Monthly Archives: February 2010

Visit with me at Amberkatze’s Book Blog

Amber of Amberkatze’s Book Blog has posted an interview with me here. She asked some great questions, which were fun to answer.

We’re giving away a signed copy of Deadtown. For a chance to win, stop by and leave a comment answering the question “What book inspires you?”

And if you haven’t seen Amber’s review of Deadtown yet, you can read it here.

Digging Out

Yesterday, I watched snow fall outside my window all day as I worked on author review for a nonfiction project. I love snow. (I know, I know—there are a lot of people who don’t want to hear that at this point in this particular winter, but it’s true.) The nonfiction project was one I’d fallen behind on earlier this year, and we were finally bringing it home.  As I watched the snow pile up outside, I went through page after page of changes, comments, and queries in the nonfiction book.

The editing/revision phase is very different for technical nonfiction than it is for fiction. For fiction, I receive a letter from my editor that outlines aspects of the novel that need work—large-scale changes and small adjustments both. It’s up to me to crack open the manuscript file and figure out how to implement the editor’s suggestions.

In nonfiction, the editor turns on Word’s Track Changes feature and goes to work on the file I sent in. When I get it back, there are lots of changes to the text and lots of comments and questions in the margins. I have to go through, read the changes, respond to the comments, answer the questions. I also have to answer queries from technical reviewers who check the accuracy of my text. I’ve worked with anywhere from one to four tech reviewers on a nonfiction book–this recent project had two. It’s a lot of work to go through each chapter when three different people are responding to it. Everyone is trying to make the book better, but when you’ve got three people searching for problems and issues, it can be hard to keep pushing through and addressing them, one after another after another…

So no wonder by the time I finished yesterday, seven inches of snow had piled up on the ground.

I’d worked ten hours, but I pulled on my boots, grabbed a snow shovel, and got to work clearing off the sidewalk. We live on a corner, which is great for three-quarters of the year,  but a big snowstorm gives me a real workout.  The snow was coming down pretty hard still, and when I finished 45 minutes later, I looked like a snowman and had ice in my hair—and a half-inch of new snow covered the place where I’d started.

When I looked out the back door this morning, it almost looked as though I hadn’t bothered last night. We’d gotten just over a foot (and it was still coming down). Out I went again, snow shovel in hand. This time, it took an hour an a half to do the job, mostly to deal with the mountain ridge of heavy snow that the snowplow had deposited at the end of our driveway. (At least the road was clear!)

It’s been a lot of work, but I’m all dug out. The snow has stopped. The sidewalk is clear. The nonfiction project is finished. It feels like a whole new day. On to whatever’s next!

Deadtown’s Sequel Has a Title

In my contract with Penguin, the first two books in my Victory Vaughn series are identified as UNTITLED ZOMBIE #1 and UNTITLED ZOMBIE #2. Deadtown‘s working title was Zombie Town, so those titles—or non-titles, really—made sense. Kinda cracked me up as I signed the contract, though.

My working title for the sequel has been Creature Comforts. If you’ve read Deadtown, you’ll know that’s the monster bar in the New Combat Zone where Vicky and her friends hang out. I used it as the working title because that’s where the novel’s inciting incident—the event that sets the plot in motion—takes place. But I always figured that we’d change the title along the way. I wanted something that had the same feel as Deadtown: one word, two syllables, strong impact.

Now I can announce that UNTITLED ZOMBIE #2 has a title:

What do you think? I like it. Not only does it sound like a followup to Deadtown, Hellforged comes straight out of the story: It’s the name of a weapon that Vicky must learn to use to fight a kind of demon she’s never encountered before. I’m not a big fan of titles that simply sound cool or link to other titles in a series but have no relationship to the story in the current book. So I’m happy with this choice.

Hellforged. Yeah, I like the sound of it.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day!

In my previous post, I talked about falling behind. So this is my Valentine’s Day post, four days late. (Hey, look, I’m catching up!)

In the acknowledgments to Deadtown, I wrote:

Finally, undying gratitude and love to my husband, Steven Holzner, who’s published more than 120 books and understands what goes into writing one. He never minded when I’d disappear for hours into my fantasy world. And he bought me endless cups of coffee as I wrote, night after night after night, in coffee shops around town. His love and patience, his support and encouragement are truly what made this book possible.

I meant every word. My husband Steve has been an amazing and consistent source of support over the years as I decided I was going to give this writing thing a try, and then went for it. Without his encouragement, I probably would have given up.

But it’s not just about me. He’s terrific for so many reasons. He’s loving, loyal, generous, funny, witty, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. After many years together, we can finish each other’s sentences, yet we still have great conversations. I never get tired of listening to what he thinks about things.

Plus he gives me roses on Valentine’s Day. Aren’t they pretty?

To Steve: You’re the best, and I’m the luckiest.

Trying to Keep All the Balls in the Air

One aspect of the writing life I haven’t discussed here is what happens when your juggling skills aren’t quite good enough. I often say that the first two rules of freelancing are:

    • When you’re offered a project, take it.
    • When you get a check, cash it.

And that’s how I manage my work as a freelance author. Accept projects now, and then work out the details as necessary. Cash checks—even if the amounts aren’t right—and then address any problems once you’ve got at least some of the money you’re owed in your bank account.

Usually, those rules work pretty well. But one of the problems with being an independent is the feast-or-famine syndrome. Sometimes, a writer takes on too many projects out of worry that there won’t be enough later on. I’ve certainly done that, accepting and handling overlapping projects in the past. It’s usually an issue of long days, sacrificed weekends, and careful time management. Eventually, I push through one project and have more time to work on the next.

But sometimes you drop a ball. And sometimes you drop all the balls, trip over one as they roll around your feet,  fall on your face, and get bonked on the head by the last ball that was in the air. That’s what much of my year has been like so far.

As the year began, I was working hard to publicize Deadtown‘s release while working on two nonfiction projects, outlining Book 3 of Vicky’s series, blogging here and at Good Girls Bad Juju, and staying active on Facebook and Twitter. That was probably too much. I fell behind on one project, then the other. I mostly kept up on the promo, despite a couple of down-to-the-wire moments handing in guest posts and some missed opportunities to interact with commenters. Thoughts about Book 3 got pushed to the back burner. I had to turn down a project from a reasonably steady client (which always makes me wonder if they’ll think of me next time).

But then a series of health crises hit several people in my family, one right after the other. I wasn’t prepared for that. It’s not just the time required to offer support, drive people to doctors’ appointments, and so on—it’s also the worry. It takes a toll, in sleepless nights, lost concentration, and feelings of helplessness that you can’t “fix” those you love.

So all those balls came crashing down.

When you’re going flat out, it doesn’t take much to trip you up. And when you do fall down, there’s not much to do except take a deep breath, get back up, and try again. That’s what I’m doing now.

I’ll admit I’m not great at asking for help, but people stepped forward to help me, anyway. I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful that the health issues different family members have been facing are either resolved or at least under control for now.

In the future, I know I’ll again get into situations where I take too much on. It’s part of making a living as a writer. But I’ll try to keep a little more in reserve and remember that I’m only human, with very human limitations on my time and energy.

Juggling is part of the writing life. Thanks for your patience as I toss those balls back into the air and find my rhythm again.

%d bloggers like this: