Author Archive for Diana Rowland



28
Sep
09

What I’ll be doing this week

Page proofs for Blood of the Demon arrived last Friday!  And, in much better condition than my page proofs for Mark of the Demon!

And, just in case I wasn’t sure what was in the box, it even came with a helpful label!

Ooh, and I even get a page telling people I wrote something else!

Plus a page combining the wonderfulness of the title AND my name!

And now I get to go through every single page, line by line, looking for typos, errors, and stuff that don’t make sense. This is my very last chance to make changes, and I’m not even allowed to make big changes.  Agonizing and wonderful, all in one.

 

In an unrelated note, I still have yet to hear from two of the winners of last week’s contest.  Juniper and Melissa, please email me at diana (at) dianarowland (dot) com!

20
Sep
09

Idea Jar: The winners!

Hurray!  I have puh-lenty of material and prompts and ideas to get me through months and months of blog posts! 

This was tougher to judge than I expected, and I want to shout out huge thanks to everyone who posted ideas.  You all put a lot of thought and effort into your responses, and I really appreciate the effort.

But, I finally managed to narrow down the winners:

KimW

Juniper

Melissa

Congrats!!  Please drop me an email at diana (at) dianarowland (dot) com, and let me know your snail mail address and whether you want Mark of the Demon or if you’re willing to wait for Blood of the Demon!

Thanks again!!

14
Sep
09

Fill my idea jar!

There’s a reason why I don’t try to make extra money as a blogger or columnist or any other freelance work that would require me to come up with a clever and nifty idea ever week or so.

It’s because I clearly suck at it!  Every Single Week I tell myself that I need to write my Saturday blog post at some point during the week. Every Single Week I forget until Friday evening, when I start desperately trying to come up with something interesting and unique.

You’ve seen the results. Sigh.

Okay, so I’m going to throw it out to y’all in the form of a contest. Give me ideas for blog entries. Anything goes. Extra points awarded for originality, coolness factor, and also for presentation (e.g. giving your idea in haiku form!)

Best three will get autographed copies of Mark of the Demon (and if you already have that one, I’ll put you on the list to get Blood of the Demon as soon as I have copies.) Contest is open to everyone everywhere, it closes this Friday (Sep 18) at midnight Louisiana time, and winners will be announced in my post next Saturday. (Really, I’ll make a post next Saturday. I promise!)

30
Aug
09

Arrrrr and arrrggggh!

I love google alerts. Love them to tiny little pieces. I have alerts set on my name as well as “Mark of the Demon”. In the early months of my promo for my book, those alerts were invaluable for letting me know when and where people were talking about my book. (I’ll go into the value of that in another post, because that definitely deserves a post of its own!)

But, google alerts have also let me know about some more unpleasant things, such as sites that host illegal downloads of my book.

I had an extensive screed on online piracy mapped out in my head, and then I saw a post that Shiloh Walker made about piracy that said it a thousand times better than I ever could have.  So, even though I know I’m preaching to the choir here, I encourage y’all to go check it out, and then hopefully pass it along. Really, go read it.

Okay, back now?

The first time I received an alert of this sort was the day of my book release. Two hits. Seriously, it was that quick. I worked myself into a Righteous Ire, and immediately sent off DMCA takedown notices, requesting that the copyrighted material be removed from the offending sites (usually torrent sites that are jammed full of nothing BUT copyrighted material.)  One of the sites took the material down. The other pretty much ignored me. Within a couple of weeks at least a dozen other torrent sites had my book available for download, and I gave up trying to get them to take the material down. Other writers consoled me by saying things like, “The people who download illegally wouldn’t buy it anyway, so try not to think of it as a lost sale.”  Or, “Hey, welcome to the world of being a writer! Now you know you’ve made it!”

Either way, Ouch. But, there’s just no way to keep up with all of the illegal torrent sites, and doing so would eat up too much time. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, and I’ve reached a point now where I’ll only fire off a takedown notice if the site has my book either posted directly on their site, or available for direct download.

