Friday, March 29, 2013

Amazon Buys Goodreads

Big news from the world of books yesterday: Amazon Buys Goodreads.

Surprised? No need to be. Companies buy things all the time. And, before you freak and think, "My Goodreads has been poisoned!" keep in mind that this happens all the time in the business world. Everybody owns something else, or is owned by something else. Well, maybe not everybody, but there are some surprises out there if you dig around the ownership files of what seem to be independent businesses.

The big question is all of this is, "Will anything change?" There's no reason to believe the acquisition of Goodreads will change how I do business with Amazon at all. If you're a Goodreads user, which I am not, the questions are larger. Can Amazon maintain it as an independent entity? Do they want to? The one comment I saw on Absolute Write that intrigued me the most was this: "I'm not that comfortable with the idea that someone just handed over a big list of books I want to someone who wants to sell them to me."

This is no doubt a sound business decision for Amazon. What it will mean for readers and writers remains to be seen. What do you all think?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Musical Monday: Bell Boy

We listened to a bit of The Who's 1973 rock opera, Quadrophenia last night as we came home from dropping the Magpie back off at college. Spring break went fast! So here's a snippet of a 1974 concert of the band performing Bell Boy. Gotta love Keith Moon. I don't think I've ever seen a more watchable drummer. Doesn't look like he had much fun with those headphones, though.

I thank you all for weighing in and answering my question from Friday's post. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this subject, and will probably address it again sometime in the hopefully-near future, in some way. My brain is a little muddled from yesterday's trip, and I'd still love to hear from more of you on the subject. Have a great week!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Simple Question

...but perhaps not a simple answer.

When reading a book, if you are not specifically told or given really obvious clues to a character's race, what do you see, and why?

I'll go ahead and say it, when I read, white is the skin color I see. I'm white. I've lived most of my life in communities that were mostly white, and that's what I tend to see. In fact, I got halfway through my first 'Alex Cross' novel before I realized that Cross was black.

I've always assumed that readers have a 'default', if you will, and will picture ambiguous characters as being of the same race as they are, but I've been informed by one person that I'm wrong, or that it may not be that simple. So, what is it for you? No judgments will be passed.

Have a pleasant weekend, everyone.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Musing

This and That from the weekend

* After a full week of crummy weather, the skies around here finally opened up enough last night to allow me to see Comet Pan-STARRS. I won't go so far to call myself an amateur astronomer, but I have a slightly-more-than-passing interest in the heavens. I think it's pretty cool to see a comet with the naked eye.

Where's the road? Aieeee!
* Speaking of weather...after my comments last week about March, we are facing a winter storm warning that is currently threatening to dump 5-10 inches of snow on us between tonight and tomorrow. We've had snow in some amount every day this past week, including a squall Friday night that made driving terrifying. I kid you not about that, I literally could not see more than ten feet in front of me. It was like being Mr. Sulu on the old Enterprise at warp 9.

* On a happier note, last week saw the return of Red-winged blackbirds and Grackles to our corner of the world. They seem late this year. If only I'd kept a journal, I'd know how it compares to years past. Also, Killdeer showed up ahead of the snow on Friday. They'll all be sorry if this storm goes down the way they say. 

* Big thanks to y'all for coming by on Friday and visiting with Carrie, and thanks, Carrie, for being such a good sport! Hang in there, keep your energy level up through your tour, and best of luck!

* I spent literally all of last week's writing time working on one. Single. Chapter. of BARTON'S WOMEN. Remember back in Geometry or Calculus, when you learned about asymptotes? Yeah, neither do I. But getting this particular chapter just exactly right has been an absolute bear. I know true perfection is not likely; I'm trying to get to 'good enough', and it's being especially stubborn. Ugh.

* The Magpie is home, which is great. Sadly, her spring break does not coincide with the Catbird's spring break. Still, nice to have the full brood home.

* Ryshia Kennie tossed me a Liebster Award last week! Thanks, Ryshia! I don't know that I'll participate fully, but I do appreciate it.

* Author Lev Raphael had a less-than-stellar experience with a blog tour promoting his new book. I know two of you who have signed on for these things; I'm curious what sort of impressions you've gotten from your own tours. There's a feeling in some corners of the internet that he should have done his homework and checked out the blogs he was being sent to in advance; isn't that what tour organizer is supposed to do?

