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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Holiday Gifts


My favorite thing about the Holidays is finding that "perfect gift" for the people in my life.  I love the feeling of having paid attention to the wants and desires of my friends and family, and finding the thing they might not even remember they admired or commented on.  It's my own version of a treasure hunt; seeking gifts all year to give during the Holidays.

But this year, I was surprised with the most unexpected gifts - things I never even thought about needing or wanting.  The kind of gifts some people don't even realize they're giving.  The gifts of words.

First, it was my friends and family who gave me words of encouragement as I wrote and re-wrote Marking Time.  And as they read the various drafts, their words were complimentary, constructive, critical, and always supportive.  Then I published Marking Time and the gifters-of-words expanded out to people who heard my book was out, who didn't even know I'd been writing one, who wondered where I'd found the time to write with two children, and most precious to me, the people who looked at what I'd done in writing and publishing my book, and saw the possibility of realizing their own creative dreams.

As people began to buy and read Marking Time, they started reviewing it.  First it was my lovely friends and family whose words of encouragement translated into endorsements of my writing, characters, and the story itself.  Book reviews on Amazon can make all the difference in the world to an unknown writer's visibility and the marketing of their book, and those reviews are vital to gaining readers.  And then I started getting reviews from strangers ~ people with absolutely no vested interest in my success loved my book!  What an incredible feeling!  When an 8th grade teacher with a YA book review blog not only gave me five stars, but also interviewed me for her website and told me there's a waiting list for my book among her students, it was better than Christmas!

Even more generosity poured in among my community at a Holiday Boutique where I signed my books.  It wasn't just the book sales, which were wonderful, or the encouragement and support, which was incredible, it was fascination with the story I'd written, and the idea that their child or grandchild would love just this kind of book.

I truly hope that my words, in Marking Time, give my readers even a fraction of the gifts I've been given by friends, family, and complete strangers.  Those gifts of words are an absolute reminder that the most precious things in life can cost nothing.  Words of support, encouragement, delight and appreciation, in any context, and to anyone who has touched your life, are the very best gift of all.

I wish you and your family a peaceful, joyous and wonderful holiday season, and a New Year full of love, inspiration, and magic.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Kindle Personal Documents and how to format a Word Document for Kindle


As anyone with a kindle, or kindle app on a phone or iPad knows, it becomes second nature to read books, magazines, or articles with a finger-swipe to turn the page.  I still love paper books and always will, but I justified my iPad with the convenience of having dozens of books with me whenever I travel, and that was before I’d gone trolling through amazon for cheap kindle books to buy and read.  There have been some really excellent discoveries among the kindle daily deals (usually $1.99) and books under $3.99 categories (including Marking Time) that I never would have stumbled on if it weren’t for the price.

As I was writing Marking Time I went through several drafts and burned through several readers (thank you Valerie, Mom, Angela, Tania, Alexandra, Yaniv, Sara, Linda, Laura, Dad and Ed)!!!  And though I did print some galleys, my most effective tool was the kindle documents feature.  I inserted whatever cover design I was currently favoring at the front of the manuscript, saved the whole thing as a PDF, and then e-mailed it to the kindle personal document e-mail address for each reader. 

 The kindle personal document e-mail address can be found through the “Your Account” tab in the upper right corner of the amazon home page.  Click on “manage your kindle,” then click on “Personal Document Settings” in the far left box.  That’ll bring up kindle.com e-mail addresses for every device you have registered with amazon.  Find the one you want, then add your e-mail address to the “Approved Personal Document E-mail List” at the bottom (or have your reader add you) so your e-mail won’t be rejected, and then the reader will be able to access your document within a couple minutes of hitting “send.”

But the reading experience was often not the best, and when I finally did the proper formatting to upload the book to kdp for publishing, I discovered that I could send myself the fully formatted file as a personal document, and except for the cover, which I never figured out how to attach, it reads perfectly.  It was how I could do my final proof before uploading the completed manuscript.

