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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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Plotting: Panel -- Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction

What methods do you use to plot your books?

Ouch! Of course I passed the microphone on this one -- as those of you who have been reading the blog know, this is tough for me. Carol Berg said she gets into her characters skin and writes from beginning to end. Cindi, I think, said that she has an idea and writes as she goes along -- so there were three Pantzers (writing by the seat of their pants) people up on the panel. It's about 1/2 and 1/2 I've found, but in our critique group, we are the overwhelming majority. Heh!

That said, I've done brainstorming with my critique buddies, I just went over to my mentor's who plots, I've used software, most notably Dramatica, and I've used Pam McCutcheon's The Writer's Brainstorming Kit: Thinking in New Directions In short, I've tried everything except Story Magic -- which is a weekend away with two buddies where you work on 3 books. I'm hoping to try that soon.

It's not writing the book so much, as writing the SYNOPSIS, which I sell on, now. And in writing the book, I usually have the most problems at the 3/4 point and I've found killing people then helps a lot.

Love to all,

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

First Monday Off

Was excellent! I woke up early and worked on revising a chapter of Heart Quest. Went to the PO to pick up a registered package, then on to my mentor's (Kay Bergstrom/Cassie Miles) for help with plotting of the contemporary paranormal series. I took food and drink and we worked (and talked about her career, my career, publishing, other writers' careers) and talked for about 4 hours.
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Once Kay realized I WASN'T doing a suspense (which is what she's adept at plotting), we figured out that the main problem was the hero and since I was changing him anyway, the relationship needed a better arc, and he needed a better character arc. I had the outer plot pretty down (except "Why did she hide the will? threw me, so we worked through that one and property and probate). I also had Lacey's character arc down well. I had to clarify my magic rules.

Heroes aren't often problems for me in the synopsis. Shrug. Every book is different. The rest of the day I spent typing up my notes – naturally everything we talked about (except for the series overall arc), was easily plugged into Pam McCutcheon's Writing a Fiction Synopsis worksheets, most of which I already had filled out or partially filled out.

I'm determined to get this project in the mail on or before FRIDAY! Finally. After more than a year and a half.


Love to all,

Monday, August 29, 2005

Writing Habits: Panel -- Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction

Discuss your writing habits. Where do you write? Do you write every day at a specific time?

Well, today I start my NEW schedule with Mondays off. I'm up, but I don't have to go to the dayjob, so that's always a good start. I'm meeting with my mentor to hammer on the contemporary paranormal series synopsis which is frozen in my brain.

Usually I do the blog in the am, come home in the evening and write, as much as I can or until I make my wordcount. I write at my desktop, but it's hooked up to the net, so sometimes I have to write on the laptop, which is not, to be dedicated. I do think you should write everyday, and at the same time every day. Stephen King is right in that -- letting the guy in the cellar (or Barbara Samuels Girls in the Attic), or your subconcious, know that it's time to write.

I intend to take myself off to coffeehouses, libraries or etc, to also write.

Now, I'm going to have some OJ, toast, and rev up Heart Quest.

Love to all, Robin

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What would you do differently? Panel -- Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction

If you were starting out today, what would you do differently?

I’d do a couple of things differently. First, I’d study the market more. When I first started writing, I was only interested in writing my story, market wasn’t as interesting, and what I’ve learned about the market (and I’ve learned A LOT) I learned gradually by submitting and networking.

I'd write faster and finish more work.

Also, I think I’d get an agent as soon as I could, and I’d REALLY look into the agent’s background before I signed with him/her.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Panel -- Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction

Well, the Panel went fine last night. Of course I didn't allow enough time to eat and do the hair curl and makeup thing, and feed the cats. The cats didn't go hungry, the hair went uncurled, and the makeup was minimal. I didn't wriggle into the very tight thingie to make me look slimmer (after a bath and running late -- ha, ha, ha!). I wriggled into a medium tight thingie that wasn't too unbearable.

I was supposed to be moderator, but since one of our 3 panelists didn't show up, I also answered the questions (which will be posted here on various days)...I don't think I hogged the mike, and I was pretty honest, and somewhat amusing. Cindi Myers always surprises me with her savvy. I really have to sit down with her sometime and have a good talk.

In a lot of ways, Cindi Myers, Carol Berg and I have things in common...we're pantzers, for one thing, we believe that a writer should never give up...so it was interesting and informative, I hope.

The only blooper I made was saying to know your strengths in promotion and booksignings were HIDEOUS. Then following up the statement with the fact that the last signing I'd done was right there (and it was excellent, except a virus and stress had landed me in the ER earlier that day -- just drug me up so I can NOT blow a signing at the one bookstore that means you've really made it as a Colorado author).

