And Really Bad Eggs…

First off, some really cool news: I can now announce the official Strange Angels website! I think it looks ultra-ducky-cool. The peeps at Penguin are very excited about this, and I am too. Soon there will be quizzes and other super-fun stuff, so stay tuned. You can also hang out on my forum (NOT at Penguin, on my own personal site, there, disclaimer done) and share theories about Jealousy with other fans, as well as hang out and have fun chatting about other series.

We have no word about who’s won the Dame Smackdown yet. The last we heard, Dame Devon and I were tied. Which may mean, if we’ve finished on a tie, that BOTH of us have to post excerpts. *evil laugh* But we’ll see. I’m on tenterhooks.

Otherwise, this morning has been very quiet. It’s one of those mornings that smells like baking bread; I felt like I could run forever on the treadmill. Just point me at the horizon and let me go, let me breathe and run and stretch. It’s nice to feel that way, even if I know it’s just the endorphins talking. I’ll take it. I spent a long time trapped in a very tiny box. Now that I’m out, well, I like the idea of going as far as I can, under a wide-open sky.

Which makes me feel like Jack Sparrow. “Bring me that horizon…”

Oh yeah. I’ve got my ship, my compass that points to my heart’s desire, a song to sing, the wind in my hair and a cutlass at my side.

Bring it.

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What I’m Reading

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. The Dame Smackdown continues apace, I am told we are neck and neck. So exciting!

I was asked earlier today what I’m reading. I do think that in order to write, one must read. You learn so much from seeing how other people choose to string words together. Reading gives you an idea of tone and pacing; it helps you distinguish underlying structure, and every once in a while it gives you some pretty good thrills.

I tend not to read in the genre I’m currently writing in–for example, if I’m writing YA, I can’t read other YAs; if I’m working on an urban fantasy book I can’t read another one. Something about reading in the genre I’m writing in at the moment induces burnout in a big way. I am told this is not so for other writers, but it’s that way for me. So while I’m writing fiction I tend to read a lot of nonfiction or fiction in other genres; I have to wait until I’m working on trunk novels or in revision before I can read in the genres I work in.

So, here are the books I’m working on now:

* Unlawful Contact, Pamela Clare My writing partner tells me Clare’s heroes are almost as effed-up as Anne Stuart’s. I love me a good self-loathing hero, and it’s refreshing to read a romance with no paranormal overtones. While I can almost never write a romance without a paranormal element, I do love to read them. I’m only about thirty pages in, but the prognosis is good. Clare’s craft is solid; I am almost never jolted out of the story by the need to reach for my red pen.

* Before Stalingrad, David Glantz The battle of Stalingrad is one of my particular interests; it’s an intensification of my interest in the Eastern Front in both world wars. Not too long ago my writing partner called me and said, “I know you don’t watch TV…but there’s something on Stalingrad on PBS.” I was incredibly excited until I realized I hadn’t watched the telly in so long our set wouldn’t even pick up OPB. *sadface* But then I found the show she was talking about on the Intertubes, and harmony was restored. And what do you know–the show introduced me to David Glantz, who I hadn’t heard of before. (How is that possible? I’m wondering now. But better late than never.) So I’m indulging in a few of his books, and so far have not been disappointed one bit.

* The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon I keep hearing a lot about this book, so I’m giving it a whirl. I’m only three pages in, so it’s too soon to tell.

* Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860, Jane Tompkins I loved Tompkins’s book about the Western, and I occasionally read lit crit just for the fun of it. (The Selkie tells me I’m mad, but what does she know? She’s just my writing partner.) Anyway, this is my second time through this particular book, I’m slowing down and really picking apart sentences the way I didn’t do the first time. Tompkins’s contention that you can’t divorce a novel and the experience of reading it from cultural and social expectations and assumptions is pretty thought-provoking.

* A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, Orlando Figes Well, after reading Robert Service’s biographies of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin one after another, I really figured there was nothing for it but to read about the wider context of the world they operated in. Whenever I tell people that I’m interested in the Russian Revolution I get the same response: “I try reading Russian history, but then I stop. It’s so…depressing.” Well, yeah. Not for the faint of heart, I assure you. Figes has nice clear prose and a way of untangling events that doesn’t make me feel stupid; plus he sticks with one name for one person instead of doing a fricking Tolstoy and giving you first name, patronymic, last name, and nicknames all at different times so you think one character is four effing people. It really is sometimes the little things that make the difference.

So that’s what I’m reading now. Very little of it informs the book in progress, which is a YA. I tried picking up a YA the other day, but I could only get a couple sentences in before my eyes glazed over and my head started to hurt. I don’t know why I can’t read in whatever genre I’m writing in at the moment; I think my Muse needs a varied diet and likes to separate work and play. Who knows?

