Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | Author:

I’ve been fortunate enough to have self-published one book and had two books traditionally published. I’m far from an expert, but I know generally what to expect. Where the potholes are, the bodies are buried, and ambushes are likely to come from, so to speak.

The one part of the process I simultaneously look forward to and dread the most is getting my cover. Even when I self-published PWNED, I knew better than to design my own cover. Just because I wrote a book didn’t mean I was automatically qualified to design its cover. Designing covers is a real art and takes experience with layout, marketing, and genre norms. The best covers are the product of collaboration between the author, editor, publisher, and designer. What looks so simple on the shelf is probably the hundredth iteration of an idea that probably started its life scrawled on a cocktail napkin after a late night strategy session.

I respect the crap out of a good cover. It’s no mean feat and, if you pull it off, the results are well worth the trouble.

That said, cover reveals are difficult for the author (or they are for me, at least). By the time you get your cover, you’ve spent hours upon hours upon eye-crossing HOURS editing, revising, promoting, writing, and revising some more and now, here it is. The cover you’ve waited so long for. The cover for this book that you’ve devoted significant chunks of your time and sanity to, and here’s the cover that will represent everything that this story is, and what it means, and what it will do.

Seriously, unless Michelangelo himself came down from Heaven and designed your cover with the help of Jesus and all His angels, what cover could possibly live up to those expectations?

On the rare occasion that you actually like what your publisher sends to you, high-five a stranger and hug a puppy, because blessed are you among writers. From what I’ve gleaned over my years of rubbing elbows with fellow authors, liking your cover is kind of like spotting a purple unicorn: You’re either high or very, very lucky.

I would count myself as one of the lucky ones. I thought the cover for Blood Money did the job and I actually happen to like the new cover for Bai Tide. Oh, what’s that? I haven’t shared it yet? Here you go!

Bai Tide is coming out April 7 and here's everything you need to know about it: Spies! Gun fights! North Korea!

Bai Tide is coming out April 7 and here’s everything you need to know about it: Spies! Gun fights! North Korea!

Not bad, right? It’s spy-o-riffic, it gets the point across, and it’s eye-catching. I like it.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Author:
Just one of the many lovely California beaches wee baby Wesley never played on.

Just one of the many lovely California beaches wee baby Wesley never played on.

Wes and I have a longstanding disagreement between the two of us and it goes a little something like this: When asked, Wes will say he is from California but grew up in Washington. I disagree, and so like two mature adults we’re going to let the interwebs weigh in on this important, meaningful issue. Here’s the origin story of the wee Wesley Mitchell.

Wes was, in fact, born in California, but his family moved up to the Seattle area when he was three weeks old. At the time he was born, his father had already accepted a job up here and they were packing things up and figuring out moving logistics. California was just a way station for the wee baby Wesley.

My contention is that he lived in California for three weeks, as a newborn. Obviously, he remembers nothing of his time there and it was very brief. Therefore, it is misleading to say he’s, “From California” because being “From somewhere” means that is where you grew up and learned the ways of the world. Where you’re from influences your cultural identity, and Wes is definitely not from California.

(I know this because, unlike him, I actually am from California.)

Wes’s argument is that he was born in California, therefore he is from California. He is a California-issued product and, as such, is from there.

So I guess what we’re arguing over is the idiom of being “From somewhere.” Please weigh in on this won’t you? Tell us what you think.

Can Wes legitimately say he's "From California?"

  • I want pizza. (20%, 2 Votes)
  • Nope, spending the first three weeks of your life there doesn't make you "from" there. (60%, 6 Votes)
  • Of course he can. Mind your business, woman! (20%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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Monday, February 16th, 2015 | Author:
I bet the Rabbit of Caerbannog ate a crap ton of flowers in his day.

I bet the Rabbit of Caerbannog ate a crap ton of flowers in his day.

I used to have no problem with rabbits. Truly, other than being an occasional wildlife sighting during a family walk, I never used to spare them a single thought. Why would I? They’re quiet neighbors, their poops are small and inoffensive in smell, and they’re cute. Who doesn’t like watching a fuzzy little butt going lippity lippity through their yard?

Me, apparently, because I now have a legitimate problem with my lapin neighbors.

It all started two weeks ago, when I talked Wes into buying me some pretty flowers for the yard. He was hesitant to do so, citing his No Spending Money Improving Our Rental House policy. I convinced him by saying it was like he was buying an outdoor long lasting bouquet of flowers for his wife. He was happy to do it when I put it that way and voila! Pretty flowers in my front yard! We loves them, precious!

I was hustling my kids into the car the morning after the flowers were planted when my son called out from the front yard, “Mama! Something happened to your flowers!”

Sure enough, some creature had eaten the flowers right off their stalks, leaving nothing but green stalks and exposed roots where they’d ripped my pretty, pretty flowers clear out of the ground. I felt violated. These were like a present to me from my son and husband! How could something destroy them in less than twenty-four hours?!

The lack of hooved tracks led me to believe the culprit was small and lippity rather than tall and sprightly, and hence my dislike for bunnies began. Now when I see them around the neighborhood, I want to pull over and chastise them soundly for their inexcusable snacking.

Fast forward to Friday, when I was driving my kids to school and noticed a cluster of crows, heads down, pecking intently at something in the middle of the street. My approach frightened them off, and when we rolled closer I saw the object of their interest had started its life off as a flower-munching rabbit. Except now, it was providing a tasty snack to someone else.