 So here are some basic steps to formatting a Word document for kindle:

 First, you have to clean up the formatting nonsense Word (and habit) often add to your doc.  One shocker was the fact that printing convention has changed the two-space-after-a-period rule to one space.  It’s apparently a big clue that a book is self-published when there are two spaces.  The easy fix for that is the find/replace function: find two spaces (just hit the space bar twice) and “replace” with one space (hit the space bar once). 
 
The other major offenders are tabs.  They are the bane of a writer’s existence and will not translate welinto the html file that kindle can read.  In the “Home” tab at the top of your document, in the “Paragraph” section is this icon which allows you to change spacing. 
 
 
Click on that, set your line spacing to 1.15” and at the bottom of the screen, “add space after paragraph.” 
 
Then go to “line spacing option.
 
 
In the “Indents and Spacing” tab, under “Indentation,” find the “Special” tab and click on “First line.”  The default is .5, but I set mine back to .3 because it looks better on the page to my eye.  Those steps will set your document to automatically indent the first line of every paragraph without using the tab key.

I had only tabbed the first line of a few paragraphs, but the way I found them was by showing all the hidden formatting symbols.  Also in the “Paragraph” section, click on the backwards “P” symbol for paragraphs and it will show every symbol you’ve used.  If there’s a dot with an arrow pointing right, that’s a tab key and has to be removed.  That “show hidden symbols” key gets very useful when the document is finally in html, because you can find all the funky things you didn’t know you’d done, but which will show up as glaring errors in the final kindle book.

I did a lot of research about book fonts and chose Garamond as one that looks right to my eye on the printed and electronic page.  So I did a “select all” and changed everything to Garamond.  My book is long so I did 11pt. type, with 1.15 spacing between lines.  If I had set up my “styles” as Garamond first, it would have saved me a step, but I’ll do that for book two.  Of course having done a “select all” change means having to change all the chapter headings back to 14pt., but that change was easier because I’d already gone through the whole document and made sure that all the chapter headings are written in the “Heading 1” style. 
 
That way I could highlight one and do a “select all text with similar formatting” under the “Editing” button in the “Home” tab to change the font size and appearance.


The “Heading 1” style for chapter headings will allow you to create a table of contents easily (fodder for another post), which, in the kindle format, is hyperlinked to each chapter.
Finally, when you’ve made all the changes, save the word file as a “Web page, filtered (.html).”  I then put that into the show/hide all paragraph mode so I could see any other formatting mistakes before trying it out on my own kindle.  I was given great advice to save that .html on my desktop, so I could always find it easily.  I also gave it a file name that worked as the header for the book, because it will automatically do that.  Mine is: Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants) and looks good at the top of every page.

To test my formatting, I attached that .html file to an e-mail I sent to myself at my kindle.com address.  It should look exactly like a regular kindle book, with side-swipe pages, etc.  It’s also a way to test any hyperlinks you’ve put in your book.  I added a page at the end, requesting that if readers enjoyed the book, would they please leave a review (and then linked my website, and on a later upload of the kindle, added the actual amazon and goodreads links for Marking Time).  Once I knew the formatting was correct, then I started working on the title pages, table of contents, and end credits, including the ISBN and Library of Congress numbers, but those are subjects of further posts. 
There are lots of blog and website resources for formatting for kindle, and formatting a book for publishing in general, which is where I found the information to do it myself.  The thing I discovered on my own, by accident, is that I could e-mail the formatted .html file to my kindle.com account and it would read exactly like the completed and kdp-uploaded book would.  It’s how I’ll be sending each draft of my next book to future beta-readers, so as not to make the reading of a work-in-progress any more painful than it has to be.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Marking Time Around Town Challenge


A picture says a thousand words (or in the case of Marking Time, a hundred fifty-five thousand).  A friend's daughter took this photo of her mum "doing nothing" on the beach the other day and it has inspired me to take a page from the Yukon magazine, North of Ordinary.  Readers send in photos of themselves in exotic locations, holding the magazine to show how far in the world it has reached, and their photos get published in the magazine.  

So here's my Marking Time Around Town Challenge:  E-mail me photos of someone reading the book - anyone, anywhere - and I'll post them here.  And then the reader in the most creative, fantastic, exotic, entertaining or remote location will win a character name (either your own or the name of your choice) in the next book of the Immortal Descendants series: Tempting Fate.