But every now and then there’s a happier ending. I recently had the shock of finding my entire book posted on wattpad.com, a site that’s designed for people to post and share their own work. I gritted my teeth and sent a barely-politely-worded notice advising the owners of wattpad that my copyrighted material was posted on their site. I was prepared to have my email ignored, but to my quite pleasant surprise, in less than ten minutes I received an email from one of the co-owners of wattpad.com apologizing profusely, and advising me that my book had been removed from their site. I was so pleased at the prompt and efficient response that I let them know that the particular user who had posted my work, had also posted at least a dozen other authors’ books. Within another ten minutes, every single one of the illegally-posted books had been removed.

So, mad props to you, wattpad.com, for keeping your site professional and honest, and for restoring a small measure of my faith in the internet. Thank you for that.

23
Aug
09

Experience in genre

by Diana

I’ve been a member of a local literary society for a while, and, since I have a recent book release, I was invited to be the speaker for the August meeting. It’s a terrific group of people with a common love of books, and even though there’s no emphasis on genre, the group is completely accepting of all fiction and non-fiction, and very supportive of its members and local writers. (Plus, for a five dollar donation, they supply wine and snacks. Win!)

My plan had been to talk about Mark of the Demon, how I came up with the ideas behind the book, and urban fantasy in general. However, before the meeting started, one of the women in the group came up to me to tell me how much she’d enjoyed my book. (And, y’know, I’m totally cool with people telling me that!) But then she said something that left me momentarily speechless: She told me how impressed she’d been by the creative and unusual concept of alternate dimensions that I’d used in my book.

I nearly blurted out, “Are you serious? The use of an alternate dimension/sphere/plane of existence is one of the oldest tricks in SF/F!” (And I’m glad I managed to hold that back, because this person is a talented and award-winning author of literary fiction, and also a lovely, gracious, and genuinely nice person as well.) But it took me a couple of seconds to process the fact that she was completely unfamiliar with the established concepts used in science fiction and fantasy, and a few seconds more to recover from my surprise at that.

My surprise continued during my talk. Only one person there had ever heard the term “urban fantasy” before, and someone else asked me what the difference was between vampires and demons.  Five minutes into my talk, and I had to mentally rewrite it from scratch as I threw out anything that assumed familiarity with genre conventions and standards. I suppose I should have been prepared for that, since it’s not a genre group, but that was the first time I’d really understood just how wide the divide can be between “literary” and genre… and WHY the divide is so wide. This woman had purchased my book purely as a show of support for a local author and member of the group. (And I dearly love her for that!) But under normal circumstances she would most likely never venture into the sort of fiction that deal with alternate worlds, arcane powers, supernatural beings, and the like–which meant that she’d read my book with utterly fresh eyes, unaware of stereotypes, tropes, or concepts that have been explained in other genre books often enough that there’s no need to explain them again.

And now I finally understand why, when a literary author writes about something that we as genre readers consider to be a fairly well-worn trope, the literary world hails it as a bold and astonishingly new concept.  And why it drives genre readers bat-shit crazy when that happens.

09
Aug
09

Know what a kid knows

by Diana

This is going to be a teensy rant.

Yesterday the Kid was in the car with me, singing away in the backseat–Christmas carols, of all things. She started in on “Jingle Bell Rock” but couldn’t remember all the words. When I had to admit that I couldn’t remember all the words either, she stated, “When we get home, you need to go online and find them!”

She’s five. She’s growing up in a world where instant access to information is a given. She’ll have a black belt in google-fu by the time she hits first grade. She knows that you can find out anything by going to the internet.

