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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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Critique group is today and I only have six pages of Out of Balance because I've been trashing/rearranging chapter 2. When I revised the synopsis of the proposal Timeshifter --> Out of Balance, I didn't revise the pages. Chapter 1 only had a few tweakings, but chapter two needs work.

This will be the first time in years that I don't have a full 10 pages (or more).

What I really wanted to talk about was critiquing. I've been thinking about a friend's story that I read a couple of months ago and wondering what changes she made. I'd like to know, though I'll read the book when it comes out.

I find critiquing on the computer harder than on hard copy. I have to mess with fonts and colors and stuff. Also it's hard on my eyes, and I'm not sure I catch everything that I should.

Sometimes I get so tired of looking at the computer that the actual story doesn't make much sense. So I usually leave the critique and think of it (or let it simmer) for a while.

I don't believe I'm the only writer who does this, especially if something bothers me about a story that I can't quite pinpoint. So I will put in hours on a critique...

Today we do it off the cuff, but if I think of something later, I will send them an email or call.

Writers care about each other.

May you enjoy your social time today.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Retreat Pics...




May you enjoy your landscapes today.


There's a lot of snow here in Denver, and I'm currently ok with staying inside. In fact, something a writer needs to worry about a bit is being a hermit. It's all well and good to communicate by email and chats and tweets, but face time with other people is very important.

Study faces and expressions. Listen to tones of voices. Smell other places: coffee? wet wool? seaweed? Taste the rain or snow or the salt and humidity in the air. Feel the crunch of leaves or crusted snow or sand under your feet.

Being a hermit can limit you to your own thoughts and environment, and we all need to fill the well...with people as much as all the other sensory input.

May you enjoy interacting today.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Samhain on Celta -- Prize

I'm blogging at the Knight Agency today (and staying warm inside during a snowstorm that has lasted two days and dumped about a foot of snow on Denver).

There IS a prize of your choice of a book from my backlist at the above link.


And may you enjoy virtual visits today!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Office Efficiency -- Research Naming Materials

I have to talk about this today since my office is a wreak. It's definitely time to reorganize it, most particularly so I have my research books at hand and my software.

Lately I've had to search for the two "books" I've used for naming on Celta, Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and The Herbal Tarot. Some of my books are downstairs on the Dining Room table where the laptop usually sits, but it's coming winter.

My office is small, about 12 x 12 and has books on most of the walls. My desktop is big and the sun comes through the window all winter, so I should be up here writing instead of downstairs in the chill dining room. But books and papers are everywhere and it's gotten out of hand.

So cleaning the office a bit by bit is top priority (no, I'm not avoiding the Luna book, not at all). I'm giving myself a half hour a day so that it isn't ovewhelming but the work will get done.

Check out YOUR office. Are you avoiding it? Why?

Take care,

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I have a reading today and I waffled back and forth what to read. My latest book came out in January and is actually Echoes in the Dark, but it is the last book of a very connected five book series. I considered Guardian of Honor because it was the first of the series.

Heart Fate has been out over a year.

Heart Change isn't due for a couple of weeks, but I worry that folks will forget the name, and it's trade paperback and the last mass market out that I have is actually Heart Dance.

Most of my books can be found in the Dealers' Room for immediate purchase.

Finally I settled on Heart Change. It's rare for only two characters to be in a scene in that book -- Cratag and Signet making love, of course, but otherwise....

But I plucked out a couple of scenes there anyway. One is during Avellana's first Passage, that Signet shares. Then the morning after the event. Then later in the book where Cratag looses control (not in bed, in the sparring salon).

I've printed them out, read them, kept track of the time...but I think I'll hunt up a copy of Guardian of Honor anyway...not that I can find my own reading copy...again...but I have my reading copy of Keepers of the Flame...

May you be decisive today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Electronic Submission

I submitted Heart Journey electronically yesterday. There are some things I hate about electronic work -- the copy editing in Word for instance -- but not printing the whole dam book (108211K in Word, 474 pages) TWICE as per contract, not going out in the snow and mailing it, is great. Yes, that was a very long run on sentence. Yes I should break it up. No, I'm not going to.

