Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Title Change!

Photo by the incredibly talented Brooke Shaden

I'm excited to announce that the book formerly known as THE COURIER'S DAUGHTER has a new title. One that I think completely captures not only the essence of the main characters, but the spirit of the story. I had significant help choosing this title since I generally suck at titles. I owe a big thank you to my editor Kristin Rens and the rest of the talented team at Balzer & Bray for choosing it! (Please note that my suggestion to call the book FLAMING SWORDS OF DOOM was roundly ignored by everyone at Balzer & Bray. It remains to be seen if this was a smart marketing decision on their part.)

Ready for the new title? Here you go!


I'm really in love with the title! Now, off to go change the title on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook... :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

With The Flaming Fire of 1000 Suns

C.J. most days.

C.J. after she's dealt with technology.

1. I think it's no secret that I despise most forms of technology, and they return the favor with interest.

2. Lately, I've had a lot of new-to-me technology to get used to. A new printer. A new laptop. And (finally) my very first smart phone.

3. Let's start with the printer, shall we?

4. It's lovely. And FAST. And very amenable to doing what is asked of it.

5. As long as I'm not the one doing the asking.

6. The other night I wanted to print out a few images for the storyboard I'm making for the novella I'm writing.

7. I opened the image in question and hit print.

8. Nothing happened.

9. The little print window stayed open on my laptop and it LOOKED like it was trying to do something, but nothing happened.

10. Then the print window on my laptop changed and informed me there was an error.

11. That's it.

12. An error.

13. All the advanced technology we have available to us, and we can't figure out how to make the computer actually TELL me what the problem is?

14. I tried again. With similar results.

15. Not to be outwitted by my new printer, I decided to run tests on ink levels. Before you wonder how I could be so incompatible with technology and still know how to run those tests, below the error message was a suggestion that I test the ink levels. I simply clicked the button and waited.

16. The computer suggested I buy more ink.

17. This was mystifying because I had JUST purchased this printer and had only printed the test documents.

18. Correction: my husband printed the test documents. Clearly, he'd established himself as the alpha male to the printer, and the foul beast of a thing would now obey only him.

19. I called my hubby into the office to get some help whipping my recalcitrant printer into shape. The conversation went like this:

Me: Can you help me, please? This stupid *#%@*% computer won't print.

Hubby: It won't? *comes into office* That's strange. It was working fine the other day.

Me: Yeah, for you. But it won't print for me. I gave it a very simple command, and it refused to obey.

Hubby: Hmmm

Me: See? *points to error message* I told it to print. I checked that it was sending the message to the right printer. I even ran tests on the ink levels because it told me to, and it still WON'T PRINT.

Hubby: *comes closer*

Me: I don't like this one bit. If we buy a new piece of technology, it should WORK. It should just WORK. No ambiguous error messages. No greedy requests from Epson saying we need to buy more ink when we haven't even used the ink we have because how could we? The stupid thing WON'T PRINT.

Hubby: Did you turn it on?

Me: *long pause* Oh.

Hubby: *does not try to hide bout of undignified laughter and reaches past me to turn the printer on*

Me: You're going to use this as a bit on your morning show tomorrow, aren't you?

Hubby: Absolutely.

20. Once I had my printer working, it was time for my new smart phone to look me in the eye and yell "Screw you AND your mama!"

21. I preface this story by telling you that up until two weeks ago, I was clinging to my geriatric cell phone whose only capability was to receive phone calls and text. No going online to check email or tweet clever little things as I was out and about. No GPS should I get lost. Just phone calls and texts.

22. We were happy together. We understood each other.

23. But my hubby (who has iEVERYTHING and adores it) kept telling me I needed a smart phone.

24. Apparently, "smart" is a euphemism for "ridiculous piece of crap."

25. My phone still accepts phone calls. And it still texts.

26. Sort of.

27. I can text. But I can't REPLY to texts because the phone refuses to send the message. Instead (because unlike my computer, my phone is capable of SPECIFIC error messages even though it refuses to shoulder the blame that rightfully belongs to it) it sends me error messages telling me I haven't used a correct phone number.