So why are there so many grown men and women who can’t figure this out? Okay, let me get more specific–why are there so many aspiring writers who can’t figure this out? Breaking into publishing can be seriously bitching hard. I won’t deny that. And it doesn’t really get much easier once you break in. The quest to get published is much like a job hunt.  Actually, it IS a job hunt. And just like in the business world, the best and brightest job candidate might get beat out for the job by the candidate who did his or her research on the company and the job opening.  In publishing the advantage is going to go to the writer who does the research and directs queries/submissions to the agents/editors who handle their type of work.  It’s going to go to the writer who pays attention to–and follows–submission guidelines. It’s going to go to the writer who acts like a professional.

All of this research and information is available online. There are scads of articles and blog entries about how the industry works. Dedicate a portion of your writing time to learning about the industry, or researching markets/agents/submission guidelines.

There’s no excuse for being clueless. Even my five-year-old knows that.

01
Aug
09

Out of the mouths of babes

by Diana

I was in Target this afternoon, shopping for exciting things like cat food, and toilet cleaner, and back-to-school clothes for the Kid. As is my obsessive habit, I made a pass through the book section to see if–by any chance–my book was shelved there. (Yes, I know that getting shelf space in Target is a huge long shot. Still, I had to check!)

The Kid is apparently used to this by now, because as we turned down the aisle she asked, “Is Mark of the Demon here?” (Yeah, she’s five, and she knows my book!)

I gave a tragic sigh. “No, sweetie. But I didn’t really think it would be.”

She looked at me with a serious expression. “You have to work very very hard for that.”

She’s a smart kid. 🙂

Her perception made me laugh, but it also made me stop and think. On the one hand I’m thrilled that I seem to be setting a good example and giving the lesson that success is a direct result of hard work. On the other hand, I worry a bit that all she’ll remember is that I worked a lot. I admit that there are probably too many times that I say, “I have a lot of work to do, babe. I can’t do [insert activity] with you right now.”

The last month has been like that. First I had a tight deadline for revisions, which meant that during a semi-vacation to Destin, FL, I ended up signing the Kid up for resort activities so that I had free time to work during the day. (I say semi-vacation because my husband was there for a work-related conference, and the Kid and I tagged along.) She enjoyed herself tremendously in the resort activities, but still, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that we didn’t do more stuff together. Upon our return she went right back to the day camp that she’s been attending this rest of the summer, and for the next week I picked her up from day camp and then turned her over to the husband so that I could finish the revisions. Then, as soon as I finished the revisions, it was time for me to head off to the San Diego Comic Con. (Which is why I missed posting last week. Sorry!)

So, this week I’m doing my best to compensate. I’m doing hardly any work. I’m trying to do “quality stuff” with the Kid. We’re playing tea party and watching movies.

Because I know that in another week I’ll be receiving the copyedited manuscript, and I’ll have about a short amount of time to get that finished and sent back. Which means that my Kid will have another week of seeing her mom head down in paperwork, and another week of hearing, “Not now, babe. I have a lot of work to do.”

All I can do is hope that she’ll eventually be able to accept the cycle of “no time to play” vs. “let’s cram as much quality time as we can into this interval between deadlines.”  And, I can only hope that the quality time will be enough.

19
Jul
09

Second book–mistakes I have made

by Diana

Well, Blood of the Demon, the second book in the Demonic Lords series, has been accepted and is now on the way to the copyeditor. I have a publication date (Feb 23, 2010!) I have cover art!

However, the second book ended up being a lot harder to write than the first. And by “a lot” I mean “holy crap is this thing every going to come together and not suck?” It didn’t help that I made a number of errors in judgment that almost caused me to miss my deadline.

I wrote the first book, Mark of the Demon, without a deadline, at my own pace, and with plenty of input from critique partners. From start (embarking on the first draft) to finish (the “final” version that was shopped to publishers by my agent,) it took less than nine months to write.

