Thursday, June 13, 2013

The time has come

I've had this blog since 2009, and it's been fun.

I've had a lot of fun vomiting out my thoughts and fears and questions about writing and the publishing world. I've interviewed some awesome people and I made some really good friends and I learned a lot.

Most of all, I had really kind people leave comments and engage with me (YOU!). That was best part.

The time has come to migrate to a new blog on my newly-designed website, however. I've gone Wordpress.

So please come visit me there:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sometimes it takes a while

The other night my 11-year old cat, Max, caught his very first mouse!

He caught it in our garage and then brought it up to the living room where he could watch it/disembowel it/be praised for it in comfort. Alas, we removed it.

Here he is, post-mouse removal, but still very much in the glow of satisfaction:

What a handsome, splendid kitty! See? Sometimes it takes 11 years to realize your dreams! But did Max ever give up? No! It's in his blood to hunt mousies.

As it is in my blood (and hopefully your blood, too) to write until you reach your goals.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fortitude, Bird Style

There's been a sweet married birdie couple living in my backyard for a while. Mr. and Mrs. California Towhee, ground-hopping birds who have a nest in a tree on the side of my yard. They've been there a while, and they often come hopping right up to the sliding glass door to peek in and see what we're up to. (My cat does not like this and has bruised his forehead lunging into the glass like an idiot.)

A sweet little brown California towhee. He has a high chip-chip sound.

They've also raised a nest of little baby towhees, and although I suspected they had babies nearby -- the grabbing of an earwig and then flying off with it was a sure sign -- I didn't know where they were.

Last week, I heard a bout of mad cheeping, baby-style cheeping, and I got to the window just in time to see two large shapes falling from the tree, and a marauding scrub jay fluttering in the branches, and mama and papa towhee screaming and flapping at him. Twice they chased him off; twice he returned. Finally, from across the yard streamed a third towhee, and he aided his friends in chasing off the scrub jay. I ran out and did my best to chase off the jay too but I thought my presence stressed the towhees so I went back inside. (Also I did not want my head pecked.) The scrub jay, if you haven't guessed, had pushed the two babies out of the nest in an attempt to have a snack. I'm not a birder, so this was all high drama for me.

The babies sought cover under leaves, and they had feathers although they couldn't fly. I let them all be, not knowing what would happen to the babies.

A pretty, but very evil, scrub jay.

Four days later, we arrived home from Memorial Day weekend up at my mom's house, and again I heard a mad bout of cheeping. In a different corner of my yard, probably the same evil scrub jay was hopping around and he flushed out a towhee baby. The parents were again beside themselves. But this time, the jay managed to push the baby into the creek that runs through our backyard (really a glorified storm drain). I ran out, screaming, and the jay flew off. I got a shovel to get the baby out, but it was too late. Mr. Sierra put him on the grass so the parents would see him.

The awful jay came back and to my horror at the baby. The mama and papa towhee had to stand nearby and watch, and their soft chipping as they watched broke my heart.

It's a good thing I'm not a towhee.

I was pretty upset, but Mr. Sierra reminded me that this is nature. The towhee parents saw the dead baby before the jay returned to feast, and there was nothing they could do. They displayed an admirable amount of love and sorrow and protective instinct, but in the end, they understand that as birds, you've got to move on. Wikipedia tells me that towhees can lay eggs and they'll hatch pretty quickly; babies leave the nest in 8 days or so. That seems like a pretty quick turnaround and I don't know how often they lay eggs, but maybe they'll move on and lay more. They appear to live in my tree year-round.

After watching this awful drama, I had to think what it must be like as a bird to watch your baby survive being kicked out of the nest only to be drowned and then eaten by a mean scrub jay. Do they move on? Can they? Certainly humans would have a horrid time doing so, but do birds?

I don't know, but my guess is that Mr. Sierra was right. They have to move on and lay more eggs if you want anything in the world.

Naturally, I'm going to compare this kind of fortitude to how it is to write a book and see it through to publishing, either traditional or self. This is not to belittle the poor birds or to suggest that losing a baby to a nasty scrub jay is at all the same, but certainly if you want to make it, fortitude is in order. You get rejected, you've just got to go on. You get a nasty review, you've just got to go on. You've just got to keep doing what's important. And pray that the scrub jay gets his.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How procrastination works

Sit down.

Turn on DJ music stream.

Get tea.

Get yogurt covered pretzels.

Open Word.

Check email.

Open manuscript file.

Check Facebook.

Sip tea.

Get another pretzel.

Scroll in Word.

Stop and sip tea. 


One more pretzel.

Ooh! Twitter!

Look at ms.

Write this sequence of events down.

Consider new blog posts for next several weeks.

Open Adobe Illustrator, just in case.

Look at ms.

Sip tea.

Get another pretzel.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Newsletters for Authors

Newsletters. You should probably have them if you're a published author. But when I sat down to write this post, I felt overwhelmed.  Newsletters are overwhelming. And that's with me having designed, written, and sent them! But then I thought, okay. I'll  tell you how to do them as though I was talking to a friend who is probably going to set one up for her author site.

So here's what you need to know.

1. Think it through first.
You might think they're a good idea, but are they? Are you going to write one yourself? What will you use it for? How often will you send one out? Did you know you have to obey anti-spam laws? Do you know what those are?* Did you know it usually costs money to send them out? OK. Calm down. Here's the skinny:

  • Yes, you will write one. You will write one that alerts your mailing list group to a new release, a contest, a giveaway, or an appearance. You will use it to invite feedback. You will write the newsletter in a cool way that will not make your newsletter readers feel instantly nauseated when your newsletter arrives in their inbox. (I have tips below for preventing that.)
  • Yes, they cost money. But they are very inexpensive. We're talking pennies (3 cents per email). Why do they cost money? Because you're using a service. Yes, you can write and send your own newsletters for free from your own email account. Have fun with the subscribe and unsubscribe system.
  • Yes, you will send them out on a schedule. That is, one that you choose. No, it doesn't have to be every week. Just not never. 
  • Anti-spam law, or the CAN-SPAM Act, which is a fabulously contradictory name, generally says that you need to have a real, physical address to send out a newsletter (a PO box will do) and that you cannot harvest addresses or put people on mailing lists without their express permission, usually given through an opt-in form. It's why we have all those annoying emails that say "Click here to verify that you want to sign up for Stripper Poles R Us." You can read more here. (About the CAN-SPAM act, not stripper poles. You're on your own for those.)

2. Sign up for a service.
There are a bunch of services out there. They're probably all fine. Here are some:
  • Vertical Response. I use them and I like them. You don't have to. 
  • Mail Chimp. These guys are good. 
  • Aweber. I know nothing.
  • Constant Contact. High user base. Never used them.

3. Configure the list and signup form.
This is the tricky bit. Don't be afraid, though. All newsletter services let you say what you want to say both on your thank you for signing up page and your enter email address box. Yes! You can customize it all! And you should. The best way to figure out how you want to customize it is by subscribing to your own newsletter and watching what happens when you do. You'll likely get confirmation emails and things. See the Scott Stratten link in item #5 below for a tip on how to make this a nice experience.

