*taps mike* is this thing on?

So yeah, the new site is live but before I start celebrating this is like declaring your room clean as long as nobody opens the closet or looks under the bed. There are broken links and outdated bits that need updating and the husband is still plowing through the massive task of importing all the comments from the previous site. But the data is all here, all ten freaking years worth of it, and once things are up to date I have what I’ve needed for a few years: an easy to update, maintenance free (mostly) website, thus freeing me from admin headaches so the little time I have for writing can be spent writing. And formatting all those stories I have rights to for re-release.

I will be re-releasing the five novellas/novelettes Wolf at the Door, Mad Stone, Roped, Bride of Fire and Nuns and Huns as individual ebooks and also in a combined ebook and print anthology. The two shorts in Men of Action will be added to the ebook and print anthology for a total of seven reads, so I’m calling it Seven Minutes In Heaven. Looking forward to having all the stories I’ve contributed to various anthologies over the last few years collected in one book!

Meanwhile, here’s David Bowie to get you through hump day.

New site and romance manifesto from Eagle Harbor books talk

Yes, I know this site is sadly, horribly, embarrassingly out of date. This is because Shiny New Site is almost ready to launch so updating here means duplicating the database over there and, well, the answer is just to get the new site live already.

Something Wild is out in print from Ellora’s Cave with a gorgeous cover, and other things are afoot.

Last Thursday I did a talk and reading at Eagle Harbor Books spearheaded by the fabulous Serena Bell and Rachel Grant. Harlequin generously donated many books to help win new readers to romance, as the bookstore is interesting in enlarging the romance section and encouraging romance readership. So readers came away with books by new authors to try out as well as signed books by the participating authors (us) and here is what I said about romance and why I write it.
Romance is a sub genre of fantasy and the fantasy of romance is the happy ending. “They all lived happily ever after” is how every fairy tale ends and romance novels are modern day fairy tales where the protagonists get what they want and a happy ending. Romance is the only genre that delivers the fantasy of the happy ending consistently and it gets a lot of criticism for being unrealistic because of it. But being able to imagine that a happy ending is possible is the first step to creating and writing your own. Whether that means a happy ending to the career change you want to make or the new friendships you want to build or building a successful romantic relationship, it starts with the hope, the ability to imagine and to believe that what you want is possible.

So romance is the fiction of hope. It’s also a genre of fiction that focuses on relationships. Not just romantic and physical relationships but the full spectrum of relationships. Family relationships, coworker relationships, friendships. The relationships in our lives are part of what helps us succeed in life, what helps us through difficult times, and have a huge impact on our happiness and health. The best relationships bring out the best in us and help us be more of who we truly are. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, love makes us real. The worst relationships make us less of who we really are, and in romance, those characters will turn out to be the villains. That person who wants you to feel less so they can feel like they’re more is not really your friend or your romantic partner, and you see that play out in a romance novel.

Fiction is where we can imagine how this choice or that action would lead to that result and it’s a safe place to vicariously experience what it would be like to choose what the protagonist chooses. Reading fiction helps us build empathy, which is one of the keys to any successful relationship in real life, and this is one of the ways it does that, by placing ourselves in our imagination in another person’s shoes and seeing the world from their point of view. Learning to have more empathy is not at all unrealistic, it’s a scientifically documented side effect of novel reading, ANY novel reading. And experiencing the fantasy of hope, imagining your own hopeful outcome, that’s also a scientifically sound premise. Top performers, athletes, imagine themselves performing at their peak and they have measurable changes take place while they’re imagining this. Imagination is powerful, it’s more than staring out a window daydreaming, it’s a tool that can improve athletic performance or help us practice asking for a raise. So the fiction that delivers the fantasy of happiness, of hope, is a tool that can help us write our own happy ending with very practical real world results.

This is why I believe in romance as a writer, that it’s something worth doing. And why I love it as a reader, why it’s the genre I’ll turn to when I’m having a bad day, and I need a dose of hope and the reminder that I’m the protagonist of my own story and it’s up to me to make the choices and take the actions that will write my happy ending.

The novelist and the pottery wheel

First time novelists are in a tough place. Overwhelmingly before the book is even finished the questions are flying; do I need an agent yet? How do I get it to a publisher? Do I need to copyright it before an editor reads it?

These are understandable questions, but the biggest question facing the first time novelist is really: can I do it? Can I actually write a whole book? Until that question is answered, none of the others matter very much. And after that first vital question is answered, there’s another biggie that comes before the rest: is it publishable?

Nobody wants to sit down and write a whole novel that will never sell. This is understandable. I balked at the idea myself. Even knowing the percentage of first novels that never sell (it’s big), I wanted to believe that mine would be the exception. My first novel was not the first to sell, and before I sold it, I had to revise like crazy and fix a major structural defect. It was worth doing because it had some key things going for it: good writing overall, lively characters, and a story that grabbed me no matter how many times I put it aside. Oh, and it was finished. Without those four factors, it wouldn’t have been salvageable let alone publishable.

We live in a world of words and writing. We write resumes and cover letters and business letters and emails and invitations and lists. This leads to the belief that anybody can sit down and write a book. I believe anybody who really, really wants to can, but the barrage of words we live in and the daily writing we all do is a whole world apart from writing fiction. Writing fiction is like going from making pinch pots to using the pottery wheel.

