Year in Review

I can’t believe it’s the last day of 2011 already. A whole lot has happened this year, both good and bad, but overall I was very blessed.

On the family front, we bought a cabin at our favorite mountain spot, took trips to Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, L.A. and Humboldt. (Not including the trip I took by myself to RWA New York City!!) We picnicked, spa’d, soccered, laughed, smore’d, bbq’d and all around cherished our time together.

On the writing front, I published three books this year, got some really great reviews, sold three other books that are coming out in 2012, met some of my writing idols, killed a chunk of my TBR pile, and learned some tools to help me with character development that I hadn’t thought about before.

And, if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep my NYE tradition alive…I make really freaking lofty goals every year, strive my best to do a tad over normal, then see where I land.

Here’s my list of goals for 2011 that I wrote at the end of 2010:

*Sell a book in The Crimson Bay Series to one of the major publishing houses in NYC.
*Find an editor who believes in my work like I do.
*Write every day
*Spend more time enjoying the little things rather than worrying about them.
*Finish another two books: the third in The Crimson Bay Seres and another (maybe a paranormal YA??? I’m tossing ideas around…)
*Final in the Daphne duMaurier Contest
*Final in the Golden Heart Contest

Now…for those of you in the writing biz, you know how hard some of those goals are to reach in a single year. (A final in both Daphne and GH?!? What was I thinking?)

But overall I think I did all right. I didn’t only find one editor who believes in my work, but two. I’m working with the wonderfully talented Esi Sogah over at HarperCollins and AnnLeslie Tuttle at Harlequin. What stuns me about these women is that they’re not only knock-your-socks-off smart, but very kind. They not only care about the writing, but about the writers, as well. I’m a lucky gal.

I didn’t write every day, but darn close…minus the two month hiatus when I had men working in my kitchen during the remodel. My writing time was sucked up into the Home Depot vortex. Other than that, I think I was on the money.

I have been enjoying the little things. Instead of worrying how I’m going to afford gas back and forth to San Francisco Friday and Saturday for SFARWA meetings, I just go to the dinners Friday night, have a great freaking time, turn around, drive home, drive back in the morning, spend time with really great friends, and figure the friendships made are worth more than the money spent. That’s just one example, but a good one, I think.

I didn’t finish the third book in the Vampires of Crimson Bay series, but it’s 1/4 done and IT SOLD to Avon Impulse, the publisher who bought the first two. I also wrote two paranormal novellas and sold them to Harlequin Cravings.

(And, in case you were curious, I don’t have any plans to write a paranormal YA. Not anymore. I’ve got two other paranormal series stirring up in my brain after the Vampires of Crimson Bay series. I’m going to focus on those. My agent will KILL ME if I come at her with a YA at this point. ;))

Lastly, I didn’t final in either contest. HOWEVER, I got really good scores (or at least really good for me–best yet),and one of my critique partners finaled. Seeing her all dolled up, heading to the Death by Chocolate Award Ceremony at RWA in NYC…I just couldn’t be happier for her. For now, I’m living vicariously through her. 🙂

Okay…Really Freaking Lofty Writing Goals for 2012…that’s the official title. Officially.

*Final in the Daphne (I want this sucker so bad…)
*Write and sell a third (and maybe a forth) novella in the Isle of Feralon series for HQN (Cravings)
*Write every day
*Write and sell another dark, gritty, sexy paranormal full-length novel to a major publishing house for a traditional print run. I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to work with HarperCollins again…time will tell.

Okay…I think that’s it. Of course I could say I want a brilliantly starred RT review or to hit the NYT and USA Today Bestsellers lists, but I won’t put those goals here. Not yet. I haven’t made it to the point where I can start looking that far ahead without feeling like it’s unreachable. Know what I mean? It’s like waking up every morning saying you’re going to hit the lottery. Sure, it’s a goal. It could happen. But that doesn’t belong on any Really Freaking Lofty Goal Lists either.

And what would a year in review be without The Year in Review from JibJab? Enjoy!