28. Even though this is the phone number the phone JUST ACCEPTED A TEXT FROM.

29. To make matters worse, two days after I started using the phone, we got an email alert that I had already used my allotted data whatchamacallit for the month.


31. Doing what? Not sending texts?

32. My hubby instructed me to close all apps after I was done using them.

33. I told him I would gladly do so. The second I actually started using apps.

34. He looked at my phone, couldn't figure out the problem, and called to up my data plan.

35. Within ONE WEEK, we got an email saying I'd already moved 1 gig of data.

36. I don't even know HOW to move 1 gig of data.

37. My hubby, who uses his iPhone constantly, doesn't even move 1 gig of data.

38. We took the phone into the local AT&T store and the very polite, nice man there couldn't figure it out either.

39. We called tech support from the store. The very polite nice man at tech support couldn't help.

40. We took out the sim card and re-inserted it. In SECONDS the phone was moving an obscene amount of data.

41. Everyone was asking me what I was doing and at this point I needed a stiff drink and a sledgehammer. I wanted to KILL my new smart phone.

42. If it didn't kill me first.

43. I wouldn't be surprised to learn my phone is part of a secret government experiment in which unsuspecting citizens are pushed to their limits in an effort to ascertain how high one's blood pressure has to rise for one to simply keel over.

44. My tombstone will read "Here lies C.J. Redwine who was stupid enough to get axed by a PHONE."

45. To make matters worse, for a variety of reasons I won't bother listing, AT&T won't let us exchange it for a different phone.

46. I offered to throw it against the wall and make an insurance claim, but the AT&T man didn't think I was serious, and my hubby took me out of the store before I could make good on my words.

47. I really hate technology with the flaming fire of 1000 suns.

48. In other news, I called the vet to make an appointment for Jack (our bob-tailed cat) because I suspect he might have a urinary tract infection. Here's a transcript of my conversation with the receptionist:

R: So, you think the cat might have a UTI?

Me: Yes.

R: Well, why don't you go ahead and collect a urine sample and bring it in?

Me: *long pause* Come again?
R: Collect a urine sample.

Me: From my CAT?

R: Yes.

Me: Are you crazy? I don't think I have enough medical insurance to cover the kind of injuries I would incur.

R: Oh. Well, in that case, we could do it for you. Would you prefer that?

Me: Absolutely.

49. Just what I need. Narrowly escape having an epitaph wherein my claim to fame is death by phone only to earn a tombstone with the words "Here lies what little remains of C.J. Redwine who thought she could safely extract urine from a cat and therefore deserved her fate."

Winner of the LUMINOUS Necklace!

Thank you to all who entered the contest to win the one of a kind necklace designed by Tashina Falene especially for Dawn Metcalf's LUMINOUS. As always, I used to choose the winner. And the lucky winner is

The Girl On Fire

Congratulations! You will receive an email from me shortly. Enjoy your necklace!

Didn't win this time? There will be another chance to win signed books and amazing jewelry in two weeks!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why I Can't Read Your Amazing Book

This is a post I wasn't sure I'd ever have to write. I've seen other authors talk about this topic, but didn't see this coming for me. I'm a huge fan of paying it forward, and I'm a staunch cheerleader for other writers, no matter what stage of the journey they're in. But since I'm starting to find myself explaining this fairly often lately,  I feel like I need to put together a more public response.

There are a ton of dedicated, talented writers working hard toward publication. Those of us a few steps behind our goal look for answers and inspiration from those of us a few steps further ahead on the path. I can honestly say that my own journey toward publication was significantly aided by the generosity of a few who were ahead of me on the path. One published author took the time to answer a newbie's questions. A trio of debut authors put together a web site that featured question and answer sessions with newly published authors. Agents ran blogs and addressed many of the mysterious topics that go hand in hand with getting published, read hooks, and critiqued writing samples.

I gobbled all of those up like the info-starved newbie I was.

If you're an info-starved newbie, you should too.

Google is your friend. USE IT. Everything you need to know is out there on the web. Well, everything but the answer to this question: Does my writing suck?

The perennial question all of us are afraid to ask, but must if we want to move our craft forward and pursue our goals. For some, outside input isn't useful or welcome. For others, outside input is the holy grail that will finally help us figure out how to make our craft better. The problem is, no one can answer the "Does my writing suck?" question without reading our stories.

Here's the good news: You can find other writers willing to read your work in exchange for reading theirs. We call these other writers critique partners, or CPs. Finding the right CPs, the ones that get your writing and push you to improve it without hijacking it with their own vision; the ones who leave you feeling like you've been given wings rather than leave you feeling like you need to drown your sorrows in a tub of Ben & Jerry's--finding those? Is a time-consuming process of trial and error.

And if you want CPs, you have to be willing to commit to that process. Because some CP relationships won't work. Some will work for one book, but not for any others. Some will be wonderful until the level of commitment drops because life gets in the way. But unless you want to pay for a freelance editor to take a look at your book, putting together a team of CPs is pretty much the only litmus test you're going to get for the "Does my writing suck?" question followed by the "What must I do to improve it?" question.

Because here's the thing: I can't read your book. I can't be one of your CPs. I say this because I've started to get emails and messages on Facebook asking me if I would look over a few chapters or read an entire manuscript.

So many of those books sound AH-MAZING, and I wish I could say yes. I can't. Here's why:

1. I barely have any reading time at all. After I finish with my own writing schedule, read for my own team of CPs, handle the business aspect of my career, deal with the flotsam and jetsam of life with four kids, and maybe find time to squeeze in a little bit of personal hygiene, I'm done. Before I started writing for a living, I read at least twenty books a month. Now, I'm lucky if I read two. I need those two to be the kind of books that recharge my creativity and make me yearn to write something that good. So, I take those two books from my formidable pile of To Be Read titles waiting in patient stacks of Ooh, Shiny! on my top bookshelf.

2. The time I have for critique reading is taken. I've spent the last five years building relationships with other writers and putting together a team of trusted critique partners. Right now, I have four CPs. That's a lot of critique reading! They come first on my "read for others" priority list, and I can't imagine where I'd find the time to squeeze in another.

3. My agent won't let me. No, really. She is very insistent on this point. Because what if one day I write a story about hot pink unicorns who live in a commune and eat nothing but figs and peanut butter, and this idea is the hottest thing since Voldemort tried to defeat Harry, and a writer I once agreed to read for remembers that he had unicorns who sort of lived in a commune? They weren't hot pink and they sure didn't eat figs and peanut butter, but still. UNICORNS. And then this writer feels strongly that I have stolen the lovely hot pink fig and peanut butter-loving unicorns from him? This is how writers end up in court.

And even though YOU realize that unicorns are fair game for anyone, and YOU would never sue me over my dazzling fig-eating beauties, there are those who would.

So, even though your story is amazing, and even though I bet I would love it, this is why I reply to those lovely emails with deep regret. I can't read your story. But others can. And should. And WILL. Google "critique partner." There are sites that help you find them. Join local writers groups. Make friends with other writers on Facebook and Twitter and test the waters there. Because one day, I'd love to add your amazing book to my Ooh, Shiny! pile of titles I just can't wait to read.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Top Five Reasons You Should Never Use A Taser On A Camel

Join me in welcoming YA author Dawn Metcalf as she explains to us why using a taser on a camel is a very bad idea. In honor of Dawn's debut book LUMINOUS, my jewelry designer Tashina Falene has created a one of a kind necklace inspired by the book. To enter, simply fill out the form at the end of the post. Good luck, and watch out for angry camels!

Dear Adventurous Tourist:

Congratulations! You have booked a well-deserved vacation that expands your horizons and lightens your wallet. You are willing to go where few modern book-lovers dare to tread: outdoors! You have your books and/or e-reader, your passport, your shoes, and now are looking for a way to secure that your belongings will continue to belong to you. While I am certainly a proponent of upholding one's own safety, I feel that I must caution the worldly traveler on bowing to what I'll term "American Excess". Nothing encourages the wonton wielding of sharp or pointy objects than carrying about such shiny toys around in the first place, and one never knows if the gun in your pocket will be pointed at you or the shiruken stowed cleverly in your change purse will end up in your would-be mugger or buried in your own face. To that end, it is important to realize that certain safety devices have a nasty tendency of having unfortunate ill effects when used abroad and therefore should be handled with caution. Therefore:

Five Reasons You Should Never Use A Taser on a Camel:

1) It doesn't like it. At all. In fact, the camel would likely show it's displeasure in a number of disquieting ways that range from disgusting to outright dangerous and therefore I feel it necessary to advise against this possible scenario by avoiding tasers and camels altogether. If this cannot be avoided, please consider the following as a guide to the wise and remember to please show respect to your local flora and fauna, as well as its people, by treating them kindly and not over-enunciating your English as if that will help get your point across. You look ridiculous and they can't understand you, anyway.