Pottery is an incredibly difficult art form. Those pieces of clay, it looks so easy. Watch beginners using a wheel for the first time. Construct after construct begins to rise from the lump of clay, and then collapses. It’s messy. It’s frustrating. And it takes a lot of practice and patience before that first lopsided vase comes off the wheel.

But because we live in words and not clay, we think a novel should be easier. It isn’t. Be prepared to get messy and frustrated and to make mistakes and fail before getting it right. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Doesn’t mean your first novel won’t defy the odds and be publishable after you manage to get it to complete.

But worry about getting it to rise on the wheel and not collapse back into a lump of clay before worrying about copyright, how to get it read by an editor, how to get an agent or when you need an agent. And allow yourself to be a beginner. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your first attempt. Everybody starts somewhere. Plenty of first attempts make really great paperweights (or help get a fire going in the winter), but the next one is better and the one after that, wow.

Growth spurts

The no-longer-a-baby is going through a growth spurt. She’s fussy and awkward, has regressed in her abilities, clumsy, voraciously hungry, and when she walks, the formerly sure-footed girl trips over her own feet repeatedly.

I can relate. I’m going through the same thing with writing. Voraciously hungry to read, awkward when I write, regressed in my abilities, tripping over my own words. I’ve been through this before and I know what it means. I’m growing. The timing sucks, but you don’t really get to pick when this kind of thing happens. It’s kind of like having your voice change right before the big solo, only when you’re a writer, there’s no understudy to deliver the performance (or in this case, the book) for you.

Growing as a writer means that things are shifting. My process. My voice. My abilities. Having been through this before, I know I’ll get through this and things will come together on the other side, stronger than they were before. Awkwardness will give way to new grace. The words and the stories will sort themselves out and be suddenly stronger than I could have made them before. I’m looking forward to that, but in the meantime, here I am, tripping over my words and trying to do what was so easy not so long ago before everything started to shift and change.

10 reasons to buy Lynn Viehl's 50th book

The day I’ve been waiting for is here! Her Ladyship’s Curse downloaded in the night (yay pre-order, yay internet book delivery miracle) and I’m ripping myself away from it to help celebrate the release of Lynn Viehl’s 50th book with 10 reasons you should go buy it right now.

1. She maintains a terrific blog full of useful information for writers and creative people who need to keep the well refilled in order to keep working.

2. In addition to all that free nonfiction, she regularly gives away free stories to thank her readers. Here’s one to accompany Her Ladyship’s Curse.

3. She’s the sort of generous author who is always helping others and wouldn’t you like to keep her generosity funded by buying her newest book?

4. She’s one of those authors you can always rely on for a well-structured, well-written, fully-realized story that will entertain from the first word to the last, whether she’s writing inspirational fiction, science fiction, romance or YA under her many pen names.

5. She’s funny.

6. Steampunk!

7. In addition to the clockworks, magic and mystery are afoot.

8. Alternate history where the US is still ruled by England.

9. The hardbitten private investigator drinks tea.

10. There’s a mad genius in the basement.

Really, do you need more reasons? Go forth and read!

The Cupcake Theory of Writing

While flailing about in an effort to fix a story recently, I found myself bewailing its virtues.

“The story is a cupcake!” I cried, while trying to add more spinach and wondering why the result was revolting. And as I sat there covered in non-functional story batter, I had an epiphany.

My story was a cupcake. My story. Was. A cupcake.

And instead of reveling in the cupcakery and plotting frosting and sprinkles and cackling to myself about how this was going to be the most sugar-fat-caloric-dense-ZOMG-amazeballs cupcake in the history of cupcakery, I was killing it with spinach.

Look, sometimes you put in all the right ingredients and the batter doesn’t rise or the center is too gooey or the edges are burned, but still, what you have is recognizably a cupcake. And if you keep coming back to the recipe and trying again with subtle differences, it is possible to end up with a very good final product as long as you commit to the essential nature of the cupcake and what makes a cupcake experience fabulous. And you do not have to be a master chef or even a connoisseur of pastry to know that what makes a cupcake fabulous is rarely the quantity and quality of spinach. Adding spinach doesn’t turn the cupcake into a salad or a souffle. It just turns it into a mediocre, if not disastrous, cupcake.

So I came back to my story and judged it by its virtues. And I committed to them. I committed to telling the story fully and completely with a willingness to go right over the top on a regular basis in my dedication to making my cupcake a cupcake worthy of the name. Because when you want a cupcake, you want a cupcake that doesn’t make any apologies or hold back or sit there saying, “Sugar is bad for you, really, and also you don’t know what’s good for you, so I’m going to lure you in with cupcake bait and then SURPRISE you’re eating your vegetables as I switch, ahahahaha!”

And that is the Cupcake Theory of Writing. If you find yourself writing a cupcake, write that cupcake with no apologies, no holding back, no trying to win the approval of spinach lovers who wouldn’t want your cupcake no matter what you did while ruining it for those who love cupcakes and want one already. Whatever the essential nature of the story is, go with what it IS and forget about what it isn’t.

Writing a mystery? Focus on whodunnit and red herrings and plot twists and gumshoe it up but good. Writing SF? Bring on the strange new worlds and civilizations and boldly go. Writing fantasy? Fantasize! Whatever you are writing, focus on that, the core of it, the experience of it, and think about what you love and what you hate in that type of story and OWN yours.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go own my story’s need for chocolate frosting and sprinkles and add more butter.