Hope you have a wonderful New Year! Bring it, 2012! I’m ready!

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Suspending Disbelief


In paranormal and urban fantasy, there is something called Suspension of Disbelief. It’s the idea that when I bend back the cover of one of those novels, I’m expected to be whisked away to another world. I’m prepared to believe that vampires exist (they may or may not sparkle), that werewolves shift beneath every full moon (then walk among us during the day), and that love can exist between paranormal creatures from different species. Demon and vampire? No problem! Angel and Fae? Sure!

But there are certain things you have to keep real…

Like location, for example. If I’m expecting the reader to think the story takes place in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, I better have my facts straight. I better know which piers exist and which are skipped. I better know the Embarcadero curves westward as the numbers increase. I better know where the bars and restaurants are, and where there are more tourists than locals. Throw a vampire in there and I can believe it. Take me to a pier that doesn’t exist, while you insist that it does and you may have lost me.

I can suspend disbelief of the world you’ve created, but cannot ignore the rules of my own.

This includes the concept of time. Am I the only one who had a problem with the length of Bella’s pregnancy in Twilight? Were you able to hop on board the “we just consummated our marriage and I feel my belly expanding” train? I wasn’t. I could believe Edward sparkled in daylight. Could see the Volturi on their thrones in some foreign land. But I could not get past the pregnancy issue. (And really, it was all because Meyer had to show Jacob imprinting on Bella’s young. The baby had to be born quickly. But does that make it the right tool to use? I don’t think so. I put the book down at that point. Sad…)

I can believe in lust at first sight. I can believe characters may be attracted to paranormal creatures of a different species, but…


You have to keep the logic behind their relationship real. Does the heroine feel threatened by the hero at their first meeting? (ie: is she being kidnapped, held at knife point, strangled by a stranger in her bed, shoved into a trunk, buried alive, held at gun point during a hostage situation?) If so, how can the author expect the reader to believe that instead of fear and anxiety in the given situation, the heroine would be lusting after her captor? The wicked, yet warm gleam in his eyes, the hard ridges of his abs, the way he softly grated the rope around the curve of her neck…nope! Sorry. Doesn’t cut it. I can believe there are vampire-therian-shifter wars. In fact, I can easily believe there are prisoners of those wars who eventually become love interests to their “enemies”…but the key word is EVENTUALLY. That change of heart must be gradual to be believable.

(I’m reading Showalter’s Heart of the Dragon and let’s face it, she’s one of the hottest paranormal writers in the market right now.) When the hero first meets the heroine, she has accidentally stepped into an enchanted mist and rocketed into Atlantis…where the hero must kill her for entering. Does the heroine fall all over herself gazing into his eyes? No, she shoots him. Over and over again. Knees him in the crotch. Screams for help. Does she also notice how strong he is? Yes. But it’s done in such a way that you know she’s putting up a fight. You know she wants to escape his hold, not nuzzle into it. Only after a long while does she notice the other, more gentler, things about him.)

In other words, take your reader to another world. Ask them to believe the unbelievable. But don’t ask them to forget the laws natural to them.

Good News Galore!

INTERVAMPTION COMES OUT IN FIVE DAYS!!!!!!

*ahem*

Now that I got that out of my system, I feel better.

There are days–oh, believe me, I’ve had ’em–where I feel like nothing is going right. The writing is sluggish, at best. And I just don’t know how I’m going to break-in to the industry that is full of so many wonderfully talented authors.

Everyone’s so great! And I’m so…well…I’m just me. From the bottom of the mountain, the climb to “measure up” is steeper than hell.

Today was NOT one of those days. Today was a great writing day. A big day.

At nine o’clock this morning, the UPS guy pulled into my driveway. We weren’t expecting a delivery. Husband went outside, received the package, came back in and said, “It’s from Harper Collins.”

He had me at “Harper”.

I opened the package, heart in my throat, and found this:

Wanna see InterVamption’s sexy backside? I do…

They’re mass market size! They’re dark and crisp and perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve seen–perfect children aside, of course.