  • Definitely use pictures and graphics
  • Use the same graphics as your website so there's a branded, cohesive look
  • Customize your thank you page when people sign up--most services have a place for you to put your own link for this

4. You can Lead a Horse to Water....
So how do you get people signed up for your newsletter? 
  • Invite them on your website with the code -- usually provided by your service (see above)
  • Ask friends and family if you can add them. ASK FIRST. Not asking is rude--no, it's worse than rude. I have gotten a few newsletter type emails from people who got my email off their blog. This is spamming.
5. Keep people reading.
  • Have a nice design to your newsletter. You can hire me to create a custom, beautiful design, or you can use one of the pre-made designs offered by your newsletter service. Either will work. Most newsletter services offer a bunch of nice pre-made designs. 
So, ready to see how it works? Sign up for mine. Why do I have one? For purposes of this post, of course! (And also to begin building my World Domination list.) If at least 5 people sign up --and I have it set to tell me when people sign up, oh yes-- then I will send out a newsletter and you can see what I do with it. In it, I will tell you all my good news. And I will share super secret links with you.

Sign up for my inane and irrelevant newsletter full of way cool stuff and other ephemera.
* required

Social and Email Marketing by VerticalResponse
P.S. Author Amy Sue Nathan put this out on Twitter today --her first newsletter-- and I thought it was a good example of how to do one as well. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Marketing Tactics for Authors

Last week I talked about how your readers are your brand ambassadors. People commented about their own experiences with authors who were less than gracious, as well as good celebrity encounters that were humble and cool.

One type of encounter leaves you a life-long fan, and the other type turns you off forever.

Today I'm going to give some marketing ideas for dealing with readers who love you (this is targeted toward published authors). In other words, this is how to turn readers into your brand ambassadors.

Why do we want brand ambassadors, again?
Simply put, a brand ambassador sells your books for you. Also:

  • A happy reader will buy all of your books the second they are released.
  • A happy reader will go buy more copies of your books for their friends and relatives as gifts. Don't think they do? Think again. I've done this with all of my top favorite authors. Multiple sales. 
  • A happy reader will blog, tweet, or rave online about you. I did this about Liza Palmer and guess what? It resulted in at least one book sale that I know of. 
  • A happy reader will engage with you (if you're accessible) and give you adoration.
  • A happy reader may just turn into a peer -- and as a fellow published writer, that's a resource in your corner. 
Pop quiz time. 

Let's say you have a book out there. You get an email or a tweet or a blog comment from a reader saying, "I could not put this book down. I loved it. I LOVE you [author name].  New favorite author!"

Do you:
a) Enjoy the praise and grin quietly to yourself
b) Reply and thank the reader
c) Ignore the reader 
d) Thank the reader, remark about how cool that is, and invite that reader to be on your super elite inner circle list of people who get your news first including galleys and other book related merchandise, because you recognized that this reader is going to be your champion

I hope you answered D.

Too many authors, unfortunately, do C. I get it. I do. Big authors especially get this kind of praise all the time. And they're not marketers. Sheesh, that's what PR people are for, right? Writers write! This post is not for those authors. This is for people who understand that marketing takes work, and that rewarding your customer means repeat business and untold goodwill when that customer then goes and sings your praises.

So, what do you do with that gem of a reader? Here are some ideas, from least engaging to most engaging.

Make it easy to approach you. Tweet, blog, be on Facebook, put your email out there and say along with it that you love hearing from readers. Give an email address. Provide a newsletter signup. Then....

It only takes a second and a reply tells the reader you're listening and you appreciate it. Sadly, one of my most favorite authors, Marian Keyes, only replies on Twitter to her friends--possibly because she's got a fat massive readership following and commenting at her in every direction. It's not just Marian--I've tweeted to many people who are some kind of celebrity and actually never gotten an answer from them. While I don't love Marian any less (to do so would be sacrilegious), does a non-reply chip away at my adoration? Honestly? Yeah. It does. I'll still buy the book, though.

So why is it important to reply, then?

Because if you reply, the reader LOVES YOU. They're really happy. They're ecstatic! And they'll do MORE than just buy your book. They'll buy for others. They'll talk about it. They'll be your own publicist.  

Talk with your readers. Have a conversation with them. Yeah, scary, especially if you get a lot of mail that's on the inane side. No! Do not nod along with that sentence! Your readers are not inane--and if they are, it doesn't matter, because they are your customers!
  • Start a conversation with them (very easy to do on Twitter)
  • Invite them to talk with you more by email or blog
  • Offer them stuff. Offer to sign their books if they send them to you. Offer to send bookmarks. Which is part of... 
If you have someone who took the time to approach you online and who isn't overtly psycho? This one is a slam dunk.
  • Invite them to join your top-echelon mailing list that gives them first-basis access to your news and books
  • Give them a galley proof -- or add them to the list of people who receive pre-release book copies. If that seems like you're kissing a sale away, then send them the first chapter or two before a new book comes out, by email. It'll get them excited and talking. 
  • Offer to do an interview on their blog. Again we're talking about the devoted reader here. Is this really so hard to do? And the benefits go so far. If you're thinking, yes, but I don't have time to do this for everyone who asks, I'm not saying do it for everyone who asks. Do it for the readers who have reached out and adored you rather than the ones who are fishing for a big name. You know the difference. 
  • Offer a signed bookmark or book-related promo item-- this seems silly but it's something and sometimes if this is all you have to give, it's enough.
  • Take it a step further and include that reader in a public thank you on your blog or Twitter.
Here's Why You Should Do It
Understand that what you're doing here is making your reader feel rewarded, special, and part of an inner circle. I'm not suggesting that you spend oodles of time on every one--or maybe I am. Readers are your customers, after all, and offering people a reward pushes like into love. One of the reasons for that is that we are totally accustomed to seeing businesses offer first-time customers a reward, but it is very rare that existing devotees of a brand get anything at all. But giving them something transforms them from fans to brand ambassadors.

If you're still not convinced, here's another story. A few years ago, I went to buy some printer ink online. I went to and what I liked is that they were offering 20% for everyone--not just people who were first time customers. (Google "New customers only" in Google images and see the amazing amount of stuff that comes up if you want to see how many companies do this.) Rewarding first time customers is a huge marketing mistake because there's no brand loyalty for first-timers. But your repeat customers? Give them the discount code! DUH! They are the ones who will be back! It blows my mind how many companies miss the boat on this.

Anyway, I thought that was cool of 4inkjets so I blogged about it. And then tweeted that post. They were listening. (Listen) They saw it. (Reply) They thanked me, and then asked me for my address to send me a thank you token. (Engage and reward) It was a wireless mouse with their logo on it.

Pretty cool, huh? All because I was public about how cool they were. At no point did they ask me to blog about them, nor did they ask that I publicly mention that I got a gift. But am I repeat customer now? Of course! More than that, am I all about what a great company they are? Yes! When people ask me where I get ink supplies (and they do), guess where I direct them? And not just direct them, but tell them why to go there?

A final word. When your brand ambassador refers a friend to you, treat that friend like gold. That friend is primed to be another brand ambassador because they've already had good experience number 1 and it wasn't even their own-- it was the original friend. Build on that.

Comments? Questions?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brand Ambassadors

Years ago, I worked with a guy who had worked for Apple, or so it said on his resume. His position was "brand evangelist." I remember thinking, an evangelist is a real title? WTF is that?