By the time we got back, someone had mercifully removed the corpse from our street and the only sign of what had happened that morning was a few drifting puffs of what I can only assume used to be fluffy white tail. It made me wonder: Did any part of the rabbit’s animus linger? Is it wandering around in constant bewilderment in search of ghostly flowers to rip out of the ground?

Who knows, maybe my whole neighborhood is host to droves of phantom bunnies, all restlessly searching for absolution amid the brightly-colored pansies.

Ignore me, I’m letting my mind run amok. The salient point of this post is that I did have a problem with bunnies, and now I’m sort of okay with them again. It’s hard out there for tiny animals with no self-defense skills. I suppose I could stand to be a little more supportive…

…after I spread some slug repellent granules around my flowers. I can be supportive of them when I’m sure they won’t be eating my flowers again.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 | Author:

joss_whedon_on_charactersThose of you who know me in real life have probably heard me talk about my deep and abiding love and respect for Joss Whedon’s work. I haven’t written much about it, probably because I’ve been pretty busy blogging about pygmy goats and all that, but it’s definitely there.

Firefly? Yeah, I loved it. Dollhouse? You bet, that show was awesome. Avengers? I’ve seen it about a million times. Much Ado About Nothing? Cabin in the Woods? Serenity? Yes, yes, yes.

If I can be said to have a writing hero, it’s Joss Whedon. And why? Because the guy gets dialogue. He gets heroes. He has perfected the art of marrying real feelings with real people, but then making all of them so much more than they should be. He weaves these intricate tapestries with complicated, terribly likable characters, but then makes it fun to watch.

And his dialogue. I could seriously study his dialogue, with a pen and paper, and never get tired of it. He writes dialogue that sounds natural, and yet it’s always so much better than what real life sounds like. He can do with five words what most writers can’t even do with an entire movie, and he always knows exactly when and where to use them.

He is, in short, darn good at his job and I respect him for it.

Anyway, I read a quote of his about working in the Marvel universe recently that sums up pretty well what I’ve been feeling as a writer lately:

“I would never rule anything out, because I like working here. By the same token, the biggest thing for me is that I need to do something that I create myself. It’s been way too long since I created a universe. The last thing I did before The Avengers was [directing an episode of] Glee, and in between I did Much Ado About Nothing. So I haven’t created my own universe for over five years. That feels wrong. You know, my own universe might be a book of haiku. I’m not necessarily saying I’ve got a grand scheme.”

I relate to this. I mean, not on an equivocal level, but it hits home for me. I’ve been revising and editing for months, and I haven’t written anything new since May of last year. Since then, it’s been all conferences, querying, revising, and promotional stuff. The part of writing I like best, the writing part, has been absent for too long.

Granted, when Joss Whedon says he creates universes he actually creates his own universes (see Firefly and Serenity for reference), but even in my own small way working on my own small stories, that need is there. Maybe it’s plain old escapism, or just the thrill of peeling back the layers of a new story to see if it holds up, but the appeal of losing yourself in a new world of your own making is too sweet to resist for long.

I started something new on Saturday, completely unrelated to Bai and his adventures (even though I should be working on book #4 like a responsible author-under-contract). It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. But most of all, it’s scratching an itch I’ve been carrying for months now.

As for whether it’ll ever make it all the way into a completed novel? I have no idea, it’s too soon to say. All I can say for sure is it feels good to brush off the cobwebs and somewhat reassuring to know I haven’t forgotten how.

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Monday, February 09th, 2015 | Author:
No joke, this picture sent me into a fit of giggles for, like, ten minutes. It's even sort of tangentially related to the topic of this post!

No joke, this picture sent me into a fit of giggles for, like, ten minutes. It’s even sort of tangentially related to the topic of this post!

Remember when I wrote about how Wes and I are both excited about life settling down? Well, we’re one week in to the whole settled-down-life thing and it. is. AWESOME.

I made it to the gym three times last week. I was so not-stressed, I didn’t even eat any junk food, despite its presence in my pantry. I even managed to lose 3.5 pounds (of what I’m going to assume was pure water weight but still!).

I’m getting some traction in getting ye olde promotional machine turning for Bai Tide, I wrote a couple guest posts that will appear on big writing blogs in a few months, I booked a speaking engagement at my alma mater (!), and started getting the urge to write something new again. Mmmmmm, I can almost smell that new-manuscript smell now.

You guys? This whole living with less stress thing? Fantastic. A-plus. 10/10 would recommend.

I’ve even got a goal going that I think I can realistically attain: I would like to lose fifteen pounds by my birthday. My birthday (the dreaded 30th birthday *shudder*) is at the end of May, so I think losing fifteen pounds between now and then is definitely realistic.

You see, I have hair plans, of the cut and color variety, that simply will not work with a chubby face. I mean, it’s not like I’ll end up looking like a potato wearing a wig or anything (or, um, Mr. Bean I guess), but trust me when I say that my plans will look about a thousand times better if I can drop this stress weight beforehand.

And the longer my hair gets, and the more aggressive my roots get, the more motivation I’ll have. As I said, I worked out three times last week! I lost weight! I’m feeling good about my ability to keep it off! Because 30 is coming. It’s coming for me, and I’ll be darned if I stare that beast down with a whole bunch of low self-esteem circling my waist like an inner tube of failure.

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