As if today couldn’t get any better, InterVamption got it’s first review! Here is the link from Goodreads, though I don’t know if it’s going to show if you don’t have an account. It received 4/5 stars and I’m THRILLED to death that the reviewer liked it as much as she did.

I was also asked to be a featured author on a blogging event coming up later this month, but I don’t have the details yet. The blogger contacted my publicist, who contacted me…gosh that sounds weird…and of course I agreed to do a Q&A, because HELLO, who wouldn’t?

To top the cake, the writing FLOWED today. It was one of those everything-is-in-place-and-right-with-the-writing-world-kind-of-days.

I like those.

Night all.

It’s the little things…

I wasn’t expecting a package from UPS yesterday, so you can imagine my surprise when the big and brown truck pulled in front of my house and blared the horn. The package was big. Fluffy. The return address read “Harper Collins Publishers.”

My heart sped.

Look what was inside:

There’s a bracelet, a NYC magnet featuring Times Square, a subway map in a nifty little holder, and a book called, “My First New York” about famous people and their first trips to the city. In case you haven’t heard, RWA’s national conference is being held in New York City next week. I’ll be there from Monday-Saturday.

This little package, preparing me for my trip, was over the top. I cried. The publisher didn’t have to send anything like this. They didn’t have to think of me…but they did. It was the littlest thing–a bag filled with goodies—that made all the difference for me; I still don’t think of myself as “making it” in the writing industry (and doubt I’ll ever think that way), but as of yesterday I feel like I’m giving NYC a run for its money.

Writing update: I’m on Chapter 3 of my novella, still on page 60 of Book3 in the Crimson Bay Series. I should be finished with the novella by the conference and Book3 by Fall. And I must admit, I’m having much more fun writing the novella than I thought I would!

Extreme Makeover: Writer Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of writer I am. I figure I’m a good mashing of a plotter and a panster. I create a sort-of-plot-outline-thingy with turning points labeled out (that rarely turn out that way in the end). I don’t know where my chapters should begin or end or what my characters are going to do in any given scene. I let the story work itself out…within my boundaries, I suppose.

I stepped back from the computer today, listened to the washing machine whish and whirl, watched Bailey, my “rat-dog” terrier, curl up in a ball at my feet and waited for inspiration to strike me. It didn’t, but that’s not the point.

I realized I’m not an organized writer. Not at all. I don’t clean my house (or even my desk!) before settling down to write. I don’t shower, dress in my best, or get a manicure before pounding away at the keys. Most days I’m in my pajamas with a cooling cup of coffee and my hair–Lord, my hair!–just isn’t cutting it. I think I’ve scared the postman on a few occasions.

What about you? Are you a grungy writer like me, or do you primp and prep for your writing day?

Top Ten Tuesday: Things I’m loving right now while I plow through Book 3 in the Crimson Bay Series

10-How long this freakin’ blog post title is. Yowzer. Guess my brain is so fried I can’t come up with anything more concise.

9-Ben Harper

8-Devil’s Food chocolate cake.

7-Last week of school for my munchkins=no early morning alarms

6-While I’ve gained 3-5 pounds writing each of my books, this one is different. I’m LOSING weight while writing. No, I don’t have one of those treaddesks. I’m writing in the mornings and spinning in the evenings. Seems to be working.

5-Early summer rain. My muse is flowing even though everyone is grumbling about the rain sticking around later than normal.

4-I can’t stop thinking about RWA National. It’s in New York City at the end of June and I’M GOING. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it this year. Finances got a little tight. My daughter’s birthday lands smack dab in the middle of the trip. We’ve resolved those issues–albeit with a lot of mommy guilt. Wanna know what I’m most excited about? Traveling alone. Last year I went with critique partner Lisa Sanchez and had a BLAST. But there’s nothing quite like showing up to the airport, checking in, finding a corner to sit and read or write all by your lonesome. Very freeing feeling not knowing anyone. It’s like taking yourself on a date–dinner and a movie. LOVE it.

3-Deadliest Catch. It’s my all-time favorite show and the season just started.


