Friday, March 30, 2007

Writer Unboxed Interview

Therese Walsh from the gorgeous and fascinating writing blog Writer Unboxed approached me late last year about doing an interview. After three months of my obsessing over every word, this was the result. I hope it's half as entertaining and fascinating as those of the phenomenal authors who have gone before me.

If you look closely, you'll see some breaking news that I haven't gotten around to mentioning on this blog yet, seeing as I already had one YAY-ME! post this week, and more than that makes me want to strangle myself.

Parts 2 and 3 of the interview will be posted next Friday and the Friday after that.

If you're coming here for the first time after reading the WU interview, then welcome! And you can skip this post, since it'll make you feel like you're in a hall of mirrors. (Here's a post about an interview that brought you to this post, which tells you about the interview.)

A-Z Update: "Cadillac Ranch" by Bruce Springsteen (Hallelujah, I made it out of the B's at last!)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

All Hail the Mighty Hexagon

Jerry: All right, we're taking a car service. So we'll swing by and pick you up. How about six? (Laura looks offended). Six is good. (Laura looks offended and angry). You got a problem with six? (Laura opens the door and gets out). What? What?
--Seinfeld, "The Lip Reader"

The Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan (which gets my vote as Coolest NASA Mission Ever) has recently discovered a strange hexagon surrounding the planet's north pole.

Earth apparently has a similar polar vortex, but ours is a circle, which has been established by Raising Arizona as an entirely normal shape*.

However, hexagons have been spotted on many Earthling breakfast tables, in their crispy form. Which gets my vote as Most Tell-It-Like-It-Is Product Label Ever. Ask for them by name.

I'm adding this last bit here as proof that I can write an entire paragraph without using the word 'which.' Which It seems to be my verbal tic, if you haven't noticed.

*Evelle: [about the balloons he just bought] These blow up into funny shapes and all?
Grocer: Well no... unless round is funny.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Moses, Part Two

Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
Excitable boy, they all said
And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
Excitable boy, they all said
--Warren Zevon, "Excitable Boy"


Moses (aka, "Beta Boy," due to his happy, willing submission to his Alpha Girl sister Meadow) is going home Friday! He'll have a new, much smaller but equally bossy sister to submit to.

I wanted to post some pics here before he left. But Moses is a two-year-old Lab mix, which means he hardly ever stays put. Most of the photos either feature him on the way in...


...or the way out...


...or, well....


But finally--MWAHAHAH!--I caught him with his guard down...


Any moment National Geographic or Audubon magazine will be calling me to join their ranks of photographers skilled at tracking and capturing images of elusive wild beasts and fowl.

Today, Moses the Beta Boy; tomorrow, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker!!

A-Z Update: "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley and the Wailers (yes, it's taking me forever to get through the B's--because I am B for Busy)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rita update

Um...I finaled.

Twice.

Cool.

UPDATE 3/26/07: Here's the Official List of Rita finalists. I finaled in Best First Book and Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. Yipes, heavy competition in both categories. Good thing I'm not planning to win. But I am planning to milk this as much as I can enjoy the honor of the nomination.

What the heck is Strong Romantic Elements*, you ask?

It's the Best Non-Romance with a Damn Good Love Story. It's sometimes just called "Mainstream." Among this year's finalists in the category are chick-lit novels, mysteries, and historical fiction novels. And, er, mine. So it's a wide variety, which makes it even more of a subjective crapshoot than other categories, because the judges might not have a taste for your kind of work.

However, whenever I judge a contest, I always choose Strong Romantic Elephants, because I enjoy an esoteric mix of reading material. So anyone looking for a full-blooded, wait-until-the-last-page-to-say-I-love-you romance probably wouldn't choose to judge that category. But it's a subjective crapshoot nonetheless, and I wouldn't have felt bad if I didn't final.

I could have entered Eyes of Crow in the Paranormal Romance category, but I felt that it was a fantasy/coming-of-age story first, and a romance second.

The awards will be announced on July 14 at a big hoop-dee-doo wrapping up the Romance Writers of America Conference in Dallas.

Which I somehow have to find a way to afford. Does anyone need their house cleaned? Dog groomed? Shower recaulked? I'm an excellent driver.


*which I've decided to start calling Strong Romantic Elephants, and if anyone would like to draw me a picture to represent that, I'll start a gallery here and maybe take it with me to Dallas. Works in all media, including crayon, will be accepted.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Foots Postscript

Good news! Foots is being adopted by the lovely family who took him off our hands when he wanted to eat our cats. This in spite of the fact that he was marking all over their house. He just got neutered, so hopefully that will end soon.

