Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here and back again

Balticon was great, and tomorrow I'm off to New York for BookExpo America, the premier publishing event of the year.

My schedule:

Friday, June 1, 11-11:45 AM
Autographing session, Harlequin booth (3874 - 3875 - 3895)

Sunday, June 3, 9:15-9:45 AM
Autographing session, Romance Writers of America booth (4949)

Other than that, I'll be wandering around snagging free books, chatting with booksellers, librarians, and other industry professionals, and just generally marveling at the hugeness of the event. Woo-hoo!

Next week I'll tell you all about Bo, our new foster dog who'll be leaving us on Friday. Tonight's my last night with the beautiful boy. It'll be so quiet around here without his snoring.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Balticon schedule

Quickly jumping out of Rewrite La-La Land to remind everyone I'll be at Balticon 41 this weekend, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

My schedule:


7 pm: WHAT WERE THE PUBLISHERS THINKING??: The covers chosen by some publishers for our books sometimes seem to be designed to discourage readers from buying them. Writers and Readers discuss their favorite horror stories about art, marketing blurbs and other dumb, boring, weird material, often just totally unrelated to the content of their book! Other panelists: Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, C.J. Henderson, Mike McPhail, Joshua Palmatier

9 pm: WRITING URBAN FANTASY: Other panelists: Carol Berg, Mattie Brahen, C.J. Henderson, Jana G. Oliver, Dennis Wilson

Midnight: ROMANCE, LOVE, SEX AND EROTICA IN SF: Other panelists: Naomi Novik, Elaine Corvidae, K.T. Pinto, James Daniel Ross


5 pm: READING from Eyes of Crow and/or Voice of Crow (depending how many people heard me read from EOC last year)

7 pm: MURDER IN SF/F/FH: Other panelists: Maria V. Snyder, Dennis Wilson

10 pm: SEXY VAMPIRES??? Vampires are nasty, murderous creatures that you would absolutely NOT want to run into in a dark alley. Why, and how could they ever be such romantic sex symbols? Other panelists: K.T. Pinto, James Daniel Ross, Tony Ruggerio

I'm also fitting in an autograph session somewhere in the vicinity of these panels, but it hasn't been scheduled yet.

The complete Balticon pocket program is available in PDF (860K), or a low-res GIF image .

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Miniskirt Panacea

Yesterday I Googled "denim miniskirt" to make sure my character wouldn't be committing a major fashion faux pas by wearing one, and I came across a Thai site extolling the virtues of the garment for one and all.

Oddly enough, the page is entitled, "Mini Skirt: over-rated or not? Can all girls wear mini skirts?"

Answer: yes. Fat, skinny, old, young, sun-loving, sun-phobic--they all look good. Not surprising coming from what seems to be some kind of Jeans Information Bureau of Thailand. But even given their agenda, their copy seemed over-the-top.


With summer temperatures rising more each year and the number of sunny days increasing, there really is no other garment that provides more comfort for a women, than a miniskirt does.

Yes! An up side to global warming! Hearing this, men everywhere will buy Hummers and leave them running all night long to hasten this cataclysmic climatic event.

Price wise a tight skirt can provide a shopper with some financial relief as well.

By this I hope they mean the dude at the car lot will cut you a deal if you dress alluringly. Or maybe they just mean that a smaller amount of fabric saves you money on detergent.

But I think they mean "financial relief" in a more direct way. For you new girls, I believe the going rate is $75-$200, depending which street corner you stand on.

Based of the production costs and materials, a short mini skirt or hotpants is the cheapest item any denim garments manufacturer can produce, next to denim wallets.

And the denim condom cozies, which you'll need for your financial relief efforts.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Celestial affair

Venus kissed the Moon tonight
We watched her in the Sky
She's been flirtin' with him for centuries
Too bad he's so shy
He's waxing
He's waning
You don't see Venus complaining
She'll steal a kiss whenever she can.
--"Venus Kissed the Moon," Christine Lavin

This just in from

"When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look west. Venus and the crescent Moon will pop out of the twilight barely 1-degree apart. It's a spectacular pairing of the two brightest objects in the night sky. The display will be visible from brightly lit cities and even through thin clouds."

Here's a skymap to show you how close they'll be. Don't miss it!


Friday, May 18, 2007

Writer's hours

Writing is rewriting.
--Ernest Hemingway

In the past I have deluded myself into thinking that I'll have more free time when revising a book than when I'm writing it.

As I said, 'deluded.'

When writing a first draft, I work about four hours a day. This is plenty of time to get down 2000 words. If I try to produce much more than that on a regular basis, I burn out. Writing a novel is like running a marathon (several of which I've...seen on TV). At the end, you push yourself, ignore the pain, and focus on the finish line. Then you collapse. But you can't run the whole race that way.