I don't know if he got paid for it, or if it was just an arrangement with Apple. But it was smart on Apple's part. What is was is someone who recommends Apple products--and not just recommends, but enthuses, and loves, and sings the praises of.

These days, we use the term "brand ambassador," which sounds much nicer than the religious overtone of evangelist. You might be wondering why I'm writing about this here. It's because anyone who is selling books needs to know about it.

We are told that blogging and blog interviews and blog tours and even book signings don't sell books long term. That is, they don't grow your readership. We are told it's really all about word of mouth. But how on earth do you get your book to be spread by word of mouth?

A story: at my local farmer's market there's this wonderful Afghani food vendor called Bolani. Bolani makes really delicious sauces and breads. Healthy, low fat, and drool-inducing. I've been a fan for a long time. A few weeks ago, I was at the farmer's market and stopped by the Bolani booth. The guy there offered me a sample, which of course I took (I'm not an idiot) and he asked me if I'd had it before. I launched into an enthusiastic account of how I've been buying their stuff since last summer and how much I love them, blah blah blah. I mean, I'm a brand ambassador for them. I tell everyone how good they are.

What does the guy do?

He turns, in the middle of me talking, to someone else, and starts speaking to them. He shut me off.

I closed my mouth with a snap. Wow, I thought. What a way to treat a customer standing right in front of you, telling you how much they love you. It was like telling me to go $#@%& myself.

Because now I had a bad feeling. I was made to feel like an idiot and that he didn't care at all that I spent money on his products. There was no way I'd be a) telling other people about them now, or b) buying their stuff when I had the choice.  Notice how I'm blogging about it, too. Now everyone gets to know how they treat their customers.

I was no longer a brand ambassador for them. Which was too bad, because their sauce is tasty.

This has happened before at book or CD signings when I've met authors or musicians. The experience has been so disappointing that I haven't bought further books or music from them. Pet Shop Boys are famous for being utter dickheads (Chris Lowe, at least), but it's different when he's a dick to you. I went off them after meeting them. Two authors at a signing couldn't care less that I was there--and I can't say I ever read another word of theirs. It's why I no longer go to book signings--invariably, the author will turn away just as I get there or scribble in my book and shove it aside like it's on an assembly line. I don't want that. I've read their work and I want to see the person who's behind it all. I don't want to be treated like cattle.

I think authors are really missing the boat on readers as brand ambassadors. If you have published a book and a reader contacts you and enthuses and gushes and says "I adore you!" then you know you have a future reader in them. Don't ignore them. Don't turn them off. Make it a priority to answer them. (I am not speaking of anyone I know here.) Don't take my word for it. Social media expert Scott Stratten has harped about this for a long time.

So, what are you going to do about it if you have a book and  enthusiastic readers? There are endless possibilities. Next week I'll do a post giving some ideas.

Monday, April 15, 2013

80s Mix Tape: A Bright Spot in the Brown

A lot of poopy stuff happened one day a few weeks ago, but when I sat down to write my 5 quick things about the day, what I remembered most was dancing in the late afternoon sunshine.

Which wasn't poopy at all.

You see, Mr. Sierra had found an awesome old tape of mine from 1994 and better yet--a tape player to play it. He put it on and I heard it and said to him, "Wow. This is awesome music. Are they playing this on the radio? What station?" He murmured something and then a few minutes later I said, "This really is awesome. What station, because I need to go make it my default." He laughed and told me it was my tape that I'd recorded off the radio in 1994 when our local alternative station in the Bay Area, Live 105, ran a Flashback Weekend over Labor Day or something. They played all the best long mixes of all the best old songs from the 80s.
I am supreme lover of 80s music, so this was fabulous.

But best yet, it was a real bright spot in all the poo and sometimes that's what you need. So I give you my Poopy Day Mix Tape. Yeah, it's a total 80s flashback, and believe me, I've got more. If you like it, leave a comment and let me know. I also tweet random 80s songs now and then.

I feel strongly that although How Soon is Now is a song about a pathetic guy, pretty much everything is better when you hear Johnny Marr's signature guitar.

The Smiths - How Soon is Now Extended Version
Cause and Effect - You Think You Know Her
New Order - Blue Monday Extended Version
Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
Soft Cell - Tainted Love
Adam and the Ants - Ant Music
Tones on Tail - Go
Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Love it....or list it?

If you watch HGTV then you probably know that show Love it Or List It. If you're not familiar, it's about homeowners who want to change something about their home, so they work with a designer to do that. Meanwhile, they go see new houses with a real estate agent who tries to get them to list their current home and leave. At the end of the show, they have to choose whether to love their newly renovated home, or list it and buy a new, fresh one.

I was taking a look at my blog the other night, randomly looking through old posts. Some were really cool because they captured moments when my oldest son, now six, was two or three. Some were great because I've had some really awesome guest posts on the blog. It was nice to see comments from people I've gotten to know in the blogging/writing community over the years.

But most of my posts were fairly awful.

A significant amount of posts meander or else take a decided know-it-all tone. Like, ugh. I don't even want to read them. I tried to be prescriptive, which in some cases worked, but in most others it was horrid. I guess you could say I'm in a very different place now than when I started blogging here in 2009.

My first impulse was to delete old posts that were cringe-inducing. But that would likely mean deleting most of the stuff here. Some of those posts, while bad, shows a snapshot in time. On the other than, keeping that crapola around isn't helping anything.

Eventually, I'll be migrating this blog over to my website, which I'm transferring into Wordpress but which is still HTML-based right now. It seems like a good opportunity to take the good stuff and trash the rest. I don't know. Wordpress allows you to import posts and comments from other platforms, so I could take them...or leave them. Love it....or list it?

If you have a blog that you've had for many years, how do you feel about old embarrassing posts? Do you delete any? If the way you present yourself over time has changed, what do you do with those old posts? What do you think I should do?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to remember stuff

Some place, some time ago (we're doing good so far, aren't we?), I heard some person (I know, already) say that they write 5 things down each day. That's it. No long paragraphs that require thought and concentration (if you have kids you know you're bubbling your lips at 9 pm). No flowery paper and wood-paneled pens that you nicked from your boss's office. No rules. Just something.

I loved the idea, and I started doing it. Mainly because I feel like I'm missing the minutia of life. When I do my epic (only to me) end of year posts here on the blog, it's fun.  But last year? I had a really hard time remembering anything. This is partly because I have a child under two, but that doesn't make the loss of my mind any less horrifying.

So, I opened up a Word doc ad typed the date. And then:


And I wrote 5 things, however silly, that happened that day. Because I didn't want to think about it too hard, I saved the doc and then opened it again and added to it the next day, with the new date and list above the first one. That's it. Maybe I'll save it by month, but likely by year. 

Here's what I wrote that first day:

March 8, 2013

1. Older son (6.5 yrs) had a screaming meltdown on the playground before school because he didn't have a sweater to wear (in addition to his coat). I realized later it was about the lack of options that upset him. He ended up having a good day once I left. 

2. I’m reading the Maeve Binchy book today, her last book before she died, and it’s so good. It’s not even written in a very modern style but it’s like falling into a comfy chair.

