Friday, August 29, 2014

The Week That Was

I know many people in the USA are enjoying the unofficial last weekend of the summer. Labor Day means cookouts, a trip to the beach and the beginning of football season as well as the start of school. As a retired school teacher, I enjoy this weekend much more than I have in the past when it meant the end of summer break. The weather has been wonderful and a great preview of the lovely autumn weather ahead.

The Old Farmer's Almanac advises this: For good fortune, place salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen shelf before carrying furniture inside a new home.
Also: Don't ride the high horse; the fall, when it comes, is hard.

As a writer of romance, I found this article from BookBub interesting. Romance readers are tired of people treating their favorite genre as the 'poor relative' in the literary world. I found this article through the newsletter editor of CPRW, my local chapter of RWA. I'll introduce you to Heidi later. She just signed a very exciting contract.

And I realized that last week I forgot to include any quotes from my favorite writers. We'll go back to Tolkien today.
It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.

Some reminders. Like many other bloggers, I won't be posting on Monday. Please remember that next Wednesday is the first of the new month. So get your IWSG post ready as we step into fall. Do you have special plans for this weekend? Ever witness anyone make a painful fall from that high horse? Is your spirit stronger than your body? Ready for some fall weather?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Magic Comes With a Price.

Magic comes with a price is a common saying on one of my favorite TV shows, Once Upon a Time. As a parent, I believe I've seen magic at least and at best, prove of God's existence, four times in my life. All my children were born by C-section which means beautiful babies by any one's standards. No misshapen heads or abrasions from the trauma of birth. New parents worry about those fragile little bodies but the real worries come along when they get older. Once they walk out of that umbrella of 24/7 protection the parents learn the real measure of worry.

My Old Farmer's Almanac shared this stat for today as if they read my mind. Typically, A baby caused its parents to lose between 400 and 750 hours of sleep the first year. That's taking a year or so off those parents' lives. Last week the latest estimate of the cost of raising a child were released. According to this article in USA today, it cost $245, 340 dollars to raise a child to age 18. If you're like us and also help them through college, you're looking at some big bucks. But not a parent in the world would trade their little bundles of magic for that money.

As my children grow and go off on their own, I don't feel any loneliness in an 'empty nest' way. I worry that they're so far from my protection. They're smart, responsible people but that doesn't help me sleep at night. My youngest son is across the country in Colorado. The son with a heart condition. Early tomorrow morning my daughter leaves for a semester of study in Morocco. As she sat at the kitchen table with me practicing her Arabic, I felt my hair turning gray. Yes, it's a safe country, relatively. But it's way over there.

I remember giving my parents a needlepoint picture I made when I left home and moved hours away from them. It said the two most important things we can give our children are roots and wings. Tomorrow another one flies away.

Are you shocked at the price to raise a child today? Do you think the numbers of hours parents lose in that first year is accurate? Can you tell me something good about Morocco?

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Moon and New Book

Today is the new moon and I also have a new book released by my romance publisher. The Warrior and the Biologist is the first in my new series of science fiction romance novels. Mankind must trust their continued existence to a mysterious alien warrior when a predator impervious to all known weapons descends on their space colonies.

 The series is called the Warriors of Gaviron and the next two books are in development. That means I'm writing some really bad first drafts and hoping to have the second book ready by the end of the year.

As per my other books, my publisher sells new releases exclusively from their website for the first few weeks after their release. This practice makes more money for them and for me. It also takes advantage of their regular customers who are quite numerous. Small publishers come and go. New Concepts Publishing, though not the largest small publisher, has been around longer than most of them. Some of you may have heard of the latest small publisher struggling with revenue. Ellora's Cave has been around for quite a while also but they've cut staff and their authors are worried. Here's more detail in an article on Publishers Weekly.

The last book in my Recon Marine Series, The Marine's Doctor, is now available at all major ebook retailers and is enjoying good sales on Amazon and has garnished some nice reviews here and there. It wraps up that series and answers all the threads of that futuristic world.

I'm looking forward this week to the release of Brent Weeks newest book, The Broken Eye. It's the third book in his Lightbringer series. Can you tell I love to read and write series. I'm also looking forward the DVD release of season one of The Musketeers, the latest remake of that story by BBC America. It's very entertaining if you haven't checked it out yet.

