Monday, April 27, 2009

They Let ME Hold the Gun!

Did I ever tell you how much I love my cover? I'm kind of blowing my own anti-BSP rule here, but I'm really promoting someone else's genius (hellooooooo, david rotstein!) rather than my own.

I. Love. My. Freaking. Cover.

So anyway I'm involved in this new venture (more on that another time) and we're still in the planning stages and yesterday we had a group photo taken. And it would take too long to explain why exactly there were a variety of (fake) guns lying around, but one of them looked amazingly like the one on my cover. And I picked it up. And I pointed it at the ground. And I pointed it at my shoe. And at a gravestone (we were in a cemetery...yeah. A cemetery.) I gestured with it. I spun it around (my pal cmm had earlier explained that a gun such as this would be realllly heavy so I knew I was just playin', but it was fun anyway).

I tried sticking it in the front of my jeans, and then the back, and asked everyone which looked better, and we all pretty much agreed that it looked stupid either way, and then we traded stories we'd read on the Internet about guys shooting off pieces of themselves doing that.

May Column

From Heart of the Bay, the newsletter of the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America

Note from the Prez

I’m writing this at a card table, on the day of the newsletter deadline, sitting on a folding chair in the kitchen of my new home while I wait for the Comcast guy to show up.

I’m worried about a thousand different things, from what my new neighbors think of my bumper stickers to where I packed all the power cords to why the coffee tastes different brewed five miles from my old house. And of course the eternal question – whether this will be the day Comcast actually shows up when they said they would.

I can’t control any of those things.

In the universe of problems and issues affecting me, it currently feels like I’m a ping-pong ball in a game being played in the Fates’ rec room. I think that’s a pretty accurate reflection of the mood of the country as a whole. On a larger scale, people everywhere are waiting to see how the events of each new day will affect their lives, their livelihoods, their prospects and futures.

Publishing’s no different. I imagine current boardroom discussions are a blend of How do we preserve and capitalize on existing assets and What does innovation look like in this climate and – most of all - What’s next?

Helplessness is a dangerous feeling whether it’s personal or systemic through an organization. The companies and people who thrive are those who follow a very simple set of principles:
• Focus on what you can control
• Let go of the rest

Take a hypothetical publishing company, Acme Books, whose numbers at the new year teetered toward the danger zone. Here are some things Acme cannot control:
• Reader tastes
• Shrinking distribution channels
• Wholesaler business practices
• Fuel and other costs
• Disappearing review coverage

And here are some things Acme can control:
• Maintaining awareness of reader trends
• Overhead, including personnel
• Production, warehousing and distribution practices
• Format mix (hardcover, trade, mass market, and electronic)
• Cutting authors, backlist, etc.
• Buying new titles strategically

Acting accordingly may ensure Acme’s survival. Each of these measures comes at a cost, but nobody said this was going to be easy.

Every successful author I know has been the “victim” of a publishing decision at some point, losing a contract or editor or release date or promotion assistance to cutbacks. But none of this happened because the industry didn’t like them personally or wished them ill. As difficult as it is, you must try to remember that these are business – not personal - decisions. The key is to waste as little time as possible in the victim place and move on to what you can control.

Comcast just called to say they’re on their way as I typed the period on that last sentence. I’ll take that as today’s unexpected blessing. And on a day when it seems like much of the future is out of my hands, what I can control is sitting here at the card table and putting my time in.

Chapter member Carol Lynn Stewart is a great example for the rest of us, incidentally. Carol Lynn celebrated two sales last month, to two different publishers, for manuscripts that she had struggled to place. She did exactly what I’m suggesting we all do, refusing to give up in the face of rejection, and focusing on what she could control: finding new markets to submit to, paying attention to current publishing needs and shaping her query accordingly.

Hang in there, sisters. Act instead of reacting, move forward instead of getting stuck in blame and victimhood, and we’ll all weather the current challenges.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thanks, Dad!