3. In Target, toddler (Rainbow Puppy, 23 months) heard a baby crying and was very concerned. He told me there was a baby crying and his mama should pick him up (“Pick up. Up.”) I asked him if I should go pick the baby up. He decided that would not be preferable. 

4. I had a dehydration headache and was amazed to see that water really does take headaches away (in such cases). 

5. I vowed (re-vowed, actually) never again to shop at JC Penney for refusing to stock 529 Levi’s jeans in size 12, curvy fit for large asses.

Remember, there's no rules here. I miss some days, so what. How do you journal? Do you journal at all?

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm a finalist!

So I have some huge news.

Here's the 2012 edition.
I entered the 2013 Truth in Words essay contest. Thirty semi-finalists are included for publication in the 2013 anthology Nothing But the Truth.

The grand prize winner gets the winner gets a one-on-one phone consult with O Magazine, a literary agent from ICM, and an editor at Random House.

Finalists are voted by Facebook. Voting ends April 15th, the judges will review a subset of the best LIKED essays to choose and announce a winner.

Can you help me out and click Like on Facebook?

Here is my essay.  (Click it! Then click LIKE!)

Thank you for your help and support on this!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Goodreads-Amazon deal: Why it isn't a surprise

Shall we talk a moment about the whole Amazon buying Goodreads deal?

When it hit, my Twitter stream exploded. Tweets like "I can't BELIEVE THIS" and "I never saw this coming!" and "I. Am. In. Shock."

I couldn't understand the shock. I saw it coming a long time ago.

You see, Goodreads had no way for users to buy recommended books with one click. This was even more of a problem on a tablet like Kindle Fire, which you can load apps like Goodreads on. So, the logical steps are: in the Goodreads app on your Kindle, you like a book, mark it as a to-read. But, since you're on Kindle, you've got no way to actually purchase that book without a tedious retyping of the title (if you can even remember it) in the Amazon shop.

I thought to myself many times, Amazon and Goodreads should play nice and give me a way to buy the books I'm marking.


It really is a simple case of knowing and understanding the way your audience works. Amazon clearly excels at that. And they discovered that this was an issue. It's a no-brainer -- for Amazon.

As another example of a company knowing their audience well, Adobe Systems has done a nice job of forcing its software users into paying them a monthly subscription  You see, they knew that a large portion of designers would buy design software and then, in order to save money, not update it for two or three years. Well, that's two or three years of no fresh money for Adobe. So they've made it so that if we want to update, we have to go on the cloud monthly sub plan. And you can't update your old software unless you do that.

They know us. They know us well.

Does it make it nice? Not always. And it remains to be seen what this means for people who don't use Amazon to read books.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Do Unpublished Writers Need an Editor?

Do Unpublished Writers Need an Editor? An Interview with Editor Denise Logsdon

Today I'm pleased to introduce my friend, editor Denise Logsdon. Denise is a fantastic, thorough editor who edits all kinds of material from technical reports to novels.

You might be asking yourself, do you need an editor if you're unpublished?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Most literary agency websites say to potential queriers, "Don't submit your work until it's in the best shape possible." They shouldn't actually have to say this, but clearly there's a need to. Submitting work that needs a copy edit, or a substantive edit, or an overall plot edit, isn't going to help you. In fact it'll get you a rejection.

I can honestly say I've queried projects before that hadn't been properly edited. And by properly edited, I mean typos, style issues, and inconsistencies were rife throughout. I don't know if they garnered me rejections by themselves, but it wasn't my best foot forward, was it?

Through a stealthy combination of sugar, a friend in common, a shared experience of annoying children, and bribery with a custom website, Denise edited my novel. Her result wasn't your average critique group edit or beta reader edit. Those edits are very valuable, but Denise is an editor with an eye to what sucks and what doesn't. And she gives it to you straight.

And writers need that.

Denise's edits were sensible and logical, and her copy edits saved me from looking like a bumbling idiot. If I hadn't swindled her into editing my novel, I would have paid for it. It's the best money you'll ever spend if you're serious about publication. I can honestly say that now if I query, I'm putting my best foot forward.

Denise gives a run down of editing services on her website, where she'll also be blogging about how to do things better (you'll definitely want to check for her posts if you want to improve your writing).

Better yet, below is a Q&A with Denise herself! 

I think you'll get a sense from the discussion below of Denise's sense of humor and methodical approach.

Sierra: What kind of editing do you offer novelists?

Denise: I offer basic proofreading, which is just fixing what is unequivocally wrong: typos, grammar errors. The next step up and what most novels really need at the final draft stage is copyediting or line editing, which includes proofreading but goes further. I will point out errors of consistency and logic and everything from plot holes to awkward phrases. Every writer has a handful of favorite words; if I see an unusual word repeated I will mark it. I also provide a critique service; this is part of the copyediting package, but I am willing to do just a critique if a writer wants it. This is generally a few pages listing the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, what works and what really doesn't. If you tell me you have certain concerns or you're trying to address a problem someone else has mentioned, I will pay attention to those areas. I have a fairly good idea of what agents are looking for in a first novel, and if I don't think your first five pages are going to capture an agent's interest, I'll let you know that and what you might do to fix it.  (Emphasis from Sierra to call out attention that very valuable service!)

Sierra: What are some of the most common problems you see with novels?

Denise: #1. Slow opening. Most draft novels start out with what a writer I know calls "throat-clearing chapters." These are fine to help you organize your characters and exposition, but usually they need to be severely pared down if not cut entirely. If your story doesn't pick up speed until Chapter 6, find a way to get the reader there within five or ten pages.

#2. Errors of scope and ambition. I hear from many writers who have just completed the first book in a series or a trilogy, and inevitably there isn't enough story to fill even one book. If you've just taught yourself to cook, don't host a banquet. Invite your best friend for dinner. When you've succeeded at making one small, exquisite meal, then you can move on to the next level.

#3. The autobiographical novel. Everyone has one to some degree. Write it and get it out of your system, but if you really want to get it published, be ready to slice out everything in it that is your personal history and not fiction. We can tell the difference.

#4. Dude, where's my B-plot? Novels often start out with a large, usually too large, cast of characters complete with back stories, and then they seem to disappear, one by one. Unless you're writing a murder mystery, this is a problem. A well developed story has at least two plots that work together like gears in a machine. If you can't keep the second plot going, your story will break down.

Sierra: Can you describe how you work?

Denise: Meticulously and often late at night. I like to read a work of fiction or literary nonfiction all the way through without even hitting the Track Changes button, then I go back and start editing. Some works require a third reading. I can do a quick turnaround, but the manuscript and the author benefit if I can take a little time and really think about the story and the best way to let it shine.  (Sierra: writers take note. Denise gives your work two or three pass throughs--now THAT is dedication!)

Sierra: Can you talk a little about the types of nonfiction you edit-- memoirs, etc?

Denise: I edit memoir and biography--my degree is in writing nonfiction, so I spent a couple of years immersed in life stories and learned to critique and edit them as works separate from their authors. I also work on other types of nonfiction, such as self-improvement and how-to books. I do academic articles and dissertations, and those can turn into mass-market books, which are exciting to do: translating arcane language into something that will grab the attention of the average layperson.

Sierra: What should writers do to their manuscripts BEFORE engaging an editor?
Denise: Finish them. I cannot stress this enough. Let your book rest for awhile--set it aside for a week or a month, then read it over before you send it to anyone else. Be absolutely and positively DONE with your story. This doesn't mean the work is done; you'll have revisions after it's edited and after your beta readers give you feedback. If you're lucky enough to land representation, your agent will probably want things changed, but you can't send an unfinished or uncertain draft out into the world. Please don't send something to your editor that is three-quarters done; it's a waste of everyone's time, especially yours.

Check out Denise's website!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My desk

Look at that pile of fur. Even though he is taking up my mouse space, I love it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bad Storytelling

I have a little problem. I tell really crappy stories.

In person!

You see, I'm one of those people who really enjoys the backspace button and the delete button and the right click button that brings up universal spell check. Let's just say, I need those tools. All the time. So when I'm talking to people face to face and I don't have those editing tools, verbal vomit tends to come out of my mouth.

And there's just no backspace button for when I see eyes glaze over.

Obviously, this burns, because not only do I love telling stories, but I know how good ones are told. I know they must have conflict and drama and climatic points and all the rest. But all of that gets jumbled when I talk. Let's just say quick, sharp wit was never my strong suit in person.

Last weekend we went out to dinner with some friends, some of whom we've been friends with for nigh on 20 years. I figured I was safe in telling a few stories here and there.


My opening went well enough. We were talking about mothers and passive aggression and I told the quick story about how once when I was about 21 or so my mother was in the backseat of my car while I was driving, and she was taking the role a bit seriously, criticizing my every move and making a terrible nuisance of herself. I drove, teeth gritted, shoulders hunched high, and tried to bear it. At last, there was silence. A song had come on the radio, and she liked it. It was by the Cure.

"What's that song?" she asked me. "I like it."

"I don't know," I said. I knew every Cure song.

"Yes, you know it," she said. "What is it?"

"I don't know."

And to this day, I still haven't told her the name of the song.

My friend of 20 years laughed at this story. That was his fatal mistake. Encouraged, I launched into a frightful account of something else my mother did, and I slavered on for some time telling it until I saw that his eyes had taken on the gloss of a dead person.

I shut my mouth with a clap.

Later, I apologized to him for telling a really bad, disjointed  boring story that went no where. I admitted that it was a problem of mine. I went red in the face and felt very bad indeed, because I am supposed to be a writer who tells stories, who wants to tell stories for her main source of living, and who will never, ever stop telling or reading or watching or enjoying stories, so long as they aren't mine when I speak to people.

Do you have this problem? Please tell me it isn't just me. That your ability to weave a tale is limited to your fingers, and that when you open your mouth you're a village idiot. Please?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Writing Prompt?

Sometimes you see things that make no sense whatsoever. If you're a writer, you immediately start creating stories around it. (You probably do that with things that make sense, too!)

Here is one such thing. I snapped this photo with my camera phone. This box is located to the side of a valet parking area.

In case you can't read them, the box says "Emergency Storage Container." And on the bottom, "Broadway Plaza Personnel Use Only."

It's not quite the size of a garbage dumpster. I was too scared of finding gross things to lift the lid and look inside.

What do you think? What's the story? If you prefer to email it to me, I'd love to hear it. sierra [at]

Friday, March 1, 2013

Truth in Words Essay Contest

A good friend of mine is a lifestyle publicist and she handles PR for a lot of nonfiction books, including the really cool book, Nothing But the Truth. It's a collection of essays written by women and makes for a great gift/bathroom book/book to read while waiting for something, because the essays are short but pithy.

My friend asked me to pass on the following information about an essay contest. It's a pretty good deal because the essays are 1200 words or less.

Here's the info:

The winner of this year’s Truth in Words Essay Contest will rub elbows with big names in the publishing world, including ICM Talent, Random House and O Magazine. Notes & Words, along with its new partner, Nothing But the Truth, is serious about finding America’s next great essayist.

This year’s topic will be “transitions.” Organizers will be looking for 1200 words or less on stories ranging from starting a family, recoveries, graduations, aging, career changes/promotions, marriage and divorce.

Big Incentives: The Grand Prize Winner of the essay contest will receive a once in a lifetime opportunity:  one-on-one consultations with representatives from ICM Talent, Random House and O Magazine. In addition, up to 30 semi-finalists in the competition will be published in the next Nothing But the Truth anthology available in bookstores and online December 2013.

The essays are due on March 18th, the same day tickets go on sale for Notes & Words 2013, an annual benefit that puts authors and musicians on stage together at the historic Fox Theater in Oakland. This unforgettable evening of live entertainment benefits Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, Northern California’s only independent not-for-profit regional medical center for children. Details of the event can be found at

Nothing But The Truth is a series of anthologies chronicling women’s stories and voices co-edited by Christine Bronstein. The first in the series, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection, included well known writers such as Jane Ganahi, Joyce Maynard, Deborah Santana, and many more. You can learn more about Nothing But The Truth at

All essay submissions will be accepted at  See or for official contest rules.

Note from Sierra: The A Band of Wives website doesn't actually allow you to view the official contest rules without first registering, but Notes and Words has it. You should check that, but here are the salient rules:

Contest entries must be emailed to
 as a Microsoft Word attachment. Please attach a 100-word biography.

This year’s topic will be “transitions.” Organizers will be looking for 1200 words or less on stories ranging from starting a family, recoveries, graduations, aging, career changes/promotions, marriage and divorce. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

3 Quick Ways to Relax

I was talking with a friend of mine who leads a hectic life--I know, we all do, but hers takes a toll on her physically. She's supposed to relax. Trouble is, how do you do that in a busy world?

Oh, we all know ways, right? Stretch more, sleep more, read more, do pilates. But those are long term things, and you can't do them right now today. (The irony of right-now-today isn't lost on me or her, as we are people who do too much and then wonder why our shoulders are hunched up around our ears.)

We brainstormed and came up with three immediate, short-term fixes.

1. Rainy This is a gem. It's a super simple website: you go there, and it rains. Sometimes it rains hard, sometimes it thunders. It's wonderful and relaxing and perfect for when you need to buckle down and write or work or whatever it is.

2. Chai tea lattes. The spice in these things is so comforting--as is wrapping your hands around a warm cup of something. Starbucks does a good one but you can get these anywhere, and often the little independent shops do them best.Something about the spice just helps.

3. This is a great website that teaches you to relax more, take it easy on yourself more. They have a series of great guided meditations that you can do--and if you're the crazy busy type like me, meditating isn't something that comes easily. This is a nice quick way to get back into the groove.

Hope these help and please leave your own quick-fix method in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Solid Ground article published

I'm so excited to announce that my article, Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance, was published today on!

This article deals with my experience being laid off from my corporate job at seven months pregnant--a time that I'm sure you can guess rendered me nearly unemployable until after I'd had the baby--and my subsequent jump into the one thing I'd always wanted to do but was too chicken to: freelance graphic design and writing.

Now, I have a burgeoning business and it's been everything I could have hoped for.

My freelance website is:

Read the article: Landing on Solid Ground After a Free Fall into Freelance.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Oscar Tale of Woe...and Sunshine!