In other foster news, Moses has someone coming to meet him tomorrow, so he might soon be finding a forever home, too. We'll miss him, as he's been a delightful, easy dog to have around. I'll try to get a new picture of him today if the weather improves and post it here.

A-Z Update: "Breaking Apart" by Chris Isaak

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Speaking of awards...

Uh oh
Waiting on
Waiting on Sunday
Waiting on Sunday to land
--Tori Amos, "Spring Haze"

I hadn't even realized until a few days ago that this coming Sunday around 1PM central time, the phone calls will begin. The Romance Writers of America staff will call the finalists for the Rita Awards*, which is supposed to be our industry's equivalent to the Oscars(TM). The finalists dress up in gowns, go to a lavish ceremony, get treated like a big shot for months and try not to cry onstage (or try to look like they're trying not to cry). That's as far as the comparison goes for me.

According to romance novelist Barbara Samuel, Sunday is nervous-making time.

And believe me, RITA day, as we fondly call it, is a day when cyberspace and telephone lines are afire. None of us get much work done. I think it’s one of the most exciting days of the year and I still cry when a friend who has been aching for that nod calls me screaming, or I read on an email loop that book I adored has made the lists.

By the end of the day, bitter tears are sometimes spilled, too. Because this matters desperately to us—making the RITA finals has meaning and power. Trust me when I say that it might feel great to make other favorites lists, but we don’t weep over not making them.

I can't imagine crying over not finaling for a Rita, or any award for that matter.

Writing-related things that could make me cry:
  • Having a contract canceled (hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure I'd cry, assuming the three bottles of whiskey didn't dehydrate all the tears out of my ducts)
  • Being orphaned (no, wait, that just made me stand there holding the phone with a blank look on my face for about ten minutes)
  • Getting a bad review (no, wait, that just made me go -phhbt!-)
  • Losing a sale because the eager editor who wanted desperately to buy the book was vetoed by higher-ups (who didn't actually read it) who thought it sounded like another book already out there, a book I'd read specifically to make sure mine was nothing like it (no, wait, that just made me throw things)
To me, getting published is the award. Any contest win is just a nice bonus. Perhaps I haven't been around long enough, or haven't raised my measurement of success to the point where awards matter. I don't think they matter to readers.

Do you care if a book has won an award? Which ones make a difference to you? The Pulitzer? NBA? Hugo? Nebula? Edgar? What about movies--do you try to see every Oscar(TM)-nominated film each year?

*which, by yesterday's definition, is actually a contest

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My first final

But not the final final, I hope.

Eyes of Crow has finaled in the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence contest. Woo-hoo! The winners will be announced at their conference in May. I purposely don't know what date that is, so I can forget about it.

A quick distinction between "awards" and "contests." Whereas the Reviewers' Choice award is what I call an award, because I didn't pay (or do anything) to enter, the AoE and several others I'm waiting to hear from are what I consider "contests."

Most chapters of RWA have contests--several for published authors, and dozens for unpublished authors. What I like about contests is that the judges weigh my book equally against others, regardless of my (nonexistent) reputation. It seems more democratic somehow.

Actually, even the Reviewers' Choice award is fair in this regard. The reviewers have to read the books, and they nominate the ones they like best. It's all extremely subjective, but at least these types of awards don't discriminate against, ahem, low-profile books like mine.

The two biggest reasons why EOC is low-profile for these purposes:

Release date: November is a great month for sales, but when the call goes out for year-end reader nominations for best book, mine is still buried in hundreds of To-Be-Read piles. (The Nebula Awards(TM) avoid this bias by making a book eligible for a year after its publication. Not that I could ever win one of those.)

Price: Eyes of Crow is trade paperback, so by simple supply-and-demand economics, fewer people will read it than its mass-market competitors that cost half as much.

But the beauty of a contest is, I can pay someone to read my book!

Er, that didn't quite come out right. But the fact is, it's a great way for a new author to get his or her name out there. Last year I judged the PRISM contest and discovered two wonderful new authors whose books I'll continue to buy. Certainly other judges might feel the same about my book.

I don't know if I'll enter Voice of Crow in all these contests next year. Its romantic subplot is smaller than that of Eyes of Crow, and overall it weighs more heavily toward the fantasy end of the spectrum.

Plus, the entry fees add up to a big chunk of change. Ultimately it's worth it to introduce readers to a new series (I'll sure as shootin' be entering Bad Company), but simple economics tells us this is a world of finite resources.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Quickie quiz

Who can tell me the connection between my Current Read (Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys) and the Current Song Stuck in My Head ("Crazy Love, Vol. II by Paul Simon)?*

It's a two-word answer.