The kindle book counts too; just hold it up so the words or cover are visible in the photo, and make sure I know who you are, where the photo was taken, and who took the picture (so they get a photo credit).  Of course, I love knowing that people are reading Marking Time, but even more wonderful is that my readers are having adventures, perhaps inspired or enhanced, in some small way, by a book.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Review: Days of Blood & Starlight



Days of Blood & Starlight
By Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight is one of those books you stay up very late to finish...okay, ridiculously late, and then you wander around the next day trying to remember what's real and what's the book.

So, my complete hooked-ness having been said, I did feel a little like I had to wade through the middle.  It's a thing I have about second books in trilogies (at least I assume this will be a trilogy) that drag the characters down into the lowest of all possible lows.  I get it, I understand it, I even sympathize with it, it just makes me sad when characters I care about make the kind of decisions that dig the holes they're in deeper and deeper.  And yet, despite the pits of despair she crafted, Laini Taylor surprised me.  I didn't expect the direction she took and was very delightfully blindsided by some choices Karou and Akiva made.
Laini Taylor is an extraordinary writer.  She has created main characters to invest in and secondary characters to adore, with original, wonderful voices that make the reader laugh out loud and wince with sympathy.  She painted worlds with magnificent colors and crafted the kind of love to inspire passion in the most jaded of souls.

I look forward to re-reading Daughter of Smoke & Bone for the third time, and Days of Blood & Starlight again when the much-anticipated book three of this amazing series is released.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: The Name of the Wind



The Name of the Wind
By Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is a genius.  Okay, maybe a mad genius (I don't actually know the man personally, but I laugh out loud at his blogs), because anyone who can create such brilliant (as in glowing beacons of personality) characters in a world so well-drawn I didn't once raise an eyebrow and go "huh?" is a truly gifted storyteller of the most unexpected variety.

Most of the high fantasy I've read was in college, usually during dead week and finals, and generally six-book series that sucked me in, wrung me out, and tossed me back to the real world to wander around on shaky legs until I remembered who I was.  But that was college where everything is surreal and in technicolor, and those were authors like Orson Scott Card, Stephen Donaldson, Frank Herbert and Piers Anthony.

And then along comes Patrick Rothfuss.  And just like those friends you make when you think you've made all the best friends you'll ever need, I was a little shocked to have found a new favorite author and a new favorite book.  Kvothe, the storyteller-within-the-story, has such a compelling voice that I sometimes forget I'm not curled up by the fire in his Inn listening to him speak.  And the tales he tells bring me so completely on his journeys with him that feeding kids, dog, and chickens are tasks that have to be written on the post-its I use to keep my place in the book.

The Name of the Wind is not just the beginning.  It is a book that I look forward to re-reading with each installment of the trilogy that emerges from the wonder that is the brain, imagination and artist that is Patrick Rothfuss.  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Timey-Wimey


Time travel has literary rules just like vampires and werewolves and fairies do.  Of course Dr. Who breaks them all on a regular basis, but we forgive him because the shows are so fun, with multiple doctors, love interests, and aliens that remind me vaguely of Sleestaks from Land of the Lost.

In Marking Time, the rules Saira and the other Descendants of Time have to follow are the ones I've gathered from some of my favorite authors.  Simon Hawke wrote the 12-book Time Wars series that set the standard about the Grandfather paradox (if someone goes back in time and accidentally kills their grandfather before he meets their grandmother, how can he exist to go back in time to kill his grandfather?). 

And, of course, timestream splits have been the subject of many long discussions over wine (I'm a little strange that way).  The way Simon Hawke describes time in his first book, The Ivanhoe Gambit, is that it's like an actual stream or river.  Throw a pebble into the stream (some random guy goes back and kills his grandfather) and the water might ripple, but it will close back around the spot where the pebble went in.  But throw a boulder in (someone goes back in time and kills Adolph Hitler) and it might even divert the stream until it re-joins behind it.  That's a timestream split.  What happens to all those people who didn't die because Adolph Hitler did?  On their timeline, they go on to have families and create whole generations of people who don't exist on the timeline we know.  But then what happens at the moment the killer leaves his own time to go back and take out Hitler?  Even Simon Hawke and his characters didn't know.  They theorized that the two timelines (the one where Hitler lived, and the one where he died) have to rejoin, and when they do, it's a potential disaster of epic proportions.