2) A camel will stomp you flat. Don't be fooled by those long, silky lashes! The camel may look pretty, but those feet are made for long, desert treks and squashing things into paste. Ever see a camel back down from a lion? I bet not! The camel can easily carry 200 pounds (that's 90 kilograms) across a scorching desert, so it's not going to be bothered by some toothless, clawless, pink sack of meat like you. Very few know that the camel exists in a delicately balanced symbiotic relationship with Black Vultures (a.k.a. Cinereous vultures) and these scavengers' diets consist mostly of annoying tourists on vacation. The vultures eat the carcass and the camels steal their pants. Often, this is what the camel is taking so long to chew. Be aware and be prepared!

3) Sound. Have you ever heard the sound a camel makes? It's not pretty. It sounds something like this: That's your warning. If you hear that grumble, back away slowly because the next thing you hear would most likely split your eardrums and leave you a gibbering wreck. In 1974, a visiting American named Lewis Hornsblatt actually suffered a brain aneurysm after experiencing the bellow of a camel at close range. Mr. Hornsblatt unwisely thought feeding a jalapeƱo pepper to the camel would be an amusing stunt. After the resulting noise, Mr. Hornsblatt's head exploded. True story.

4) Eliminates. Let's just classify together anything that can come out of any orifice of the camel. The spit of a camel is legendary, but did you also know the camel is a ruminant? Like cows, camels chew their food and later regurgitate it to chew again, so it should always be considered "armed and dangerous". This wad of puke is also accompanied by lovely things like stomach acid and copious digestive gas, both powerful natural deterrents. Speaking of gas, you might want to be wary of the other end as well: not just gas leaks out the back of the camel. These fascinating animals aren't potty trained! If you can imagine that getting a high-voltage jolt of electricity would scare the poop out of you, it would also likely scare the poop out of a camel, and the camel is a lot bigger than you.

5) Lawsuits. Believe it or not, camels have very good lawyers. This is a long and honorable tradition passed down from the Tuareg people of the mid-Sarahan region to "stand by your camel" which passed into law under the Indigenous Animal Protection Acts instituted by President Nelson Mandela. Therefore, in accordance to Tuareg precedence, all camels are afforded highly-trained, government-mandated attorneys who have made famous such cases as Camel vs. Mr. & Mrs. Gregory Eccles in 1989, Camel vs. Miss Carmen Sanchez's Chiquita Hat in 1995, and Camel vs. The Fig Merchant Chamber of Commerce in 2006 merely concerning digestive disputes and poking at it with a stick. Can you imagine the consequences of assault charges? This author shudders to think it.

Therefore, please enjoy your adventure in the exotic landscape beyond your air-conditioned flat, but for heaven's sakes, leave the taser at home. You'll be better off without it.

Bon voyage!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Winner of LUMINOUS!

Thank you to all who entered the drawing for Dawn Metcalf's LUMINOUS. As always, I used to choose the winner. And the lucky winner is:

H.C. Palmquist

Congratulations! You will receive an email from me shortly with the details. Thanks again for entering and happy reading!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stepping Out In Public Without My Pants

I was going to post one of my usual Monday lists (full of mayhem with a heaping side of crazy), but I've been thinking about something else and decided to share that instead.

The picture above represents part of the book I spent the last few weeks editing. I worked to write two new opening chapters, to subtly weave in character arcs, emotional truths, back story, and sensory detail. To bring important secondary characters forward. To increase the tension. To lay the groundwork for book two.

When I finished at 4:30 in the morning this past Saturday and sent it to my editor, I was so happy with it, I kind of wanted to make out with the whole book. I still do.

