On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chapter Length -- Pacing

Ok, I've been very excited (and in promo mode) about Heart Choice coming out NEXT TUESDAY, and being a Scorpio, I've obsessed -- one of the reasons I'm talking about Writing and Publishing on this blog, too, because those are my usual obsessions.

However, wrenching my mind back to give information and "my take" on writing, I'll talk about chapter length today.

To make a sweeping statement, I'll say, in general (notice the qualifier) a writer can have longer chapter lengths (and we'll be talking Manuscript Pages) in historical novels and fantasy. Generally, the readers of these genres are acceptable of longer chapters.

I've given chapter length much thought. When I started writing seriously, my manuscript chapters ranged from 18-28 pages -- a long range, but varrying chapter lengths is good, too, to control the pace the reader experiences -- the rhythm of the book, instead of dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum, you can do da-dum-dum-da-da-dum...it's a different "sound" or pace in the brain, not static, keeps the brain engaged.

Now my manuscript chapter lengths run from 13-20 pages. And these are not all "natural" breaks, that is they don't necessarily occur when I'm writing. I'll write what I think is a chapter, then set up a master document in Word Perfect (I consider Word Perfect to be the best "writer's word processing program" as other programs are the best graphic's programs for artists, etc.) I'll check out the number of pages in a chapter and move the chapter breaks around (I should have a couple of appropriate hooks at the end of scenes). Why?

The modern reader. We are used to faster and faster action in movies, shorter time segments on commercial tv before commercial breaks.

As a writer, the most important thing in your book is to hold the readers' attention.

Let me say that again, it's THAT important.

As a writer, the most important thing in your book is to hold the readers' attention.

Why? Because once a reader puts down a book, they might not pick it up again. If they don't pick it up again, they don't finish the story, if they don't finish the story, the next time they go to a bookstore and see your next book, they think "Oh, yeah, I STARTED something of hers/his, but I don't recall the story, did I ever finish it? -- oh, look, here's something by Susie X and I ALWAYS finish her books. I'll spend my nickel on her!"

ANYTHING that jolts the reader -- POV jumping around, awkward sentences or paragraph structure -- can make the reader put down the book if there is an outside distraction, and you can be doomed....ok, a little melodramatic, but it's true.

So, chapter length, mine is shorter to hold the reader's attention -- "oh, there's only three more pages to this chapter, guess I'll finish it..." then if you have a good hook, the reader keeps on going farther.

DOWNSIDE -- yes, there is a downside to all this. And this is a PUBLISHING CONCERN downside -- paper. Each time you do a new chapter, the publisher sets it off 1/3 to 1/2 a page of "white space" or "blank space." So you might have more pages in a book and if you do, the print can be smaller and the cost can rise -- both tough things for the reader.

Those are my words of wisdom for today.

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


All right, I am WAY late about writing this one (and replying to others). Had a talk with my financial advisor about when I could quit the day job last night and...sigh...

Anyway, glass is still 3/4 full this am and I am cheerful from the reviews (though there is a smell of gas in the house, I'll have to check my pilot lights).

My friend Sharon Mignerey said that readers would like different books best in the Heart series and that it might be when they discovered the series...and I DO get different emails. Some like HeartMate best, I think because of T'Ash's rather sweetly bumbling courtship and his rise from Downwind to Noble -- and Zanthoxyl of course, Zanth the quintessential tom cat. I often got questions about pairing Zanth off -- but, Hello, he's a tom cat. (Saw the skinny stray tom I call Bittersweet this am and fed him. He let me pet him, too. He's more feral now it's summer). BTW Zanth plays a role in Heart Choice. AND, his alter-ego Boris, is the cat-hero of the contemporary paranormal novella Road of Adventure in What Dreams May Come.

Heart Thief is more problematical. It deals with a real outcast and Earth nanotechnology (though the cat with the flying saucer will always please some the most). Some of my readers like Heart Thief the most and some care for it the least. **shrug**

Heart Duel -- I've heard that folks LOVED Holm or was disappointed in him. I know some readers like it the best because of Holm. I was a little concerned that I did that twist in the end and I heard about it, but not as loudly as I thought (except a reader's vehemance scared me in person at the Romantic Times signing).

Guardian of Honor -- This was a slightly different direction, and I've had some people who enjoy it more than the Heart series...and I've had a lot of emails saying "I love your Heart series" which makes me think they haven't tried Guardian or didn't care for it.

So I wait for people to read Heart Choice and wonder...

Hmmm, didn't really mean to ramble on and list all the comments on the books. And you will note that I didn't say anything about folks wo write me with "I really can't get into that talking cat stuff..." ok, I heard that at a Chat -- and it's telepathic -- AND I try very hard to make them cats.

That gas smell is definitely something I must check into -- aren't you glad since this was mostly All About Me. OTOH, you know what to expect for your books -- people will like different ones for reasons that illude you.

Love to all,

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Numbers and Library Journal review

Well, I am pitiful about keeping up my mailing list, and I only send it out a couple of times a year – but I must say my readers really came through! I told them that it was on sale at B&N and I didn’t think the print run was big enough to hit a list, so “feel free to buy.” And they DID! When I checked my numbers at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=Ql63tHhB5D&isbn=0425203964&itm=1#REV

Heart Choice was #220 – not bad for a “niche” book!

Then I saw this wonderful Library Journal review!!! (and you all know you can’t use this amount of “!!!!s” in real writing, don’t you?) I’ve gotten a couple of reviews I’ve really liked (i.e. drugs) and it’s hard to beat this one!

Library Journal To ensure his noble line's chance of survival, Straif Blackthorn must find a cure for the genetic disorder that allowed a virus to wipe out his family-and he must start a family of his own. But the one woman who attracts him, interior designer Mitchella Clover, is sterile. A pair of seemingly star-crossed lovers face incredible odds in this well-written, humor-laced, intellectually and emotionally involving story, which explores the true meaning of family and love in a nontraditional setting. This is the latest in Owens's Celta novels, in which psychic powers are diverse and pervasive and telepathy extends to animals. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Love to all, Robin

Monday, June 27, 2005

CJ BARRY and Cover Quotes II

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I've spoken about this before. Anyway, CJ asked ME for a cover quote for Unmasked, (I was terribly honored) and I kept her waiting until the last minute, poor woman, SORRY! But I gave her a nice long one so she and her publisher can pick what works the best and use it for other books than Unmasked. So here it is:

Wow! What a story! An honorable, sexy hero with dark secrets, a feisty heroine who has some secrets of her own, and enough plot twists to make a first-class, exciting, fast-paced space adventure. Bravo!

And everything I said was true. Read the book! Here's an excerpt and a link to the blurb!

UNMASKED by C. J. Barry
Love Spell (Dorchester Publishing), June 7 2005

To the merchants he plunders, he's the Ghost Rider of the Dead Zone. To sector law enforcement, he's a wanted pirate. To the slaves he rescues, he's the savior, laghato. To one determined female, Qaade Deter is serious trouble. Torrie Masters had heard of the legendary raider, but she'd never expected to encounter him. Nor would she have expected that beneath his black mask lurked an enticing man destined to challenge her in ways she couldn't shoot her way out of. But a great threat has emerged-one that's left no choice but for them to join forces. Entrusted with the fate of thousands, Torrie has discovered Qaade's impossible dream. Only she has the power to help him. Only she has the power to see him UNMASKED.



Butt in the Chair

I've been pretty tired since I turned in Sorceress of Faith and not writing much -- thinking, revising, doing this blog (those are my rationalizations), but not writing and not experiencing the joy that rushes in with a new scene. And I can and do tend to binge write -- settle down a weekend day and write 20 pages (pretty much my upper limit). Yesterday was a good writing day, not many words/pages, but the joy and discovery and satisfaction were there. And that's the reason I write.