Of course, there's my favorite of all time travel novels, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander (and the subsequent series).  Claire accidentally time travels through standing stones to 18th century Scotland, meets the unbelievably dreamy Jamie Fraser, falls for him quite against her will, and goes on to have many lifetimes of happiness with him (with copious amounts of heartbreak, death, destruction and war for good measure).

Diana Gabaldon's time travel rules are less structured than Simon Hawke's, but she follows the basic premise that however much time passes in your "native" time, that much time has also passed in any other time in which you might find yourself.  And events conspire to keep history in line, no matter how much Gabaldon's characters might want to change things.  Sort of a timestream inertia, where splits are impossible because history has already happened.

I didn't want to spend chapters discussing the rules of time travel (let's be honest, I couldn't afford the extra word count), so Saira gets things a little simpler.  People can't occupy the same time twice, so there's no chance of accidentally running into yourself and dissolving into a puddle of mental mush because you just met yourself coming around the corner (always a danger in a Simon Hawke book).  And she can't significantly change history, because history has already happened the way it happened and events around her will conspire to keep it that way (thank you, Diana Gabaldon).  Of course, keeping that rule doesn't affect Jack the Ripper's presence in my story at all, since history doesn't really know what happened to him. 

But maybe Saira does...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Free Kindle Book - Marking Time


I need your review and I will buy you a kindle copy of Marking Time to get it.  As anyone who has ever trolled amazon for books knows, the reviews are the difference between selling your book to friends and family, and finding an audience outside the circle of all the wonderful people who love and support you.

To those wonderful people who have already bought Marking Time, THANK YOU!  I need your review too.  Even if it's just stars and a couple of sentences, every review counts toward getting the notice of other readers, and just like voting, your reviews matter.

Here's how the Marking Time Free Kindle Book giveaway will work.  Fill out your contact information on the immortaldescendant.com contact page, including the e-mail address you use for your amazon.com account, and write "Review Copy" in the comments section.  I will then send you a gift of Marking Time from amazon.  When you redeem your gift it counts as a purchase and will go toward my sales ranking, and it will also allow you to post a review on amazon.

Then, if you would be so kind as to read the book, or give it to someone in your family to read before posting a review (please, no cheating, since amazon won't accept reviews until at least two days after the redeemed gift anyway), I would really appreciate it.  Your opinion absolutely matters to me, and even if urban fantasy isn't your thing, if a character's voice made you laugh, or the edible and medicinal botany information intrigues you, or you wonder about the (mostly true) history of Jack the Ripper, I've done my job as a writer, entertainer, and storyteller.

To post a review on amazon.com this Marking Time review link will take you directly to the page, or you can go to the Marking Time amazon page directly, and just under the title is a link to "review this book."  Then give it a star rating (1 being the lowest, 5 is the highest) and say a few words about the story, the writing, the dialogue, action, plot - whatever struck you the most.  Then, if you're feeling really fancy, copy what you wrote so that after you've previewed and posted your amazon review, you can go to goodreads.com and post the same review there, on Marking Time's goodreads page.

So please, take me up on my gift, because your honest review of Marking Time, the book I've spent the past two years imagining, crafting, pitching and selling is the most generous gift you can give this writer.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Secret Places


I couldn't find photos of the actual Venice Beach rum runner tunnels, so this one, of a Pirate Cellar in Savannah, Georgia stood in for the entrance to Saira's tagging gallery under Venice.  The actual Venice tunnels were originally constructed to allow sunbathers to walk back to their hotels since swimsuits weren't allowed on the boardwalk in 1905.  During prohibition, those tunnels from the beach were used by rum runners to bring illegal booze in from the beach.

When I was a private investigator, I worked in the loft above the market at Windward and Pacific where Saira and her artist Mom lived when her mother disappeared.  One of my bosses had inherited a massive oriental carpet, at least 25 feet long, from his wealthy grandmother who bought it from Macy's in New York before the Depression, and the front stairwell of the building was always full of the same shadows that Saira hates.

