Why Researching What You Write Is So Important


According to Wikipedia, “The rod of Asclepius is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing.” Greek mythology states Asclepius practiced medicine and chose the symbol because as people heal and become rejuvenated, its the same process a snake goes through when shedding its dry and withered skin.*

Loads of medical organizations across the world use the symbol including the American Medical Association and American Veterinary Association to name a couple.

Although all the organizations use the basic image differently, the rod is always there, just tweaked a little bit.

But…

You’ve probably seen this symbol used for medicine too:


This symbol has two snakes instead of the one, and has wings stretching around the back. It’s called a Caduceus. The US Army medical corps adopted this logo in the early nineteen hundreds and since then, the symbol has spread throughout the medical industry like wildfire.

You may be thinking, like I was at first, that the symbols look the same. Why are medical professionals making such a fuss about other organizations using the Caduceus instead of the Rod?

Because the historical connotation of the Caduceus is that of “commerce, theft, deception and death.”**

Sure, if you go back far enough there are mentions of the wings representing the negotiation and commerce aspect of Hermes (although his means were not honorable) and the snakes representing the alchemist side of Mercury, but researchers have found more associations to trickery and corruption than the healing arts.***

So…as you write, make sure you research well. A few tiny alterations that may not seem like a big thing at the time (adding a serpent and wings) can change a symbol from something innocent and well-intentioned to something corrupt and vile. Get it right. Research the hell out of your genre and the area where your story is set.

And the next time you go into a doctor’s office, take a look at the writing–or symbols–on the wall.

Pretty cool findings, huh?

*”Asklepios’ reptile was a healing creature: in ancient mythology the snake, whose skin was shed and rejuvenated, symbolized eternity and restoration of life and health” Albert R. Jonsen, The New Medicine and the Old Ethics, Harvard University Press, 1990, p122;
**Engle, Bernice (Dec 1929). “The Use of Mercury’s Caduceus as a Medical Emblem”. The Classical Journal 25 (1): 205.
***Friedlander, Walter J (1992). The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine‬. Greenwood Press

Writing Environment

It’s no secret I write best when it’s rainy and thundery. I’ve mentioned that a time or two before. My muse tends to dry up in summer, only peeking her head out when I jab her from behind with my thumb drive. (That came out sounding much dirtier than I intended.)

And I think I finally figured out why I write so well when it’s dark and gloomy.

This weekend I took a trip here:

Beautiful, right? Quiet. Relaxing. Serene.

But that’s the problem. I’m not writing for beauty’s sake. I’m not writing something that’s gonna soothe the soul or quiet the mind. I’m writing something that’s dark and raw and gristly. I’m writing from somewhere angry, deep inside. Honestly, before I start writing, I sit at my desk and ball all my frustration and stress into my gut, then spew it out onto the keyboard. I almost have to make myself pissed off to write something good. What comes out is not daisies and butterflies, but torture and heartache, toil, toil, boil and bubble and all that voodoo jazz…but it works for paranormal writing. (At least I freaking hope so.)

So this weekend, as my mind cleared and powder from Bear Valley’s slopes lightened my spirit, I found it very hard to head back to the cabin for writing time. Because my spirit was so light, the writing was light. I needed a big storm. A storm that was black and ominous…so my writing could match.

I’m starting Book 3 this week…again. Come hell or high water, Chapter 1 will be written by the end of the weekend. It’s just too bad the weatherman’s calling for a warm front…

What about you? Do you write better in certain weather? In a certain spot or position in your house? Can you write both inside and outside? Or is your muse a fickle creature, like mine?

Meet an Author Monday!

Good morning!

Before we dive into the Monday blog hop, I have to tell you…I learned something yesterday.

I cannot write while reading others’ work. Period.

Stephen King, in his wildly popular writing handbook titled, On Writing says “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others: read a lot and write a lot,” writes King. “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in.”

I think he’s right. Of course he’s right. He’s The King. You must love to read. You must take in as many books in your genre as you can.