*I include the names not because I think you're incapable of referencing the sidebar, but because within a few days the sidebar will change, and you might drive yourself batty wondering what the connection is between Paul Witcover's Tumbling After (the next book in line) and, say, the theme song to HBO's Deadwood. Though I bet an argument could be made.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

PNR Paraphernalia interview

My first online interview! My ramblings forever carved in pixels to embarrass me for the rest of my life. Yay!

I'll be participating in my first live chat on the same site on Monday night at 9PM eastern time.

In other developments, I've added a FAQ page on this website. All of them are true FAQs, not QWWPWA's (Questions We Wish People Would Ask).

A-Z Update: "Brain Damage" by Pink Floyd

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Character birthdays, Part Two

I mentioned a few weeks ago that March 1 was the birthday for Shane, the hero of my vampire novels.

One reader asked me offline if I bought Shane a birthday present. A couple of months ago a discussion on this subject took place on the Smart Bitches site, prompted by a post on Laurell K. Hamilton's blog. The discussion centered on how real the characters are to authors, how much they drive the plot, and how thoroughly we know the contents of their pockets.

I can usually tell you what kind of music my main characters like (in Bad Company it's sort of the point) and even how they take their coffee:

  • Lucifer: Black and bitter, as dark a roast as possible
  • Beelzebub: Tons of cream and sugar--he hasn't an ascetic bone in his body
  • Ciara: Three sugars, no milk, except when she's really tired, when it's time for a gigante mocha, organic two-percent milk, one-and-a-half shots of coconut, no whipped cream, lots of cinnamon, and a little nutmeg
  • Shane: Black and cheap

There's no coffee in the Aspect of Crow world, which is one reason I'd never want to live there. They make do with chicory. Also, without electricity it's a lot easier to get a good night's sleep.

I use character interviews to deepen my knowledge of these people, but usually not until after the first draft. The first draft is the getting-to-know-you process. I put them through hell and see how they react. Do they crumble? Do they run? Do they fight back with nasty words? Fists? Do they blame others? Themselves?

If I know how they face down certain death, the rest comes easy. When they step up to a coffee counter and the bored barista says, "What'll you have?" the answer is waiting on the tip of my brain.

Back to Shane's birthday. I wanted to get him food, because like a lot of gift-buyers, I go by what I would want most (be honest, you do it, too).

But vampires can't enjoy solid food ("everything tastes British") so I settled on a six-pack. The local liquor store didn't have any microbrews from his home state of Ohio. Instead I bought some Smithwick's Irish Ale, made by the brewers of tar-in-a-bottle, aka Guinness. It was a nod to Shane's heritage, and the whole reason for posting this musing today and not tomorrow, or, say two weeks ago when it would've been more timely.

A brief product review: Smithwick's is fantastic! It's extremely smooth, while somehow maintaining a rich, full-bodied ale taste. How did I get this far in life without trying it? Go pick up one (or six) for yourself, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A-Z Update: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Readers' Choice Awards

I had the honor and thrill of being nominated for three Readers' Choice Awards on the eHarlequin site. Nominations came from the community of readers who participate (and occasionally party) on the message boards. The awards ceremony took place online last night, and though I didn't win, I looked stunning in my Versace gown and matching bedroom slippers.

Eyes of Crow was nominated for Favorite Cover Art, yours truly was nommed for Favorite New Author, and "The Wild's Call" made the list for Favorite Online Read.

By the way, if you haven't read "The Wild's Call" yet, it might not be up forever. They can only fit so many stories on their server (or something like that), so they'll be rotating the stories in the future. I'll try to keep track of it and update the links accordingly.

A-Z Update: "Born Slippy (Nuxx)" by Underworld

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moses, Part One


My hands have been hurting me lately (no doubt a relic of marathon Voice of Crow revisions), so I'm trying to limit my typing to fiction for the next several days.

So I'll just have to communicate with all of you telepathically.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Tell me in the comments.

Also, our lovely new foster, Moses, got neutered yesterday. Leave your get well soon/sympathy wishes (depending on your gender) in the comment section.

How much of a heathen am I, that when I think of this dog's name, I don't think Ten Commandments or the father of three major world religions, but rather:

Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
But Moses supposes erroneously.