Yes, writing is work and writing for publication can be incredibly frustrating, but still, if it isn't fun, why do it?

And despite the above, I am a firm believe of "Butt in the Chair." If you sit there the words will come. They may come in a flood of heady inspiration. They may trickle out like bloody droplets like you've punched a hole in a vein. Or they may start with a trickle and flood, which is pretty fab, too.

I finished the last chapter of Book 1 of my contemporary romance proposal and it went well and I was pleased. It started as a trickle, but I had something to get my fingers into and rip -- a fight between the hero and heroine.

What was really excellent is that I've done a lot of synopsis set-up on this (and now must trim the actual thing) and it paid off with the mulling and thinking and wrenching ideas out of my head in that I learned things in my writing yesterday about my hero and he's (I hope) a pretty cool guy.

And I discovered that my heroine had secret bookshelves hidden behind regular ones. Who knew? And the ending hook was good. So I'm satisfied, and the morning after a good day of writing is also bathed in warm satisfaction, in the knowledge that you did something well yesterday and it can happen again today -- like you have a new lover and the sex is incredible and steady (though I did have a Heart Choice selling-well/writing career anxiety dream).

I must think of my words today for myself as strongly as I mean them for you. Put your butt in the chair and write. Words WILL come.

And you know, those words that drip out from a faulty vein? Usually a reader can't tell them from those rippling streams that the muse grants us. That's professionalism.

Love to all,

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Titles - Series

Ok, this is the third attempt at saying something rational about Writing and Publishing. I got really mired down in Organization (not difficult in the am) and saved the draft for later.

Yes, titles count. A title is ALMOST as important as the cover, or the back cover copy. The latest I like is Julie Kenner's Carpe Demon, Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom. But I think my all time fav is The Last Camel Died At Noon by Elizabeth Peters.

The best titles tell a little story. We get a gist of what might happen in the book from the above titles...very excellent.

I'm not so blessed with the title gene. Mine are sort of standard. My unpubbed mss.: The Token, Shades of Honor, Betrothal and Blackmail. My unpubbed partials: Willful Deceit, Share the Night.

And yes, I know ALL ABOUT "series" titles now, with HeartMate, Heart Thief and Heart Duel. I have a list. Readers send me lists. I've heard all about Heart Beat, Heart Attack, HeatMate, etc. Heart Choice was Heart Trail until my editor made me change it , and I'm very glad she did, it's a much better title in that it describes the story better. I can usually keep all the stories straight, but then I wrote them. For others, even my critique buddies, I say "HeartMate -- T'Ash's story," "Heart Thief, Ruis's Story," "Heart Choice, Straif's Story." Ok, so we're mostly women, we think in terms of heroes.

My agent -- hi Deidre! -- is really going to have problems with Heart Quest, coming out next year. She always thought "Heart Duel" was "Heart Quest." Heart Duel is Holm's story. Heart Quest is Winterberry's story.

And, yes, hopefully if Choice and Quest do well, I'll be writing more -- that depends on negotiations between Berkley and me. If so, most people want Tinne's story. I don't think he's ready to have a story, but it IS already titled: Heart Fate. I think I might want another book before Heart Fate -- and that will be about a hero only briefly mentioned in other books and a heroine not mentioned at all -- T'Willow would be the guy. (The "T"). And depending on how I see the timeline of Celta, maybe even a second before Tinne's, a romance between Cratag, the Hawthorn Fighter and D'Marigold, both seen in Heart Duel. (You understand how it gets confusing?) -- and this is the first time I've announced this couple. But their story is tied in to T'Ash's third child, and the young prophet Vinni, T'Vine, so I need to really sit down and look at the timeline...huh, how did we get on the topic of series?

But this has taken me long enough, so I guess I'll save talking about the Exotic Summoning Titles (which had me bending my brain) in the future. I'd say tomorrow, but we all know I write what comes to me today, right? I'm a Pantzer.

Love to all,

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Payoffs and a slice of life

If you only want Writing info go directly to Payoffs. I don't know if you all want to hear much about my life or not, so I'll probably keep it at a minimum. Actually, I don't have much of a life right now outside writing and dayjob. Anyway, there was another dead mouse today in my office. Enough to give me the jitters because it was unexpected, as always, and Diva gets so snotty when I don't admire her gifts. At least it wasn't in the dim (shutters against the sun, I don't have a/c) living room where I stepped on it barefoot. I've done that before, too. Ick.

Anyway, now that I've totally grossed you out, I'll talk about Payoffs.


A payoff is when you leave a thread dangling in the first part of the story (a set-up) that you need to wrap up later. I have a friend who keeps a list of her payoffs, but I usually do my usual "write in the margin 'pay off later'" or insert a comment in the computer ms. or even my ** which I use to tell myself I have something to revise.

In HeartMate and Heart Thief, I tried hard to cover all my payoffs. In Heart Duel, I deliberately left a major thread hanging, and since the Lladrana series covers several books, I've left a few hanging there, too.

Readers expect payoffs, and when an item or clue or plot point is mentioned, many like to take mental notes and see how the author DOES pay the item off. For instance, the standard "Bob died but his body wasn't found." Doesn't that set off all the alarm bells in your head ringing? Don't you expect Bob to show up later?

In Guardian of Honor, I have Bastien feel like someone was watching him - I later pay this off by introducing Sinafin (the shape shifting fairy) who is very interested in him and my heroine, Alexa -which is a tip-off that readers will note, too. "Hmmm Sinafin is Alexa's companion and she's interested in Bastien..." One of the things I most regret about Guardian is that I added an integral thread after the draft was done and since I was hurrying at the time and not reading
it straight through, I put in a problem and hinted at the solution together in one scene (this is natural to do - oh, Susie needs to get a clue from Jake later in the book - oh, here's Jake right now).

So I have a problem/hint at solution which I thought was too easy. In my defense, I was requested to turn around the copy edits of Guardian in 3 business days, and I did so, but there are bits I WOULD change.

One of the things I left hanging in Guardian (that I've only heard about from one person) is an "atom-ball" walnut. It falls to the floor in the first chapter of Guardian and you never see it again. OF COURSE it shows up in a major way in Sorceress of Faith - and yes I left threads
dangling in Sorceress, too.

I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors, and it drove me crazy. At the end, I totalled up about seven questions that I had that weren't explained, something the author set up and didn't TIE UP in the end. Since this author writes single title, I don't anticipate the next book to have anything to do with this one. So, as a reader, I am disappointed in this book and the author. Ok, I don't mind silly plots if the characters are captivating enough, but you darn well better payoff all your set-ups.

Very busy day, critique group is at my house (thus the cleansing of the office) and a get-together tonight (can't say more 'cause it's a surprise and I don't know if you-probably-don't-know-who reads this blog).

Love to all,

Friday, June 24, 2005

Stree Date II

Well, I was just emailed that a1 books on ebay is selling Heart Choice and What Dreams May Come. FOOEY! (Ok, I try not to swear in public and I CAN'T before my Mother or I get that look, you know what I mean, and she says something, too). I don't mind too much about Heart Choice since I write in a niche market and my print run isn't enough to really make the lists (as far as I know). But, as I said before, I do mind about What Dreams May Come.

FOOEY again. I sent them a note telling them I'm disappointed in them. **snort** Yeah, like that will work (and I think I pressed the button 3 times...), but may as well educate or at least send them a raspberry. Pppphhhhhttttt (wish I'd done that, but I was being professional).

But it's Friday afternoon, and I am home from work, so I am not too upset. Now I have to go down into the scary basement to mop the floor since people are coming over tomorrow. When I get my chance on Julie Kenner's Blog Slay Your Demons, I'm going to talk about house cleaning and how it relates to writing.