Have you heard about Ellora's Cave and their troubles? Any new books or movies coming out that you're looking forward to? Should I be worried that the warrior on my book might look like a terrorist instead of an alien using a mask to protect himself from Earthling germs?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Week Wrap Up

Time for some wisdom from my trusty Old Farmer's Almanac Planner. We've been watching some of the Little League World Series so baseball is even more on our minds than usual at our house. According to the Old Farmer's, there are about 450 feet of wool yarn in a baseball. Lots of us have probably unwound an old baseball at some point in our lives. And on an historical note for tomorrow, Fannie Farmer opened a cooking school in Boston in 1902. Do you think they baked beans? A bit of dreaded news from the most recent publication of the Old Farmer's Almanac, we're going to have another cold and snowy winter here in the northeast USA.

I'm happy to finally be back at work on my WIP though I don't know if I'll make my goal for this month. I'm pretty much behind where I wanted to be but I've been spending a lot of time with my daughter before she heads off to college.

Sharing a bit of science news from BBC news, seems our ancient forefathers shared Europe with those tough old thick-headed Neanderthals for a longer period of time than we thought. According to the scientific speculation, the two species of humanoids probably did some trading and mostly lived in peace together. Amazing that two species could get along though they were barely civilized by today's standards but modern humans all of the same species can't. It really makes me question what the word 'civilized' actually means.

Did you ever unwind the guts of a baseball? Did you ever hear of Fannie Farmer's cooking school? Are you on target for your writing goals for the week, month or year? Do you think Neanderthals made good neighbors?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Plan Your Work

I may have mentioned one of my husband's favorite sayings before. 'Plan your work and work your plan.' It's used a lot around here and all six of our children use now in their adult life. One of his other favorites that they quote a lot is 'this country is built on hard work.' Usually they use those quotes where they have so much work to do they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I might have mumbled those quotes to myself over the last week though colored with a bit of desperation.

I put in some long hours and reached all my deadlines. I wrote a post for IWSG on high concept fiction and prepared a post for this blog. I finished the edits on my upcoming release of The Warrior and the Biologist. These were the most extensive edits I've done for one of my romances and thanks to my editor's suggestion, it is a much better book now. And I made the deadline by about 24 hours to write an article for the newsletter of my local writers' group. Long hours but then again, this country is built on hard work.

When I asked my daughter, a junior at Boston University, to read over the article I wrote, she went all elitist on me about my lack of an Oxford comma where I could have used one. What followed was a delightful and spirited debate about using the serial comma. If you don't have a side in the Oxford Comma debate, here's a link with some pros and cons. Incidentally, since my daughter attends Boston University, rivals of Harvard, she would never call it the Harvard Comma like some people do. But by attending a university in the northeast, our professors are very pro-Oxford Comma.

Do you like our family sayings? Did you meet your deadlines this week? Do you have a side on the Oxford Comma debate? Do you call it by that name or another? Don't forget to visit IWSG for a special guest today.

Monday, August 18, 2014

7 Reasons To Be a Group

Recently I read a blog post about a writer who quit because she felt overwhelmed by the amount of time she needed to spend on promotion. The time she felt pressured to promote on social media had drained the joy of writing and only added stress to what had once been a dream come true. It was sad, and I've heard others express their frustration and distaste of that part of the business. Even authors contracted by the big traditional publishers must parcel out pieces of their writing time to promotion.

I have no easy answer because if a writer wants their work to read readers they must use social media to get their word out. This is especially true of indie-published authors and those published by small presses. But there are ways to lessen the stress. Don't do it alone. Be a group. A group blog. A group Facebook page. A group Twitter. Make a schedule and a plan so the group is active on whatever forum it is. What are the benefits? Most of the below refer to blogs but would be true for FB or Twitter also.

1. The most obvious is time. If you belong to group blog, instead of feeling like you need to post every day, you might only post every two weeks or even once per month. You're still active but not spending as much time.

2. Each member of the group brings their own strengths and widens the fields of expertise contributing to the blog. Do make sure the people in your group actually have something to contribute. Most writers do.

3. Having different people posting varies the 'voice' of the blog. Perhaps someone brings humor and another writes in a highly professional manner.

4. You have an immediate wider audience group. Each member brings their own friends, fans and contacts. Even if you start with mostly family, friends and known professional contacts, those branches will sprout and grow.

5. Each member will also bring connections to other forms of social media. Nearly all writers will have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn presence. When they post and link their posts to those platforms, all members are appearing there too. It helps everyone.

6. Not to be overlooked is the security and comfort of being part of a group. You'll find support and assistance among your members. You'll learn things from them.

7. By having others depend on you to do you share, it will force you to stay active even when the business has weighed you down.

Please visit me today at the IWSG Blog, a group I'm very proud to be part of. Are you a member of a group blog? What do you see as the benefits? Does social media stress you at times? How do you motivate yourself to stay active?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Wisdom

This busy week is ending with a lot of work still on my plate. I have a final read through of my next science fiction romance, The Warrior and the Biologist, to get back to my editor by next Wednesday. I have an outline for an article I want to write for my local RWA chapter's newsletter due by Tuesday. And I have to get a blog post ready for the IWSG blog on Monday.

