Come See Me At Cedar Hills Crossing!

Just popping in for a quick reminder: Tuesday, May 31, I’ll be at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s for a signing/reading event with Devon Monk and Ilona Andrews, at 7pm. You still have time to preorder a signed copy of Defiance–and when you do, you will be entered in the drawing to win a chapter of Reckoning, the last of the Strange Angels series. This means you will get to read a chapter of Reckoning MONTHS before it’s published. Ilona and Devon are running giveways too–it’s our little gambit to break the Powell’s shipping department. (They love us there.) Plus, there will be goodies!

ETA: Powell’s does ship these signed copies outside the US, as far as I know. And the chapter can be sent outside the US, too. This is one of the few contests I have where I can ship outside the US. Just mentioning…

Now I just have to figure out what to read at the event. Hmmmmm.

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Not Shell-Shocked, Just Looks That Way.

This is what the end of a zero draft looks like:

* Every piece of silverware in the house is either dirty or in the dishwasher, which I have not unloaded. The sink is piled high with dishes. Good thing tonight’s pizza night. Except we won’t have plates if I don’t deal with the kitchen.

* Three baskets of laundry are behind my writing chair. I don’t remember putting them there. I think the last time I did laundry was…Wednesday? No, it had to be before that. It was while I was writing the cave scene. In other words, who the f!ck knows?

* Just ate two slices of leftover cake. I NEEDED THEM. Now I feel slightly sick, but my brain is yelling MORE CAKE! I WORKED HARD, I NEED GLUCOSE! I am resisting valiantly. Plus there’s no cake left.

* Found myself bent over this morning, hairdryer in my hand, staring blankly at my toes while I forgot I was drying my hair. Thankfully, nothing was too scorched. Well, at least some of my hair covers the bad bits.

* There is a stabbing pain between my shoulderblades. Need to figure out the memory foam padding in the chair. Also, should stretch more. Yeah. Will get right on that.

* Was in bed before 8:20PM last night. Informed my darling children that I was tired, therefore THEY were turning in early too. They wisely did not quibble.

* Miss B. is shedding. Drifts of white undercoat everywhere. Even if I hoovered every day it would build up. I haven’t hoovered since last weekend. You’ll have to send in the Saint Bernard with the little cask of rum around his neck to find me in the White Wastes.

* My TBR pile looks like a tornado hit it, teetering dangerously on the small table next to the couch. The research books are scattered around, all open to different pages, dog-eared, underlined. The series bible is torn, coffee-stained, stepped on, and generally ragged.

* Only decided to go to post office and bank today once I figured out that due to automated tellers and the automated postage kiosk, I did not have to speak to a single living being.

* Forgot to put my shoes on twice this morning. Only realized it once I had taken a few steps outside. Okay, fine, half a block.

* Woke up this morning and was unsure if I had really finished the book or just dreamed it. Had to check. (This happens far more often than you’d think. I’ve never been wrong, but the idea that I MIGHT be makes me check each time. What? Neurotic? Me?)

* Bedroom is strewn with clothes, for the simple reason that I would be dressing and suddenly drop every article of clothing to run to the keyboard and vomit up another chunk of text. Then I would start shivering and try to figure out why I was cold, and realize I was just in a tank top and one sock. It’s a mercy I work from home, and that I have an alarm on my phone reminding me to be decent before everyone comes home from school.

* I had to ask my daughter what I’d made them for dinner last night. It was waffles. And bacon. Thank God. I’ve never forgotten to feed the children, but I worry.

* Realized yesterday that I could not remember showering at all for the past day or two. Leapt in the shower. Had the shampoo in my hand before I realized I had indeed tried to shower an hour and a half ago, but I had turned off the water and wandered out to get more of the book set down. At that point another chunk of text appeared, so I turned off the water and…yeah. Two hours later, wrapped in nothing but a towel, I wondered why my teeth were chattering.

* The inside of my skull feels like it’s been scraped clean by an enthusiastic Baskin-Robbins employee. With a really cold scoop.

I am proud to report, however, that the zero draft of the first Bannon & Clare book is finished, and buried on my hard drive to age a little bit before I polish it and turn it in. One down, two to go before the end of the year.