Love to all,

Teasing Readers

I'll admit it. I didn't know what to write about this morning. For a couple of weeks I'd post a draft ahead of time because I knew what I wanted to talk about. And, of course, I have a list of topics, but nothing appealed to me this morning, and if you keep track of when I post, you'll see I'm running late. I got some interesting email lately and replied to that, but it wasn't until Catie Murphy, Luna Author and wonderful writer of Urban Shaman, OUT NOW FROM LUNA, replied to a message here on the blog that I thought about Teasing Readers.

First, I know authors who have huge fan loops and tease their readers with what is happening next in their popular series. I tend to do this only on my thread of the Luna Community loop
on other loops to which I belong when a direct question is asked of me, and in response to email questions.

But Catie replied to my last post on Cover Art with the statement that she didn't realize the peacock was Sinafin, my shape-shifting fairy in Guardian of Honor. So I replied myself ;), with a tease. I told you that inspiration can come from many places, when I saw the peacock on the cover of Guardian, I sighed because, of course, there is no peacock in the book.

Not in Guardian.

But I added HER to Sorceress of Faith. Sinafin is female. But what shapeshifter would want to turn into a peaHen? Not Sinafin. So she parades a couple of times (when she's not being a trickster or scary -- see that's a tease) and I had fun with that. So, if you had fun reading Sinafin in Guardian, this should picque your interest in Sorceress. And, yes, Alexa and Bastien are back and Alexa actually steals a couple of scenes from Marian. So there's another tease.

For the Heart books, I introduce secondary characters, and when I do I either want to match them up or kill 'em off. So a lot of my email is "Whose book is next?" When I answer, I tease -- "oh, you'll see more of him/her in the next book."

Since they ARE secondary characters, you learn things about them throughout the series, hopefully are emotionally involved with them, and can extrapolate what might happen. For those following the Heart books, you know that Straif Blackthorn's and Mitchella Clover's story is next in Heart Choice, and you SHOULD know what their major conflict is. (I won't tell, but all the reviews so far do, and that's fine).

So for you of the Lladrana universe. Marian is an academic from Boulder. Jaquar (the sorcerer in Guardian) is the hero. I left an evil thing following Jaquar in Guardian (an unfinished Payoff), and yes, it does something very bad.

For you who follow the Heart books, the next story I (should be) am writing is Winterberry, the guard, and Mitchella's younger cousin, Trif. Again, if you know the characters, you should know one of their major conflicts. BTW, throughout the series, Winterberry has been only Winterberry. Naturally a hero needs a first name. Since he's part of the Celtan universe, that means he must have a "plant" name. Now Winterberry is a form of Holly -- so the hero Winterberry is distantly related to the Hollys, and that means he gets a plant name that's Holly-like -- which is Black Ilex.

Teasing readers is fun, but I rarely go too far, except for my unfinished payoffs, which I think I'll write today and post tomorrow. Maybe. Or maybe I'll talk about titles. Or reviewers giving away twists....

Love to all,

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cheered up! Library Journal Reviewed What Dreams May Come!

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Rebecca told me about this one -- posted on B&N.com

Library Journal
Dreams come true in the most unlikely and magical ways in this diverse and captivating trilogy of novellas from some of romance's favorite storytellers. Kenyon's "Knightly Dreams" conjures up a dashing hero who walks out of a romance novel; Rebecca York's "Shattered Dreams" reunites two lovers in a psychic connection to stop a killer; and Robin D. Owens's "Road of Adventure" gives two potential lovers who missed meeting in life the chance to relive their lives, with more successful results. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

When I copied it from B&N the ranking was at 216...of course they are STILL selling early as far as I could tell...

Love to all,
Robin (who usually has a half-full glass before her -- well, make that 3/4 full)

Street Date (bookstores NOT selling books before the release date)

First, let me say that I'm in a depressed mood this am. Paid bills last night and that always makes me think I'll never be able to quit the day job. Not to mention that I opened a letter that had been sitting around under a stack of mail and got a shock when I saw myself captured on the cop-camera -- speeding. More $$ out of pocket today, AND a deliquent fee. OUCH! And it was a hideous photo (but recognizable) sheesh. Now some writers treat their work as a hobby (not many, and not "long-time" ones) and don't care if they quit the day job, but I do, and most others do. I KNOW that if I had more free time to write, I could fritter it away, but still -- the thought of hours stretching on end to almost infinity to write is one of my ideas of paradise -- if I can do other things like eat and travel.

Next, I thought about this blog yesterday. and it has been mostly about writing until lately and then has weighed toward Publishing stories. I have more writing stories than Publishing (writing seriously for 8-9 years before I was published and published for 3 1/2, under contract for 4 1/2). So there will be more writing tips, etc. than publishing.

Then there's tips on the Business -- like promotion, that I don't know how much I'll talk about, but is an additonal topic.

I had planned on talking about writing today instead of Publishing and spreading my Publishing stories out, but I heard that What Dreams May Come is being sold.

Before the Street Date of July 5.

This is disturbing, too, because when bookstores sell something before the actual release date, you don't get the "push" on the date that publishers look for, AND it is harder to make the "lists" with a trickle instead of a push. Right now, this book is the best shot I have of making "lists" -- NY Times, USA Today, Walden's and B&N's...because I write futuristic fantasy romance and fantasy and both of those are relatively "niche" markets. But Sherrilyn and Rebecca are both better known than me and I thought they'd haul my sorry a** onto the lists. ;) Amazon isn't selling it, but B&N online is.

That's at least the 2nd time B&N has rushed my release date (another true story later). Huff!

So that's my Publishing tip for the day. Street Date is important. So if you're a reader, think about it and buy (for best results) on or during the first week of the "official" release date, and if you're a bookseller, you should already know about this.

BTW, I emailed my editor, my editor's assistant (also an editor by now), and my agent about WDMC being sold already -- just so THEY'D know.

Another Tip. Thinking about Publishing and setting goals to be Published can drive you crazy. Because you are not in control of these goals. You are a passive victi-- uh -- participant in this equation. You are only in control of your writing.

So, yeah, with this book, I got sucked into the "goal" thing -- or at least the "expectations" thing that is so dangerous to the neurotic-writer (redundant) ego. "I will be on a List."

So now I must go back to goals I can control. Use one of my affirmations that I think up monthly for my Free Your Artist page. I will write the best book I can and let the Universe take care of the results.

Well, this helped some. Hope it wasn't too down or boring -- if so I can always edit. But all writers have days like this and major doubts. Yes, it's true.

I have a half hour before the day job (and my financial guy just called on the phone and we set up a meeting next week -- timing).

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Publishing Fire Drills

Full Castle Map HERE (scroll down): http://robindowens.com/worlds/worlds_guardian.htm

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Yes, I had a quick little one Monday. Last month I sent my editor the Map of Lladrana and Castle Map for the front of Sorceress of Faith. Most of the action takes place on the islands, but Marian and Jaquar DO visit the Marshalls’ Castle (and the town of Castleton). Well, I’d “updated” the Castle Map (I thought) to include places seen in Guardian of Honor, the eharlequin story (here: http://www.eharlequin.com/cms/onlinereads/readsIntro.jhtml?pageID=050118rh01001&_requestid=263659 ) Song of Marwey, and Sorceress of Faith. Wrong. The Castle Map has a highlighted section of “Alexa’s Suite.” Oops.

It happens that when Marian and Jaquar visit the Castle they stay under Alexa’s Suite, so a few minutes of cutting and pasting and the new map reads “4th Floor: Marian and Jaquar’s Suite at the Castle” which is appropriate to – um – part of their stay at the Castle. Ah, the joys of email!

The worst fire drills I’ve had occurred this year when both my publishers wanted “Teaser Chapters” of the next book. I think I spoke of it earlier in this blog. Switching gears from the Lladrana Series to the Heart Series and back, then doing the reverse a few weeks later – and in a short amount of time to submit acceptable work – was tough.

Love to all,

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

WOW! Hot Off the Presses! I have bookses! Contractual Author Copies.