I started the second book as soon as the first book went on submission. (Sept ’07)  The first draft didn’t flow out quite as easily as the first book, and I ended up changing my concept several times before I finally settled on something that I thought would work. Also, my work situation had changed quite a bit since writing the first book, and I no longer had stretches of available time during the day to write. My writing routine had become: get up at 0430 to write for an hour before getting ready for work and getting the Kid up. Write for half an hour on my lunch break. Write for about an hour after work before picking the Kid up from daycare. Write for about an hour after putting Kid to bed. I was exhausted all the time, and at the same time my work situation had degenerated into Pure Suck, which meant that my creative energies weren’t exactly at their highest.   

By mid-February, I estimated that I was about ¾ of the way through the draft–and it had been a long painful slog to get even that much done. However, I was also looking at the calendar, taking note of how long Mark of the Demon had been on submission, and I was beginning to lose my nerve about spending so much time working on the sequel to a book that might not sell. After a lengthy conversation with my agent, I decided to put Blood of the Demon on hiatus while I switched to another project.

Well, a few weeks later, my agent called to tell me the terrific news about Bantam’s offer for Mark of the Demon and a sequel. That’s when everything changed. After deep discussion with my husband, we decided that the first and best move was for me to quit my job. Instantly, ten thousand layers of stress fell away from me. But I suddenly had another problem that I had not anticipated: For the first time in close to 20 years, I didn’t have a set work schedule. I had nothing to structure my writing time around. Once I’d dropped the Kid off at daycare, I had my day pretty much to myself. I had ALL day to write, and a book that wasn’t due until April ’09.

You can see where this is going, right? Yep, for most of the summer of ’08, I didn’t do much writing. I did a lot of other things–reading, relaxing, bicycling…  and then when I started to feel guilty about doing all of that, I’d open up the file for Blood and try to poke at it.  However, since I’d been away from it so long, I was painfully aware of how many serious issues the book had, which made it hard for me to figure out just where to attack it. It also didn’t help that, for a perfect storm of reasons, I didn’t have much in the way of feedback from critique partners. (As in almost none.)

When Fall rolled around, I was finally able to force myself into a routine that was fairly productive. I got back to serious work on Blood after chucking out nearly half of what I’d written. After about two months I had a completed first draft, with nearly five months to go until my deadline.

Here’s where I made my biggest mistake. Since my editor was out on maternity leave, I figured that there was little need to push to turn Blood in early. I also knew I wanted to take a couple of weeks and focus on something other then Blood so that when I started revisions I would have a somewhat fresh eye. Therefore, I (very foolishly) decided to go back and work on the project that I’d been working on when my book deal came in. I spent a couple of months working on that, then switched back to Blood, finished up revisions, and sent it to my agent with a month to spare before my deadline (which was also about the time that my editor was due to return from her leave.)

This is where my lack of feedback and my poor time management bit me in the ass. My agent read the book, then–in the nicest possible way–told me that it wasn’t good, and in fact had some serious problems. After the requisite crying jag, I read through his comments again, reluctantly accepted that he knew what the fuck he was talking about, and realized that I had to rewrite about half of the book in order to address the (quite legitimate) issues that he’d pointed out.

Remember where I said that this was a month before my deadline?

Yes, I ended up rewriting about half of the book in about three and a half weeks. I finally sent the new ‘n improved version to my agent, he expressed deep pleasure at the changes I’d made and asked for a few minor tweaks, and I sent Blood of the Demon to my editor on March 31st.  A year and a half after I began it. A day before my deadline. 

So, to sum up the mistakes/errors in judgment that I made:

Failed to have a solid writing routine.

Failed to get sufficient feedback.

Began work on a different project before actually turning the contracted work in.

Needless to say, I don’t EVER want to go through that again. Therefore, work on Promise of the Demon has begun, I have a schedule and a routine, I have critique partners, and I absolutely will NOT work on anything else until PotD has been turned in.

I’ll let y’all know what new mistakes I make during this process.

