Sunday, October 31, 2010

Writing Weekend: A Bad Week

It's probably inevitable that the last week of October was a bad writing week for me. I was overdue, and I'd set myself up for it. Over the course of the month, I'd:

1) Sent in a proposal for next summer's RWA National entitled "How to Write Like a Full-Time Author When You Can't Quit Your Day Job."

2) Blogged about the same topic, and how I manage to write 1000 words/day most days, while a guest at Pink Fuzzy Slippers last week.

3) Generally been praised by lots of fellow writers for the amazing amount I get done despite having a full-time job and a kid.

That's the kind of thing that'll give a girl a case of hubris. But after this week, I'm feeling properly humble. I only wrote 1000 words or so all week, instead of the 5000-7000 I'd been managing earlier in the month. To add insult to injury, the chaos and lack of productivity didn't stay isolated to my writing--the house got messier, we lived off takeout and fast food while ingredients I'd bought to cook moldered in the fridge, and (no surprise) when I weighed in at Weight Watchers yesterday, I was up 0.8 lbs.

What went wrong?

1) I had a minor crisis at work, nothing earth-shattering, but one that forced me to spend a whole week working hard on my least favorite aspect of my job. This sapped my desire to make an effort toward everything else in my life.

2) I had a cold. Again, nothing dire, but enough to drain my energy for everything from writing to spending 45 minutes in the kitchen instead of 4 to 5 minutes looking up the menu and placing an order with Snappy Dragon.

3) I thought of a better approach to the opening chapters of my new manuscript. In the long run, this is a Good Thing, but in the short run it means going back to somewhere around the 2000-word mark of my 15,000-word manuscript and starting over. I was sufficiently annoyed at myself for not thinking of the better approach in the first place that I couldn't bring myself to sail straight into the new version without a break. (Really, Self, you had your heroine only MENACING her future mentor/friend/lover with a pistol instead of actually SHOOTING him?! A nice non-lethal GSW is a SO much better hook to end Chapter One.)

So what do I do about my Week of Fail? Well, I'm already past the feeling sorry for myself and self-berating stage--luckily for you who are reading this blog, as that stage isn't pretty. Since this is turning into a Post of Lists, here's my plan to make the first week of November better than the last one of October:

1) Accept that Weeks of Fail happen and don't make me a failure. I just had a bad week. It's happened before. It'll happen again. The key is to not let it turn into a Month of Fail.

2) Step away from my unrealistic to-do lists. I have a bad habit of overestimating how much I can get done in a given chunk of time, and so feel like a failure even if I've worked hard and accomplished a reasonable amount. Instead, I'm going to take a couple of weeks to focus on how much time I spend on work (broadly defined as everything from my day job to writing to cooking to blogging and so on...anything that's not pure leisure) rather than whether I can cross everything off my to-do list every day.

3) This is somewhat a contradiction to #2, but attempt NaNoWriMo. Why? Because it makes me feel excited rather than depressed about starting my manuscript all over again. I don't expect to get to 50,000 words by 11/30, because I'm expecting my line edits for A Marriage of Inconvenience mid-month. But I'll just subtract the number of days it takes me to do the edits and adjust my target word count accordingly.

So. That's the plan. Hopefully next weekend I'll have good progress to report.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Find: the Elephant & Piggie books

This week's Friday Find is a children's book series, because Friday Finds is all about the fun, unexpected discoveries I run across.

This week my daughter came home from library day at school with the latest addition to Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie series, We Are in a Book. In it, the titular characters, realize at last, 13 books into their existence, that they are, in fact, characters in a book. After using their knowledge to persuade the reader to say silly words, Elephant has an existential crisis upon realizing that the book will end...but decides it's OK, because the reader can always go back and re-read. That's all there is to it, but it's hilarious and sweet, and is my second favorite in the series after There Is a Bird on Your Head.

If you've got a kid between the age of 3 and 7 in your life, you owe it to yourself to get these books. They're sweet without being cloying and manage to be funny for adults and children alike without ever telling jokes at the grown-ups above the kids' heads.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Welcome, Tia Nevitt!

Today I welcome another fellow Carina author, Tia Nevitt, whose Sevenfold Spell reimagines the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of an ordinary woman put out of work by the ban on spinning put in place to try to protect the princess.

