Archive for the 'Diana Rowland' Category



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. 🙂

20
Jun
09

Shoutout!

by Diana 

Now that the release of my book in the counting-down-by-the hours phase (yes, I am. Shut up) I’m going to hijack this blog today to give a special shoutout. As most of the readers of this site are aware, in this day and time (and economy!) it’s usually up to the author to do the majority of the promotion for his/her book. We’re told to have a website, start a blog, get a Facebook page, get on Goodreads, start Twittering…  all of which are okay, but seldom do much to actually drive people to your website or generate interest in your book.

However, there’s a certain subsection of the internet that (IMO) has done amazing things for the book world, and made it possible for authors to reach thousands of potential readers.

Therefore, I’d like to give a big shoutout to blogger-reviewers–the ones who make the majority of online promotion possible. These are people who don’t get paid for writing reviews or conducting interviews or hosting online events. At best they get advance copies, and are instead driven by a pure love of books. Seriously, I’m completely impressed, and I can easily say that if not for these people, I doubt that more than a few dozen people would know about Mark of the Demon.

So, big thanks to all of you book lovers who take the time to pimp our books!

07
Jun
09

Stress and angst and nerves, oh my!

by Diana

Mark of the Demon officially hits the shelves in slightly over two weeks. Since it has a soft drop (i.e. bookstores can put it on the shelves as soon as they receive the shipment,) this means that it could possibly be found in the wild in slightly over one week. This is, obviously, a really big deal for me. I’ve been working toward this goal–to see one of MY books for sale in bookstores–for the majority of my life.

 Confession time: For the past few weeks I’ve been in a miserable, depressed mood. I’ll sink into a deep funk, and then I’ll feel guilty for being in a miserable, depressed mood, because this is my dream and I should be ecstatic and over the moon with joy. And that makes me feel even worse… Yeah, you get the idea.

 The bitter irony of it is that I saw this same mood shift in other writers, and told myself that I would NEVER be like that. I would never be so ungrateful to the forces of luck and skill and persistence that led me to this shining moment. Oh no, not me! I would treasure every moment! Squeeze every blood-red drop of joy from it that I could!  Writer-friends of mine who were already well down the path of publication warned me of the “post-partum depression.” Or rather, they tried to warn me. I smiled and nodded and made understanding noises, and then came away with the deep conviction that I was far better than that, and that I understood the nature of the business and I was prepared and I wouldn’t let it all get to me.

The universe has a way of smacking smug bitches like me with big heavy reality checks. Fortunately my writer-friends (and non-writer friends!) are awesome. If not for the many kind reminders that this is a fairly natural and normal phase, I probably would have continued to go through all of this thinking that I was the only writer to feel like this, and continuing to feel like a bad, horrible, ungrateful person for feeling anything but spurting rainbows of joy. 

 I think that the biggest problem is that this is The Dream. I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted people to read MY books. I became like a bride preparing for her wedding day–envisioning a magical experience replete with smiles and sunshine and “happiest day of my life” moments. But then it rains, and the limo breaks down, and you break a heel, and the best man shows up drunk, and the “happiest day” turns into a grit-your-teeth slog just to get through it and make it to the honeymoon.  Just like in publishing there are layoffs, and a piss-poor economy, and budget cutbacks, and lack of advertising, and the onus of self-promotion… 

 But of course, your wedding day shouldn’t be the happiest day of your life, right? Otherwise it would all be downhill from there. The release of that first book is just the very beginning of a “new life,” replete with challenges of its own. It’s the first step on a new road, and even though it’s a great and awesome road, it’s crowded and endless, and you can’t slow your pace without fear of getting knocked off into the ditch. (And yes, I AM going to go completely overboard with metaphors in this post!)

 So, I’ve taken some steps to drag my kicking and screaming ass back to sanity. (Or as close as is possible for me!):

 –I’ve reminded myself (and have been reminded) that I’m not the only one to go through this funk phase. Accepting that damn near every writer goes through this has allowed me to chisel off much of the guilt portion of my funk.

 –I’ve reduced the other projects in my life that aren’t vital and that are causing me stress. One such project was my launch party. That was part of my “Big Dream” vision, but it ended up being One More Thing for me to have to deal with (and pay for!). The telling thing was that the minute I decided to not bother with a launch party, I felt a hundred times better. (Besides, I can always throw a party later on down the road.)