This morning I've been working on my annual flier for Mile Hi Con, which I will probably put up tomorrow.

I HAVE gotten one copy of the book, but not my author copies yet, though, as we all know, they are shipping and some have been sold. I'll be giving that away today for a charity auction, though I did scan it.

It IS browner/tanner and I'm concerned my name fades a little into the background, but it is still a beautiful cover.


May you enjoy whatever you do today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pickier than most Readers...

That's what my mentor said (yes, I am weaving the last of the threads through and will hopefully finish today) when she returned Heart Journey to me. As usual, she said, I COULD turn Heart Journey in the way I'd written it in rough draft (or the draft I gave her), but she picked at every little dam thing.

So it got a bit frustrating at times, but now that I'm definitely on the downward slope -- I only have the climax to rearrange and I wrote stuff for that yesterday -- I am pleased with the book. It looks like it will be 108K+ but Heart Change was 113K+ so all is good. My editor might not likely cut the book.

I DID lift a few large scenes (which readers will see on my website), but some scenes were cut, like taking a character out here...so that's more promblematic putting on my site.

In any event, be pleased with yourself today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Villain's Point Of View

Unlike a VICTIM'S Point of View, which I find rarely adds to a book, I think villains' point of view can be very interesting.

It is also a technique to add to suspense and vary pacing -- the reader knows the villain has PLANS even as the protagonists continue on their way.

Though I have never actually written a villain's point of view, I like reading them.

A short blog today, and when the brain is less foggy from revisions, I hope to add more on this topic.

May you enjoy all the characters you meet today--and meet no villains beyond pages or film...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Villains -- Writers' Brains

I don't consider myself a great villain maker. Many of them are over the top evil...like the Dark in the Lladrana series or T'Elder in Heart Thief. Usually the Heart books do have a little mystery/suspense, but I always expect the reader to guess who it is. When people DON'T guess who the villain is I'm surprised and flattered.

My mentor is primarily a romantic mystery writer, so plot and mystery comes first. She was unhappy with Heart Journey because the villain didn't really show up until the end -- in a mystery, the villain should definitely be introduced early in the book with other suspects.

Now, I have two henchmen who are doing a lot of theft/vandalism, but the villain stayed off the page.

I thought a lot about this change and figured out how to fix it...the wonderful thing about writers' brains is that usually we CAN fix something if we believe it needs to be done, no matter how weird it can be. But it takes time. If I was on a hideous deadline that wouldn't let me think about something for a week, I might have left it as it was.

I considered many things, characters I'd thought of introducing but didn't...a cartographer rival of Del's for instance. I thought of how long the book was and how many pages I'd already cut. Finally the answer came to me. So yesterday I went back and dropped the guy in for as much as I've made the changes from mentor so far. I want at least one more mention or scene and I think I'll be good.

May you enjoy twisting your mind today.

Friday, October 16, 2009


If you read my post yesterday, you could see that I was tired from the detail work of transcribing changes from mentor's hard copy to my desktop for 160 pages, 3.5 hours.

I wrote the blog here on my laptop downstairs at the dining room table, after I'd put breakfast on. Just the change in scenery helped stir thought that had gone dull at the upstairs desktop.

Taking breaks is necessary. Things that writers have said stir their creative juices are walking, exercising, gardening, showering.

Eating helps too. ;)

I CAN cut that additional character and tighten the tension between my hero and heroine when I do it. That will take about 2-5 pages out of the manuscript, additional words that I want gone.

So don't forget to eat or take breaks! Trust me, baby.

May the pace of your day be good today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mentor Critique

Yes, she did it in red, which makes it easy to see, and since I told her I want to cut it, she was very picky.


Of course when things didn't work for her, I got "why" so most of the time I added.

I actually got this book last Friday and though I flipped through it, and considered taking a minor character out, today was the first day I actually worked with it.

I came to the minor character bit and I still liked it, saw the point of growth that I'd given hero (and since I'm skimming I'm not sure that I didn't make that particular point before). Since I didn't see how I could actually MAKE that point without the character (of course I can if I take a few hours, but I don't want to take a few hours right now), so far the minor character remains. I'll think on the specific.