But my goal as a writer is to turn out 2-3 full-length paranormals a year. Each one takes me 4-5 months…which leaves a few months in between to plot and outline and synopsi the next. Where in there, is there time for reading?

You’d think I could read instead of watch TV. Or read while waiting to pick my kids up from school. I thought so too…

Until yesterday.

I’m reading Monica McCarty’s The Ranger. It’s a Scottish Historical and IT’S FANTASTIC. I’m in her world. I’m there. But when I tried to write the epilogue for my second full-length paranormal in the Crimson Bay Series, I ended up writing in Historical style–flouncy and beautiful and artistic–when I really needed to be rough and gritty and dark. I actually love the scene. I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve written. But, sadly, it has to go.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Can you read while writing? Does the style of the book you’re currently reading rub off on your own writing? I’d love to hear from other writers in the hop.

Here’s how it works:

READERS:

Follow as many authors as you like. Just follow the Linky list and hop from author to author. The idea is to find as many “new to you” authors as you can, and hopefully some great new reading material as well. Leave a comment as you hop from blog to blog! We’d love to chat with you!

AUTHORS:

Follow the Meet an author Monday host (Cali Cheer Mom) along with any of the wonderfully talented authors on the list.
You will need to enter your name and blog url into the Linky tool.
Grab our super cute button and place it in a post. (THIS IS IMPORTANT!) If you don’t create a post for the hop, your readers won’t have a place to comment, and the hop will stop with you. So create a post, paste in the Linky code and start hopping!
The purpose of the hop is to meet “new to you” authors and discover great new reads. Follow as many authors as you can. Leave a comment and introduce yourself!
If you’d like to share the Linky list in a post on your blog ( Please do!) just follow the link and grab the code.

"That John Denver is full of shit, man."

And so are the people who said writing a book is a piece of cake.

When people find out I’m a writer, they say one of a handful of things–after the “Really? That’s cool”:

1-“So do you practice the scenes in your novel with your husband, or what?” (By the creepy eyebrow raises, you’d know immediately what kind of scenes they’re asking about.)
*To which I answer “No more than the murder scenes.” If we “practiced” the scenes in the books I’ve written, Husband should be deathly afraid of water, caves, alleys in San Francisco and women with dark curly hair. *ahem

Or:

2-“I have this fantastic idea for a book! Do you want to hear it so you can write it for me?”
*To which I enthusiastically listen to an unbelievable and totally awesome story line about which I have no desire to write myself. The idea may be the best thing I’ve ever heard, but if it’s not originally mine, I won’t do the book justice.

Believe it or not, I’ve also heard a naive few say:

“It must be pretty easy to stay home and sit in front of the computer for hours on end and write, huh? Especially with an English degree.”

Wait…

Easy and Write should NEVER be in the same sentence.

I kinda thought this writing gig would get easier over time, when in fact, I think it’s the opposite. Stakes raise. You’ve learned how to make your book shine. Now you have to put the proof in the pudding. People (your agent and editor) are depending on your book being The Best Thing You’ve Ever Written. (Or at the very least, better than the last one you wrote which got you representation in the first place.) Pressure builds. Because not only do you have to write your heart out, applying every single thing you’ve learned over the course of your writing journey, you now have to do it quickly. Of the four books I’ve written, it’s never taken me longer than four months to write a book and another month to edit it…but can I guarantee that for the next one? No. I can’t. But I have to. So I will.

Whoever said writing a book was easy was full of shit, man.

I have the third book in the Crimson Bay Series plotted out. Mostly. I introduced the hero and heroine in Book 2. I know them. I like them. I know what they want, and what has to happen to make sure getting what they want is the most difficult thing for them to accomplish. Well, I sort of know that. And even though I know where my story is inevitably going to end up, and what my turning points are along the way, that starkly white first page is still daunting as heck. I thought about writing page one, line one today…then decided to clean out my refrigerator instead.

Whoever said writing a book was easy was full of shit, man.

Whether I jump into Book 3 the next day, or the day after that, I know one thing for certain: it never gets easier. Writing is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the insecure. It’s not for the weak-minded or feeble-willed. Even though I feel that way from time to time…especially when faced with the impatiently blinking cursor…

Beginning…starting out…this…is the hardest part for me.

What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you?

In which I admit, Yes, *duck and cover* I’m very shy…

I wrote my last post in a wild and giddy flurry of excitement. I mean, google has been BLOWING UP with news about Avon’s new ebook line, Avon Impulse (Did you see where it mentioned my two book deal???) and I barely pulled myself away from the buzzing internet search to toss up a post about the press release.

But I think I forgot something very important…I wonder what it could’ve been…

Did I forget to mention how downright THRILLED I am about the TWO BOOK DEAL I signed with Avon Impulse? (HOLYHORSESHOESHOWDIDTHISHAPPEN?)

Did I forget to mention how humbled I am to be picked up by such a well-established publishing house who is on the cutting edge of the e-pub revolution?

Did I forget to mention how uber-supportive my family, friends, and writing peers have been through this whole crazy roller-coaster of a process?

Did I forget to mention how unbelievably lucky I am (BLESSED is more like it) that I get to work with Amazing Agent Nalini Akolekar? (That’s her superwoman name, but don’t mention it off of this blog–it’s top secret. She’s got crazy-good powers of publishing behind her.) Now, as if I wasn’t blessed enough already, I also get to work with Esi Sogah from Avon’s star-studded line-up of editors!

Did I forget to mention how my phone is vibrating constantly from the congratulatory emails and I’m sure my terrier, Bailey, thinks it’s possessed as it shimmies across the living room end table. (You should see the quizzical looks he’s throwing around.)

Last, but not least, did I mention that today has truly been a dream come true?

I didn’t mention *any* of that?

Huh.

Avon Introduces New Digital Imprint: Avon Impulse

Give in to Impulse:
Avon Books Introduces Digital Publishing Imprint
Avon Impulse Launches March 2011 with e-Original Romances

NEW YORK, NY, March 7, 2011 – Today, Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announces the debut of Avon Impulse, a new imprint dedicated to digital publishing. The new imprint will feature e-books and print-to-order novels and novellas by existing Avon authors, and will seek new talent to nurture in an e-book marketplace that finds Romance experiencing expansive growth. “Romance readers have been among the first to embrace books digitally,” says Liate Stehlik, Senior Vice President and Publisher of William Morrow and Avon Books. “Their passion has encouraged us to introduce a line of romance e-books, which empowers Avon to publish more quickly, with an eye to what’s trending in fiction.” The new imprint is looking to publish multiple titles each month, eventually releasing new content on a weekly basis. The Avon Impulse brand has grown organically from Avon’s existing publishing program and offers authors all the strengths of Avon’s widely respected team. Books will be acquired by Avon editors, and will benefit by targeted marketing and publicity plans, as well as powerful sales platforms.

“What sets Avon Impulse apart,” affirms Stehlik, “is that authors are signing to work alongside the Avon team, and will benefit from the same platforms that Avon authors have always enjoyed.”

As part of the imprint’s publishing strategy, each Avon Impulse e-book will benefit from a dedicated “five-point” marketing and publicity platform, helping build awareness in the competitive marketplace. Plans include cross promotion, digital marketing and publicity, social media outreach, interactive assets and coaching, as well as targeted online retail placement strategies.

“Without traditional printing constraints, we can edit, market and release e-books more quickly, allowing unprecedented speed to market,” says Carrie Feron, Morrow/Avon Vice President and Editorial Director. “The Avon Impulse imprint also allows us greater flexibility in the length of books we can publish – from novella to full-length fiction, and enables us to explore new themes in romance.”

“There is so much opportunity right now within the romance genre,” Stehlik says. “Readers have found a rich array of fresh content using digital and e-reading devices. It’s crystal clear that we can nurture great talent via Avon Impulse’s e-book publishing platform – and that there is already a very dedicated fan base of savvy digital readers.”

The line launches with A LADY’S WISH, an original e-novella by Katharine Ashe; on-sale 3/15/11; and then features ROYAL WEDDING, a historical romance short fiction anthology by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley and Loretta Chase, timed to coincide with the nuptials of Britain’s most beloved young couple. Later in the season bring four releases from Lavinia Kent and a prelude to Karina Cooper’s Avon debut, Blood of the Wicked. Jaime Rush launches a brand new series with a digital short; and a full-length paranormal romance novel by author Kristin Miller will be released in the summer.

Avon Impulse is currently in the acquisition and production process for e-books to be published in 2011 and 2012. “We are actively looking to acquire for Avon Impulse,” says Feron. Authors looking to submit to Avon Impulse can find guidelines and an online submission portal at http://www.avonimpulse.com. “We are looking for quality submissions across every romance subgenre,” says Feron.
Avon Impulse e-books will be made available at all online retailers, everywhere in the world where English-language e-books are sold. For those seeking a hard copy of individual Avon Impulse titles, print-to-order books will be available from online book retailers.

For more information on Avon Impulse, and a detailed FAQ, visit www.avonimpulse.com.

ABOUT HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS

HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world including the HarperCollins General Books Group, HarperCollins Children’s Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins UK, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand and HarperCollins India. HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial fiction, business books, children’s books, cookbooks, mystery, romance, reference, religious and spiritual books. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins has published some of the world’s foremost authors and has won numerous awards including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott. You can visit HarperCollins Publishers on the Internet at http://www.harpercollins.com.

**Did you all catch that?!? My Crimson Bay Series will kick off this summer! I’m so excited and can’t wait for you all to dip into my paranormal world!

A Writing Sunday with Ray, Jude and Willie

I’m gearing up to start Book 3 in the Crimson Bay Series. Ray LaMontagne (a new find for me), Jude (a long-time favorite) and Willie Nelson (who doesn’t love him?) are really helping me out as I finish up some minor plotting details. Combine the three songs–Hold You in My Arms, I Know, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground–and you may have an idea as to the concept of Book 3…

Now excuse me while I open up my blank word doc and rotate these three songs to get me goin’. Happy Rainy, Inspirational Sunday to You.

Things, they are a-changin’

Borders are closing across the country. Some of the Big 6 publishers are letting retailers like Amazon determine a book’s listing price once they purchase it from them. Other big-wigs are putting a cap on how many times an ebook can be circulated in libraries.

All this ebook madness makes a debut author wonder how these changes effect the publishing process. Is “breaking in” the same as it was five years ago? How ’bout last year?

An internet presence used to be non-essential. You could write book after book on the mid-list, build your career through buzz of readership and never send a Tweet. Now, though, I feel the pressure to Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Blog Tour, Guest Blog, Interview, etc, etc, etc, to build my internet presence as forcefully as I can. The publishing houses take a risk each time they sign a debut author. These risks are becoming even “riskier” with the shaky economy. So building a platform (visa-vie internet presence) becomes that much more important.

But what about all the time spent building the platform and gaining the followers? Couldn’t that time be better spent honing the craft and polishing that manuscript? Couldn’t that time be spent networking in person? Couldn’t I start the new book or edit the last? I’ve heard a few established authors say all the internet hoopla is a “time-suck”. I’ve heard authors say “Write your book, find an agent, and if it’s good enough and marketable enough an editor will pick it up.”

Things are changing.

Authors are spreading themselves thin trying to keep up with the demands of “breaking in”. Writing a kick-ass novel doesn’t seem good enough anymore. As a debut author, I think you have to come with more than a kick-ass novel to the table. Sure, there are those best-selling, right-out-the-gate smash hits…but I think as the publishing industry spins on its top, waiting to find out when things are going to stop spinning and how things will be when we finally land, those are going to be few and far-between as well.

Ebooks aren’t going anywhere. The internet isn’t going anywhere. CDs and VHS tapes are old-news. Although print books will take longer to phase out (God, please let them take longer to phase out), I don’t think anyone in the industry can deny ebooks have caused a literary revolution.

It’s not enough to write your book, find an agent, then find an editor.

You have to ask the question: How do you make yourself marketable?

With the way things are changing, I’m gonna make some bold statements here: Publish an ebook with a reputable company. Network. Market the hell out of it. Write the next smash-book. And the next. When your sales begin to climb and you build an e-readership, you make yourself sellable to the bigger publishers.

Or you could blog until your little fingers fall off. Build up your followers and unique hit count until you reach a million. (I’ve heard 20+ comments per post is the benchmark for success.) If people are reading your blog, chances are they’ll read your work, right? (I’ve also heard for every 10 hits, there’s one sale. Do the math on your own blog and see what you come up with.)

I guess what I’m getting at is, for the mid-lister wanting to break-in, it’s not so much about your book anymore. It’s about you. What can you do to sell your book? If they publishing houses are risking thousands of dollars on your career, what are you doing to make YOU worth the risk?

Whatcha think? Am I off-base? On target? I’d love to hear insight from both unpublished and published authors on how you think “breaking in” is changing.

Rejection and American Idol

Rejection was a theme on television last night. At least that’s what I picked up.

On America’s Next Top Model, Tyra decided to trick the models into believing they were being sent home instead of invited on the show. As they were ready to tote their luggage down the empty hall of their dreams, Tyra (as OZ) dropped her big ass curtain, revealing their trendy LA apartment.

The girls fell apart. I’m talking panic attacks and Niagra tears.

Was the point of the cruelty to make them appreciate their blessed position? Was it to make sure they knew how fast Tyra could *snap* her fingers and make it all disappear?

I changed the channel. All those dog-howling screams during the first few episodes really got to me. I may be deaf.

I started watching American Idol instead. It didn’t take long before I was crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe they cut Chris Medina. (What a man, right? Talk about a hero.) Then Jennifer Lopez went and said something that made me think about writing…and once again, Rejection. There I was in my flannel PJs, sitting on the couch with my legs curled beneath me, munching on some popcorn, my dog snoring atop my feet, and J.Lo literally stops me mid-munch.

While crushing singers’ dreams as lightly as she could, the diva said (forgive the paraphrase), “Don’t let this No discourage you. You’ll get rejected a lot in this business. I did. A lot. Now if you want this…if you really want this…you’ll learn what you’ve got to do to make it happen. And then you’ll do it.”

It was then I realized…some of those singers who got rejected will go home, decide they made it further than they ever thought possible, and be fine-and-dandy with that. They’ll live perfectly happy lives knowing they gave American Idol the best shot they could…they got far…and they’re proud. (As they should be!) They can sleep peacefully at night knowing they at least reached for their dreams. What makes me sad is that many of them had AMAZING talent. I’d buy a few of their songs, had they stuck to their guns and sealed a record deal. But it’s what good enough for them, and not me, or America or the judges, that matters, right?

Some writers aspire to finish that one novel that’s been hanging over their heads for years. Some writers finish that novel, then wait years to begin the agent hunt for fear of being rejected. Putting your heart and soul into something just to see it turned down is a hard pill to swallow. Some writers receive one rejection or ten or fifty and think Hey, I got this far. This was further than most people got. And they quit much too soon. Before they fully developed their craft. Before they really stretched themselves to the limit.

I think Jennifer Lopez was on to something. I think the people who make it…the ones who really make it…they’re the ones who feel it’s never good enough. They can always be better. Their work, their art, their drive, can never be strong enough. Look at the greats in any field and think about their determination, their sacrifice, their drive: Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Al Pacino, Anne Rice, Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, etc, etc, etc. I could seriously go on and on. Think about your favorite artist, in any form. Although there are insta-stars in any business, I’d be willing to bet they were faced with hurdle after hurdle before reaching their goal.

At least this is what I’m telling myself as I face rejection after rejection in my own journey.

For all you idol fans, my favorite this season is Tim Halperin. I’m not sure he’ll win because he’s not really the total package that American Idol looks for, but damn his voice is awesome.