Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wind in My Sails -- Permanently (I hope)

Thinking of my post of yesterday, I realize that I didn't quite get to the point I'd intended. Initially. However, the point I did make, that perhaps there is something to be done about that bankruptcy clause in our contracts, is a good one.

I love when the subconscious works like that. Takes me away from my original idea to something a bit more poignant.

But that is not the subject of today's blog. That whole bankruptcy thing set me back about a week. My inbox was flooded with nearly 500 emails a day from other authors in the same boat debating our next steps. Advice from attorneys was flung around faster than a speeding bullet. And it all came about to the same advice. Do what you can, wait, do more, wait, follow the steps, wait.

I can't wait forever to get the wind back in my sails. I need to be working toward something, not stalled. And then it hit me.

I have contracted books to write. I can't pine away over the lost book any longer. I've given it a week. One week. And now, God rest her soul, if she's lost to me forever, I am going to have to deal with it and move on. Grief process. Denial. Anger. Shed a tear or two. Acceptance. Write the next book.

So, she's wafting out there someplace waiting for her home. She'll find one, I'm assuming, somewhere. The when and where is the question.

In the meantime, I've got a LOT of work to do. I'll have books coming out in November, December, January, February and March! Are they all written? No! So what am I pining away for? I have work to do!

I think I feel that wind puffing back in my sails again. Foreward Ho!

Have a great weekend, y'all.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Wind Out of My Sails -- Temporarily

Last week I'd thought that I'd not been bothered THAT much about the fact that one of the publishing houses I worked with, and was expecting a July release with, was closing its doors. Of course, I was concerned about that one title I had with them but initially ( and quite wrongly ) felt it would be no big deal. I had that clause in my contract, right? The one that says should the publisher go bankrupt, all rights revert to me?

Well, that is true, but there is another side to that coin.

According to several reliable sources, that bankruptcy clause in my contract -- in any publishers contract -- becomes null and void when a company goes into bankruptcy court. It can be thrown out. Then you learn that your contract is an asset for the company. Which means that assets can be sold to pay off debts. When the realization of that hit me, I then knew that the wind had been taken out of my sails. I might lose all control over my book -- a book I'd worked long and hard on, had spent a lot of time and money promoting, and got a great review on from Romantic Times. The fact is, I may not get my rights back anytime soon, or at all. It could be sold to another publisher, and then I'm at their mercy. They could publish it, they might not. I have no choice or say in the matter.

But for now, I just play the waiting game.

There are things I can do, steps I can take, and I've done all I can to do this point. From here, I'll move forward. Keep writing and keep submitting. I DO have many other options and irons in the fire. I have several titles to be released in the next year. So I'll not let this take the wind out of my sails for long.

But I wonder, really wonder, why that bankruptcy clause is even in a publishing contract if it will be tossed out in court? Why make the effort? And should we, as authors, take steps to look into this further? It is a fairly standard clause in all publishing contracts. What can be done to make sure this kind of situation doesn't happen to others in the future?

What do you think? What are our options here as authors?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Triskelion Publishing is Closing.

I am very sad to say that Triskelion Publishing is closing and filing bankruptcy. The authors have been told that come July 2 bankruptcy will be filed and that our contracts will be "frozen." Since I am taking that to mean that prior to then, they can revert my rights to me, I have sent certified mail and other forms of communication to the company to request the rights back to my book, Means of Escape, immediately. I am publicly stating here that I am asking for the reversion of all rights granted to this publisher to me, as of this date (June 20, 2007).

My book was to be released July 1. So for those of you who have told me you enjoyed reading the excerpts for this book -- a book which received a 4 Star review from Romantic Times, I am sorry to say that it will not be available. There is nothing I can do with this book until I have documentation that it indeed belongs to me again. Once I have that, I will be seeking another publisher.

Triskelion's bookstore on their website is still open and active. I'm sure authors royalties for sales on these books will be tied up for a long time. So, please consider if purchasing...

I will be removing all references to Triskelion and my book with them from this site immediately.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week #3: Edits/Revisions

I've spent the good part of the past three weeks doing revisions and edits for my editor on one of my fall releases. This is a book that was written several years ago and it seems its time is now. I'd say, actually, I probably started it about ten years ago. Long time. That is not to say that I've worked on it constantly since then, no, it was finished a while back. But when shopping it around to editors back then, time travel and pirates weren't very hot. Guess what. Time travel and pirates are hot today.