I shouldn't be here because it is thundering and lightning and whipping branches around outside my office window (open with no screen to let the air in, I'm on the 2nd story).

I came home to HUGE boxes of books! Both Heart Choice and What Dreams May Come have arrived! The first time I've ever received my books before they were published from Berkley. I know I have 75 copies of Heart Choice, it's in my contract (K in legal shorthand). That (along with film rights) was one of the things I negotiated in my first K, up the author copies from 25 to 50, when I got my new agent, she upped it to 75. WOW! The novella K was brief and I don't know how many I received of What Dreams May Come, I'll have to count. The metallic cover is bluer than the more purplish cover flat I got. Wow.

Guess you can tell I'm excited. We've been talking about teasers (and more tomorrow) and I only have a tiny 2-3 page teaser of Heart Quest in the back of the book -- not what I was expecting, but what I wanted.

Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! My preciousies.

Love to all,

World Building II -- Gena Showalter on Aliens

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To make an alien believable, you have to "build" him inside out, just like you do when creating other planets. He has a present, past and future, and has certain needs. There are things that hurt him, things that help him. H’ll be different from us in many ways, but also have similarities. When you compile all of those things, he’ll begin to take shape in a way we can identify and sympathize with.

Monday, June 20, 2005

World Building -- and The Aliens Have Landed

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Whatever “world” you build – whether it is futuristic/fantasy colonists from Earth who develop psi powers (my Heart Series), Laurell K. Hamilton’s alternate reality series with vampires and werewolves, etc., or Gena Showalter’s new Alien Huntress Series – the world needs to be fully developed. I’m sure Gena has tons of rules and background materials that she isn’t using in the books. For instance, yesterday was Summer Solstice and I use that -- it's a big deal as a date in Heart Choice (coming in TWO WEEKS!) But with aliens invading Earth, would the Earth folk have an advantage in knowing, perhaps in blood and bone, the natural Earth rhythms? Maybe the aliens are slightly weaker then and don't realize it? Tonight is the full moon, and everyone who builds werewolf stories uses that!

For me, exploring a new world, new concepts is So Exciting! So take a look at this!

Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter


Mia Snow is part of an elite task force within the New Chicago PD, and every night she stalks and kills otherworldly predators. Alien advocates often ask her if she, a hunter, a legalized killer, lives with guilt. Her answer: Hell no. She’s seen the carnage aliens leave in their wake. Years ago, they killed her older brother and she has hated them ever since. They deserve the sting of her pyre-gun, and if necessary, she will fight to her death to see them eliminated. She is an Alien Huntress.

Now, there is an alien serial killer preying upon humans. Mia must use her psychic abilities and deadly fighting skills to find him. Funny thing, though. Her prime suspect, an alien, is also the only man she’s ever loved.
Excerpt here:


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Determination, Talent, Technique

Determination, Talent, Technique

"This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it "to the editor who can appreciate my work" and it has simply come back stamped "not at this address." Just keep looking for the right address."

Barbara Kingsolver

I wrote seriously for 8-9 years and had four complete manuscripts and four partial stories before I received "The Call." Naturally, I'd much rather have sold in my 2nd or 3rd year, and I had enough successes along the way to keep me going, and built a support group with people – strong friends I still have today – in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I sold in January of 2001, with the book coming out in December 2001, but in November 2000 I decided to cut back on my writing. What was I doing, spending all my free time at my computer, banging my head against my desk to write the best story I was capable of? But it finally happened, and though Berkley didn't buy Heart Thief (book 2) right away, I still worked as hard as I could on the book and on promotion to keep my hopes and career alive.

Only you can keep yourself writing (or painting, or doing photography, or acting, or...) and determination is more important than talent or technique. Talent and technique are necessary, but if you don't have the determination to stick to your career, then you probably won't make it.

I put mywebsite up in March of 2001, and I included Free Your Artist with motivational quote, creativity exercise and affirmation (along with monthly links to ecards, divination sites, celtic or castle sites, etc.) http://www.robindowens.com/freeyourartist.htm. I find the quotes, create the exercises and affirmations, and this was my first quote and makes a good bookend for this topic.

In waiting for the glorious moment of that first book contract, writers must have giant reservoirs of patience. Yet they must persevere because they don't know the destiny that is being worked out for them. They creep humbly along the ground, without the spacious aerial vision of their lives that would show them the destiny in store for them. Ron Chernow

Like I said in my dedication of my first book,

Cover Art

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Cover art is on my mind for a couple of reasons – Heart Choice is coming out and the cover is my least favorite and the print run is being upped from my last run (I think I'll talk about print runs one day next week). Covers sell books and I, as usual, want Heart Choice to sell well. My aim here is to be able to quit my day job and work on my writing (and writing is WORK). I can't quite do that yet. I'm single with cats, which means I support myself and cats. I'd also like to have enough money to travel, a cushion for my own emergencies, and enough to help out my family when necessary.

The second reason is that I'm going to see my old roomie and her husband today. She frames all my cover art (well, she won't frame What Dreams May Come because that's not entirely mine and I have ideas about it for myself). I'll be getting Guardian of Honor and Heart Choice today and I'm excited. My art hangs in my entry way and is starting to march up the staircase wall.

Anyway, I missed my editor's telephone call about the art meeting for Heart Duel. I had ideas of a big pink pearl heart floating over a labyrinth at night (and I made them up, too). My editor thought a sword and since I didn't give my input (which isn't always great anyway), I soon got an email asking for swords. So I searched the net and sent them about nine swords, as well as a picture called "anatomy of a sword." You can see that the art department "futurized" one of the pics I sent them above.

I didn't have the cover art when I turned in my manuscript and I knew there was a sword on the cover, so when I decided it was the right time to describe the cover, I did this [describe sword on cover here]. My editor said I freaked my copy editor out on that one – and since (s)he freaks me out every time I see the puncutation (s)he inserts, I laughed.

Then I got the cover art. It had a big round diamond in the middle and was very bright. I loved it. I put it up all over the web and sent it to amazon and insert the proper description into the book (it's where Holm gives his father the Heir's sword, near the end of the book). In fact, it's the one up here – third from the right.

When I got the cover flat itself, instead of the diamond, it had something like a red boomerang, and the addition of the metallic portion made it less bright, and made the nice white lettering of my very important cover quote from Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) gray. I changed the sword's description in the page proofs. When the actual cover came out, they'd fixed the lettering back to white, but taken away the embossing of the sword, which was originally more three dimensional. So it goes.

My ex-roomie framed the cover art I'd recieved along with the front of the cover flat. I know that the whole cover of Guardian will be framed because the picture continues with the city in sunshine (Denver) on the back, along with a peacock (which I think is my shapeshifter Sinafin, though she was originally a big white – then red – bird) contrasting with the darkened clouds hovering over Alexa and the pool in Lladrana on the front. I can hardly wait to see my new art piece.

Love to all,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Publishing Timeline

This is a timeline on WHEN things take place in the NY publishing world. My Heart books are running about a year out...that's when real production starts with cover discussions, etc. I think the quickest time is about 9 months for a scheduled book.

June 22, 2004 – Send in prospective covers for Heart Choice to the Berkley Art Dept.
I wanted two heart shaped boxes on the cover. So I sent about six boxes and a bracelet. The bracelet is on the cover (see far right cover). As you can see by the colors on this blog and my website, I prefer dark jewel tones, http://www.robindowens.com so this is actually my least favorite cover. I think folks who like teal and beige will like this one. It's metallic, too.

November 30, 2004 Heart Choice Manuscript to Berkley
I try to finish the manuscript early and hand off to a couple of critique buddies before I submit the manuscript. This date is written in the contract (Date was 10/31/04). I was actually a month late due to working on the Sorceress of Faith proposal for Luna. I have the day job, remember?