Here's Tia:

Surprises about Being Published

Thank you, Susanna, for having me as your guest. Susanna suggested that I write about some of the things that surprised me about being published. The Sevenfold Spell is my first fiction sale, and it has been very exciting!

One big surprise was how supportive my publisher has been. As a reviewer who focused on debut novelists, I had heard all kinds of stories—all told in confidence by nervous authors—about authors who after the initial sale were ignored. Authors who found out about their cover art when they saw it on Amazon. Authors who had back cover copy written about their book that inadvertently made them look racist. Authors who discovered that their publisher had dropped them only when their emails stopped being answered.

In late July, I had an opportunity to go to a fabulous party given by Harlequin at the RWA conference. As part of the program, multi-published authors were recognized. One of the things that struck me was the incredible loyalty shown between Harlequin and the authors. There were authors who had written 25, 50, 75, 100 and even 200+ novels! I was astonished—especially when I recalled all those awful stories.

Another surprise is how the conversation changes between writers. On the Carina Press author loop, we don’t discuss query letters and submissions. We commiserate over bad reviews and celebrate good ones. We share publicity leads and offer guest posts on each other’s blogs.

Another big change—for the first time in four years, I’m no longer actively looking for an agent. If one comes along, I’ll be thrilled, but now I’m trying to get myself into a better position for an eventual agent hunt, with a strong ebook backlist.

I was also surprised by how quickly Carina Press is moving beyond ebooks. They call themselves digital first and they mean it. One group of novels has been selected to be published by Audible as audiobooks, and another, smaller group of mystery and suspense novels have been selected to go into print. I look forward to future similar developments!

The very biggest change for me is having a reader reaction. For so long, my work went unread except by a tiny handful of beta readers and critique partners, and one IRL friend. Now, total strangers are reading my work and picking it apart in public. When it first started, I had a bit of a panic attack, but I’m ok now. Even if I get a bad review, I can console myself by saying, “look at all those good ones, instead.” I do try to learn from the bad ones, if there is a lesson I can glean from the review.

Have you ever worked for something, and then found out that it wasn’t quite what you expected? Do share!


I will be drawing a name from all commenters here and on my guest post earlier in the week for a special prize pack. It will contain an ecopy of The Sevenfold Spell, a book from my stash of unread review copies and advance copies (check the links for lists at Goodreads) and a $10 gift certificate at Please leave your email address so I can find you if you win! I will draw a winner on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Research Wednesday: Performance

Not all or even most of my research posts are going to be about sex and how our ancestors thought and spoke about it. Yet it's an interesting topic because (almost) everybody does it, (almost) everybody cares about it, but it's hedged around with taboos in a way that other universal interests, like, say, eating and drinking, just aren't. Which leads to, among other things, euphemism--the subject of today's post.

While researching the Duke of Wellington, who's an important secondary character in my current manuscript, I ran across the following quote from a letter to his older brother William, lamenting the fact that their oldest brother Richard, Marquess Wellesley, was the subject of gossip and scandal for his sexual adventures: "I wish that Wellesley was castrated; or that he would like other people attend to his business & perform too. It is lamentable to see Talents & character & advantages such as he possesses thrown away upon Whoring." So have sex=perform. A handy euphemism, in that it's perfectly clear yet innocuous-sounding, and useful to the researcher insofar as vocabulary sheds another bit of light on how people of the 18th and 19th centuries thought about sex. Also, it's another example of the formality of the era--Wellington wasn't going to call his brother "Richard," even within the family, when he had a perfectly good title to use instead.

All this is the tiniest level of detail, of course, and maybe it doesn't mean much in the grand sweep of history. But it's those little details that make the past come alive for me as a writer and researcher.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest post at Pink Fuzzy Slippers

Today I'm a guest at the Pink Fuzzy Slippers blog, talking about where I get my ideas and how I avoid giving writer's block power over me.

Stop by and say hi. One commenter wins a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Favorites Monday: The Chronicles of Narnia

As you might have guessed from my admiration of Almanzo Wilder's brown Morgans in last Monday's post, I was a horse-mad child. I read all of Marguerite Henry's books--King of the Wind was my favorite by far--all of Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, and anything else I could find with a horse on the cover.