That is just my writers' work. For the second summer in a row, it manages to rain, a lot, a few times per week which means to the lawn and the weeds grow and grow and grow. I have a sizable property which means two hours of mowing and lots more than that of landscaping care. Add to that celebrating my husband's birthday, attending a celebration of our friends' anniversary and doing some shopping with my daughter for her semester abroad, and I'm pretty busy this weekend.

I can't let you enter the weekend without some shared wisdom from the trusty Old Farmer's Almanac. If there is a most common food that kids don't care for it might be peas, but did you know that 'Peas were a bedtime snack for royalty in 17th century France?' If you've ever eaten peas fresh from the garden, you would find them very tasty.

I don't know if any of my readers live in Vermont, but the painted turtle is the state republic of Vermont? And for good luck, you should put a coin in your home's foundation as it is being built. My father did that when we built an addition to our barn for the young stock. If my dad did it, it must be true.

What is keeping you busy this weekend? Ever have peas fresh from the garden? Would you have guessed they were a royal snack? Is there a coin in the foundation of your home? Any odd luck charms that you can think of? Want to mow my grass for me?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Name Game

I recently shared some of the information my friends brought back from the RWA national conference about trends. As many of you agreed, no one can really predict trends in book buying though many people try. One of the interesting tidbits shared by editors and agents is the way we label books.

When pitching a book to an editor or agent or when marketing it after its published, it really helps to label the book and slot it into a genre or a combination genre. My books are traditional epic or high fantasy. My romances are fantasy romance and science fiction romances. Some people would label those books under the big umbrella of speculative or even paranormal romances.

It's possible that some trends that are dwindling in popularity are really only in need of a new label. I mentioned that the dystopian genre is no longer as popular (according to the 'experts') but calling it science fiction might work. Paranormal should have a more specific genre label to garner interest such as shape-shifter or time-travel.

Remember those brief years of chick-lit popularity. Most people will tell you its over but actually it's now better described as 'first-job' or 'first-love' fiction. That odd category named New Adult might also fall into that genre. Whatever the heck it is. Know where the most New Adult is selling? In the iTunes bookstore.

One last thing shared about trends it the desire of publishers to contract series. They're thrilled when an author has an entire series planned or even better, already written. They've come around to what small publishers have been doing and that is doing a quick release of subsequent books in a series instead of making readers wait an entire year.

What do you think? Are some genres just getting new labels rather than losing their popularity? Do you read or write in series? How long is too long between the release of books in a series? Do you know that today is National Left-Handers Day? Or as we like to tell my left-handed stepson, wrong-handed day.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Future is Now

I'm honored to be a guest today over at Mainewords where I've been interviewed by Marcy. I hope you'll stop in and hear all about my latest release, The Marine's Doctor. This is the third and final book in my Recon Marines science fiction trilogy from New Concepts Publishing. I hope you'll visit me there.

As someone with a biology minor and having been a health teacher for more years than I want you to know, I have a strong interest in science. One of the areas I find the most fascinating is the exciting advances in genetics. The cures for so many diseases may rest on our understanding of the human genetic puzzle. Since my fictional Recon Marines are genetically engineered soldiers, I thought I'd share some interesting genetic discoveries.

This first article shares the discovery that we tend to pick friends who share genetic similarities with us. Our friends are usually enough like us to be our fourth cousins. Now most of us don't even know our fourth cousins but researchers say that one percent match is significant. The most common shared gene between friends is the 'smell' gene. We pick friends who like and dislike the same odors as we do.

Some disturbing findings coming out of genetic research is that a mother's diet during pregnancy can alter the fetus' DNA. These permanent changes may influence development throughout life and who knows what else. Another worrisome idea is that the more we learn about genetic differences in people the more certain ridiculous people might use such findings as basis for discrimination. There are already people who have suggested that early genetic testing and intelligence tests could be used to separate children into different schools or courses of study in early childhood. Scary, isn't it?

Have you visited Mainewords today yet? Do you know your fourth cousin? Are you surprised to learn your friends are more similar to you than you expected? Do you find the other two findings as unsettling as I do?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Wind Down

Even though I'm retired from teaching, Fridays still mean something to me. It means my husband will be home from work earlier and be around the house for the next two days. I love the guy but I don't get near as much writing done during those times. It means I'll cook more meals because at least a few of the sons will be around to eat whatever is available.

