Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The summer of yes

I was out and about, and a window ad with this little saying hit me. What a great idea! I can't remember the store (so please don't sue me), but the ad inspired me. I'm going to make this a summer of yes.

I can't work on my stories as much as I'd like, but I *will* work on them.

I'm actually not falling too far behind. Next month, the rights to Death Is A Bitch will return to me, and I've been gearing up for that. I've made this new cover, which I'm pretty happy with.

And I've taken the story from 33k to 48k - 15,000 words of greater detail and depth and "feels." I'm really excited about it! I can't wait to re-release it, though I'll have to wait a few months.

In the meantime, I've started work on my first steampunk. I hesitated before because I hadn't read any stories, only seen amazing movies like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Wild, Wild West or Sherlock Holmes or Around the World in 80 Days (if you've never seen the last movie, it's a very fun flick, and Jackie Chan is always amazing to watch. YouTube has the entire movie online:

I've been reading up on steampunk, and have a better sense of the worldbuilding that's needed. The actual story's about 2k as of yesterday, but the background work is pretty well fleshed out, and that's every bit as important.

So, I'm making the most of the time with my grandboys, and making the most of whatever writing time I can squeeze in.

How's your summer so far?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Looking for Romance?

I celebrated my novel's first birthday last month. It was a fun year, full of events and celebrations -- much more fanfare than I'd given either of my non-fiction books, which lived a quiet life tucked in the pages of catalogs geared to educators.

Typical of the youngest of the progeny, Casting the First Stone had gotten the most attention, and while it probably didn't know the difference, I'd gotten used to it. So what to do in year two?

Keep celebrating, of course! This Saturday, February 14, I'll be celebrating with 20 other writers (including fellow Susquehanna Writers bloggers Cate Masters and Susan Gourley/Kelley) at "Love is in the Air" at Aschcombe Farm and Greenhouse in Mechanicsburg. If there's anything better than a book celebration, it's a multi-author book celebration!

So if you're in the mood for a dose of romance or a dose of spring (or both), stop in between noon and three on Saturday. We'll have  prizes and book swag and while we'll certainly have books on hand, we're also happy when you just stop by and talk to us.

Monday, December 1, 2014

IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond

Is there anything better than a book filled with inspiration and wisdom about writing? Yes. A FREE book with contributions from more than 100 writers in all stages of their careers. Put together by the administrators of the IWSG blog hop, the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, if filled with everything that has to do with writing and publishing.

Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.

The IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. This amazing writers' group posts on the first Wednesday of every month for more than three years without fail. This year, Alex came up with the idea to put everyone's best advice together in this free guide. As one of the administrators of IWSG blog, I'm thrilled to have been part of this endeavor and proud of the finished product.

Even the most experienced writer can find something of value in this free book. I hope you'll check it out and perhaps add it on Goodreads.

Are you familiar with this group? Don't you love free books?

Susan Gourley is the author of two epic fantasy series and is a bestselling author of science fiction romance writing as Susan Kelley. Find her at Susan Says.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Disposing of Buried Treasure
There is something about fall that inspires me to organize. Maybe it's a lingering habit tied to back-to-school preparation. Maybe it's the crisp weather (once it finally arrives).

Maybe it's the piles of "collections" that are slowly taking over my house.

Yesterday, I spent a little time in my office, tackling a few of my "how long has that been there?" piles. I was thrilled to discover that a bin full of papers was not, after all, entirely full of disparate papers. A large chunk of the bin was occupied by various drafts of the manuscript for my first novel, published last January. 

Suddenly, the time necessary for sorting and purging that bin was cut by two thirds; aside from the manuscript, there was only a handful of clipped articles to sort through. Success! Except...
...what should I do with the copy store box full of my own words in various incarnations?

Option 1: It's paper, so it's recyclable. 

Option 2: Though the finished product is intended for public consumption, the in-progress work was...not. Shred?

Option 3: Someday, I might be a world famous author, and this could be auctioned off, earning some money for my family (since I assume I'll be dead by then). Keep it.

While option 3 was easily dismissed, the first two options wrangled back and forth in my head. 

What's an author to do with a box of blood, sweat and tears?

