Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lost in Space

That was close!

Yesterday, an asteroid came very close to hitting us. How close? Well, it was within the orbits of our GPS satellites. Scientists were pretty sure it wouldn't hit us.

Pretty sure?

We were assured it would have burned up in Earth's atmosphere if it had come close enough. That's comforting. I think. Where were Bruce Willis and his team when we needed them?

It's in this photo...somewhere....

I'm just glad it didn't take out our satellite dish. The weather has done quite enough of that, thank you very much.

And then there's Comet Hartley 2, currently being studied by NASA's EPOXI mission. It was spotted during a flyby by the appropriately-named Deep Impact spacecraft. It's a hyperactive little rock described by scientists as "weird" and "skittish," moving around in space like a knuckleball. It has what is described as an "excited state of rotation," spinning on one axis while rotating on another. An amateur astronomer, I didn't know comets have personalities, but apparently, this is the Charlie Sheen of comets.

Hartley 2 is obviously not camera-shy.

And then there's Apophis (the Destroyer).  This menace of a rock will pass Earth twice in the next twenty-five years. The possibility of impact on Friday, April 13, 2029 has been ruled out (I hope human error isn't going to figure into this at any point in the future). The jury's still out on its second flyby on Easter Sunday, 2036.

Apophis--looks like it's giving us the finger, doesn't it?

Just what we need--optimism!

It just keeps getting better and better....

Okay, that's it...this image is gonna keep me awake tonight!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Birth of a Novel, Query to Publication

I've self-published two novels and will bring out two more this year. I've been asked how it differs from publishing via a conventional publisher. The answer: in almost every way. As former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin said of his decision to self-pub his book, "When you hand your book over to a publisher, you don't know what's going to happen."

My most recent blogs have focused on my experiences in conventional publishing. It's brought back memories, both pleasant and unpleasant--but the most unforgettable experience any author can have is the sale and publication of their first novel. 

I queried Maria Carvainis, who became my agent, in May 1984, and received her response, asking to see the manuscript, in June. She signed me as a client in September. In late March, after extensive revisions, it was sent out to twelve publishers. Eight made offers. On April 26, 1985, it was sold to Damaris Rowland at Berkley for a $25,000 advance, paid in three installments. I got a congratulatory telegram from Maria and roses from Damaris!

Damaris' enthusiasm was such that she went on to buy two more manuscripts from me within six months, for a $100,000 advance. Berkley was making quite an investment in my career! And more roses!

What followed was a lot of work. Finally, Dance of the Gods was on the schedule for publication in May 1988 as a lead title. A few months before the pub date, bound galleys were sent out to reviewers. On a trip to New York, I got my first look at the book's cover, which was beautiful...but I'll admit I had hoped for something that revealed a bit more about the story.

But then, the book that was published bore little resemblance to the novel I'd set out to write. 

I love bold, vivid colors--the more vivid the better--so needless to say, I was disappointed that the midnight blue cover Damaris showed me in New York would end up being black on the printed books. I did get the blue cover for Angels at Midnight, and requested--and got--red for A Time for Legends. 

As the May 1st pub date approached, I'd already delivered the manuscript for Angels at Midnight.  Press releases went out; interviews were being scheduled, mostly with local media.  It's not easy to get any media attention when you're an author nobody's ever heard of.

Rarely does a publisher throw a launch party for a first novel. Again, who's going to come out to meet a new, untested author no one has ever heard of? I did get a launch party, however, held by friends and fellow St. Louis authors, and attended mostly by other local authors and their spouses/significant others. It was great--my favorite foods, prepared by authors who had better things to do than cook, but they did it anyway. There was a toast and a lovely handmade centerpiece featuring copies of the book. 

Though most of my current circle of writing buddies live too far away for me to throw them a launch party, I will toast each of them in turn and look forward to being able to throw a party for those who are local when their time comes. Carole, Nicole, Cathy, Kyle--I'm talking about you. And unless he forbids me to do so, I will make the trip to Canada to celebrate with my partner in crime, William, whether his first published novel turns out to be Heaven & Hell or our collaborative effort, Same Time, Tomorrow!    

Next time: Judging a Book by its Cover. And please check out my guest blog at good friend Donna Yates' blog, Believe in Yourself. And for more photos, including pics from writers conferences and booksellers conventions, check out my albums at Facebook.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What's Your Theme Song?

As anyone who follows pro wrestling knows, wrestlers each have their own entrance theme, a song so identified with them that when it plays, fans know they're coming. John Cena performs his own theme, The Time is Now. Triple H has The Game by Motorhead.  For the most part, wrestlers choose themes that fit their ring persona--Randy Orton, for example,  has Voices ("I hear voices in my head....").  Stacy Keibler, known for her long, long legs, chose--you guessed it--Legs. The Undertaker, of course, used Rest in Peace for years. And Shawn Michaels became known for his lively Sexy Boy--a song he confessed he once hated.

A few years ago, I took several just-for-fun online quizzes. One of them was "What's Your Theme Song?" According to the quiz, mine would be ABBA's Dancing Queen. I'm not sure I agree with that. There have been days I've thought a better choice might be Britney Spears' Oops! I Did It Again! 

When a friend became embroiled in an online feud with another woman, Collin and I tried to imagine them thrashing it out in the ring--not only how the smackdown would go, but what their entrance themes might be. We didn't agree on music for our friend, but only one song could accurately depict her opponent: Pink's Don't Let Me Get Me ("I'm my own worst enemy, I'm a hazard to myself....")

I was going to suggest themes for friends here, but after giving it some thought, I'd much rather hear what songs you all might choose for yourselves. Go for it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Down in the Dumps

Sounds depressing, doesn't it?

