY is out TODAY in paperback! Go check it out, people! And if you want to make a blog post too, for Patry, for all the writers and non-writers you know who have had to battle cancer, yes. Please.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Checking back in

I'm back!

It's 19 degrees, snowing like a bejeesus, and blustery. Everyone is of course either blaming me for this weather, or charging gleefully into my office to ask how I like being back.


Though it was very hard to find vacay pictures without any of us recognizable in them*, here are a few. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I am so back at work now, back at school, and back on GG. {s}

That's us, going down the big drop on the log ride...

*One of my longstanding self-imposed rules for this blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Made it!

Brief update, because I'm pounding out a few more words in another window.

We made it to LegoLand. Child declared, skipping back to the hotel, that this was one of the best days of her life.


(It is deluging again, but held off until 4 thank the weather gods. Now it can do whatever it pleases, and I don't care...)


Last night, while Child was tucked into the hotel bed and hubby was at a play, I had to make a choice. I had an hour and a half.

To my right, Spymaster's Lady was sitting seductively on the little table, taunting me. "Come read," called Annique. "You have only a few chapters left. I am in grave danger, me, and you must know what befalls me." Grey just threw me a look. "Come," he said. Just one word, but so powerful.

To my left, the laptop. The manuscript of Ghost Girl. Natalie. "Hello? I've been sitting here waiting for you for like, ever. In a mess, as usual. Will you come and help me out, please?" And then there's Tony, who's in this scene. Did I mention that Tony looks a little like James McAvoy?

Tough, right?

I'm happy to say that Tony and Natalie won. 800+ words. Finished the whole scene. Yay! And with time to spare. As a reward, guess what I got to read...

On a vacation note, it's bloody raining again. We had a great day yesterday, but it poured last night and is due to pour more today. LegoLand is looking more and more unlikely...
But Child is happy. The past couple of days she's had great fun, and right now we're going to go color the new Fairytopia coloring book with the new crayons, and that's pretty good for her. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

vacation report

Yesterday was another rockin' vacation day. Monday was good too, but it rained, so our trip to the zoo was a bit drippy. We soldiered on, and had fun. But yesterday was perfect weather, warm but not hot. We spent pretty much the whole day at the Wild Animal Park, visiting with monkeys and okapi and lions. We rode up above the park in a hot air balloon, and had cranes and eagles swoop just over our heads in the bird show. Child enjoyed the playground best, though. :)

Today is possibility of rain. We're going to head to Balboa Park, most especially the Science Museum (excellent kid's place) and the adjoining playground. And maybe some shopping.

Side note: we are all valiantly pretending that I do not have a cold, though I've gone from scratchy throat to scratchy chest to sore throat. But nothing's wrong, no, nothing. I'm fine. {g} Actually I am, pumped up with Airborne and Super C and coffee...

Oh, and I saw Atonement. Really enjoyed it. Highly recommended for writers!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vacation day perfection

Wow, what a perfect day.

This morning we headed out to the Stephen Birch aquarium, one of the best small aquariums ever, anywhere. Okay, I may be biased. We've been there probably a hundred times, before Child and at every stage of Child's life. I love to sit at the bottom of the huge kelp tank and stare with her at the sun shining down through the swaying kelp forest, as leopard sharks swing in front of our noses.

Then we had Mexican food for lunch (of course) and headed to see our Big Event of the trip, the Corteo show of Cirque de Soleil, which is here on tour. I loved it. It was amazing. {happy sigh}

Then Starbucks coffee, and a swim in the heated hotel pool, followed by dinner at CPK.

Hubby is out to a movie, Child is asleep, I squeaked out 200 words in half an hour...and now, Northanger Abbey is just starting on Masterpiece Theatre.

Ahhhh. Perfection. {g}

Friday, January 18, 2008

Made it.

There. Got to the 50% mark on Ghost Girl.

Now there will be a brief pause while:

(a) we go on vacation, to sunny-land
(b) I figure out what happens next. Some brainstorming on various plot threads and possibilities is necessary.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see some skating cowboys (and who wouldn't, really?), go here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008, mentors

Weather: Today it's snowing steadily, big, fat flakes. Much nicer than yesterday.

