Friday, January 30, 2015

Preparing for Conventions

February is the start of convention season for me. January is when I start scheduling flights and making hotel reservations for upcoming conventions. And restocking promotional items such as pens, post cards and bookmarks for the freebie tables at conventions. I'm with a small press, so, unlike authors with a traditional big press, I can't count on book dealers at conventions having my books at their tables. That means I have to bring my books with me for book sellers in the dealers room to sell on consignment. So January is when I restock my book inventory as well.

If I'm lucky (and the convention is well organized), by late January I might begin to get panel topics for the February and March conventions and can start to prepare for panel discussions. For some topics I know those well enough and know the other panelists well enough that preparation is just a matter of having a few talking points to bring up and discuss. I've learned to have those written down beforehand so I don't suddenly draw a blank in mid-discussion and/or forget one. For other topics I might have a list (especially those panels on trends in YA or new titles/authors to know about). One of the advantages (or disadvantages) of being a librarian in my other job is that it's very easy for me to research a topic and come up with a useful list. Sometimes the list is long enough to be a handout that I can pass out to interested people at the end of the panel.

If I'll be doing any readings of my works at a convention, I usually decide on which pieces to read once I know how much time I'll have. Sometimes I'll be reading by myself, but other times I'll be part of a group reading, usually a Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. I'll usually practice the reading a week or so before the convention to know if it will fit the time period and to spot where I might trip over a phrase.

How does one find a science fiction convention? There used to be several lists of conventions, both online and in science fiction magazines such as Analog and Asimov's. Those lists have slowly disappeared. My friend Lin Daniel has begun one at You can leave it at all genre, or it can be broken down to categories like anime, filk, sf, or combinations of several genre.

There are other posts at this blog (several by Gloria Oliver) as to what can be seen at a convention and why authors should consider attending. Here's Gloria's top 5 reasons. Promotion is one good reason. Networking with other authors, as well as editors and publishers, is another. I usually find at least one or two panels that I'm quite happy to be in the audience and learn something new.

Do you attend conventions? What preparations do you make?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The title seems to be my life, my writing life anyway.

How long does it usually take you from the start of a new story to finishing to submitting and seeing it published? I realize some work will take longer than others, depending on the length, research, and so on.

I've been fortunate to have two MG stories published in the past four months. It's been a long journey for both of them however. I checked to see just how long and couldn't believe it. The novel published in September, 2014, was started in 2005. That's ten years ago. It was accepted by a publisher in 2007, I believe, and boy was I excited. I filled out all the information, the blurb for jacket cover and other things, and waited. And waited. And waited. And ... the publisher went out of business.

My fault. I should not have waited four years before doing something. But I really liked the publisher. They turned out lovely books. I wouldn't wait like that again. Yeah, right. I put the manuscript away and worked on other stories. Some were published.  I don't know why, but one day I pulled my old story out of the files. I still liked it, so I tried again. And ... it's now published, with a new title. It only took ten years.
4RV Publishing
I said I'd never wait that long again, but I did. A different publisher held my MG historical fiction for four years. I finally asked for the contract back. A Family for Leona will be published by 4RV Publishing this year, no date yet. The illustrator is working on the cover now.
There's one more. Yeah, I waited. On January 6, 2015, my MG contemporary, I Live in a Doghouse was published by MuseItUp Publishing. The same publisher that had my historical under contract also had this one under contract for four years too. I asked for that one back. And here it is.

I have no one to blame but myself. I have learned a lesson though. I need to have more confidence in  my work. It shouldn't lie on a desk or a shelf and be ignored. I won't get in a hurry, but I no longer will wait an unreasonable length of time. My characters get antsy. So do I.

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cover teaser-- A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON

It's nearly here! 

The cover reveal for A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON is tomorrow!!!! After everything I've been through with this book, I am relieved to finally have a cover. And, people, it is AWESOME.

The reveal will be Tuesday, Jan. 27 on YA Books Central's blog, at noon EST. There you will also find a giveaway-- enter to win one of THREE posters of the cover art, signed by me! 

One hour later, the cover will go live on my own blog and about 20 other blogs owned by people who signed up to help with the reveal. 

Meanwhile, I have a little teaser for you all. Just a bit of the cover to whet your appetite. Ready?

