Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday's Feast and a Tease 'Til Monday

Here's my Friday Feast!

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how much do enjoy watching sports on television?

Hmm...probably about a 3, though it depends on the sport. Olympics are higher. I'd rather watch in person.

If you could completely memorize any one work of fiction, which one would you pick?
Wow...there are so many to choose from! Maybe Shakespeare's Othello; it has such beautiful language. Or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I always loved that story. Or maybe e.e. cummings' entire collection of poetry. Does that count as fiction?

What is your favorite breakfast food?
If I'm being good, a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats with berries on top and vanilla soy milk. If I'm not, a huge chocolate chip muffin with a Starbucks latte.

Main Course
Name something fun you can do for less than $10.00.
Get a book or a video from the library. (Hey, that's free!). Go to a matinee (there's still a place here that charges $6.00 before 6 pm). Spend an afternoon miniature golfing. Window shop at the mall. Go for a walk in the local park and arboretum.

How long does it usually take you to fall asleep?
Luckily, less than 10 minutes most nights.


Just a quick update: I'm going on vacation, and I won't be blogging again 'til Monday the 23rd.


Make sure to stop back then, because I'll be introducing a contest to celebrate the release of my debut novel, One Night in Boston. You'll be able to enter all week long, and don't you want to know what you could win??

See you here on Monday to find out!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Dangers of Reading Romance

Well, here's an interesting column that's been circulating on some of the groups I belong to: "Harm in Reading Romance?"

Now, I know the growth of erotica in the romance writing genre might be a source of angst for some readers. But you know what? Then don't pick up those books to read. Plenty of books in that genre still feature the development of an emotional connection between two people that doesn't involve any bedroom scenes [like mine :) ]

The other argument, that reading a romance is disillusioning and somehow damaging to one's own relationship, is a little more interesting. Are the heroes in novels better-looking, stronger, better listeners, and more sensitive than the men we marry in real life? Perhaps some of them are. So are some (many?) of the heroes in movies we go to see. Should we stop reading and viewing different forms of entertainment -- especially escapist entertainment -- because we will develop impatience and dislike for our own partners? I say no. Honestly, if one cannot read with a discerning eye, and an understanding that art does not mimic or predict or create life, then maybe there are some larger problems at stake.

I'll continue to fall in love with the heroes in novels and on the big screen, knowing full well that the man I come home to every day is different from them in many ways...and thank God. He's real, he's here, and he loves me. Can't say that about fictional characters, now can I?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How to Make the Most of a Writing Conference

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Since the RWA National Conference just wrapped up, I thought it might be useful to talk about writers' conferences in general: how to pick them, what to expect, how to make the most of your experience there. I haven't attended a ton of conferences, but I've learned something different at each one. I'm hoping readers today will also leave their personal tips.

Here, then, in no particular order, are my top 5 tips for making the most out of a writing conference:

1. Choose your conference carefully. Match the genre you write with the focus of the conference, if possible. If you're a mystery writer, you'll probably gain more from the "Hardboiled Heroes and Cozy Cats Conference" than the "Put Your Heart in a Book" Conference. Research the agents or editors who will be attending, if you're looking to pitch a story or learn more about a certain publishing house. Register as early as possible to get those agent/editor pitch spots, too - they go fast!

2. Consider the cost-effectiveness of attending. Is it a 1-day conference within an hour's drive? Or is it a 2-3 day conference that will require you to travel a longer distance and pay for hotel accommodations? Consider how much bang you'll get for your buck. I've been to 1-day conferences that were well worth the $80 or so, and larger conferences where I paid $200+ for the conference registration and $100+ for a hotel room and didn't gain as much as I thought I would. If you're traveling to a conference that requires an overnight stay, consider rooming with someone else who's going, or better yet, look for conferences in locations where you have friends or family and can stay for free!

3. Plan your days ahead of time. Usually the list of conference workshops is available before you get to the actual conference. Have a plan for which you really want to see...and have a backup in case those fill up. Get to your top choices early to get a good seat, too!

4. Take advantage of down-time to talk to other attendees. One of the most fun and rewarding parts of attending a writers' conference is meeting all the other people there. Sit with someone new in a workshop or a meal. Introduce yourself while you're standing in line. Writers, speakers, editors, agents...all are pretty friendly people, and all are there because they share the same interest!

5. Step out of your comfort zone. While some (many?) writers are more introverted than extroverted, a writers' conference can be a perfect place to work on those speaking and social interaction skills. Go to the social events. Sign up for an agent/editor pitch. Offer to volunteer, if that's an option. You'll be surprised how fast the time will go once you're involved and meeting all the other attendees.

Bottom line: how fun,gain knowledge, and network. Writing can be a lonely business much of the time, and if nothing else, conferences offer the chance to step out of your living room/office/bedroom/basement and acquaint yourself with the other writers out there!

One Week!

Seven days!

One hundred sixty eight hours!

That's how long 'til the electronic release of my very first novel, One Night in Boston. If you haven't read the excerpt yet, click here.