The worst thing about it was my ex showed up and really threw me off my stride. Yes, I know I've always been single but I have some "ex"es, one in particular. I was in Published Author mode and he wanted to talk personally and had a line behind him of people who actually wanted to speak to me. I don't handle switching modes well. I was in a public setting (and did I tell you last time I signed, my best childhood friend came up to me and said she and her husband were separating and he was cheating with a younger woman and she'd have to sell the house that she, a carpenter, remodelled?) Why do people do these things? I am being professional. My writer friends see me in writer/author/professional mode quite often, so I can shift with them and the rhythm is the same, but other people -- aspects of the lives CLASH and I get crunched.

Well, I sure didn't guess THAT was on my mind, but since it's here it obviously was. I can even handle my Mom and my Mom's friends easier in public than my old friends/lover. Huh.

Anyone else have these bad clashing worlds? And, yes, now I have to dink with my pages for critique group in a couple of hours. 9 attending 6 reading.

Love to all,

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ebooks and Erotica

Yes, I read ebooks, and yes I read erotica, and since we're on an "e" bit here, yes I read Elloras Cave books...particularly by my friends, and have for, oh, the last three years. Ebooks have a LOT of futuristic and fantasy (erotic and magicial and erotic magical) stories. Both Mary Janice Davidson and Angela Knight broke into NY publishing from ebooks...so if you're like me, TAKE A LOOK AT JACI BURTON.

“Garden of Eden” featured in ELLORA’S CAVEMEN: LEGENDARY TAILS II by Jaci Burton
(Ellora’s Cave, June 2005)

Dr. Eden Mason has spent the past hundred years orbiting the Earth in stasis. Since a nuclear war destroyed everything, she and the other inhabitants of the space pods are the only survivors of the global meltdown.

One special passenger has joined them-Adam-an alien sent to recreate what was once a thriving, beautiful planet. But Adam needs Eden to fulfill his goal, in a way she never expected.

Adam has loved Eden since he first came to Earth, but her father refused to allow him to meet her. Instead, the brilliant scientist kept Adam secluded while they engineered a way to save some of Earth's inhabitants before the inevitable destruction. Now Adam can touch Eden, taste her, love her like he's always wanted to, at the same time fulfilling his duty to revitalize the planet.

His love for her is energizing and Eden begins to hope that life on new Earth will be a lush garden of sensual pleasures. But Adam's not telling her everything that will happen, and his secret may end up destroying them both.


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Jaci Burton was born and raised in Missouri but now lives on an acre-and-a-half in Oklahoma with her husband Charlie. Jaci loves to write about passionate relationships with sometimes stormy outcomes but always a happily ever after. She’s a sucker for romance and a happy ending!

“Jaci Burton does it again! What an amazingly hot and steamy story!” -- Fallen Angel Reviews

“Garden of Eden by Jaci Burton is a yummy little taste of fantastic science-fiction romance with beautiful balance. – eCataRomance

“Garden of Eden has a very interesting plotline. Ms. Burton gives us a very imaginative not to mention fun way for Adam to get his energy to re-create a new world. Adam and Eden are well developed characters even for a short story, and the emotional bond that develops between them is very moving and believable. With steamy sex scenes a plotline with twists and turns this one was an enjoyable read." – Cupids Library Reviews

Website: http://www.jaciburton.com

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Training and Qualifications: Panel -- Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference http://www.rmfw.org is coming up, and as usual, we have an event at the large, independent bookstore, The Tattered Cover. That’s this Friday (the Cherry Creek store) and we’ll feature the Writer of the Year nominees (and the Writer of the Year, Cindi Myers) on a Panel "Coming to a Bookstore Near You: Everything You Want to Know About Selling Commercial Fiction." I – ahem – will be moderating. I have about 10 questions that I’ll be asking, (pretty much the same as I was asked last year) and I thought that I’d deal with each one of them myself here in the blog. Hey, I’m in major deadline-panic mode and anything to make it easier…

When you sold your first book, what were the circumstances? Your training and qualifications?

I’d been seriously writing 8-9 years and attending RMFW critique groups for that amount of time (I really don’t want to calculate it – wince). I had four completed manuscripts and about 5 or 6 at proposal stage – 3 chapters and a synopsis. I’d finalled and won several contests with various stories. I knew my craft, but lately I’ve heard that I’ve been getting better, and that’s a GREAT compliment.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Ok, it's been TERRIBLE working up my nerve, but I've asked (and been given permission) to work a 4 day work week. Mondays are now my own! Wow. Since I'm contract, this actually means that I'll be personally financing my "days off", but, of course, I see it as an investment in me and my writing. I may be able to cut another day back after a few months, and that will be LUCIOUS!

I was greedy and asked for Monday off because the office has free donuts on Fridays, not to mention the burrito woman...I may celebrate at Johnny Rockets (and inform my agency what I've done, since they expected me to quit a year ago July they aren't going to be too surprised).

WHEW! I am NOT good at this "negotiation" stuff. I asked and she said fine...LOL.


