Saturday, November 29, 2014

Author Pulls Out Crumpled Notes on Who to Thank

The two people I thank in every single book I publish are my daughters. They encourage me, they tell me when I need to fix something, they're always here for me in so many ways I can't begin to express.

Before I had daughters, there was my late husband. We'd known each other since the 10th grade and he loved that I was a writer. He was totally supportive of my taking time to write and one of his biggest dreams for me was that some day I could be a full time writer...well, that dream hasn't quite come true as yet, but I feel I'm on my way...

Before I met my husband, there was my father, who loved science fiction with a passion, and passed that love along to me. He thought it was the greatest thing in this galaxy or any other that he had a daughter who could write science fiction....

(My mother encouraged my creativity in many ways and she
introduced me to the wonders of Egypt, Greece and the rest of the ancient world, but when it came to me being an author, unless I was going to be the next Dostoyevsky, she never saw much point in my writing.....each to their own, I guess!)

I thank my brother and my best friend, both of whom have listened to many hours of  "book talk" and promo talk and marketing talk and the intricacies of plots with great patience...

I thank fellow Word Whore Jeffe, who as I've mentioned before, has been my mentor in so many things regarding writing and the ins and outs of publishing....

I thank my editors, my copy editor, the Formatting Fairies....

I thank Alison Dasho and Angela James of Carina Press, who decided that PRIESTESS OF THE NILE was a story worth publishing, thereby giving my dream its first foothold in reality...

But I'm beginning to sound like I'm accepting an Oscar...I hear the music starting up in the orchestra pit (hopefully they'll be playing the John Williams score to my Academy Award winning movie directed by J. J. Abrams and starring......well, you get the idea LOL!)

READERS! Those are the  people I want to thank the most because I appreciate the opportunity to spin my tales for an audience of more than two cats and various family members - Thank you and long may you read (my books and many, many others.)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gratitude in Writing

Writing doesn't happen in a vacuum. If it does, all too often, it isn't much good. Ideas that are challenged grow wings - so long as the challenging is done with respect and love. Any of you who've looked at my books and taking any note of the huge list of acknowledgements in the front. know I thank the same people over and over again. That's for a reason. They're the people I can count on through thick and through thin to talk me down from whichever writing ledge I may be staring down. Fellow Word Whores Jeffe Kennedy and KAK and former Word Whore Carolyn Crane will all give me the straight skinny my stories and/or ideas.

I'm lucky in that I have a local critique group that meets in person. Lisa Wanttaja, Darcy Carson, DeeAnna Galbraith and Melinda Rucker Haynes work their backsides off combing whatever I'm writing to make sure I'm making sense and the stories hold together. The great thing about this group is that it's been meeting since before forever. These ladies know me and my writing. Sometimes, it means they know what I *meant* to say but failed to. Sometimes, it means they can nail me for taking the easy way out of a conflict conundrum. When I can't see the forest or the trees, they're terrific at prodding me out of my rut and help me think differently about what I'm doing.

I have some of the best editors on earth and I am grateful for each and every one of them. Even my copy editors - ask any of my crit partners. I complain about my CEs. I do. And then I get over myself and seriously evaluate everything my copy editors suggest because the entire point is change my brain about how the story went together. It's the old sales technique: If there's a better way to make your point, you'd want to know about, right? Damn it. NO. . . Eh. Yeah. Yeah, I do. But I'm gonna grumble about it! It's all in the name of building a better book.

My family. My parents. My husband. My cats. All of them. These are the people who haven't (and who still don't) kill me for getting lost in my stories. They're now my biggest cheerleaders. My mother would be knocking on your door to hand sell my books to you if she liked to fly more than she does.

But you know what I'm most grateful for? You guys. Readers. Thank you. Seriously, thank you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Always More To Be Thankful For