But then I started thinking. Stuff like "Oh, crap. What if no one else wants to make out with my book?" and "People are going to READ this. And they will look into a big piece of my soul. And some of them are going to say 'This is worthless. I'm going to give her a one star rating and use this book as a doorstop.'"

It will happen. It does for everyone. Reading is subjective. Art is subjective. I know this. I value this. It's what gives us such lovely diversity on the bookshelves.

I know this, but suddenly the thought of laying myself out there and being found lacking made me feel like I must have been crazy in the first place to ever put myself in this position. I wanted to breathe into a paper bag and maybe hole up in my bedroom with nothing but popcorn and Dexter Season 4 for company.

But I did put myself out there for public consumption. I wanted it. I still do. Because I want my stories read. Even by those who will think it isn't worth anything more than to serve as a doorstop. Even by those who will viciously rip into me in their reviews. I've decided it's worth it because I'm hoping that for every person who scratches her head and says "I just didn't get that." someone else will read it and say "Yes. This. Exactly this."

Because I don't regret it, I have to learn how to deal with the anxiety that comes with publishing a book. I'm not a fan of being anxious. It destroys my ability to create and sucks emotional energy I need to give to more worthy areas of my life. So, late last night I did what I always do when I feel depression or anxiety threatening to take me over.

I wrote. I sat down and started a new story. A novella about two of the secondary characters in my novel. I started with nothing but an opening scene and an idea for the climax, and by the time I got up from the computer to head to bed, I knew the plot.

More than that, I wanted to make out with the plot.

This time next year, the reviews will start rolling in. I have a lot of time between now and then to be anxious. To feel like I stepped out in public and forgot my pants. But I also have a lot of time to write more stories. And more after that. And that's what I'm going to do. I can't control how people respond to my book. I can only do my best and then give it over to others to do with as they please.

But I can control what I spend my time doing. And I'm going to spend my time ignoring the anxious little whispers inside my head and write the next story instead.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Editing Brain Explained

Why have I been so quiet on the blog lately? Because I've been editing my manuscript for my editor of HolyCowAwesome, Kristin Rens. This has given me editing brain.

Editing Brain: (noun) A state of being in which the brain dedicates each and every viable cell to the careful restructuring of a novel, chapter, scene, or sentence. While existing in the state of Editing Brain, one's gray matter will focus all neural energy in the direction of the novel at the expense of remembering things like personal hygiene, children's names, and how to speak.

It looks something like this:

I'll be back to blogging once I turn this in. In the meantime, don't miss the interview with Dawn Metcalf (see post below this) and your chance to win a signed copy of Luminous!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interview With Dawn Metcalf

I met Dawn Metcalf on Twitter a while ago, and noticed right away that she was rather a big fan of Captain Jack. NOT as big a fan as me, you understand. I still get dibs. But still, she is a fan. So, when her debut novel came out, I offered her the opportunity to go toe to toe with the Captain himself. She accepted in less than two seconds. Her novel, LUMINOUS, is being heralded as a stunning debut, rich and vivid, with a plot unlike any you've seen in the realm of YA paranormals. Here's a peek:

When sixteen-year old Consuela Chavez discovers that she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypal teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering her new friends, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.

Intriguing, yes? Let's meet our guests for today.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Dawn Metcalf

Now that you know who's who, lets dive into the interview and reveal the gorgeous cupcake my hubby made in honor of Dawn's book. Because one of the skins Consuela can use in the Flow is a skin of butterflies (note the gorgeous cover), my hubby made a beautiful butterfly cupcake for Dawn. Without further ado, I give you the cupcake and Dawn's interview with the legendary Captain Jack.

1. Would you classify yourself as a pirate or a member of Her Majesty’s Royal navy? Why?

I confess that it's hard to imagine myself as a member of Her Majesty's Royal navy--or any military organization--as I have a nasty tendency to question authority. However, I prefer order over chaos, law over anarchy, and a spot of good, clean fun...which often requires civilized things like baths and soap.

Either way, if it involves ordering around strapping seamen while wearing a fabulous hat, count me in!

