Sunday, July 31, 2011

ROW80, Life in a Post-Potter World, and a Blue Crayon

I just got back from seeing Harry Potter 7.5.
They had to drag me, kicking and screaming.
Why didn't I want to go? I did. I really, really did. I just don't want to live in a post-Potter world. Those movies were the last things keeping the books, I don't know, alive somehow. It was a great movie, of course. The battle of Hogwarts was like Helm's Deep for wizards. But it felt like being present at some huge generational demarcation. Those books have been around for what seems like most of my life, and I'm left wondering what series/cinema combo will step forward and take over next. I've got high hopes for The Hunger Games trilogy, but we shall see.

In the word count/ ROW80 realm, I spend a good part of every day working on the new novella, The Resurrection of Blake House. It's still in the revise/adding things phase. I feel like there should be a technical term for this: not exactly drafting, but more than revising. Reworking? Ok, that. I've spent approx. 2-4 hours daily "reworking" Blake House. Last check-in I decided I would try clocking time instead of counting words because I noticed I was having really productive days, adding in whole scenes and trimming old ones, but my word count would be a distressing 200 or so. Timing myself sometimes worked when I was writing my dissertation. When I'm writing wholly new material, such as Book 3 in the Gifted series, it's much better to go with word count.

Work continues on Gifts Book 3, which now has an actual name and a soon-to-be released first chapter (stay tuned!). I also had a moment of furious insight- you know, the kind you have to scribble down immediately, even though you're sitting in the middle of a crowded restaurant with nothing but a kiddie menu and a blue crayon. That blue crayon yielded up quite a breakthrough for the next Whitfield trilogy. The one after Gifts that no one really knows about yet but has me quite excited. Note: it is hard to give in to a Sexy New Idea when all you have is a blue crayon and people are looking at you funny.

I am still hung up on a cover designer. I think I'm developing a neurosis about it. I'm not happy with anything. Or rather, it's like that first day of kindergarten when you worry whether your darling will fit in. Will my cover be good enough? Will the other covers bully it? I have a case of cover art OCD. Maybe because cover art is one of the few things I can control. Sales, rankings, reception, and to an extent, release date- out of my hands. But picking art/ an artist? Tangible, creative, and immediately gratifying.

What else? Had a chance to read some great books as a part of the Smashwords summer sale. I put the reviews up on Goodreads and am still slowly making my way through my TBR pile as time permits. I haven't even begun to touch the new major releases I want to read, either, because there has been such a flood of excellent Indie fiction this summer. I've been backsliding on my internet break just a little because darn it, I miss my Tweeps and FaceBeasties and Goodreaders and such. But mostly I'm coming to realize that breaks are good and necessary parts of my writing process. So. That's the weekend happenings, and I guess I'll get back to that break now. Thanks! -VK

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another Free Reads Update, and Internet Break

Smashwords still has their awesome summer sale going on. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of books are free, and many more are steeply discounted. If you missed my post before last, you should check it out because I listed a whole bunch of free books, with covers and blurbs, many by our own ROW80 authors. I just didn't have the time/ space to list everything, so here's a second serving of a few of the books I missed that you might want to grab while they're free:

Demon Girl, the first book of the Rae Wilder Series is automatically free on Smashwords; I included the link because I don't want to just post the second one. 

Demon Day is the second Rae Wilder book. The series comes highly recommended, and this is the first time I've seen both books available for free.

A fantasy adventure for ages 10+, Seranfyll follows a young freed slave as she gains her freedom, new friends, and an adventurous new life.

Holly Hook's YA paranormal romance Tempest features teens with power over hurricanes.

When Devi's twin brother is kidnapped by an angel, she makes a deal with a demon to get him back in After Eden.

A final word about free books: I'm not currently offering my books for free during a summer when many fine authors are. I've had more than one person ask me what the h*ll is wrong with me; don't I realize I'm affecting my own sales by essentially advertising for other authors on my own site. I answered that I might be. I probably am. I just don't buy it that readers are only going to buy one book amongst all the paranormal indie YA authors who are out there. Fans of paranormal, or YA, or romance, or paranormal romance, or whatever, are going to read a lot of books in the same genre. I don't see any reason to be a book grinch because I think it might sell a book or two. It's a tough economy out there. Free books are good things. I'm not offering one because I don't have much of a backlist yet. (Also, there's that little matter of wide-spread piracy. That's not helping.) But I look forward to offering a free title one day. I think it's awesome.

