Monthly Archives: June 2009

Deadtown Cover

Isn’t it GORGEOUS?? I can’t wait to see it in stores!


A (Mostly) Full-Time Novelist

I write for my day job. And even though writing nonfiction exercises a completely different set of mental muscles than fiction-writing does, sometimes I feel like I’ve run out of words by the end of the day.

So I’m really happy that, for the next five weeks, I get to put novel-writing first. I’m revising the manuscript for the sequel to Deadtown (working title: Creature Comforts), which is due at my publisher on 8/1. And it’s my primary project for the month of July. (I’ll have a few other things going on, but those can wait until the end of the day.) For that month, I get to live my long-held dream of being a full-time novelist. I intend to enjoy every minute of it — the frustrations as well as the pleasures.

When you’re living a dream, even just for a little while, you should savor it.

Author Review

For the past week, I’ve been immersed in the necessary-but-difficult process of author review on a couple of nonfiction projects. That’s when other people (editors in one case, clients in the other) make changes to what I’ve written and insert comments and queries about issues I need to address. I’m reviewing those changes and queries—hence “author review.”

You can probably see why this process is necessary. After I’ve gathered and shaped the information that goes into a nonfiction book, I need more pairs of eyes to go over the chapters, making sure everything is clear and correct and fits the publisher’s style. Those eyes belong to a developmental editor (who looks at big-picture issues like organization and style and does line edits at the same time) and several technical editors (who check the correctness of what I’ve written and point out topics or issues I’ve overlooked). This is a Good Thing. It takes a team of people to create a book, and I’m lucky to be working with some of the very best.

But it’s also hard. If you’ve ever opened a Word file and seen so many Tracked Changes that even squinting you can’t find your original text, you’ll know what I mean. And there can be dozens of comments in a single chapter. These range from “Change OK?” to “Can you provide a couple of examples?” to “I’m not sure what you’re saying here; please clarify.” It takes time and effort to go through the changes and address all the queries. And I’ve definitely got to fold up my ego and put it away in a drawer when I open a chapter to review.

But it’s all good. We end up with a better book, and since my name is on the cover, I want that book to be the best we can make it. And going through multiple author reviews for nonfiction books during the past five years helped to toughen my skin for the process of submitting my novels to agents and publishers.

In case you’re wondering, the editorial process for fiction is different from author review for nonfiction books. Instead of getting my marked-up manuscript back, chapter by chapter, I initially receive an honest-to-God editorial letter that outlines suggested changes. So far, I’ve actually enjoyed reading my editorial letters. Yeah, I have moments of feeling kinda dumb (“How could I not see that?” and “Hmm…what is the purpose of that scene?”), but it’s also a pleasure to see an intelligent reader deeply engaged with my novel. I use the letter as a guide for revising the manuscript. If the revisions are okay, several months later I receive the copy-edited manuscript, marked up with Tracked Changes and comments, just like in nonfiction author review. I love copyeditors (maybe because I used to be one). They’re obsessed with detail, they look everything up, and they make sure that if it’s 2:00 p.m. at the top of page 174 it’s not suddenly noon in the middle of page 176.

Peace, Love, and Murder and Deadtown have both been through this process. I’ve reviewed the final page proofs for PLM and await those for Deadtown. Each stage makes the story in my head that much closer to becoming a book, and I’m grateful for all the people who help me make those books—fiction and nonfiction both—as good as I can.


2008 was a good year for me–I sold three novels, a mystery and the first two books in my Victory Vaughn urban fantasy series.  After the initial jumping around and screaming and popping champagne corks, I settled down to wait.  And wait. And wait some more. I’m learning that publishing a novel involves long periods of not much happening (at least, not much that I have to deal with), interrupted by flurries of activity, usually with a deadline attached. I like deadlines. They make me get stuff done.

There were times last year when I felt like my novels would never become physical objects that you could open, read, and put next to other books on a shelf. But time passed, as it has a way of doing, and suddenly I’m within a couple of months of the mystery’s release.

So this seems like a good time to start sharing insights and experiences related to writing, the writing life, and the publication process. I’d also like to share my thoughts on some of the really cool books I read. If you look at my bio, you’ll see that I’m a former English professor, so I’m one of those people who reads everything. Currently, I’m really into urban fantasy, which I think has some of the most fun, exciting, and inventive writing out there. So watch this space for mini-reviews.

Thanks for checking out my blog. I hope you’ll come back often.

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