Friday, December 23, 2005

Holly Daze

I can't imagine anyone is checking my blog over the holidays (we're still down with that nasty cold, and the shopping and the baking and the hanging of stockings with care), but in case you are, here's a cozy fireplace to tide you over:

Until 2006!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Threads of Malice

I emerge from my cavern of blankets and hot soup to tell you of Tamara Siler Jones, author of the Dubrick Byerly Mysteries. Tamara's newest novel, Threads of Malice, has just been published, and readers are raving about it.


One by one, young men in the kingdom's outer reaches are vanishing into the dark. So far, two bodies have washed up on the local riverbank. But Dubric Byerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah, soon realizes there are countless more victims...for it's his curse to be forever haunted by the ghosts of those whose deaths demand justice.

The latest to vanish is Braoin, a seventeen-year-old painter whose mother came to Dubric's aid when he most needed it. All Dubric knows is that the boy is still alive. But time is running out, and it isn't only Braoin's life hanging in the balance. If Dubric can't untangle the twisted web of clues and lies and find his way to the killer, one of his own pages will be the next to die...


Readers have said things like:
"I couldn't put this book down, I read it straight through to the end."

"Well developed characters and mysteries mixed with tiny sprinkles of humor and romance really make for a well rounded book."

"This was a hard one to put down. In fact, I didn't get to bed until 1 am, after finally giving in to my husband's eye rolling. Then I was up at 7 am with my nose in the book by 5 after. I LOVED IT! What a spectacular job Tamara Siler Jones did. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy!"

"Fast paced, violent, disturbing, gripping and horrifying in the best possible way, Threads of Malice is a book you don't want to read alone at night. It only took about 2 pages to capture my interest and Tamara Siler Jones' excellent writing and story held it in a death grip until the final page."

"The second Dubric ghostly tale is a much more vividly darker novel than the more capricious sprightly GHOSTS IN THE SNOW. The efforts to use forensics during the medieval era and thereby before the science of criminology has been created add to a fine blending of mystery, horror, and even a touch of the fantasy. Interestingly the investigation is filled with twists and turns, red herrings, and dead ends (literally and figuratively) that makes for a fine who-done-it. Still this is Dubric's tale as he battles ghostly migraines, evil spirits, rotting corpses, bumbling assistants, and a touch of love to battle an unbeatable foe."~Harriet Klausner (#1 Amazon Reviewer)

Harriet Klausner

THE AUTHOR (in her own words)
How does someone write their own biography?

I suppose the joke goes - "One word at a time."

In reality, that's how you write a book, too, or at least that's how I did.

I've been a reader since I was three years old, or so my mother tells me. I do know that when I was in first grade they had to special-order books for me because the 6th grade ones were too easy. Getting labeled as a "nerd" at the ripe old age of six isn't the easiest thing to endure. I started writing not long after that. Stories, mostly, occasionally a poem, and I don't think many were chipper, cheerful pieces.

I finished my first "real-book" at fourteen. Remembered Past was about a woman who was raped, beaten, and left for dead. When she awoke and started to heal, she realized that she couldn't remember anything -- amnesia was evidently cool to my teenage self -- and most of the story was her trying to figure out her past while the man who gave her the amnesia tried to finish what he started. It was written entirely in long hand, in a fat spiral notebook. A friend snatched it, read it, passed it around. I don't know how many kids read it, surely a few, but by the time I got it back the cover was ruined and the pages stained, but it was intact. Well read and dragged who knows where over its mysterious journey, but intact. People who normally wouldn't give me the time of day would come up to me to tell me that they read my book, when was I going to write another one? I don't recall the follow up, but I still have Remembered Past in the attic, somewhere. And I kept writing. For Christmas that year I got my first typewriter. Pretty cool.

The remainder of high school and into college sent me through stories of vampires and hauntings (I was a HUGE Stephen King fan, still am) and gruesome little murders . Leaving my native Iowa, I started my academic career as a Veterinary Medicine/Chemistry double major (the nerd label definitely stuck) but after a year at Northeast Missouri State University I had to leave due to financial problems. My exhausted but much loved manual typewriter came home with me.

Then it was community college, and darker, bloodier stories. Kidnappings. Rapes. Lovely little things they were. I couldn't seem to settle on a major, but I definitely settled on a man. After a mere three months of dating, I married Bill but the vicious stories continued flowing from my fingers. While pregnant with our daughter we got a computer and I wrote a bit of froth I called Magician's Gambit (totally unaware of the same title being in David Edding's Belgariad series). Being newly married, and blissfully happy at it, Magician's Gambit chronicled the kidnapping, rape and torture of a lord's daughter by a man controlled by a demon and the prince in disguise who set out to save her from being sacrificed.

Magician's Gambit sucked wind -- and still does, so don't even ask to read it although a few select people have -- but it did give me a nice, juicy world to play in, a world where things might look good on the surface but under the painted on skin are boils and pustules and noxious vermin. It also gave me Dubric, who was a very minor character. I think he was in one scene.

Time goes by, we have a baby -- she's fourteen now -- and I go back to school, as an Art major, of all things. I actually graduate with a degree in Graphic Design and I go to work for a small corporation. I write on the sly, bits here, plots there, but no real books, not even real short stories. Stress to the point of therapy makes me realize that the corporate world is not a good place for me, so I quit and take a job in a small art studio doing brochures and logos, mostly. I heal and the writing comes back.

While at work on February 14, 2001 (Valentine's day -- seriously) I get this idea . Dubric needs to solve a serial crime. Ooh! What fun! But when? (Dubric's character has a long and convoluted timeline) I think about 2 seconds and decide to do it during the courtship of Risley and Nella. I get home and start writing. Six months later Ghosts in the Snow's first draft is done, an epic fantasy with mystery undertones, all whopping 247,000 words of it.

As Mr. King instructed in his marvelous tome, On Writing, I set the manuscript aside for 6 weeks. As I read it again, I realized that something was amiss, but I couldn't decide what. Bill located the Del Rey Online Writer's Workshop and thought they could help me. Willing to try anything, I signed up and within minutes I met Joshua Rode who I credit for this hulabaloo I now find myself in.