So, because of the passage of time (no put intended) when I sat down to really dig into the story to revise, I realized how much my writing style had changed over the years. There were some great descriptive passages in the book. Loved those and my editor did, too, however I found that editorial-wise, I had some work to do on it. Some head hopping, passive writing, repetitive word use, and some big ol' long run on sentences.

My editor also had some fantastic ideas about plot. I love her editing style. Instead of saying -- change this to this, make the hero or heroine do that -- she would actually make me THINK about certain aspects of the book, reply to her questions, and realize on my own what needed to be done. Smart girl. Since I love my words and my stories, the bulldogging editor bit doesn't work with me. She'd ask questions like, "why do you love your hero?" and when I'd reply she'd say, "well, I just wanted to ask because...what might make that come off differently?" She's a gem, I tell you.

So plot points of course are easy to change. They take time but they made the book oh-so-much better. I hope. (she's still reading) But as I was going through the entire book again from front to back (all 90,000 words of it) I noticed small things that just drove me up the wall. Some of those were:

•Overuse of the word “that” Example: How was it that she had come to think that Henry would ever consider something like that? Oh, that’s really bad, but you get the picture.
•The phrases “she let” and “she allowed” – duh, this was a nagger. Example: She allowed herself to think about that, OR, She let herself grow limp. Geez Louise – Just “go limp” or “think about it” you don’t have to “let” or “allow” yourself to do it!
•The word “felt.” My good friend Jan has drilled this one into my head so it was easy to pick out. Show not tell. If she felt amused, then show it, by laughing her head off or something.
•And those pesky tag lines. I had so many “she croaked” “he whispered” “she snorted” “he surmised” “she yelled” “he responded” that it was overpowering in places. He said, she said, can work just fine in many places.

In order to make sure I catch these kinds of things, there are two things I do.

One, first pass through, read and revise and do the obvious work you see, make the changes that jump out at you, etc.

Two, second pass through do searches for the words or phrases that are your naggers in your find/replace option. For example, do a find for "that" and read each sentence. How can you make the sentence better?

Three, third pass through, read the thing aloud, from front to back. Yes, I know this takes time, but it is my biggest tip today. It took me three days to read all 90,000 words aloud of that manuscript. But it was worth it. When you read aloud you stumble over the words that trip you up. The cadence sounds different coming from your mouth rather than being said in your head. And when you say those pesky naggers out loud over and over, you realize what needs to be changed.

This works for me. Everyone has their own ways of doing edits and revisions. Hope this might help someone a bit along the line.

Happy Sunday, everyone!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Maddie James Reader/Author Chat

Hi everyone. I have a reader/author chat coming up soon and wanted to tell you about it. I host this through a yahoogroup called Maddie James Chats (appropriate, eh?) Here's the blurb about the group and the chat:

Chat with Maddie James as she muses about books, writing, romance, life, and stuff. Find out her passions, her hobbies, what makes her tick, what ticks her off, and what tickles her funny bone. Come join in the fun!

Maddie's chats are scheduled chats. Watch her newsletter -- for her chat schedule, or watch for updates here!

And oh yes! There will be prizes! Those will be announced during the chat.

Scheduled Chat:

• Friday, June 29, from 8-10 p.m. EST. Theme – The Beach! My July release, Means of Escape, is set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a place I absolutely love and am longing for. So, let's have a beach party! I'll share never-before-seen excerpts, talk about my new book, and my favorite haunts on the islands. Pull up a beach chair and a mai tai and let's have it!

Click here to sign up for Maddie's Quarterly Newsletter or her Chats!

Maddie James Chats

Maddie James Newsletter


Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Six Hot-Air Balloon Night.

I just don't know what it is about hot air balloons but they simply fascinate me. One of the perks of living where I do is that we are smack in the middle of the local hot air balloon club's flight path. Or, at least it appears that way to me. And I love it.

It's just a great surprise to walk out my door and hear that overhead whoooosh of air surging upward into the balloon. It's almost like a silent whoosh. Difficult to describe. Quiet yet powerful at the same time. And you hear it before you see the balloons, usually. Before I got used to them, I was nearly scared out of my wits one evening while working in the yard. I heard the whoosh, looked up, and there it was in all its glory, practically sitting on my roof. A huge hot-air balloon.

Tonight during my walk six balloons whooshed and drifted by overhead. There was a slight breeze and a clear robin's egg blue sky behind them, perfectly framing those colorful orbs.

Makes one just want to take a deep breath and sigh. I love watching them drift away. I still get images of The Wizard uncontrollably drifting away from Oz leaving Dorothy. Must be something about the unknown and running away. I don't know. But each time I see them I run away a little by myself. If only in my mind.