My obsession over the show is no surprise to those who know me well. I love the ocean. I’m fascinated with ice, ice fields, ice bergs. I love anything and everything revolving around ships. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding a little gruff in the form of crabbing alpha males.

2-Finding The First Book Ever Written. Yup. I cleaned out my desk yesterday and found Nine Days in Joliet, the first book I ever wrote. I laughed, combed through it, Ooh’d and Aah’d. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in a few years. No wonder I received rejections from everyone in the business. Sheesh. Needless to say, that manuscript is now lining the burn barrel in our backyard. (I have a thing for burning old work–very liberating. The day of my college graduation I went to the beach with friends, lit a massive bonfire, and tossed in all my notebooks.)

1-I got the cover for Book 1 in the Crimson Bay Series! Can’t share it yet, as I’m not sure if the image they shared is the final cover. As soon as I get the go-ahead, I’ll post it here. *grin

My weekend with an editor

I spent Friday and Saturday with an editor from Grand Central Publishing. She came to San Francisco to speak with our RWA chapter and answer questions about the industry.

I picked her up from the airport early Friday afternoon, showed her around the city, then spent the whole next morning and afternoon talking about “the business”.

I. Learned. So. Much.

Surprisingly though, most of what I learned this weekend had nothing to do with writing or publishing. Of course I took away gleaming tidbits of information about what goes on behind Oz’s curtain. Of course there’s things I know about being on submission that I didn’t know before. Of course I feel like I have a better grasp about how the industry’s cogs work. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. And because lists are neat and easy and I’m in a neat and easy kind of mood, here’s five things I learned from my crazy, whirlwind of a weekend:

1-I should never handle parking tickets. Never ever. I lose them every time. Is it in my wallet? On my dashboard? In my pocket? Nope. This time it was stuck in the machine and instead of waiting for the ticket to spit out, we were on our way, gabbing about Weight Watchers and laughing about big butts (mine mostly). It took a good Samaritan holding the ticket up, screaming through the parking garage, “Did anyone lose a ticket?!” for me to wise up. I’m parking ticket challenged. There have to be others out there…

2-It’s freezing ass cold in San Francisco in May. (On a related note: Minus the racks and racks of *I Heart SF* sweatshirts, there are NO warm clothes sold in the city in May.)

3-When a friend is on vacation, thereby able to eat whatever desserts they wish, if you are the one showing them around on their vacation, you are by default on vacation too. Diets need not apply. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory for a mid-afternoon snack after realizing that both of us had eaten there before without trying their infamous cheesecake. (Random similarity, right?)

Doesn’t it look delicious? It really was.

4-Doing absolutely nothing is absolutely something. We drove around San Francisco from one spectacular stop to another. We gawked at Alcatraz, drove across the Golden Gate twice, curved our way down Lombard Street, strolled Pier 39, and ate absolutely tongue-lolling food. We talked family, shopping, friends, boyfriends, husbands, school, books and alpha heroes. Although I’d only just met her, by the end of the day I felt like I’d known her for years. We didn’t really do anything, yet it was one of the most memorable days I’ve had in a long time.

And finally…

5-Editors aren’t scary three-headed creatures who chomp on manuscripts for lunch, glaring hungrily at debut authors as they begin their submission process. Contrary to what debut authors think, editors are helpful and friendly. They want you to succeed! Editors are people too. Great people who love books and writing (many of them are authors themselves). They smile ear to ear with their clients as all their hard work shines on the printed page. They’re people who fight for authors and genuinely love the publishing process.

I had a great weekend. Now excuse me while I get my cheesecake-lovin’ butt to the gym.

How to use Hyperboles!!

I love dealing with insurance companies! They’re the best! Adjusters, specifically.

Let me take you back to Mother’s Day, two years ago. The Miller fam was headed to Santa Cruz along with all of my extended family. I was driving a Rav4 at the time and we had it packed to the max. Hey, with two little munchkins you need buckets, shovels, towels, strollers, blankets, food, more food, toys, etc, etc, etc. That list goes on forever. (Sadly, the Rav4’s truck space did not.)