So, today's post will be brief, because, you know, it's today, and I've got a lot to do in the kitchen.
On the theme of who or what to be thankful for, I've already said a lot over the past year, in no small part to this year being a HUGE one in terms of "being thankful".  I've talked at length about some key people who I'm thankful for, and in the acknowledgements page of Thorn I list a bunch more. 
But there is someone I don't list, but who did something I was quite thankful for-- who personified what I think a writers community should be about.  Her name was Brenna Smith.
I was at the DFW Writers Conference, back in 2011 before I had secured my agent.  That conference is one where fledgling professional writers have the opportunity to pitch to agents.  If you are in the query/pitch stage of things, and you can manage going to one of these, I can highly recommend it, because you are surrounded by your peers.  Just about everyone there is in the same place.
Well, as I was in that place, I had been querying Thorn and Holver Alley Crew (what would become A Murder of Mages was still a rough draft at that point), and I had a pitch meeting scheduled for Sunday morning.  I had spent Saturday going to panels, practicing my pitch, and beating down my nerves.
And then a little after 5pm, I got the email.  A rejection on one of my queries for Holver Alley Crew.  By the very agent I was scheduled to pitch to the next morning.
Needless to say, I was a wreck. 
So, I'm sitting there, brooding, and this woman--- Brenna--  is with a group of people, and she spots me and calls me over to join them.  She immediately zeroes in on something being wrong and pulls it out of me. 
Once I tell her, she asks, "What do you write?"
"All right, hold on."
The various agents attending the conference are all at a dinner with the organizers, and the big mixer was scheduled to start in a little bit.  She slips off and then comes back in a few minutes. 
"Come with me." 
She brings me into the ballroom near the door where the agents are going to enter in from the dinner.  When they start to come in, she goes up to one and starts chatting her up.  She gently leads this agent in my direction, and then goes, "Oh, hey, have you met Marshall?  He writes fantasy books.  Oh, I have to check on something, I'll be right back."
And thus, there I was, in a casual, impromptu pitch with a completely new agent.  And it was casual and organic feeling-- we talked about Buffy and D&D and worldbuilding before she said, "So, tell me about your book."
That, friends, was exactly what I needed in order to not end up in a meltdown.  Now, of course, that pitch didn't end up with representation... but having the shot did a lot to bring me back to a balanced place.
And it was all thanks to Brenna Smith.
Every writers community needs a Brenna, I think.  So while we're all being thankful, we should also think about how to be the person that others are thankful for.  Because that person can make a huge difference, and that's how we pay it forward.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank You...

Before I say my thanks, let me say this to all of you:

I hope that you and your dearests
are together for the holidays,
that you hug, that you laugh,
and that you give and receive all the love you can.

There are so many people I would and should thank. For the most part, you know who you are and
you know that I am grateful and value what you offered/are offering to my writing path.

Writing is such a solitary act that it's easy to get lost in that lonely chair where your sole company is a white page dotted with your own words. But lately, talking book with my son (#3 of 4) has been refreshing, rewarding, reaffirming, and...the effect has been /mighty/. He has hopes of becoming a writer for video games, and as we talk I find his creativity prods me to look at my own in new ways. Also, he shows me things through a younger-generation lens, things that I have missed being so long in my lonely chair.

So I owe him. In addition to the responsibility I have to him as his mother, I owe him an extra dose of gratitude because those conversations give me back so much. Parents don't always have careers or hobbies that resonate with their children in such a way that the child seeks them out to talk about it. He does, and not only to tell me what he is working on...he asks me often for updates about my writing projects.

I cannot tell you how much that means to me.

And to my other son yet at home (#4 of 4)...who is into writing fan fiction and acting at the moment... he recently did something that made me cry. I have a dry erase board with my WIP outline. And one day I looked at it and realized there was something new on it. A heart drawn in the corner and the words: "Your working hard, keep it up, mom! love you"

That he took the time to scrawl an encouraging message, and was then silent about it (for how long?)...there is no greeting card lovelier than that drawn heart, and there is no fancily written poem that could evoke more from me than those few written words from him.

Showing them that you can do anything you set your mind to, that dreams are attainable with work, isn't just a meme I parrot to them. It is more than a lesson, it is a truth that I am blessed to be living proof of.

So yeah, I write for me...but I have maintained my goals because of them.

I will ever be thankful for my boys. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Release Day: @JeffeKennedy's TEARS OF THE ROSE

We're kicking the celebration up a notch this holiday week! Today, our Sunday Word-Whore (and a dear friend for whom I am thankful) @JeffeKennedy releases her second book in The Twelve Kingdoms fantasy series.

Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir; the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition; and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.

Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive.

Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn or a queen?


Amazon     |     B&N     |      BAM!     |      Your Local Indie Book Store

Haven't read Book 1 in the series? It's never too late for MARK OF THE TALA:
 Amazon | B&NBAM!  |  Indie Books

Ready for Book 3 in the series? Pre-order TALON OF THE HAWK coming in May 2015:
 Amazon  |  B&N  | BAM!

Monday, November 24, 2014


A time to reflect on what we are thankful for is always a good time as far as I'm concerned.

In this particular case we're supposed to pause and thank those who've helped us in our writing career.

First, my wife, Bonnie. She passed away almost five years ago, but she supported me when no one else did. She took chances with our livelihood and tolerated my mad dreams of being published. She dealt with the good and that bad of that decision. I miss Bonnie every day. I am thankful for the time I had with her.

