Saturday, June 30, 2007

Winners and Weekend Goals!

So sorry for the delay in announcing the winners! I had to wait for my independent name picker (i.e. JP) and he's preparing for a trial and has been MIA recently (yes, in the end it wasn't my trial that kept us from our week at the beach, but his trial. Go figure!).

Anyway, I was so thrilled to have so many entries -- Thanks and welcome to all the new readers!! The two names JP drew from the hat are:


Congratulations Heather and Kiki! The first one to email me at quitclaim [at] gets their choice between the books! So email me and I'll arrange to get y'all's books to you!

For those of you who haven't visited my blog a lot (or ever before the contest) let me introduce you to my weekend goals. A while back, as a way to get accountability in my writing, I started to post my weekend goals and then updates on whether I accomplished anything. Well, I've been a bit slack and it's high time I get back into it.*

This morning I got my WIP back from Erica who did a kick-butt critique on it. I mean, she really dug in and made tons of wonderful and spot-on comments (even though I'm sure this was not really the type of book she was expecting!). Thanks Erica!! I'm still all giddy because she wrote in her email that she loves this story. LOVES THIS STORY!! YAY!!! I've gotten really great positive feedback from Diana (who's also muscling her way through WIP right now) but no one other than JP has every actually read the end before. So I was quite tense and scared and nail-bitey fearing that everything fell apart after the first 20k. But Erica loves this story! She even put in an exclamation point in her email :)

Of course, she found some plot problems (less plot problems and more "would they really do this?" stuff), some places where the heroine is too stupid to live, stuff like that. And she was right. But the good news is that it's fixable. It will take work, but I'm excited about it - because she brought up really good points and I know this is going to make WIP better.

So y'all can guess what my goal is for this weekend: start making edits on WIP based on Erica's crits! Yay!

I'm hoping to get the "easy" edits done by Tuesday because there's a good chance that JP's trial will be done then and we can still make it down to the beach. I'm hoping to be able to print out WIP and take it with me for another read (or I may wait for Diana's crits before reading it again -- right now I think I have some good distance and I'm afraid of reading it again before getting her thoughts and then not having distance.**)

Right now, I'm sitting on my couch with the wooden front door open so I can see out the glass door to the front yard. The air has that green tint to it - you know, that odd darkness of a storm creeping into the evening. The cats have been fighting over who gets to look out the door at whatever happens to be hopping, crawling, or darting across our yard. And the cicadas (or chucharras as my mom calls them) are going to town. To me, that is summer: the buzzsaw chirrups of chucharras in that odd slant of dusk.

So, what about y'all? What goals are you working towards?

* y'all may notice I'm late in posting my goals. Naturally, that is because I knew I'd have to do something if I posted them and so I put of posting them so I could put off doing stuff. This is all about procrastination, after all...

** Yes, yes, way overthinking.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Guest Blogging!

Hey all! Today my post is over at the Manuscript Mavens: come say hi and get another chance at free books!

I'll be drawing the names of our own winners this evening, so keep those comments rolling!

Monday, June 25, 2007


First off - wow! Lots of comments! Keep them coming and I'll choose a winner on Friday!

On to the blog post...

A while back a bunch of people were talking about ARCs - Advanced Reader Copies - and I thought I would finally weigh in with my opinion. These are the books that are sent out to reviewers, friends, bookstores, etc., before the book is officially published in order to generate buzz. Generally they're paperback, all the ones I have are trade size, and they look like what the final product will look like (except in some cases when they change the cover design after printing the ARCs). These are promotional materials, printed up before the book is really finished so often times they might have small errors, typos, etc. A lot of them have stats on the back for how the publisher plans on promoting the book. These ARCs are not intended to be sold, to even hit the open market and some are even stamped to that effect in big letters on the cover.
Lots of these ARCs end up on the internet for sale anyway - you'll find tons on eBay.