Josh loved what he saw (actually, he ripped my first chapter to shreds! Woo hoo!) and he invited me to join his writer's group where I met Heather Nagey and Catherine Darensbourg, among others. Within two weeks Ghosts became an Editor's Choice and won Runner Up Best Fantasy Chapter for November 2001. About that time I meet J.M. Blumer, Johnny B. Drako and Sam Godwin (She is the best and most ruthless proofreader and pre-editor I have ever met. No one, not even my editor, sees my prose before Sammie gets a chance to tear it apart). Sam introduced me to her sister Meg, who runs this site and knows many of my dirty secrets. These writers, each and every one more talented than I, are my Writing Posse. They're the best crit goup I could imagine and I love them all dearly .

I get Ghosts all polished (still a whopping 247,000 words) and start agent hunting the following spring. No bites, heck, no nibbles. After about 6 months and still determined but not discouraged, I re-vamp my query letter and offer to split the story into two halves. One agent, William Reiss at John Hawkins and Associates, requests three chapters with his query.

I am at a bit of a loss. Every other agent had wanted merely a letter and synopsis. We're broke, it's November (gotta think about Christmas for the kid) and I have to pay a nickel a page to print at work. Add to that the fact that JHA is the oldest literary agency in America, founded the AAR, and was waaay too prestigious for a ditz from Iowa like me, that I almost didn't send the query, but Bill said to do it, take the chance. I printed out the 100 some pages (if I remember right) plus a color mailing label, then paid $4 or whatever it was for postage (only a regular return stamp, thank goodness). We couldn't afford it, but I did it anyway . Mailed it on a Friday.

The following Tuesday, my email dings. Mr. Reiss (who I almost didn't query) has enjoyed my narrative so far. Could I send him another 100 pages?

Sure, I reply, then I have Bill dig through the change jar to reimburse the boss and I send out 107 more pages that night (I finished out the chapter).

Friday, another email ding. Could I please be so kind as to rend the remainder through the point where I intend to split it?

Yep. Scrounge up some more change and out it goes.

The following Wednesday I was agented.

He was the only agent to read my work, and he's fabulous. The moral of this story is, I guess, to keep your change jar full because you never know when you need to send out 240 pages like right now! Oh, and never give up or trying to reach for the best. They just might ask to see more of your narrative.

Ok, agented. Bill (agent Bill, not hubby Bill) decides to send out the manuscript to three publishers the first of January. It's currently almost Thanksgiving and book publishing practically shuts down over the holidays. January 2, true to his word, the book goes out.

A couple rejections, out to other publishers but no word from Bantam. In June another ding in my email. It's a forwarded and edited-to-lessen-the-blow letter from Juliet Ulman at Bantam Spectra. Essentially, would the author (me) be willing to cut out the epic fantasy and focus instead on the mystery aspects of the story?

I reply back to Bill with an affirmative and offer up a couple other story ideas (one of which has become Threads of Malice). Contract negotiations ensue and I set to work. Of Ghosts' first half -- the only part Juliet has seen -- about the first quarter remains. Everything after that is tossed away and done anew . It's dark in places, funny in others, tragic and romantic and delightfully gruesome. It's the book the quarter million word behemoth was meant to be and I'm very happy with it.

So here I am, published writer. I'm still delightfully married, still a ditz from Iowa, and I'm still a nerd. I learned a lot getting here and I have a lot more to learn. I couldn't be here at all without the help of many wonderful people taking a chance on me, or being simply supportive.

Thank you, everyone, and thank you for taking the time to read this.


P.S. Yes, Josh, this is all your fault! You were supposed to be first, not me.


MO'C: Thanks for appearing on the blog today, Tamara.
TSJ: You're quite welcome.

MO'C: How did you get started writing?
TSJ: I’ve written for as long as I can remember, but primarily for myself. Back in 2001, I wrote a book that just poured out of me and it rapidly took on a life of its own. I was happy being a private writer, but the book had other plans. Ghosts in the Snow wanted to be published, crazy as that sounds, and I thought why not take the shot? Bing bang boom, I was agented and had a multi-book deal from a major publisher. All because of an old man and a few drippy ghosts.

MO'C: What are the special challenges of combining fantasy and suspense?
TSJ: I’m not sure I’d call them challenges, they’re more like balls I have to juggle. There are various fantasy aspects I keep active, like the world mythology and the artifacts, but I also have to keep track of all of the mystery and suspense points, like the available forensic techniques, the realistic dangers and internal strife. The trick is to combine all the different parts so that the magic and fantasy elements reflect into and support the mystery suspense elements, that character issues help shine light on the main plot, and that everything combines into a seamless whole.

My books are rather complicated structurally and I think that’s a reflection of all the different aspects that interconnect to create the three-dimensional whole.

MO'C: What do you like best about combining them?
TSJ: It’s a lot of fun to approach each aspect of the story (like Dubric’s hatred of the Goddess, for example) from several angles at once. The mystery at hand impacts upon it, the magic, the history, the other characters… Everything in the story becomes a multifaceted piece and I really enjoy the intricacies of developing all the layers to support and modify one another. Sometimes, though, it can become a bit overwhelming when the narrative is running long, is too complicated, and I have to decide what to remove without shattering the multi-dimensional, “this is a real place with real people” quality. That’s very difficult.

MO'C: In what ways are you like Dubric?
TSJ: I’m stubborn and cranky when I’m tired. ;) I’m also curious and driven and principled. Life doesn’t always throw good things at me, but I can endure. I also suffer from a lot of guilt and that, too, reflects back into Dubric.

MO'C: What do you like about writing a series?
TSJ: Watching the characters change. All of the primary cast have gone through a lot together, and it shows. They’ all started at one place in Ghosts in the Snow, had their world ripped away in Threads of Malice, and in Valley of the Soul (the book I just completed) they’re in a completely different and more dangerous realm, even though they’ve never left home. It’s amazing to me to see how they each react in their own unique ways, how they’ve grown, how they’ve refused to budge, and how the interpersonal relationships have changed. Just like real people.

MO'C: You are an avid quilter. How does the craft of quilting relate
to the craft of writing?
TSJ: That’s a very apt question. Several of my friends (writers and non-writers) have remarked that I write just like I quilt. Lots and lots of bits and pieces and scraps, some of which you’d never think go together, but in the end they create something beautiful and unique and resonant. No one makes quilts that look like mine, and no one writes like I do. I’m happiest when it appears to be all chaos but it makes perfect sense to me.

MO'C: Do you have any advice for mothers who write?
TSJ: Not that they’ll want to hear, I’m afraid. I essentially stopped writing completely from the time our daughter was born until she started school. She was far more important than my writing, and claimed most of my attention. I have no regrets about that. While she was in grade school, I wrote occasionally, little bits of nothing, scenes, character sketches, things like that. I wasn’t able to start writing with any seriousness until she was in middle school and, frankly, I didn’t want to. I still did plenty of things to feed my inner creativity – I started sewing by making her baby clothes which soon turned to making quilts, for example – but writing well takes a lot of mental energy and focus. I couldn’t do that without feeling like I shortchanged my daughter and husband. I could stop the sewing machine at a moment’s notice, or set aside the fabric and go be a mom (or sew while she played with all the scraps), but it’s a lot harder to stop in mid scene or mid sentence then come back and seamlessly pick up where you left off. For me, writing is like a job and it wasn’t worth it when she was little. Family comes first. Always. Once she became self sufficient, time opened up and I could write again without feeling *too* guilty.

MO'C: What's your writing day like?
TSJ: It’s more like a writing night. I do some research, reading, general notes and things during the day, but I mostly work only after supper, and can really focus after the family has gone to bed. Generally, I work from 7pm, ish, until I can’t stay awake anymore, roughly 1 am.

MO'C: Any tips for aspiring authors in general?
TSJ: Read a lot, write a lot. Learn about the nuts and bolts of the job (yes, that means grammar) and all the other things like tense and voice and structure and theme. I love theme! Learn the craft, and never, ever give up.

MO'C: What's next for Tamara Siler Jones?
TSJ: My third book, Valley of the Soul, is coming out next Halloween. After that, I don’t know. I’m planning on writing at least three more Dubric books, taking a stab at commercial fiction… And making a lot of quilts!

Many thanks to Tamara for her visit today. Her books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local indy bookseller.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Hi everyone, a lot of you have emailed to see if I'm OK. I'm fine, but a horrible chest cold has me down for the count. Right now the room is spinning. Anyway, I hope the weekend will cure me. Take care all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Follow the Bouncing Blood Sugar Number

Hello good friends of the blog, wherever ye may be~

I do believe I will be sleeping most of the day after the kids are at school. Our son went to bed with a blood sugar number of 105 and 2.0 units of insulin onboard. I gave him a small snack (~15 grams carbohydrates) to bring him up ~50 points and went to bed. At his 2 AM check, the meter read 482... retesting, it read HI. That's higher than he's EVER BEEN since diagnosis. I think the FreeStyle Flash cuts off at 500, so that means he was between 482 and >500. ("Normal" blood sugar numbers are 80-120) No ketones. But one angry little boy. And one sleepless mommy.

I bolused him down to 150, using 482 as the starting point. Then, getting nervous about such a big bolus at 2 am, I had him retest~the meter read 271. For those keeping score at home, that's ~200 point differential. you don't want to overshoot your blood sugar target by 200 points.

Called the clinic and they said to sit tight for an hour and test again. Which I did~at 3 AM he was at 358. At 4:30 he was 265... I'm thinking I'll test again at 5 and bolus if needed, since most of the insulin will be out of his body by then. Needless to say, I haven't slep, though he has slept, albeit badly.

I'm thinking it was a rebound from a low since the 15g carb snack I gave him couldn't possibly have brought him from 105 all the way up to HI on the meter. Oh fuck I'm exhausted. I'll try to come through with a Tactical Tuesday later in the morning though. I'm thinking Writing Through the Pain? That seems appropriate... more later, my little bunnies...

Monday, December 12, 2005

An Epitaph for a Microwave

Here lies the ten year old KitchenAid.
Inside it a fiery baked potato was made.
Perhaps it was killed by the powder from the fire extinguisher,
Perhaps it was the baking soda I used to make it cleaner.
Alas! Poor dead microwave.
Now there's no way to make the popcorn which we crave.
Our dear microwave served us well for many years,
but its fiery wrath has caused us far too many tears.
I swear that my poem didn't kill it. It really was the potato fire. Yes, the microwave is gone. Dead. Kaput. Deceased. R.I.P. Every time you turn it on, sparks fly out of it. Not. Good.

Worse, it's part of a built-in microwave/oven combo, so it's not like we can just shell out $99 for a new one. SIGH.

Do you read Joshilyn Jackson's blog? You should. She's hysterical. Recently she had a crazy nightmare about her sure-to-be-brilliant forthcoming novel, Between, Georgia. I think Joss accidentally got the wrong dream, because I know for a fact I GOT A DREAM THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HERS. (I know this dream wasn't meant for me, because it was too good and it wasn't even ABOUT me. In my own dreams, I'm doing things like crawling out of a slime pit, or scrubbing endless countertops, or searching Grand Central station for a tiny slip of paper that says... something SO DAMNED important for my novel.)

You know that magazine InStyle? Well, in my dream, THE COVER STORY was about the gorgeous, stylish, trend-setting JOSHILYN JACKSON and her new novel! The article led how with pretty and glamorous Joshilyn is--and it ended with a sort of "plus, as a bonus, she's brilliant too!" kind of a riff.

Why can't I ever dream stuff like that about ME?

Hey, I'm getting that This Blog Makes My Butt Look Big feeling again. I just received a clipping sent to me from my British publisher from a publication called The Lincolnshire Echo. A guy named Dan Sharp writes a column called Web Wise and guess whose site and blog got profiled as an "interesting and useful website"? *Blush* If you can look past all the cellulite, maybe! *More blushing* Seriously, though, thank you, Dan.

Aside from the microwave fire and its subsequent death, too many good things are happening to me. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, but maybe the sacrifice of the fiery baked potato in the microwave is continuing to do its good. Here's further evidence from Debra Hamel at (Top ten, baby!) I lerv Debra, too. One of her picks, A Son Called Gabriel, was one of my favorite books this year, also!)

What other household appliances can I destroy?

Oh, before I forget, JA Konrath has a cootie catcher which protects him from all versions of Internet tagging. (Not fair, crime writers always have the coolest accessories.) So I am going to tag Kerri with the Top Ten Reading secrets, instead. You're it, Kerri!

Friday, December 09, 2005

To Explain My New Potato-Killing Habit: Or, I MADE A LIST!

This week has had its share of bad mornings. From baked potatoes catching fire in the microwave (in case you were wondering, 25 minutes is just a LITTLE too long for a baked potato... especially when you're not paying attention to it, GUH), to being a half hour late to school (due to oversleeping due to waking up at three for a blood sugar test due to an infusion site failing at bedtime due to it getting wet at swim team practice... did I mention I HATE diabetes?), my mornings have been... LACKING IN GOOD PUFFY SHINY HAPPY THINGS.

Yesterday though, a BAD morning transmogrifed into a TERRIFIC, FANTABULOUS, ASS-KICKINGLY AWESOME morning when I learned that MY BOOK. MADE. A LIST.

No, not a bestseller list, although when it came out, it did have a run on The Bookseller bestseller list (top 15) in England (where they are all so smart and beautiful and discerning and did I mention smart and beautiful and discerning?). But the book has been out seven months now.

This is just as exciting, though. Yesterday I learned that MY BOOK scrapped and fought and tussled its way onto The Los Angeles Public Library's list of Teens' Favorite Books.

See, every year the teens of Los Angeles nominate and vote on their favorite books. The books can be from any year, classic, contemporary, general fiction, science fiction, or whatever.

Ohmigod. I had to make sure I was awake because they voted The Bitch Posse onto the list at #22. Having my book in the company of all these other wonderful titles is just... well, I'm pinching myself.

Anyway, it's become very clear to me that I need to light fires in my microwave MORE OFTEN.

My editor and agent are really thrilled. Here is the full list and the link, but keep reading to the end, because there's some stuff I wanted to say and a site I wanted you to visit.

Teens' Favorite Books 2005

1. Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

4. Animal Farm by George Orwell

5. 1984 by George Orwell

6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

7. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

8. The Giver by Lois Lowry

9. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

10. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

12. Resident Evil series by S. D. Perry

13. Cirque Du Freak series by Darren Shan

14. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

15. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynold Naylor

16. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

17. Cantora: A Novel by Sylvia Lopez-Medina

18. The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon

19. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

20. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

21. Carrie by Stephen King


23. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

24. Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

25. It Happened to Nancy by Anonymous Teen

26. Latina's Bible by Sandra Guzmán

That sound you heard was me fainting to the floor in rapturous delight.

Now, teens of LA, you've impressed me so much that I'm going to RISK MY LIFE here in San Francisco and say~


Los Angeles has streets paved with gold and beaches made of pixie dust and everyone there is smart and beautiful and discerning and did I mention smart and beautiful and discerning? Especially the teens of Los Angeles. I LOVE THEM. I am going to kiss and marry all of them and then let them copy my homework the next morning in homeroom. COZ THEY FOUND MY BOOK.


I LOVE LOS ANGELES. You might even see me sporting Dodger blue one of these days. THAT'S how honored and amazed I am.

So as a thank you to the teens of Los Angeles (who are smart and beautiful and discerning and did I mention smart and... oh, I did?), I've made a donation to The Alliance for Children's Rights. Their mission is as follows:
The Alliance for Children's Rights is Los Angeles County's only free legal services, information clearinghouse, and social services referral organization devoted solely to helping children living in poverty and foster care. We provide children the help and support they need to grow into healthy and productive adults. Every child we help confronts poverty on a daily basis. Their lives revolve around courtrooms, institutions, house programs, and bureaucrats. For many children, The Alliance is their last hope and line of defense. Since our founding in 1992, we have served over 30,000 children. Annually, we help nearly 6,000 children.
They received a four-star (highest) rating from Charity Navigator. You can donate as well. Coz you know, donations are down at almost every charity but The Red Cross this year, and some people have bigger problems than potatoes catching fire. *off soapbox*

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Been tagged!

A little background first~I've been having so much fun revising my novel (no, really... REALLY... to me this is where the real creativity takes place) that I plumb fergot to do my Screwed Up Tactical Tuesday So I Have To Make It Up On Wednesday posting!

After that moment of epiphany on my own personal Walk of Shame, I opened an email to discover I've been tagged by dej at the SkateFic Blog--and I'm NEVER tagged. Because of the unlikelihood of its very EXISTENCE, I immediately concluded that dej's message had been sent from above to be my blog topic for the day.

So why don't we just say the hell with this week's Tactical Tuesday writing tips and call it a wash, shall we? Because before you know it, it'll be Thursday, and Tactical Thursday sounds even worse than Tactical Wednesday... we'd have to call it Thursday Theory or something and that just sounds like, ugh, a rhet comp class.

So onto...

My Top Ten Reading Secrets

10) I forget endings to books unless I've read them about seventy-nine times. This makes me an ideal reader of mysteries and whodunnits because it's like opening up a brand new book. Hell, even "the butler did it" surprises me sometimes.

9) Like most of you I went through a dirty books stage. After "Forever" and "Wifey," I graduated to High Literature- the novels of Judith Krantz. Yes, I truly felt "Princess Daisy" exposed far more of the human condition than even "Hamlet." (It exposed far more of SOMETHING, anyway.) Some claim that I still have dirty girl proclivities, but hey, I'm no Judith Krantz. That chick was the Master!

8) My all-time favorite books are children's books. I could read "Goodnight Moon" with my eyes closed (and have!).

7) As a teen I watched soap operas voraciously ("Days of Our Lives" was my fave-remember "Patch?" Yeah, I was going to marry him and everything). Because I just couldn't get enough, I copied some of the dialogue and read it over like it was a book. For awhile I was going to be a TV writer. I even wrote up a treatment for my own soap called "The Livingston Legacy." Once a week I'd type up a script for that week's episode and circulate it among my friends. The pages oozed the most disastrous cliches: jealous lovers, mysterious fortunes, thwarted assassination attempts, and plenty of face slaps and drinks tossed in each other's faces. It was tremendous fun.
6) I read while driving. But only in heavy traffic, or at stoplights. I swear they haven't suspended my license. Yet.

