Friday, August 31, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Emily's Trial Cover Photo Shoot

Ashley, right, will be Emily; Heather creating the hair and makeup look 
One of the best things I like best about being Indie? Creating the Cover!

Readers may not know this, but when a book is published by a big publisher, the author usually has no say about the cover. Let's face it, after the author has turned in the final manuscript, they don't have a lot of say about anything (title included).

Emily's House, Cover by
Claudia at Phatpuppy Art
What creative fun to create the cover that I want - the cover that fits my vision.

I shouldn't say that I create the covers. That's not quite accurate because I work with wonderful artists who bring my vision to life.

Claudia, of Phatpuppy Art, the cover artist that created the cover for Emily's House, will also do the covers for the other two books in the series. For the next two covers, Claudia has teamed up with brilliant photographer, Teresa Yeh, to create not one but two custom covers for me.

Teresa has been a dream to work with. She asked me lots of questions - ones I hadn't even considered. Questions like: What expression should Emily have on her face? And what would I like her wearing? What color are her clothes? Close up? Or full body? Over the shoulder? How is her hair styled?

Wow! So much thought going into it. When covers are made with stock photos (which most covers are), you don't have to think so much as spend hours scouring photos to find something that is good enough to work.

Teresa then did a casting call and I got to choose which young lady was the best one to "play" Emily for a day.

Ashley was the clear winner. She has the Emily look. 

Behind the scenes, Heather had to create two looks for Emily. For the Emily's Trial cover, we decided to go with a braid, hair a bit mussed, makeup but not too made up. Emily spend most of Emily's Trial fighting for the life of her friends and herself - so we didn't want her looking glam (but also not sweating like a pig and gnarly looking!).
Love that smile! Fun on the set.
For Emily's Heart, we decided to go with a softer look for her hair, a little more makeup. Perchance will Emily find true love in Emily's Heart?

Of course a lot still has to happen to get to the final cover. Choosing the photo, then it will go to Claudia to add her artistic touch to go from photo to book cover. Then another talented lady will add the title, etc. Soon I'll have a cover to reveal!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who Needs Time Travel? You're Already There

For those of you who have read Emily's House, you know that one of the themes of the story is the convergence of mysticism and science. And it's little wonder that came through. I love science, and I'm intrigued by mysticism and spirituality.

Reading avidly in both areas, I've long noticed how physics and metaphysics are closely aligned. It's like they're talking about the same things, only in different languages.

The other night, I was watching one of my favorite shows, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. To be fair, I'd probably listen to Morgan talk about snow shovels for an hour - LOVE that guy.
Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman, photo by Colorstorm Media/Eyevine
But combine Morgan with far out, freaky, cutting edge science and I'm all in.

Morgan Freeman and Mr. Kitty
What up with the cat on his head? 

So I was all settled into the small dent my butt has created on my couch (okay, big dent), Morgan cranking on the set. The episode was about eternity and time. Toward the end, along comes Dr. Jeff Tollaksen, of Chapman University, and says this about time:
"There's an ocean flowing here. There's a current flowing, from past to future and future to past."
Dr. Tollaksen of Chapman University. I wonder if he has
this much attitude because of something his future
self has done?
Dr. Tollaksen was referring to the results of over twenty years of experiments he and his colleagues have performed - experiments which have led him to the conclusion that the future affects the present.


According to Dr. Tollaksen, not only does the past affect our present, but the future does as well.

Can you get your head around that? I'm not sure I can - not really. This would mean that I'm doing shit right now, in a future I'm completely unaware of, and it is affecting what I do now. But what I'm doing now - wouldn't that affect my future? Doesn't this create one *ucked up paradox?!

But here's the thing that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when he said that time was like a stream. This is a section of Chapter 50 of Emily's House - a chapter entitled "Put Your Boat In":
Brighid said, "But time is very much like a stream . . ."
Emily replied, "So if the stream is like time, then if I put my boat in back there, by the big willow . . ."
"Then that is what you observe . . ."
"And that's like the past."
"But if I put the boat in way up there, by that big oak . . ."
"Then you are with the oak in that moment . . ."
"And that is like the future."
"I can put the boat in the stream wherever I want to go. So I can go to any time I want simply by choosing it?"
"Your Anam is eternal. You already exist in all time that ever was or ever will be." 
When I wrote this exchange between Brighid and Emily, I had not heard of Dr. Tollaksen or his experiments. This idea about time - how it's a stream with past, present and future connected - was influenced by metaphysics and new age spirituality. And I thought it was a cool way to deal with the concept of time travel, a device I needed to use to make the story work.

But doesn't it sound similar? Isn't it intriguing that science is now proving what some mystics have long believed - that time flows freely from future to past, and past to future?