Mr. Sierra, long before falling for my wiles and letting romance claim us, used to have a girlfriend (whom we sort of still know and I sincerely hope she doesn't find this blog, please God no) who loved watching the Oscars. Loved. Lived for it. Sort of. Watched them heartily at any rate.

So to annoy Mr. Sierra, I feigned great interest in last night's Oscars. But the truth is, I love them too. I love looking at all the dresses and the love and the hotness and the gorgeousness and the diamonds. I love the people and the movies and scrutinizing each actor or actress to see if they are likeable as real people or not. Just love it. I love deciding which dress I would pick were I them. (Jennifer Aniston's red ball gown was my favorite right next to Jennifer Lawrence's pink ball grown, both are poofy confections that work for me. And say what you want about Jennifer Aniston, but I think she would be great to have over for Sunday dinner and coffee. She would laugh and tell jokes and be very friendly. When my friends hear this, they scoff. "Oh no!" they say. "Jennifer Aniston? No way! I'd pick ..." and then they list a ton of other people, none of whom are Jennifer Aniston. But I stand by it. She'd be a great friend and dinner guest and I feel she'd bring good wine and very tasty cupcakes with her. So there.)

Anyway, imagine my HORROR and SHOCK when my BLASTED DVR stopped recording the Oscars at the commercial break right before Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director. Yes--it failed to record the whole program and instead stopped at the default two hours, and it didn't even ask me if I wanted to add extra time since it was a live recording. Imagine. If you can't, I will tell you. I was livid. I sat through two hours of crap, of Seth McFarlane laughing at his own jokes (don't do it man, you need to deadpan those jokes), only to be CUT OFF right before the stuff that matters. Yes! I missed Jennifer Lawrence's stumble! Yes! I missed the upset of Argo over Lincoln! Yes--I had to resort to my local news website to get the winners.

 I was so annoyed that I went and cleaned out the cat litter box. You know it's bad if I have to do that. There was a silver lining in this playbook, however. Mr. Sierra came and said, "I have a surprise for you."

Now, you're hoping it was recovered DVR footage of the missed Oscars. No. It wasn't. It was Fox Soccer Plus showing the entire game of a Scottish Premier League game and not just a paltry Celtic v Motherwell match, either. It was Hibs! Hibs v Dundee! Oh glorious!

You don't understand, I can tell. You think I'm crazy. But I'm a long time supporter of Edinburgh-based Hibernian FC and up until recently, it was nigh impossible to watch a Hibs match on my television in the United States. That's right. ESPN and Fox Soccer never deemed it ratings worthy (probably because Hibs're often shite), but some kind soul has decided to broadcast all the matches. This is a wonderful thing. You have no idea. It's so hard to support a team when you never get to actually SEE their matches. There was a dodgy pay-per-view service on their website that didn't work half the time, but this, this! This was nearly enough to make up for the missed Oscars. This was really something.

Now. If you've read this far, I appreciate it. If you have a link to the video of those missed Oscar acceptance speeches--and better yet--the announcements of the winners, PLEASE leave a link. I'd be grateful. Thanks.

The lesson in all this? Obvious. Set extra time on your DVR for long live events. And regularly check Fox Soccer Plus scheduling.

Monday, February 18, 2013

4 things I love right now plus 1 I do not

4 Things I Love:

1. This Paper Source peony wreath. Oh, it's so pretty. But let me tell you, you have to fold, cut, and curl each petal and it is, let's just say, an ongoing, long-term project. Here's the link. Yes, those are paper flowers! Aren't they pretty? I know. The second I saw it, I had to get it. I'll let you know when I'm done. Sometime next year, most likely.

2. My new apron from Sur la Table for Valentine's Day. Actually this is a post-Valentine's Day present, but a present nonetheless. Poor Mr. Sierra came home from work early on V Day with the stomach flu. Yeah. Here's the link to the apron online.

3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I'm reading it this week and I am really enjoying it. Fantastic concept. Growing-up angst  Although as a friend said, that preteen time, referred to in the book as the age of miracles, is actually the age of suck. But that doesn't make as nice a book title. More about it

4. This bird cloche, also from Sur la Table, and purchased as a husband-has-stomach-flu-on-Valentine's-Day consolation gift for myself. Look, I had to have it. LOOK AT IT. MEIN GOTT. The cuteness!

It only fits three cookies at a time, though. 

And the one thing I do not love:

1. The end of season three Downton Abbey. ARGGGH!! 

But then:

Oh, I say. Better buck up. Anyway, Game of Thrones is starting at the end of March, and Girls is still on, so.

Carry on!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

We write to express or understand the world

In this month's O Magazine, columnist Martha Beck says this:

If you're lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it's the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.

Well said, Martha.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Godfreys Walk Into a interview with Linda Godfrey!

I am so excited today to bring you an interview with author Linda Godfrey. Linda and I are not, despite our superior surname, related. Oh, possibly somehow--I mean, we haven't discussed family trees, but as far as we know, there is no relation. But it doesn't matter because Linda is a dear person and you're in for a treat today.

She's recently released an ebook called God Johnson, and she's here to talk about that and how it got published.

Before we begin, long time readers of this blog (I say that like it's anyone other than myself or my mother) might remember that Linda once wrote my name on a Chinese take out menu and fashioned it into a fetching book cover and then stuck it where my book would go in general fiction in a bookstore. (Here's the post if you're interested.) I still treasure this picture.

Sierra: Your new book, God Johnson, is about unknown gods, hidden worlds and orange scones. Tell us about those hidden worlds and unknown gods, and don't skimp on the orange scones, please.

Linda: It came from thinking about how weird so many of the gods of antiquity were, and wondering what a lesser god would have to look like in order to make it today. I decided that a god resembling our most trusted national figure, Abraham Lincoln, would stand the best chance of netting a disciple. That's how he draws in my protagonist, Liberty Abbott -- along with promises to catapult her to superstardom and stock her pantry with unlimited orange scones. She learns, too late, that he is only one of an entire alternate universe of lesser gods left over from creation. They hang out mostly in their own space, which they call the Whetherworld, but intrude upon humanity as they like for feeding, entertainment and dating purposes. Even worse, each god has a secret Major Rule, and Liberty breaks God Johnson's just as she is starting to fall for him. To their mutual strong dismay, she must suffer a diabolical form of punishment the gods call "Wrath." The book is set in Madison, Wisconsin, a free-wheeling city affectionately known as the Berkeley of the Midwest - a place where humanoid scarab beetles, shapeshifting sphinxes, Lincoln doppelgangers and other odd gods can blend right in.

Sierra: That is such a coinkidink because I live close to Berkeley, California. And, I may have seen a humanoid scarab beetle or two before on Telegraph Avenue. Anyway, you mention on your website that God Johnson is three years in the making, and that's co-published with your literary agent (Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich and Yassine Bukacemi also at D&G repping the ebooks). Take us through your process. How does your agent play a part in the co-publishing? Does he take a author credit?

Linda: I've been writing novels for about 10 years, and have three not-yet-pubbed fantasies lounging in a drawer to prove it. I came very close to representation and/or publication for two of them. I think my chief problem was figuring out the difference between nonfiction and fiction. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer - - one involves researched facts and the other you just make up, right? Wrong. They involve two different mindsets and to some extent, skill sets, and it took me a decade to begin to get it right. 