Had my husband not spent several hours clearing similar detritus from the basement, I'd have gone for Option 4: Stash it in the basement until you decide what to do with it.

As of this writing, the bin is gone, but the box still sits on the floor of my office, awaiting judgment. I shredded some late drafts yesterday afternoon, and it was pretty painless, so Option 2 is still a contender. The recycling gets picked up tomorrow, so theoretically, I can still exercise Option 1 and get the box out of there in the next 24 hours. 

What do you think? Keep it? Toss it? Shred it?

Sentimental authors want to know.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Science Fiction and Romance

The past few years have seen a plethora of female writers moving into the forefront of the science fiction genre. There's been so controversy surrounding the trend. Many female writers have experienced the displeasure of male writers of the genre as the women invade a field they felt belonged exclusively to those with the Y chromosome. This is one link to reports of female writers having to fight a battle to be treated as equals in the science fiction field. Take note that the harassment comes from male writers and other industry professionals, not readers. There are many, many links on this issue if you want to read more.

I once dreamed of joining SFWA but no longer care if I can ever enter their exclusive club. Exclusion being a key descriptor. But I've had a number of science fiction romances and have received some great reviews from male readers. They appreciated the science and enjoyed the personal stories along with it. Women love science, too.

My latest science fiction romance is hitting the charts on Amazon as did my previous books. Check out The Warrior and The Biologist and support women writing science fiction. And that's an alien on the cover, not a terrorist!

Have you heard about the harassment of female science fiction writers? Do you prefer to read male or female authors or doesn't it matter?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Feminist or goddess – why must women choose?

A funny thing happened during the release party for Goddess, Awakened. At first, we were having fun, discussing mythological goddesses and favorite authors and books.

Then someone asked if my book promoted feminism. The question confused me at the time. Here was my answer:
“Not at all. The theme encourages women to empower themselves by accepting who they truly are and strengthening their unique talents. All things positive.”
Maybe I should explain why I began writing this series, The Goddess Connection, which will all be paranormals/fantasies based in mythology, all stand-alones, each based on a different goddess.

I love empowering women. Celebrating their uniqueness. Each of us have talents or skills we might view as quirks, and maybe we even dislike ourselves because of them. Or maybe we simply ignore them to fit into a more standardized life where we go through the motions but don’t really feel fulfilled.

In each of these books, the heroine will have lifelong quirks that she sees as detrimental, but by the end, she’ll learn that these quirks are actually strengths. They help define her as an individual, and that’s not a bad thing.

So it saddened me that, when I read the answers to one of the questions I posed at the party, “Do you think women should be treated like goddesses?” and some said no. Some argued women shouldn’t be put on a pedestal – and I agreed:
“that’s definitely not the message I want to send. As I mentioned above, the idea is *not* to put women on a pedestal or treat them as divas, but to value who they are in all their flaws, unique beauty, and talents. The theme of the Goddess Connection is for women to nurture that in themselves, too, and not let others devalue us. I hope that makes sense.”

I’m definitely confused too. Obviously, these young women have the wrong idea about feminism. Maybe they picture a militant society where females are barely distinguishable from males, some sci-fi interpretation that skews the real meaning. To me, feminism honors the struggle and hardships women endured to receive basic rights that should be afforded any human. To vote. To have an education. To choose for themselves how to live their lives. To better themselves in whatever way that appeals to them.

Lately, I’ve been seeing the term thrown around pretty freely, and it’s disturbing. Another article claimed the Starz series based on Diana Gabaldon’s work was the “feminist” answer to Game of Thrones. Why do journalists feel the need to pit one show against another? One gender against another? (Yes, I know – to boost ratings)

The HuffPost article put the question about a feminist label for my books in perspective, and if someone asks again, I’ll have to better qualify my answer.

Yes, to be a goddess means to embrace your best self. The only way to do that is by freeing yourself from restraints, either from outside or originating in yourself.

In my mind, the same definition applies to feminism.

And if you’re interested in The Goddess Connection, the first book is now available from Kensington Publishing’s Lyrical Press imprint.