Several fellow writers picked up my meme for their blogs, which makes me oddly cheerful. Proof that I have some impact, however small, on the world, I suppose. {g}

Speaking of impact, and affecting other people--I was somewhat distressed when at least two of my fellow writers declared in their meme answers that they had no mentors. Seriously. NO mentors? How? How can you survive in this crazy-making profession without having somebody to lean on? Somebody you can call when you're despairing, when you need your hand held, or when you have absolutely fabulous news and you cannot wait another single second to share it with somebody who understands?

J.A. Konrath had this to say on his blog this morning:
    I'm lucky that I have half a dozen professional writers on speed dial, and if I get stuck, they're happy to help me out. Naturally, I return the favor. It's a combination of tough love, enabling, and a mutual admiration society, and it is one of the true joys of this business.
Yes. Exactly. For support, I'm amazingly lucky in that I have a small group of writer friends that I can talk to, literally, about anything. We kick each other when we need kicking, sympathize when we need that, and are always (always) ready to celebrate successes large and small.

I understand that is not exactly a mentor, necessarily. That's why for my list I chose two people who have been, and continue to be, mentors for me in specific ways.

Diana Gabaldon has shared her expertise, advice, and assistance with I don't know how many writers over the years, at the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum. I'm fortunate that I also get to see Diana in person every year at Surrey. She's been unfailingly encouraging and helpful to me. She's also fun to drink Scotch with. {g}

Vicki Pettersson is just fun to drink with.

Okay, I'll be serious. Vicki is my shining example of how this writing stuff can work if you put your heart into it. She also shows me every day how to handle successes, how to keep your head down and focus on writing, and how to never, ever forget that it's about doing your best work, in the end.

(Unfortunately, this also gives her the right to say 'I told you so' ad nauseum. If that's the tradeoff, I'm good with that.)

One of my writer friends shocked me the other day by declaring that I was her mentor. I don't see how--since I'm at the beginning of this process myself--but I sure the heck was flattered. When I get a little further along, that is definitely one of my goals. Pay it forward. Encourage others. Be the one they want to call, be the helping hand.

You gotta have mentors in this process, IMO. I know I wouldn't make it without 'em.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It was -9 degrees (F) this morning. My fingers and cheeks were numb for an hour. It's up to a balmy 13 now, and I have my sweater off and the window open. This is the joy of working on the 3rd floor of a building built in 1896. The heat is either on (roasting) or off (freezing). Right now, with the window cranked, it's almost right.

With the blast of arctic air, though, I'm rather glad that we're leaving for vacation soon. We always try to do a week in San Diego sometime in January or February--knowing that the winter blahs will hit right about now--and I'm sooo looking forward to it. Not least because we got tickets to the Cirque de Soleil. Huzzah!

After today's work, I just have to get 1000 more words on GG to get to my 50% goal before we leave. That I can, and will, do.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10 Writerly Questions

A meme! Instead of 10 Things I Hate about You, it's 10 Things about You as a Writer.

I answered, and am tagging everyone who reads this, is a writer, and has a blog. I'm looking forward to your answers!

1. Your genre(s)?

Young adult, baby. All the way—I love to read it and write it. (Though I do have an adult historical under the bed, and I never rule out anything for the future.)

2. How many books have you completed?

Two. Almost halfway through the first draft of #3. By the end of 2008 that number should be 4.

3. How many books are you working on now?

One, seriously. But my mind keeps dabbling with the next one.

4. Are you a linear or chunk writer?

Linear, but I do drafts. First shitty draft, second fix-plot draft, third clean-up, and fourth language (spit and polish).

5. The POV you're most partial to?

First! Definitely. It's what comes naturally. But I've played with close third, and might try that sometime.

6. The theme that keeps cropping up in your books?

The MC finds out something special about themselves they didn't know, or has to deal with being different. No, no ties to my actual real life, of course. {cough}

7. How many days a week do you write?

Five regularly (M-F) plus whatever weekend time I can grab.

