Friday, December 12, 2008

My 1.5 Minutes of Fame!

Well, this has been quite an exciting day! Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris was featured on The TODAY Show!! No, I'm not kidding! I'm not sure if I'm allowed to embed their video, so I'll link to it instead. The children's book segment starts at the 5:00 minute mark. TODAY show link.

Sweet! And kind of surreal, actually.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Wow. I am half way through Beastologist 2 already. How did that happen? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. That kind of progress is purely a gift from the muse, so I just hang on for the ride.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Publishing Envy

How does one keep the publishing envy at bay? One of my writing group members, Val Hobbs (seriously one of the best writers I know) asks this question in her blog this morning, and it got me to thinking. I haven’t been haunted by that particular monster for a while, and I’m trying to figure out why.

Part of it stems from the fact that I love writing what I write. I have fun with those books, I tear my heart out with these books, but I adore writing them. The thing is, I have written books I didn’t love as much, that weren’t a part of my own core writing drive, and those books are much, much harder.

About three years ago, in order to save my sanity, my writing focus shifted away from publishing and more to the process. Now, I realize that’s somewhat easier to say once one’s had the validity of being published, but being published isn’t the same as staying published, so there is still a huge risk involved. And at one point I had a huge epiphany: I realized I’d rather write this book my way and never sell it rather than write it some other way. That was a hugely anchoring moment and came after about eleven rejections on the book. As luck would have it, the twelfth editor bought it. Coincidence? I think not. I think sometimes that act of letting go is what sets things in motion—but I digress.

I’ve come to view all those reports of large, six figure deals as urban legends, publishing myths that have very little to do with my own reality. The other thing is that for as many of them that earn out that advance, a similar number do not, and that terrifies me; to have had some publisher pay that much money for one of my books then seriously underperform. ::shudder:: I seriously think that sort of pressure would crush my muse.

Now, just to be clear, I do get bitten by writing envy—someone’s voice just leaps off the page at me, or their sentences are lyrical and lush, or they get to a cherished idea before I do. But that strikes me as being somewhat healthy—something that motivates me to push my own boundaries.

So I guess I manage to avoid publishing envy at this stage in my career by a unique combination of denial, fear, and sheer stubbornness. Not sure that’s something to be recommended, but it’s working for now.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Real Staff of Osiris

Someone asked if the Staff of Osiris in the book was a real artifact.

While the idea of an actual staff that belonged to Osiris was a construct of mine, the idea that Osiris once lived and walked the earth was not, nor was the idea of magical staffs. Here is a picture of an actual staff taken from a tomb under the Ramesseum in Thebes.

The basic plot for TatSoO had been percolating for a couple of weeks, and then when I saw a picture of this staff, I knew it was it.

It was found tangled with a mass of hair! Isn’t that especially creepy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


So. I made it twenty-four hours before my hands were itching to get started on my next project. This is a good sign. I was supposed to have two full days off, but by Tuesday afternoon, I was digging through my books and Googling mythical beasts. I did make myself hold off on beginning any actual writing, however, feeling pleased at that small victory.

Part of the problem for me is that not only is writing my job, but it’s my passion and hobby as well, so when I’m done writing, for reset and relaxation I turn to . . . more writing. Although granted, R&R writing is often different than deadline writing. Usually it involves more of the fun parts of writing, building the world, playing with the characters, toying with what if scenarios, and brainstorming.

One of the things I usually end up doing is creating entire family histories for my books or characters, often involving genealogies (werewolf rising) or timelines of their past (Theodosia) or whatever. Part of this is because it seems to me that our roots inform so much of who we become—what the expectations for us are, and how we perceived the world—that I don’t know how to write a character without knowing this about them. Think about it, even names are loaded with our past; is it of German descent or French Canadian? And if it’s different from everyone elses, why is it different? Did the character’s mother or father have a fanciful streak? Saddled with a boring name and thus vowed to name her daughter with something more glamorous/original?

I think knowing this kind of stuff helps to create a sense of history and depth to the characters lives, to make the reader feel as if they have real pasts and lives that began before they showed up on paper.