I think that's about all I've got for today. Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Author Interview: Carrie Butler

I'm pleased to have Carrie Butler with us today. Carrie was one of my first followers, and her blog, So, You're A Writer, has long-been a place I go to learn and laugh—and, on occasion, talk about hockey. Carrie just joined the ranks of the published with her New Adult Paranormal Romance, Strength, featuring me on the cover!* Welcome, Carrie!

So, Carrie, tell us something about yourself that we won't learn from your "About Me" page.
Hmm... well, here's something random: I'm saving up to buy a new bow. I did a little recreational archery in high school, but that was years ago. I'd love to pick it up again.

Resists urge to compare Carrie to Katniss. I understand you specialized in marketing in college. What did you learn during your years of study that prepared you for being a debut author?
My background in marketing has taught me to present myself in a consistent manner. I try to use the same "voice," fonts, and colors everywhere that I frequent. It helps build recognition. :)

You're quite the champion of the New Adult category that seems to be gaining traction in the literary world. Why do you feel we need this new category?
Categories are around to help us find books we may enjoy, based on the stage of life depicted. They give us general expectations (age, voice, themes, etc.), but they don't dictate content as genres do. That's why we combine the two to form descriptive labels, i.e. MG adventure, YA thriller, adult romance, etc.

Unfortunately, there is one life stage that has been buried and underrepresented in YA and adult fiction for years—the so-called "college years". Say you wanted to read a story about a twenty-year-old deploying to Afghanistan, or an eighteen-year-old dropping out of college to start an apprenticeship. Up until a few years ago, that kind of read was all but impossible to find. Why not make it easier?

Because cranky old fuddy-duddies like yours truly get lost in the bookstore as it is, hah hah. Plotter or Wingman?
I'm more of a plotter these days. Scrivener converted me.

I love origins stories. You're probably tired of this already, but how did Strength come about?
Strength started as a "what if" scenario. What if a unique, supernatural race lived among us? What if there was more than one? How would the world stay in balance?

I listened to music while I plotted out a few points, and the 2005 Five for Fighting cover of "All I Know" came on. The lyrics—the first few lines about bruising each other—really struck me. As I considered them, the figurative meaning morphed into a more literal scenario. How tortured a man with uncontrollable strength must be, falling in love for the first time, unable to touch the woman he loves without hurting her...

Anyway, that's how the romance element fell into place. ;)

The 'unable to touch' part akes me think a little of Pushing Daisies. Some stories change quite a bit in the journey from initial idea to published novel. What kinds of changes, if any, occurred with Strength?
Nothing major. Some scenes were fleshed out, some scenes were cut, and a connection between two characters was severed. That's about it.

What's next for Carrie Butler? I see you have a sequel for Strength in the works.
Well, I'm nearly finished with the first draft of the sequel. After it's cleaned up, it'll go out to my critique partners. Then I'll have a series of revisions, beta reads, and edits to look forward to. (I'm sure you know how that is.) (Oh, yes I do!) Finally, I'll query/submit the manuscript and cross my fingers! ;)

You've made the bold (though increasingly common, it seems) decision to publish your first book without an agent. Tell me, if you don't mind, about your decision to go direct to the publisher, and if you plan to continue working without an agent going forward.
At first, I did query agents, but the timing was off. NA hadn't become a "thing" yet, so I had to face my share of industry stigma. Requests from the few agents who would consider the category—including one from my dream agency—didn't end up panning out. Not that I could blame them. NA was a tough sale, at the time.

So, I began to query small presses.

Within twenty-four hours, I had two full requests. One of them turned into an R&R I wasn't too thrilled about, but the other turned into an offer. An offer! After a little back-and-forth with SSP, I knew I'd found my home. They were hungry, communicative, and excited about Strength. The day I signed my contract, I knew we were in this thing together—and that meant the world to me.

Right now, I don't mind working without an agent. I'm managing pretty well on my own. But I know my experience and connections are limited. Eventually, I would love to work with someone who really knows this industry. :)

Do you write everyday? Do you follow a strict regimen as far as workspace, work time, number of words/hours you put in?
I used to have a routine, and I really wish that were still the case, but Strength's promotion has thrown me off my game.(I can understand why) I've had to write in middle-of-the-night bursts lately. Here, at my desk, until six in the morning—and then I crash.