The London Bridge Catacombs were another internet find and the wanna-be urban archeologist in me was in heaven with the plague pit excavation currently going on there.  There's a horror attraction called "The London Bridge Experience" in the catacombs, complete with animatronic zombies and ghouls designed to give tourists the British version of a Halloween scare.  The Londonist described his night under London, wandering the tunnels and avoiding the plague victim skeletons, which was the inspiration for Saira and Archer's adventures in the tunnels.



Elian Manor was modeled on a gorgeous 16th Century manor house in Essex called Ingatestone Hall.  I later discovered that the Manor has a Priest Hole that was built under a small ante-chamber of the master bedroom.  When it was discovered, hidden under new floorboards, they also found the "bones of a small bird, possibly the remains of food supplied to some unfortunate priest," and a chest containing the vestments, utensils, etc. for a Mass.  The Manor house is now rented out for weddings and corporate events, and the private rooms aren't accessible to the public, so imagination had to fill in the interior blanks.  But I invented the warded Keep inside Elian Manor as a hiding place for the archives of the main branch of Time's descendants, so discovering that a Priest Hole actually exists there was very satisfying.


And although I have no evidence that a Priest Hole actually exists under the altar in Guy's Chapel at Kings College London, it was a perfect place to hide Archer, and a place that I knew would delight Bishop Cleary, just as it delights me.  I love secret, hidden, mysterious places, just like Saira does and someday I look forward to visiting all the real locations I've written into my book, hoping to find evidence of the imaginary ones there too.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Design Schizophrenia


I've loved page design since I was the editor of my High School yearbook, and playing with cover images was a (mostly) fun game I played.  Until it wasn't anymore and I began to feel schizophrenic, darting from one idea to another, unsure of my taste, bombarding friends and family with choices, and hoping the cover image would leap out and embrace me.  Because the cover of a book is the first thing that grabs your potential reader.  At least you hope it grabs them, maybe shakes them a little, intrigues them, seduces them, but mostly doesn't put them off.

And there's the rub.  Even though I wrote my book for a young adult audience, and even though my heroine is 17 years old, she, like most teenagers I know, has an internal voice that's funny, brave, intelligent, irreverant and fairly insightful.  And even though we watch the world unfold through that 17-year-old girl's eyes, the world is strange and wonderful and dangerous; full of friends and foes and mysteries she has to navigate; hopefully with grace and usually with a bit of wry humor.  So how to reflect that in a cover?  How to invite a teenager to pick it up off the shelf, appeal to the woman who loves time travel, or the guy intrigued by Jack the Ripper?  How to describe a young adult urban fantasy with paranormal and historical elements?  (That's the mouthful I've used to query agents and now, reviewers).  How to do it all in a picture?

So I took photos that didn't match my imagination, and more, and more, then fell in love with images but couldn't find the copyright-holder.  Then I learned about creative commons (flickr has a little search-by button to find the photos that artists have given limited public rights to), and discovered a photographer with a beautiful texture-layering technique who answered my questions and gave me great ideas (thank you Jimmy Brown).  He used creative commons textures by Skeletalmess, which are fantastic!  And the spiral in the background of my cover is from a creative commons piece by Spanish artist, Zyllan.  And then my very busy, very wonderful husband Ed put all the elements I'd gathered together during a nine-hour skype call while he was in London and I was in Los Angeles, with screen-sharing, breaks for food, shared glasses of coffee and wine and patience...lots and lots of patience.  And finally, the cover was born.



Hopefully it says the story inside is a little Victorian, a little feminine, a little masculine, a little romantic, mysterious, and dangerous.  Hopefully it speaks to the Immortals, to the possibility of branding a series across three books, and to an audience as diverse as my beta readers have been.  And the first time it grabs a stranger; intrigues them, maybe entices them to look inside, I'll feel like my design schizophrenia has finally found its focus.













Saturday, 3 November 2012

Actual Proof!