Anyway, first draft, four hours a day, with the rest of the time devoted to polishing the previous day's prose, doing research, having a life, and taking care of business items.

Revisions, on the other hand:

When I did the gut-clenching, mind-warping, but ultimately successful rewrite for Voice of Crow, I worked 10, 12, sometimes 14 hours a day. Inexplicably, I have a lot more stamina for revisions than first-draft writing. Which is odd, when you consider that much of that revision involved writing brand-new material.

I can foresee this happening with Wicked Game as well. Which is my weaselly way of saying I probably won't be blogging much for the next four weeks.

I will, however, be having lots of fun.

A-Z Update: "Headful of Ghosts" by Bush

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

New CDs...purr....

Went to Record & Tape Traders this afternoon. The place smells like incense. They have not just CDs, but vinyl records and vintage everything. Love it.

I went for two reasons:

1. To buy the new Nine Inch Nails.
2. To case the joint as a setting for a scene in Wicked Game.

But then I started browsing the used CD bin. Deadly. I should've worn handcuffs.

So I also bought 3 used CDs I already have on cassette (so no guilt over the artists not getting royalties because I bought them used--like my rationalization there?):

Shake Your Moneymaker by the Black Crowes
When I Woke by Rusted Root (They're like the Talking Heads but less cerebral. You canNOT sit still when they're on.)
Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution

Also snagged His Best by Sonny Boy Williamson. It's part of the awesome Chess Records 50th Anniversary collection.

And of course Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, complete with US Bureau of Morality warning on the back (BE A PATRIOT - BE AN INFORMER!).

Books and CDs. Better than chocolate.

A-Z Update: "Hanging on the Telephone" by Blondie

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Index cards are our friends

Writing may occur in the here and now, but editing takes place in the there and then.
--Dennis Palumbo, "Perspective," from Writing from the Inside Out

I mentioned earlier how I outlined Voice of Crow using index cards. (I can't find the blog post, but I talked about it question 3 of my Writer Unboxed interview.)

I didn't use index cards to outline Wicked Game (fka Bad Company, for those keeping score). I wrote a loose synopsis before I started the book, but didn't plan it out scene-by-scene.

This week I've been brainstorming changes to this novel, since I need to cut it by about ten thousand words and retool it to land farther on the fantasy end of the romance/fantasy spectrum. I've come up with some exciting ideas, but they're spread over dozens of pages in my little notebook. I needed a way to organize my thoughts.


Just like with Voice of Crow--except after-the-fact instead of before--I created a card for each scene, with date, setting, characters, and events. On the back I jotted my ideas for changes and cuts. (One advantage of the index cards is that I can slap a rubber band around them and take them anywhere--not so with a 6-pound manuscript).

But the miracle was not in the increased level of organization. The miracle was that in a few of the early-ish scenes, when it came time to list "events," I made a startling discovery:

Nothing happens.

Sure, there's plenty of witty banter and world-building (usually some indispensable fact about vampires), but beyond that, the scenes barely inched the plot forward.

So I'll cut entire scenes, pulling the good bits and inserting them into other scenes (y'know, the ones where stuff actually happens). If I hadn't taken each scene on its own in this analytical way, I never would've noticed how much these sandbags were slowing the momentum of the book.

The more chaff I can eliminate in the beginning, the faster things can develop. Happy readers. Plus, cutting words early on means I have more room to add major complications later. Happy writer.

Not-so-happy characters. But they'll deal, now that they have room to breathe.

A-Z Update: "Gangsta Tripping" by Fatboy Slim

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Black attack

My heart's on fire got flames down my spine
I've been there done that i walked the line
I don't give a damn
About what people think or say
If you don't like what you see get outta my way
--Necromantix, "I'm a Hellcat"

Took one of our felines to the vet today.

She was such a mega-monster about getting blood drawn that--get this--they had to gas her, like a wild animal. This involved sticking her in a box and pumping in a bit of general anesthesia. They said it was safer and would have a quicker recovery than an injectable anesthetic or sedative.

Sure enough, ten minutes later, she was awake and cranky as ever.

Sixteen years old and still fights like a Tasmanian Devil. That's my Antigone Pandora. Sometimes I wish I could be a little more like her.

A-Z Update: "Full Circle" by Loreena McKennitt


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Title twofer

Old enough now to change your name.
--"Cowgirl in the Sand" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Two weeks. Two publishers. Two books. Two title changes, both for the (vastly) better. And I can't claim credit for either.

OUT: Wings of Crow

IN: The Reawakened

Book 3 in the Aspect of Crow series was originally titled Wings of Crow. A few weeks ago, the senior editor at Luna, after reading and pondering the WOC synopsis, thought of the new title. She thought the book sounded big (it is, weepingly big--I expect a 130K-word first-draft) and deserved a "bigger" title.