 –I’ve also forced myself to become more organized with the self-promotion and non-fiction writing end of things. The majority of my self-promotion efforts have been online, and so far I’ve been pleased with the results. However, every interview or guest blog post takes time and mental effort, and before I knew it I had a list half a page long of things that needed to be written or answered, each with an attached due date. I’ve never been a freelancer or anything of that sort, so the only deadlines I had any experience with were the ones for my books.  I had to learn how to organize and prioritize, listing the projects in the order of importance and due date, and was finally able to chisel my way through a hefty portion of them. (The time I spent at the writers retreat in Kentucky helped with that too. With fewer distractions I was able to complete a good number of the projects, and even though I didn’t get through them all, I was at least able to get my focus back. I highly recommend the Getting Away From It All technique of dealing with stress.)

 –And, finally, I’m asking questions more–of my fellow writers, of my agent, and of my editor. Instead of fretting and wondering and worrying, I’ve gritted my teeth and asked what’s possible and what I should expect. I’ve had my illusions shattered a few times, but the end result is that feel more prepared. And sometimes a big issue that I thought just had to be endured can be worked around.

 I’m going to finish getting ready for my “wedding day” now. I plan on bringing an umbrella, and sensible shoes.

30
May
09

Getting away from it all

by Diana

I’m in Erlanger, KY this weekend, as a guest instructor at the Writers Retreat Workshop. I’ll talk more about the workshop itself later on, but the main thing I wanted to talk about is the retreat itself.

The thing is, I’ve been a little stressed out the past few weeks. Just a little. A wee bit. (I’m sure some of the others here know what I’m talking about!) It’s not just the fact that my book comes out in a few weeks. (Okay, that’s a huge major part of it, but still…) It’s also all of the stuff that needs to be done between now and then–the blog posts, the interviews, the postcards and swag, scheduling appearances–in addition to the every day demands of life.

I’d committed to teaching at this workshop several months ago, and in the last couple of weeks I was beginning to wonder if I was stretching myself too thin and whether I was going to be completely exhausted by the end of the weekend. I was up at an ungodly hour this morning–far earlier than planned thanks to a lack of ability to sleep–and by the time my plane landed in KY I was seriously doubting my ability to make it through the next few days.

I was delivered to the retreat center and given the key to my room:

 retreat1

My first thought was. “Wow. Spartan.”

But my second thought was. “Wow. I think this is going to be exactly what I need.”

 

Then I went outside:

 retreat2

And my thought was, “Oh, yeah, this is what I needed.”

 retreat3

I realized that for the next few days I wasn’t going to have to even think about the daily stuff. I could focus on…me. I could catch up on the interviews and blog posts and get back to the other fiction writing that I’d been putting off. I could talk about writing and craft and all of the stuff that I love doing at cons… without the frenetic and exhausting pace of a con.

To be honest, I didn’t realize just how stressed out I was until I began to UNstress. For the first time in many many weeks, I’m starting to feel relaxed. I fly back home on Tuesday, at which time it will be three weeks until the release of Mark of the Demon.

 

I wonder how many massages I can afford between now and then?

23
May
09

Bitches and Bosoms, oh boy!

I’m doing something a little different here this week. Those of you who’ve followed my posts here for a while know that I have a tendency to rant write about the “ghetto” of science fiction, whether it’s perceived or real, and how much of it is self-created. Well, today I’m mixing things up and interviewing a representative from the neighboring ghetto of Romance fiction. Sarah Wendell is one half of the Smart Bitches at smartbitchestrashybooks.com, and co-author (with fellow Smart Bitch, Candy Tan) of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels.  This book is not only a wickedly fun read, but it also gives interesting and thought-provoking insights into the history, the tropes, the future, and the shame of Romance. (I dare anyone who has ever dismissed Romance as being formulaic or shallow to give this book a read. I can definitely say that my eyes were opened on a number of topics!)

DR: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! Sales of romance novels dominate the book industry. Why do you think it’s such a huge market?