When I was 9 or 10, the pastor of my childhood church came to me and said he had a book he thought I'd like because it was called The Horse and His Boy. Naturally I was intrigued--it had the H-word in it--so he loaned me a boxed set with all seven Chronicles of Narnia.

I read them. And when I'd finished The Last Battle, I put it down and picked up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe again. Then my mother said if I was going to read them to shreds like I had with the Little House series, I shouldn't do so with borrowed books, so we gave Brother Todd his books back and bought me my own set. Which I proceeded to read to shreds.

Of course, they weren't the horse books I was expecting, but they were even better. I'd never read fantasy before, so Narnia opened up a whole new world of imaginative possibility for me. I loved the characters, especially Lucy and Aravis. And I couldn't help getting a feel for the author's personality, his love of beauty and sense of the numinous. I even wonder if part of the reason I fell in love with the British landscape when I finally got to see it firsthand, especially the more remote, mountainous areas like the Lake District and the Highlands, is that England and Scotland look like Narnia to me.

Just these past few months I've been reading the series to my daughter. I still love them, but not quite as much as I did as a child and young adult. I can see holes in the world-building I never noticed then. E.g. why were the people of Narnia so surprised by humans in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when there must've been humans aplenty in Archenland and Calormen the whole time? I'm far more aware now that Lewis was a man of his time when it came to race and gender issues, and while I'm too much of a historian myself to expect the people of the past to share my own values, I find myself glossing over and eliding certain sections as I read to my daughter. And I finally understand why the treatment of Susan's character annoys a lot of my friends. It never bothered me growing up that she got the short end of the stick, because I was much more an Aravis or Lucy type myself, growing up in a small-town Southern world that valued the beautiful, girly Susans more. But now I feel like it was a bit sloppy and, frankly, sexist of Lewis to equate "girliness" with being too shallow and superficial to remain a Friend of Narnia.

Still. That only puts a small dent in my love for the series.

I could talk about Lewis and Narnia at much greater length, but I've got my own books to write, dinner to cook, babysitting to find for the concert Mr. Fraser and I are going to Saturday, and so on. So I'll just say that if you'd like to read more, I enjoyed the New Yorker's Prisoner of Narnia article from a few years back.

What about you? Any childhood favorites that you look at through different eyes as an adult?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Weekend: Finding the Path

Since the beginning of the month, I've been hard at work on a new manuscript that's currently 12,000 words long. Problem is, I had to write something like 20,000 words to get that 12K.

Or maybe that's not such a problem after all.

I'm a pantser--or at least I'm toward that end of the plotter-pantser continuum. For those of you unfamiliar with those terms, a pantser is someone who writes by the seat of her pants, without benefit of an outline or a lot of advance planning, while a plotter doesn't start writing her manuscript till she's prepared an outline, or interviewed her characters and written out their biographies, or drawn up elaborate charts illustrating her characters' goal, motivation, and conflict throughout the story.

At the most extreme end, I've met romance writing pantsers who aren't sure who the heroine will end up with when they start writing, and mystery pantsers who figure out whodunnit right alongside their characters. I'm not that extreme. I always have some idea how the story will end. Usually I have several vividly imagined scenes that come to me in the first rush of enthusiasm over a new idea. I just don't know how exactly how I'm going to get to them. It's as if those scenes are mountains along the horizon, and the writing process is figuring out how to get there.

The reason it's taken me 20,000 words to produce a 12,000-word start to a manuscript is that twice I've been in the middle of a scene and gotten a feeling that something was wrong. What I thought was a trail leading to the beautiful snow-capped volcanic peak of my first major turning point actually got me lost in a tangle of thorny blackberry vines. (Volcanoes and blackberries both being beauties--or hazards--of my local Northwestern environment.)

So I did the sensible thing. I cursed--metaphorical blackberry vines can be almost as prickly as the real thing--carefully backed out until I could see the mountain again, and tried a new way to get there. Part of me hates doing that. It makes my word count sound so much less impressive. But one of my critique partners pointed out I used to be much slower at identifying those wrong paths. As in, finish a manuscript and have to start over from scratch slower. Far better to catch the problems right away.