2. Baths? Soap? You may be a tad too civilized for my taste, dear. What’s your favorite thing to do in Tortuga?

Sunbathe on the beach atop an exotic rug from the East stretched over a mountain of stolen booty. Preferably male.

3. You may sunbathe over any stolen booty you like, as long as it isn't mine. I’m offering you free passage aboard my ship to anywhere in the world. Where shall we go, love?

I've always wanted to return to Italy and Greek Isles! Warm sun, hot sands, and more good food than a body can why not lie down?

4. Now you're speaking my language. You and I may have more in common than I thought. Who is the hero of your story most like: me (savvy, debonair, and unquestionably smooth with the ladies), the insufferably honorable Will Turner, or that deceptive little minx Elizabeth?

No one is like you, Mr. Sparrow. The most savvy and debonair of my characters is Tender, although I'd seriously question his ability to woo. The honorable bungler would most likely be Wish, good heart that he is, and Consuela, our heroine, is none of these things, so I guess that deceptive little minx would be the author, me. *cocks eyebrow* *cocks pistol*

5. You're a devilish little thing, aren't you? *cocks own pistol* Mine is bigger. Rum? Or more rum?

I prefer to indulge in other vices. More for you!

6. You'll be hearing no argument out of me! I'm always a tad short of rum. Which leads me to the age old question: Why is the rum always gone?

I suspect Book Faeries. Instead of flittering around helpfully finishing my books while I sleep, they seem to be suspiciously absent. I'd look for tiny, ink-stained footprints and errant pencil shavings in the hold if I were you.

7. *peers closely at you* Darling, with a story like that, I feel positive you know there whereabouts of my missing rum. What’s the most piratish thing you’ve ever done?

I hit, kick, punch, and throw fighting men around regularly and with deadly intent for fun and profit, swords optional. (Quite optional as I still sport a crescent-shaped broadsword scar to this day.)

8. I see I'm going to have to keep you on my good side. Are they rules? Or more like guidelines?

You can always tell when they are rules: guidelines don't make that satisfactory cracking noise when you break them.

9. We understand each other completely. I understand you’re a story-teller. Any undead monkeys in your stories?

Alas, no. The stains are a bear to get out of the floorboards. And then there's the smell...

10. Isn't that the truth? Any curses? Heartless monsters? Irritating women who insist on taking matters into their own hands?

Yes, Yes, and most certainly Yes! That is if you mean swearing, murderous psychopaths, and my main character, Consuela. In fact, I think that describes all my favorite stories...not to mention my diaries.

11. How ... delightful. I believe I'll just ... clean my sword. *draws sword just in case* One of my favorite words is “egregious.” Care to share one of yours, love?

Taboo. It's not only a wonderful idea fairly begging for corruption, but it's awfully fun to say!

12. I believe anything that corrupts you should have the decency to be fun to say, don't you? Parlay? Or draw your sword?

Parlay. I always try to talk it out, speaking calmly, and in a soft voice. This requires the other person draw close enough to hear you, putting them conveniently within sword's reach. Problem solved.

13. *continues cleaning sword* I can hear you well enough from here, thank you very much. You’ve got a crowd of cursed sailors and a nasty sea monster on your trail. How do you escape?

Start throwing things overboard: excess ballast, insufferably honorable crew members, cursed sailors, corsets, you name it. If that fails to work, bribes of chocolate often suffice. And if *that* tactic fails, nuke 'em from orbit--it's the only way to be sure.

14. We'll start by throwing your corset overboard, shall we? Romantic night in? Or adventure on the high seas?

A romantic night in IS an adventure! They don't call it the "little death" for nothing.

15. Especially when behaving like a pirate. My personal motto is: Take what you want, give nothing back. What’s yours?

"Why be normal when you can be remembered?"

Thank you, Dawn, for such an entertaining interview! To learn more about Dawn, visit her site. To purchase Luminous, go here. Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Dawn is giving away a signed copy of LUMINOUS to one lucky commenter. To enter, simply fill out the form below. The contest is open for North America and I will accept entries until Monday, July 18th at 8 pm Central Time. Good luck!

A Bad Culinary Decision

A few days ago, on a whim, I bought a bag of Lay's Potato Chips in their new Chicken and Waffles flavor. I figured my kids (who love bot...