5) I don't finish books I don't like. If it hasn't caught me after fifty pages, it goes back to the libary, or if I really hate it, against the wall.

4) And don't get me started on the library. They have posters of me up all over as their MOST WANTED PATRON. That's because I check out TONS of books at once, keep them too long, and then owe a bunch of fines. I could buy a new car with what I've paid in fines over the years. My daughter's the same way.

3) If people tell me they don't like to read, I secretly think it is because of some character defect.

2) When I was younger I'd read anything. If there was nothing to read, I'd take cans and boxes down from the cupboard and read the labels. They oughtta print serials on the back of cereals for people like me.

1) I still read with a flashlight under the covers sometimes, just for old times' sake.

And now here's the part where I tag three authors! Joe Konrath (Lt. Jack Daniels Mysteries), Mark Farley (The Bookseller To The Stars), and Karin Gillespie (Bottom Dollar Girls Series)... you're it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Hollywood Starlet Stops Traffic~A Conversation with Lola Douglas

Hello everyone! I've decided to postpone Tactical Tuesday today in favor of playing host to a wonderful gal from The Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit~Lola Douglas, Author of True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet! Come back tomorrow for writing advice from a rodent! For now... it's confession time!

About the Book
Teen star Morgan Carter's mom is trying to kill her. At least, that's what Morgan thinks when she's sent to Ft. Wayne, Indiana after a near overdose outside LA's Viper Room.

Morgan's going to recover out of the spotlight. Way out. She's given a major make-under, a new name, and a completely different identity. Morgan's plan? To write a tell-all book about her experience and stage a comeback. But when this LA girl finds love and a new life in Middle America, will she abandon it for another shot at superstardom?

Contributing writer at Carlie Webber states: "Morgan is charming (even when she's obnoxious), witty, fun, and most importantly, a multifaceted person who has to overcome a lot of garbage in her life. Meg Cabot fans, this is the book to pick up while you're waiting for the next Princess Diaries installment."

KLIATT thinks STARLET is worthy of a star! (Starred review, that is.) Reviewer Myrna Marler, an associate professor of English at BYU, calls it "an absorbing read." She goes on to say, "Who has not imagined themselves in the ranks of the wealthy and famous, the mundane life a mask for the glamorous persona fighting to get out?" Hear, hear, Prof. Marler! Hear, hear!

According to School Library Journal, TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET "is nearly as amusing and compelling as Meg Cabot's PRINCESS DIARIES and Louise Rennison's GEORGIA NICHOLSON series . ... This engaging read with a promised sequel will be popular nonetheless." Let's hope SLJ is right!

About Lola
When she was five, Lola Douglas wanted to be an actress like her then-hero, Drew Barrymore. Instead, she became a supermarket checkout girl, a video store clerk, an administrative assistant, a features reporter and a textbook development editor before deciding that writing teen novels was her real forte. Lola has lived in seven of our great United States, including Indiana, and says that during her five-and-a-half month stint in Fort Wayne no one ever forced her to see the movie Hoosiers. She was, however, coaxed into auditioning for a part as an extra in a Neil LaBute film (Your Friends and Neighbors, to be exact), but was rejected during the first round. When not watching too much reality television, reading Gawker, or obsessing over all things Marc Jacobs, Lola can be found working on the next installment in the saga of Morgan Carter. To this day, she remains fascinated with Drew Barrymore.

The Interview
MO'C: We're so glad you could be here today, Lola.
LD: Thank you for inviting me!

MO'C: Let's start at the very beginning... How did you get started writing novels?
LD: I was a features reporter for a little while, but the deadlines just about killed any creativity I had. So, when I left the biz, I started to work on my stories again. I guess I just kind of fell into writing novels. I liked having room to move around and let a story unfold.

MO'C: Did you have to do a lot of research into the Hollywood scene?
If so, what did you learn that was surprising?
LD: I did do research, but most of it was picky little things, like finding out where the hot clubs were around the time that Morgan was carousing around. I also spent time digging through online fashion collections, so all of the stuff that Morgan talks about and/or wears is actually part of that designer's collection during the time that the book takes place. As for the Hollywood "scene," I used my imagination, which had been fueled by Biography and The E! True Hollywood Story series. Plus years upon years of reading things like Entertainment Weekly and various movie magazines.

MO'C: Is Morgan at all like you? If so, how?
LD: In small ways. I gave her my obsession for all things Marc Jacobs. When I lived in Fort Wayne, I was particularly fond of Scooby Snacks. Otherwise, not so much.

MO'C: Which Hollywood star is the most annoying, in your opinion?
LD: Oh, so many, in so many different ways. Hilary Duff really gets my panties in a bunch. She's such a poseur. I wish Lindsay Lohan would go back to being a pretty redhead with curves instead of this emaciated blond stick figure. I also wish someone would tell Nicole Kidman that the surgeries aren't working and we all know exactly how pickled she really is. Have you seen her forehead lately? She's SCARY.

MO'C: A novel like yours practically demands page-turning suspense.
Can you talk for a little bit about plotting and pacing?
LD: Oh, dear. I'm actually horrible at both of those things. I definitely rely on my editor's expertise in terms of ratcheting up plot and pacing. So, I mostly deal with that on the second draft. I'm trying to work on my sense of structure, but I get so caught up in the characters that I forget about basic things like the story's arc.

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any specific tips you'd like to share?
LD: Me and some green tea on ice, sitting at the laptop, doing word counts every five minutes or so. When I'm on deadline I either assign myself a word count for the day or a plot place - like I must write these three scenes before I can go watch TV or go shopping or whatever. Word limits are more helpful sometimes because they make me push through those spots where I'm stuck.