A-Z Update: "Billy and Bonnie" by Steve Earle

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Foots, Part One of One

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life.
I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky.
--Pearl Jam, "Black"

I've probably said somewhere on this blog that I don't believe in love at first sight, and that it doesn't upset me in the least when fosters leave.

That was before I met Foots. As I was driving him to our house Saturday night, I thought to myself, "If he's good with the cats, maybe we'll keep him."

Ah, that little If. Foots, alas, turned out to be cat-hungry. Not to mention huge and strong. Moving him from room to room without encountering the felines became a nail-biting event. This wasn't a little puppy going, "Whee! Wanna play with kitties!" This was an 85-pound boy with the jaw strength of a machinist's vise going, "Put kitty in mouth. Now."

He was perfect in every other way. Affectionate but not clingy. Fun-loving but not hyper. Scary-looking enough to deter muggers and terrorists, but gentle as a bunny with us ("us" not including the cats). Meadow loved him, too, as demonstrated by this silent movie (note the sweet Tae Kwon Do spinning side kick he gives her).

Foots found another foster home, where he's trying to settle in despite having had a really confusing week. I feel terrible, like I've failed him, but he truly was a danger to the cats. While he was here, we were six inches of leash-slack from a tragedy. So I don't feel guilty, just bad. And I miss the big lunkhead something fierce.



A-Z Update: "Biblical Sense" by the Pietasters

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Foots, Part Zero

Our new foster, Foots, is coming this afternoon. I'm really looking forward to this one. He's an 80-pound Lab/Mastiff (or maybe Great Dane), and like many dogs of his size, is very gentle.

He comes from the Richmond animal shelter, where he was left after his owner died. Apparently after his owner's death, Foots tried to escape his yard through a hole in the fence and got himself a nasty gash on his side. Then he had kennel cough, which is why he didn't come last week. Soon he'll be getting neutered. So the poor dude is having a lifetime's worth of veterinary encounters in just a few weeks.

The shelter people say he's very friendly once he warms up to you, but doesn't demand attention and doesn't seem to expect it. They think maybe he never got much attention during his life. So sad. He sounds like the anti-Lilly Belle, who was always angling for petting and playing. We look forward to cheering him up and making him feel like he belongs somewhere.

Oh! Also, a local documentarian (is that a word?) will film us picking up Foots and bringing him home for her documentary on pet rescue.

Which means I need to go clean the house, so that when they play the clip on the Academy Awards show, my reputation as a homemaker won't be sullied in front of a billion people.

A-Z Update: "Ball & Biscuit" by The White Stripes

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Character birthdays

I'll get to Part 2 of Requiem for a Slacker tomorrow when I have more time to write (going back to the old job today to help my replacement with the dreaded taxes). Besides, today's date brings up a topic some authors give a lot of thought to: character birthdays.

I don't usually pick a specific birthday for my characters unless it's pertinent to the plot. Sometimes I have an idea of a time of year or month when they were born.

OKAY, OKAY, I CONFESS: sometimes I think about what astrological sign they would be, even though I don't believe in that stuff. It helps to consider at least which element (water, air, fire, earth, plutonium, boron) they gravitate toward.

But beyond astrology, certain birthdays can affect one's personality or outlook. Example: I gave Shane, the hero of my vampire books, March 1 as a birthday (and thus she finally reveals the purpose of this post!). I first decided he had to be a Pisces like his hero (whose 40th birthday I just missed), because that would mean something to him--he identifies with him a tad too much.

Then I picked March 1 because it must be the single most forgotten birthday of the year. I always have trouble remembering birthdays that come at the beginning of the month. Even if I were to write down birthdays on a calendar (I hear some people do that), I wouldn't see them until I flipped the page, usually around the 3rd or 4th day.

March sneaks up on us faster than any other month, because February, apparently, has sucked throughout history. Which makes March 1 the stealthiest date of the year. I know, because my best friend in the world has that birthday, and I usually forget it (but not this year! Hah!).

What would that do to a person's sense of self-worth if even his own family routinely forgot his birthday?

It doesn't seem to bother my friend. Then again, nothing does.

Afternote: My subconscious celebrated Shane's birthday by dreaming about him this morning. I dreamed we were trying to get tickets to the University of Maryland women's lacrosse game. They must have been playing Duke, because we had to resort to scalpers. (Yes, dear, I swear that was all we did.) Also, he must not have been a vampire, because it was daytime, unless he was wearing (WARNING! WARNING! GEEK FIT!) the Gem of Amarra.

A-Z update: "Baby Please Don't Go" by Muddy Waters

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NEW RELEASE!

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**

More about THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Shattered

"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!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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