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, July 31, 2010


I woke up this am to find a pirate site with Heart Journey available to download.

I really don't understand why pirates do this to struggling authors (and, baby, if I'da had the dough for RWA I woulda been there to pick up my Daphne). It eludes me. If you like my work, please buy it, because otherwise I will need to find a dayjob to support cats and myself. If I find a dayjob, I will be writing much less.

Bitterly shaking head...and I DO pass these links onto my editors in the hopes that their legal department shuts them down, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen.

Pay you get paid for your work this year.

Friday, July 30, 2010



I am not at RWA. Heart Change was up for 3 awards, and I just learned it won the BEST OVERALL PUBLISHED book in the Kiss Of Death Chapter's Daphne (yes, permission to use that from the Daphne Du Maurier estate).

In cred i ble. SQUEE!

I hope my editor or agent picked up the award for me.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heart Journey is Shipping

I've heard that bn.com has shipped early, as usual. I know that my publisher doesn't print enough for Heart Journey to make any of the big lists like USA Today or NY Times...but I really would like them to stick to the street date/lay down date, so I know when to expect comments...:), and maybe, someday, be able to get a big enough surge in sales that the next book might make the lists...

Anyway, that's the news, and now the waiting begins...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Seasons In Books


Unless you are writing strict historical and need to know (consider the Frost Fairs in Regency London when the Thames froze), the seasons of most books set in "present day" or on other worlds are completely determined by the author.

Maybe the story demands them -- people trapped in a cabin in a snowstorm, maybe the writer wants to play with autumn as a theme of ending relationships. Whatever, there is usually a reason WHY the season is as it is.

In the Heart books, all the timing -- the skipping of years, was set up to age Tinne Holly and Lahsin Burdock Yew to a proper age for their own book.

And in Heart Search, I just wrote "Though the days had been nice for spring, the nights had been unseasonably cool." Why? Because I want fires in fireplaces in the evenings. I'm thinking I might have more than one use for cool nights...

Above pic: Heart Journey takes place in late summer (August, though the month begins with the new moons and is the month of Vine).

May you enjoy the weather today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do As I Say, Not As I Do, and a Writing Day

Attended in-person critique again yesterday and had pointed out that, yes, two months in a row, in two different stories, I had misplaced (i.e. not included) a scene goal up front.

Also, motivation was off, so I have to work on that. The problem with the motivation (hero goes from happy to angry in about 4 pages) is that this is the second time I've worked on that motivation and had hoped I fixed it. This particular story opening has been rewritten about 3 times.

I can't SEE this story fresh, which makes it difficult to judge if I get stuff right.

This is what happens as a pantzer. The piece is ok, but it will be better when I clean it up, and that should only take, oh, about half a day (for 11 pages).

So. My goal is 800 words a day on Heart Search, and 507 words a day on one of the stories in the collection. Starting today. The new writing MIGHT take me 3 hours, if I am lucky and fall into the zone.

As I said, the clean up of the old, takes quite a while.

One of things I have done, to help my pantzerness, is to put "Scene Goal" up on my monitor on a sticky note. I am not a "sticky-note-on-the-monitor" kind of person, so it WILL stand out. In fact, I don't think I've ever put a sticky note on this monitor.

And one of the things I like about Windows 7 is that it has a sticky-note program, so that should work on the new laptop, too.

Now off to organize my paper bin (I collect nice colored papers for collages for my engagement/journal calendar and my Morning Pages -- Artist's Way -- when I do them).

That should give me a little time to think about the setting of Heart Search, which had flummoxed me yesterday, Saturday, when I worked before critique.

May you enjoy the odd and lovely touches of beauty that come into your day...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sea Oats at Dawn


This image is from my retreat in 2008, and I wanted another one last November. So I had my gaze on the camera screen, focused at the rising sun, and checking out the sea oats...and fell down a sand dune...and got SAND in my CAMERA.

Now the camera is fixed! I can't tell you how happy I am. It's on it's way back to me and after 8 months I get it back (lag time totally due to me).


May you find treasures today.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Synopsis -- "Complications Ensue"

So, you have the beginning of your synopsis, proposal, outline...and you have the ending. And you know stuff will happen in the middle "complications ensue," or "tension increases with more threats." These phrases work if you're published (and sometimes if you're unpublished and writing a short synopsis and the book is Not Done).

They are great unless/until you look at your synopsis for guidance. Then, of course, it's WHAT DID I MEAN? Or, uh-oh.

Most of the time, since I'm a pantzer, such phrases don't bother me. Occasionally I DO check to see if I need to be hitting something that I told my editor would happen, or DO want some guidance...and it's not there.

So, like many writing techniques, this can backfire on you. Just be aware.