And really, 12,000 words with eight days left in the month isn't bad at all. I shoot for 10K/month minimum when I'm in draft mode, so I'm there with room to spare. It's just hard to let go of that perfectionist vision that this time I'll write 1000 words/day, every day, and that all the scenes will be the right ones, none of this standing surrounded by blackberry thorns and wondering where that mountain has got to.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Find: The Pericles Commission

When I started this blog post early Thursday evening, it was all about how I was going to take the risk of talking about a book I was only halfway through. In the interim several hours I’ve mowed my way to the end, even though it’s now late Thursday night and I still have to write this blog post, add 400 words to my current manuscript to meet my daily quota, pack lunches for my daughter and myself, and finish our weekly grocery order before I can sleep. (We get our groceries delivered by Amazon Fresh, a lovely time-saving perk of living in the Seattle metropolitan area.)

The book in question is The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby, a historical mystery with a fictional sleuth working to solve a real-life murder, that of Ephialtes, a statesman who helped establish Athenian democracy nearly 2500 years ago. Our sleuth is Nicolaos, the ambitious 20-year-old son of a sculptor who gets pulled into the investigation when the corpse literally lands at his feet, having fallen from the Areopagus (a rocky bluff in Athens, later known as Mars Hill).

I discovered Gary’s blog months and months before the book came out, because I follow his agent, Janet Reid. I kept going back because Gary always has interesting things to say and because he writes about one of my favorite historical eras, Greece in the 5th century BCE. My interests focus on the Greco-Persian Wars, just a smidge before Corby’s setting, but I’ve read stacks of nonfiction on the era. (I particularly recommend Persian Fire and Lords of the Sea.) So I was delighted to find an author bringing that world to life through fiction.

As you can guess by my speedy reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the result. Nicolaos is an appealing narrator who does a good job introducing the reader to the complex customs of ancient Athens, there’s a nice romantic subplot with a perfect partner in crime-solving, well-developed secondary characters, and a good mix of humor with action and political scheming. I look forward to Book Two next year.

Oh, if you’re planning to read The Pericles Commission, don’t look up Ephialtes on Wikipedia. The result is mildly spoilery.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Research Wednesday: Passionate Forms of Address

You don't have to read much primary source material from the 18th and 19th centuries before you realize people were far more formal in how they addressed one another. I call my doctor Leslie and my mother-in-law Marcia. With the exception of one very old-school professor, I've called every single boss I've ever had by his or her first name. In Pride and Prejudice Mr. and Mrs. Bennett call each other exactly that...and lest you think that's because theirs is far from a model marriage, at the end of Emma the heroine announces her intent to keep calling Mr. Knightley exactly that once they're married. (Of course, this wasn't invariably the case. As far as I can tell, the Duke and Duchess of Wellington consistently addressed one another by first names in their correspondence, despite their marriage not being even remotely happy and intimate.)

So when you read all this, or at least when I read all this, you can't help but wonder whether it applied in the bedroom. Was it "Mr. Bennett" and "Mrs. Bennett" even while they were in the act of conceiving their five daughters? And what about less equal relationships, of gentlemen with courtesans or prostitutes?

Which brings me to 18th century pornography, specifically Fanny Hill. (WARNING: Link contains NSFW images.) A 1748 novel by John Cleland, it purports to be the memoir of a country girl who went to London for work after being left orphaned and spends the next several years as a prostitute and occasionally a mistress before eventually marrying her first love and living happily ever after. The text is readily available for free online, and it's an interesting glimpse into how people of that era thought and wrote about sex. But it's porn, make no mistake. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, there's one scene where a prostitute, in the arms of her highborn lover, cries out, "Oh, Sir!...Good Sir!...pray do not spare me! ah! ah!..." So, there you have it. If you were in the 18th century, in a sexual relationship with a man who outranked you by a country mile, that intimacy was no excuse to drop the proper formalities, even in the throes of passion.

Now, I seem to be developing a habit of writing cross-class love stories. The Sergeant's Lady has a common sergeant and an aristocratic widow. My current manuscript has a relatively common heroine who, on her way to her happily ever after with someone else two books later, is going to have an aristocratic lover. Are any of these couples going to be formal in bed? In a word, NO. Will and Anna of The Sergeant's Lady aren't on a first name basis till after their first kiss, but well before they become lovers. And my new characters I think are going to use nicknames when they're alone together.