8. What time of day do you get your best writing done?

Lunch! I close the door, and the time is all mine.

9. Who are your mentors?

Diana Gabaldon, Vicki Pettersson. Both have helped me immeasurably, in different ways.

10. Who are your favorite authors to read? (different from mentors)

Right now: Joanna Bourne, Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Marr. Piles of others, but those are on top at the moment.

Now, yours!


For anybody who hasn't seen the news yet...

A new anthology has been announced, with Vicki, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, and Jocelynn Drake. Jocelynn's the only one I haven't read (and loved) yet, but I know I will, from the insider comments I've heard.


I don't often go all fan-girly, but I am today. {Massive Grin}

Monday, January 14, 2008

Win The Spymaster's Lady signed copy!

Forgot to add this:

Go to Jennifer Hendren's blog to enter to win a signed copy of The Spymaster's Lady! Trust me, if you don't already have one, you want one. :)

The shape of the future


Over the weekend I started to see the shape of Ghost Girl. I remember this happening about the halfway mark with Jenna too--suddenly what was rather vague wandering around and doing stuff begins to crystallize into plots, threads, themes, and issues. I start to see what I will need to change, strengthen, and cut. Where I will deepen characters and relationships. I feel a surge of excitement, that I can really make this a good book. It's like I've been sculpting with no idea what the final product will be, and then I just SEE.

I also see the mounds of work ahead to get there. Yes, there will be massive rewrites necessary. But this sense of shape is validation that it will work when I'm done.

For now, though, forward progress continues. I just stuck Nat in a very lovely (not) situation I'm quite pleased with. Reminder: never volunteer to be one of my heroines.

Last night--sleepless again--I also got a bit more info on the NEXT book. I had to sit on her to get her to stop telling me about it, because I just can't listen to her right now. Her name, BTW, is Melody.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Depressing news...

This was in my PW Daily today:

    Harcourt San Diego Office to Close

    Employees in Harcourt’s San Diego trade division were told Thursday that the office will close June 30. The announcement is the latest step in the integration of the Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin trade operations into the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade & Reference Publishers division. The San Diego office has about 65 employees.

More here from PW.

For those who don't know, I worked as an editor in the San Diego office of Academic Press, then a division of Harcourt, for 8 years. The Harcourt trade people were my colleagues, and many of them my friends. Our division was taken over by Reed Elsevier 5 years ago, and now Harcourt. {SIGH}


And the winner is...LINDA!!

Congratulations, Linda. 4 new books coming your way. :) Enjoy!

And I hope everybody enjoys The Spymaster's Lady. I have no doubt about that. (Congratulations again, Jo!)

Last entry!

Thanks for the laughs yesterday, guys! Worked like a charm, with the addition of coffee and GOING HOME. :)

I also started a wonderful book last night, called The Spymaster's Lady. Heard of it?

Here's the last contest entry, unless somebody gets to me in the next 20 minutes. I'll do a random draw at 9 AM and announce the winner here.

From Linda:

Linda chose to take the photo with her favorite accompaniment. I highly recommend that one myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

need a laugh!


I'm in rather a cranky and crotchety mood right now. I need diversion. What's your best cheering-up site or laugh?

Entry #4

This is from Precie, who drove to the store and purchased the book, partly (now) because of this contest. Yay!

Anyone else?

Another entry

Julianne's entry for the contest:

Okay, someone who's name does not start with "J"?

Contest rules here, update here. Remember, deadline is 9 AM MST tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Contest entries

Triple post day. Blame coffee.

Entries for the contest!

From Jen:

From Jenny C.:

Now it's a competition. {g}

Anybody NOT named Jennifer like to enter?


Oh, I'm so happy!

One of my friends just had a writing epiphany, and I am so thrilled for her!! Whoopee!

Contest, more!

Update to contest:

1) To bring in the early purchasers, I'm changing the rules so you can also send me a picture of The Spymaster's Lady on YOUR shelf. Bring out the cameras!