May you know where you're going today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Heart Journey Front and Back


And here's the back. I don't know why art departments just feel free to pull any old space art for covers. I think of Celta as fairly lush vegetation. Moons slightly larger than our own. Two.


May you be happy with the teamwork today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HeartMate Thai Cover


So, what do you think?

May your day please you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Contracts HERE! And Heart Journey author copies! And HeartMate Thai Copies!

It's a good day at the Owens house (and Dingo got to chase Mystery Merlin, but then Dingo always get to chase Mystery Merlin).

The contracts for Untitled Heart Anthology and Untitled Heart Book #10 (Heart Secret) -- Heart Search is on the last contract. Much butt wiggling in the chair. Much dancing on the stairs. Much twirling around and laughing. The rum will be broken out After Writing. The paperwork (which is the only legal-sized docs I've seen for many years), will be scanned and expressed back.

I need to talk to my editor about the stories.

Heart Journey author copies are here. Raz's back is bare of tatt, which is sad but the right thing to do. I don't care for the back, which shows a big moon and oddly shaped "space buildings." Don't do me any favors, guys. Also, the "orangey" lettering is actually gold! I luvs it.

HeartMate Thai (I think) copies are here. I scanned the cover which is an interesting purplish free-form wispy thing, but will post it tomorrow.


May you have GREAT news today.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

RMFW, Contest Critiques in general

First, I will say nothing to tell you who/what I am judging and critiquing in the RMFW contest.

I WILL say that the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' contest is excellent if you want a feedback on your first twenty pages and synopsis. It starts June 1 of every year and, unlike many groups, includes multiple genres like sf/f, mainstream, action/adventure.

I do the contest for a couple of reasons -- if I don't get on as a speaker, then I like the credits that apply to conference membership. Also, like I've said before, RMFW taught me how to write, and I like to give back. The last couple of years my deadlines have been at the wrong time to really contribute.

I did quite a bit of judging this year, most were average, two were outstanding and one was intriguing.

In any event, I spend HOURS on the critiques. I am not joking. Each read and critique takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours. So I am moaning a bit about that because *I* did not budget my time well.

So it's good value for the money. Mark it down for next year. Also, the finalists go to editors and agents attending the conference, and have a preferred pitch session with them.

May you budget your own time well today.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Scenes and Setup

Throughout Heart Search I have my heroine, Camellia, dreading going to the sentient starship, Nuada's Sword, because she has a secret she thinks it will winkle out of her. (That's a phrase from my Mom). I've mentioned this at least three times in anywhere from a line to a paragraph.

I'm feeling dissatisfied with the manuscript and thinking of cutting scenes, most particularly scenes where the hero and heroine aren't together, this is, after all, a romance. One of the scenes I was irritated at taking too long yesterday was Camellia at the starship (where she deftly distracts it).

But that is not a scene I can cut, or "tell" (such as this following paragraph: "Camellia and her friends went to the starship and she deftly distracted it from fulfilling its curiosity about her." That lets a reader down. Even if s/he doesn't realize why they are dissatisfied, it's because the follow through is not worthy of the set up.

I read a historical a couple years back where the hero and heroine were arguing and kissing and the door opened -- they would be caught in a compromising position...and the author skipped to the next day.

This was one of the vital scenes of the book and it wasn't on the page.

And, of course, I learned this from experience -- when I skipped over a vital argument between Trif Clover and Ilex Winterberry, and mentor called me on it. "You MUST write the scene." Yes. I must and I did.

So other scenes may go, but this one will stay.

May you enjoy the fullness of stories today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Slush Pile Hell

All right, I'd never seen this one. It's interesting. Let me know what you think...

May you get no rejections today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Here's the Dear Reader Letter

Welcome to Celta!

Writing a series, especially one that includes soul mates, presents a challenge on how to keep the stories fresh and the conflict between the characters different. Not only is this a "city mouse/country mouse" story, but Del is older than Raz, and thus it is she who searches for her HeartMate and finds him, and woos him.

Celta is a place of magical powers and telepathic Familiar companions – mostly cats with attitude (redundant), though in Heart Journey we meet a FamFox who is friends with Helena D’Elecampane, the premiere cartographer of the planet. Her man, Raz Cherry, is a rising star in the theaters – and doesn’t know he’s fated to love Del.

She yearns for open spaces and the next stretch of road around the bend. He thrives on applause. And the Fams are there, as always, to encourage and irritate and amuse their companions.

Heart Journey moves out of the city and into the wilds of Celta – the secondary town of Gael City, a special canyon, and another visit to the Great Labyrinth.

Another pleasure in continuing a series is having old friends drop in as necessary. Need a Healer? – here’s Lark Holly. Need someone who will adopt an orphan...and be an ex-lover for Del? – why Straif T’Blackthorn fits that bill.

Heart Journey takes place in summer, with hot days in the city. I hope you will enjoy spending some of your summer hours on Celta.

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Question re: Dear Reader Letters

I woke up to a request for a Dear Reader letter for Penguin Putnam's website asap. So I did one and had it critiqued by one of the word warriors and sent it off.

Now, in fantasy, there are very few "Dear Reader" letters, as was pointed out to me. In romance, there are more.

So, what do you think of these? In the books and on websites?

May you enjoy your reading today,

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Next? Pantzer -- OOS Writer

Yes, I am a Pantzer, one who writes by the seat of her pants and with only a vague idea of the outline or synopsis (I do sell on synopsis, so that is the story I try to stick to. Things Change).

But lately I've been thinking about the story I'm working on before I fall asleep. What next? For instance, I have two subplots for Heart Search. One is for Laev, the hero. The other is for Camellia, the heroine. It is Chapter 8 and Camellia has been avoiding her subplot (ok, the relationship is set up, the characters got Fams, Laev's subplot is going fine, and I introduced the next hero, Garret Primross, Private Eye).

So, what's next is Camellia's subplot that involves the starship, and a visit to Nuada's Sword.

Think of it as a braid. Now this subplot is the one appearing on top.

May you enjoy all you do today,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Word Choice

Word choice is an important aspect of voice -- and of character. "Yeah, yeah, I'll get to it tomorrow," is different than "Following up on it tomorrow pm," or "I will implement that on Sunday."

OTOH, word choice can bog a writer down, looking for that perfect word, or wanting a word that currently escapes the brain. In the first flush of creativity, if you need to use the word "report" three times in 2 paragraphs, do it. I mark these with ** and hopefully clean them up in the editing process.

May all the words you need come easily to you today.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Voice is what you read an author for. It's what makes a writer unique and sells their work. You must develop your own voice. Everything else that comes from the writer -- his/her world, ideas, themes, is expressed through Voice. Voice can also be determined by what genre you read/write the most.

Know thyself and learn thy Voice, it is Yours Alone.

May you enjoy yourself today,

Monday, July 05, 2010

Why Can't Acer Put Up User Manuals on It's Website?

I got a new Aspire 5732Z and there is no user manual around, no where. Not for free. There are other companies that will sell, and companies that pretend you can download for free but can't (or even have trojans or viri or whatever in their software). Urg.

Ok, I bought a cheap computer, but the Dell motherboard crashed and it was 7 years old. I bought what I could afford.


And I BELIEVED all those Windows 7 commercials that said it was easy. It is NOT. I still can't figure out how to have Duration (music) or Size in my details view (I check chapters for size).

I keep thinking that the learning curves for these things should get easier, not harder...and, really, don't get me started on the Search function...but my Windows 7 for Dummies is on it's way...

Take care and may your day be error free.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

How Long Should A Story/Book Be?

I've been thinking about the Heart story collection that I might have sold -- and how long each story should be (since I haven't had any feedback from my editor yet).

And you get the above question "How Long Should A Story/Book Be?" from new writers. The answer is, of course, as long as it takes to tell the story. That said, there are, of course, publishing considerations. Know the limits of the publisher to whom you are submitting. I can't really turn in a book longer than, say, 125K words at the max.

My best advice is tell the story you want to as well as you can. Then tighten, and if it needs to be shorter, cut -- and cut any subplots to the bone.

So I think I'll follow my own advice. I've been thinking that Genista's story should be shorter, over a couple of days, so I'm going to ditch the scene that I took to critique (probably). As for Arbusca Willow's story (Saille T'Willow's mother, and he was the matchmaker hero in Heart Dance), I will fiddle with it a bit, but it should fall in the 14-15K range, I believe.

I'll be emailing my editor regarding the story length and maybe it will be something like 10K, 15K, 25K, and 50K...not sure, since this is a new thing for me.

May you enjoy your day.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Recovery from the Crashes -- Music

Today I checked my music against my emusic downloads. Unfortunately, some of my music there is no longer available, and I don't seem to have it on my heard drives...I have a multitude of flashes, so I'll be checking them.

It's a long list, that I think I'll "print screen" in segments, just so I know. I lost some Kitaro and some Celtic tin whistle music mostly. If they weren't in my book soundtrack files, they didn't seem to make it.

There were a couple of songs that once upon a time were available but aren't now, (the artists are shown) and I didn't know which songs they were, so no great lost.

In any event, it's taken most of the day...

May you enjoy your music today.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Funny Writing Video

Lovely. I laughed and laughed.

I hope you enjoy it, too.


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