February 2, 2005 Heart Choice Copy Edits
The Copy Editor looks for punctuation, choreography, repeat words, etc. and any questions that arise. My editor will also make notations which I should answer. This is the last time any major editing can be done to the manuscript by me without penalty.

April 6, 2005 Heart Choice Page Proofs (Galleys)
This is to make sure any copy edit changes made it into the manuscript, last check for typos, punctuation, etc. I get scared about this time since it looks pretty much like a real book, 2 sheets per page, landscape, tiny print. I hand it off to my good friend Rose Beetem (a wonderful editor) to read. We go over any questions. Note – contractually if I have any more than something like 10% revisions, I have to pay for the manuscript to be reset by the printer.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Plot vs. Character

I’m listening to Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich and enjoying it, but I have a friend who won’t read her because of the less-than-reasonable plots, my friend can’t “suspend disbelief” enough. She admits she needs an excellent plot, whereas I will follow along if the characters are interesting…

Plot vs. Character is always a big discussion in writing circles, and in the best possible worlds, you do both well. I think my plots are good, but my characters excellent ;) and my books have been called “character driven” by readers/reviewers.

OTOH, I’m also known for my “telepathic cats with attitude” that may steal scenes…in fact, one reviewer thought this happened too much in my upcoming Heart Choice…which surprised me since I’d be writing along and realize, “Oh, I haven’t written about the cat lately, why isn’t she around?” and I’d go back and give a good reason why she wasn’t in the scene/chapter, etc. Also, the cat was supposed to be a secondary source of conflict between the hero and heroine.I rather depend on my critique buddies to let me know when the cats are taking over, but I WILL check Heart Choice to see where I might have used the cat too much. Here's an excerpt of the first chapter (changed a bit in the book), which, of course, features the cat...http://www.robindowens.com/images/HeartChoiceWebsite.pdf

More about Plot vs. Characters sometime in the future. There’s a lot that can be said about this.

Love to all,

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Well, shoot, Diva walked over my face and woke me from one of those really cool story dreams -- no, I won't be writing it, I think it was set in Early Days of some city (like Chicago) in a fire department -- not my sort of book. But I sure would like to know how it ended -- these were dream people as opposed to story people, so the ending could be a complete surprise.

And it was much better than the turkey basting dream I had the night before...which I am convincing myself had nothing to do with writing...

I've written ten stories, three of which are not published. One of those came from a dream. So I don't often get ideas from dreams. I get ideas from physical objects (the other writer I know of that this happens to is Pamela Clare). HeartMate came from a bloodstone pendulum I bought. (I love bloodstone). I had it in front of me and started thinking about divination and a man who would use it. On Earth that man might be considered a superstitious wimp, so he had to be someplace where this might happen -- Celta. I also made him a man who'd chiseled the stone from the quarry, shaped his Divination Dice and forged swords -- a jeweler and a blacksmith. I actually sat down and started writing, learning all this as I went along.

I don't recall what seed flowered into the Summoning series. Those were stories I told myself before I went to sleep long before I started seriously writing. Now when I think of stories before I go to sleep, it's more like "and how will this relationship progress for the synopsis," which, of course, leads back to the turkey basting -- I hope not!

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Pikes Peak Writers -- Know Your Market

I was on a panel last night in Colorado Springs for Pikes Peak Writers http://www.ppwc.net called "Know Your Market." I'm going to be brief today (I can see you all laughing) because I want Shanna's book to remain near the top of my blog.

Advice: Don't write for market trends! Write what you want, what you READ, and then research markets.

The best place to find out about markets is networking in person or online. Online groups and loops and other sources (Publisher's Lunch) are also good.

That's it for today -- naturally, I could ramble on (and did, I got to tell some of my fav stories ;) ), but I'll spare us both that today...

Love to all,

Monday, June 13, 2005

Creative Process and Shanna Swendson


Here's a bit of Shanna Swendson's interview taken from her blog.

Q: Describe your creative process.
A: I love to plan books. Sometimes that's the best part. I do character sketches and a point-by-point plot outline. And then I don't even look at that stuff once I start writing. I usually fly through a first draft, doing a little editing along the way, then struggle with revising the book. But that's likely to change book-by-book because the process seems to be different for every book.

SO INTERESTING...Robin's creative process...sit down and write until the inspiration is done...or sit down and open a vein and let the words drip out like blood until the wordcount is done..lie on the waterbed and stare at the ceiling, exercise, mow the lawn for bits and pieces of ideas that might be good in the book. Write. Think. Play. Write. I usually try and write a scene rough, then revise several times for critique group, and as much as I can before I turn it in...then MORE.

Here's Shanna's Blurb and a link to her EXCERPT, and, of course, the cover!

Shanna Swendson's debut mainstream novel, ENCHANTED, INC (Ballantine Trade
Paperback Original, $12.95, May 31, 2005) is a magical story featuring Katie Chandler, a 20 something, small-town Texas girl, who finds that being average in New York City is anything but. Katie loves the energy of Manhattan, andif she finds some of the people odd, well, that's New York, right? Where else would you see a person on the subway wearing fairy wings? In fact, if Katie wasn't completely sure those wings must be a costume, she'd think they were real, the way they flutter in the breeze. Certainly the gargoyle that perches above the door of the church she passes on the way to and from work isn't real. Its eyes seem to follow her, and she could have sworn it winked at her once, but now that she thinks about it, it was really hot that day,and she hadn't eaten lunch....

Katie is still adjusting to life in the big city while working a for a nightmare boss, when she gets a fantastic offer to work for a mysterious company, MSI, Inc. Through her new job and the magical folk she meets, Katie comes to find out she isn't quite as average as she thought; and the fairytale life she has longed for begins to come true in surprising ways.

What Katie doesn't realize is how rare and important being ordinary can be.In fact, it is her ordinary characteristics that make her the perfect secret weapon for MSI, Inc. Suddenly the very qualities she thought made her average are what make her special! Now she has magicians and fairies meddling in her attempted romances, a secret life she needs to keep hidden from her non-magical friends, not to mention that dangerous pull she feels for Owen, an attractive but shy wizard who might be the most powerful magicman since Merlin.

ENCHANTED, INC is a magical delight that will be a fun summer read foranyone who's wished upon a star or hoped for a sprinkle of fairy dust.


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Have Laptop Will Travel – Jury Duty

Yes, I got the Summons a few weeks ago and now it's time to show up. I'll take an early bus in, transfer to the free shuttle, then walk to the courthouse in Civic Center. I've charged my laptop, palm and my cell phone (which I use rarely).

But the good thing about being a writer is that you can work anywhere – ideally. Like most writers, I have a small notebook and pens in my purse, so even if something goes wrong with the laptop, I should be ok. That's the simple info for today. WRITE EVERYWHERE. I also have a microcasette for beside my bed and in the car in case inspiration strikes. More info: YOU CAN'T DEPEND ON INSPIRATION, SO WHEN IT STRIKES BE PREPARED TO WRITE THE SCENE, DIALOGUE, SYNOPSIS IDEAS DOWN.

My list to take with me: Transfer the synopsis I worked on yesterday, along with emailed critique to my flash drive. Pack hard copies of last in-person critique group in laptop case. Transfer some new mp3 files to the flash drive for the laptop. I've been listening to a LOT of strange music while writing the Summoning series (chants and gongs and chimes, you know) – stuff that's supposed to help my chakras, and there's some I really like. I'm also experimenting with the beta, delta, theta wave "Accelerated Learning, Creativity, Meditation" stuff, and I have something new I downloaded yesterday from emusic that I'll try.

Small story: the last time I was summoned to jury duty, it was the day after I got the news I'd sold my first book. After The Call. In writer circles that's how we speak of it. "I got The Call! Did you hear, he got The Call." Everyone knows what you mean. I was so excited. I took my old laptop, and cassette player and headphones, but didn't get much done. Today I think I can work on revisions.