Whoo Hoo -- and Starting a Book

Eeek, I'm so LATE on this. I spaced it...really, I wrote a blog for the future, then forgot to load this one...I try to stay a little ahead or have at least one for emergencies.

Last week/this week has been the Out of the Blogsphere Tour for Heart Mate! and my own heart has been going a little pitty pat as I've seen the lovely comments by all these talented ladies on the book.

Ok. So when I sold HeartMate, Heart Choice was about at two chapters and no synopsis. I originally wrote the beginning of Heart Choice (previously **cringe** Heart Trail) just for a reader who'd read HeartMate and really identified with Mitchella, the heroine's friend. This lady had just given me a nice review for HeartMate and wanted to know about Mitchella's story. So I sat down the same evening and whipped out the first scene -- and then the lady said she'd forgotten she was reading on the computer until she came to the end and wanted more! Yes, of course I recall the email exchange...

Starting a Book: Actually, the scene I wrote for the above reviewer was when Straif meets Mitchella. Everything before that was added later. For those of you who write without outlines, just GO. First chapters can be hairy and rewritten several times to get the set up right. And when I originally wrote the scene, Straif came into Mitchella's shop. Then I decided this was too much like Danith walking into T'Ash's store in HeartMate and set up that Straif found Mitchella's shop closed and used his Flair to track Mitchella to the private club where she was brooding.

BTW, the choreography of the expanding 3-D business cards was h**lish to get right. I revised that bit A LOT.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fantasy Romance -- Writing II

A while back I was asked why writers enjoyed writing Fantasy Romance, so this is what I replied. I have a few articles under my belt and will probably include them here, and something I hope will be special a week from Friday. Hope you enjoy.

It’s easy to know why writers love SF Romance/fantasy romance – it’s so freeing! You can create whole universes and societies. Figuring out why readers like it is a little harder – unless I talk about myself...As with every genre of romance, there are specific reasons why readers find SF Romance to be their favorite.. First it can be challenging to the intellect, “this is interesting, unusual, new, I wonder what CAN happen in this new universe. I wonder if I can figure out what the author is going to do before she does it – based on her own rules!” These are also richly imaginative books,

Then, there is the element of the Complete Escape. Though the human and emotional problems may remain the same and the conflicts between men and women, individuals and culture, you are less likely to have a heroine (or hero) who is coping with the same plumbing problems that you are fighting with. Then there’s the scope, most SFRomances have a large canvas that the characters move on.

Most of all, I think it’s because romances are essentially stories of hope and SFRomance is the ultimate hope – our society, our culture, our values will survive and prosper in the future, and we, as a race, will live happily ever after.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Series Continuity -- Again, Little and Big

Shoot! I'm currently writing Heart Quest, the fifth book of the Heart series. Since they're fantasy romances and I spin off secondary characters as heroes and heroines, I'm working on Black Ilex Winterberry and Trif Clover. Well, Ilex (who didn't even have a first name until this book) is a Guardsman with searching Flair (psi-magic power). I wanted to make sure I had him using his Flair in the same manner as I'd shown before so I went back to Chapter 2 of my first book, HeartMate where Winterberry first appears, and the only time he's used his Flair on stage.

So there I am, reading the ARC of HeartMate (and it is REALLY cool to be able to "find" the exact words/scene in a book on your computer without having to read the darn thing. I don't think I've ever read HeartMate through since I turned it in)...Winterberry strolls on stage and says "Winterberry of Hazel". SHOOT!

I'd completely forgotten that. And I haven't a clue what I meant by saying that. For HeartMate I wanted Winterberry to be a distant relative of the Hollys (thus the name), so I don't think I meant he was also of the Hazel line. The Hazel family line is as prestigious as the Holly. Worse, I've mentioned the Hazels in Heart Thief and introduced them in Heart Duel. Not only that, but a couple of Hazels are about to come on stage again in this book. I'd completely forgotten that little sentence. What was I thinking of?

Of course me being me, and not having to wonder what was running around in the mind of some other writer as people writing others' series, I'm pretty sure I meant "I'm Winterberry of Quadrant Hazel Guardhouse." Naturally, I can't go back and put that into HeartMate. The book's in print. Also, I realized that I made Winterberry higher status in HeartMate that I really wanted him to be in Heart Quest, but that's ok because his family looks down on him joining the guards and it's another problem/inner conflict for him since he's estranged from them. One way for his character to grow by the end of the book.

But still, when something like this slaps me in the face, I clutch. I try very hard NOT to blow my continuity, especially my magic rules. The worst I've done this was in the online serial, The Song of Marwey, http://www.eharlequin.com/cms/onlinereads/readsIntro.jhtml?pageID=050118rh01001&_requestid=263659 which I wrote as a prequel to Guardian of Honor. There were things demanded in the story that I couldn't change in Guardian because the book was being distributed at the time... And I may be overreacting, because some of the slips in my books that have bothered me either haven't been noticed by my readers, or they haven't been commented upon the errors.