Goddess, Awakened
The Goddess Connection, Book 1
Fantasy/paranormal romance novel
About 89,700 words

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Exploring the Feminine Heroic

I haven’t yet written about Engaging the Feminine Heroic, the workshop I attended recently. This was intentional. I find it somewhat difficult to describe in words, and I’m still processing all that took place.
Dara Marks and Deb Norton are an extraordinary team of teachers. They guided us on a journey not only of writing but of interior exploration, into our darkest places where we hold long-forgotten experiences and emotions. Our personal Underworld. A truly transformational experience. It would have been a frightening place had we not shared the experience. In a safe and sacred space, we supported and encouraged one another and continue to do so.

I wish I could have tapped into the deep well of creativity within my psyche that some of the others reached. I have never been good at timed writing practice because frankly, I’m a slow study. Once I get an idea, I can run with it, but it takes me longer than most people. (I thought of a great one on the drive home.) The stories these women pulled from their personal experience and crafted into fiction were nothing short of astonishing. I felt like an amateur in their midst. I’m still in awe.

But now that I’ve learned some of the tricks of going deeper into characters, I will practice them and hopefully enrich my stories.

I have long had a few ideas about really strong feminine characters, but now feel better equipped to explore them. I’m also excited to have learned some details about Persephone I hadn’t known before. Someday I will incorporate them into the revised version of my Goddess Connection story related to Persephone.

If you don’t get the chance to take the workshop, I encourage you to read Dara Marks’ Inside Story.

You can also follow DebNorton on her Part Wild site. Check out the left side for specific writing posts, a virtual mine of writing richness.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writers and Editors and Agents, Oh My!

I spent last weekend at the Pennwriters Conference, something I've been writing about quite a bit in my blog over the past week. It was a great weekend, with an amazing number of workshops and multiple opportunities to engage with one of the thirteen agents and editors in attendance.

I've engaged in some interesting conversations this week about whether or not writing conferences should include access to editors and agents. It could be easily argued that many writers are just not ready for pitch sessions -- which is the opportunity most conferences afford, and for which an additional fee is sometimes charged -- and when that is the case, they do more harm than good.
I like going to conferences where editors and agents are present. As the gatekeepers of the traditional
publishing industry, they possess a certain mystique that can intimidate -- or perhaps even terrify -- authors who've poured their heart out onto the page. And conferences can help de-mystify these all-too-human people, rendering them mere mortals who love reading and books as much as writers do.

But on the flip side, I can't imagine listening to pitch session after pitch session, going back to work reading pitches all week and then the next weekend, traveling to another conference in another city, listening to more writers peddle their wares.

And so I don't think agents and editors should be required to receive pitches when they attend a conference. One of the best workshops I attended all weekend was the agent panel. Ten of the industry professionals not receiving pitches in that time slot introduced themselves, shared what they were hoping to find and fielded questions from attendees. And we, in return, got a sense of who they were and what their personalities were like. I left that workshop with a short list of three people I wanted to meet (two of whom I'd already short-listed when I read the conference literature before attending). By the end of the conference, I'd met all three of them through appropriate channels (which do not include cornering them in the elevator or the bathroom or bending their ear about the value of your latest project every time you see them).

Not surprisingly, these were normal (well, at least as normal as writers) people. Most were generous with their time and advice as well. I had not intended to pitch, and so when appointments arose, I offered modified, impromptu versions of an unplanned presentation, spurred on by the panel's agreement that they preferred conversations to hard core pitches.

The best part? I'm not afraid-a-no agents. Well, at least not these agents. When I'm ready to craft a query, I'll start with these human beings, who are no longer frightening, and, by virtue of their willingness to listen to modified, impromptu conversational pitches, at the top of my list.

What do you think? Does having editors and/or agents at a conference increase your interest in the event?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Muse Wore Flip Flops
Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about how excited I was to flip flop my schedule (summer pun intended) and put writing first. My schedule has been cooperating, too -- April and May have offered up writing events including my critique group's semi-annual writing retreat and Lancaster Christian Writers' Super Saturday, and the Pennwriters conference is just around the corner, promising workshops, socializing and a weekend where writing takes center stage. Earlier this week, I created and sent out my first ever author newsletter, complete with giveaway. Summer writing time is indeed in the air. 

We writers are a diverse bunch. There are those who live for silence and solitude, unable to work anywhere noisier than the library. Others depend on active social lives to get the neurons firing; without  feedback from the outside world, there can be no new ideas, no story lines, no dialogue. 