When Jim offered to represent my nonfiction, I was reluctant to mention that I had penned several novels, as well. I had previously submitted one of them, however, to a genre publisher which kept it for a year and then wrote me a really great rejection letter. I couldn't resist showing it to Jim, and he agreed with the publisher the novel's time leaps needed some strong tweaking. I said, well I have another one that might take less work - -God Johnson! It's the sort of book Jim calls a genre-buster, though; urban fantasy meets paranormal romance and maybe a few other shady things. I suggested that we try an e-book format, especially since D&G now has a digital publishing division. They receive the traditional agency percentage but it's for formatting, uploading to vendors, placing meta-tags, updating, and fund collection and disbursement. These are all things that I suck at. I'm still the author, and my part in the process involved the costs of cover design and copy editing. (I'm a professional commercial artist so I did the cover myself.) Of course, there are so many publishing options available now that my route wouldn't work for every writer, but for me it was a perfect solution.

Sierra: If the agent/agency offers a co-pub ebook option, how does that affect traditional publisher submissions? For example, would my agent only push me toward that or both or whatever made the most sense for my career/genre?

Linda: I really did not feel steered toward epub at all and I know that Jim gave it his best shot at finding a traditional publisher. If the book does well I think he'll try another round. I was the one who suggested the e-book, actually. I'm very excited about it for a lot of reasons but a big one is that I get to keep a whole lot more of the sales. 

Sierra: In the 1990s you wrote a newspaper article about an upright canine thing known as Manwolf. That article hit a nerve and took off. Where has it led you in your writing? What are your plans for future work covering the creature and others like it, like Bigfoot?

Linda: The Beast of Bray Road is the newspaper story that never dies. Stake it, shoot it with a silver bullet, it just keeps snarling back. My first book, however, was a historical true crime saga, still in print, The Poison Widow; a True Story of Sin, Strychnine and Murder. It's about the 1920s trial of a Wisconsin woman who fell in love with a college student boarding in her home. Between the two of them, they killed her husband by putting strychnine in his prune juice. Then she tried to kill her four beautiful children and things went crazily awry. Their trials were followed nationally. I spent six years researching the events and discovered she had a second life with people who never knew what she did. 

"The Widow" found a regional publisher very easily and when they asked me what else I had, I replied,"werewolves." I also had a blog chronicling odd and unusual things, and all of this brought me to the attention of the Weird US series editors at Barnes & Noble who asked me to co-author Weird Wisconsin and author Weird Michigan. 

I started my first novel, The Blue Grasshopper Lady, before I began any of the nonfiction books. One well-known agent liked it and asked me to revise it and send it back to her but I had no clue how to do that -- online writing resources had not yet blossomed to where they are now. I later ran into this kind agent in a bathroom at a writer's conference and, as we washed our hands at the sink, I couldn't help but commit the ultimate gaffe by introducing myself right there in the ladies room. She did remember the book and was very nice about it! I still didn't know how to fix it, however. By then I was busy writing nonfiction about strange things, people and creatures for various publishers, so I just kept going and continued to stuff my drawer with unpublished novels on the side. 

As for future coverage of unknown creatures, or cryptids, that will depend on where my research takes me and whether I continue to receive enough reports from eyewitnesses to continue to make new contributions to the field. I must add, though that every time I think I've written it all and am about to hang up my investigative hat, something new always seems to come along. That factor and the mystery of these beasts are what I love about this field.

Sierra: Tell us about your work on Monsterquest (which I got to see you on while flipping through channels one night -- I was SO excited. My husband said, "Look, there's a Godfrey." And I said, "OMG I KNOW HER! That's LINDA!").

Linda: Yes, I've sort of become the national go-to person for werewolf documentaries in print and film even though I prefer to call them unknown, upright canines. I don't believe in actual, traditional werewolves! I do a lot of TV and radio appearances to keep people updated on the latest sightings and developments, and Monsterquest is one of my all time favorites. I was in the first season episode titled American Werewolf which was based on my book, Hunting the American Werewolf, and also in the fourth season episode on the Michigan Dogman. I've also been on shows such as Inside Edition, Sean Hannity's America, Lost Tapes, and William Shatner's Weird or What. It's something I never could have imagined when I was writing that original newspaper article as a small-town reporter back in 1992.

Sierra: What projects are next for you?

Linda: I'm working on another book about strange creatures for Tarcher/Penguin and also the sequel to God Johnson.

Sierra: What are some recent books you've read and loved?

Linda: My current favorite author is Daniel Abraham and I have loved everything I've read by him, especially the four books in his Long Price Quartet series and most recently his Dragons Path series. I'm also making my way through the late, great Kage Baker's The Company novels, and I'm always engrossed in nonfiction on the science/paranormal edge such as DMT: the Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassmann. For comfort reading, I revert to anything by Thomas Hardy.

Sierra: Thank you so much, Linda. You're a delight. To quote you, here's a Godfrey fist-pump!

Linda's bio from Amazon:
I was born a poor, freckled child. Now I write books about strange creatures, things and people, and sometimes illustrate them, to boot.

This is exactly what I told my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Ione Kopitzke, I wanted to do when I grew up. I remember she replied, almost crying, "Oh Linda, I think you can do better than that." Her picture is now in the front of my book, "Strange Wisconsin: More Badger State Weirdness." Right next to freckled little me in my "L" initial blouse. That book won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers 2008 Best Book Awards, and a Midwest Book Review's Editor's Choice. See how neatly life shakes out sometimes?

Before I started writing books, I received an art education degree from UW-Oshkosh, taught art and was a cartoonist and newspaper reporter. I live in southeast Wisconsin with my husband, youngest son and Lhasa Apso named Grendel.

You might catch me on an episode or two of HC's Monster Quest and other TV and radio shows. Check out Linda's website for updates.

Check out Linda's books:

Connect with Linda:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Congrats to Kristen Lippert-Martin!

I am beyond thrilled today to congratulate my friend Kristen Lippert-Martin on the signing of her book deal to Egmont. Kristen is one of those ladies who make you laugh even when she's sick and covered in baby vomit, who talks you down off a ledge while she's on one herself, and is an all-around good egg. She's also a kick-ass critique partner, a good friend, and a supportive writer. I adore her.

Here's the announcement from yesterday's Publishers Marketplace;

Alison Weiss at Egmont has acquired world English rights to debut author Kristen Lippert-Martin's Tabula Rasa. In this contemporary YA thriller, a 16-year-old girl held in an isolated research hospital undergoes a forced experimental treatment to erase all recollection of her past. But when the procedure goes awry, she must face off against mercenaries sent to eliminate her once and for all. The projected pub date is fall 2014; Molly Jaffa at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal.

Guys, if early iterations of Tabula Rasa are an indication, then you're in for a treat. The book is superb. When I read it, I went, Damn girl. This is THE ONE. It wasn't just me who said that, either. Lots of people have been going Damn girl about this book from the get. It's fast-paced, it's smart, it's gripping, and still manages to be sweet--all with a strong, amazing heroine that you will wish you had half the strength of.

