Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Landmarks - Pippa's Journal

The 17th of August 2009 is a date engraved on my memory. It's the day I sat down at my computer with a short story to hand, some new music, and a desperate need to rediscover myself as I began work on a rough draft that eventually became Keir and the now renamed sequel Keir's Fall. Yeah, I know the exact day I started it. Seems kind of surreal now, five years down the line. Back then I felt I'd lost my identity, and that I'd gone slightly insane. Once I'd started writing, I couldn't stop. Six weeks of nonstop scribbling and typing convinced my husband I really *had* gone crazy. I suppose I had in a way. I was definitely on another planet...

But now I can look back and shake my head. In the midst of that craziness, I found myself and rediscovered my passion - writing! Now I'm a multi-published author with my eighth title releasing TODAY! How awesome is that?! Five years ago it was enough to simply be writing again, let alone imagine that I might be published. Weird.

So if you're thinking that it can't be done, I'm telling you it CAN. I've done it. All you need to remember is - Never give up, never surrender!

Mission Success

Restless In Peaceville
Restless In Peaceville releases today. Woo hoo! Title number eight, and my first paranormal release. My first zombie story too. Definitely wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me I'd have something like this coming out. No, sir. You can check out the tour schedule HERE, and I'm kicking off with a post about why the heck I wrote zombies at the lovely Karen Y Bynum's blog HERE, and a book spotlight HERE. The official tour kicks off on the 1st September with a suitably zombie-themed giveaway. Bwahahaa!In the meantime my tour for Tethered is still running, and you have a couple more days to win a shiny thing HERE.

Amazon has enabled pre-orders for indies! Frankly, it's about time too. With Smashwords and ARe already offering this long before Amazon, it felt as if once more the Zon were denying indies the same rights as other publishers. Some authors are saying this isn't necessarily a good thing, but I for one am relieved. When self publishing, it'll make my life a lot easier being able to upload and set titles in advance rather than having to do it on or just before the day I want something to go live.

On the subject of self publishing, there's a post of interesting tips from a recent RWA event that you might find useful HERE. I didn't know about the series landing page for one thing.

I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy twice, and would happily go again! I know Donna's review found it lacking that essential something, but for me it ticked all the boxes. Reluctant hero makes good, interesting characters, great spaceships and planets, a strong storyline with a satisfying ending yet potential for sequels continuing character development...yep, very happy. And if you haven't seen the dancing baby Groot - go check it out NOW!

In the meantime, I have just two more weeks with my monsters home before I can really get back to work. There are edits and covers and releases to come, oh my! Here's my schedule as it currently stands -

Restless In Peaceville releases 20th August
Tethered tour ends 23rd August
Restless tour begins 1st September
Complete and submit YA dystopia short Zombie Girl
Cover Reveal for When Dark Falls TBA
Edits for No Angel and a paranormal short
Paranormal short releases 1st October, tour 8th-31st
BristolCon 25th October
When Dark Falls releases November
No Angel releases December

Keir, Keir's Fall and a side story set between the two are on my list for 2015, plus a novella in the Venus Ascendant collection, two holiday-themed SFR shorts, and completing a novel-length sequel to Imprint, my SFR short in Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology. However, I also have sequels to Tethered, RIP, When Dark Falls AND Zombie Girl in mind. Book three in the series for Keir is down for 2016.

Funny to think that when I started the submission process with Keir I was afraid of running out of ideas... O.o

Friday, August 15, 2014


Marvel’s latest box-office draw GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, has attracted quite the fanboy following, with some reviewers even comparing the rocket-fueled joyride to STAR WARS or FIREFLY.  The space opera adventures of a mismatched band of reluctant heroes may remind us of Serenity, but “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) is no Captain Mal.  At its heart, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is just another afternoon’s entertainment, fun, but little more substantial than the accompanying popcorn.

The movie starts out with a very emotionally affecting scene here on Earth, where seven-year-old Quill is asked to say goodbye to his mother, who is dying of cancer in a hospital.  In a fit of grief-driven anger, he refuses to take her hand and runs out of the hospital.  Alone and crying, he is . . . abducted by aliens.  The next time we see him is as an adult on an “abandoned planet” where he is scavenging for a living, dancing to the beat of an old ‘70’s mix tape on a Walkman that was beamed up with him when he was taken.  The tape is all that he has left of his mom.

There is really no describing the emotional whiplash of the first few minutes of the film.  I’m not sure I ever got over it, especially since the director (James Gunn, SCOOBY DOO, MOVIE 43, SLITHER) keeps returning to the mix tape and Mom as essential to Quill’s character.  What tone are we trying to hit here exactly?