We were merging from one freeway to another when WHAM! another car hit us from behind. Thank God traffic was slowly merging and only going about 40 mph. My coffee went flying from my hands and splattered all over the windshield. My seatbelt snapped me good–it hurt then, but not enough to seek medical attention. Husband was out of the car in a flash, checking to make sure everyone was all right.

We were fine.

Elvira, the tall, gothic-slicked driver of the other car (NO, I’m not joking. I couldn’t make up a character this rich!) said she didn’t have insurance. We had to move our cars off the freeway. Husband got the feeling she was going to bolt, so he snagged her ID and asked her to follow us off the ramp into a parking lot up ahead. With her license in hand, she couldn’t run. (Smart move, wouldn’t you say?)

Everyone was okay. Kids were a little scared, but unhurt. I was soaked in hot mocha goodness. Husband was on the ball.

Flashforward one month.

I’m laying on the couch watching television and I hear a very loud, very scary POP! from my chest. My chest goes warm and tingly. My arms and hands go numb. Husband, who was across the room, looks over and says “Did that pop come from you?”

I nodded. Oh, God. That was loud. My mind raced. I cracked a rib. I popped a lung. One of my arteries snapped. I can’t breathe. My breathing became shallow.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I shook my head, getting dizzier by the second.

“Can you breathe?”

Again, shallow pants, more numbness.

“Do I need to call an ambulance?” Husband asked, watching color drain from my face.

I nodded, more of a fast twitch, and struggled to take a full breath.

The hospital ran all kinds of tests. EKGs. X-Rays. MRIs. All came up negative. Lungs fine. Ribs intact. No evidence of heart attack or stroke.

So what the hell happened? And why, two hours later, was I still having trouble breathing? After seeing my primary physician the next day, he discovered I had a massive tender spot beneath my left breastbone…from where the seatbelt had snapped me in the accident.

Turns out the seatbelt had broken the cartilage in my chest. My muscles tightened around it, holding it in place, until they relaxed a month later, releasing it. POP! The warm sensations, the tingling, the numbness, the shallow breathing? That was attributed to the muscles and tendons finally relaxing…with a little panic attack and hyperventilation thrown in there too.

When I first dealt with Elvira’s insurance company, Draco Alliance, (okay, now I’m kidding) I thought there wouldn’t be a problem covering my medical bills. But there was.

How could I prove the injuries a month later were a direct result of the accident? The ER visit didn’t prove a thing. In fact, it simply ruled out everything major.

Brings me back to my initial claim: I love dealing with insurance companies. Adjusters, specifically.

Two years later, I’m still dealing with them. I’m not trying to screw them out of anything. I don’t want a landslide lawsuit when I’m not really hurt anymore. (Sure, cartilage doesn’t ever heal–EVER–and I’ll hear popping sounds from time to time, but that’s not earth-shattering.) I just want the money I’m out from copays and such. Not too much to ask, right?

Right.

Happy Mother’s Day to me. The day I have to revisit the accident and all the insurance paperwork from both parties and bills and hoopla involved. My injury claim closes Monday.

I love dealing with insurance companies. They’re so worried about people scamming them that they make it a pain in the ass for legitimate claims to go through.

Adjusters, specifically.

(Edited to Add: Wanna know what happened to the Rav4? The damage to the back end was fixed–paid by Elvira’s insurance–no problemo. A few weeks later the computer in the tow compartment went out from “some sort of extreme jostling”. $6K to fix it. Insurance denied responsibility. It’s long gone now.)

Dreaming about your hero. And a contract!

I had the craziest dream last night. I’m typing it down as fast as I can so I don’t forget any details…I’m sure if I went on with my day, the dream would vanish and I’d barely remember my Hero being in it.

That’s right. I had the very first dream about my hero, Ruan, from Immortal, Beloved.

It was freaking awesome.