MO'C: What's next for Lola Douglas?
LD: MORE TRUE CONFESSIONS, due out in November 2006. I'm working on the revision right now. It's a completely different book, yet in essence, it's still similar. I know that sound contradictory, but what I mean is that while Morgan spends most of book 1 trying to hide who she is, she spends book 2 trying NOT to hide. I'm definitely happy with the direction it's taken and hope readers will love it too.

Thanks so much, Lola! Lola's website is right around the bend, and you can also check out her book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at your friendly neighborhood indie bookseller, findable via Booksense.

Monday, December 05, 2005

An Outsider's View: Industry Navel-Gazing

I happened to mention the recent dust-up about crime author Sandra Scoppettone to a friend of mine, who isn't involved in the publishing industry at all. She read this entry on my blog, Sandra's own blog, and Miss Snark's take on it all. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, here's my friend's view:
Martha, this is the most intense case of industry navel gazing I can imagine. Poor Sandra didn't offend anyone, she merely pointed out that she was concerned she might not find another editor that "fit" like the old one. If anything, she was complimenting the man who was her editor, and recognizing the positive way they had worked together.

Being concerned that a 29 year old editor might not fit as well is as valid as being concerned that a size 6 pair of pants might not fit well. The size 6 pair might be perfectly nice pants, but if you wear a 10, what good do they do you?

The second issue (should she have shared so much?) gets a resounding "Yes!!" from me. What's the point of a blog if you're going to skim the surface? Isn't that what mass media - newspapers, magazines - are about? Aren't blogs supposed to be more personal than that? If you castigate and excoriate the people who write what they're *really* thinking on their blog, who'll ever blog the truth? Far from Sandra sounding like a whiny writer, the responders strike me as "difficult editors". (I suspect those are the people giving 29 year-old editors a bad name ; )

I can't imagine the squirming type of feeling of not knowing whose hands your life will be placed in next. (Makes me want to not write ; ) Perhaps all the behind the-scenes people who don't feel they get enough credit are having a field day with a writer who has the guts to say she's worried. Sticking it to the talent - if you will. Seems like the kind of situation that brings out the worst in people.

Really, makes them ALL look bad - if you ask me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Things Fall Apart

This has been a very sad morning for me, and a very happy morning, too.

Let me explain.

I belong to a Yahoo list called Momwriters [tm]. Now, I am a bit of a listserv junkie, and this one, at 1500 members, beats even my Parents of Children with Diabetes e-mail list as far as subscription rolls go. MW was a place you could take almost any concern, be it writing, health, family, just having a bad day, or whatever. It was an amazing group of caring, intelligent, creative, thoughtful women.

I say "was." That's sad, but I think that recent events at MW have changed the comfort level of the group so much that I have to use that dreaded past tense. And that makes me very sad. Maybe I'm wrong~I hope I'm wrong~but I fear I am not.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
~WB Yeats, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem"

I got to know the esteemed Joshilyn Jackson through MW. MW Melody went to my reading in San Mateo... MW Ann Marie Garcia went to my reading in LA. When I was going through a really scary time with my family, MWs stepped up to the plate and emailed me and sent up prayers for me, and just sent positive thoughts my way.

Many of the people I met through MWs are published. Many are not. It didn't matter. If you were a mom and you were a writer, that was the great equalizer.

I didn't post a ton on MW. I read every day, though. And when I could help, I tried to.

Last night the group moderator announced a $60 per year membership fee. Now, that runs to approximately $90,000 if everyone on the list paid. The moderator then mentioned that no one would be turned away for lack of funds, and that those who volunteered for special projects would have their fee waived. It was suggested that there were some members ("lurkers") who weren't pulling their load and were getting more than they were giving.

As someone who didn't post all that much, and didn't volunteer for the special MW projects, mainly for lack of time (diabetes consumes a lot of my posting efforts, which are mostly directed to the fabulous CWD list--my lifeline; diabetes also consumes a lot of volunteer time), I couldn't help wondering if I was one of these "not-pulling-her-weight-ers." After all, I posted maybe once a week, tops.

As you can imagine, people wanted to talk about this new policy. For some people, $60 is a lot of money. Maybe some, like me, wondered if they had done something wrong. Others wondered where the fees would go (although the moderator wrote later to explain that she fully expected membership rolls to drop by 80%. That was fine by her.). And others were just--gobsmacked.

Now, having read a bit more on the subject (the comments section on Joshilyn's blog today has been opened for comments), I am reading that the list moderator has put a lot of her own money into the list, has created programs like "Adopt a Christmas Child" and so on, and has had to finance them herself.

I like the list owner very much. She is not some evil, horrible terrorist who hates people. The list owner is a very nice, very kind and warm person. I think she has created a lot of wonderful programs. And I don't mind being hit up for donations (God knows I do it to others all the time... *smile*) and if I can afford even a few dollars, I try to pony up.

The other big list to which I belong is the Parents of Children with Diabetes list. There is no fee requirement, even though I know the list owner puts a ton of his time and money into it, as do the moderators. Once in awhile someone will ask the list owner how to donate to the CWD Foundation and he'll post the link. The CWD Foundation funds research grants and sends supplies to families in need.

It's voluntary to donate. No one on the CWD support list is EVER, EVER, EVER asked for money.

Jeff Hitchcock runs CWD because it's his passion. Laura Billetdeaux and Brenda Hitchcock, too, as moderators. The board members of the CWD Foundation are volunteers. ALL the money goes to the charity.

When you do something for passion, you often end up paying money out of your own pocket for it or giving time for which you'd otherwise be paid, which is really the same thing.

Where it began to feel weird for me at MWs was being *required* to pay a fee to support the web hosting and charitable projects. Yes, it's been said no one will be turned away for lack of funds... but I can hardly claim a lack of funds. I have $60 in my purse right now. It's needed for other things. Christmas is one of them.

Earlier this year I put in a donation to the CWD Foundation. VOLUNTARILY. I wasn't pressured by Jeff, Laura, or Brenda, or anything other than the fact that I get so DAMNED much from them... I wanted to give back a little. VOLUNTARILY.

Back to the MW situation. A lot of people didn't like the fees idea, but unfortunately, MW policy isn't supposed to be discussed onlist. Everyone's head was left spinning and there was no where to discuss this issue.