Second, the publishers and editors. Big press, small press and anywhere in between, it doesn't make a difference. The simple fact is that publishing is a risky business. There's no guarantee of breaking even or making money. Now, a lot of that particular bet gets hedged by low advances and other considerations, but it's still a risk. Angry Robot Books is a great example of a publisher that one should be thankful for. Review copies of the books went out, interviews were set up, artists were commissioned to do amazing covers. Recently Angry Robot took a spill when they were sold out from under by the house that owned them. Happily, they've landed on their proverbial feet and we'll be working together on a few more books. Also happily, because they know how to make the experience a good one.

The readers. Well, that's kind of a given I would think. Somewhere along the way someone spent money on one of my books and decided to read it. Some have repeated the process again and again. I would hope that means I'm keeping my end of the bargain and being entertaining, but either way, readers have taken a chance.

My collaborators. I've worked with several writers on shared projects and enjoyed the vast majority of them. In every case they were learning experiences and I got a lot out of the process.

My fellow writers. Before I was a writer I was a reader. Now and then I've had the opportunity to run across people who very seriously had an impact on me and I've even managed not to make a complete ass of myself. One name: three words: Stephen R. Donaldson. I almost lost my cool when I met him, because this is the guy who wrote LORD FOUL'S BANE, but I kept my calm demeanor. Actually, it's happened a lot. The writers I have known over the years have by and large been very influential and supportive. And I'm grateful for that. several of my fellow word-whores have acted as first readers for me and not even gotten angry when I didm;t manage to return the favor as well as I would have liked.

The artists.
At world Fantasy this year I got to make an fool of myself with Michael Whelan, who remains one of the finest artists I've ever run across. I made a fool of myself because, while I was gushing over how much I love his work with Linda Roberts, the man came up behind me and said "Well, thank you very much." I then shook his hand and told him how very influential he was to me. It was because of his artwork in the book WONDERWORKS that I really started reading books outside of my comfort zone. Whelan is one of those rare and wondrous artists who actually reads the book he's supposed to be doing the cover work for, and he talked about why he liked each of the titles in the book and in the process piqued my curiosity enough to make me invest my hard earned money into books I might never have read otherwise.

For a long while after that, if a book had a Whelan cover, there was a much stronger chance that I would pick it up. I've and the distinct pleasure of having artists like Alejandro Colucci, Les Edwards/Edward Miller, Alex McVeyAlan M. Clark, Glenn Chadbourne and Keith Minnion. I am extremely thankful for that.

I can find a thousand reasons a day that I am thankful. I'd be grateful on the average day for even one.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving It a Go at Thanking Everyone

This week I'm looking forward to the release of the second book in my TWELVE KINGDOMS series, THE TEARS OF THE ROSE. (In fact, today you can read an excerpt over at That's What I'm Talking About.) So it's mete that this week's topic is giving thanks to all those who've helped us in our writing careers.

The problem is, I'm like that stereotypical starlet stumbling up to the podium clutching her mile-long list and struck with the certain terror that she'll forget to name someone. Probably the most important someone.

I hit this same anxiety every time I go to write my acknowledgements page, though I've gotten so that, as I write a book, I keep a running draft of everyone who helps me. Seeing as how half the time I have to tell those people to look at that page, I probably stress about it more than I should. But I hope that, over time, I catch everyone eventually.

For this post, I thought it might be nice to publicly post here the acknowledgments page from THE TEARS OF THE ROSE.

Many thanks to everyone at Kensington who have been so amazing to me about celebrating this book and the trilogy, especially Peter Senftleben, curmudgeonly editor extraordinaire; Vida Engstrand, delightful diva of communications; Jane Nutter, a paragon of a publicist; and Rebecca Cremonese, for being such a dedicated, enthusiastic caretaker of the pages and the story. If anyone gets to dinner & movie Ash, it will be you.
Everlasting gratitude to my critique partners: Marcella Burnard and Carolyn Crane, for the insightful, under-pressure reads and tireless support.
Thanks to my longtime friend, Marin Untiedt, who taught me to value knitting, gave me what I needed to know, and would probably be very much like this.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the incredible reviewers and readers who loved The Mark of the Tala and immediately demanded this book. I hope you all like Amelia’s story, too.
Finally, thanks to my family, for being the love and balance in my life.
And always, to David, for all the little things, every day.
I should add, also, that I seed little nods of love and gratitude throughout these books. Names of characters and places on the map of the Twelve Kingdoms often reference friends, loved ones and their pets. Little Easter eggs for them - and always a kick when they discover it. Like when Veronica Scott read the book and said she wanted to believe Lady Veronica Lianore was named for her. Which she was.

A final thank you goes out to Word Whore K.A. Krantz, for all she does in maintaining this blog and being our Tuesday pimp. You rock, baby!

Happy Thanksgiving all!