The dream started out with my travels in a foreign country. (I’m thinking Russia, although I’ve never known Russia to be that country-fied-rural and my book isn’t set there.) I came upon his ranch, where he lived with his step-father, mother and a bunch of brothers and sisters. I was lost. He offered to show me the way back to society, after he finished a couple things he had to do for the day. So I followed him around while he expertly ran this hundred acre ranch. We talked. And talked. And talked.

He was such a gentleman! Helping me over fallen limbs. Carrying me over rivers so my shoes didn’t soak. Holding my hand to guide me around trees and over fences. Wanna hear the crazy thing? I was me. I had a husband of nine years–we talked about him and how great he is. I had two children–he mentioned how he wanted kids eventually. I felt like from a few hours time, we were long lost friends.

Soon, his quietly bold attitude and some of the things he said started to trigger my brain. I felt like I knew this guy. The logical part of my head kept trying to place him somewhere in my waking life, but couldn’t.

When it was time to leave, for him to show me the way home, I asked for his name and was blown away.

Ruan.

What a surprise–even to myself. I was so shocked! It all made sense! The chivalry! His rugged good looks! His mannerisms! The way I felt like I’d known him forever!

Thank you Ruan, for showing me how unforgettable you are. You came to life for me. And soon, you’ll come to life for everyone else.

**I signed my Harper Collins contract yesterday! It’s on its way to Spencerhill, then back to the publishing house. (Very side note: I’m going to write a post soon about how important it is to have a good agent who fights for you and your interests. Those contracts are sticky. I got very lucky.) It rained yesterday too! All-around perfect day around these parts.

How do you write? What works for you?

Me and Leigh Michaels? Yup. We’re kismet writers.

This Saturday was the San Francisco Area of Romance Writers’ April meeting. I don’t usually gush and gush about all the great things I learned at the meeting or how great the speakers were or how blessed I feel to be dining with such influential people in the publishing industry. (Although I really should.)

But oh my goodness, I can’t help myself today.

It’s easy for writing to feel like a solitary career. I mean, I sit at my computer, staring out my window and write stories about fictional characters. It’s easy to compare my work to the work of others (and then feel that my work is not good enough). But what I find myself doing more often than not is comparing my writing style to other writers and their styles.

How does Nora Roberts pump out three (Or Four! Or Five!) books a year? How did Amanda Hocking make Amazon her bitch? (Yes, oh yes, she did.) What are other writers’ work schedules like? And are they, in any way shape or form, like mine?

I’ve asked almost every writer I’ve met about their writing process and almost every writer has said that what works for them doesn’t work for everyone. And it doesn’t! It’s all right. To each their own. Whatever works. (Haven’t you told yourself this a hundred times over?) As long as you can write a Smashing book, and another, and another, who cares how you get there?

I spent Saturday with Leigh Michaels. *Insert big happy sigh here. What a breath of fresh air. She’s brilliant and talented and charismatic and I really wish she lived closer. (Although Iowa is beautiful and I suppose now I could visit for more reasons than to see the famed John Deere plant.) Her workshop on the Sexes was great. I took a ton of notes. But I also learned how eerily close her writing process is to my own.

Cue daily schedule that’s probably, really, not all that interesting: I get up, drink coffee and read, catch up on my email, write until lunch, sneak in more writing in the afternoon, break for a bit, then perhaps come back to it after dinner.

Sounds pretty cut and dry right? That there’d have to be a ton of writers who have the same schedule? Surprisingly, not so much. I’ve heard more writers say they write at night–staying up until the sun rises to spark their muse. I’ve heard writers say they have to write before lunch only, otherwise their creativity dries up. I’ve heard that some writers create only a work. Only at home. Only at a coffee shop. Only at the park. While listening to music. While watching mindless television. Only in complete silence! Onlyonlyonlyonly.

All I can say is, everyone does have their own, unique creative process. You should do what works for you. And if my career is a *smidgen* as successful as Leigh Michaels’ and I turn out to be half as sweet and humble and fantastic as she was, I’ll be well on my way to a writing career I can be proud of.

What’s your writing process like? Do you think it mirrors another writer’s?