There are lots of good reasons for people to be upset about this. First, it's an unfinished product - the ARC form is not the final form - what writer wants their drafts floating around on the open market? Second (and perhaps this should have been first) they're not supposed to be sold. Third, these are often sold for less than cover price and before the "real" book comes out, so people buy these instead of the "real" book thus causing the author to lose a sale (that sale will never be counted towards the authors numbers, nor with he or she get paid for it). Fourth, some people are concerned with false-advertising - that the purchaser won't know they're getting and ARC rather than the "real" thing. Fifth, in some instances the ARC purchaser can spoil a well-kept secret (I think I remember reading something about the main characters in JD Robb's In Death books having a baby and people were bidding outrageously on the ARCs to find out the sex and name or something).

However, I do think there can be some positives to ARC sales. For some readers, an ARC can be like a collector's item. If that reader is truly a fan, they'll likely buy the "real" book in addition to the ARC. Furthermore, if they're that big of a fan, they're the type to talk your book up to their friends -- they become little publicizing machines in your favor. To that end, I think I'll always hesitate condemning anyone who buys an ARC - you don't want to tic off a big fan like that! Even if they don't buy your book but only get the ARC, they're still likely to push your book on others who will buy the book -- some who might not have otherwise.

I guess for me it all comes down to the intent of the ARC buyer. If they respect the author, I think I'm OK with it. And to me respect means that they're not going to spoil the plot for others, they're not going to intentionally deprive the author of a sale (either by purchasing the book themselves or getting their friends to do so), and they recognize that they're buying an ARC, not the book. I'm not OK with people buying ARCs only because they're cheaper and faster with no regard to what they're doing to the author. So I guess it's pretty easy to see where I fall in the debate (though I'm always willing to change my opinion if convinced I'm wrong).

And yes, I've bought ARCs. In fact, I started thinking about this topic again because I just got an ARC in the mail. This is a book I didn't even know existed until I read about it on another author's blog about how he'd picked up a copy of BEA. As soon as I read what the book was about I NEEDED IT (it actually is very relevant to my WIP, but also just way too cool). It comes out in two weeks, but I couldn't wait. So I waited for it to pop up on eBay and paid cover price or more for it (more, actually, with shipping). I've already pre-ordered the "real" book -- I'm not about to let this author lose a sale because of my impatience.* And you better believe I'll be hocking this book to all my friends.

The only thing that gums me up a bit is the fact that someone is profiting from this sale. That someone got this ARC through BEA or is a reviewer or works in a bookstore and they just made some easy cash because of me. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Patricia Wood turned the ARC of her debut Lottery into a collector's item. She publicizes when ARCs go up on eBay and tells the buyer to send it to her and she'll autograph it. These ARCs have sold for WAY over cover price because of that. But again, only a BIG fan will buy above cover price - and those are readers you want.

So what are y'all's thoughts on ARCs? Ever bought them? Do you think I'm right? Wrong? A little of both?


* I always buy the "real" book even when I buy an ARC. And really, I've only bought a few ARCs.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Free Books... Get Yer Free Books!

Yes, you read it right, I'm giving away books. Four to be exact. A copy of Secret Society Girl and Under the Rose here this week and another copy of Secret Society Girl and Under the Rose at the Manuscript Mavens starting at the end of the week. And if you guys really impress me, then I may feel compelled to give away more :)

What prompts this you may ask? It's the debut* of my dear friend Diana's second book, Under the Rose. It is, in a word, fantabulous. There is no sophomore slump here, let me tell you. Under the Rose grabs you and won't let go. I loved this book. Diana didn't rest on her laurels, didn't recycle old jokes and old plots like so many sequels do. Nope, Under the Rose is fresh, indulgent, and raises the stakes even more. Diana knows how to keep the reader on her toes, how to satisfy us but keep us wanting more.