SW: Courtships stories have been part of narrative tradition since someone decided it might be a good idea to have a narrative tradition. It’s the most consistent drama humans face that is most often happy – attraction, arousal, allure, and the commitment that may follow are intensely powerful events for people, no matter how blasé or cool they might seem. So reading about that experience and knowing that it ends happily is a consistent element of storytelling. Plus, just about every other fictional narrative contains a romance element. Whether romance is the main focus or an ancillary element, like Prego, it’s in there.

DR: I’ve blogged before about science fiction and fantasy being a “ghetto” of sorts. Do you think that romance is also a ghetto, albeit a much larger one?

SW: As Candy said in this blog post at Powells: http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=5980

…it’s the genre ghetto’s genre ghetto. Romance is the country music of literature: “at least I don’t like romance novels” will justify admiration of anything that skirts the line of questionable taste.

DR: There are many genre readers who will never venture near the romance section of the bookstore, even though they will gladly pick up books in the SF/F section that clearly have romantic subplots. Is there anything you could think to say to these people to encourage them to dip their toes in the romance pool?

SW: Three words: Lois McMaster Bujold. She will lead you to the light and the truth that the romance, it kicks the ass. From there, the world is your throbbing pink oyster.

DR: There’s a pervasive view that romance readers are just bored housewives, and science fiction/fantasy readers are nerds who live in their mother’s garage. Why do you think these stereotypes still persist even when the genres have clearly moved beyond them?

SW: I think deep down we carry high school with us, and are often afraid of being permanently labeled “uncool” or  being marginalized because we enjoy something off-beat and different. It’s easier to stick with stereotypes than actually ponder the nuances and sophisticated elements at work in your average science fiction/fantasy novel, or romance novel.

DR: How has romance embraced concepts that are near and dear to science fiction and fantasy fans? Are you seeing more crossover?

SW: Oh yessssss. Urban fantasy is often a neat blend of two or all three, as are many of the steampunk novels being published. Just about every sci fi or fantasy novel incorporates some romantic elements, even if there’s no happy ever after for the protagonists — the three are very much intertwined.

DR: Why do you think paranormal romance and urban fantasy have become so popular?

SW: My theory: in a world in which we are constantly reminded of the presence of terror, having a villain who is readily identifiable (hairy in moonlight? Driven to commit acts of exsanguination?) and either vanquished by emotional affirmation or utterly and completely decimated is, to put it simply, reassuring. When the villain in the “real world” is unidentifiable, the obvious “other” is captivating in an entirely new way. As for urban fantasy, the reliance on the Kickass Heroine means that a whole new realm of female autonomy, actualization, and sexual agency can be explored, to which I say, HELL TO THE YES.

DR: How do you feel about Cover Shame, i.e. those lurid or obnoxious covers in both romance and sf/f that are almost embarrassing to have?

SW: Neither the authors nor the readers are responsible, and anything that is THAT absurd is epic comedy win.

DR: You have a book! What do you think Beyond Heaving Bosoms can offer people who are not already readers of romance?

SW: The Bosoms? Creative uses of the word “cuntmonkey.” Examinations of what makes a romance novel cover Extra More Gooder.

Seriously: It’s a guide for anyone who loves romance and is tired of taking crap for it, and for anyone who has ever wondered, “What is it about romance novels?” Since, as I mentioned, every fictional narrative contains romantic elements, the appeal is not exclusive, and neither is our book.

 Beyond Heaving Bosoms

Thanks again to Sarah Wendell for stopping in at the Magic District!

17
May
09

Diana’s sunday quickie: this path of madness

Today’s quickie topic is about how we each first got hooked on science fiction/fantasy.

I place full blame on my mother. I don’t know where she got her love of the genre, but she was definitely the one who first led me to what if stories.  She gave me books by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, turned the TV to Star Trek, and took me to see Star Wars. I read the Skylark of Space series, everything by Anne McCaffrey, and fell deeply deeply in love with Doctor Who. Through the Pern and Who geekdom, I found some of my nearest and dearest friends in high school, and when I went off to college (Georgia Tech–chock full o’ geeks!!) I found many more like-minded people who were more than happy to share in the love of science fiction and fantasy.

Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy is such an intrinsic part of who I am today, that I can’t even imagine what kind of person I’d be like today if I hadn’t found that amazing world.

A boring one, probably.