It arrived yesterday (the publisher proof for me to review for formatting mistakes).  The physical, hold it in my hands, proof that I didn't just make this all up.  Except I did.  And that's what's so crazy.  I just made up a girl with a missing mother and a father she never knew.  And I gave her a hereditary ability to travel in time, which let her go back to Victorian London to encounter Jack the Ripper.  And from there, she sort of just led the way.  Of course I could claim that I knew what was going to happen from the beginning.  And I did have a plan.  But these things have a way of turning out not at all as one expects.  And Saira surprised me a couple of times.  I surprised myself with plot twists and characters I fell in love with as they led the way on their own journeys through the crazy world I devised for them.

So I made something up and now there's a very cool-looking paperback book sitting on my table waiting for me to sign off on it before it goes into production and gets added to my Amazon page.  The steps in-between my imagination and the reality of this book are a whole journey by themselves, but the truly amazing thing to me is...

Actual proof is just imagination run amuck!

Friday, 2 November 2012

It's a book!


THIS is the cover of my newly published book, Marking Time.  It's available today on Amazon for kindle apps, and the paperback will be available starting next week.  And I, like many debut indie authors, thought the hard work was writing the book. 

As the four of you who actually followed this blog from its inception know, I started this journey on the traditional publishing path.  The boys and I were in the Yukon visiting Ed on the set of the show he spent the summer Story Producing (runs in the family?), and while the boys slept off the effects of midnight sun bedtimes, I researched agents and sent out query letters and sample pages, revising both daily.  If you were one of those first agents I queried, I apologize.  You got the benefit of no experience and a very awkward combination of too much and not enough confidence.  I got better at my queries later and did get some requests for partial manuscripts (my kids were very entertained by the happy dance), but as the form rejections mounted, and the few personal rejections attested, my book was just too long for traditional agents to imagine trying to sell to traditional publishers.  Apparently, the cost of production of the longer book isn't worth the risk that the young adult audience wants to read anything longer than 300 pages.  My 17-year-old niece would disagree, since she chooses her books first by the cover, then by the back copy, then by the page count - with longer being much better.  Incidentally, I wrote this book for her and readers like her, but that's a different story.

After cutting about 40,000 words from my original manuscript (which definitely made it better) and debating splitting it in two, or cutting off the first 50 pages and offering them as a free novella, or serializing the whole thing, my confidence had begun sagging around my knees.  And saggy knees are just not my thing.  My friends, who got the weekly download of plan-changes and justifications over glasses of wine (and whine) are saints - thank you for your ears, your support, and your patience.  Truly, thank you.  Ultimately, I couldn't stand myself.  I was in the waiting place, playing the waiting game, researching everything I could get my hands on about the pros and cons of all kinds of publishing.  There were a couple of author/bloggers, like Lindsay Buroker and Joel Friedlander, whose arguments in favor of self-publishing gave me back the confidence that I didn't have to start redecorating the waiting place to make it more comfortable.  I could just move out.

And so I have.  It's a place where all the design and publishing, and all the marketing and sales of my book are on me... and it is a far more interesting place to live.  But for the moment it's also a full-time job, starting before 5am most mornings and ending at homework time after school.  And I'm going to have to grow a whole new variety of confidence as I figure out how to interest indie booksellers in Marking Time, how to entice internet traffic to my shiny new website, and how to navigate the very complicated internal marketing business of Amazon.

It's hard work.  And it's really, really satisfying.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Seasons of Queries


The houses in the Yukon are all sliding off their foundations.  They were built on permafrost and every time the ground thaws and re-freezes, the building walls shift.  It's amazing to realize they're even still standing after all the things they've weathered, people they've sheltered, and winters they've endured.

Yukon weather on those houses is a little like the Agent Query process.  Research an agent, find out he or she loves urban fantasy with paranormal elements, is into history and digs thrillers.  Tailor the query letter to them, paste the dreaded synopsis and whatever pages their submissions guidelines request into the body of the e-mail (never an attachment), make sure it's titled and addressed correctly and hit "send."  Then make a note with the date in the Marking Time notebook covered with images culled from the internet, hand-drawn, photoshop-manipulated, and designed to inspire and collect all things related to the Book.  This is the Spring Thaw.

And then the waiting begins.  There's nothing in the waiting place - no temperature at all.  It's just... void.  Because the waiting place is so full of potential crazy-making mind games that if even the slightest hope is entertained, the rejection would be that much more painful.