What do you think?

I'll see you in the future. Oh wait, we've already been there . . .

Friday, August 24, 2012

Help Me Clean Up My Potty Mouth - and WIN!

Ralphie, from A Christmas Story. At least it wasn't Lifeboy.
Today we discuss an important topic: Curse words, dirty words, bad words.

I recently received comments from my freelance editor on a manuscript written for young adults (ages 12 and up). I don't use the F-word much in the manuscript, but there were quite a few instances of the word "ass," and more than a few shits, damns and derivations thereof.

In my mind, for some of my characters, their voice comes through speaking that way. For example Fanny, one of the main characters in the Emily Adams series, one of her favorite words is ass (or asshat, asshole - you get the picture). It just rolls off Fanny's tongue. It's hard for me to "hear" Fanny speaking any other way. Not all of my characters speak that way. Jake Stevens for example (also from Emily's House), rarely curses. But for a character like Fanny, it just won't do to have her say something like "darn" or "shucks."

But the editor made a good point to me. She advised me that some parents have problems with the use of foul language in books their kids read (the younger the child, the more problem it will be perceived to be). And parents have been known to pitch a fit at a librarian for shelving books in the middle-grade of teen section that have curse words in them.

I believed the editor, but I decided to put the question to the Facebook community. I got more response to this question than any thing else I've ever posted. It proves there are strong feelings. And not surprisingly, parents (and teachers and some librarians) are pretty vehement that the F-word does NOT belong in books written for kids, EVER. (Of course, most stated the belief that their child(ren) don't use such language - *cough*.) Perhaps we'll address the issue of elitism and parent denial in another post.

The strong response I got on the Facebook page made me realize that if I want my books to have the widest possible audience (and I do), then I need to be aware of how parents will respond to cursing in books.

But what do I do about my potty mouth characters? Fanny can't say "aw shucks," or call someone a poopy pants.

I decided to embrace this challenge. I'm on a quest to build a library of non-swearword urban slang. It's time to get creative.

Here's where you come in. I want to hear your most creative slang words to replace curse words. Here are a few examples to get you going, words that I think can work well to replace asshole:

Clump nugget 

Butt munch 


How about tart monkey? Ever heard of that? I thought it sounded naughty, though not sure what it really means?!

Do you have clever stand ins for curse words? I want to hear them!

And if the sheer joy of sharing your most original language creations with me isn't enough of an incentive to post a comment, let's sweeten the deal. 

Time for a contest! 

It's the "Help Me Clean up My Potty Mouth!" contest. 

Have fun, you little tart monkeys. Go get your creative caps on, you dill weeds, and send me some blasted words.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 20, 2012

Manic Monday: Book Trailers, Covers & Arm Jewelry?

What does an author do when she she's not writing or editing her newest novel? She might be spending time meandering through Etsy, trying to find a jewelry artist brave enough to tackle the task of creating an Emily's House inspired armlet.
Emily's Torc, Hand-Crafted by Lady Steel
Isn't this awesome!! Lady Steel of 88Links took up my challenge and created a beautiful, handmade armlet, complete with Celtic twists and braids. Lady Steel has wonderful energy, so who knows, these beauties may be imbued with magical energy, just like Emily's.

I'll be giving some of these away during the release of Emily's Trial.

And when will that book release you ask?

Good question. I'm shooting for mid-October. Ambitious. I'll keep you posted, but you will definitely have a new Emily book before the end of the year.

And when not revising and playing with arm jewelry, I've been creating a book trailer for Emily's Trial. Shall I tease you for the teaser? 

Emily Adams, courtesy Getty Images
And what about this?
And finally, this . . .
Are you curious how romance and a graveyard mix? Me too! ;-)

A great book needs a great cover, right? I love what Claudia at Phatpuppy Art did for Emily's House.

But I think this next one is going to be even better. Claudia is now working with a great photographer, Teresa Yeh, to create original, custom photos for covers. Here are a few samples of the joint efforts of Claudia and Teresa:

Borrowed Ember (Fire Spirits #3)

Sneak Thievery (The Fade, #2)

And she is going to work on the cover for Emily's Trial! *squee* As I write this, Teresa is putting out a casting call to find the perfect Emily. We'll be working together to come up with an image that suits the flavor of Emily's Trial. Then it will be shifted back over to Claudia to apply her artistic talents to create a kick-ass cover.

I'll keep you posted and perhaps I'll have some fun behind-the-scenes stuff for you from the photo shoot. I feel a contest coming on. . .

As excited as I was for the release of my first novel, Emily's House, to the world last fall, I'm even MORE excited to bring you Emily's Trial. The journey continues . . .