For the first time, all this history is actually a part of the backstory of Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist. He comes from a long line of explorers, adventurers, and mapmakers. This family history is bound up in two hugely important volumes, Sir Mungo Fludd’s Map of the World, and The Fludd Book of Beasts. Since these both figure so prominently, I’m creating them so I can have them to refer to throughout the book and store my research on the various mythological beasts, etc. And that is definitely a fun thing; very much akin playing, if truth be told.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twiddling My Thumbs

Wow, a free day. I’m not sure I know what to do with myself. It’s been so long since I’ve had one! Since I was restless yesterday after turning in my book, I ended up doing a lot of the chores on my list of things to get to, so I am totally clear today and tomorrow. One unanticipated chore I got done was cleaning out my closets. I have no idea what lit a fire under me to do that yesterday, but I now have three large bags of stuff to drop off at the Salvation army, as well as two bags of books to go to the friends of the library bookstore.

That always happens when I finish a book: I go on this kind of de-cluttering frenzy. Maybe it’s a way of cleansing my mental palate of the old project to make room for a new one. I’m not sure, but I feel it must have something to do with mental feng shui. Usually it’s a matter of cleaning off my two desks, which become totally buried during the course of finishing up a book. But for some reason (Thanksgiving) my desks didn’t require quite as much work as they normally do, or I had more energy than usual…something was different and I ended up with clean closets. Well, cleaner closets. They’re not perfect yet, not by a long shot.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Writing Shorter Books

So, I’ve emailed Theodosia and the Knights of Horus off to my editor. I’m giving myself a 48 hour break, then I have to dive into my next project, Beastologist 2, which is due to said editor on January 15. Luckily, I’ve already done a lot of work on this project. I have a pretty solid outline, a bunch of research notes, and the first fifteen pages already done.

One of the things that’s really difficult for me is resetting my internal clock from a 300 page manuscript with six subplots to a 70 page manuscript with maybe one tiny subplot. I imagine it’s like moving from a four bedroom ranch house in the suburbs to a studio apartment in the city. There’s no room for all the things you’re used to having!

A critical step that helps me with this resetting is structure. In order to help me make this transition, I have a structure template that I use. The one that I’m currently using for these shorter books is adapted from a template Blake Snyder features in his enormously helpful book SAVE THE CAT. (Which I highly recommend you add to your collection of plotting tools.)

So once I have a general idea what the elements of the story are going to be, I start plugging them into the template. That way, I know I have seven pages for a setup and that by page 9 the inciting incident needs to happen and that around page 18 I better be breaking into the second act. By focusing on what limited space I’m working with, it really helps both my conscious and subconscious mind focus on what the critical elements of the story and characters are. I don’t get distracted by extraneous details or unplanned side trips and cull the story down to its essence.

It’s kind of like taking a piece of 8 x 11 paper out to draw on versus a 24 x 36. I now understand where the edges are, what the limitations of space look like, and I can proceed accordingly.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Really and Truly Done--For Now

I started to write a post last week about the revision process. In fact, it started like this:
I adore revising, especially that first set of revisions after I’ve managed to nail down the plot and the mechanics of the novel and can focus on the more character heavy details.
That's as far as I got before things got all Thanksgiving-ey crazy. Then, when I had time to think about posting again, I was at the stage where I hated revision. Hated. It. My brain hurt and I was pretty sure everything I was writing was loathsome.

Which pretty much sums up the revision process.

Until two days ago when I reached the home stretch, and things began looking up; I had officially reached the Finish Frenzy, which is very much akin to the manic phase in bipolar disorder. Everything is go, go, go! And it's working! Oh yes it is! ::insert chortling right about here:: And then you nail in the last detail, finish filling in the last hole, and type The End.

And you collapse. Or jump up and scream and dance around the house, and then collapse. I have spent the day alternating between languishing on the sofa, feeling dazed, and zooming around the house cleaning out closets and drawers because I'm done!

Okay, I never claimed writers were sane.

But I am really and truly done. The book is as good as I can make it at this point in time, that last clause being the most important. If I had time, I'd put it aside for two months then give it another polish, but I don't. I am sure, however, when I look at it again in six weeks, all it's faults will be glaringly obvious.