So what's happened now is that people in the group are seeking each other out because they WOULD like to discuss this issue, and WOULD still like to stay in touch. I was invited to join (and have joined) the following group:

There are a lot of great people there, including Joshilyn, Shirley Jump, dej/Mary Tyler, Amanda Stephens, Carolyn & many other names that former MWs recognize. So if you're a MW who'd like someplace to discuss the membership fees, head on over.

One thing I will say~there has been so much spirited discussion just in a few hours' time, and for me... that was what made it also a HAPPY morning.

If you're a MW and blog about this, please link your post here. Then head over to Joshilyn's blog and link there, too. And read her comments section--there's a good, intelligent discussion going on there.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who Needs "Rent" When You've Got Internet Drama?

Disclaimer#1: A few months ago, crime fiction author Sandra Scoppettone emailed me to tell me that my book (The Bitch Posse) was on her top ten list of recommended books. I was very flattered, wrote back and thanked her, checked out her site, and then pretty much went back to my normal life. I don't know her, haven't met her, don't know much about her, and haven't communicated with her since then, until the other day, when I left a comment on her blog.

However, over the last few days Sandra Scoppettone has been in the middle of a storm of controversy. The uproar has been so huge that I'm convinced that The Scoppettone Affair, as I'm calling it, will be the next big-budget musical extravaganza a la Rent.

Our tale began when the media blog Galleycat broke the news that Ballantine editor Joe Blades spent the day after Thanksgiving phoning his authors and informing them he was leaving the business. Galleycat columnist and crime blogger Sarah Weinman (Disclaimer #2: Sarah liked my book too, giving it a very nice review back when it came out) linked to Sandra Scoppettone's website as evidence of this fact, where Scoppettone wrote the following on her blog:
"The reason he was calling me was to tell me that he was leaving the publishing company. Not because he was moving on to a new job, but because he’d had it with the business. He said he hated to use the term burned out but that’s what he was. I was stunned. I told him I understood and I do. He worked too much and he wanted a life. He doesn’t know what he’ll do but whatever it is won’t be in publishing....

"What worries me is the new book, Too Darn Hot, which will be published in June. Even if a new contract hadn’t come my way, this editor would’ve still been on top of things and moved the book as much as possible. As the book is finished and there’s nothing for a new editor to do on it, it’ll lie there like a lox. Unless there’s a new contract and then it’ll be different. At the moment my book is an orphan....

"Not to insult anyone, but this editor is the last of a certain breed…a gentleman and a man of experience. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say he’s in his early fifties. He mentioned the possiblitity of one editor and I asked how old the person was. Twenty-nine.

"I know any editor is probably going to be younger than I, but twenty-nine? He/she could be even younger, not only at this publishing house but almost everywhere. I’m not saying an editor of that age has to be horrible, in fact I know that someone so young could be the best editor I’ve ever had. Still, it gives me pause."
My reaction (without having read any of the ensuing brouhaha... and what a brouhaha it has been!):

Being "orphaned," or having your editor leave the publishing house, is one of an author's worst nightmares. This situation Sandra Scoppettone and her fellow authors are in isn't fun. I know people who've been orphaned, and their books were never published. I found the entry troubling, mainly because something like this could easily happen to any author. I felt bad for the authors who are now chewing their nails down to their wrists as they wonder what will happen to their books. So I posted something along those lines in her comments section, then went back and read the other comments.

The first commenter on her blog was named Anon. Yes, we all know Anon. Responsible for many fine works of literature as well as most of those crappy Precious Moments-type email forwards. Anon is very prolific, and here, Anon plays a role in The Scoppettone Affair. Anon told Scoppettone:
"In one post or another, you've insulted the art department, the copyeditor, your own editor, and the company itself. You haven't restrained yourself to making specific substantive complaints, either, but have gone on to imply nasty things about intelligence, general competence, and so on.

"In other words, you've gone some distance towards making yourself look like what editors call a nightmare author, the kind of person who makes coming into work every day a burden rather than a pleasure."
In response, Scoppettone came out in full force:
"I've been published for many years and by many different publishers. Everyone knows I'm not a nightmare to work with.

"If there's any nightmare around it's anyone who leaves a comment anonymously.

"Get some guts and write something with your own name. Gee whiz...maybe you're from my current publishing house. I'm shaking."
OK, I'll discuss my reaction to this reply a bit later. But onto The Snark Twist:

Following Scoppettone's reply to Anon, Miss Snark stepped in. For those of you who don't know: A few months back, an anonymous blogger calling him/herself Miss Snark set up a blog offering his/her advice as a literary agent. While Miss Snark sounds like he/she knows a lot about the publishing business, no one can prove whether or not he/she really is an agent.

Disclaimer #3: I am a regular reader of the Snark blog. I can't keep up with all of the postings, but I've found quite a few of them interesting, useful, and entertaining. I've never emailed Miss Snark, and I do not know who he/she is.

While Miss Snark is convincing, anyone can pretend to be anyone else on the Internet. I've been fooled at another site by someone who claimed to be a literary agent and instead turned out to be... unbalanced, I think, is the nice way to put it.

Hey kids! Sorry to interrupt my nice outline of The Scoppettone Affair (lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber), but I've got Dick Cheney right here in my office and he's BEGGING me to let him have a second to blog at you.

{Dick writing now} Hey, it is SO kewl to be blogging! I always wanted to write that on the Internet: kewl! KEWL! KEWL! Oh and I want to write ppl too. Can I? ppl! PPL! PPL! Or even peeps... HEY YOU PEEPS! THIS IS SO KEWL! *pardon me* Anyway, the other night I was reading Martha's book, you know, just to cheer myself up a bit. And I gotta say-- it beats the pants off Lynne's. Lynne's features a Republican vice-president dying while having sex with his mistress, which offended me deeply. While Martha's novel has sex in it too, as well as other immoral behavior (which offended me deeply) at least no Republican vice-presidents were harmed in it. ROTLFLMAO! Can't wait for bookclub this weekend when George and I are discussing it. TTFN, peeps! Ooh, I <3> the Internet! Bye now!

{Me again} See how easy it is?

Anyway, here's what Miss Snark said:

"Please Sandra, shut up.