I'll be on vacation next week, but still blogging. Plus I'll be running a contest to celebrate and promote my release, so make sure to stop back!.

Tomorrow's another Writers' Wednesday, and I'll be featuring a "how to" column. I'll also be chatting tonight with other Wild Rose Press authors and readers, so if you're inclined, join us!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Two Books

So I had a chance to read two books from my summer TBR list:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My teen students have raved about this one for years, so I thought it was about time I picked it up. It's written in 1st person POV, as a series of letters to an unknown "friend." The writer is 14 year old Charlie, who's a bright but shy "wallflower" with some serious self-esteem problems. Through the course of the story, he finds some good friends who introduce him to dating, partying, and dealing with school bullies; he also deals with some deep-rooted issues in his immediate and extended family. It's a well-written coming-of-age story, and I can understand why teens like it. The narrator exposes the nasty side of high school as well as the exhilaration of finding true friends who'll stick by you no matter what. The only thing I didn't like was the find out the "secret" that's been messing up this kid since childhood, and it's a particular sticky one that isn't really dealt with before the story ends. I would have liked a more upbeat and complete resolution. Still, the voice is well done and compelling.

Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern

This debut novel by a woman who's also the mother of an autistic child is a thriller/mystery about a 9 year old, Adam, who becomes a witness to a playmate's murder. The only problem? He's autistic, and breaking his silence to find out what happened comsumes most of the novel. I loved this book. I thought it was tremendously interesting and layered believable levels of conflict and suspense all the way to the end. Adam's mother, Cara, is raising him alone, and we see first-hand the challenges--and wonders--of having an autistic child. The author gets across her message of the power of a mother's love along with writing a pretty good really do not know until the final pages who the killer is. Thanks again to a student for recommending this one!

(Incidentally, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is another wonderful book about a main character with autism. The entire story is told from the MC's POV, as he unravels the mystery of a pet's death and, eventually, his own mother's disappearance. It's a terrific look at the way the autistic brain works. Fascinating.)

So that's my Monday report! What good books have you read lately?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Buzz About RWA

Well, the big news this week is that RWA, the national romance writers' organization, has made some significant changes to which publishers they'll name as "RWA-approved."

RWA approval has (or used to have, before this fallout) huge influence in the romance-writing world. Their "approval" of a publisher basically means it's one that legitimate, royalty-paying, and looking out for the best interests of the author. Romance writers target RWA-approved publishers because they know they will get a fair deal. RWA has always marketed itself this way, to both published and unpublished authors, as being the support team for writers who are trying to learn the craft of writing and become successfully published one day.

Until now, apparently.

Their latest changes include this:

"Commencing with RWA’s 2008 National Conference, for official publisher participation, a romance publisher must verify to RWA that it: (1) is not a Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher; (2) has been releasing romance novels via national distribution for no fewer than three years, with no fewer than two full-length romance novels or novel-length romance anthologies published in each of three consecutive years; (3) provides per book advances of at least $1,000 for all books; and (4) pays all authors participating in an anthology an advance of at least $500...

"The Board updated the definition of Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher
to: any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in
the cost of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher
assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution...publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site*; publishers whose list is comprised of 50% or more of its books written by authors who are principals in the publishing company; and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates."

What does this mean? Basically, RWA is lumping together vanity publishers (which are publishing companies that people pay to publish their books - not recommended at all and a huge waste of money...authors should always be paid for their work, not the other way around) with small e-publishers (like Samhain and The Wild Rose Press, my 2 publishers), many of which are 100% legitimate, professional and royalty-paying. This is terrible damaging to e-publishers and, in fact, a total misnomer. RWA doesn't care.

What's worse is that as of this decision, RWA is pulling their recognition of all publishers that don't meet their new guidelines. This includes Samhain, which just a few months ago received the RWA-recognition. No grandfathering allowed (forget that Samahin just signed an imprint deal with Kensington, which is RWA-approved and will remain so).

Finally, what's also interesting is that these new guidelines might also throw out major publishers like St. Martin's and Avon, actually everyone except Harlequin. Check out more on this fact here. RWA still apparently doesn't care.

What does this mean for me? Well, I can't say that being a member of RWA has even given me much. They send out a nice monthly magazine, and they provide information on reputable publishers and agents and conferences, but I'm thinking that this latest move, to keep out small publishers from their exclusive circle, means I might spend my $75/year somewhere else.

However, this also means that I won't be able to belong to my local RWA group, since national membership is a requirement. Still, on the purposes of principle, I think I might bow out.

Finally, though, my overall reaction what? The last time I checked, people didn't buy books based on whether or not the publisher was nationally "approved" by some kind of self-governing body. And Borders doesn't have separate shelves for separate publishers, do they? If a book is on the shelf, and it looks interesting, people will pick it up. Period. In fact, I'm sure most of my non-writer friends who read my blog will have no idea what RWA is or why any of this should matter.

In the long run, I'm just going to write.