Another problem solved -- or at least written down so I can explain it later when we visit Ilex in his workplace. Speaking of workplace...I'm off to the dayjob.

Love to all,

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Genre Notes and Gothics

I was working on "cleaning up" this photo for my website when I looked at it and realized that it ALMOST was a Gothic Romance cover. The day I took this photo was cloudy, and we stayed a while, so it looks like evening...Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Currently the Gothic is out of favor, some of the genre elements for it (in general) was historical (usually England), first person narrative from the woman's POV (usually a governess or companion). Bronte's Jane Eyre, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca would be the major books people would know. Other authors who would have been considered writing Gothics were Elsie Lee, Victoria Holt, Mary Roberts Rhinehart (more of the "had I but known" mystery), Mary Stewart, Jennie Melville, Barbara Michaels. THE GOTHIC ROMANCE IS USUALLY CONSIDERED TO BE THE FORERUNNER OF TODAY'S ROMANTIC SUSPENSE. Which is still a hot genre, folks!

Note the many qualifiers above – that's because, like ALL GENRE WRITING, there may be some common elements, but the best who write in a genre redefine it for themselves and won't necessarily have all the elements and will push the boundaries.

Anyway, Gothic covers usually had a fearful woman prominent in them running away in a nightgown....and a house in the background with one window lit!

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Saturday, August 20, 2005


All right, I'm a writing snob. I have many beliefs about writing, and one that I feel most strongly is that if you plan to be a serious writer, you aren't ALSO a serious painter/pianist/composer/actor/photographer, too. You may think this is wrong-headed, but I truly think that a person should have only one creative passion if they are to succeed. For me, that's writing, and when I hear that someone else is writing and ALSO pursuing some other artistic career, I don't expect them to succeed as a writer.

It's probably the Scorpio in me.

I will allow that other minor creative outlets are GOOD. I was once a part of an improv group, and I will always be grateful for what that experience taught me. I don't miss it at all -- well, I miss it a little, and if I could go on stage like I was at the top of my form, I'd do it, but I am beyond rusty and would only embarrass myself.

So what do I do? Well, my real "fun" creative outlet is messing with graphics. For instance, I've done mock-ups of many of my Heart covers (pretty pitiful), and this month I have a photo in my Worlds page of Cliveden from the front. Well, it had a bunch of cars parked there as well as other stuff, so I "tidied" it up.
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I also play with Pro-Fantasy and make worlds, and suites and hope to eventually do the Marshalls' castle. You can see some of these here:

http://robindowens.com/worlds/amee.htm The World of Amee

http://robindowens.com/worlds/worlds_guardian.htm Alexa's Suite.

In HeartMate, I mentioned some "tarot" cards. These don't exist. Yet. But I've been messing around with cutting and pasting various photos (I try to make sure they aren't copyrighted, or if they are they are changed beyond recognition). Right now, they aren't good enough to even post raw, but when I have the time...

And I update my website, especially surfing for cool links that might be fun for my Free Your Artist page.

That's about it, though I think I may go to a tie die party tonight. Oh, and I like to do haiku, as long as it isn't Improv Haiku Smackdown, where my brain would freeze...

Love to all,

Friday, August 19, 2005

August Free Your Artist Exercises -- Website Update

It's up! At Access Romance, but really http://www.robindowens.com

Free Your Artist: Exercises deal with the ocean this month.
Fun links: Surf's Up in California -- daily surf monitor.
I think everyone will like my Surprise -- I look at it often myself.

Worlds/Heart Choice Page: A pic of the front of T'Blackthorn's Residence (Cliveden) that I took myself.

Contest: An excerpt (not in my other excerpts) from Road of Adventure in What Dreams May Come highlights my give-away of a Kirks Folly goldtone angel cat charm.

Appearances: Scroll WAY down to the bottom of the Home page and you'll see where I'll be, like tomorrow.

Links: At her request, I've updated my friend Linnea Sinclair's site...

I think that's it. I was a little late this month due to RWA and the copy edits of Sorceress of Faith, a lot late due to the move of servers. The fun Durius java on my home page made it over fine. WHEW!

Love to all,

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Online Writers Communities

Yes, I've decided to join a writers community instead of hanging out all by myself. I DO have a pointer up at sff net and may do the same at NovelTalk, but I've joined a new place called Access Romance http://www.accessromance.com . I looked at many and really was concerned about service and price. But what charmed me with Access Romance was the colors (you can tell by my website and this blog that I like color) and that they were new and small.

Their service has been wonderful.

I made the decision because there is more power in numbers than by myself. They have a newsletter that will plug me, and I'll have a separate newsletter of my own. They will handle my mailing list. I am EXTREMELY poor at handling my mailing list.