Because "no" is so much easier to say than "yes."  Especially when there are 163,000 words to potentially wade through.  Especially when there are "creature" elements to contend with, and a vampire to fall for in an age where vampires have been done to death.  Silly mortals.  As if they could ever die.  I made myself smile with that one, but I'll take it.  The swift "no" is the gift.  It's the one automatically spit out because of page count or "failure to grab," which basically means "not different enough from what's already out there to be an easy sale."  I get it.  I don't begrudge it.  People will click with whomever they want to click with, and I take the same advice I've always given my friends: "Choose someone who chooses you."  But "no" is always the beginning of winter.  Even the swift ones stack up and put a chill on the day in a way that only the laughter of my kids and the love of my husband can warm again.  Minute by minute by minute.

And so I force the Thaw once again, with another query, to another agent, whose blogs I've read, interviews I've absorbed, words I've pondered and turned over in my mind, hoping for the fit that just...fits.  And then every once in awhile an e-mail comes in from an assistant.  One that doesn't say "re: QUERY:  Marking Time," it just says "Marking Time."  And it has an actual return address, and there's a request written in a friendly assistant's voice asking to see three chapters.  And with one line of a cheery e-mail addressed to me personally Summer has thawed the frozen ground and the Yarrow flowers have pushed their way up, ready to heal all the little cracks and fissures in the self-esteem it's taken a lifetime to build.

And even if the walls slant a little, and the paint ages and peels with every winter the shack has weathered, it's still whole and solid and unapologetically proud to be standing.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Yukon Gold


There's gold in those Yukon hills... and in the landscape, the scenery, the air...  Since we've been here I've managed to plot a script, a Children's book, and get excited about writing book two of The Immortal Descendants.

And I just finished reading A Discovery of Witches, the discovery of which (sorry) is that I've written a grittier, more urban YA echo of that book.  Okay, maybe not really, but there are definite comparisons to be made.  A female protagonist who doesn't realize her power.  A love interest who holds all the intellectual cards.  A world where intermarriage/mixing is forbidden, and bad guys from said world hunting the protagonist and her love.  And lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Hmmm, not really sure what to do with that revelation.  Use Deborah Harkness's wonderful success to market my own book (book 2 of her series comes out on Tuesday), or continue along the path I've laid for myself.  Any thoughts or insights would be welcome.  For now, I'll just keep following the rainbow in front of me.

Thursday, 5 July 2012



This is one of my favorite notebook covers I've made, especially the "adult version" of the Harry Potter book cover and the Shepard Fairey art.  I've always been a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and am trying to entice my boys into the same love of his sleuthing genius.  The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, and the BBC 2-season series, "Sherlock" are my favorite re-imaginings of the original stories. 

I have a weakness for elegant solutions and Arthur Conan Doyle was the master.  Maybe it's why most of my scripts are mysteries and I'm so proud of my Private Investigator's license.  As a 12-year-old in Katmandu, I stumbled upon Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers and Dog Mysteries and The Black Hand Gang at the used bookstore and still remember the girl who waved her "evenly-tanned arms around" claiming her valuable watch had been recently stolen. 

My favorite mystery writers give me several different options for possible solutions, and then surprise me with something that was there all along.  And when they can do it with a little smart humor along the way I know I've found another book to recommend to friends who love to read.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012



Ed and I had fun creating this version of a cover for Marking Time.  I've used it on my galley proofs and it's very satisfying to hold a thick paperback with this title in my hand! 

I've begun. 
Queries to agents have gone out and I feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark trying not to step on the dog.  Is this what boys feel like when they ask a girl out on their first date?  Trying to sound like you know what you're doing, hoping to entice and impress without looking like a complete idiot? 

So, besides tweaking the odd word or five in my first ten pages (over and over again, sigh), I'm starting to formulate book two.  And I'm getting excited.  Whitechapel 1888 for book one.  Staying in England for book two, but back further.  To a time and setting that makes me happy.  With a historical person who has fascinated me since the first time I visited the Tower of London at age 8.  If only I could track down the current location of the pearls...