"You're not, and I mean really NOT, listening when the commenter to your blog said that people would read what you wrote and pay attention. I came to your blog from GalleyCat which has a gazillion readers. Check your site stats, I bet they went through the roof.

"I beg to point out that the new editor you're assigned will most likely be less than 30, in publishing for fewer than 10 years, probably five, and the FIRST thing s/he'll do is read your blog.

"Young energetic and excited editors are exactly who you want to be friends with. They're not burned out. They may lack experience, but you've got that in abundance and can be a resource. "You'll be lucky to get an editor now whose first impression of you isn't 'she's a whiner'.

"Yes, Joe Blades leaving is a melancholy day. But, it's not the end of the world. And in fact, some of those editors over there at Ballantine, whippersnappers though they are, are pretty damn good.

"Shut up and count your blessings."
Aside from the tone (in our house, saying "shut up" is as bad as calling someone a "loser" or other nasty words my kids aren't supposed to have ever heard), I don't think this Snark post really speaks to what Scoppettone posted. Scoppettone did NOT say a young editor would be terrible; in fact, she said it might be the best thing that could have happened to her. What she did say was that it "gave her pause." If you lost a great editor like Joe Blades, wouldn't his departure give you pause? I think her statement stems from the heartbreak of losing him. (I've heard his name often over the years... in fact, he was one of the many editors who rejected my unpublished mystery. So I sort of owe him a little piece of my career, since all that rejection freed me to write The Bitch Posse. And to spare you ANOTHER lengthy digression, I'll simply link my Backstory on MJ Rose's blog.)

The Snark commenters, most of them anyway, rallied around the Snark entry, chastising Scoppettone for her blog and for that entry in particular.

Anyway, here are the key questions, as I see them:

A) Did Scoppettone "overshare" by being so candid about her publishing process?

B) Has Scoppettone committed career suicide, as some have called it?

In my opinion: Nahhh. What she shares on her blog is more than I would share, but I'm pretty reserved. I like the intricacies of my publishing life to be private, so I usually share them with only my husband, best friend, critique circle, et cetera. But not all people are that way. And I DO share a bunch on my blog about our diabetes life (see yesterday's entry). That's because venting about it is cathartic to me, and because I think it might help people.

Hmmm, do you think that might be part of why Scoppettone blogs so candidly about her publishing life?

The difference, I guess, is that Type 1 Diabetes doesn't go around reading blogs and taking my words about It personally; It doesn't come back and post on my blog as Anon. No, Its powers are limited to turning our every waking minute upside down.

Back to The Scoppettone Affair.

Would I have replied to Anon in the same way? I don't get a lot of angry Anon commenters, so I'm not sure. I might take a walk and blow off a little steam first. Probably in the privacy of my shower, with my fingers stuck in my ears so I didn't destroy my own eardrums.

In real life, a heated verbal argument (or screaming to yourself with your fingers stuck in your ears) disappears into the air. One hour and two mugs of Chamomile tea later, everyone's tempers are sedated, you've talked things out, and it's all cool again. But on the Internet, words that you write stay put in Google's cache even if you've erased them. Emails are stuck in people's boxes until they delete them. People can't read the irony in your messages or posts some of the time. Stuff gets misunderstood, or blown out of proportion, as I think has happened in The Scoppettone Affair.

By the way, I learned this the hard way. Once I sent an angry email and two minutes later regretted it. But it was too late; I couldn't ever repair the damage that I'd done. For a long while I had a post-it stuck to my computer screen: THINK before hitting SEND.

So I would have probably replied with the first two sentences of what Scoppettone wrote, then taken a hot shower and banged my fist against the wall.

Did she have the right to post the rest of what she said? Of course. That's her choice, that's her style, and ya gotta admit--she got a lot of readers from it.

Did Sandra Scoppettone commit career suicide early this week? I doubt it. We are authors and we are emotional people. I have said and done some very embarrassing things in my time. Compared to them, The Scoppettone Affair is just so much Internet drama. Cut the gal some slack. She's just been orphaned. Her blog is funny. If you personally don't want to blog so openly, no one is making you. Lighten up. Read some Dilbert. Hug your kids. Jump in a puddle. It's just the Belgiuming Internet.

My incident? Oh, it could be QUITE a tangent... But, you'll just have to believe me that it was truly, truly awful, because the events are too embarrassing to recount. But here I am~my book got published. And at this point, my career is really an issue between me and that mass of first draft pages that are taunting me from the living room.

In the comments section of writer Lee Goldberg's blog, author David Montgomery writes:
"taking controversial stands as an author, whether on your blog or elsewhere, will cost you readers. The more controversial the issues and the more intensive your commentary, the more readers you'll lose.

"Ultimately, authors have to decide why they're in this business: do you want to be a commentator or do you want to sell books?"
Well, if that's the case, I'm guilty as charged. I will never shut up about stem cell research, and I will never shut up about finding a cure for diabetes. NEVER, until we've got one. If that loses me readers... well, maybe it also will gain me some, according to fellow commenter Keith Snyder:
"On the other hand, taking controversial stands may gain you readers, too. I like my artists opinionated."
Hey, c'mon over here for a visit, Keith! We've got PLENTY of opinions in this neck of the woods! :o)

The Scoppettone Affair is high drama from many corners... but no high crimes. I maintain that if Scoppettone has upset Joe Blades or her new editor, then that's between them. She's said that the incident is over in her mind, so she'll carry on blogging as before. I know I'll be reading, because I read her archives and they're damned funny. I'm hooked. Bottom line, Sandra Scoppettone has gotten a lot of free press thanks to this. Now she's on hundreds or even thousands of radar screens, where she wasn't before. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity.

In the end, I tend to agree with this blogger, who says: What on earth is everyone so angry about? A writer speaks her mind and very candidly shares her publishing journey with others? How dare she?

Anyway, I've decided that I need to think of some really provocative thing to say or do on this blog. The embarrassing story's out of the question... it's far too horrible to recount anywhere but in the therapist's office. Perhaps I should get my good friend Dick Cheney to pose for some nakey photos while he's here, and post them later today.

Nah, that'd probably just scare everyone away.