God help me.

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It’s not oatmeal. It’s my brains.

First, the obligatory self-pimpage: don’t forget the RECKONING contest! The May 31 event grows ever closer!

Things I did today include:

* Dropping off people at the airport without killing, maiming, or screaming at anyone. Banner occasion.
* Staring at a weird pale growth in the front yard until I realized it was a mushroom.
* Saying very loudly, “Jesus Christ, don’t eat that, what’s WRONG with you?” to my dog, then looking up and realizing a woman and her toddler were staring at me round-eyed.
* Wondering just where the J. Peterman Company got my address from. I mean, I’m not mad. I’m just curious.
* Realizing my current TBR stack includes five books on psychopathology, two books on forensic pathology, and six books on World War II.
* Admitting to myself that I find China Mieville‘s brain disturbingly hawt. (WHAT? I paid for Embassytown in HARDCOVER, thankyouverymuch.)
* Spending serious time while walking considering just how best to set up shots of Gilbert the Zombie Gnome at the May 31 event.

Things I looked up today include:

* Mining in the 1800s
* How to say “you magnificent bastard” in German
* Rapiers. RAPIERS ARE COOL. Actually, medieval fencing manuals are interesting too. I should totally get someone around here to put on a couple rapier fights for me…
* Prostitute slang in Victorian London. ^o.0^

Things I wrote today include:

* A mentath, an assassin, and a mad Bavarian go into a mine.
* A REALLY BAD joke. (If it ain’t baroque, donna fixit!)
* An entire email based on a sleeping tapir. (I love saying “TAPIR TOES!” at random moments.)
* A scorching letter to the Entitled Stalker Of The Week. Which I promptly deleted. Because I am an adult.
* An email beginning “Dear Mr. Jones,”. No lie.

And a couple of links to round things off:

* Jill Filipovic on accusing the accuser.
* And the BEST THING IN THE WORLD TODAY is this vlog, where a lovely young lady calls out Beyonce for being a liar-liar-pants-on-fire, and does it with such clarity and grace it leaves one breathless.

Over and out.

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Fun Stuff, & RECKONING Contest

The Gnomepocalypse yesterday tired me out. So it’s just a couple things today:

* Part 2 of the GraphicAudio recording of Working For The Devil is now available!

* On May 31 I’m going to be at Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s, with Devon Monk and Ilona Andrews. You can preorder a signed copy of Defiance, the fourth in the Strange Angels series. Of course, Ilona and Gordon have challenged their readers to set a record for signed preorders. And Devon is running a giveaway, too.

Our honor is at stake.

So I’ll tell you what, dear Readers. From those who preorder a signed copy of Defiance, one winner will be drawn. This winner will get a chapter (chosen by me) from Reckoning, the last book in the series. That’s right–if you preorder a signed book from Powell’s before the May 31 event, you have a chance to read a chapter from Reckoning before anyone else in the world (other than my editor and agent).

I think we can give Ilona and Devon’s preorders a run for their money, can’t we? (PS: I believe Powell’s ships worldwide. Just sayin’.)

* Last but not least, Chuck Wendig on action scenes.

Good heavens, I’m exhausted. Time to buckle down and get some more of Bannon & Clare’s adventures written…

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Postapocalyptic Catering Future

Oh look, let’s get rid of federal funding for school libraries. Because we don’t want anyone other than the rich kids in private schools to be literate, right? It might give our middle and lower class kids ideas. Crazy ideas, like equality or the right to basic education or something.

You can hear me snarling, can’t you.

Speaking of kids, last night I was on Punch and Cake Duty for the Princess’s Honor Society shindig. Which basically meant I was In Charge of wrangling a dozen to fifteen kids, corralling them and keeping them contained with setup and preparation to feed over 60 people cake and punch. I have never been so glad of “that catering experience that almost killed me almost a decade and a half ago.” Seriously. Highlights of the occasion included:

* taking a butcher knife away from one kid and informing him that if there was going to be any stabbing, I was going to be the one doing it

* answering the “what will we do if the punch runs out” question about twenty times

* announcing we would NOT be spiking the punch with anthrax, booze, or spit, because we needed those items to take over the world after the upcoming Armageddon-Rapture-whatever-thingummy

* repeating “WE DO NOT RUN WITH THE CAKE TROLLEY, YOU BEASTLY LITTLE THING” at a volume high enough to penetrate a teenage boy’s skull

* showing a couple girls how to wipe a cake spatula clean. Seriously, they don’t teach this anymore? How can you be thirteen-fourteen and NOT KNOW?