Because, even for those of us who are dedicated to our research and try to make our novels as historically accurate as possible, there are limits. And having my heroine call her lover "sir" in bed is one of mine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome, MJ Fredrick!

Today I welcome my first guest blogger, fellow Carina historical author MJ Fredrick!

Her book, Sunrise Over Texas, has a setting and time I've never seen in a romance before: 1826 Texas. All the Western historicals I've run across are set much later, usually post-Civil War, and I love the idea of setting one earlier, when the lack of trains and telegraphs made the frontier even more frontier-y, and closer to my own beloved Napoleonic Era.

I'll let MJ take it from here:

I love telling the story of how I came up with the idea of Sunrise Over Texas, probably because I don’t remember precisely where all my stories come from, and I remember this so clearly. I’d never written a historical romance before, and never really wanted to, though I enjoy reading them. But I love history, particularly Texas history, which I teach in 4th grade.

Two years ago this month, we were studying early Texas history. I’d taught the same lesson for a few years, from the same textbook, but this time something different happened. I was talking to the students about Jane Long. She had been abandoned at a fort near Galveston with her servant and her child. Her husband had been killed near the Louisiana border but she didn’t know it. All she knew was, if she left, he wouldn’t be able to find her. So she stayed, braving the pirates and the natives and the harsh winter. To make her enemies think the fort was still occupied by soldiers, she’d fire a cannon every day. That struck me as so cool, and as I’m known to do, I veered from the lesson to talk about how tough she must have been, how brave and scared she must have been. In the middle of my tangent, I got an image of a man riding up to the fort, and falling from his saddle. Within a matter of moments, I had cast the story, and my mind had latched onto it and wouldn’t let go.

The problem was, I was starting NaNoWriMo in three days. I’d already plotted a romantic suspense (with the help of this same class) and was ready to go. But the new story idea was shiny and compelling. Worse, it needed research! I jammed so much research in those three days, and did more as I wrote throughout November. Fortunately, my baby brother knows Texas history like mad, and he was a great resource, especially the part where I added my own ancestor, Josef de la Baume, into the story.

Jane never remarried, so while I kept a lot of Jane in Kit, I gave Kit a happy ending, always my favorite part of writing romance, whether historical or contemporary. Isn’t that why we like to read them?

(Susanna here again) I love the way you took such a compelling historical incident and made it your own, and also that it's a NaNoWriMo novel! I've only done NaNoWriMo once myself, with a novel that for now remains unsold and tucked away. Someday I mean to do it again, but not this year--I'm expecting my line edits for A Marriage of Inconvenience mid-month.

So, gentle readers, your turn! November is almost upon us--anyone have a good idea they're planning to tackle for NaNoWriMo?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Favorites Monday: the Little House books

For my first weekly post on my favorite stories, it’s only fitting to talk about my first favorite story: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series.

I’ve loved those books for as long as I can remember. I’m sure my mother introduced them to me, but I don’t remember her reading them aloud. I was a precocious, self-taught reader who was reading at a 4th or 5th grade level in first grade, so I could’ve read the first 3-4 books on my own by then.

Pictures of me at 6 or 7 show a suntanned girl with two long braids of brown hair, just like Laura in On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura was the first heroine I identified with. I too was a tomboy, a country girl going to school in town and struggling to fit in, a lover of horses, and a restless soul who always wondered what lay beyond the horizon. Pa and Ma Ingalls even reminded me of my own parents, since my mother was quiet, educated, proper, and a former schoolteacher, while Dad had more of a practical intelligence and was outgoing and well-liked wherever he went.

All through my childhood I loved reading about this girl who was so much like me, but who led such a very different life as a pioneer girl a hundred years before I was born. I read the entire series to tatters, and as I approached adolescence myself my interest turned to the later books. I envied Laura for her adventures and for getting to move so often while I was growing up in the same house for 18 years, and by the time I was 11 or 12 I envied her for Almanzo and the brown Morgans. (Actually, I’d still like my own brown Morgan. It’ll probably never happen, but it’d be awesome.)