For many of us, the writing life is a tenuous balance between extroversion and introversion, with one providing inspiration and the other providing time to realize it. Sometimes the opportunities to exercise extroversion occur by choice; other times they come in disguised as day jobs and family obligations, perhaps even masquerading as roadblocks. Some writers seek solitude; others find it, unbidden.

Under ideal circumstances, each writer achieves his or her own balance, but sometimes circumstances weight the scales for us. Deadlines and job responsibilities tip the scales -- and not always in the way we'd like -- as do procrastination and exhaustion. Sometimes finishing a writing project is more like climbing a mountain than a date with the muse.

Yet we keep climbing. Whether we've chosen writing, or it has chosen us, it keeps showing up on our to-do lists, often at odd hours of the day. The longer we pursue it, the more likely it is to drag along companions of its own -- social media, promotional activities and platform building -- forcing us to open the door a little wider and grant them admittance, hoping they bring their colleagues acceptance and royalties to the party as well.
But somehow, no matter how crowded or boring or monotonous the party gets, a serious writer keeps coming back. She joins the crowd, or finds a quiet corner or like-minded colleague and tips the scales in favor of productivity. She refills her water jug at the junction of conference and conversation and returns to her work because nothing is quite as satisfying as a writing day well-spent.

Except perhaps a good review and a royalty check.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Strong Women

I’ve been remiss. March was Women’s History Month, and there are so many amazing women. Inspiring. So many to remember and celebrate, worthy of teaching our daughters about their accomplishments.

Celebration - and recognition - begins at home. My mom had seven kids, me the youngest. These days, an unimaginable feat (the cost alone is staggering) but when I was growing up, not a huge deal. Other families in our town outnumbered ours by at least twice as many kids.

Mom was a pioneer in her own right, a frustrated artist too dedicated to her family to put herself first. In her youth, she drew some wonderful illustrations, but never did anything with them. Decades before composting was a popular “green” activity, she practiced it. I can still recall the vivid colors in her flower garden.

I didn’t learn until the day of her funeral that she was also a writer. My dad often wrote – sometimes town history, sometimes little essays, but most often for his duties as a deacon in our church. But I had no idea my Mom won an honorable mention for a story she’d submitted to a national contest.

Her love of the piano was unfailing. She took on sheet music like MalagueƱa, a complicated piece. When she played, it didn’t sound like this. But she played it because she loved it. And she inspired me to teach myself piano. I wish I’d kept at it.


I wish, too, that she’d taken more time for herself. Channeled her creativity into the things she loved. Instead, she sewed clothes for us. And for herself, when she wasn’t filling a bag at the second-hand store. She was a whiz at stretching a buck. And she put together fantastic outfits. Her shoe collection rivaled that of Imelda Marcos’.

She may have even made the PBS list of people who define cool. Some of her outfits were downright bohemian for the times.

But she was not one who sought fame. She was a wife and mother, first and foremost. Not a saint, but none of us are.

So many women are deserving of recognition and accolades for all they do, and most do it as a matter of course. 

Kudos to you, Mom, for all of your achievements. You were one of the strongest females I knew. My earliest inspiration for my fictional heroines, determined, fierce and a force to reckon with.

“an originality of artistic vision as established through a signature style, which is to say their artistic vision cannot be separate from their personality. Second, that in a given historical moment, they were perceived as a cultural rebel. Third, that they have high profile recognition. Fourth, that they have a recognized cultural legacy.”
Something tells me you didn’t look hard enough to balance out that list. Thank goodness Georgia O’Keefe made the list. Patti Smith and Bonnie Raitt? Excellent. Joan Didion and Lauren Bacall. Wonderful.

But where’s Frida Kahlo?
Helen Mirren?
Katharine Hepburn?
Tina Fey?
Maya Angelou?
Diane Arbus?
Gloria Steinem?

You done our gender wrong. All you had to do was thumb through a copy of Ladies First. Easily enough women to make a separate top 100 list.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, I highly recommend it. Full of amazing tales of female pioneers and groundbreakers from every walk of life.

Happy (belated) Women’s History Month. I hope you celebrate the women who’ve made an impact in your life.