Anyway, to make a long story short, Quill finds something BIG on that planet, something it appears everyone in the galaxy wants.  It takes a while to sort out who’s who, as everyone and his alien brother begins to try and kidnap/kill/maim Quill to get the thing. Along the way, he acquires his quirky allies:  a bioengineered raccoon; a sentient, mobile tree; a green-skinned, kickass female assassin out to betray her bad-guy boss; a hulk with tattoos determined to kill the bad guy in revenge for the murder of his family.  When they figure out that the thing everyone wants can destroy worlds, they set out to Do The Right Thing, even if it hurts.  All to the tune of “Hooked on a Feeling” (the weird one by Blue Swede, not the superior original by B.J. Thomas).  Oogachaka, anyone?

Okay, so it’s a fun ride, with plenty of action and wisecracks.  And Marvel has already said they are determined to build this into a new franchise. But the Guardians have a long, long way to go before they reach icon status a la Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew, Captain Mal and his crew of desperate misfits or even Captain Adama, President Roslin and the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica.  Because, try as they might, the Guardians lack epic scope.

By epic scope I don’t mean just big battles or destruction on a grand scale.  I don’t even mean that the stakes are major, though that is certainly part of it.  (If the size of the stakes defined “epic”, then every blockbuster at the Cineplex would qualify, since our entire universe is at risk in each and every one of them.)  For a film or a television series or a book, for that matter, to have that sense of the truly epic, it must deal with the big questions, with fundamental issues humans struggle with over and over.  The best ones deal with those questions not simply within the context of plot, but in their premises and underlying themes.

So STAR TREK has epic scope because it deals with the questions of the hero’s quest and what it means to be human (or even more often, what it means to be free).  STAR WARS is a coming-of-age story set in space, but it also deals with the question of responsibility to self vs. responsibility to a higher ideal (Han Solo’s problem).  BATTLESTAR GALLATICA asks viewers to define what is home, what is God AND what does it mean to be human, and gives no easy answers.  FIREFLY is a quest for hope in the midst of despair, and the struggle that goes on in every individual between selfish and higher impulses.  Want good vs. evil on a grander level?  LORD OF THE RINGS takes you there, with the hero’s quest serving as the structure against which that struggle is played out.

Some of these themes could be teased out of GUARDIANS (that war between selfish and higher impulses, for example), but nothing is treated with any seriousness.  Everything is done tongue-in-cheek.  I have absolutely no objection to that.  Play the whole “save the galaxy” thing for laughs and I’m in all the way.  What I find puzzling is the reaction by some geekier reviewers who say things like, “this is my STAR WARS!”  Um, no.  Look up the definition of parody.

In fact, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a pretty good parody of our favorite save-the-galaxy tropes, and a lot of fun on that level.  Just don’t go to the theater expecting the next space epic.

SIDE NOTE:  Luc Besson’s LUCY did try to deal with some of those larger questions, at least in the traditional SF framework of “what if”.  What if we humans suddenly had the capacity to use 100 per cent of our brains?  According to Besson (the TRANSPORTER films, but also THE FIFTH ELEMENT), the answer is mostly ugly and violent, but it was interesting to watch the plot play out anyway.  Scarlett Johannsson as Lucy and Morgan Freeman as the “learned professor” did what they could to salvage the film.  Worthy of a late-night watch at home.

Cheers, Donna

Friday, August 8, 2014


Some of the swag from Behre's book signing

I had a few thoughts this week.

And one year, at RWA . . .” Last week I waxed eloquent about all the fun to be had at the RWA National Conference in San Antonio.  Each conference has its own unique flavor and new ideas to offer, but one thing that is always a feature of Nationals is the opportunity to meet other writers and make lasting connections.

I met fellow bloggers Laurie and Sharon at my very first RWA conference in Washington D.C. five years ago, and look where that has led us!  The three of us have come a long way since that day we met in the lobby of the conference hotel at the beginning of our respective journeys.

I’ve met others at Nationals whose progress I can cheer from year to year, including, of course, my Golden Heart® sisters, the Firebirds.  Many of the members of my cohort have found agents, publishers and sales success.  I made a point of going through the vast ballroom that held the Literacy Signing event in San Antonio looking for folks I knew so I could celebrate the moment with them.  Of the Firebirds, I found Heather Nickodem (w/a Heather Ashby), Terri Osburn, Susan Boyer, Lorenda Christensen and Kim Law signing in the same room as Nora Roberts, Nalini Singh and hundreds of others.

I was also surprised to see my friend Mary Behre, a writer of light romantic suspense who only a year or two ago had been working the Literacy Signing with me as a volunteer usher.  There she was, signing her first book, Spirited, the first in the Tidewater series from Berkley Sensation.  Mary lives in nearby King George, Virginia, but it took traveling to the national conference for us to meet.  As is not uncommon in our state, I attend the Richmond-based Virginia Romance Writers chapter meetings; Mary meets with the D.C.-based Washington Romance Writers.