I still pull the books out every few years, and they hold up very well to adult re-reading. There’s a wonderful spare lyricism to the prose style. It’s unadorned, but it doesn’t need lots of adjectives or a flowery style to paint a vivid picture in your mind. But I no longer envy Laura. Now I can see just how much hardship the family endured, and I can understand Ma’s frustration with just how long it took Pa to settle in one place so her daughters could get stability and a decent education.

What about you? What was the first book you loved, and do you still love it as an adult?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This week on the blog

Now that my blog has a schedule, I can actually post coming attractions! So here's what to expect this week:

Monday Favorite: My love for the Little House series

Tuesday Guest Post: Carina Press author MJ Fredrick talks about the history that inspired Sunrise Over Texas.

Wednesday Research: I'll talk about how a Georgian-era woman might have addressed her social superior while in the throes of passion...and whether I'll ever make any use of that bit of research.

Friday Finds: I'll probably talk about Bill Bryson's fun At Home, unless I find something else exciting between now and then.

Weekend Writing: Probably what I do when I realize in the middle of a scene I'm drafting that something isn't quite working, since I've had that experience twice in the past week.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing Weekend: Fanfic and Me

Today’s topic, my first Writing Weekend post, is how I feel about fanfic, specifically the idea that someday there might be fanfic based on my work.

First, definitions. I’m assuming most people reading this blog are familiar with fanfic, but just in case, I’ll start by saying that fanfic is any work of fiction that builds upon a fictional world created by someone else. I don’t know that any real statistics exist, but from my observation I’d say that the vast majority of fanfic focuses on science fiction/fantasy media. There’s loads of Star Trek, Buffy, and Harry Potter fanfic, for example. But if you look for it, you can also find fanfic based on shows like Castle or books like the Aubrey/Maturin series.

Why do people read and write fanfic? Often it’s a way of exploring possibilities only hinted at in the story canon--which can mean anything from explicit scenes of the hot sex Castle and Beckett will have when they finally get together to a detailed story of Hogwarts when Harry’s parents and Snape were students there. It’s also a fun way to make worlds collide--Buffy can meet The Doctor, or Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell’s novels can meet Temeraire the dragon from Naomi Novik’s.

Fanfic, for obvious reasons, inhabits a legal gray area. If you tried to publish it for profit, it’d be a copyright violation, but the general consensus is that if you just post it on the internet for free and include a disclaimer crediting the creator/owner of the fictional world, it’s OK.

As an aside, once a work is out of copyright, the game changes. Wide Sargasso Sea is Jane Eyre fanfic. March is Little Women fanfic. And then there's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, plus more Austen sequels and reworkings of her novels from the hero's perspective than I can count.

Living authors, however, vary greatly in their comfort level when it comes to fanfic about their work. Diana Gabaldon, whom I’ve met in person and can attest is a delightful person and very supportive of budding writers, spoke out against it this year, though the post in question is no longer available on her blog. Naomi Novik, by contrast, was a fanfic writer before she produced her original work and is very supportive of fanfic.

I’m not going to rehash the many debates over the morality and utility of fanfic. If you’re curious, google either of the authors in the paragraph above plus “fanfiction” and you’ll see the range of opinions. I’ll just say that I’m very much on the Novik side of the continuum. If you want to write fanfic based on any of my fictional worlds, have at it with my blessings! I can’t imagine anything more flattering than someone loving my characters or world so much they couldn’t resist playing with it themselves.

But I won’t be reading your fanfic, for the following reasons:

1) The worlds I create are complete enough to satisfy me in my own imagination. When I read fanfic, it’s to enjoy speculation on what might be happening before/after/alongside the canonical work. With my own canon, I already KNOW what’s going on off the page.

2) It’s always possible that someday I’ll be writing a series, and a fanfic writer’s guess about what’s going to happen in Book 3 of the trilogy is close to reality. I don’t want to feel obliged to change my own vision, or have the fanfic writer think I stole her work. If I never see the stuff, that’s not an issue.

3) I write Napoleonic-era adventure stories. I have as-yet unpublished works with Wellington and Napoleon as major characters. If/when those stories sell, some fanfic writer is going to slash those two. (For the uninitiated, that means writing stories with them as a romantic or erotic pairing.) Because that’s what happens with enemies in a lot of fanfic. And I don’t want to see that. If I did, I’d have to come murder the writer with a spork, then gouge out my own eyes with the same. That is just not a pairing that would work for me. At all. Ever. Ick.