Monday, August 6, 2012

Manic Monday: The Bionic Manuscript

As I write this, I'm attending the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrator's (SCBWI) annual summer conference in Los Angeles. Three days filled with speeches, workshops, and  presentations by wonderful writers, book illustrators, editors and other book publishing people. Three days filled with inspiration, pep talks, advice on craft and storytelling, and rubbing elbows and breaking bread with kindred spirits.

And a time for a bit of reflection on my journey thus far. A time to reflect on the first two stages of becoming a writer.

Just three years ago, I sat at my first writer's conference. Wide eyed. Excited. Hopeful. 

I sat there with a great idea, boundless enthusiasm for the subject, and no one had yet said to me the dreaded two letter word: No.

I sat in a workshop today and was struck by the fact that in the last three years, I'd changed as a writer. I've written three manuscripts now and they've changed me as a writer. Here's what happened to make me see this.

The presenter at the workshop asked people to volunteer to tell the their story idea - the premise - the log line. The one to two sentence hook.

Many threw out their ideas. Most were so-so. Ideas that were a bit interesting, but not so compelling that you'd buy the book. There were a couple of ideas that were knock outs. When a person can put their idea succinctly into one sentence, AND hook you with it, you know they're on the right track. 

There was one young lady, that rambled on for a while about her idea, losing me after about ten words. The presenter gave her a few pointers as to why the concept wasn't yet compelling. But the nascent writer persisted, saying something that made me both cringe and feel envious. She said something to the effect that she could see her story in her head and couldn't wait to see it made into a movie because she thinks it would make a great movie.
Joy! Rapture! I have the best story idea ever and soon I will be lavished with praise and a
six figure advance and a movie deal.
This newbie writer is at the stage where her idea is, still, very fresh and thrilling to her. It's probably all she thinks about. And her story idea is a movie, in her own head. To this writer, she likes the story idea so much, how can anyone else not like it? How could they possibly resist the chance to not only publish the story, but make it into a film?

I cringed because I have seen many editors and agents say that this is exactly the kind of thing that if they hear in a query letter, that they'll reject the writer's work immediately. Every writer thinks their idea is good. Every writer has a friend or family member that thinks their story is the best story since the Bible. Every writer thinks their story would make a great movie. It's cringe worthy because it's not only cliche, but because it sounds both boastful and out of touch with reality.

I cringed for that writer that she'll likely continue to say things like that until someone either smacks her silly and tells her to stop, or until she's rejected about a million times and either stops writing altogether or tries something new, just to see what happens.

But I envied her too. I envied her because I remember feeling that way with my first story idea. So full of the story, all the time. It was all I could think of. And I was so hopeful. Had not yet had my writer self bashed about a bit.

Don't get me wrong. It's good to be hopeful. It's not naive to believe in your story. Cynicism does not for good writing make.

But once a writer has completed that first story, she must move on to the next one. And a first story is a bit like your first car. Remember your first car? Of course you do. You remember how it smelled. My first car was old and smelled of dirty leather and oil and that musty old car smell. You remember the make, model and paint color. And you remember how it felt to drive it. Mine was old and crappy and prone to stalling in the middle of the road but oh, how I loved the freedom of  my own wheels. My first car was old and cheap and shabby and should have been at the scrap yard, but it was my first and it was new and an adventure and thus memorable for me.

1976 Ford Mustang II Ghia
My first car, but picture it rusted and broken down on the side
of the road with smoke issuing from its hood.
I bet you don't have as many memories of your second car, even less of your third, and may not be able to remember at all some of the cars in the chain of cars you've owned. And I bet your more recent cars are finer ones than your first. Maybe now you can afford a sweeter ride, but your first is still special, even if it was a piece of shit car.

It's the same with a writer's stories. The first is new. It's fresh. It's exciting and thrilling because you've never done it before. Writing your first story is an adventure.

You finish the first one, maybe take a small break, then you push on to the next. If you're a professional (or aspire to be a professional) anyway, that's what you do. You move on. 

Maybe you'll get a publishing contract for the first one (may the odds be in your favor), but statistically speaking, probably not. You may write two, five or even seven or more novels before you find out how to come up with both a fresh concept and the writing craft to deliver it.

Once you've mined that first idea, fleshed it out, and delivered it to the world, it may be met with the same awe and wonder that you had when you wrote it. But unless you're a prodigy, born from your mother's womb with an extreme gift for writing that even the greats of literature have lacked, your idea will likely be met with . . . you guessed it: No.

Why? Because the new writer has, most of the time, not yet learned that there is a difference between having an idea and writing a novel. And because the nascent writer does not know the difference, they upchuck pages upon pages of backstory onto the page and then "tell" rather than "show" the reader their story.