* passing the teacher who nominated me for this duty and remarking, “There’s not enough booze in the world.” To which she replied, “Don’t I know it.”

* informing one particular gentleman that the cake table was not a pig trough, and he needed not to be standing in front of it shoveling multiple pieces into his gullet

* giving one teenage girl the gimlet eye and telling her she could have cake after the work was done, and if she gave me any more snot about it she could be on doorway greeting duty

* waving my arms and saying, “Then just make them look pretty for Mama, darlings.” Which is something I haven’t said since the last time I had a crew of big musclebound brutes doing yard work, years and years ago. Good times.

I could go on, but you get the picture. I got home and collapsed on the couch. The Princess loved it, and was pleased as punch (ha ha) that I was there to help out. “I’ve never seen those kids work so hard,” she told me. Apparently I’ve got a future in this sort of thing. A postapocalyptic sort of catering future, but a future nonetheless…

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Just A Few Things

First, the shameless self-promotion: I think we can do better than 24 comments, darlings, don’t you? Plus, there’s that voting for Fourth Day Universe’s Best Horror Book of 2010. If the spirit moves you, hop on over and give a click or a comment. Also, you can hear in this interview how Cover to Cover Books is rising like a phoenix from the ashes, and how I’m to blame for a thing or two. My writing partner has a great interview voice, I’m just sayin’.

A couple of other links: almost-ten ways to tighten your copy, Michael Moore’s final thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden, and aspiring writers, please LISTEN TO THE BROWN ONE. (Hat tip to Richelle Mead for that link.) Also, from the indomitable and always-hilarious Chuck Wendig, an expose on how writers get their ideas. (Beverage alert on that one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Back I go into the coils of revision. I wish I could announce the project I’m working on right now. My editor won’t let me yet, so I’ll just have to wriggle with frustration in my desk chair and wait.

Sorry for that mental image. Have a good weekend.

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How Many Drafts Would A Writer Draft…

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are more contests, writing advice, and pie than you can shake a stick at. Check us out!

Heaven’s Spite has been nominated for an award over at Fourth Day Universe. Go vote, if the spirit moves you. Also, there’s a giveaway for Defiance over at SmartPop. Big fun!

I’ve had to shift gears and do a last round of nitpicky revising on a book, as well as putting together a dedication, acknowledgements, a map of fictional countries, and a whole series bible so I can write the second in a duology without my head exploding. It used to be I kept all the details in my head, but with three books due before the end of the year I need that bandwidth for other things. Like remembering to feed and wash myself. Seriously, I’ll take care of everyone else in the house (even the cats) and somehow forget to brush my own teeth. It’s maddening.

This brings up something I wish a lot of aspiring writers would absorb: getting the manuscript accepted is NOT the end of your job. Oh, no. Even getting to the place where your editor says, “Okay, this is good, I’ll transmit it to production!” is not the end of the road. Not by a long shot, cupcake.

Let me give you an example. Let’s pick Reckoning, the upcoming final book of the Strange Angels series. Let’s count how many steps in the process I’ve gone through so far.

* Initial draft, about 68K words. Took me about six months, mostly because I had proof pages, copyedits, and other books due at the same time.

* Zero draft, another month and a half. Clocking in at about 72K; scenes added and other tweaks.

* Waiting for editorial letter. Editorial letter comes. Beat head against wall, give letter a week to stew, reopen it and decide it’s not that bad. First revision. Add another month.

* First revised draft, about 76K. Still needs some things, I can’t see where they are, I’m too close to the book.

* Wait for second editorial letter. Second editorial letter comes. Beat head against wall, give letter a week to stew, reopen it and decide it’s not that bad. Second revision.