I only hope I don't get chosen for a trial. I'm participating in a panel tomorrow evening in Colorado Springs and I might have to cancel if a trial comes up (they know this). Another thing, trying to make Colorado Springs at 6:30 from Downtown Denver when you leave at 5:00 is not possible.

Oh, yes. Just in case, I'll take my keyboard for my palm....
Love to all,

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Let's see.
Can I succeed?
Periods stop reader's eyes.
As do paragraph breaks and spaces
To increase the pace of reading and gaze moving across the page fast, you can start out slowly like the above example and have reader's eyes moving quicker and quicker across the page and have them wrapped up in the story and experiencing the fear and fast, jumbled emotions coming at them across the page until they are breathless with excitement and with you every word. Yes!

Run on sentences. Well, I tried. Don't know if it worked, especially since it was prettty much off the cuff, and will be in html. But Dean Koontz and Catherine Coulter (Sherbrooke Bride) have used this, Dean for fear and Stella for a consummation scene, though I don't recall whether she led up to the scene with short sentences, etc. or not. It might be used in internals, too, when you want more stream-of-consciousness writing-thinking of your characters.

But it probably drives copy editors crazy (btw they assign me the same copy editor for all my Heart books and she has a vocabulary sheet and corrects my Celtan words sometimes). And whether your editor will let you do it is another matter.

That was a short, quick blog!
Love to all,

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Heart Thief Cover (2nd from left)

For me one of the most wonderful things in publishing is getting the cover art for my book. It's second only to having the book in my hands. I was in England when I heard my agent got Heart Thief's cover flat. "Well what does it look like?" I asked. "Like a big book!" (single element instead of a clinch). As soon as I got home I searched for the cover in my mail, to no avail (yes, I know that rhymes, but I have a full day ahead of me, so I can't edit this three times...). It had been sent to the wrong author (Catherine Coulter, though Catherine Coulter and I don't write anything like each other, and she is a Big Name.)

When I finally got the cover flat, I was a little apprehensive. The metallic silver was great, but the lettering is tough to read. As you can see, it's the hardest to post on the web. I called my editor. I LOVE the silver metallic," I said (because it reflects something in the book – sorry full of bad wording today). "But," I said. "There's no big, green heart in the book, shouldn't I write one in?" My editor laughed. "Oh, no, that's not necessary!"

Yes, it is necessary. I hate when the cover doesn't have anything to do with the book, so I wrote it in. Here's the thing. All through the book, Ruis, the hero, is accused of stealing a valuable, beautiful, emerald necklace. He's banished because of it, death for him to stay in the city (Druida). But near the end of the book he makes a gift for my heroine.

"When the gyro-atom was inserted into the crystal, the heart would glow and sparkle with energy. It would make the T'Birch emeralds look like cheap glass. Ruis grinned."

To me, through the use of this symbol, this moment of the book became a level deeper than it had been.

Moral of the story: Making changes to your book, no matter for what reason, like including the cover, can improve your book.

Another note. I don't have a correct cover flat for Heart Thief. Between the time I got the cover flats and the book was printed, my editor had done something wonderful for me. She'd gotten Jayne Ann Krentz (who writes wonderful futuristic/fantasies as Jayne Castle) to give me a long, beautiful quote that went on the front cover.

JAYNE ANN KRENTZ: I loved HEART THIEF! This is what futuristic romance is all about. Robin D. Owens writes the kind of futuristic romance we've all been waiting to read; certainly the kind that I've been waiting for. She provides a wonderful, gripping mix of passion, exotic futuristic settings and edgy suspense. If you've been waiting for someone to do futuristic romance right, you're in luck, Robin D. Owens is the author for you.

Excerpts of Heart Thief are on my READS page of my website, and a full chapter can be accessed here: http://robindowens.com/reads/heartthief.htm

Love to all,

Friday, June 10, 2005



So I don't do many character interviews. But I must have maps. If I'm writing, I often sketch out litttle maps of an apartment, or the relative distance between, say, the city of Druida and the Great Labyrinth, or Landing Park. This helps me keep the choreography (movement of one place to another) straight, and also helps me describe the place to my readers.

When I was a kid and making up my own stories, I ALWAYS made maps...then, a couple of years ago, I found http://www.profantasy.com – software for gamers, cartographers. Well, I went wild. I was able to re-do my hand-drawn map of Celta to something professional looking http://www.robindowens.com/worlds/celta.htm SCROLL DOWN My maps are on my Worlds page at my website. As you can tell, I'm having "fun with naming" on Celta.

But it was when I started writing for Luna that the real fun started. I needed a country map – well I originally thought of Lladrana as Europe before England and Ireland were separated from France (geograpically speaking) and was messing with "pushing" them back together when I found Fractile Terrains. Suddenly I was able to make WORLDs with the press of a button. I made many, looking for the right one to become Amee. When I found it, I raised and lowered the water level, etc. to define Lladrana – and next year, when Sorceress of Faith comes out, you will find my heroine doing the same thing as a weather mage in her practice ecosystems **as a writer you can use everything, every experience, every snippet of dialogue, every painful experience**. Amee is here: http://www.robindowens.com/worlds/AmeeContinents.jpg and Lladrana is here: http://www.robindowens.com/images/llandrana_map.jpg SCROLL DOWN I had great fun creating the islands.

The beautiful map of the Castle in Guardian of Honor, was drawn by the head of the art department of Luna after I sent in another amateurish sketch, however once she did that, I've been able to add and subtract rooms...

Lastly, I did Alexa's Suite, http://www.robindowens.com/worlds/AlexaSuite2.jpg If you zoom in closely you can see the dinner Alexa and Bastien ate (with teapot), the jade baton, Bastien's atom ball, and Sinafin, the shape-shifting fairy as a purple muff on the table before the suite door. I want to add a couple of more images to this one, like the cheval mirror.

I have Profantasy's Castles software, but haven't had time to make the Marshall's Castle yet in "stone and mortar," or the city of Druida (I have a sneaking suspicion that I put a few Residences in the same place...), and I'd like to try 3-D drawings of the Great Temple and the Nom de Nom Inn, but maybe someday I'll have time to do that to.

Love to all,

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Most Beautiful Blog on the Web

I really believe that, but then, I'm proud of my work and partial to what I've done. *BIG GRIN* Of course, when I think back to all the work I did "revising" the code to add background and colors I like, making a .gif for links and adding them to the sidebar, I shudder. It took the best part of a day for me to fumble around and make it what I wanted. Oh, and I like my website, too...http://robindowens.com , though just today I got a brainstorm about completely revamping it..

Love to all,
Robin (on lunch break)

ARCs / Sentence structure

Advanced Readers Copies -- Just printed out THREE late ARCs -- late because they should go out for review about 3 months before the book hits the stands to reviewers, bookstores, etc. Formatting -- I format Times New Roman, Landscape (sideways) for 2 pages to a sheet -- so it looks rather like a book. I use 11 pt because it's still legible but saves on paper. I will spiral bind them in dark blue back cover and clear front cover (which are not as clear as they were because Mistral sat on them and left some scratches and an odd hair or two. I see wipe down in my future).

On all published ARCs there is a big note "Not To Be Sold" on the front cover -- they go up on ebay, anyway. I am not so popular as to make big sales on ebay, but PLEASE if you see something like this, let the author know.

And because I've had a Humiliatingly Horrific Experience I don't like people to copy, read from, etc. so I put this up -- as you all should do -- in the header of EVERY page:

ADVANCED READING COPY. This copy may be slightly different than the final novella. All rights reserved; copyright © Robin D. Owens. The text contained within may not be reproduced in whole or in part, read aloud, or distributed in any form whatsoever OR SOLD without first obtaining permission from the author.

My new HP printer was AWESOME. I am SO pleased.