I do enjoy writing while deliriously tired, though. I'm so free with my words!

I know you're a big-time hockey fan. Are you excited for the Blue Jackets now that John Davidson has started getting his fingerprints on the team?
Oh, you bet. Davidson is ballsy—can I say that? (you just did)—and that's exactly what this team needs. He wasn't afraid to shake things up by canning Howson, and then he brought in his old pal Kekalainen. I love it!

And there you have it--thanks so much, Carrie, for coming by. So, here's what you need to know about Strength:

When college student Rena Collins finds herself nose-to-chest with the campus outcast, she’s stunned. Wallace Blake is everything she’s ever wanted in a man—except he can’t touch her. His uncontrollable strength, a so-called gift from his bloodline, makes every interaction dangerous. And with a secret, supernatural war brewing among his kind, there’s no time to work it out. To keep Wallace in her life, Rena will have to risk a whole lot more than her heart.


*She had to airbrush out the 'stache, and airbrush in the tattoo, but clearly that's me! Really!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Musical Monday: The Mowgli's

Lynne Truss is no doubt having conniptions over the apostrophe in this band's name. The Mowgli's. It feels like an incomplete sentence, doesn't it? The Mowgli's...what? Song? Tour? Album? Position on this whole sequestration thing? I don't know. What I DO know is I'm feeling a bit in need of a pick-me-up this Monday morning, and this is fun and bouncy and all that sort of stuff. It's got a great sing-along vibe, doesn't it?

Have a great week, I'll be here on Friday with Carrie Butler!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear Diary

We're having snow today, a decent storm that may or may not close schools. I haven't ventured outside yet, but it looks to be around four inches or so. A plow just came down our street, which now looks pretty clear, as does the main road. So, although five districts in our county are currently closed, and two are on a two-hour delay, I think we'll be 'business as usual' today.

It's been a week of snow, a little each day. There's an old phrase we learned as kids, "March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb." It seems pretty accurate in a general way. Or, rather, it did when I lived downstate. Up here, where we've been for ten years now (holy crap, where did the time go?), March starts later and lasts longer. Lion weather doesn't usually start up here until the middle of the month, and lamb weather begins closer to the end of April, even the beginning of May. And even though Punxsatawny Phil claims spring should be starting right about now, things don't work quite the same way in central New York.

Didn't everyone have one of these?
Lately, I've been kicking myself over not keeping a journal. I don't know if this is something all kids go through, or if it was a particular fad back in the *harrumph* when I was a kid, but I recall a time when diaries were the 'in' thing. My brother, my sister and I all got diaries one Christmas, and it WAS SO COOL!  You know the kind: faux leather cover, 'My Diary' stamped on the front in gold, little leather strap, flimsy lock, flimsier key attached with a red string. Inside, lined pages (undated, I think) waiting to be filled with important thoughts, observations, or…nothing. As a seven or eight-year-old, or whatever I was, I lacked the drive and discipline to keep a diary. I vaguely remember making brotherly attempts to break into my sister's diary, but I don't think we succeeded. I think we successfully stole it once or twice, but never actually broke into it. Maybe we had too much respect for her. I'd like to believe that, though it's more likely we feared the wrath of Mom, should she get involved.

Somewhere along the line, diaries became things for girls. Guys didn't keep diaries. There was something…unmanly…about it. Diaries were out, but journals? Those were okay. Don't ask me why. The word implies something more clinical, less personal. Journals are about recording observations and facts, not feelings. Lewis and Clark kept journals. Theodore Roosevelt kept a journal. Many of the great scientists kept journals. Journals were okay, for guys. Diaries were out.

I've made a few stabs over the years at keeping journals; it appeals to the part of me that admires the great naturalist-artist of the 18th century, men like Audubon and Fuertes and Darwin. I never keep up with it, though. I'll get a day or two into it, and then forget. I started again last week, with a short paragraph noting the weather. Snow and cold. Fifteen wild turkeys in the field. That sort of thing. It can be handy if you keep up with it. Some years down the road, when I'm old and cranky and want to prove definitively that, "This winter ain't nothing! You ought to have been around back in '15!" I'll be able to find the journal and go through it and see what the winter of '15 was really like. And who knows? Maybe it can be something that can help write a book.

Do you keep a journal or diary? Have you ever used it in your writing?