2) To clarify/sweeten the pot, I'm adding the following two books to the prize:
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, a wonderful, kick-ass vampire romance. (I also love Jeaniene's blog, here)
Me and Mr. Darcy, by Alexandra Potter. This one's a fun, modern take on Mr. Darcy and women's obsession with him. Not that I {cough} suffer from this.

That's 4 free books, guys! Free shipping and handling! (I don't have a single entry so far, so you've got a really good chance here...)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Yay, 25,000 on Ghost Girl!

I do love milestones.

Only 10,000 more to go this month...

A Giveaway! For The Spymaster's Lady

I want this shirt.

Because I'm feeling all happy and buoyant today, I'm going to do a giveaway. I still have a couple books here that didn't make the giveaway list last time, so why not let someone else love them like I did?

Today's giveaway is to help promote my fabulous friend Joanna Bourne's book, The Spymaster's Lady.

I don't have the book myself yet, so I can't give THAT away (and probably won't want to give away my copy anyway!). But here's your assignment:

Go to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. Take a picture (with your cell phone, if you're fancy like that) of Jo's book on the shelves. It would be lovely if you could turn it face out first, letting others see this fantabulous book.

Email me the photo, to susan dot I'll post at least some of them here. The contest will last until Friday morning, 9 AM Montana time, at which time I'll draw a random winner. The winner will receive copies of:

--The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
--Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund (hardcover)
--a mystery book or two which I will choose from my overwhelming piles. All wonderful, of course.

Anybody up for it? Anybody want free books? :)

Monday, January 07, 2008

On Writing

I heart Stephen King.

Which is kinda weird, because I've never actually read one of his books. I have no idea WHY. I'd think that maybe it was a too-popular snobbery problem, except for that little obsessive period I had back in 7th grade with V.C. Andrews and Sweet Valley High. (I can't believe I'm admitting that!) And I did read BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (ditto!), so really, I think snobbery is out as an explanation. I think I just haven't.

Anyone want to recommend their favorite King book, in case I want to dip my toes in?

Anyway. I heart him because I'm reading ON WRITING, and bless the man, he has told the truth about writing. He talks about all the things I've tripped over on my own, the things I've gotten excellent advice on over the years, and some things I just need to listen to. It's awesome. I'm so glad I bought a copy, so I can poke into it whenever I want.

Anybody who's having trouble with revisions, OR second-guessing yourself on a first draft, buy it and read Chapter 11. Then put it back down and write. That's what I'm going to do today, freshly inspired and freed from worries. (It's okay that the first draft sucks! I can fix it later! Hooray!)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The poem

My wonderful, brilliant friend Pam Patchet Hamilton (who is a Most Excellent writer and humorist--she also wins the Surrey Silly Writing Contest EVERY YEAR) wrote this for me:

There once was a writer named Susan,
Who didn’t waste Surrey-time boozin’.
Though for some, suicidal,
Suze presented at Idol,
The buzz it created, amusin’.

On the panel, was someone named Jet,
(That’s Janet’s unique sobriquet.)
This agent did jump,
With a lightning-speed trump,
Seems her appetite, Susan did whet.

But then she forgot, our Miss Reid,
Or got busy, with some lesser deed.
But with Susan’s persistence,
Her book went the distance.
A well deserved coup, it’s agreed.

LOLOLOL! Isn't that marvelous? Thank you, Pam!!

Pam, BTW, also makes a guest appearance in JENNA. {s}

Friday, January 04, 2008

Addition to NEWS:

I neglected to say that Vicki TOLD me to go give Janet the flipping pages, even though she didn't do YA. And Vicki talked about me to Janet over breakfast, and introduced us at the banquet.

When I say in various places that it wouldn't happen without Vic, I mean that quite literally.

News (yes, finally!)

I am absolutely THRILLED to announce that as of this morning I have signed with Janet Reid, of FinePrint Literary Management!!!!!

I first ran across Janet at Surrey, as part of the panel of the dreaded SIWC Idol workshop. As in previous years, I submitted my 2 pages, this time of JENNA, to be read aloud and critiqued. Kristin Nelson stopped the reading, but Janet stood up for it, and said she loved the beginning and would have kept reading.