This makes me feel lazy. I'm tired of the book, it needs a little finessing here, it would be fine without the character, but I sure would like to turn it in tomorrow and it's certainly better to fix it before turning in...and that's a whine. Sorry.

I'll fix the darn thing as soon as I can make my brain work. I have gotten through 160 pages already and cut 500 words even after the additions.

Of course the writer has the bottom line on whether to take critique or not, but I do think that deleting an additional one of the multitudinous characters in this book would be good, even though I like him.

So it goes, and as I've been typing I think I've found a way to work the scene. Maybe.

May your brains work well today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Photo: Critiqued Ms.

For Heart Journey I usually saved up my critiques to do at the end of a book (when I was unpublished, I did them at the end of that day). This hasn't worked for me lately, so I am going back to what I did when I was unpublished...though I remember if there are major problems...well, if there are major problems like in Chapter 6, I DO work on them sooner. (This paragraph has been edited to remove two additional "usually"s)

I haven't posted a photo lately, so here's one of the stack of crits I had to do for Heart Journey (and yes, we pretty much got up to Chapter 7 of a 37 chapter book). I tried very hard to get the photo larger and to the edge, but after a half hour it didn't happen, so you have whatever blogspot or photobucket decided was right for the space.

BTW, my comments are the purple ones a few entries down.


May you enjoy your friends today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HEA, Readers' Expectations, Readers' Rules

HEA means Happily Ever After which, in a book labeled a romance, is necessary. Because readers will expect it, and if you don't deliver they won't read your "romances" again. So, as always, know what your genre requirements are and meet them. Readers' Rules are Readers' Expectations that you break at the peril of your career.

I think I told you that I had a friend who was judging a romance contest and got an unpublished work where the heroine killed herself in the end. NOT a romance, and the writer didn't know it.

READ in your genre, KNOW your genre, MEET the set-in-stone Readers' Rules. Don't let a snarky, crafty, amoral murderer go unpunished if you are writing a mystery and don't plan to bring him back for punishment in a later book...etc.

This has come up because I've been re-reading an old mystery series by a wonderful writer. I read two and in each of them I was reminded that the murderer was someone I really liked. This is ok for a mystery, sort of a good twist, but it also depressed me. One of the times it was the love interest, and I like a romantic subplot to my mysteries, an HEA romantic subplot.

I was looking at the other books in the series and recalled that one of them did the same, the love interest was the murderer...which, when each of the books is written in the first person POV of a female protagonist (different every book, not the detective who is male), makes you question their judgment. All three times they trusted someone they shouldn't have. Thus, again, the depression at the end of a story.

I also read three stories in an urban fantasy anthology. One was quite satisfying on the suspense and excitement and the romance level. Another, by an author I don't read, killed off a lot of secondary characters that the heroine liked -- one of whom she killed herself in something like friendly fire. That's ok for urban fantasy, but, again, I'm a softie and I won't be reading the books with this same heroine. The third was in a world I liked but just an "eh" story. All about bloody vengeance by characters I couldn't really sympathize with. I'll continue reading this author after I hear about her next book, since, for me, her work is "uneven."

So it may be a gray day, and it may be that I'm behind on my self-imposed deadlines, and it may be that I paid a LOT for repairs to my car (long story but I feel burned on that right now, too), and it may be the bad economy that still bums me out, but right now, I want guaranteed cheerful comfort reads. With HEAs. So I won't be re-reading the rest of that mystery series, though I will keep it because the author is a very good writer.

May you enjoy all that you read today.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


In addition to good characters, you need conflict. I don't talk about this much because it isn't something that I analyze and set out to do. I am more and more an organic writer.

But there must be tension, tension between characters, suspense in the plot...and I don't feel I'm fantastic at that, either, but I do try.

In any event (I woke up to the shock of snow, though everyone knew it was coming, I thought we'd duck it again so I'm a bit gloomy this am and Dingo is unhappy that he can't go out and that his last mouse -- dead, down the toilet -- disappeared without notice) conflict is a must, tension keeps the reader reading. What happens next?

So when I looked at the Luna book, Out of Balance, chapter one was good, because it was one of those that I nailed. Chapter Two...well, I tried to revise to change to the new story line, and made it worse.