The bottom line is that Diana wrote a damn good entertaining book. A book I couldn't put down. I was reading it on the plane and it landed and I refused to get off until I finished it. Yes, this book is that good: enough to keep you on a plane even when you've landed and reached the gate.

And because I love this series so much, and because I think that Diana deserves every praise she gets, I'm happy to spread the word on how good these books are. To that end, I'm giving away one signed copy of Secret Society Girl and one signed copy of Under the Rose.

How do you win? Easy - just comment on my blog this week. Any comment, any day. At the end of the week I'll draw two names and announce the winners. If, for some reason, you want to comment but not be entered in the drawing, or you want to be entered in the drawing for one book but not the other, just mention that in the comments or email me at quitclaim [at]

Remember, if you don't win here, there will be another chance when I give away another copy of Secret Society Girl and Under the Rose as the guest blogger at Manuscript Mavens this Friday.

Congratulations Diana on a fun and fantastic book - when do I get to read the next one?!?

* is it still a debut when it is their second book? I mean, it is the debut of the book - correct?

Stay Tuned...

Yes, I've been silent. I've had my reasons (and, no, unfortunately, they have nothing to do with writing but other life issues - all good things I promise). But just so y'all know, this week I plan on being a lot more active because - I'm giving away free books! Yes, stay tuned because soon I will be posting the books and how to win them!

Also, I'm looking for good book recommendations. I'm going to the beach for a week and need lots and lots and lots to read. Right now I've been digging YA, especially Spec Fic YA, but I'm open to anything. Bonus points for apocalypse stuff, that always has a spot in my heart :)

Be back soon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moving on (and whingeing)

So I've been whingeing a lot in private recently. It's pretty repetitive and goes something like this: "but what if they don't like the whole book and it sucks and I suck and then I have to come up with another idea to write but I love the last one and I'll never be able to do anything as good again, sigh, gasp, moan" and repeat. JP, bless his heart, has gotten used to it. And he tries to help, telling me the right things but in the end he's a writer too and so he knows how I feel.

Because there's not much I can do right now about the "what if they don't like it" aspect of my whingeing, I've been focusing on the "what do I do now" part. I've been casting about for ideas, trying to find my place. I've posted before about how much I enjoy YA and I'm pretty sure that's where I want to stay. But what I've had to face recently, which was quite a revelation for me, is that I've been writing speculative fiction. This excites JP to no end since he is also a spec fic writer and credits himself for my genre shift (he probably does deserve credit since my recent WIP is written in a world he created).

Let me tell you, though, writing spec fic opens up so many doors! When I was writing romance I at least had a basic premise: man and woman, get them together by the end. There are a gazillion ways to write that book, and it's not as easy as I make it sound (and I don't mean to make it sound easy). But at least there's a starting point! I even wrote contemp romance which means it was set in the here and now. With spec fic it could be set anywhere, any time, no rules, all rules -- it seems anything at all goes!!

For the past week I would mutter things like "vampires... done and not my thing... fairies... being done and by great authors... werewolves... I don't have the passion for it... future space epic...." and on and on and on. Part of my problem is that I haven't read enough in the genre to know what's taboo (or done to death) and what's not. Part of my problem is that I'm not sure how far to push the limits, how creative to get?

Then JP reminded me of a story idea I'd come up with about a year ago. Before WIP even (so maybe even two years ago...). It's an idea based totally on a vision. And I love the vision. But that's all I had for a while - that vision. And then JP and I started playing around with it. And then on Friday I had this total revelation (which I would share but it involves details of WIP which I'm not ready to share yet) and the new idea started to fall into place. I realized that I do want a hero and heroine, I love the tension of romance. I think I know the final scene (rare for me to know how it ends) and I'm not quite sure where it starts (though I may have a first line that's been kicking around in my brain). I know the general sense of the plot, but it is going to take a LOT of work. I don't think it will be like WIP where I just sit down and wonder "what shall I write about today?" and then have 2k pour out. I think this new one will take some structuring, some *gasp* plotting. Who knows if it will stick, if it will work. But I'm pretty darn excited about it. I think it's pretty original (though how I'd know since I haven't read widely in scec fic is beyond me). So I think I'll kick the idea around as I put the finishing touches on WIP. I'll poke at the plot, research, see what I come up with.