I know I promised to talk about Maps -- but I simply don't have the time, so I'll do that tomorrow. We had an Incident with Diva being locked out (she's half-Siamese and shrieks really well) and I woke up at 4 am and it took me a while to get back to sleep and I didn't want to get up when she pawed at me for breakfast and I overslept and missed my first bus to work....

And we'll talk about run-on sentences and when to do them, too. Looked at Heart Choice's properties and there is one sentence with 107 words...either I forgot several periods or I used it in a rushed moment (like above) or consummation scene (which I like to do to), but I really can't recall at this moment.

(&(%&$ looks like I missed bus 2 now, too, so I'll have to drive in. Big bucks for parking. Traffic. No playing Ma Jong or free cell or reading on the bus. RATS. (so you can see the different styles in using short sentences for emphasis or quick reading too and I didn't mean to talk about that today either).

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


When I re-designed my site, I forgot to change the settings so ANYONE can COMMENT. I did that now, so, please, feel free!


Character Interviews

All right, if this showed up yesterday, and you've read it, I'm sorry. I thought I'd get a little ahead of myself and save myself some morning time before the day job and put it in DRAFT -- I thought. But when it published, it was in yesterdays...sigh. That will only work when I don't do something different (like the website note) later....So you may have seen this yesterday -- I'm tired this morning and didn't sleep well, my eyes are gritty, and I really don't want to go on to my next topic off the cuff (Maps). So if this was posted yesterday you got a double dose then and not much today -- except the fact that I write in the evenings during a good time for me. So know what you and your body likes and write during the time that's best for you -- early mornings (NO! Not for me) or late at night...or evenings.

Love to all,

Character Interviews
I don’t often do character interviews or fill out character sheets.. I’ll do the minimum for a proposal, then start writing and learn my characters that way. I think I have at least three, and maybe five, different character interview sheets, the work going into that could be massive.

A couple of times when I’ve been really, really stuck, I’ve intereviewed my characters. Once during Heart Duel when my critique group pointed out that I had a lot of scenes in Lark’s apartment, and couldn’t I move the scene somewhere else? What did Lark do for fun. Sail, I said off the top of my head. They said, put her on a boat. I grumbled all the way home. I live in Colorado. I don’t know squat about sailing. Besides Celta has two moons and I DO know that would cause incredible tides, waves, etc. But I interviewed Lark anyway and she liked SOLAR SAILING – sort of like hang-gliding. That I could deal with. Lark had lived a very restricted life as a child and loved the freedom of the sport…

I put a link to T’Ash’s interview up yesterday
http://robindowens.com/worlds/interviewtash.htm I started this interview during the book and finished it later to put up on my Worlds page, after the book was in print. And I actually learned new things about his background.

Here's another of Ailim D'SilverFir, SupremeJudge of Celta and heroine of Heart Thief (since Ruis Elder - hero - is an outlaw, I thought this would be a good outer conflict and it is one of the major Inner Conflicts of Ailim -- can she turn him in or not, what does she do about his illegal banishment?, though I denied this to Ailim in her interview...) SPOILER ALERT, THIS WAS WRITTEN AFTER HEART THIEF AND GIVES AWAY MUCH OF THE PLOT http://robindowens.com/worlds/ailim_interview.htm

When you write a series, you learn more about the people who are secondary characters (slowly moving up to become heroes/heroines). This is good and bad. Challenging because you can’t change names, hair or eye color, or what happened in the past – and you must have notes or remember what happened to them in previous books.

But it’s also very helpful because you know the character better when it comes to write of them, they’re familiar.

Love to all,

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

June Website Update

I've updated my website for June, http://www.robindowens.com added a link to this blog at the top, under the link to my radio interview about Guardian of Honor and my online serial, Song of Marwey (I'll talk about writing online serials some other day).

Contest is for an Advanced Readers Copy of my novella coming in July called Road of Adventure (Berkley Anthology What Dreams May Come with Sherrilyn Kenyon and fellow Out Of The Blogsphere Rebecca York): With other-worldly assistance, two unlucky lovers are given one more chance to prove that romance is possible in Road of Adventure. As usual, an excerpt is up at my website. I'll be making the ARC. ;)

Worlds Page has photo of the "Queen of the Universe" Fam cat of Straif Blackthorn, coming out in July in Heart Choice, all sprawled out and resting.

FREE YOUR ARTIST has a couple of Creativity Exercises, Motivational Quote and Affirmation as usual and, as usual, fun links including ecards, castles, online divination etc.

Love to all,

HeartMate Cover (far left)

One of the first things my editor said to me when I sold my first book, was “send pictures of the cat.” Well, I didn’t have a scanner, so I took photos down to the local Kinkos (in the cold and snow – it was January). They scanned it in black and white, I didn’t see that until I got home and had to go back…but I emailed pictures of the cat Maddox/Zanth, the next day. See Bottom for pics. They are NOT immortal pieces of photography.

My editor wanted jewelry on the cover (the hero, T’Ash, is a blacksmith and a jeweler and whenever someone calls him an artist, he glowers – interview with T’Ash, here: http://robindowens.com/worlds/interviewtash.htm )
I wanted a hunk on the cover. We both got what we want – though T’Ash never actually wears his HeartGift necklace in the book.

The cover of HeartMate has been the easiest cover process I ever had. They DID send me a Macintosh zip disk that frustrated me since I’ve never had a zip drive or Mac (and I received it the night before leaving for the RWA convention and I NEEDED to have prints. Luckily, I have many high-tech friends).

CAT FACT: Notice the cat’s head. In the book, I call it perfectly round, and that was true of Maddox when he was a stray tom. Unneutered male cats have a differing facial structure (muscle or something around their jaws-ears). After Maddox was neutered, he looked like what we think of as a regular cat.

CELTA FACT: On my planet Celta, cats and dogs are rare, so they aren’t often neutered – in fact, Earth people and animals are still struggling to establish a firm hold on the planet. Birth rates are low, and families can easily die out…

Other cover stuff: There are two moons, and both rotate the same so they are always the same phase. I think of Celta as more verdant than the cover, though.


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Love to all,

Monday, June 06, 2005

Pick My Brain

All right. I have a list of topics for this blog -- publishing timelines, inner/outer conflict, plotting software...etc. And as you can see, I talk about whatever I feel like in the morning. I DO try and keep on topic -- tips on writing and publishing, but if there's something you're panting to hear about, let me know...


Book Covers

Yes, I can talk about book covers for a long time and have storys for each -- so that's what I'll be doing this week.

First a lot of romance books have "clinch covers." Authors usually prefer something else, but marketing and sales reps run this part of the process. When "the clinch" stops selling, other things replace it -- like the "cartoon covers" for chick-lit books. These sorts of covers tell a reader that the novel is kicky, for the modern woman, fun! The romance doesn't have to be the focus, but the woman's life.

Then there are "hunk" covers. These sell very well. ;) Women like looking at good men...I prefer a shot from the back with, sigh, shoulders. But that's me.

My "Heart" books first had a hunk -- many liked T'Ash and many didn't. The elements of this cover were pretty set, as I understand it. Jove's Magical Love series had things to clue the reader in -- the wand in the right hand corner, the "magical element" had to be front and center (T'Ash's HeartGift, the glowing necklace he is wearing). You can see the two moons in the background and Zanth, T'Ash's Familiar companion (telepathic cat with attitude), sitting next to T'Ash.

Starting with Heart Thief, my Berkley books have "single element" covers. These are supposed to be more classy, easier to read on the bus and parade in public.

My Luna titles -- and most Luna titles -- have intriguing covers that "tell a story." Something that will hook you. My Denver attorney is looking into a pool. She carrys a baton and holds a jade sword reminescent of music. She wears a key around her neck, dark clouds boil behind her (hey, I sound like a little-white-book on tarot...). On the back of the book is a city in sunlight -- supposed to be Denver, but we have a unique skyline with the "cash register" building. Also on the front is "Torn From Her World" which is supposed to clue you in that Alexa's from the US and found herself Somewhere Else.

The fonts also tell you what sort of book this will be.

And, yes, COVERS DO SELL BOOKS. Zanth, the cat, helped sell HeartMate. They attract people to the book, and I've bought books because of covers myself.

Love to all, Robin (yes, I am running late for the $*))%&& bus and can't figure out this bold stuff).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Killing Off Viewpoint Characters and Secondary Characters

I don't like view point characters dying. I don't like killing animals either (and I know if I killed off one of my telepathic cats or dogs I'd lose my readership FOREVER as a betrayal).

But I was working around the house a while back, listening to a tape of a suspense novel by an author I loved for her romances, and thinking, I'll put off my errands until XX gets out of this mess. XX didn't. XX died, and we were in XX's head almost until the bitter end. I was shocked. This character had had a strong viewpoint, not a few pages of "in the head at the beginning to see how the evil villain works and then dead". And I'll say that after this, the author lost me in that book, and I'll be less emotionally involved in the rest of the books I read by her. Some readers may like the "punch" of this, but I didn't. I'm sure the author believed she had to do this to make the story work, I can see why that might be true in this instance, but she lost me.

How To Handle Killing Off Secondary Characters. I've done this. Now do you telegraph this to the reader or not? I'd say that most readers think about this in suspenses and fantasies and mysteries. Some authors "bathe the character in a golden glow" so the impact can be greater. I usually make them unsympathetic, which I think is a little amateurish. Sure, he's unsympathetic, he get's it, so that's telegraphing, too. Some writers make the characters personally happy, then whack them, or unbearably sad and grief stricken and death is a release. All these can clue in an astute reader, and a reader LOVES to figure out your plot before something occurs – as long as you don't make it too easy. Giving the reader a little information to make them satisfied with themselves at figuring it out (and satisfied with your book) is important.

That's all for today,

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Audio Books

The night before last, I did some good work on plotting #2 of my contemporary paranormal romance proposal. Last night I gave myself a guilty pleasure and listened to an audio book, Light in Shadow, by Jayne Ann Krentz.

Advice first, then ramblings. Audio books are GREAT for getting the feel of the language, of different accents and rhythms of speech from Jane Austin's upper class British to an east Texan twang. When I first started listening to audio books, I listened to old favorites of Jayne Ann Krentz. To my surprise, the reader put the emPHAsis on different words and phrases than I did. It was both disconcerting and illuminating. There's old common wisdom that you should read your work aloud (who has time with the schedules publishers' want?), and we do this at my critique group. It can help immensely, particularly if you have a run-on sentence or one of the made up words (like chwisge – whiskey) to see what works and doesn't. Sometimes I won't change a very alliterative sentence or an awkward one, but most of the time I do.

The best audio books I've ever listened to are the Elizabeth Peters historical mysteries read by Barbara Rosenblat. They are just incredible, particularly the ones that have the boy Ramses growing up, Ms. Rosenblat ages his voice...(and one of the best titles ever is The Last Camel Died At Noon). The Harry Potter audio books are exceptional, too.

I won't say the worst I've listened to – mostly because of the books themselves, not the authors' best works – but sometimes the actor screws it up. I listened to one where the actor made the hero's voce sort-of upper crust nasal, this was a ROMANCE and the hero didn't sound acceptable.

BACK TO POINT OF VIEW (FOR ME ALL THINGS WRITERLY ARE RELATED AND CIRCLE BACK): Recently there have been some books where a husband-wife team read the hero/heroine's point of view. I love these too, most particularly Smoke and Mirrors by Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. When Dick Hill makes the car noises, it had me rolling...

That's all for now. BTW, most of the time I usually put into updating my website has been used on some Heart Choice promo to bookstores and doing this blog, so June is NOT up. I'll work on it this weekend and send it to my webmistress and she should put it up sometime next week.

Love to all,

Thursday, June 02, 2005

POV - Point of View - Marianne Mancusi

POV – Point of View – Who’s Head Are You In? Which Character’s Point Of View are you following? I prefer Deep Third Person and that’s what all my books are written in. I am usually either in the hero or the heroine’s head, depending upon the scene.

But First Person, “I,” books are certainly selling well these days, and an author who does first person brilliantly is chick-lit writer, Marianne Mancusi in her first book, A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court. Read the blurb, then do yourself a favor and read the excerpt and buy the book!

Love to all,

Once upon a time there lived an outspoken fashion editor named Kat, who certainly was not your typical damsel in distress. But when a gypsy curse sent her back in time to the days of King Arthur, she found she'd need every ounce of her 21st century wits (and pop culture references) to navigate the legend. After all, surviving a magical plot, an evil prince, and a case of mistaken identity--all without changing history or scuffing your Manolos--takes some doing!

Luckily, she's got her very own knight in shining armor, Lancelot du Lac, on her side. The honorable-to-a-fault and devastatingly handsome champion insists on helping her out, even though she's not quite sure she wants him to. After all, shouldn't he be off romancing Queen Guenevere or something? Will Kat manage to stay out of trouble long enough to get back to her beloved cafi lattes, cosmopolitans and cashmere? And what will Lancelot's forbidden love mean for the kingdom of Camelot?



Negative Inner Critic

Some people make fun of affirmations, but consider this, how often do you hear your “negative” or “inner” critic try to shoot you down? That’s what affirmations are for – when the negative critic says “That’s a crappy piece of work, and you’ll never be able to fix it.” Then you pull out the affirmation. “I’m an excellent writer and getting better every day.”

Do you have an image of your negative critic? Julia Cameron in her wonderful “The Artist’s Way” leads you to identifying and overcoming your negative critic, by affirmations, above, and other means. One of the best exercises I ever did was in Chapter 1 or 2, called “Blurts.” Every now and then I’ll go back and do that one again.

As for my negative critic, I can’t put the image up, because that, too, is copyrighted…it’s the black spy of Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine. Fortunately for me there are plenty of images of the guy holding sticks of dynamite or bombs and blowing up. I have one next to my computer.

I also have a wonderful .wav file I found years ago of the Wicked Witch of the West screaming “I’m melting!” At the press of a button I can listen to my inner critic scream as I banish her….ok, maybe I have two images – the black spy and the Wicked Witch of the West, but knowing about them and refusing to let them get to me can make all the difference in the world as to whether my day is productive or not. And, yes, it is a day-by-day battle.

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Rough Drafts

General wisdom advises a writer just to sit down and write. Don't think about word choice, transitions, run-on sentences. WRITE without editing as you go. I agree. Getting something on the page is important. Turning off the negative critic can be hard, but do it. (I can talk about the negative critic some other time). Allow yourself to write "crap," then go back and edit.

When I have a name to look up, or a word that I've used 3 times in a paragraph and need to change, or to figure out a new word, or the time that has passed, I just put ** in my manuscript and keep on going. Sometimes, if a scene is rolling along on dialogue and I don't even have the setting right (Like the matchmaker T'Willow's house). I put (describe T'Willow's house here)**. Then, during one of the slow times, or before I polish the scene to take to critique, I will go through the scene, chapter, manuscript for the ** or () and clean it up.

Usually I'll edit my work on the computer a couple of times, then print it out -- because looking at a sheet of paper is a whole lot different than the computer. Eventually I'll print the whole book out in landscape form, Times New Roman, single-spaced and two pages to the printed page -- more like a book, this too looks different and can give me a sense of the rhythm of my words, where they are awkward.

So bless the times when the scene is in your head and flowing out onto the page (as opposed to dripping on the screen one by one like droplets of blood from an open vein), keep with the writing and if you've used "energy" four times in the paragraph, just ** three of them....

Love to all, running late for the bus, cool and gray again today,

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