11
Jul
09

Thirteen what??

by Diana

First off, I apologize for not posting on my scheduled day last week. There was something of a perfect storm of distractions, including a holiday, a broken down vehicle, and manuscript revisions.

The last one is the biggie, and is what’s had me working a fairly solid sixteen hours a day for the past couple of weeks.

I’ll say this–my editor is an awesome goddess. Editor Goddess read through the manuscript I turned in to her for Blood of the Demon, then read it again (and possibly even read through it a third time) and in due course sent my manuscript back to me with line edits, notes, markups, and comments. Along with the manuscript came a letter with explanations of her comments and notes, as well as more detailed exposition of the areas where she had issues and what she wanted to see me work on in the revision. The letter for this book was thirteen pages–single spaced. However, the Editor Goddess knows what the hell she’s talking about. There wasn’t a single suggestion or comment that would have changed the basic story or characters. What she did point out were places where I’d tried to gloss over details, or where the character interactions fell flat, or where my timeline didn’t make sense (uh, yeah, was I smoking crack?) She didn’t let me get away with any sort of laziness, and forced me to get to know my characters better than I’d ever thought possible.

So, I figured I’d share with y’all the process I used and the stages I went through in the revisions of this novel:

1) Open FedEx package. Pull out manuscript and enclosed letter. See that the letter is thirteen pages long. Single spaced. THIRTEEN! Whimper. Set manuscript aside and read letter. Cry. Read letter again. Resist urge to cry again. Grudgingly accept that editor knows what the hell she’s talking about. See the very short turnaround time requested. Cry.

2)Put my big girl panties on and get to work

3)Rename a copy of my manuscript with “revising” at the end of the filename. Go through the marked-up manuscript and enter the line edits into the new file. (I know that many of these line edits might be cut when I start rewriting, but this is the easiest way for me to re-read the book and go through and see what my editor said in her notes.) Using a different color pencil, make my own notes as I go along. Be amazed at how a couple of months away from the book gives a different perspective.

3)Once all the line edits are done, start from the beginning again and begin to address some of the issues raised in notes. Start with the issues that merely require rewriting of existing scenes. Make notes on separate sheet for issues that are going to require a lot more work. Make other notes for the timeline (which I now see has some major problems. Seriously, how did I screw this up so badly?)

4)Go through the chapters and create a calendar. Start looking at the Big Issues. Glumly accept that I have to write at least two new chapters and a number of new scenes. Make notes on the calendar to detail what needs to go where. Figure out where new stuff needs to go. Start writing the smaller scenes.

5) Write the new chapters. Hate them. Rewrite the new chapters.

6) Make a list of remaining issues/things that still need to be written/rewritten. Start chipping away at them and crossing them off as I complete them. Do a wordcount. Whimper at the realization that I’ve added almost ten thousand words to the manuscript.

7) Start reading through from the beginning, fixing remaining issues as I go. Decide that it definitely sucks less than when I received it.

8 ) Read through it one more time.

9) Send it back to Editor Goddess. Wait for the second round of revisions.

10) Reintroduce myself to my family.

 

I’m actually at #8 right now. I’m hoping I can get to #9 by the end of the weekend. I’ll let y’all know how #10 goes.

28
Jun
09

How long?

by Diana

I had my first signing for Mark of the Demon yesterday, and there was one question that I heard over and over: “How long did it take you to write this book?”

There really isn’t a simple answer to that.  So, here’s the complex answer:

I started writing it in the fall of ’06, and finished the draft about six weeks later. I set it aside for a couple of months, and then when I picked it up again (and decided that it wasn’t completely horrible,) I spent about four to five months revising it.  After I found an agent, he had me do another round of revisions which took a couple of weeks. After it sold, my editor asked me for more revisions, which took about three weeks to complete. After that, we ended up going through another round of revisions, which took about two weeks. And, finally, there was the copyedits, which took about a week. By this time it was January 2009 (or thereabouts.)

So, maybe there is a simple answer: two years and four months. 🙂