I didn't really consider submitting to her, though, because I knew she didn't take YAs. However, I ran into her again at the banquet, and reminded her that she'd liked my book...and she asked for pages right there. Sadly, I didn't have them hiding in my cocktail dress, but I slipped the first chapter to her the next day. She said she'd get in touch with me.

Fast forward to November. I hadn't heard from her, but I'd been submitting to other agents, and I still had her on my list as a long shot (no YAs, remember?). So I sent her a follow-up email with the first chapter again. Didn't hear right away, but that's standard. Kept submitting. In the meantime a few other agents asked for the full.

On December 18th, I got a wonderful email from Janet saying she couldn't believe she hadn't asked for the full right away, and could I please send it?

She read the whole thing IN ONE DAY and called to offer representation that night. She loved it. (okay, I feel like Sally Fields now; I will refrain)

We had to wait until the other agents considering the full had a chance to respond, which is why the long radio silence between then and now. But from the moment I talked to her that night, I wanted to sign with her. She's wonderful, and she LOVED THE BOOK. Just as it is. (yes, I did watch Bridget Jones last night, why do you ask?)

As to not repping YAs? I asked Janet that. She said "Well, we're just going to change that right now, aren't we?" :)

So there you have it. I have an agent.

Thanks to all of you for your support through everything!!

Thursday, January 03, 2008



This is my horoscope for today:

Try to adopt a 'keep it to yourself' attitude about controversies today. Play it safe, because it's quite likely that your boss or another authority figure will have different opinions than you do. It's best to just button your lip and bite your tongue -- this person is not interested in starting a debate about what whether you are right or they are right. They need you to just go along with them and not make any waves. And for today, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing just that.

You know, I'm not a big follower of horoscopes, but sometimes they're spot on. And I really should have read that one BEFORE I made some phone calls this morning. {SIGH}

Excuse me while I pry my foot out of my mouth.

Brown Lessons

Having a kid is all about learning. We start out blank, and have to learn all that stuff about how to change diapers, how to handle tantrums, how to set boundaries, how to play with Polly Pockets for hours on end, yanking tiny little rubber outfits on and off, without screaming.

I've learned lately that for a 5.5-year-old child, boy OR girl, there's nothing as funny as poop.

I did not foresee this, when I imagined having a little girl. ANYthing that mentions poop, or farts, will cue instant giggles. She adds "poop" to any word, any sentence, any conversation, and cracks herself up. Constantly.

Yesterday she whispered in my ear, stopping often to giggle, that "if your poop had rockets in it, it would FLY!" and "if your poop was chocolate, would it come out with wrappers?" She laughed so hard she fell on the carpet.

This is not my usual favorite form of humor, so it's taking a little getting used to. (Her daddy's not having such an adjustment, but that's another story.) But I can join in, when necessary.

Last night at dinner she was telling the usual flood of poop jokes. I shook my head, serious, and said (with a straight face) "Please. That's not a-poop-riate."

I don't think we could eat for 10 minutes, we were all laughing so hard.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008



A little bit late, but yesterday I was too busy playing with dolls, reading books, munching chips-n-guacamole and watching the Twilight Zone marathon to get near the computer.

I was a little surprised by the number of TZ episodes I didn't remember well. I kinda thought with all the years of watching marathons I'd have them memorized. But no! (hmm, or maybe I'm losing my memory. In the TZ frame of mind, that seems more likely)

I was also quite surprised by how similar one of the episodes (Number 12 looks just like you) is to the basic premise of UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. Enough that I had to dig around to see what he had to say about it...he vaguely remembered it, and thought parts were similar. Goes to prove the adage that there's nothing new under the sun (or in plots), but it's all in how you handle it.

I'm hanging on rather tight to this adage myself, as my current WIP is a ghost story, and there seems to be a flood of them just now. The good thing is I have confidence that nobody's twisting it the same way as me.

Had a rather good idea for the next scene come to me this morning, so I'm raring to go at lunchtime today. Now I just have to figure out this odd "work" thing I'm supposed to be doing until then!