Friday, June 08, 2007

I think I have a mullet.

See that long hair over there, at the left of this page. Well, as of yesterday, it's gone. It wasn't a snap decision, I'd been thinking about it for a while. I'm 50, afterall, and been growing my hair long in defiance to what my mother told me years ago, for about 25 years. Yeah, she's always said that once a woman passes 25 she should cut her hair short. And yeah, there have been times in the past 25 years when I have cut my hair short. But I always grew it back out. This time longer than for quite some time. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it was just because -- drumroll -- I could.

In the back of my mind, when I think about cutting my hair short, a single image comes to mind. My fifth grade class picture. Ugh. I was chubby and my hair was short, a pixie style that had grown out a bit, and for some odd reason I thought sleeping on those pink plastic sponge rollers all night would help the 'do. Hence, the dreaded 5th grade picture.

I held that pic in my mind yesterday as I was heading to my hair girl. I certainly didn't want the grown-out pixie style. Then quickly I whipped out the pic I'd cut out of the magazine of Paula Deen. Yes, I wanted Paula Deen hair. And if my gray would go that beautiful, I'd let it go that way, too. Um...maybe in a few years.

So, I gave Bonnie the hair girl the Paula Deen pic. She liked it. Said we had the same face shape. And away she went. Cutting. And cutting. And more cutting.

It looked absolutely fine when I left there yesterday. I felt freer. Not a lot of hair on my neck. (Thank God, the hot flashes had been killing me lately and all that hair had just contributed...) In short (no pun intended) I liked the 'do.

Today, I realize I have a mullet.

The back is too long. The bangs are too long. The sides are too short. And the hair just looks "in-between." You know what I mean? Not short, not long, in-between.

So what do you do with a mullet? I suppose you either let it grow or you deal with it or you cut it more. Actually, I'm thinking of the latter. Might as well go ahead and cut the rest of it. I need to get the bangs out of my face and if the back where an inch shorter, it wouldn't look mullutish. I think.

I'll give it a week and then I'll decide. I'm pretty sure I'll go back for a bit more "trim." Bonnie will understand. But I don't think I'll mention she gave me a mullet. I don't want her thinking about that with scissors in her hands.

Have you ever had a haircut you hate? What did you do?


p.s. When I get brave enough, I'll post the mullet pic. But for a while, I'll keep the long hair up there. Just because -- I can. :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gabriella's Summer Adventure.

Hi everyone. I'm participating in a summer round robin writing blog over at Aleka Nakis' MySpace. A number of authors are contributors and today is my day! We're going to be doing this all summer. Fun, huh?

Of course, you'll want to read the whole story and catch up on the first 3 installments, because Gabriella tends to get herself into quite a pickle on a regular basis.

What happened with Gabriella today? Where is she now?

Tune into Aleka's blog and check it out!

Aleka’s Blog

And please leave a comment. What do you think of the story so far?


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Reflecting on the smaller things of life...

I suppose I'm in a reflective mood. Considering my post of yesterday, my walks around the neighborhood today gave me more time to think and ponder. One thing I realized as I walked, that at 50 years of age, this is really the first time I've lived in the suburbs. And although I'd not really considered how that might be different than living anywhere else, I realize that it is.

I grew up in a very small farming community of about 800 people. One stoplight. One gas station. One restaurant. A furniture store. A funeral home. And a bar. That's about it folks. Unless you count miles and miles of corn. Our house was the next to the last one on the street, right outside the town corporation limit sign. It was a good growing up. We kids ran the town -- literally. Be home by dark. Make sure you bike is parked by the garage. And be in front of the TV to watch Bonanza on time. Small town living and it was grand. What a great way to grow up.

But I did grow up and for years I lived in apartments, duplexes, a mobile home, and houses, and none of them would be what you would typically call a subdivision. They were downtown, in the country, or somewhere in between.

But now, for the past 1 1/2 years, I've truly lived in a subdivision -- and honestly, it wasn't my first choice of a place to live. In fact, when I met with the Realtor, I described exactly what I didn't want. A house in the suburbs with the garage facing the road, vaulted ceilings, single story, treeless yard, and new. I wanted something established, with nooks and crannies, and built-ins, and big trees in the yard, and character. When we closed on the house, my Realtor subtly leaned over and said to me, "You realize you just boought the exact opposite house you said you wanted." And I realized, quite surprised actually, that I had.