Mary’s second book, Guarded, just launched last week with a signing at the local Barnes & Noble.  I went out to show some support.  She had a decent-sized crowd, and she was well-received, but reading to a bunch of strangers can be an intimidating moment.  It can help to have a friendly face in the crowd.  Because we have our RWA connection, I know she’ll show be there to back me up when I need it, too.

(Mary describes her Tidewater series as “humor, suspense and a psychic love connection”.  Her writing voice is just as much fun as her own genuine personality. The first book was a great read; I can’t wait to get to the second one.)

Come and get your love . . .  Mary had plenty of goodies to give away to readers at her Barnes & Noble book launch.  Those who bought a book came away with not only the author’s signature, but a pen, a notepad, a goodie bag with the book and author’s name, a drink coozie similarly printed (drink not included), and a bookmark.  Visitors to the RWA National Conference Goody Room  will find all of these items, plus chocolate; rulers; postcards and business cards with book covers on one side, blurbs on the other; keyrings; magnets; calendars; pins; mugs and cups; trading cards.  I’m sure I’ve missed something.  

The purpose of all this swag at book signings is clear:  readers love free stuff and will think kindly of those who provide it.  At a conference for writers, though, one wonders why you’d spend the money.  Yes, writers are readers, too, but do any of those writers go out and buy the book based on what they pick up in the Goody Room?

Stuck . . . According to one of the workshops I attended at the conference, Pinterest is the hottest social media thing going right now.  (Right behind Twitter, I guess.)  I have a hard time seeing the benefit for writers, beyond the obvious example of pinning covers with a link to your other sites.  The only time I’ve used Pinterest is to look at possible hairstyles.  I did notice, however, that when I Googled the hairstyle question, Pinterest literally took over the search, sending me there whether I wanted to go or not.   Hmm.

How long has this been going on . . .?  As if my life wasn’t crazy enough, my husband and I are packing up and moving out of the home we’ve lived in for 18 years.  We’ll be renting a house here in Fredericksburg for a year before we make the big move to Marshall, North Carolina, just north of Asheville.  What this means is, I’m hip deep in the accumulated junk of most of my life, trying to “downsize”.

I came across a few pages of an old journal, started in an aborted attempt to gain control over the chaos that was our life with my oldest daughter in her early years of grade school.  The journaling didn’t last long—I don’t have that kind of discipline—but on the last page I found a note that had nothing to do with real life per se.  

 It was an idea for a story:
UFO abduction on a dark country road. Kids die in a fire.  Woman spends story trying to find out what happened to two-hour memory gap.

That note is the germ of Unchained Memory.  The date is April, 1991.  The bad news is it took me almost 25 years to get the experience that would allow me to do the story justice, to write the book, to find an agent, to find a way to publish it.  The good news is, the story that came to me so long ago will finally be published in February, 2015.  

Hallelujah and amen.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pippa's Journal - 8/6/14

Mission Success

Just a quick update this week. On Saturday I signed the contract for my UF short No Angel. This will be releasing in December as part of a holiday themed collection by Breathless Press, and is the penultimate submission for this year. I have hopes for one more, but seriously I think I've done quite a lot already!

On the downside, it's looking more and more unlikely that Keir will be re-releasing this year. I simply have too much else in progress with my new publisher, and a holiday themed short I need to self publish in October otherwise it'll have to wait a whole nother year. With the paranormal short still needing artwork and edits, four titles scheduled for release until year's end, a SFF convention in October, plans to do NaNoWriMo in November, and a YA zombie short to finish and submit, I can't see a way to feasibly get it done. However, it should mean both Keir and Keir's Fall should be out in quick succession in 2015.

As far as writing goes, I'm awaiting the final look on my superhero romance When Dark Falls, first edits on UF short No Angel, and I need to revise and submit my YA dystopia Zombie Girl (my July NaNo). Then I plan to do edits for my paranormal short, followed by RIP 2 for November NaNo. That's it for 2014. Currently my word count stands at 42K, and bearing in mind I did nearly half my word count in the last four months of 2013, there's every chance of doing the same this year. 2013 gave me 100K. I'd be very happy to hit 80-90K for this year considering the number of releases (ie a confirmed six even without Keir).

In the meantime my second tour for Tethered continues over on my blog HERE. And don't forget it's only $2 at my publisher's website HERE for the whole of August as they celebrate their 5th birthday with 50% off all their titles (pssst, they have some more SFR too - new m/m release Lousy Magnet, f/f As Dreams Are Made On, and The Captain's Christmas. There's also fellow Brigader Liana Brooks adorable Heroes and Villains series). So far Tethered has a 5* review, and a 5 and 4* ratings on Goodreads. *relieved sigh*

Enjoy your week!