In this case, it's not. The unfortunate term publishers, distributors and booksellers use for a floor display to showcase a novel is...a dump. Seriously.  Here are a couple of the dumps Berkley did for my novels:

So if you're a book, a dump is indeed a very nice place to be.  And here are some other nice places for a book to be:

More good places to be seen...if you're a book....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Father's Day Edition

I did a Six Sentence Sunday on Mother's Day featuring my fictional characters and their moms. Now it's the dads' turn....

Jaime Lynde and James Lynde (A Time for Legends/The Unicorn's Daughter): "I feel sorry for the man you marry, Princess."

Connor Mackenzie and Daniel Mackenzie (Chasing the Wind): "I don't want him to be caught in some maniac's crosshairs simply because he's my son."

Jamie Randall and Noah and Ethan Randall (Final Hours): "They took care of their injured dad, bringing me candy pills and taking my oral temperature with a rectal thermometer."

Collin Deverell and Quentin Deverell (Angels at Midnight): "Do you really want your kingdom divided, Dad?"

Abby Giannini and Tony Giannini (Angels at Midnight): "You dream big, figlia mia."

Alexander Kirakis and Constantine Kirakis (Dance of the Gods/Aleander's Empire): "Father," Alexander said in a trembling voice, "I've waited far too long to say this, I know...but I love you."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Romancing the Reader

Y'know, as long as you all keep giving me positive feedback, I'm going to keep posting this stuff.

I used to enjoy doing publicity for my books. I love to travel--or I did before air travel became such a colossal pain in the butt--and I enjoyed meeting the distributors and bookstore staffs. Doing interviews was also fun. It was kinda cool when I was in the waiting room at my doctor's office one day and a woman recognized me from a TV appearance.

Before Dance of the Gods was published, I was in New York, meeting with my agent and editor. One day, Sabra Elliott, then Vice President in charge of advertising, publicity and promotion, introduced me to members of her staff. I was directed to a chair in the middle of a room, with them seated around me.  They proceeded to ask me questions I would be asked by reporters. Interesting experience. Over the years I was with Berkley, I did numerous print, radio and TV interviews.

I worked with three publicists at Berkley: Amy Barron, Kristen Kreimeier, and Sara Leopold, and they were all wonderful, even if they did joke about hiding under their desks whenever I called. Here's a press release Amy wrote for me:

I got a lot of good interviews. I wish I could include all of them here, but I doubt Blogspot allows for endless blogs, so I'll start with this one, from the St. Louis Suburban Journals....

I had more of a problem with the local press giving me the "romance writer" label than I did elsewhere. The irony is that I am a romance writer--and not just in my Silhouette series romances. I like writing about relationships, and I love happy endings, hallmarks of the romance novel. But at that time, I saw myself as a thriller writer--and I am. The two, I eventually discovered, do not have to be exclusive of each other. And any author is better off--at least at the start of their career--if their books can fit neatly into a category. The General Fiction section is a big place, and if you don't have a recognizable name, you can get lost there!

Tom Blackburn, book editor of the Palm Beach Post when I was interviewed by him back in the late eighties, made my day when he told me A Time for Legends was closer to Tom Clancy than to Danielle Steel (I'm not a Steel fan, though I have great respect for what she's accomplished). 

My editor, Damaris Rowland, was not as thrilled. In fact, she was a bit perplexed. She always saw me as a romance--women's fiction--writer....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Do You Have Prince Albert in a Can?"

Okay, how many of you have never heard that old phone joke? I suspect it originated with Alexander Graham Bell. It may have been the first phone call ever placed.

The phone has been a tool for amusement for years. In the late sixties-early seventies, Lily Tomlin's obnoxious telephone operator Ernestine was a popular character on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: "One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingys...." meant somebody was about to get an earful.

One of my favorite Ernestine routines involved her dealing with an irate phone company customer back in the days when there was only one phone company. After a lengthy debate with the customer, Ernestine finished with, "We may be the only phone company in town, but we screw everybody."

These days, we can be screwed by several phone companies. That's called progress.

And there's Bart Simpson, who's been ten years old for the past twenty-three years. (I thought Bart would be in prison by now.) One would think after all these years, Moe at the tavern in Springfield would be wise to Bart's phone pranks, but he'll still try to call  "Seymour Butts," "I. P. Freely," etc. to the phone.

Moe's a real dumbass.

We played phone pranks like Bart's when I was a kid. Everyone did. But now, with so many people, kids included, having cell phones, the phone prank has entered the twenty-first century. The pranksters are no longer calling. They're texting.

In the nine years I've been using a cell phone, I've learned to not answer calls if I don't recognize the number or if it's an "anonymous" call. When you're paying by the minute, you're crazy to waste those minutes on wrong numbers. As a result, I get a lot of calls from people who don't leave messages. Or recorded messages asking to be called back. (But you get those even if you do answer the call. If the caller really wants to talk to you, they should be on the line.)

A couple of years ago, I was getting calls from a creditor trying to find the person who'd had the number before me. No matter how many times I told them I didn't know anyone by that name, they kept calling. One day, they caught me in a bad mood, and I really tore into the woman on the line. She started to cry. "You don't have to yell at me!" she sobbed.

"Obviously, I do," I pointed out angrily, "because you won't stop calling!"

She never called again.

I also get text messages from people I don't know. I got one from a young woman who was pregnant--and the guy who'd gotten her pregnant had apparently given her a phony number: mine.

I got one from a guy named Tyler who was trying to reach his buddy John. When I texted back and told him he had the wrong number, he seemed unconvinced. "There's no John there?" he asked.

"We do have a john, but not the one you're looking for," I told him.

A few days ago, I got another text from a number I didn't recognize. The texter was looking to buy some acid. I texted a response, advising they be sure they had the right number before sending such a message. William suggested I give them the number for the police department.

So when 5735929451 texted me again yesterday, I did.