I've not regretted it. And being home the past few weeks, really living in this subdivision, I've seen it come alive. Kids playing, dogs barking, people working in their yards, washing their cars, radios going, neighbors chatting over the fence. I believe I may have even heard one mom yell out, "Be home by dark, park you bike in the garage, and remember your show is on at 9."

It's a little like coming home. But different. As I walked this evening I glanced up and saw something that every time I see it, I How fortunate am I to live in a place like this? Two hot air balloons drifted by overhead. They do that often. I suppose we're in their "flight path." Last Sunday morning a big Coca-Cola balloon slowly slid to the ground and landed in the field just to my left. Magnificent. How fortunate to live in a place where there are big ol' balloons in the sky! I suppose it could hark back to my fascination with the Wizard of Oz.

A simple thing. Small thing. But it makes me feel good. And I'm glad I'm here.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'm letting myself go. Really.

I've barely worn make-up in almost 3 weeks. I've literally worn nothing but sweats and t-shirts for that time, too. I haven't worn my good bras in weeks. And there are days I say, bra? What bra? I don't fix my hair, just slide it up in a clip. I don't set my alarm. I barely have a routine. I don't even eat at regular meal times.

On vacation? Hiatus? Just don't give a damn anymore? Well, no, no and no. I'm just in recovery. No, not THAT kind of recovery. From surgery.

And during this recovery, or my makeover as I joked to a few of my friends, I have learned some things about myself, my life, and my writing.

1. About me. I'm a busy person, normally. I work 9-10 hours every day at the office, come home, and start into writing work. Writing work means either promotion, updating sites, networking with other writers, or actually writing. When I'm not in the office, I'm traveling. Leaving on a jet plane. I average about 2 week-long trips a month. So being at home these past two weeks I have learned that I can get, ahem, bored. I've longed for the time to stay at home and just write. But I've learned this past few weeks that I may need more in my life that just being at home writing. So, when I start getting those six-figure contracts, I may still quit the day job, but I might have to work as a Wal Mart greeter or something in order to get my fix of human conversation once in a while.

2. About my writing.
I have learned that I can write all day long. Not the way I thought I might, but I can do it. Of course during the recovery, it was difficult to sit at the computer for long periods of time, so I developed this sort of sit and write, get up and wander, sit and write, go check the laundry, sit and write, go water the plants, sit and write, go fix the dinner, sit and write... You get it. It's a different pattern than when I felt I had to get-it-all-down-at-once-because-there-was-little-time. And besides, keeping moving is good for us, right? I mean, we writers sit a lot all day long and you know that they say about women's butts when you sit all day long. It ain't pretty.

3. About routine.
Does it take discipline to be an all-day long writer! Uh...hello? For two weeks I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting anything done. Of course, we'll dismiss latent anesthesia reactions and really good painkillers. But why was I so...out of whack with it all? It took me a while to get into a routine and that was weird. I thrive on routine. But viola! then it started to naturally find itself. I had to wonder. Is this what it will be like when I retire? With no routine? With no discipline to my life? Ah...well...once my life sorta began falling into a routine, I started to love it. Without the alarm, I started getting up naturally around the same time every morning. I'd check email. Have breakfast. Take a walk. Come home and take a shower. And start writing. Nice little routine. And it would take off from there. The discipline of that is good. When I retire, I know I'll have to have some sort of routine. They say kids thrive on routine, I think grown adults do, too.

4. About my neighborhood.
As I said, I'm gone away from my home a lot. And rarely home during the day when I am home. I've lived in my present house for about 1 1/2 years now. What's pitiful about that is that I know two people in my neighborhood -- my neighbors on both sides. Oh, I wave at the young family across the street and the guy directly across and I've met a few dogs on my evening walks. But the past couple of weeks I've been able to experience day-living in my neighborhood. I've learned that there is a beautiful young black and white cat who is very skiddish and haunts the neighborhood. I haven't figured out who her family is yet, or if she has one. I've noticed that the vast majority of the households are young families with small children. The moms and kids walk a lot during the day. I've noticed that it is quieter during the day that in the evening and that very few people who don't live here wander through. That's a good thing. I've noticed that some people take better care of their yards than other people and that I like to compare my yard to theirs. I rank them in my head. I've noticed that people walk on the streets rather than the sidewalks. While walking, I've actually met and talked with quite a few more people on my street. And I've noticed that we have a healthy variety of birds that live here -- blackbirds, redbirds, bluebirds, robins, cat birds, doves, orioles, hawks, and the occasional soaring buzzard. Once I saw a mother deer and her twin fawns on an early morning walk.