Friday, August 1, 2014


Boots and books at RWA2014!
Yee-haw, y’all! I’m just back from San Antonio and the Texas-size energy of RWA2014.  As Laurie noted earlier this week, you didn’t even have to attend Romance Writers of America’s annual national conference to feel the boost.  With major speakers—Sylvia Day, Cindy Ratzlaff, Karen Rose and awards ceremony emcee Simone Elkeles—dozens of workshops and the buzz of 2000 other writers, the inspiration was contagious.

I must admit I was a little distracted this year, though.  As my husband, Graeme and I sat in the airport waiting to leave D.C., we got an offer on the sale of our house in Virginia.  We spent a large part of the weekend texting and answering emails as we negotiated with the buyers through our agent.  I had to help my oldest daughter through a major work/life crisis at the same time.  In many ways, I was grateful that my hubby was by my side to help, but navigating the conference with a partner rather than solo created a different dynamic, too.

I did make it to a few workshops, despite all the personal business. Promotion was my focus, with a book coming out in February, and the same message was pounded into us at every turn: social networking is everything.  I learned a few points about connecting with readers, improving the blog and my website, and making sure my Facebook presence is through an author page, rather than a personal profile.  (And you tech savvy types you can smirk all you want; a year ago I didn’t know any of this stuff!)

I heard so much about Twitter I felt like I was in a bird sanctuary!  I still don’t want to do it.  I have two daughters who blow up my phone constantly—why would I want total strangers doing it?  And sharing my thoughts?  I can hardly keep them straight as it is.  Believe it or not, I think I’m more cut out for YouTube.  

Indie and self-publishing got a lot of much needed recognition in the workshops and award nominations, culminating in the first-ever RITA for a self-published novel for Carolyn Crane’s romantic suspense Off the Edge.  

SFR, in the form of steampunk, was well represented with nominations in the paranormal category of RITA, too, though the winner seemed to be a genre mashup/women’s fiction-y title (The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley).  It seems the new, stricter rules defining “romance” in the GH and RITA contests haven’t affected science fiction or paranormal romance as much as, perhaps, romantic suspense or inspirational titles.  There were glaringly fewer nominees in those categories than in others, while, of course, contemporary and historical romance had a surfeit of riches.  (Though apparently Golden Heart contestants also struggled to get it right in the contemporary category, as opposed to their more experienced pro sisters.  There were markedly fewer nominees in that category than in the past.)

The controversy over the narrowing of rules to better define “romance” seemed to find its voice in the chapter leadership workshops, from what I hear.  Chapter officials were not happy and let the National leadership know it.  Whether the protests from the rank-and-file will lead to further changes in the bylaws remains to be seen.

Some personal highlights:  

--Biggest disappointment:  No Laurie or Sharon to pal around with. (I did have my Golden Heart Firebird sisters, though, and fellow SFR Brigader Laurel Wanrow as stalwart stand-ins.)

--Second biggest disappointment: Not being able to volunteer at the Literacy Signing, something I’ve done for four years. (Guess the word is out that it’s the coolest gig at the conference—I registered early for the conference, but volunteer spots were already full.)

--Best fangirl/fanboy) moment: Talking with Psy-Changling series author Nalini Singh at the Literacy Signing. (Graeme and I are both big fans!)

--Most fun at a workshop: Self Defense for Writers and their Characters (with Cam Fawcett, Cathy Tully and  Rayna Vause), a hands-on demo from three high-level karate instructors that took fight scenarios from those authors present and acted them out. (As a martial artist, how could I resist?) 

--Best Party: As always, FF&P chapter’s The Gathering, a costume party blowout with great food, wonderful company and dancing! (This year’s theme was Steampunk Cowboys/Cowgirls, and Graeme and I were among the finalists in the costume contest.)

--Best food:  A tough one!  Was it fall-off-the-bone Texas BBQ ribs at County Line or amazing New Orleans etouffee at Luke? (Graeme had a platter full of five different kinds of meat at County Line—not a place for vegetarians!)

--Best tourist sidetrip: The Alamo, of course, in the heart of San Antonio.  (I count fellow Tennessean Davy Crockett as one of my heroes, so I had to make the pilgrimage.)

--Most inspirational moment:  Karen Rose’s Saturday morning speech, with quotes from letters readers have sent to her. (Makes me wonder if I’ll ever have the ability to affect people with my writing the way some of these authors have.)

So, next year in NYC?  Not so sure.  I’ll be moving next summer from Fredericksburg where I’ve lived for nearly 20 years to Marshall, NC, outside Asheville.  I’ll be promoting a new book, and I’ll need to reach readers more than other writers.  That may mean focusing on the Shore Leave STAR TREK con (August) in Maryland and the Romantic Times con (May) wherever it happens. If I don’t go, though, I know I’ll miss it.  Next to the joy of a good writing day, the RWA conference is just about the best fun a romance writer can have.

Cheers, Donna