* Second revised draft, about 78K. Still not right. Add a month and a half.

* Third revised draft, clocks in at 82K, add another month or two. By this point I have lost track of time and I HATE THIS BOOK.

* Fourth revised draft, done at white heat. Now we’re there. 88K words, and I am sick of each and every one of them. There may have been another editorial letter or a marked-up paper draft (always what I prefer) in there, I can’t remember. The fear and loathing boiling in my cerebellum won’t let me.

* Finally editor says “BACK AWAY FROM THE GODDAMN BOOK.” Only she says it very nicely as she works it free of my jaws, as if taking a dead toy out of a terrier’s mouth without exciting the little beast even more. She also is probably hoping I’ve had my shots, because that foam around my mouth is troubling.

* Wait while working on other books, anywhere from three to four months.

* Copyedits come. I would tell you more about the joy that is copyedits, but that’s (say it with me) another blog post. Anyway, this requires reading the whole book over again, looking at every single change the CE made, and letting the change go or scrawling STET. This takes time. This is the last moment I have for any large changes, since changes at the next stage–the proof pages–are time-consuming and expensive. I have to look at every. single. word. And every. single. change. If I want to stet a change, I need to have a good reason for doing so. If the copyeditor has tried to change my first-person colloquialisms to Exact Third-Person Grammar I need to catch it and stet it every time. This requires an entirely different set of mental muscles than writing OR revising.

* Send copyedits back to editor. Self-tranquilise in whatever fashion one can. No, I will NOT tell you what I did to ease the pain. (I would, maybe, but I can’t remember. The pain has given me amnesia.)

If one counts the copyedits as a draft, that’s five of them, with a significant increase in complexity and density in the story each time. (I tend to write very lean on the zero and first drafts anyway.) Normally I don’t have more than two drafts, but those two take just as much time as the four above. Then there’s copyedits for every book.

But I am not done. Oh, no, darling.

No, next will come the proof pages–where I receive a hardcopy of what the pages will look like in the actual book. I go through by hand, catch any stets that didn’t make it through production, look for dropped words, typos, etc. While I do that, a professional proofreader also looks over another copy, but they won’t be able to tell about the little fiddles and tweaks I want in this last stage. This takes a while, and then I send the hardcopy with my notations back to my editor. (For some reason, I cannot proof effectively in PDF. It just doesn’t work.) Plus there’s the dedication and acknowledgements to worry over, fights about whether or not the damn thing needs a glossary, appendices if applicable, and not a few nights of me laying in bed thinking that I could have done something, anything, about the book better.

Then it’s a wait of five months to a year until the book actually hits the shelves, during which I am hard at work on other projects in varying stages of completion. By the time an actual honest-to-goodness Reader gets to see the book, my traumatised brain is beginning to recover from the whole thing, and I’d much rather talk about the books I’m working on now.

My point (and yes, I do have one) is that very few aspiring authors take this part of the process into account. Very few of them actually think past the “IT GOT SOLD! I GOT THE SIGNING CHEQUE! WHEE!” part to the grinding slog of work you need to plan energy and time for after that particular high point. It ends up being an unpleasant surprise, and I’ve seen not a few new authors implode under the stress of the copyedit stage in particular. If you really, truly want to get a book published, you need to be prepared for this. Finishing a draft is the least of your milestones–albeit the one milestone that everything else in the process depends on.

Doesn’t that sound like joy? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Over and out.

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From Here to There

I was out earlier today with my writing partner; we pillaged a local Powell’s. (We looked for Genevieve Valentine’s new book, didn’t find it, will have to order it.) I scored a book on the Beast of Gevaudan, which I actually happy-danced in the aisle over. So I’m late getting to the table today, so to speak, which is a shame because I have a veritable garden of Friday links for you.

* First, the shameless self-promotion: I’m over at SmartPop with an interview. There’s an excerpt from Defiance there too, and on Monday there will be a giveaway.

* Look, it’s not just me who has trouble with squirrels. I’m just sayin’. (Hat tip to Elaine Corvidae for the link.)