Those of you on my personal newsletter know it doesn't go out monthly. That won't change. If you need a monthly dose of me (or more likely, Celta or Lladrana -- the Worlds), you can visit my site which I update monthly...at least sometime in the month, more about that tomorrow. You get doses of me here daily. Since I dislike receiving monthly writer newsletters when nothing is really happening, I don't do them. Access Romance understands that and has been extremely tolerant and flexible.

So, should you go with an online community? It depends how much time you have to spend on your website, how well you can do it -- and how you feel about being "alone." I think there's more power in gathering with others of like mind, and the monthly update and daily blog are about the only things that I can do personally in my full schedule right now.

BTW, there are forms to join my occasional mailing list and to enter my monthly contest. So if you want to drop by Access Romance, or my site with the new forms, please do.

I'll tell you all about the update tomorrow.

Love to all,

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Writers Reading

Yes, after you start seriously writing and learning technique, it reaches a point when you start editing in your head when you read or listen to books. This particularly strikes me when listening, and I usually do minor adjustments to the sentences in my head so they flow better. And yes, the pleasure of reading, of sinking into a story has dimmed. And yes, books that you thought were fabulous before you started writing don't seem as nearly as good because you can see errors that could easily have been fixed to make it a better story -- I'm talking big stuff here, like motivation and depth of character.

So, be warned, writing will change you. It will change you in many ways, but it will also strip some reading pleasure from your life.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Publishers Fire Drill -- August


I got home to find an email from my editor saying that she had a meeting on the art for Heart Quest tomorrow at 8am and could I please send 1) ideas 2) synopsis of Heart Quest 3) the chapters I'd previously forwarded....

Pant. Pant. The 3rd Monday is ALWAYS the Paranormal Romance group Chat at writerspace at 6 pm my time, and of course I was out of cat food, and I was trying hard to get my website MOVED -- 000Domains has lost me as a customer as soon as this year is over -- so the message from my editor was not exactly welcome.

HOWEVER, as noted before, Berkley is doing "single element" items for my Heart books. And I cleverly figured out a long while back that I wanted to have a key on the cover and have been collecting fancy keys for about a year. HA!

Naturally, I'm not sure what chapters I sent her since I did it 3 separate times. And this was a "trust me, baby" book. That is, in the contract it reads "another book set on Celta" or something like that. That means they bought it idea unseen. Of COURSE it has no synopsis. You all have seen the grief I've been going through trying to plot a book and write a synopsis....

Well, I sent about 8 keys. Here's a sampling:
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Heh. SOMETIMES I think I'm almost on top of the game. At least I didn't have to spend the evening scrambling. I got the emails out to her in good time!

We'll see in about 6 months what the art department comes up with...btw, I think I bought all 3 of these keys...I have a bunch of "sword pins" I bought for Heart Duel, and a "emerald" heart ring for Heart Thief...


Fantasy -- Reading and Writing 1 - World Building

In my multitudinous spare time over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading fantasy. And I've been bothered. In the last three books, there was something I "didn't get." I'm beginning to think I'm stupid, or that I can't extrapolate. As a matter of fact, I think that I've been tired enough that the author should have been more explicit for me to "get it." Reading fantasy, fantasy romance, futuristic fantasy can be a challenge. You have to know that you might be hit with strange names, concepts and a whole new world up front. You have to be able to accept that, love it, revel in it...and not be too tired. There are several things about my own books I know: first, I jump into HeartMate and the strange society too quickly -- a regret that I'd change now, somehow, if I could. The other heart books, which are supposed to stand alone, have some reviewer's saying, "make sure you read the others." I am now so immersed in the world, I can't see how to make it simpler, unless I find a brand new reader. And when I talk about my books to regular people, I always ask them if they like sf/f, because otherwise, I think that I might lose them.

Now, for my reading. I didn't "get" some of the rules or some of the danger, so I am thinking that, in my case, I would have liked the authors to have slowed the action a little to explain more. For a reader like me, it's more satisfying to have everything make sense than for me to go "huh?" I think one author DID try to explain, but the language they used or the concepts they used were still murky (or phiosophical/deep) that I didn't get what they were saying.

So in looking at my own work, I'll see how I might be able to clarify without losing pace. And you all KNOW I hate loose ends, right?

Love to all,

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Journey and First Books

All right, I'm jaded. I sold after 8-9 years of learning my craft and completing four manuscripts and having six ideas at proposal stage. Placing in quite a few contests, winning some.

Well, I got an email last week from someone who'd heard of me and was thinking about a writing career. This happens to me about once a month. I truly suppressed a groan -- thinking about the long journey it took me and usually takes others. But, naturally, I considered the email and gave the individual my best advice for them. One of my biggest regrets? That I didn't pursue writing seriously after college. This newbie doesn't have a clue how much work and time and dedication it will probably take to get published. Hey, I have the first draft of my first manuscript and I made all the beginning mistakes, so unless this person is a genius, or a complete natural, they will go through all the steps others do.