As I get closer and closer to the release of my novella, I wanted to update everyone about a couple of things:
1. I'm going to be taking a bit of an internet break to focus on writing for the next little bit. I'm not giving a specific time frame because I want to give myself as much time as I need, be that half a week or two and a half. I will be keeping up with my ROW80 check-ins, so I'll be here on my blog at least twice a week. I'll be be checking gmail if anyone wants/needs to get in touch.
2. I still need covers! Come one come all! Nominate your favorite cover artist here, or nominate one you know about. If you are a cover artist yourself, please throw your name in the hat! I really appreciate the suggestions so far. I need something like five total, and I really appreciate the recs.

Thanks, everybody, and have a great weekend. -VK

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Update

I wanted to say thanks to all of you for your support last week after the loss of my pet. It really meant a lot to me and helped me get my head back in the game. Here's a snapshot of what's been going down writing and reading-wise:

Sunday: got my first newsletter out, which was a major endeavor but I was pleased with the end product. Also did some writing towards the third Gifts book: 863 words. It's easy to forget this is my main focus right now, since I'm working on a novella that's much closer to completion and is largely unrelated. It's just more satisfying to work on something closer to done. Plus this is an adult romance, and I find I'm kind of liking the freedom this gives me. And Lord, how I've missed 3rd POV. What is it about YA that almost demands 1st POV?

Monday: Editing/revising on Blake House. It's difficult to track the word count on days like this because I'm working with an essentially complete ms that just needs tweaking. Maybe it would be easier to count this project in hours rather than wc? Something to ponder.

Tuesday: Editing/revising on Blake House take 2. After revising and adding in a scene, I did a quick read through of the whole ms. I realized I'm over two-thirds there. Three-quarters, maybe even. I'm almost at 20,000 words and I've been aiming for a 25,000 word novella. I still have three major scenes I want to add, so the word count may wind up being more than that. The shocking thing was the realization that it's time to start thinking about launching this baby into the world. You know, the pre-launch: finding beta readers, a cover, profile it on Goodreads, plan some giveaways and blog announcements/stopovers, etc. The fun/ nervous stuff.

Wednesday: I started looking at cover artists pretty seriously and checked out a couple of other books/ authors I like to see how people are launching these days. Special plea: if you know of any good, reasonable cover artists you can recommend, I am in the market!!! Still have to go and get in some wc after posting this.

That's the week in Belle Lettres thus far; may the rest of it treat you well! -VK

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On My (Free) Bookshelf: "I Feel Like I'm Stealing" Summer Sales

Yep, I feel like a great big 'ole book thief. It's hard not to, when I picked up no less than 27 free books on Smashwords today, courtesy of their awesome Summer Sale. I listed just a small sampling with covers, descriptions, and links. I'm familiar with many of the authors and have reviewed their work right here on this site or on Goodreads, but I included a few new ones that looked too good to pass up.

Now if I could just figure out a way to freeze time so I can read them all. One of those frozen strawberry lemonade machines would be nice, too.

Allie Burke's Enchanters series:                                                            
Violet Midnight
Emerald Destiny
The third and final book
is coming out soon!

The first book in S. W. Benefiel's
Day of Sacrifice series.
There are three books total
right now, with a fourth one
on the way. (Psst! There's a
rumor the author has an evil twin
named Stacey)

                                         Killer unicorns, made famous in Diana Peterfreund's Rampant and Ascendantget their own novella!


The first book in The
Immortal Ones series,
S. L. Baum's is set in
Telluride, CO

Claire Farrell's multi-perspective Faerie tale,  One Night with the Fae and Thirst, Claire's first book in her Ava Delaney, half-vampire series.   