It's just a relief to have something to play with. To realize that maybe I can come up with another story idea, another world.

What about y'all? How do you feel when it's time to start on the next project? How do you formulate your ideas and develop them?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'd sell if only...

Diana has a wonderful series on her blog right now which is basically a primer on writing. She goes into detail on all of the basic industry terms and demystifies a lot of them (like what's really important when formatting a manuscript). It's a really useful series and even if you know it all already, it's nice just to get a little refresher.

One of the points that she makes that I think cannot be made enough is that writers tend to focus on things that don't matter. As someone who is starting on querying, I understand how easy it is to be tempted by these things. To wonder if I'd have a better shot at publishing if I just submitted in Courier, to wonder if my page count is too high/too low and I should re-count my pages by some other method (like 250xpage count) to see if that's a better count for me.

But these things don't matter - what matters is the writing. Diana said something else on her blog recently that really really resonated with me: "People often ask if it's difficult to find an agent. The truth is, if you have the right book, finding an agent is a relatively straightforward process. If you don't, it's very very very very hard." You know, sometimes you just hear something that gets you in the gut. This was one of those.

It's not about whether you put an extra space between paragraphs in your query letter (I do) and then indent (I do as well). It's about the book. It's not about whether you put your contact information on the front page of the manuscript in the bottom left or top right corner, it's about the writing (and you do need the contact info somewhere!)

And yet it is so easy to focus on those little things, those things that don't matter. It reminds me of a story I heard once about the managers of a corporation putting together a $100 million budget.* The parsed out millions on salaries, marketing, legal fees, etc. And then it came down to the last $500 dollars and they started to bicker over 1 ply toilet paper or 2 ply, whether to use plastic cups in the break room or paper. All of these tiny little things that really were a drop in the bucket of that massive budget. But to the managers, these were numbers that were fathomable, and within their control. These were numbers they dealt with in their every day lives. They felt a sense of control with these numbers that they didn't feel with the massive millions.

I think writers get that way. Yes you can control your writing, but you can't control whether the agent likes it. And so sometimes we focus way too much on the little things. Font, location of page numbers, how to sign off the query letter, whether to thank the agent or not.

To a certain extent, having started doing a lot of in depth agent research, I can understand this. There are some agents out there who are picky about what they want and how they want it (which they have every right to be). But they are so adamant about how they want things that sometimes it reads that submitting any other way is incorrect (the first line of your query letter isn't the hook? Bad! Your plot summary in the query is more than one paragraph? Bad!). These agents make it easy to worry, make us second guess the way we go about things (one agent said that the double space between paragraphs in a query letter is unprofessional - that's exactly how our entire law firm of 400+ attorneys format our letters).

But the key is not to despair. Do the research. If the agent doesn't like that extra space, take it out in that letter. If the agent wants the plot in only one paragraph, get it done (although I doubt that agent will toss a query for a really cool book simply because the plot was summarized in three paragraphs). If the agent doesn't generally like quest stories (Rachel Vater) make sure that you don't describe yours as such. I've been pleasantly surprised at just how much information on agent preferences you can find online (through their blogs, through interview on loops - especially which doesn't require registration to read).

Now, just as you can get too worried about nit-picky formatting, it can be similarly easy to turn that obsession to determining an agent's likes and dislikes. I mean, the internet is huge and sometimes there's a ton out there on agent preference (for example, Rachel Vater did a version of the crapometer on her site** and you could spend a whole lotta time weeding through that). On the one hand, if Rachel Vater is your #1 pick for agent, then read on. Get to know her - her style, her likes and dislikes. You'd be amazed at how much you can pick up about an agent and his or her personality by reading through their blog for a while - I even think you can get a good sense of whether you'd be a good fit. But should you devote a ton of your time to that sort of in-depth research for 80 or 100 agents? Maybe. But at the same time, you could just be using such research as a reason to stave of the inevitable: suck it up, send out the query letter (following their guidelines, of course).