In summary, I’m pro-fanfic. Go out there, be creative, and have fun--just don’t tell me about it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog revamp

Now that I'm between releases and am therefore marginally less busy, I decided it was time to revamp my blog. It's been my goal since I started to post 3-4 times/week, but that hasn't always happened. Part of the problem is I'll decide I'm going to blog MWF, but then have no idea what to say on the day.

So I decided I needed a blog plan. A set of themes, if you will. So, starting this weekend, my blog schedule will be as follows:

Writing Weekends: On Saturday or Sunday, I will post about writing and the writer's life. This could be anything from craft issues to writers conferences to which writing advice books I like to what I'm doing to make my home writing office even more awesome.

Favorites Mondays: On Monday I'll talk about a favorite story from any medium--mostly books, but also movies, TV shows, maybe even a fanfic or two.

Research Wednesdays: What it sounds like. I'll describe some interesting fact I've stumbled upon in my research or point you toward helpful online sources.

Friday Finds: This is when I'll talk about something neat I've read, watched, or otherwise consumed recently. Probably 90% of the time this will be a book recommendation, but it'll also be a place I can talk about a new TV show, store, recipe, etc., if I feel so inclined.

The keyword her is finds. Please don't beg me to include your book, because I want this to be, "Things Susanna genuinely loved and recommends to people of similar tastes," rather than, "Things Susanna felt obliged to feature because she shares an RWA chapter/publisher/etc. with the author."

But if you are interested in promo...

...I'm opening my blog for guest posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not necessarily every Tuesday and Thursday, but as there's interest. So, if you fit into one or more of the following categories:

1) Historical romance author (particularly if you tend toward the research geeky end of the spectrum)

2) Fantasy author (I love to read fantasy and hope to be published in that genre too eventually)

3) E-book author

4) Napoleonic Wars research geek (or really any kind of military history)

5) Regency research geek

...and you'd like to be a guest here, please drop me a line at susannamfraser AT gmail DOT com, and we'll set something up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Outfitting my office

Slowly but surely, I continue outfitting my office to be the perfect writer's cave. Today I got these coasters:

Aren't they adorable? I think they add the perfect classy yet whimsical touch to my dark wood desk (which I picked up cheap on Craigslist months ago and love because it looks old-fashioned but has built-in plugs enough that I can charge both laptops, my iPhone, and my Kindle off my desk if I feel so inclined).

My goal is to have the office fully furnished by the end of the year. Next up will be a new desk chair, then a half corkboard, half dry erase board, then a mini file cabinet that looks good with the desk. I also want a print of this Waterloo image (featured on my website) to go with my Celtic cross and my Ichiro picture, and I'll have the best and most "me" office I can imagine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Can an author of 90,000-word novels write a 1500-word short story?

I would dearly love to enter this contest. It's for short stories of any genre, set during or in the days leading up to the Battle of Waterloo, with all proceeds going toward restoration of the battlefield in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the battle in June 2015.

On the surface, this looks perfect for me. I own something like five books on Waterloo alone, plus multiple biographies of Wellington and Napoleon, general histories of the Napoleonic Wars, analyses of the French and British armies of the era, etc. I'm planning to be there for the 200th anniversary--I've already got most of the money for the trip set aside and everything.

Problem is, the upper limit on word count is 1500 words. I don't know that I can think in that length. That's an awfully short space to develop a character and a plot, or even to describe an incident, especially for an author whose shortest-ever manuscript clocked in right around 90,000 words.

Still, I'd like to enter, and I don't want to enter some half-assed effort that won't even have a chance at the prize. I mean, I could just send a donation for the battlefield restoration (and may well do so regardless, because history, and preserving history, MATTER to me). But if I'm going to compete, my goal is to win.

So, with that in mind...what makes a good 1500-word story? Any author recommendations?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Interesting blog on e-book pricing

I'm too busy writing to blog much of late--gotta ride that new idea adrenaline while it lasts! But to keep this blog from growing cobwebs, today I'm linking to fantasy author Jim Hines' discussion of e-book pricing. Interesting stuff, more musing and discussion than answers.

