Monday, April 28, 2008

No more distractions

Writers write.

Yes, we also promote ourselves and our work; study the writing craft as well as the publishing business; and read. A lot. But the priority is to write. If we don't write, we won't have a tangible product to sell. Unfortunately, there are a lot of distractions, aren't there? How do you deal with them?

The Internet is my main weakness. A dear friend, Lori Foster, created a wonderful MySpace page for me. I love the page. It's beautiful, and she created a lot of cool features. I'm very grateful to her. Unfortunately, Sunday alone, I spent five hours checking out my MySpace page, sending "friend" requests, and posting and reading comments. It's really addictive, isn't it? But I've got to finish my manuscript.

Quick segue, if you're interested, I'd love for you to "friend" me at Thank you!

E-mails are another big distraction for me. I want to know what other people are doing, what they're talking about, what they're writing - when they aren't sending e-mails. In fairness, I've learned a lot about the business and craft of writing from these loops. The latest discussion on one of my writers loops is the pros and cons of performance bonuses. That's important stuff. But I've got to finish my manuscript.

Should I even mention television? I know. I know. Just turn it off. How do you turn off Law & Order? Yes, I've seen that particular episode three times. I can probably recite it back to you. But I love the scripts' twists and turns. And Tru.TV, formerly Court TV. What a line up: Forensic Files, North Mission Road. Don't forget Murder by the Book.

So how do you deal with these distractions, especially the Internet?


Monday, April 21, 2008

Book signings

The average author sells between four and seven books at a signing. That statistic supports the belief that book signings aren't about selling books. They're about making connections.

Book signings have a lot of benefits.
* Talking with readers to hopefully increase word of mouth about your books
* Meeting booksellers with the hope of creating a positive impression so they'll recommend your books
* Networking with other authors to talk about the writing life and share information about the industry

I don't do a lot of signings. They take a lot of time, the promotion beforehand as well as the hours at the event. But I do acknowledge the benefits of signings and I always enjoy talking books with other avid readers.

What are your thoughts on book signings?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Second Life

To the real, everyday world I’m known as Angela Henry, or Angie to my nearest and dearest. But I have another life, a virtual life . . .a Second Life. In this virtual world, I go by the name of Rachel Silverstar, which despite what a friend once told me, does NOT sound like a porn star name. But, I digress. I joined Second Life about a year ago. And let me tell you, it’s a fascinating place.

In Second Life, you can look any way you want, dress any way you want, be anyone you want. Second Life is not a game. It’s a virtual community where you can interact with people all over the world, work, own property, attend classes, and even make money. Major companies, colleges and universities, libraries, and bookstores have opened branches in Second Life. There’s even a museum called the Second Louvre for those who can’t make it to the real one and the show CSI: New York even devoted an entire episode to Second Life. And I’m happy to see that publishers and authors are now getting into the act.

Authors and publishers are holding virtual book events in Second Life. Authors are opening their own bookstores where they are promoting and reading from their work, and providing links to purchase copies or ebook downloads. When my fourth book comes out next year, I’m hoping to do a virtual book launch in Second Life. There is even a Second Life Cable Network with shows that feature authors. I urge anyone who is even remotely curious, or authors looking for new avenues to promote their books, to check it out. It’s free to create an avatar and join, though buying property, and some of the more advanced features, costs money. Here are a couple of events you may want to attend. Who knows, you might see me there!

ALA-the American Library Association, is hosting events in Second Life all this week to celebrate National Library Week.

The 2nd Annual Second Life Book Fair will take place April 25th – 27th.


Monday, April 14, 2008


I attended a writers seminar on story conflict. Conflict is the tool that keeps your story moving forward. It's the obstacle your antagonist throws in your protagonist's ways as your protagonist moves toward her goal.

During the seminar, participants anonymously shared their story conflicts, condensed to one line. The presenter praised many of the conflict ideas, but some of them she thought needed work. Understandably. But some of the ideas she praised, I didn't quite get and some of the ideas she thought needed work, I thought were fine.