Crit group had told me, earlier this year, but I hadn't seen that the conflict has to be really big here, I wanted to feed in the worldbuilding and go. So I threw out Chapter two and I've been staring at the ceiling and thinking.

I think the standard text I use is something like: Problem, Decision, Disaster, so I'm working on that, too.

It will be the best conflict I can make it.

May you enjoy the weather and the activities of the day.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Of course I should be working on the first chapters of my next Luna book, Out of Balance, but I'm determined to be more pro-active in online promotion, so I will be figuring out the facebook feed.

I think people have forgotten I'm out here...folks who read the first couple of books but haven't kept up. My website contest page changed, so I've been getting fewer entries. That's because I didn't keep up with the monthly content, I'm sure. I was extremely pressed for time with the last Luna contracts, but still...this is important.

So I'll be seeing how to link in to Facebook, doing more interviews, and have started an author page for 3 months with Fresh Fiction.

May you enjoy all you do today.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I am judging unpublished contest entries today and think that this may be the last time I do this. Even though the last contest I judged showed my scores a few points higher than the other judges, I feel grumpy and crotchety, and like I'm not being helpful.

Mostly because a character is doing something that doesn't make sense -- and continues to do things that don't make sense and I have lost the suspension of disbelief. I have a friend who says she'll buy almost anything if you motivate it, and I am beginning to agree.

You lose me as a reader if I don't understand why your character is doing something s/he wouldn't, if the motivation is not strong enough for him/her to react that way.

This applies to ALL writers, unpublished and published. For me, and for many readers, motivation is key. So make sure what your character is doing makes sense, especially within your world. A critique group is very good for this.

May you enjoy all that you do today.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Website Up

My monthly website is up. New Free Your Artist, a very small new "read" from Heart Change Chapter 6, WORLDS has links to research I used for the Singer's Abbey in the Summoning books.

Oh, the contest is a pretty cool clock, a CD cat clock. I gave one away before and still think they are great.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Frustration, Balancing Explanation and Word Count

I had some frustrating moments when I went through old critique group notes on Heart Journey. Like all comments, I had to weigh what most meant, whether I'd explained something in a previous chapter that they'd forgotten but a reader would remember.

Particularly frustrating was when someone wanted more information and I'm sitting with the manuscript on screen, needing to CUT. How confusing WOULD this be?

Finally, I decided to add.

If your readers get lost, they will put down the book.

If the manuscript is too long, the editor will cut, and s/he will be fresh eyes so may very well cut better.

Follow your gut, but ALWAYS consider your readers.

May you be appreciated today.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Opening with a Group Scene

This is not really a good idea, it confuses readers if they can't figure out who is whom and they get irritated.

The first thing I heard from my mentor about Heart Journey was "You opened with a group scene!" (She LOATHES group scenes).

Sez I, "Yes, I've taken it to critique group. Did you have trouble with it?"

"No, but I think you should only have two of them."

"Can't do that. I can cut one, though, he rarely shows up in the rest of the book."

More grumbles, from me, too, since I like the scene as it is.

But after we finish talking I cut Guy Balsam from the scene and finesse his lines until they're like more what the others would say.

I'm hoping this will be clear, though the only person my readers have ever met is Raz.

May you enjoy your day,

Friday, October 02, 2009

It's that time of year again -- Nanowrimo


National Novel Writing Month will start in November. I'm currently thinking of spending Halloween writing in costume with other Denver nanos (unless the group I hang with does a Halloween party).

I hope to get more into the Denver group this year, I'll be going away to retreat in SC mid-month instead of at the beginning.

The daily wordcount for Nano is 1667.

May you enjoy all the groups you move in today.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I was slated to start the new Luna book, Out of Balance, today. But it's Thursday, and I haven't finished messing with Heart Journey. It's still quite long and I'd like to cut another 2K words.

So I am going to work (off and on, I have also been housesitting/catsitting which takes up anywhere from an hour to 3 of my time) on finishing up Heart Journey. I'd like to turn in Heart Journey by the 15th and haven't gotten comments back from my mentor.

Besides, since I had to rewrite the Luna proposal, the first chapters are going to have to be rewritten.

May you enjoy your projects today.

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