Friday is also the time to share some Old Farmer's Almanac wisdom for the week. I have two for you this week. "It is bad luck to use the word 'ice' in the name of a ship." "Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backward."

Speaking of farmers, maybe I've mentioned that I grew up on a dairy farm. Besides the massive work to do with the cows and crops, we always kept a large garden. I don't keep much of a garden but everything I plant grows like ... like weeds. What I'm trying to say is, does anyone want some cucumbers and tomatoes. I've given my neighbors baskets and still have my refrigerator full. You can take the girl off the farm but...

Enough country education. To inspire the writer in you for the weekend or the reader if you want to delve into the best epic fantasy ever, here are two JRR Tolkien quotes.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 
The Fellowship of the Ring

“It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish.” 

Do you grow any of your own veggies? Do you eat in or go out on the weekends? Do you have a green thumb? Any of the quotes suit your needs for inspiration this week? Will you be writing this weekend?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG August Version

It's that time again for Insecure Writers Support Group, the ever evolving child of Alex J. Cavanaugh. Every first Wednesday the group shares encouragement and concerns. Join the group and find a list of all the participants here and don't forget to join the IWSG blog and the IWSG Facebook Page where there have been some changes in what the days bring. Now we have Friday News and Promotion.  And in a special tease of really cool things to come, the IWSG anniversary is coming up and something really, really cool and special is going to take place. More on that next month.

Today I'm going to share what I learned about trending from my fellow local writers who went to the RWA National Conference. Trying to write in anticipation of a trend or write quick enough to catch the benefit of a trend is usually a fruitless endeavor. There is no doubt that trends are real but the idea that someone can predict them ahead of time is unlikely.

So what did the editors and agents have to say (guess) about coming trends and things that are out of favor? Remember this was a romance writers conference so they only discussed related genres. First of all in the romance industry contemporary novels are always popular. The industry professionals declared the 'paranormal' genre dead. When pinned to specifics, they admitted that authors have been doing well in the paranormal genre continue to do so but new writers shouldn't try to break in there. Another thing they admitted was that 'dead' label might not apply equally to sub-categories of the big umbrella of paranormal. They said no more vampires for sure though shape-changers are still in vogue. In the YA genre, the professionals claimed the popular dystopian genre is morphing into something more like science fiction. (Isn't dystopian actually science fiction?) So what does any of this tell authors?

As I mentioned, no one really knows. Some book about blue-skinned aliens could break out like some of those early vampire books did and start a new trend. Perhaps the TV world will fall in love with FX's The Strain and evil vampires will become popular. Maybe the Starz's Outlander will inspire a grand upswing in time-travel stories. It all comes back to not trying to catch those trends.

Don't forget to visit the other participants in IWSG. Do you have a guess about the next big thing and please share if you do? Do you agree with what they shared about the waning popularity of paranormal? Is dystopian going away?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Things Change

This past Saturday we had a fun and informative meeting of my local writers' group, CPRW. A few of our members had attended the national convention of RWA and shared the news they'd gathered during their time among the professionals of the romance writing industry.

Some of the big news centered, or course, around the sale of Harlequin to HarperCollins and what that means to writers. My fellow writers shared the amusing words repeated over and over again by the Harlequin representatives during all their presentations. "Nothing will change when the sale to HC is completed." Or course things will change. Positions and offices will slowly or perhaps quickly be combined. They'll tighten their corporate belts and make cuts. They're a business and it's about making promise. Did anyone believe them when they said nothing would change?

Another observation from my friends involved all the traditional publishers. In a direct twist on what we've come to expect, the publishers actively recruited writers. Many of the publishers' presentations were more like sales pitches as they described the things they do for their authors along the lines of promotion, editing, cover design and career goals. Apparently as more writers go the self-publishing route the traditional publishers are looking for ways to compete. At least looking for ways that don't involve paying the authors more money.

This led to a great discussion in our group about what the advantage of a contract with a traditional publisher might be. With some very candid examples, some of our group shared how they're make much more money from the books they have with small publishers compared to their books with Harlequin. But another author shared how little money she'd made so far on her self-published book. An agreed upon sentiment is that publishers give an author a better chance of discoverability. The big publishers will get your book in physical stores or even if they don't, they often have a built in audience of loyal buyers. Small publishers don't put many books in physical stores but they have repeat customers just like the big guys.

None of the news was earth-shattering but lots of it was interesting. Don't forget this Wednesday is the August version of IWSG. And visit the IWSG blog to signup and read an interesting post today. I'll be sharing what my comrades learned about possible trends in the romance and YA fields at RWA National.

Any of the news from National surprise you? Are you published in more than one venue? Do you think the big traditional publishers will ever change their payment percentages to authors to try and keep them?