* A peek inside famous authors’ homes. Honestly, I expected the Hemingway one to have more booze. But I suppose Papa wouldn’t have left any behind, now would he. Also? Norman Mailer was freaky. But I guess we all knew that.

* The Rude Pundit (hint: don’t click if you can’t take adult language) is looking for stories. No, not that sort of stories. If you or your kids have been damaged by the public education system, he wants to hear about it. Go tell him.

* Speaking of damage by the public education system, gee. How about getting a whole town to beat up on a rape victim? That’s got to be some sort of record.

Just how lacking in compassion does somebody have to be to humiliate a teenage cheerleader in front of the community instead of speaking with her in private with an advocate present? A team of psychiatrists has done work with brain scans trying to determine whether psychopaths are physiologically different from normal people. One thing they note about psychopaths is that they understand right from wrong but have no empathy for their victims. Forget about Silsbee or the Hardin County criminal justice system ever holding any of the people who retaliated against the victim accountable.

I had an exchange with a reporter for The Silsbee Bee in which he was vigorously defensive about how the outside world had, in his view, so unfairly criticized Silsbee. He claimed to have seen the case file in its entirety, and also claimed that anybody who saw that file would stop criticizing Silsbee. I told him to publish the whole file on The Silsbee Bee site. He stopped responding. Do not hold your breath expecting residents of Silsbee to examine their consciences and then to clean out the stinking cesspools that make up their collective moral sense. (politicsusa.com)

…Yeah. If this makes you sick, it should. If this makes you angry, it should. It’s still not safe to be female pretty much anywhere on the globe. Half of humanity, the mothers and sisters and daughters all around you, have to deal with shit like this, even in fricking America. Just think about that for a little while, I dare you.

* And in case the above story makes you want to go postal, here’s some cute puppies. Get that blood pressure down before you decide what to do.

See you on Monday…

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Questions, Questions

I’m getting an avalanche of mail about Reckoning, the fifth and final of the Strange Angels series. Yes, it is the last book, and it will be out in November 2011. I am glad you guys don’t want to see the last of Dru, but her story will be finished then. I am hard at work on other books now, other characters are getting their chance to have their stories told. I may conceivably, at some point, return to Dru’s world–there’s a Maharaj girl who very much wants her story told–but that depends on so many factors right now, it’s just pie-in-the-sky and may never happen.

I’m also getting an avalanche of mail with “PLEASE REPLY” and various permutations thereof sprinkled liberally in caps throughout. Guys, I wish I could reply to each and every one of you. It pains me that I can’t. It’s just not physically possible. I do read everything you send me, though. Every single word, praise or hatred, does pass under my gaze. If many of you have the same question, I answer it here.

One of the questions I get a lot is whether I “like” Graves or Christophe “better for Dru.” I like some things about Graves–his loyalty, his ironic sense of humor, how he rolls with the punches of finding out about the Real World–and I dislike some things, like his inability to tell Dru how he feels and his maddening habit of making assumptions. I like some things about Christophe, like his brains and his determination to protect Dru; I dislike some things, like his creepy factor and his unwillingness to tell Dru things he feels are unnecessary. Neither of them are great boyfriend material, though I can see why Dru likes them both. In her position, at her age, I would like both of them too. But if Dru was my daughter, I’d encourage her to realize she doesn’t need either of them to be a complete human being. She’s already complete just within herself.

Another giant group of questions I’m getting ask in one way or another if I will post excerpts from Reckoning. I do not want to, and I probably will not. I don’t want to tease. If my editor thinks it truly necessary or even just a very good idea, I’ll consider it.

Last but not least, I’ve been getting a swamp-full of questions involving possible movies etc. Guys, I can’t make a movie out of any of my books. I do not have the deep pockets of a production company. We haven’t had an offer for any of the film rights for any of my books. There’s been interest, sure, but in this type of affair, it’s not definite until the check has cleared. (When dealing with Hollywood, this is always the safest bet.) I have very little control over whether or not there is a movie. If that ever changes, it will be posted here on the FAQ.

There are other questions I’ve been getting, but none I can answer here. I do read them all, even the hate mail. Thank you for writing; I wish I could answer more.

Over and out.

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