So, congratulations, Kristen! I'm so excited for you! Here's how I feel about it:

and certainly this:

and definitely:

If you already know Kristen, then I know you're as thrilled for her as I am. Go congratulate her on her blog or twitter.

If you don't know her, please remedy that now.
Follow Kristen on Twitter -- she's hilarious: @KLipMart 
Read her equally funny blog:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Amusing Spam

My blog has been hit with a ton of spam comments recently. My comment system, Disqus, catches them and doesn't publish them, but I get emails for each one anyway. It's nice because I don't have to police my comments, but I get the benefit of reading some truly amusing crap.

And as a quick introduction to spam comments for those of you not familiar, the point of most spam comments is to place a link to a website on your blog, which increases the Google rankings of their website. Therefore, the comments seek to fit in as a regular comment so you won't notice it's there, and the link remains. Usually the people writing these comments are in India, hence the garbled English. You may also get emails from people requesting to do a guest blog post on your blog, but they have nothing to do with writing--those are also spam with the sole intention of getting their link on your blog. Put simply, the more links to a website that exist, the better its Google rankings. Spammers see blogs, especially older posts, as a vast field on which they are free to leave their links like scattered poop.

Anyway, here's a collection of some of the best ones I've gotten. I have omitted all their links (obvs).

"Glance advanced to more introduced agreeable from you!"
This is my all-time favorite. I don't even know what this means, but it delighted me. I would like to glance advanced with people, too! How happy that sounds!

"Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a marvellous job! Take a look at our website: drunk party!"
This is one of the more clever spam comments because it seeks to flatter, and flattery gets you everywhere. However, I really loved how they were a team of volunteers starting a new project in a community of drunk parties. Although....were they insinuating that my blog is in the same niche as drunk parties? Look, I know my posts can be silly, but come on. That's harsh. Was it the toenail post? It was, wasn't it?

"excellent publish, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don't notice this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you've a huge readers' base already!"
You know what, I've also wondered why the other specialists of this sector don't notice my blog, too! It's outrageous. 

"These are really wonderful ideas in concerning blogging. You have touched some pleasant factors here. Any way keep up wrinting."
I don't want to touch anyone's pleasant factors. Gross. But yes, I will keep up wrinting. What is that, by the way? It sounds painful. 

"Actually when someone doesn't know afterward its up to other people that they will assist, so here it happens."
It certainly does.

"You can very comfortably fill this form with your personal details that are genuine while you are
a the comfort of your office or home. There is no need for you to rummage through your paperwork, getting documentations, and filling out a long and dreadful application, because cash advances and convenience go hand in hand."

Personally, I'm thrilled to have gotten this spam comment, because I was spending a lot of time worrying about rummaging through my paperwork and getting my documentations and filling out dreadful applications (who says "dreadful" anymore? We all should, I tell you). Who knew my blog provided a form for avoiding all that? Must be the Disqus comment system. They're great for avoiding rummaging through paperwork and dreadful applications just to comment on a blog.

"Hi, Neat post. There's a problem along with your website in web explorer, might test this? IE still is the market chief and a large part of other people will leave out your excellent writing due to this problem."
If you're still using IE, then writing spam comments is the least of your problems. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Writers and Meatball Subs

The other night Mr. Sierra and I were watching 30 Rock-- we only recently discovered the show (I know) and we're watching it from the very first season on Netflix streaming. We're in the second season right now and there's an episode where Lemon orders a big meatball sub for pick up on her way home. The sub shop guy totally knows her, because she orders it often. Then her boss Jack comes along and makes fun of her for ordering a sub and staying in to work, read, and watch TV. He tells her to go out and have fun. (Remember this episode? I bet you do, because we're the last people on earth to realize this was a good show.) Later, she goes out with a younger guy to an art gallery opening, late at night. It's supposed to be the happening scene, and she's supposed to be out and about and living life.

Quite frankly, I preferred the meatball sub.

The older I get, the more I like my house. To writers, this probably doesn't come as much of a surprise since we all like sequestering ourselves away with our computers, hot drinks, chocolate, and maybe a furry animal. And silence.

The below image is pretty much spot on. I'm betting many of you can relate. God, it's a bit sad, isn't it?
What about you? Is this you, or am I just old? Are you a party animal? Is this how we are?

Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Things I Love Right Now

1. Bassnectar and Underworld. That dubstep wonder Bassnectar finally -- finally, God, yes!! -- remixed an Underworld song. I know this won't mean much to most of you but I don't care, Underworld is my most favorite band ev-ah and I'm a huge Bassnectar fan so this is just.....ahhh. Listen here. Bassnectar is this guy named Lorin, who coincidentally is from the same Californian town I'm from (Santa Cruz) and I don't think he really cares whether or not I worship Underworld and am over the moon that he remixed a song of theirs. But I care and that's what counts, right Lorin? Right? 

2. Downtown Abbey. The drama, oh the drama! Can you believe poor Edith being left like that? Even I felt bad for her, and not the least of why because she speaks so charmingly upper anal retentively, more than anyone else. She and whats-his-face were made for each other, they were so upper crusty! I love DA so much that I've started calling the cat "old chap."

3. Africa on Discovery Channel. Mein Gott, this show! I can't stop talking about it. Look, we've all seen loads of African animal documentaries but this one is fresh and crisp and stunning...and they show things I've never seen before, like the rare spoonbill bird and the horned grasshopper trying to sneak into bird nests and snack on baby birds only to get shoved out by the returning mama bird and then the grasshopper sprays acid blood at her but it's too late and he falls to the ground and he's all "I'm fine, it's all good" but the other grasshoppers are all "Riiiiggght, why do we smell your acid blood then?" and then they advance on him and eat him. Discovery channel on Tuesday nights. One of the best shows I've ever seen. Also, it's narrated by Forest Whitaker and he does a superb job--one of the best documentary narrations I've ever heard. Really. Here's how good Forest is: I've half fallen in love with him based on the sound of his voice. And that's saying something.

4. Monchego cheese. I don't think any more needs to be said on this subject.

5. Having things in writing. Confidential to a certain someone, having things in writing is so sweet, and I am thrilled for you. As well, I love it when I have things in writing from clients or other people and then something happens where they're all "unnh!" and I'm all "Unnhh! I have it right here from you, remember!" And then they're all "sorry."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing resolutions

Are you one of those people who made new year's resolutions? I never do, because I'm afraid of them not working out. But this year I have some definite goals for myself. They are:

  • Write more honestly. This is hard, and easy. It means letting go a bit and writing what I want and less what I think imaginary people want to read.
  • Read more blogs. I'll be honest. I used to read writer blogs every day. I used to have a huge list and I would methodically go down it. I learned a lot! I made great contacts! But I simply have not had time to do it in the past year or so and I find I miss it. If you don't stay on top of what's happening in the publishing world, you'll be out of touch because it's changing so fast. So, I'll start my circuit again.
  • Move on. This is also simple and hard. It means moving forward with a plan and renewed determination, and it means abandoning things that don't work. I'm not even talking about writing projects. I'm talking about trying to do things that don't work. One small example is that I keep trying to have blog contests here. I have good prizes! No one cares. Sticking to the basics is my best bet. 
What are YOUR resolutions for yourself, about writing or otherwise? I love hearing about them.