Friday, August 25, 2006

End-of-summer reading roundup

Next week, I'll be blogging about my five favorite books of the summer (none of which actually came out this summer, but I'm always behind the times, worthless at the water cooler).

Four novels and two non-fiction books made the list. Find out next week how I got 4+2 to equal 5.

So what were some of your summer standouts? It was kind of a lame season for movies, but what about books?

(Speaking of books, go vote in the Quills, the awards picked by regular folks like you and me. But not until after you leave a comment.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Newsletter heads-up

I'm finally sending out my first newsletter on Friday, filled with exclusive opportunities to win free stuff.

So if you haven't signed up yet, now's your chance to get on the bus!

The, uh, Jeri's newsletter bus. On which there's plenty of room to stretch your legs, if you get my meaning. For now.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Recovery period

Last Wednesday, seemingly out of nowhere, I finished my 6th novel.

Two weeks ago I decided, what the hell, I'm going to turn the first half of Angel's Gambit into the first third of a young adult trilogy. I'd already written 38K, trimmed it down to 32K, then proceeded to write 27K in the next nine days. Last Tuesday I wrote nearly seven thousand words. That's 31 double-spaced pages (which may or may not include the six I tossed away, I forget).

This isn't to brag, it's only to show what's possible when a writer is really turned on to an idea, when the book worms its way into our heads and takes over, like that sluggy thing from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. When it's a joy to create.

I had the momentum of having already written the first two-thirds of the novel, and I already knew the characters inside and out, even though I hadn't visited them in well over a year. I had the luxury of starting at the top of the hill, so that the exhiliration of the downhill speed was all that was left to experience.

It's been a wild two weeks, culminating in one very long, very sweet day, during which I played the Garden State soundtrack at least a dozen times, beginning to end. It fit perfectly with the two main characters and the sanctuary they (and I) found for a brief time-out-of-time.

Every once in awhile, this crazy endeavor called writing makes us really, really happy.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The real Rhia, Part 2

In June I mentioned finding the website for my cover art's model, Amie Decker. I hoped that one day she'd plug her name into a search engine and find me so that I could send her a copy of the book.

Sure enough, I got a really sweet e-mail from her a couple of weeks ago. In answer to our question, she said that Rhia is what she actually looks like without makeup, bikini, etc. She was really pleased to see a published image of herself in a more natural state.

Follow the link above to the old post to see her reply to everyone's comments. And be sure to check her out in the David Lynch-esque Black Dahlia when it's released.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Music Monday

I've written 15K words in the last week--which is not to brag, only to explain why at the end of the day, my hands are too tired to blog.

So today I bring you one of the best music videos I've ever seen. No special effects, no whiz-bag graphics, no half-naked female "dancers" dry-humping the lead singer. It's bling-free, and totally awesome.

Always on the cutting edge of today's music, PJ (that's Podcast Jockey) Rob Usdin brings us "Here It Goes Again" by OK-Go.

And by the way, it's a fantastic song, too, the perfect antidote for a Monday morning.

For more great videos and songs by this phenomenal new garage band, visit their website.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Request for ideas

It's the year 2019, Maryland. You're a high school senior.

Where would you hang out with your friends on a Friday night?

I've got the scene in a coffee bar, but I'm looking for something more interesting. It's the night before Prom, so they probably wouldn't be at a club, because they'd be saving their energy and money for the next day.

And no, it's not for Voice of Crow.


RWA Day Four, Part One

Friday, July 28

Best. Party. Ever.

But I'll get to that later.

Mind-numbingly exhausted, I skipped the first session today so I could have a leisurely breakfast (continental breakfast at the Marriott Marquis was incredible--there was actual protein (cheese)!) and return to my room for a brief nap.

At breakfast I met historical author Victoria Bylin, who is up for a Rita award, which is like the Oscar(R) of romance novels. Her son is the bassist in a metal band called Age of Ruin, and she dug the idea of my vampire DJ book. It was refreshing to talk about Bad Company after days of "blah blah Eyes of Crow blah blah Luna blah."

My first workshop was "Breaking Away from the Pack in a Nudist Werewolf World," which was all about how to position yourself in a crowded market, how to set yourself apart from the other authors out there who are writing similar material. A lot of audience members left during the presentation, probably because they thought it would be geared specifically toward the paranormal market, but I thought it was a fantastic, though sobering, discussion.

Call me nuts, but this marketing/PR stuff fascinates me. The idea of doing an actual interview or booksigning makes me go all Blue Velvet Dennis Hopper--
Don't look at me! Don't ever look at me! Mommy!
--but the behind-the-scenes strategizing is almost as fun as the writing itself. Maybe if this writing thing doesn't work out, I'll go into publicity. Then I'll be on the B Ship for sure.

This afternoon my roommate Julia took me to a booksigning by the St. Martin's authors. She let me in on a little secret: they weren't just signing books, they were giving them away. Yes, free books, signed by the authors, to anyone willing to stand in not-so-long lines.