As I drove home, I realized the reason the presenter and I had different reactions to the conflict ideas is that we have different filters. I define filters as a writer's background, her life experiences, her truths, which determines how she processes a story. When readers and authors have similar backgrounds, experiences and truths, they connect. Readers and authors who have different filters can't connect. No harm; no foul. They're just different.

Let's take the Peter Pan story as an example. The conflict of that story is Peter Pan didn't want to grow up. Ever. I can't relate to that. Hence, I don't particularly like that story. I don't particularly like the Cinderella fairy tale, either. I wanted her to move out of her stepmother's house.

My point is, don't shy from your story idea just because someone else can't connect with it. You may find the idea or conflict isn't big enough to carry a story. That's a another issue. But don't compromise your message just because someone else has a different filter.


Friday, April 11, 2008

My New Addiction

I'm an addict. I admit it. Before the entire world, I admit it. I mean, it's sort of ironic, you know? I managed to live for years without being struck by anything so incredibly and stubbornly incurable, but then I took a fall ... and when I did, I fell hard.

To what am I addicted? 3D graphics.

It started innocuously enough. I decided to do my own book cover. Now, this can be a dangerous decision, but I really wanted to do it. I can say I even felt compelled to do it. And so I went about finding a way. I searched for weeks, months really, for software that would allow me to do the kind of work I wanted to do, to create ... what? Well, I had a vision, initially of a woman running down a shadowy, snow-covered street, casting a terrified glance behind her. But ... as gripping as the image was, I couldn't figure out what program would allow me to conjure it up, and to do so with an appropriate amount of professionalism.

One day, I stumbled upon Poser. I bought the program and experienced mild levels of frustration as I struggled to learn it. For a while, I put it aside, but then came the time when I had to do the cover -- and I did. The cover for Darkness and the Devil Behind Me isn't quite the image I first dreamed of, but I think it's quite fitting. It's an image of Lanie, the newspaper reporter, whose determined inquiry solves a tough crime. Above is an image of Esther Sue Todd, the woman whose disappearance in December 1923 is at the heart of the case. And further down is an image of Esther's sister, Ruth, whose plea led Lanie to take another look at the disappearance and the million-dollar heist that followed it.

I not only discovered Poser, but the 3D community at Daz. There I found that I was rapidly falling in love with 3D graphics and all it might possibly enable me to do -- to create actual visualizations of my characters, for example, and of scenes from the book. The only limitation was my own abilities. Since then, I've created character studies, some good, some bad. I've uploaded some to my website, and moved others to my trash.

The reason I mention it is because I wanted to point it out as another possible method of livening your websites, adding content, and even enervating your imagination as you write. When preparing to write a novel, P.J. Parrish, for example, puts together a notebook with clipped photographs of people who resemble the book's characters. The folks who put together the Harry Potter movies spoke of how J.K. Rowling had notebook after notebook full of drawings of her characters, sets and scenes. Well, I could never bring myself to clip photos from magazines -- it didn't quite work for me. And I'm not talented enough to make the drawings myself, if that's what Rowling did. But I've discovered that today's friendly 3D programs allow even the least technically and artistically talented among us (ahem, like yours truly), create credible characters and tinker with them until they represent the images we had in mind when first conceiving our story.

For me, the only downside has been the addiction. Sometimes I spend more time working on 3D than I do on writing. But if the final character studies I end up with add to the vividness of my imagination, then I suppose this addiction can't be all bad.

Until next week then, keep writing!

Best wishes,


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Channeling My Inner Sixteen-Year-Old

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a proposal for my very first young adult novel. I’ve been wanting to write a young adult novel for a long time. I finally decided to take the plunge earlier this year. My trip to Paris last year gave me the idea for the setting for the first book this new series, which can loosely be described as the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Relic Hunter. The main characters in the book, four multicultural foster sisters, are all sixteen-years-old, which means I’ve had to reach back and remember what it was like to be sixteen. It hasn’t been easy. So, I’ve been looking through old yearbooks, and reading old letters, and diaries, and talking to my mom trying to jog my memory. I’ve remembered a lot. I’ve also remembered why I didn’t want to remember. Here’s why:

I was a dweeb with my nose stuck in a book all the time. I was scared of my own shadow and shy and self conscious. I was frequently grounded for reading Harlequin romances instead of doing my homework, which is really funny since I now write for Harlequin. People thought I was stuck up because I was so quiet. I always had crushes on boys who didn’t know I existed, except when they were making fun of me. I never dated. I always thought my mom didn’t know what she was talking about when she lectured me about life and my future. I was a loner with few friends. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was very self-absorbed and moody.

Sixteen was not a fun age for me. Hell, my teen years period weren’t a good time for me. What has been so fun about writing this book is being able to give the four main characters some adventure, mystery, and intrigue to go along with the usual teen angst. Plus, it’s kind of like getting a second chance to have the kind of fun I never had at sixteen. How great is that?

One of the hardest parts of this writing process isn’t just seeing the world through sixteen-year-old eyes, but seeing it from four very different points of view. The first draft of my proposal, which included the first three chapters, were written in third person. My agent gave it to a young adult reader for feedback. The reader expressed not feeling connected to the characters because of it being written in third person. To be honest, I felt the same way.

So my agent suggested I write the book in alternating first person narrative. I was very doubtful about this approach thinking that shifting points of view could easily confuse readers. When I voiced this concern, he suggested I do it in sections by having each character narrate not just a chapter but an entire section. I have to admit he was right. In changing the perspective to first person, I’ve not only gotten a chance to better know my characters and what motivates them, but having each character telling what they are thinking and feeling in their own words makes for a better story. I turned in the revised proposal last week. I’ll keep you posted ; ).


Monday, April 07, 2008

Joint promotion

Last week, we talked about promotion, and the amount of time and money it takes. But I also said it was a catch 22, meaning you have to promote your book if you want people to know it's available.

Joint promotion - authors helping authors - makes this catch 22 easier. It brings together a group of people to share responsibilities.

Multi-author blogs, such as the Crime Sistahs, is a perfect example of authors helping authors. In multi-author blogs, each author is assigned a day to post. This way, the site remains fresh and new without the responsibility falling to one person.

Group booksignings is another example of easing the stress of promotion. While one author contacts stores to set up the signings, a second author sends press releases to promote the event.

Group signings also provide opportunities to network with other authors, sharing information on the publishing industry, writing craft and career opportunities. It was by networking with other authors that I was able to participate in The Power of Love anthology, a project that benefits a battered women's shelter. Additional information about this anthology is on my Web site,

Multi-author anthologies also are a form of joint promotion. Several authors share the task of producing a book, and the finished product introduces the participants to each other's readership.

Do you have other examples of joint promotion? Or can you share your positive experiences with joint promotion?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008


The other day I read an article on Galleycat that discussed dating deal breakers based on, of all things, non compatible reading choices. Yes, people, there are folks out there who have ended relationships because of the things the people they were dating liked to read.

If I was dating a man and discovered he had the Hit Man's Handbook or Bomb Making for Dummies on his bookshelf that would be a definite red flag. However, as a woman who is approaching her 42nd birthday, and isn't dating much at all, I must admit my criteria for what I'm looking for in a mate is dwindling daily, though good personal hygiene, employment, and mental stability remain a must. Personally, I'm happy if I meet a man who reads at all.

Most of the men I meet either don't read or only read nonfiction. Would I love to meet a man who's reading tastes were as varied as mine? Of course! Would I reject a perfectly good guy because all he read was the newspaper or Sports Illustrated? Nope!

So, what about you guys? Have any of you ever ended a relationship because the person you were dating 1) Didn't read at all 2), Read things you couldn't relate to, or 3) Criticized your reading choices?

Inquiring minds want to know ; ).


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