First Books, again, I'm jaded and can be wrong, but I've seen A LOT of people come and go through critique groups, and writers' organizations. First books are usually learning how to write books, and a writer hones their craft with every project (I hope -- and I sincerely hope that's true for me). So when I see someone putting years into their first project, doing incredible travel and research, or worse, quitting the day job to write, thinking the book will be published in a snap, I groan. But you can't tell people this. Who wants to listen? I wouldn't have. Of course, I actually wrote the wretched first book and by the time I submitted I was in a critique group and working on projects 2, 3, and 4...

So my best advice to you about first books. Write it. Learn from it. Submit it. Then go on. Do NOT spend more than a year polishing it. Even if you think it's the truest, most important story you will ever tell. Life's too short, publishing's too tough. WRITE MORE!

Love to all, Robin

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Marketing and New Ideas

Yes, folks, ideas CAN come from publishers. When I visited the one and only seminar I attended at RWA -- about Luna -- I heard that the urban fantasies were doing well. This didn't surprise me as I always thought that would be one of the hottest sellers of the imprint.

But I really started thinking about it.

And WHY? I still have 3 more Luna books to contract for in the Summoning series -- and ideas are there, but pages are NOT written. Then there's the hellish contemporary paranormal which still has a miserable synopsis.


I've read urban fantasy for a long time -- De Lint's Jack books, and Tom Deitz's books...but, like vampires, I never thought I'd be able to wrap my mind around a concept that would work.


I have 2 ideas, and 1 I could really get excited about if I was free to write full time. So, I'm going to write them down, and revisit them.

Moral of this story -- you can get ideas from ANYWHERE, and make sure you think outside YOUR OWN BOX, don't impose limitations on yourself. Who knows someday I might be able to figure out a vamp story...


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Beyond Control

If it's Friday, it must be the BLOG TOUR!

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I'm saving this book as a reward for when I get my taxes done!

BEYOND CONTROL, by Rebecca York, tells the story of telepaths who discover and develop their powers only when they sexually link with another of their kind.

Jordan Walker and Lindsay Fleming meet at a Washington, D. C., cocktail party. When they touch, they experience an electric moment of psychic awareness. As they explore the unique bond forming between them, they discover that the more intimate their contact, the more their psychic powers develop.

Lindsay and Jordan must work out their personal relationship against a background of danger and suspense after they stumble onto his murder cover-up at a secret biological weapons lab. At the same time, two other telepaths who want all the psychic goodies for themselves set out to wipe Jordan and Lindsay from the face of the earth.
Excerpt: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/glick/sneak-p21.htm


All right, I've been a little terse (and I hope not patronizing) in my comments the last couple of days. The copy edits were the most extensive (as page by page) that I've done and now I am immersed in taxes (hideous, hideous) -- and moving my website, which is taking longer from all parties than I anticipate. I wanted a big surprise and fanfare, so when I announce, you might want to pretend you didn't know, but since I wanted to excuse my preoccupation, I wanted to let you know. Sigh.

Now, REVISING -- this word can mean several things, and there are big rewrites and not. Clear as mud, eh? Well, the copy edits had marks on every page -- usually punctuation, some clarification questions, and A LOT of "repetitive word," gee, in a 600 page ms., you think? A LOT of things were NASTY -- the feel of parchment and Jaquar's hat (both made of monsters), smells (putrid breaths), the invading creatures themselves. I ended up printing out a list of alternative words. A lot of things were fantastic and incredible -- Marian's trip to Lladrana, her experiences, Marian herself to Jaquar, Marian's hamster, atomball-eating Tuck...

So making Sorceress conform on my machine to the Copy Edits will take a while. But it wasn't an IN-DEPTH revision. There wasn't some motivation or clue I left out that I had to go back and insert like I did in Guardian. There wasn't a layer I had to take out -- when that happens you wonder if you can do it. You wonder if you get it all. You wonder if you've Put In too much now. So, the revision was time consuming, and I found some bad choreography and fixed it, but it wasn't brain-melting.

Oh, and Sorceress wasn't really 600 pages. I've just been saying that as a whine and to grab your sympathy.

It was 595, but you're allowed to round up in taxes....


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

When to Start the Story

I've spoken about Christopher Vogler and his The Writer's Journey (patterned after Joseph Campbell's Man of a Thousand Faces) before, and while I usually "drop" my climax -- to me that means wait later in the book -- I believe he is exactly right in starting out with a slice of ordinary world. A slice, almost as little as you can get by with before the change that sends the protagonist (hero/heroine of a story) in a different direction. In my work in my READS on line, I would recommend looking at Heart Thief or Guardian of Honor, because I kept getting it wrong in Heart Thief and moving the opening around -- I think I must have five or six openings saved (I always save my work and have all five revisions to Heart Thief).

And since Guardian of Honor is a story about a Colorado woman Summoned to another dimension, I wanted to set up Lladrana and Colorado "ordinary world" before I changed both of them.

Love to all,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Backstory is how much of the character's lives you put in a manuscript (or synopsis). Most beginning writers go on and on and on with backstory instead of beginning the story at the right spot. The best rule about backstory is put in only enough that the reader must know at that particular point.

On the other hand, in paranormal writing, you MUST explain your "world" or have readers getting lost. Earlier this year I did a couple of critiques for a charity, and went into great depth. Like a lot of things, it was easier to see MY OWN MISTAKES when someone else did them. Like not getting the things in your head on the page. For one critique, I kept marking that she needed to explain MORE, and that was true for her paranormal story.

Of course, getting what's in your head on the page doesn't only apply to paranormal -- there's motivation (most importantly) -- why a character acts as s/he does. This needs to be crystal clear. Choreography, people moving from one place to another, should be clear. Setting should be clear -- though if you don't get the set up right, it usually doesn't matter unless it's a really big clue in a mystery or something.

So that's my rambling for today.
Love to all,

Monday, August 08, 2005

Using Coincidences in Your Writing

Coincidences – if they're small and done well, you don't notice they're a plot device. I was recently re-reading Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts for about the fourth time (I love reading AND analyzing her work), and she has the heroine as a passenger in a speeding car, holding a cola. A rabbit runs across the road, the driver brakes, and the cola goes all over the heroine's blouse. So they decide to go to the heroine's home where she can change. And there, waiting for them, is the villain.

It took me THIS READ to realize that the running rabbit was a coincidence that felt like a plot device. Without the rabbit, the heroine would not be going home, but to the original destination.

When using coincidences, I've heard the following: First, readers will USUALLY believe in BAD coincidences. This is human nature. The above coincidence was small and "bad." Usually if you're in a speeding car, holding a drink that will stain your blouse/shirt, something will happen to do that.

Second, if you DO use a GOOD coincidence as a plot device, plot point, do it right up front to set up events, not in the back to solve events. That smacks of "deus ex machina," or something solved by outside forces, not by the characters' own efforts, intelligence, seeing the problem and growing. (Yes, I like describing in 3s, too).

My 2 cent wisdom for the day.

Love to all, Robin

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Introvert/Extrovert -- Eyes Glazing Over

One last note about the RWA conference (and no, I'm not going to get mired in the controversy). I appreciate RWA, and for many, the chapters taught them to write and they are passionate about RWA. RMFW taught me how to write, and that's the organization that has my heart. I volunteered in a minor capacity for RWA last year, and don't ever anticipate volunteering in a major capacity. RMFW can call on me as needed.

Back to the conference: Mary Jo Putney (who wasn't at conference this year) said that RWA is 2,000 introverts pretending to be extroverts. Now there ARE extroverted writers, I've met them. I envy them because I think they are the most successful in promoting themselves in person , doing signings, speaking, etc. But most writers I know are introverts. On the Myers-Briggs personality test I am an INFJ -- introverted, intuitive, base my decions on feeling and decide quickly (or feel better about a decision after it's made rather than before) as I recall (yes, that's a qualifier, not good for serious writing -- "almost" is a qualifier I use too often in my writing, so I do a word search).

So walking out of the door of my hotel room, means I must be "on," professional, charming. No grumpiness in the mornings, and definitely no whining!

But there is the "eyes glazing over" factor. I'm among other writers and I enjoy talking to them and listening to them about WRITING. That means I can hold a conversation on the topic with someone for more than three minutes without their eyes glazing over. If they tell manuscript stories, I get to tell manuscript stories. Sometimes I can even talk business and publishing for an hour or so before MY eyes glaze over.

Love to all,

Saturday, August 06, 2005

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I LOVED Moon Magnetism. One of those wonderfully original stories that I wish I'd written myself. I can't recommend it greatly enough. Get this book, all the stories are excellent.

Excerpt: http://www.lucymonroe.com/ExcerptsSQ.htm


I got this off Lucy's Website: http://www.lucymonroe.com

ON DOING VS. DREAMING: I have this wonderful quote on my "Tough Dames" calendar by Gossip Columnist, Liz Smith. "You can't build a reputation on what you intend to do." I love the quote so much because it is absolutely true and never more so than for the writer. A lot of people want to write a book, a few people will and even fewer will have the courage to submit their work to an editor. Dreams remain dreams until we give them feet. Then they become goals. I sold the 13th manuscript I wrote...that's a lot of feet for my dreams and it meant a lot of stumbling along the way, but the intention to write a book will not make you an author. Only writing it will do that.

Robin: I started writing when a relationship ended (ok, I was dumped by a very long-term lover). To do something for me I took a class on writing romantic suspense. There were about 15 women in that class in April. I kept up with the book (without any contact with critique -- wince) and by the time of the Rocky Mtn Fiction Writer's conference in September, had finished a book (mostly because a good friend of mine was moving away and wanted to know how it ended). In September, only TWO of us who had attended the class were still serious. I became good buddies with the other person, but she dropped out of writing after a couple of years.