I went into the room and saw a woman who looked like Sherrilyn Kenyon sitting at a table filled with Sherrilyn Kenyon's new book, Unleash the Night. I thought,
That can't be Sherrilyn Kenyon. If it were Sherrilyn Kenyon, the line would be 400 people, not 20. And she would have bodyguards or a clock that would go off, signaling when it was time for the fawning fan in front of her to step aside.
(In case you don't know, she's a mega-NY-Times-bestselling author of vampire books and now historical fantasy under the name Kinley MacGregor).

But it really, really was Sherrilyn Kenyon, and I stood in line and spoke to her and got a "Bite Me!" button and an autographed copy of UTN (which the incompetent bastards at UPS lost when I shipped it home in a box of books--arrrgh! But she said I had great hair, and they can't take that away from me.), and I was happy. She was such a sweetie.

I also got autographed copies of JR Ward's Lover Eternal, Susan Squires's The Burning, and Vicki Lewis Thompson's Talk Nerdy to Me*, all of which made it home in the unopened, uncursed UPS box. All the authors were incredibly nice and generous and real.

Except one. There was a very popular author, a Rita nominee, who, when introduced to a friend of mine (who is not published yet), remarked with one of those pompous British-y accents common among super-rich Yankees like the Hepburns and Roosevelts and poseurs who want to be Hepburns and Roosevelts,
I don't have time to talk to the little people. I'm only here to talk to the big people.
She wasn't joking.

Jerkface**, you know who you are if you're reading this, which I'm sure you're not, because I'm a little person, too. All readers are "little people," and if you keep treating them that way (which I hear you did at your signing, too), soon you won't have any left. And I'm glad you lost the Rita. We cheered extra hard for the person who beat you. And when my friend and I are Big People, we will smile and shake your hand and show you what it means to be truly gracious, like Kenyon and Nora Roberts and 99% of bestselling authors. Right before our bouncers show you the sidewalk. Jerkface.

Well, that's enough for today. The Harlequin party is worth an entry in itself, so stay tuned.

*These might have been at the Bantam signing, not St. Martin's. It's all a blur now.
** Julia's word, not mine. The word that came to my mind would sear my mom's retinas.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

RWA Day Three

--Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London"
Thursday, July 27

The official opening of the conference (yes, we're just getting started). Went to two panels this morning, one by Natalie Eggeman, a video producer for NBC, who gave us some great tips on presenting ourselves either in front of an audience or in front of a camera. Hint: don't blow into the microphone, and try to fit some real words in between all your "like"'s and "um"'s.

Then PC Cast gave a fantastic workshop on creating believable teen characters. It turns out, no one says "phat" or "coolyio" anymore--can you believe that??? She also spoke about today's market for young adult (YA) novels. I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to discover that today's YA novels contain sex and profanity--in other words, they reflect real life.

Before coming to the workshop, I was considering rewriting Angel's Gambit (a Requiem sequel about Lucifer's daughter) as a YA series. Now I've definitely decided to go in that direction. YA novels play to my strengths--dialogue and action--and use less of my bane--description and narration, i.e., the boring stuff.

My agent, who specializes in YA science fiction/fantasy, says she thinks I'd have a great voice for teen dialogue. It's a nice way of saying I'm immature. But hey, it's about time I capitalized on my arrested development, don't you think?

My last workshop of the day was about body disposal. Everything you wanted to know about burial, cremation, decomposition, etc. People asked questions they'd get arrested for asking anywhere else. I love writers.

And by the way? You cannot dig your way out of your own grave--even if you could get out of the heavy-duty casket, you'd never get past the concrete or bronze liner surrounding it. So Buffy, it turns out, wasn't realistic. I'll give a pass to Kill Bill, Volume Two, though, since the Bride's burial was a bit informal.

The luncheon's keynote speaker was Meg Cabot, author of about a gajillion books for both adults and teens, most famously The Princess Diaries. She was hilarious, just like her novels. Her story about meeting Julie Andrews at the Hollywood premier ("Ms. Andrews, I love your books!") brought the house down.

The responsible members of RWA attended this afternoon's Annual General Meeting, to discuss stuff and vote on things, while most of us took naps.

Tonight I had dinner with my editor and two of her other authors, Carol Stephenson and Sandra K. Moore. They both write for the Bombshell series, which is Silhouette's exciting new romantic suspense line (emphasis on the suspense). We ate at Trader Vic's.

Yes, that Trader Vic's, like the one in London where the werewolf had a pina colada and his hair was perfect. Though the Suffering Bastard looked yummy, I had to have a pina colada, too, just so I could tell my Warren Zevon-crazy husband.

No one else at the table seemed excited at the pop culture reference. So it was one of those very cool moments I shared only with myself. After two days of fitting in and being one of the crowd, totally on everyone else's wavelength, it was kinda nice to be a geek again for just a minute.


I also had the most delicious Thai Curry Prawns--the only thing on the menu without a face--and a delightful time with Stacy and Carol and Sandra.

When I got back, my roommate and I went to the Harlequin Pajama Party, where we just missed getting free pillows. Saw a few of the people I met at the FF&P Gathering the night before (PJ, Lynda and Cyndi), but we could barely hear each other over the blaring music.