That's all you get until tomorrow! Be sure to check my blog and YA Books Central and look around the web for the WHOLE picture! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How (Not) To Write a Novel

Here are five steps on a sure way on how not to get a novel written. (Heck most advice is on how To do it, why not shake it up a bit).

1) Tell everyone you are going to write a novel as soon as you figure out what it's going to be about. Don't spend any time trying to figure out the plot or characters or settings. You know they'll come to you eventually.

2) Buy computer software designed to make writing a novel easier. Install it on the computer and don't use it. As a corollary to this step you can also buy fancy notebooks and pens. They will look very impressive when you take them out at the coffee shop to write your soon as you figure out what it is going to be about.

3) Put aside time to write and sit down at your computer and play Candy Crush instead. You know if you just get past that next level you'll be able to think clearly about what your novel should be about.

4) Don't read any books in the genre you are thinking about writing, you wouldn't want to accidentally steal anyone's ideas.

5) Redecorate office area. Once your writing setting is perfect you know you'll have the next best seller.

Or, you know, if you actually want to write a book, pretty much don't follow the advice above, but sit down and write. Write for five minutes a day. Ten minutes. Write when you are stuck, even if it seems clunky and silly, it can always be taken out later when you revise. Write until you find the ending of your story. And then revise. And revise again. Good luck.

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Holds You Back?

For this week I thought I'd touch on something from my online class this month.

What is one thing that has been stalling, holding you back from writing?

For me, it boiled down to one thing:


Fear that I will realize that maybe I'm not as talented as I thought

Fear that I'll never sign with an agent or get that traditional book deal

Some days I feel I suffer from a bad case of do-i-suck-a-phobia with my writing:

 Photo Courtesy of:

I usually don't watch award shows but something Gina Rodriguez of JANE THE VIRGIN TV show really struck a cord with me. She told viewers if she could do it, than anyone could.  She remembered what her father told her:

Also she started changing her thinking from instead of 'why not?'-- to 'why not me?"


What really spoke to me  is how she said it might not happen right now, or a month, or even ten years from now. But it will come and when it does? It'll be so worth it!

Step by step.  That's been my path in this publishing biz.  Here I am receiving another rose last month from my local RWA for signing another contract:

Remember I'm cheering all of you on!
Original post at:

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Day after New Year's

It's the day after New Year's Day, and writers all know that that means, right? Yes, it's time to start getting the receipts and invoices and such (like end-of-the-year odometer reading) ready for income tax filing.

When I first started writing, back in pre-computer days, I had a little ledger that I kept track of everything I spent on my writing: postage, paper, typewriter ribbons, index cards, etc. The ledger was easy to update, but since I hadn't sold anything yet, it was more practice than anything else.

After I had a few books published and began traveling to conventions not as a fan, but as a published author, I didn't have time to keep organized records. All receipts and notes on expenses throughout the year got dumped into a box, and the first week or so of January was spent separating out all those office invoices and receipts and travel expenses and re-organizing everything into something an accountant could make some sense of. I had checked with the authors at my university and went with the accountant the mystery writer in the English Department used. That accountant wisely sent out a worksheet every year listing the expenses I could deduct, and, after organizing and sorting everything (usually on the floor, which worked until my birds blew over stacks whenever they flew in to investigate what I was doing), it was a simple matter of filling in the blanks on the worksheet.

Nowadays I have a few files on my laptop (convention expenses, postage, office supplies, inventory, promotion, sales, royalties) that I update on a daily or weekly basis throughout the year. The receipts go into an accordion file into their separate categories as soon as they come in. So the January sorting is down from a week to less than half a day. And most of that is basically just adding the sums in the various files and filling in the blanks on the worksheet my accountant sends me. And then waiting until the official forms (including the 1099s from my publishers) arrive.

I'm sure other authors have spreadsheets or software programs that are much more efficient. What system do you use?

Finally, two small bits of self promotion: First, Saturday, January 3rd, is the last day of Amber Quill Press' New Year's 50% off sale. Which means the e-versions of my books, The Crystal Throne, Talking to Trees and Agents & Adepts are 50% off today through Saturday (Jan. 3, 2015).

Second, on January 4, 2015, Amber Quill Press will have a free short story by me on its website. Look for "Hiding In Plain Sight" starting January 4th.