Big congratulations to Carrie Butler, whose new, New Adult novel, Strength, hit the streets yesterday!

And, on the whole diary/journal thing, here's a fun bit from the old show, Making Fiends. Enjoy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Pen Post

I'm feeling a heck of a lot better than I did last week. I've left the house a few times (more important, I felt the need for a shower. Though I still can't smell myself, I couldn't run the risk of anyone else smelling me), including going to my writer's group yesterday. Physically, I'm feeling pretty good; mentally, I'm still not 100%.

You know it's a  bad day when I write about my pen!
Yesterday was a 'pen day' for me in my writer's group. I can't remember if I've written about this phenomenon here before or not, and I can't quite force myself through nearly 200 posts to find out. What's a 'pen day', you ask? It's a day where I spend 3/4 of our  free writing time struggling for an idea, or maybe there's a hint of an idea that I can't really catch hold of. The page is full of half-sentences and scribbles, and then, with a few minutes left, I start writing pen. No, this is not a badly-disguised euphemism.

I've written at times about the sound my pen makes, I've written about what must be happening to the paper as the fine point rips across it, I've written about the way the pen feels in my hand. I've had a bunch of 'pen days' in my writer's group, though not in a while. Yesterday I wrote about how I lost my pen. I'm very particular about pens, and I really like this particular type. I took it with me in the even I was moved to write while waiting for the Catbird to get done with a school function, but it never got where I was going. It wasn't in my pocket or the car, it wasn't in the house. My conclusion was it slipped off the cover of my notebook and was lost--forever.

Two days later, I saw a silver gleam in the mud when I was  backing my car out of the driveway. Yep, it was the pen, and yes, I had run it over. Possibly more than once. The barrel was in fragments, but the cartridge was intact. Fortunately for me, the Catbird is a notorious collector, and she had one of my expired pens saved up for...I don't even know what. I performed a cartridge transplant, and still have a working pen.

Anyway, I wove this story of my pen around a story of the time, some fifteen(!) years ago, I ran over a pack of my wife's cigarettes in a convenience store parking lot. The smokes, freshly bought, fell out of my pocket. I ran them over. The box was slightly dented, but the cigarettes survived.

The story made people laugh. It didn't really get me anywhere. If I had started writing the pen story right away, however, I might have ended up with the basis of a new novel, a usable short story, a revision for an existing work, or maybe even a blog post. The point, though, is there's always something to write about. We have limited time to write, and it can be maddening when the words don't come out the way you want. If you're stuck, write about your pen. Or your keyboard. Or the coffee stains on your shirt. Or your half-awake stumbling to the shower. Chances are good that the act of writing, even if it's not what you want to be writing, will get you going enough. Yeah, I've definitely written this sort of stuff before, so my apologies if it feels like a rerun. I suppose it's good to be reminded of it every once in a while, right?

Meanwhile, by now you've probably seen Amanda Palmer's TED Talks appearance that's taking the world by storm. I can't connect all the dots today, my brain is too addled by illness and ideas, but I've certainly been thinking about it. Go watch it if you haven't already, let it stew. Some day, maybe we'll talk about it here.

And, finally, congrats to Carrie Butler, whose novel, Strength, debuts this week. Carrie will be here for an interview on 3/15. Looking forward to it! See you all soon.

Friday, March 1, 2013



It's been about five years since I've been sick like this. During that time, most of the stuff that runs through the house strikes me a glancing blow. I'll lose a little energy, maybe have a bit of a runny nose or sore throat (yeah, you probably didn't really need the runny nose part, did you?). At its worst, I take a nap or go to bed early, and largely keep on keeping on, as they say. But this? Not so much. Aside from the internal pressure that's been threatening to blow off the front of my skull all week, I've felt like someone decided to use my throat as a scabbard for a full set of Ginsu knives.

I thought I turned the corner yesterday. Although my throat was on fire most of the day, I actually had some energy, was able to comment intelligently (I think) on a couple of blogs and AW threads. I've also been able to get some revision work in on BARTON'S WOMEN, though not as much or as fast as I'd like. I suppose the good thing is my current condition didn't bleed into the work. I didn't have a rash of severe head colds running through my novel. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever had your characters suddenly suffer with whatever malady was ailing you while you were writing?

Thanks for stopping by, as always, and I hope to be able to me more coherent next week. Have a nice weekend!