We didn't stay long, because the PJ party lacked somewhat in food, and, I should add, fun. They should have had a game of Twister or a Ouija board like a real slumber party, or at least one of those folded-up paper doohickey things that would tell us which boys we liked.

Still managed to get to bed late. I've only gotten 3-4 hours of sleep each night so far. Too excited to sleep, I guess.



Friday, August 04, 2006

To be continued

Sorry I've left off my RWA retelling, but I promise I'll get back to it Sunday. A couple of short-deadline work-related things came up in the last two days, and tomorrow I've promised my book that I'll spend the whole day with it. If I'm not careful, it'll act like it doesn't know me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

RWA Day Two

In which I flash back to a week ago and pretend that the past is the present, just like in a novel.

Extra note: The Seattle Times had a nice article on the RWA conference. One of these days journalists will evolve past the "Wow, romances aren't trash!" phase, but not quite yet.

Wednesday, July 26

The conference doesn't officially begin until tomorrow, but the hotel is filling up fast. Everyone is really nice. I'm wearing a pink "First Sale" ribbon on my badge, and complete strangers are coming up and congratulating me. I'm totally wearing the ribbon again next year.

My new friends from the Kiss of Death chapter and I went on a walking tour of the Oakland Cemetery (yes, this is the suspense writers' idea of a good time). In addition to the graves of Margaret Mitchell and other Atlanta luminaries, Oakland contains the remains of 6,000 Civil War soldiers, mostly from the Battle of Atlanta.

The "Lion of Atlanta" statue (click on the link above and scroll down) commemorates the 3,000+ unknown Confederate soldiers buried there. It's very sad to look at. Something about personifying a human quality (in this case, vanquished courage) really brings home the pain and strife of war. If all the graves and bodies weren't enough, here's a dead kitty to reinforce it.

Afterwards we ate at a restaurant called Six Feet Under, which was another awesome Atlanta landmark. I tried a local beer called Sweetwater Blue--a pale ale with a very subtle hint of blueberry. Not too sweet, unlike a lot of fruity beers. Perfect after walking in the hot sun for three hours.

Tonight I went to the Gathering of the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal chapter (FF&P--remember that, because I'm not writing it out again). I sat at a table of really great people, including Cynthia Eden, who writes for Red Sage Publishing. They had a chocolate fountain, but it wasn't big enough to splash around in. I guess the big fountains are reserved for the erotica writers' party.

At the Gathering, a bunch of editors and agents stood up and talked about what they were looking for. The senior editor at Luna Books said wonderful things about the line, then said that they're pretty much just looking for urban fantasy henceforth. Same with everyone else. So the joke's on me for switching from urban to epic. Ha! It's not a very funny joke.

Then they gave out the PRISM awards, and my friend Catherine Asaro's novella won not only Best Novella, but Best of the Best (which is like Best in Show). It beat out all the full-length novels. Unfortunately, she couldn't be there to accept the award. But I cheered like a nutbag for her, anyway.

The novella is called "City of Cries," in Down These Dark Spaceways, an anthology of hard-boiled detective stories with science fiction settings. Unfortunately it's only available through the Science Fiction Book Club right now. It's an excellent story.

Oh, and our other roommate, Julia, showed up. She writes contemporary romances and has a pitch session planned with an editor on Friday. Her book sounds really cool, and so is she. We're all getting along like, uh, like hotcakes? No, that's 'selling like hotcakes.' Gangbusters! We're all getting along like gangbusters. Anyone who's ever busted a gang--that's how compatible we are.

I feel really lucky to have such great roommates. It's like having a slumber party four nights in a row. Okay, boys, don't get too excited. There were no pillow fights in our underwear. But remember that chocolate fountain?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

RWA Day One

For the next few days, let's pretend it's a week ago and that I shelled out $12.95/day for internet access, then had copious free time to blog each day about my conference experience.

That's why I'm a fantasy writer. My suspension of disbelief is weightless.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Had a great flight--window seat and no one next to me. Delta Airlines offers a choice of five different snacks. How sad is it that airline service has deteriorated to the point where that impresses the hell out of me?

My roommate Rachel's flight got in an hour late, so I waited for her and ate a mediocre sandwich at Atlanta Bread Factory while listening to a pair of extreme Georgians at the next table. I realized, of course, that anyone coming to Baltimore for the first time would think, "My God, I didn't know people really talked like that outside of a John Waters film!" So I withheld judgment on the extreme Georgians.

Had drinks later (okay, one heart-attack-inducingly expensive glass of whiskey that cost almost as much as the entire bottle in my cupboard that I bought on sale) in the hotel bar with my roommate's Kiss of Death chapter folk. Some of the writers I met include Sharon Mignerey and Mary Buckham.

Also met Margie Lawson, who taught an amazing online workshop I took last January called Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors. She's a counseling psychologist and specializes in working with creative types who need guidance on getting their acts together.

The Kiss of Death, by the way, is the RWA chapter for writers of romantic suspense/mystery/thrillers, or those who just like to kill people in their books. Since EOC is pretty death-y, it sounds like the chapter for me!

Our other roommate, Julia, arrives tomorrow. I predict that she'll be just as cool as Rachel.



This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**


Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or



"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

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Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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