Remember that in the end, it's about the writing. Make it easy for the agent to focus on your writing. This means present it clearly, concisely, giving the agent all the information they need to make an informed decision. Follow their rules, get to know your top choices. And then press send or let those letters drop into the PO box. Then get started on the next one!

Easier said than done, right?
* Yes, it occurs to me that it prob. isn't the managers putting together the budget, but that's not the point of the story so stop being nit picky

** I'd link it but it's multiple posts. Go back to March '07 and you'll find them all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekend Goals recap

Here I am to recap my progress on this weekend's goals. My main goal was to input all the revisions that JP has made on WIP. So far he's read about 2/3 of WIP and I've put in all the minor changes (word choice, misspellings, grammar, etc). I didn't make any substantive changes because I'm waiting to hear back from my beta readers first. But already I can see there's a section that will need a little bit of attention. Nothing big, but a little changing around perhaps. Fingers crossed my beta readers like it! :)

I also spent Saturday surfing the internet for articles on querying and drafting the synopsis. I think that's one of my ways to procrastinate: read as many articles/blogs as I can on point. There's some great stuff out there, but ultimately you just have to suck it up and sit down and write. So I drafted a basic synopsis that I'll have to put aside for a while before editing and put a query letter together (thank goodness for the help of wonderful friends like Diana!) I've done some preliminary agent research so now it's just time to start putting everything together and polishing. Eep!

All in all it was a great weekend. I guess the next step is to start thinking about what I want to write next. Now that is a scary thought!

How was everyone else's weekend?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Weekend Goals

Y'all know the drill - every weekend I like to post my goals so that I have someone to answer to if I make them or not. This weekend my goal is to finish another round of revisions. JP has been incredible this week, reading his poor little heart out.* The good news is that he seems to lose track of time and has a hard time putting it down. The other good news is that he's got a lot of great corrections/suggestions. The bad news is that he found some things that I managed to forget not to change/make clear before sending the last draft out to my beta readers. Thankfully they're so busy they haven't had too much of a chance to really dig into said draft.

So my goal is to implement his corrections on Saturday and have this turned back around to my beta readers by Saturday night.

What might complicate things slightly is that the trial is now officially starting on Monday (thank all that is good and holy). This means that there is a good chance I might have to work this weekend. It's been eerily quiet thus far and I'm worried it's just the calm before the storm.

Thankfully I've already had a G&T or two tonight so there will be no litigating for me in the next few hours!

But the best news of all - and what this ultimately boils down to - is that this trial should be done in a few weeks. Which means I should get a little bit of my life back. Which means I should be able to finish this sucker up and get her sent out. Yipes!

Currently my tentative goal for having first round of query letters out is June 30. I leave the next day for a week at the beach and it sure would be nice to have this thing done. Plus, I can't think of another way to forget about the waiting game. But that goal is just tentative right now - it all depends on my work, my wonderful beta-readers, etc.

What are y'all's weekend goals?

* seriously, I could go on and one about how awesome he is but that is for another post. Also, did I mention he made another "sale"? One of his short stories was just short-listed for an anthology. Fingers crossed the whole anthology sells!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Making friends in the "neighborhood"

First I want to send a big congratulations to Jessica Burkhart on her recent sale!! I was just casually perusing PM the other day when this sale popped up:
Jessica Burkhart's HIGH JUMPS AT COLLINS ACADEMY series, pitched as Saddle Club meets Mean Girls, about a small-town girl who attends a boarding school and must learn to compete with the equestrian elite, to Molly McGuire at Aladdin, in a four-book deal, in a very nice deal, by Alyssa Eisner Henkin at Trident Media Group (NA).
I squealed in my office! And then I thought - wait, maybe this isn't the Jessica I know from the blogosphere, she's been so calm recently on her blog - how could she be so calm with this going on? And so I immediately went to her blog to congratulate her but there was no announcement there yet... so I went to email and then I realized it:

Jessica probably doesn't know me from Eve.