Bonnie Blythe's modern romantic-comedic 
take on Jane Eyre: Claire's

                                    Lindsay Buroker's high- fantasy steam-punk thriller, The Emperor's Edge

Bella Street's time travel
romance between a modern
Memphis musician and a 19th
C disobedient daughter:
Kiss Me, I'm Irish

                                                                                       Jeffrey Pierce's highly- rated epic fantasy Escaping Destiny

Hope you find some good books and shady spot to read them! -VK

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mid-Week Update

I love this quote by Neil Gaiman. I think of it often when it gets hard to keep hitting those keys:
"When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day." 
So far, this week has been almost a total bust as far as word count. And reading? That's been a bust too. I haven't flipped my Kindle's switch in days. I can still salvage the week, as I have set this round's goals to 500 words 5 times a week. That means I can still manage if I write every day between now and next check in. I did manage some writing last night, but it was under 500 and felt like building the pyramids of Giza. The important thing was that I did it, even though I didn't want to, and I channeled some of the dark energy that's floating around into my ms. That's one of writing's great blessings, IMO. Everything shows up in my ms sooner or later. 
Gus, age 2, and me

My dog of seven years died on Sunday, the day before my daughter's birthday. We're all pretty shaken up about it. 

So I'm keeping this check in very brief. In fact, I think I'll switch to list form:
1. Newsletter goes out this week with a discount code for Darkness in the Blood. You'll be able to pick it up for .99 for a limited time. Also including the super secret censored prologue. 
2. The IBC is having their menage a blog event all this week. You should definitely check it out, because there's a chance to win a lot of cool stuff. I think there are something close to 20 authors participating, and you get a free copy of their book just for leaving a comment. Even if you missed an author's featured day or whatever, you can go back and leave a comment and still get the free book. Free is good, and some of these books look really good. 
3. I forgot to add: Jessica Verday, author of The Hollow trilogy, has an online perfume and jewelry store called Abbey's Hollow. If you've read the books, you'll know that the main character is named Abbey, lives in Sleepy Hollow from the Washington Irving story, and makes her own perfumes. Besides just being a neat marketing tie-in, the store is really cool and she's having a sale. Sale! 20% of everything on the site, and a free necklace with orders of $45 or more. You might want to check it out, if for no other reason than it's a really cool site with tie-ins to her books.

I hope everyone has a really great, productive week! I had a wonderful time laughing over the Mr. T thing. It still has the power to make me giggle, and for that, I'm grateful. -V

Sunday, July 17, 2011

ROW80 Update, Mr. T reads Twilight, and Newsletters

Hello fellow bibliophiles! It's Sunday, and for readers and writers alike, that means progress reports.
Friday: editing/revisions on Blake House 
Saturday: 1730ish words on my current work-in-progress. I know, I was surprised, too! But hey, I'm not going to argue with the word count fairy.

"I pity the Lion
that falls in love
 with the Lamb"
Thursday was a bust because I had a twelve hour car trip that day. I thought, "Twelve hours! My Kindle can read to me! Books! Yee hah!" (Ok, not "yee hah.") But it was way disappointing. Mainly because having the Kindle read to me was like listening to a half-literate robot. It insisted on pronouncing "wrong" as "wry," for instance. But I got used to it because I was just that desperate. Then I started thinking, what if Kindle started offering expansion packs so that it could read to you in different voices? Some GPS systems do this. There's even one with Mr. T. I would totally pay to hear Mr. T read paranormal romance. I can just hear him reading Twilight. Or maybe Pride and Prejudice? I could die happy, or at least highly entertained.

On the book front, I finished the first in V.J. Chamber's Apocalypse trilogy, The Stillness in the Air, and I'm reading Stacey Wallace Benefiel's Glow right now. The Zellie books were some of the first YA Indie books I discovered. I admit to reading this one slowly because it's the last (sniff) and I really hate to see it end. 

Thanks to those of you who've signed up for my newsletter. I'm getting ready to send out the first batch this week. If you haven't read the second Gifted book, Darkness in the Blood, make sure to sign up because I'll be sending out a discount code where you can pick it up for .99 cents. I'll also be releasing the previously super secret suppressed prologue via newsletter to any interested fans.

Since I missed Thursday, I have to make word count today or fail in my overall weekly goal of five days a week. I'd better go buckle down. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great week! (Or else, fool!- Mr. T.) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Road Reads and Writerly Things

Midweek update time. Word counts, WIP musings, and the monumental pile of books I intend to inflict on my Kindle on this week's road trip!
Monday: 721 words on "Silver and Smoke"
Tuesday: revisions on Blake House
Wednesday: oh, that's today. Right. I anticipate more Blake House revisions as soon as I get this knocked out.

You just never know a character until you write a mile from his POV. I thought I knew all about Ethan. I mean, I've written two books featuring the guy by now. But they haven't been from inside his head, and "Silver and Smoke" is. He's spending a lot of time in bed because... well, if you read the first book, you know why. I have to keep reminding him he's in a YA story, even though he's getting to spend time in bed being waited on by the woman he worships. He doesn't care. He's even growled at me a couple of times. There are a couple of scenes involving swimsuits coming up and I'm honestly a little alarmed. I really don't want to have to unleash Asheroth on him but I guess it's an option.

Talk about life imitating art. We're into the rebuilding phase with our back porch. We had extensive storm damage a couple of months ago (scroll down to the bottom on the "About Me" tab for pics if you missed this saga.) D and I can't really agree about the new design- I want something new, he wants it like it was- and we've let this hold us up. But structural chaos is wearing on the soul. So we were making plans to just get on with it when inspiration struck and I quoted a line from the blurb from The Resurrection of Blake House:
     "Elizabeth knew the wreck of a house was an apt metaphor for the state of her own soul; if she could fix one, perhaps there was hope for the other."
I'm not sure D appreciated my use of the word wreck, or that I had to go and drag my soul into the discussion, but how often do we get to use our blurbs in everyday conversation? Never. That's how often. So what if there's probably a reason for that? :)

Road trip tomorrow. I love the fact that my Kindle reads to me. With a twelve hour round trip, all Interstate, I should be able to make a sizable dent in that current and TBR pile. That's the only the thing that has me remotely excited about it:

 Ok, it's a lot, but a girl can dream. Have a good week in books!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Update: Chili, Bookish Things, and Pirates

Is the weekend over already? Nooo! At least I have a few things to show for it, like a magic pot of chili. Daniel's chili is always good, but it's pure a.m. gold when made at midnight with Stax playing in the background. (Stax records was like Motown's much cooler older brother that snuck him out of the house and got him into trouble- the good kind.) I've also had a lot of fun on FaceBeast... uh, Facebook... this week. But best of all, I have achieved some weird WIP zen:
Thursday: 536 words on "Silver and Shadow"
Friday: editing on Blake House
Saturday: editing on Blake House and 831 words on "Silver and Shadow"

A word about these WIPs:
The Resurrection of Blake House is in its first round of edits. This feels really good, because it's been in limbo for so long. Part of the reason for this has been the total focus I put into the Gifts books. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do two completely different projects at once. I've been working at it for a week or so now, and so far so good. It's good to have a direction and be excited about the project again. It's also fun to be working on something more adult. I'd have to describe this novella as a ghost story/ time travel/ fantasy romance, and then go and choke on all those hyphens. :)

"Silver and Shadow" is a Gifted Blood novelette. Set immediately after the end of Book 1, it's told entirely from Ethan's point of view. This makes both current WIPs in 3rd POV, which is also a nice change. The first two Gifts books were both in 1st POV, something I'd never attempted before. So what's the difference between a novelette and a novella, and why do I care? Length is a pet peeve of mine. I hate downloading a "novel" for my Kindle only to discover it's 10,000 words long. I want to be precise, so my audience knows exactly what they're buying. I go by SFWA and Nebula guidelines, which are something like:
Short story: up to 7,500 words
Novelette: between 7,500 and 17,500 words
Novella: between 17,500 and 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 words or more (NaNo sets the bar @ 50k... or 55k?)

A bit of unpleasantness: A whole bunch of my time this week has been consumed with my first bout of major piracy. So many authors have different stances on this. Some don't bother taking down torrents, figuring a certain segment will always steal. I know others who do fight it, though. Very successfully, too. Plus there's the shock and rage of it, and then amazement at the sheer volume. I mean, wow. If these people were buying, I'd turn into Kindle Klaus. I swear I would. But they're not, and I'm left weighing the price of Dance with Dragons against a day's groceries or at least a dozen or so Indie reads I really want.

Silver lining: While I ponder all of this, one thing has become crystal clear. Thank you, thank you for supporting me and my writing, because it gets easy to want to quit when things like this happen. As a way to say thank you, I am offering discounts on upcoming releases and exclusive content not included in the pirated versions. Those of you who haven't read Darkness yet should make sure you sign up for my newsletter. I'll be sending out a discount code to subscribers. Also, subscribers will get first shot at early releases, playlists, news, and announcements. I promise I'll only email you with pertinent book-related information, because I hate spam too. And did I say thank you? One more time: Thank you!!!!!

Trends to watch: I'm keenly interested in how Indie writers are changing and sometimes creating new publishing paradigms. I found a couple of interesting developments this week. Here's one I'm really excited about: Dark Side Publishing, co-run by authors Megg Jensen and Karly Kirkpatrick. Dark Side seems to combine the intimacy and adaptability of a collective with the efficiency of a more traditional agency approach. It's a compelling combination, providing a cohesion that informal, but nonetheless supportive, groups of writer friends can offer each other. Dark Side currently has four authors (including G.P. Ching and Angela Carlie) who write YA.

Ok, so, that's the week in letters. Stay safe, happy, and creative! -VK

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Decaffeinated Update

Keeping it super short. Today is the second day in a row I haven't had coffee. It's interesting to run out on a holiday weekend, subbing very stiff tea taken British style. But today my brain feels like freeze-dried mud. Must rectify, and soon.

Sunday: subbed an editing day
Tuesday: 538
Wednesday: oh, wait. That's today.

Much work on the business end of things. I bought Amber Scott's and Carolyn McCray's Indie Pub guide as part of this last IBC promotion. It's a really thought-provoking read. I do sometimes want to paste a large, friendly "Don't Panic" sticker across it because it does feel as if I'm diving unprepared into the Hitchhiker's Guide. But I keep telling myself it's like cooking or diagramming sentences or training one's cat: there are levels. Deep breaths. And for goodness sake, coffee.

Will make up for this sad little post with something spectacularly spectacular. Friday? Sat? I'm liking my Comparative Fun Analysis: X new release hard back book = this much fun in Vicki's world. It doesn't exactly have a name yet, but fear not! I shall confer with my favorite economics professor (cough) (Mom) and together we'll get it right. It's all part of my devious plan to convert her to an e-reader. She's not hooked yet, which makes me a sadly derelict book pusher.

I hope all of you have a wonderful few days that are still slightly skewed enough to be interesting. Just ever so. And now I think I need a coffee I.V.

Meet our other ROW80ers:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dying of Adorable, Plus a Worthy Cause

I kind of can't believe I'm posting about this. I mean, I wear black and think graveyards are romantic.
Kittens. One, specifically. One deadly cute kitten.
Remember, you were warned:

1. Normally when a group of pre-teens surrounds me and swears they've found the cutest video on the internet, I at the very least tune them out. When they mention kittens and You Tube, I start eyeing the nearest exits. This time, I wasn't fast enough. Before I could bolt, they worked their vile magic on me. I am now enslaved by (cue music o' impending doom) the cutest kitten video on earth.

WARNING: Proceed with extreme caution before viewing this video. No matter how hardened you think you are to goofy/silly/cutesy internet memes, this one is truly insidious. The aforementioned gang of preteen cute-mongers claim they trained a kitten to do this. All you have to do is hold it belly-up, wait for it to nibble your hand, and give it a forceful tickle.

2. In other news, there are a lot of great summer book sales going on right now. This one really caught my attention. Ronnell Porter's The Trinity Saga series was one of the very first Indie e-books I ever read. In fact, when I saw that he was giving away the first book in the series for free, I clicked on it and realized that it was one of the first reviews I ever wrote. Kind of embarrassing, that. I wrote it before I ever thought I might have a book or two of my own out there one day.

At any rate, Ronnell is offering the first book for free, which is great. But what really got me about this deal was that the profits from sales of the other two books in the trilogy go entirely to charity. 2.99 for each, and all the money goes to the Breast Cancer Foundation and Save the Children. We're talking full-length novels here, with complex paranormal world building and a very sexy vampire. (Lucius Knight! Sigh.) First book free, second and third book proceeds go to charity, plus a good read.

3. Misc. other stuff: ROW80 round 3 starts soon. Really soon. Like, tomorrow? I'll be posting updates and checking in with participants. You can read the ROW80 tab for more details. I'm compiling a newsletter to announce releases and offer discounts and special deals. It's in-progress, but make sure to sign up if you're interested. I hate spam as much as anybody, so I'll only ever use it to communicate about my books. Everybody have a safe and happy 4th, if you celebrate!