Anyway, dear Reader, that’s the answer to that question. You can check out my Goodreads page for more updates; and I’ll leave you with a question of my own: what are you reading right now, and why? What do you like (or not like) about it?

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On Physical Effort

The Dame Smackdown is still ongoing! Remember, if I, ahem, “win”, I will be posting an excerpt of Jealousy or Heaven’s Spite. *tempty tempty*

This is going to be a post tangentially about my weight…so if you’re tired of hearing me talk about that, you’re probably better off stopping now. On the other hand, I will be tying it into writing, so it’s up to you.

I’ve (drumroll please) achieved the weight goal I set for myself lo these many months ago. (All the way back on Labor Day of 2008, I believe it was. Slow and steady…) I’ve lost between 70-80 pounds and overshot my goal of a size 14 by, let’s see, three or four sizes. Some of that was stress-related, yes. It’s been a stressful year or two. But most of it was acquiring healthier habits– watching what I ate and making exercise more of a priority. I found out halfway through that when I wasn’t miserable over crazymaking people, I didn’t want to eat to dull the misery. That revelation was accompanied by the fact that the steady work I’d been doing before then making exercise a priority actually started to pay off. Once I started seeing results, the whole world opened up, so to speak.

I’m choosing to be very proud of myself. It’s been a long, long road, but I’m glad I started, and I’m glad for everyone who supported me along the way, from my writing partner to my kids to my hairdresser friend C.

I’ve always been a big advocate of taking a brisk walk or blocking out a fight scene to shake things loose inside a story. Physical movement works very, very well for me when it comes to my creative process. The trouble was, for a very long time I hated working out–long, long story having to do with my aversion to anything resembling a team sport. I like to work alone, thank you. Now that I’ve arranged my life so that I can run on the treadmill every weekday morning, ALONE (I’m up to just over three miles again, every day), that time is some of the most productive I’ve ever had.

I’m not saying you have to run three miles or lose a good third of your bodyweight (ha ha) to have a sustainable creative career. I am saying that when you’re stuck working on a story, getting up and moving around for ten or fifteen minutes often unsticks the damn thing and gets the Muse off her couch and away from those damn bonbons. (Not so incidentally, this is another use for your trusty kitchen timer. Set it and move, and when you’re done, voila!)

We live a lot in our heads, we writers, and we tend to forget there’s a whole body carrying said head around. Getting up and getting the blood moving gives the Muse a fresh start on things. Never underestimate the power of ten jumping jacks, ten minutes shaking your booty to loud music, or a brisk ten-minute walk when characters aren’t behaving and the cursor starts blinking at you like Sauron’s Eye.

Just this morning I was brooding over a plot point, and fifteen minutes into my run–at about the first mile-mark–all of sudden the next third of the book opened up, complete with scenes and settings. It’s magic when it happens, and I spent the other two miles playing with it inside my head, fine-tuning. It was awesome. Of course, the cardio benefits aren’t bad either.

You don’t have to run flat-out. Another particular favorite of mine is putting on some music and dancing, awkwardly I’m sure, in my living room. Usually it’s a song from the “soundtrack” of the current book in progress, and it reliably shakes everything loose. I wouldn’t dance like a dork if it didn’t actually work 90% of the time.

Well, yeah, maybe I would. I’m funny that way. But I’m glad it works.

Over and out.

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Terra Incognita

The Dame Smackdown proceeds apace! Remember, if I–I mean, WE, if WE–win, I’ll post an excerpt of Jealousy or Heaven’s Spite. So if you ever wanted a signed Jill Kismet, now’s your chance!

I have been astonishingly productive in a million ways this morning, none of which involve writing and all of which have grated on my Very Last Nerve. Some days one just needs the Administrivia Mallet to play whack-a-mole with all the varied and nibbling responsibilities of daily life.

But I got home about half an hour ago, crossed everything off my task list, had a quick lunch, and am ready to spend the afternoon luxuriating in writing. I am hard at work on Dru 5, and feeling that subconscious easing that means the Muse has figured out the story even if she’s not going to tell little old me yet. Which means I just have to relax, put my head down, and grind out the words. And the Muse, that tricksy wench, will take care of the rest.

This is the handwaving part that I call “when the magic happens.” Because really, that’s what it feels like. The book takes a left turn, bumping off the road I thought I had mapped, and starts jolting into terra incognita. I’m left hanging onto the dash and praying while the Muse laughs, lights up a cigarette, and shoves the accelerator all the way down.

Yeah. So if you need me, I’ll be over here in the passenger seat, scribbling furiously.