I read a lot of self-published novels and most of them are built on a compelling idea or premise. A few deliver the promise of the premise through solid writing and are a good read.

But most fall short. I see what the author is trying to do. I see what got them excited about writing it. But it's not a good book.

Why? Because the writer has not yet learned how to write a novel, rather than "tell" a story. Telling a story and writing a novel are not the same thing.

The idea isn't enough.

This is important and bears repeating: The idea isn't enough.

The idea is necessary. Yes. You must have a compelling premise. You must.

But then you must deliver the promise of that premise by writing a compelling story that pulls the writer sentence by sentence, page by page, willingly and gladly along on the ride you created for them. The reader doesn't want to be "told" a story. They want to be shown characters overcoming obstacles, and growing and changing.

Three years ago, I came to this conference as much a newbie as there ever was. I paid extra to have a consultation with an agent about my work in progress, the work that would become Emily's House. The consultation was a fool's errand. There I was, submitting a piece of writing for critique on a story that I hadn't even fully written yet. How could I know how to write a novel, when I had not yet even completed one?

The agent who met with me was kind, and pointed out things she liked. But she also gently urged me to go to workshops and get into a critique group. And she never once commented on what a great premise I had or how cool my idea was. She couldn't even get to the idea for the lack of skill in the writing. Poor craft distracts from the idea.

"Learn about craft," she said. If she had said it to me straighter, she would have said: "The idea is not enough." 

I left that consult, made my way to my hotel room, closed the door, and cried. I cried, and cried and cried. She had said no. No to my big idea. No to my story. No.

That was three years ago. At the conference today, in his keynote address, author Dan Guttman (referring to a line from the movie A League of Their Own), said, "There's no crying in the world of writing."

I heard that advice today, not three years ago. And three years ago I cried. Hard.

I don't know if I agree with Dan. I think it's okay to cry, sometimes (but perhaps do it privately if you're really going to wail, so as to not draw a crowd). Sometimes, you need to let the tears roll.

But, and perhaps this is what Dan was really getting at, you dry your tears and you pull yourself up and you go at it again. And again. And again.

Back in 2009, I had a choice to make. Sit, cry and stop. Or stop crying, and start writing.

I chose the latter.

I spent another two years writing that novel. I tore it apart, rewrote, then tore at it some more. I went to classes and worked with editors on it. I learned and rewrote, then learned more and write it again.

The final product isn't perfect. If I wrote it today, I'd write it differently. But I finished it. I saw it through. I published and I'm proud of it and best of all, readers have enjoyed it too. Readers that would have never gotten to meet Emily and her pals if I'd given up back in 2009 just because I heard the word "no."

I finished it, published it and moved on to the next one.

I'm now revising my third novel. Each one gets less precious. It becomes easier to shoulder critique. Easier to hear "no." Not easy. Just easier.

I had a critique today with a well respected editor and I heard a yes and a no. She said "Yes" to my concept. Yea! My writing is stronger now, and I don't upchuck backstory for twenty pages anymore. I've learned how to show not tell (most of the time). So my storytelling was strong enough that she could see the forest through the trees and she liked the concept. Yes.

But the plot has some issues that need ironed out. It's  not there yet. So that's a no. For now. It's not ready and I know it. Back to work.

I left  the critique feeling glad that I didn't leave wanting to cry. But I also felt, for a bit, like "I can't do this. It's too much. It's too hard."

I believe this is a new stage in the writing journey for me. A stage well known by most writers who have pushed beyond the newbie phase. There comes a point where you know enough about storytelling to know that you have not hit the mark. Your draft is lacking. And you know enough to know that it's damned hard to do it better. And you worry, for a moment or maybe for weeks, that you don't have it in you.

You see, your expectations of yourself have become higher. You no longer rely on just the idea. The idea is fine, it's wonderful, it's what got you to the computer and put words on the page in the first place. But you know, now, that the idea alone isn't enough. And you worry that you don't have what it takes to pull off that wonderful idea you've had.

"Maybe it's just too hard for me," you say.

In this stage, you are the one saying no to yourself. You are the obstacle you need to overcome. You must wring that no from your head.

"The concept is good," she said. I'll take that. It will inspire me. Fuel me. Spur me on as I take that damnable manuscript apart, piece by piece, and rebuild it. I picture it now like the Bionic Man. Remember the beginning of that show? "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. Better, stronger, faster."

That's my manuscript now. The bionic manuscript. It will be better, faster, stronger.

Stage two rockets released. What's the next stage?
Bionic Man Doll, circa 1970's
It's pretty creepy, isn't it?
Hopefully, my bionic manuscript
won't look like this!

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