So, am I really letting myself go? I think not. I'm taking this time to clear my mind and open it up to some different ideas and ponder what it would be like to live every single day as a full time writer. I know I would love it. I'd find plenty to occupy my days. I also know I will need human contact. Maybe I'd have to teach a college class or two rather than be a WalMart greeter, but I would need to do something. I know I'd fall into a routine, and I'd figure out what that routine would be. And I know I would be productive.

Until then, however, I'm content with my hectic life. I'll be back in it full force in a couple of weeks. And rather than constantly think -- I wish I was home writing -- I'll embrace my job and my travels and my experiences with a new gusto and realize that all of it is part of me, and makes up who I am, and provides me with the things I need to be the person I am. It's where I am in life right now. And it's okay. Because I know I can let it all go when the time is right. And I'll be fine. And a much better writer for it.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Getting a cover for a new book coming out is so exciting. And yesterday I was thrilled to get a look at my cover for THE CURSE, which is coming out in November from Resplendence Publishing.

Don't you just love the mysteriousness and creepiness of it! I think they did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of the story with the artwork.

I know this book doesn't come out until November, but you can pre-order it now in ebook format! Just click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Here's the blurb about the book. Hope you enjoy! I'll be posting more here about it as time goes on.


The Legend of Blackbeard’s Chalice

Jack Porter is in hot pursuit of his kidnapped wife. Not an easy feat considering it is 1718 and the kidnapper is Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Determined to rescue her, Jack sneaks aboard the pirate’s ship but is too late. Hannah dies in his arms.

Nearly 300 years later, Claire Winslow vacations on a secluded east coast island, where the image of a man walking the misty shore haunts her. Then he comes to her one night, kisses her, and disappears. The next night they make love and he tells her his name is Jack. But did they really make love? Or was it a dream? And why did he call her Hannah?

The Curse, the first book in the series The Legend of Blackbeard’s Chalice, sends Jack and Claire on a wild search through time to posses a powerful historical artifact – the silver-plated chalice made from Blackbeard’s skull. This chalice holds the key to their destiny and their love. Only with the chalice can they reverse Blackbeard’s Curse.

Will they find it?

Watch for The Cult and The Quest coming in 2008.

Pre-order by clicking on this link! All pre-orders will be delivered early, one week before Resplendence Publishing's official launch in October!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week #2: Dialogue Tags

"Those pesky dialogue tags," she cried, picking at her sweater. "They just break up the pace for me when I'm reading."

"I know," Kate responded. "I hate that 'he crooned, she moaned' stuff. It's so overdone, " she added.

She looked at her and whispered, "Can't we just get rid of them?"

"I only wish," Kate moaned.

Okay, so what is a dialogue tag and what's wrong with how they are used above? Is it wrong? A dialogue tag is what's used after or before the dialogue, a sort of clarifier, if you will. The "he said, or she moaned" thing. What's wrong with the above? Technically, nothing. For readability and interest factor, a lot. Readers accept the simple tags of "he said" and "she asked" as the norm. It's okay to use them. So many times we writers (or maybe it's just me?) think we have to use other, better, words. It gets a little choppy and overdone when every sentence has to have some emotional clarifier to the dialogue. She cried, responded, added, whispered, moaned. So how do you express that emotion in another way?

You can simply leave the tag out. Try it. See if it really changes the emotion of the passage. I bet it will make it read much smoother.
Just use "said" and other simple tags and use them sparingly.
Use action instead of expressing how the speaker said it. "I hate you!" Jim slammed the door.
Use a combination of all of the above. Mix it up. Keep the passage moving.

"Those pesky dialogue tags." Carol picked at her sweater. "They just break up the pace for me when I'm reading."

Kate nodded. "I know! I hate that 'he crooned, she moaned' stuff. It's so overdone."

"Can't we just get rid of them?"

"I only wish."

So how do you check for this when you're writing? I don't. Not very well. When I'm getting the story down, all kinds of things are usually stuffed in the dialogue that I don't need. It's when I'm revising that I realize I've overdone it. But it's important to me to the the story down, first. I'll do a little self-editing as it goes. Some days I'm better at it that others. But the important thing, for me, is to go back in with a conscious effort of checking for the tags and how I've handled them.

So my tips for checking dialogue tags are:
  • get the passage down
  • go back and check for unnecessary tags
  • where can you just use "said" and "asked" and simple words?
  • where can you leave the tag off?
  • where can you use action?
  • then -- important step -- read it out loud to yourself. This is where you'll catch anything awkward
  • finally -- have someone else read it, a critique partner who you trust and tell them -- check my tags!
Have a great weekend.