Over and out.

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Dame Smackdown!

Remember how I said there was some smack talk going on at the Powell’s event between Dame Devon and me?

Well, that smack talk has borne fruit. We are in the middle of a Dame Smackdown! Honor, lunch, and an excerpt are all on the line.

Here’s the deal. There are 15 signed copies of Flesh Circus, the latest Jill Kismet book. There are 15 signed copies of Magic on the Storm, the latest Allie Beckstrom. Devon and I have challenged each other: whoever has the most books sold by midnight next Sunday–June 6th–OR whoever’s signed copies sell out first, is the winner.

The winner will post an excerpt of an upcoming book on the loser’s blog. (I may be persuaded to post an excerpt of Jealousy.) The loser buys the winner lunch. Plus, there’s bragging rights involved. (I ADORE bragging rights.)

So now, dear Readers, it’s up to you. Our honor is at stake. If you’ve ever wanted a signed copy of a Kismet or Beckstrom book, now is a great chance! (Powell’s ships worldwide, too. I’m just sayin’.) If you decide to buy, make sure you use the links above, they’ll take you right to the signed editions in question.

Let the battle begin!

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There is too much. Let me sum up.

There are Issues. My Friday post is not forthcoming this week. Here, have some links instead:

* Steven Pressfield on “Do It Anyway”. Yes, you knew I’d agree with this.

*The inimitable Judith Tarr with 10 Ways To Prove You Didn’t Do Your Horse Homework

* Stacy Deanne on trad vs. self-publishing, and where writers are actually better off.

* I often get writing links from Wyrdsmith’s Smart Things; her link roundups about writing are always worth a peek. (And I’m not just saying that because she sometimes links me. Honest!)

And a big shout-out to Jess Hartley. I can’t say why in public, but OMG SQUEEE!

For those of you worrying, nobody’s hurt and everything’s pretty much fine. There’s just…ARGH. Sometimes the argh gets in the way of the blog. Regular Friday writing posts will return next Friday. Thank you, and good night.

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The Triple-Team Powell’s Pwnage

Well, that was the busiest week I’ve had in a while. And it’s only Thursday.

The Powell’s event was spectacular! If you were there and took pictures, please consider posting them on my Facebook fan page. I’d love to see them! There are some pics here, and Ilona Andrews blogged about the event. (There is Stealth Video of Ilona, it’s fabulous. She and Gordon are SO. CUTE. You just don’t even know.) Dame Devon Monk and I always get along like a house on fire, and I got to meet her kidlings and her husband.

I also got nominated for moderator duty, so I strapped on my katana and moderated my little heart out. I don’t think the power went to my head at all. Bwahahahaha. Oh, sorry. Did that evil laugh escape me?

Thanks to everyone who came–especial thanks to:

* Dina James, who brought evil cupcakes and a care package for me. Dina is truly evil. Not just kind of evil, like me. *grin*
* Flinx and his lovely wife-you guys are awesome.
* The ever-wonderful Marne, who told me how beautiful I am. *primps hair*
* Reader Shelly H, who made me cry in a good way. Still swingin’ for you, kid.
* My writing partner, who was front-row supportive like a Wonderbra.
* Teacher Diane–I finally got to apologize for swearing in front of her class. Sorry, Diane!
* The Martian Mooncrab, who brought me swag and also brought me a ton of research material. You’re a rock star, kid.

Thanks are also due to Saint Peter H. and Miles, the wonderful event organizers who made everything go smoothly; and to Powell’s as a whole. And thank you, very much, to everyone who came out into the rain and the cold to see us. It was wonderful to see so many fans, and the audience was very kind. There were many good questions–like how a writer deals with juggling several different projects (answer: pure panic) and what we do when characters won’t behave (answer: kill them. Ha. I’m not joking. Much.) And a shout-out to the very young Duncan, aspiring writer–no, I wasn’t offended, I was actually happy to hear the feedback, and I think you did fine.

Now, there was some Smack-Talking after the event between Dame Devon and me. Seems she and I might be running a contest with the leftover signed books from the event. We’re still working out the details, but I want to prepare you all: she fights mean, and honor (plus lunch) is on the line. So stretch out and get ready for a Dame BookFight! Details to follow.

I returned home that night exhausted but very happy. Events are draining, but they’re also a kick–there’s nothing like seeing the fans face to face and talking about these cool things we both enjoy.

I also went rock climbing this morning, and made it to the ledge. The ledge has been my goal for some weeks now, and it was incredible to finally make it. Between that and the public speaking I’ve been doing lately, I rather feel I’ve been fighting dragons. I’m looking forward to resting a bit.

Over and out!

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