So, by about the 3rd year -- of 15 who started there was only me. Is still only me.



Friday, August 05, 2005

Editing time

The deadline for Taxes and Heart Quest are looming closer and closer, and I’m messing around with editing Sorceress of Faith – I’ve estimated that at a MINIMUM I’m spending two minutes a page reading it and editing – that’s not counting those pages I pull out to look at and “fix” later, or the four pages I have to "tighteten." Since Sorceress is about a 600 pg. ms., that means I’ll spend at least 20 hours editing it. Not to mention putting the changes on the hard copy onto my computer file, thinking, etc. (the thinking part comes now, then I’ll copy and keep to change later). Anyway, I hope to have it done by tomorrow and out the door. As usual I’m doubting myself at this point, and the story is flat to me – hardly any emotion can be wrung from it. I only pray it won’t be flat to readers. Anyway, you can see where MY time’s been going.


Love to all,

Thursday, August 04, 2005

When in Doubt, Take it Out

If there's a line or paragraph that makes more than one of your critique buddies go "huh?" the easiest fix is to take it out. As I've said before, you don't want anything to stop your reader. If you look at the copy edits page, there was a "please clarify." Again, the easiest fix is to strike the sentence, and unless it is close to my heart, I'll do that -- otherwise I'll revise, like "Please reword."

Now, on the "please reword" I don't know if she meant it was awkward or what. I think I did "her throat clogged with fear" and got a please reword which I changed to the standard "her chest tightened." One of the things I ALWAYS stet (keep the same) is when I get a rewording that includes "felt"..."she felt..." That is telling, not showing and I try to show as much as possible.

Of course when working on the copy edits, some things are easier just to let slide by...or delete. Sad but true for me at this time in my life. I have a lot of other writing I should be doing.

Love to all,

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Page of Copy Edits

Here's one so you can see what it looks like. My editor's comments are in circles in the margins, her (or the copy editor's) corrections are thin and in pencil. The punctuation, etc. is also in pencil (but I have a copy of the copy edits, slightly minimized -- think they don't trust us authors?), my stuff is bolder since I use a blue rollerball pen and print my corrections. Chapters 1-4 are a big mess since I really changed them....I got about 160 pages done (some I kept out to think about wording, work on research) and worked til midnight last night.

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Love to all, Robin

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Writing Expenses / Taxes

I got an extension and my taxes are due on the 15th, which means I need to get them to my accountant earlier. I have a page (somewhere) of all the expenses I can write off. So far, since I have the day job, even the good year of writing I didn't have to pay -- because I bought two computers and a printer.

Postage (a real biggie for me)
Long distance calls to NY/GA for discussions with editors/agent
All internet stuff (access, website, website updates)
Supplies (things over $75 like software must be itemized)
Utilities -- I have a small office, so I think it's 1/4 of my utilities
Health Insurance and doctor bills (I don't have this through my day job, though I believe it needs to be 20% of the income to be written off).
Promotion -- my wallet calendars, my website contest goodies (no, I haven't updated this month yet)
Contests I enter, Dues of the many chapters of RWA I belong to
Unfortunately, vet bills and cat food are not covered, even though I write about telepathic cats and am known for that. I have asked and asked and the answer is always "no." As is the answer for the fancy conference clothes I buy that live in a separate closet.

Of COURSE my receipts aren't organized, which means that I take a couple of days to go through them and put them in order. I DON'T put them on my computer. My computer is for writing and promotion, and anything that makes me avoid the computer (like listing expenses) is a Bad Thing. But I have these nifty calendars that are file pockets and I jam receipts into them. and I usually have my I-whatevers (that's a form I-9, 19, 8 or something) that publishers and now my agent sends me as well as my W2s and property stuff in a special place.

I have been known to panic.

Helpful thoughts welcomed.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Copy Edits

Yes, the Sorceress of Faith copy edits are here, sitting on the dining room table -- LOOMING.

The ms. will have edits from the copy editor who looks for punctuation problems, spelling and typos. Last time the copy editor also did a bit of sentence restructuring, noting of words used too often, etc. In Guardian, I DID take issue with the copy editor about some wording. STET (keep it like it is) is your friend. I don't care too much about an editor correcting my grammar or punctuation -- that rarely irritates me. Word choice, sentence and paragraph structure is another matter. I DO like being told I've used a word too much, but I'll decide whether to change or keep

The CE's, again, will have my editor's comments, too, whether motivation is good, or the choreography is clear. These, of course, I take more seriously and change if I think the comment is right, or rewrite to make something clearer, or delete if the sentence can't be fixed and is only confusing. Again, if something is important to me and I don't think I should rewrite. I'll STET.

Well, I'm groggy from catching up on my sleep and it's back to the day job and I have about 15 minutes to throw myself together.

Love to all,

Out of the Blogosphere
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