For what it's worth, the list price of The Sergeant's Lady, a 94,000-word historical romance, is $5.99, but most retailers offer at least a bit of a discount. If you buy it directly from Carina Press, it's DRM-free and will cost you $5.39. At Amazon it's just $4.69, but you're buying a Kindle edition with DRM.

A comparable mass market paperback historical romance averages around $6.99. To me, that price difference feels about right. When you buy that paperback book, only a small fraction of the cost goes to the production and shipment of the physical object. Most of it goes to the labor of producing the book--all the work the author, editor, cover artist, copy editor, and so on did to take it from a creative gleam in the author's eye to a complete, polished, and packaged story. And when you're buying an e-book from a professional, reputable publisher (like Carina!) or the e-edition of a book that's also in print, those creative labor costs are exactly the same. So I can see discounting e-books by a dollar or two--or, to look at it another way, asking customers to pay a small premium for a paper book to cover printing and shipment--but no more than that, at least not as a regular thing. Promo offers or listing one's backlist for $0.99 to build interest in a new release is another story.

And this post is longer than I intended, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

At last, a new and improved website

At long last, I have an official author website, which you can view here. As for why this is such a big deal, you can view the site I had from July 1 until last night here, and read the story of WHY it looked like that here.

My husband built it, but we've mutually agreed that in the future I'll hire someone else to design and manage my site. It's the first time I'd tried to work with a family member on something of this nature, and while I know several cases where a spouse or child designs a writer's website, for us it didn't work well. Not because we have a bad marriage--we love each other, and we work together well on all the ordinary couple things like paying the bills or picking paint colors for the house or flying across the country to see the in-laws.

This turned out to be more of a challenge for us. I found it hard to be the boss of my website--to say that I needed X, Y, and Z, and that it had to be up by such-and-such date or else--and balance that with being an understanding spouse, especially when I knew dang well what was slowing him down. I was either living through the same stressors myself or watching them up close and personal. So I realized that I need a web person I can fire at will without feeling like I'm a bad person...and that's just not going to be my husband.

But for now I'm happy with my site. I especially love the way Mr. Fraser incorporated a Waterloo painting as a backdrop, since it's perfect fit for the military setting of most of my writing, and because I was already planning to get a print of it to hang on my office wall, along with my Celtic cross and my commemorative photo of Ichiro's 2001 AL MVP season. (Yes, I'm that into baseball and military history. You don't HAVE to be a girly girl to write romance...)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Off to Emerald City Writers Conference, and what to read next?

Another drive-by post, since I'm scrambling to do laundry, ironing, and the like for the Emerald City Writers Conference, which starts in a couple hours. I love going to writers conferences, because for the space of those few days my life is all about writing, instead of fighting to shoehorn writing in around my day job and family responsibilities.

In other news, I can't decide what to read next because I have too many good choices among the new releases already on my Kindle or set to arrive either there or from my library holds queue in the next few weeks.

Already have:

Butterfly Swords, by Jeannie Lin, the Tang Dynasty China historical romance from Harlequin that's been generating all kinds of good buzz.

The Sevenfold Spell, a novella looking at the Sleeping Beauty fairytale from another angle, by fellow Carina author Tia Nevitt.

Nemesis, by Lindsey Davis, the latest Marcus Didius Falco mystery. I love this series, but I've heard this entry is unusually dark, so I haven't dived in just yet.

Should get soon:

The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby. Debut mystery set in Periclean Athens, which I've been dying to read ever since I discovered Gary's blog.

Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot. I love her Jaran novels and her thoughts on writing and life, so I'm looking forward to this AU fantasy take on 19th century Europe.

The Fort, by Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell returns to the Revolutionary War, though I believe this one is unconnected to Redcoat. I tend to prefer Cornwell's 18th and 19th century settings to earlier ones (though his Arthurian trilogy is pretty awesome), so I'm looking forward to this one. That said, I wish he'd go back to Nathaniel Starbuck. If this were a Starbuck book, I would've already bought it for my Kindle rather than just placing it on hold at the library, and I wouldn't be going through all this "what to read next" indecisiveness, because the choice would be obvious.