I think my dad was trying to cheer me up in the midst of a stressful move by sending me this quote...

"“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers,” Dorothy Parker once wrote, “the second-greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of ‘The Elements of Style.’ The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”"

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I don't do writer's block.

'Cause it doesn't exist. All that exists is sitting your ass in the chair or not sitting your ass in the chair.

Still, I spent about an hour today scraping little bits of stuck-on white-out and glue and unidentifiable sticky gunk off my desk using the cap from a Bic Crystal pen (the finest pen made). No words were written in that hour.

See, I'm trying to move a dog from one state to another...long story. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Authorial Identity - Revealed!

Last night my husband and I went over to the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Phoenix, AZ. We're in town visiting relatives, and a stop at the Poisoned Pen would have been on our agenda no matter what, but it took on special significance this time since I'll be doing an event there with my book tour partners Ann Parker and Juliet Blackwell this August.

Ace Atkins was speaking and signing, and Poisoned Pen owner Barbara Peters kindly introduced me as well in her opening remarks. I was thrilled, needless to say...especially so when Barbara described me as "Daniel Woodrell in drag."

I can die happy now. :)

Book Club Pick!

Just found out that A BAD DAY FOR SORRY has been chosen as a Featured Alternate Selection by the Mystery Guild/Literary Guild.

The release date for this book of mine is now four months away. Feels like it might actually happen after all this time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Story at ThugLit

I'm delighted to be in ThugLit #30. The story's called "Decision Day."

Thank you Lady Detroit!

April Column

From Heart of the Bay, the newsletter of the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America

Note from the Prez

My head is still spinning from Maya Banks’s visit.

Remember the part where she admitted to writing three books—180,000 words—in the last two months? That’s the kind of output of which legends are made. Or more to the point, it’s the kind of productivity that forms the foundation of a fast-rising career. Maya’s pace reminds me of the pulp writers of the thirties. Please note that I don’t use the word pulp disparagingly; it’s not a comment on the quality of the work. Check out the surge in contemporary interest in pulp classics—the canon, if you will—if you doubt the lasting power of those high-drama novels …they’re being revisited and celebrated by today’s scholars and readers.

Here’s a few facts I stole from author Duane Swierczynski’s Secret Dead Blog:
• John D. MacDonald (1916–1986) wrote 800,000 words in four months (though he did admit that most of it was “unsaleable”).
• Lawrence Block wrote books “in as little as three days; I've written a couple that took only seven or eight days that are probably as good as anything I've done.”
• Orrie Hitt produced a novel every two weeks and was paid as little as $250.
• Richard S. Prather once wrote 24,000 words in 24 hours.

Should everyone write at that insane pace? Or even push themselves out of their wordcountcomfort zone? Of course not. There are many beautiful novels that would have been lesser works if they had been rushed. This month’s $5 million deal for Audrey
Niffenegger’s long-awaited second novel may be a prime example; I’m sure many hardworking authors are relieved to see the industry recognize that seasoning, contemplation, and extensive revisions may, in fact, improve the end result. I think the
key is to recognize the difference between contemplation and procrastination. The former is beneficial; the latter, not so much. If you think about what unifies many of our favorite and most prolific authors, it’s dedication and focus. Maya stressed that writing is her job and she treats it as such.

No one is immune to the sirens’ call, though, whether it’s TV or the Internet or even laundry. And then we have to get creative at the other end—with our excuses. I’ll close with a comment from Bay Area author Camille Minichino, whose day job is working for Lawrence Livermore Labs as a scientist. “It was easier to make up excuses for science paper deadlines: ‘I had to wait until the system cooled down (or heated up)’ or ‘The people in Germany didn't return my call’ or ‘I had to declassify the data.’”

So, until next time, be focused, be prolific—be very creative with more than excuses …

Derringer Nomination

Just found out that my story, "A Taste For It," was nominated for the Derringer Award. Yay!

Thank you to Aldo Calcagno for publishing it in the first place, over at Darkest Before the Dawn.