The title also fits the final book in the trilogy better than Wings of Crow did. I can't explain much more without giving away stuff you won't read for 18 months, but for a quick refresher on the catalytic event known as the Reawakening, check out the Eyes of Crow page on my publisher's site (scroll down to "More About This Book") and the short story "The Wild's Call."

So I'm very excited about the new title. It's going to tie the series together and wrap it up in a big, big way.

OUT: Bad Company

IN: Wicked Game

Heh. The irony with this one is that the title gave me the idea for the entire series. I chronicled this lightning-strike a couple of years ago. The song I refer to in that post is, of course, "Bad Company," by the band Bad Company. Off the album...well, you know.

But the marketing people thought it wasn't strong or evocative enough. My husband agreed. I've lived with it for so long, I couldn't be objective.

I wanted each book title to be a rock/pop song that began with "Bad" because the central conflict of the main character is whether or not she should be a good or bad person. While that might have acquired resonance (i.e., be meaningful to people after they've read the book), it has no automatic resonance. People apparently don't hear "Bad Company" and go, "Oooh, I need to read that."

So I had to think of a stronger title that served that dual purpose (1. song title, and 2. character conflict). My brilliant mother-in-law (take a bow, Cecilia) suggested Wicked Game. I loved it, my publisher loved it. It pulls in the con artist angle and reflects the dark but fun nature of the book.

As for the Chris Isaak song...well, "Wicked Game" and I have a tormented history. It's accompanied some of the happiest and most miserable moments of my love life. I still think of it as four minutes, forty-six seconds of heartbreak. But what better way to purge those demons than to stick it on the cover of my glorious new novel? Ha!

Moral of the story for writers: Don't get too attached to your titles. Your publisher will probably change them, anyway, and almost always for the better. The good news is, editors don't care if you have a lame title, because they know it won't stay. Bottom line: don't sweat it.

A-Z Update: "Fishnets and Cigarettes" by the New York Dolls

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bits of goodlies

To make up for yesterday's (much-deserved) negativity (see below for the sad, sad update), I'm going to post a few things I'm happy about today:
  • My stomach is finally back to normal after its usual travel sensitivity. I had a (veggie) ham, egg, and cheese sammich on a pretzel roll with coffee this morning. Mmm...pretzel roll...insert Homer Simpson-style drool sound effect.
  • Today is the fourth anniversary of our adoption of Meadow Cheddo. This is what she looked like the day after we brought her home:

I call that her "Dubious Face." We were her fourth home in one month. There was her first foster home, then her first adopters, who brought her back after one night because "she whined in her crate." (They are no doubt now the proud and happy owners of a pet rock.) Then came her second foster home, then us. She was quite reserved with us for the first month; she probably figured we were just another way station.

Today she looks like this:

Her full Lakota name, by the way, is Meadow Two Bears.

  • I'm reading a delightful book by Gena Showalter, Playing With Fire. It's the first of her books I've read, and I'm hooked! I met her last week, and she's a total sweetie pie.
  • Spring came while I was in Houston. Trees have leaves (shade on the deck at last!) and the lilacs are blooming. I swear, I could get drunk off the scent of lilacs. It should be a controlled substance.
  • Happiest of all, I'm finally revising my vampire novel, which is now called Wicked Game.

A-Z Update: "Everything I Touch" by Stabbing Westward

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's Com-craptic!

More on RT in a bit, but first, a Public Service Announcement for anyone trying to reach me on my Comcast e-mail:

Due to some complicated side effects of transitioning my account from Adelphia (which happened back in January), Comcast has temporarily locked me out for one of the following lengths of time (depending which customer service representative I speak to):
  • 3 hours
  • 12-24 hours
  • 24-48 hours
  • 24-72 hours
  • UPDATE: 5-6 days
If you need to reach me before the longest of these time periods is up, you can send it to my other e-mail address, jeri at jerismithready dot com, which is working fine. I haven't picked up my Comcast e-mail since Friday morning. So if I haven't replied to you, I'm not a jerk (well, not because of this, at least), just a victim of incompetence.

UPDATE: To continue the process, they had to purge my account, so if you sent me e-mail last Friday through Sunday, it's gone-daddy-gone. Please send again to jeri at jerismithready dot com.

It's funny, because years ago in Howard County, MD, we had Comcast, and they were fantastic. When we heard they were taking over Adelphia, we greeted them as liberators, strewing flowers at their feet, thanking them for delivering us from lameness.

I'm sure you've been there. Consider this an open invitation to complain about any and all companies who've given you bad service lately.

A-Z Update: "Entertain Me" by the Psychedelic Furs



This Side of Salvation

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

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Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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