That's what is so weird about the blogosphere. I feel like I "met" Jessica through Diana - we're both regular commenters on Diana's blog and I "run into" Jessica at other blogs too. I also read her blog, though I'm usually just far enough behind on the entries that I miss my chance to add my 2 cents in.

So I feel like I know Jessica, that at least we have mutual friends. Which was why I was just so excited about her sale. From her blog I know how she's worked for it and it's so cool to watch someone succeed.

A few weeks ago, Patrick asked what the point of a blog was (not in a "why would you ever have one" sort of way*). For me, having a blog is being part of a community. I feel like I've met friends through my blog. Even if we don't email or talk on the phone, I generally know what's up in their lives - or at least I know what's going on in their writing lives. And I've met friends through blogs that I do email and talk to. Honestly, I don't think I would be nearly as far along as I am with my writing if it weren't for blogs, for the discussions on craft and just "talking" to other people out there going through (or having been through) the same things.

But every now and then I pull up short and wonder if I'm just some sort of weird internet stalker. And yesterday was one of those days when I so wanted to send an email to Jessica congratulating her, but wasn't really sure what to say: "You don't know me but I sure know a lot about you because I read your blog?" Yeah, way to sound like an internet stalker.

Plus, I'm never quite sure what to say in the real world about my blogosphere friends. I get excited seeing a book in the store by Rachel Vincent whose blog I've read since the beginning (but I'm a lurker there pretty much too) and what do I say: "read this cause my friend wrote it?" I probably would say that, but then I feel a little weird because Rachel probably doesn't know me. Or when I talk to my family about my blogosphere friends and what's going on with other writers and the industry - ah, the blogosphere gossip - and I feel like they're thinking "don't you have any offline friends?"**

Perhaps one problem is lurking - getting to know someone without letting them get the chance to know you. Perhaps de-lurking is one way of solving what I think is often a weird imbalance of the blogosphere (of you knowing someone who does not know you). Perhaps another solution is to take the blogosphere for what it's worth and don't expect to make "real" friends (though I don't like that solution).

For me, the blogosphere is a tie into the writing community. It keeps me focused, engaged, excited about writing. And I really do feel like part of that community, even if I lurk in part of it. What do y'all think about the blogosphere? Of knowing people who may not know you? Do you make "real" friends? Am I just a crazy weird internet stalker girl? :)

** That's not exactly what he asked, but I'm saying it anyway. I can at least say it was that post that led, eventually, to this post...

* for the record, I do.

Monday, June 04, 2007

What has...

What has...
  • 34 chapters
  • 68,640 words
  • 231 pages
  • and will soon be read all over??
Yes, that's right! I finished revisions! Or draft revisions at least. And I'm in the process of sending WIP out to beta readers. This is the terrifying part, folks. This is where I hold my breath and wait. Hopefully they'll love it. And if they don't, hopefully they'll love the bones and have excellent suggestions for revisions :)

So now it's time to put all of your good advice to work and start in on the query letter. At least writing a good hook will give me something to think about during the down time of preparing for this pesky trial that keeps getting postponed!

Fingers crossed this trial starts on Friday as calendared and that my beta readers love WIP!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The eternal question of the day...

My goal is to finish revisions today. I meant to get an earlier start but a few hours at the mac genius bar got in the way. I have 80 pages and 24k words left to revise. Hmmm... perhaps more daunting than I thought. We shall see!

To set the mood, this little secret from PostSecret: