27 November 2010

Doubly Blessed

I think one of my biggest problems as a writer is that I love to read.

You wouldn’t think that’d be an issue, would you? Well, it is…especially when your thought process goes like mine.

Wow, this book is good.
(reads more)
No, this story is AMAZING.
(reads to the end, looks at her own current WIP)
What am I doing? Nothing I write will ever be as good as [insert title or author here].
(Is sorely tempted to hit the delete button and go back to her day job.)

Then, out of the blue, a bright little ray of validation appears. An email from a fan. A royalty statement that showed an unexpected uptick in sales. This week, a squee from my editor – I’d received my second RT Reviewer’s Choice nomination.

What makes this doubly sweet is that it’s for book 2 of my Legends series, A Ghost of a Chance. Book 1, Beaudry’s Ghost was also an RT nominee. The more I think about it, the more I’m simply…floored.

In this, the second holiday season since my father died, the initial numbness is wearing off. The good: the urge to write is coming back. The bad: missing him seems more acute since last year, which sometimes freezes my fingers over the keyboard with thoughts of "WWDT" - what would Daddy think? Then some of his last words to me come back, especially when I confided to him my hesitancy to write what I really want to write, for fear of the shock it might cause among people who know me: "I will be just as proud of you as I am no, no matter what."

Guess it’s time to dig that WIP out of the recycle bin, eh? :)


26 November 2010

Pearls in Mythology and Carolina Pearl

Happy Black Friday, everyone!! And happy belated Thanksgiving. In our usual fashion, we're a day late here at the Carsen household. Family arrives today, so today is our Day of Gluttony and Tryptophan.

However, still being in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to send out a HUGE thank you to all my readers! CAROLINA PEARL released on Tuesday this week, and it's been selling like gangbusters. I owe it all to you and want you to know how very, very grateful I am -- as well as how happy I am that y'all seem to enjoy my books!

Today I get to wallow in serendipity. Not only do I get to blog about mythology today, I also get to tie it into my book.

CAROLINA PEARL features (big surprise) a pearl at the heart of the mystery. I made up the legend and the history behind the gem, but as always, I found precedent in real life for my fiction.

In gemological lore, pearls are often associated with queens and goddesses, so they have a very feminine base. In India, it's said that Vishnu plucked the first pearl from the sea to give to his daughter on her wedding day. Greeks believed that the drops of water that fell from Venus' body when she rose from the sea became pearls. Greek lore also states that a pearl given to a bride will keep her from unhappiness in her marriage.

From these stories, it's no surprise that they're associated with fertility and love. Crushed pearls dissolved in red wine will bewitch the drinker into falling in love with the spell-caster.

Pearls are also often associated with protection, whether from evil spirits, the wrath of the gods, or from everyday bad luck.

One of the largest perfectly shaped teardrop pearls in existence currently belongs to Elizabeth Taylor. La Peregrina is about two inches long and weighs approximately .35 oz (50 carats) -- and has graced the necks of royalty since the 16th century.

The largest pearl in existence weighs about five pounds and is estimated at about $40 million! It's called either Lao Tze or the Pearl of Allah and it looks like a huge brain. It's very unattractive, but it's a real pearl from a giant clam.

Black pearls, however, rarely come in such massive sizes and, in fact, are about 100 times more rare overall than white pearls. The largest black pearl on record is about 23 mm, or less than an inch in diameter. The pearl shown here, known as Black Beauty, is less known for its size (6.5 carats = .046 oz) than for its lustre and perfect shape.

The pearl I imagined for CAROLINA PEARL is a huge black pearl that was, ahem, "liberated" from a Caribbean governor's wife by a pirate in the mid-1700s. In my mind, it's the size of Taylor's La Peregrina and the color of Black Beauty. It provides all the graces of the myths surrounding pearls - lasting love and protection that encompass not only the home featured in the story, but also Conn and Blair and all those who have lived and loved there.

By Sela Carsen

A family legend could lead to a treasure more precious than pearls…or get them killed.

Between babysitting her very pregnant sister-in-law and fending off her mother’s nagging about her marital status, Blair Moreau is going insane. Her only hold on sanity is her daily walk for a guilty peek at her crush, the sexy neighbor who’s fixing up the old Cotesworth place.

Conn Lucas, the bastard son of Culford’s leading family, got way out of town a long time ago. When the only relative who didn’t despise him leaves him her 250-year-old house, Conn plans to refurbish it, flip it, and get back to Connecticut as soon as possible. Until a local beauty with a rare talent for DIY gives him a hand with some stubborn siding.

When he makes her mad enough to swing a two-by-four at his head, he realizes Blair is better than perfect. Especially when his efforts to keep her from killing him explode into an erotic rush of adrenaline that unleashes desires they’ve both kept hidden.

Breaking through Conn’s tough shell isn’t as difficult Blair’s next hurdle—telling him she’s a werewolf. First, though, they’ve got to deal with meddling ghosts and a bad ol’ boy cousin who isn’t above taking what he wants at nail-gun point…

Product Warnings: This book contains a smokin’ hot werewolf chick with serious DIY know-how and a man who thinks that’s sexy; illegal use of nail guns; things to do in a claw-foot tub; pirate references; piddling Dobermans and meddling ghosts. Which is better than meddling Dobermans and piddling ghosts.

Read an excerpt
Buy now

22 November 2010

Happy (New) Holiday Seaon!

Greetings All,

I'm sorry for the lateness of this entry but I intentionally wanted to go out and fulfill my day of errands before posting, to get some perspective on my thoughts about this holiday season. All around us people hurried about--some more frantic than others--getting their last minute preparations for Thanksgiving dinner together. Many tried to avert their eyes from the early Christmas displays that used to go up on Black Friday when I was young but have been up since Novemeber 1st the last few years trying to force holiday cheer during a recession. I think it actually worked this time around.

The anxiety I saw last year and the year before has fallen off, but fortunately it hasn't been replaced with the mindless consumption of five years ago. People averted their eyes, buying what they'd budgeted for and placed on their lists. Others slowed down, looked at prices, made notes and walked off with a smile. Everyone had the air about them that Christmas was definitely coming this year, but in a shape and form that fit into their new lives, this new economy and hopefully a new outlook on consumption and living within our means that the country--nay the globe--will not soon forget. It was a great atmosphere to move about in.

I know that the holidays will still be hard on some of us. My own home is still suffering a double lay-off and congress voted against UI extention benefits before the Thanksgiving recess. We're left hanging on knowing what's ahead for us until November 30th and if the new vote goes the same way, ourselves and 20 million other Americans will be affected. Still, we're better off than many and you could see that mentality, that understanding prevelant in the small crowds we faced today.

In our house we haven't exchanged gifts for years. We each buy one thing we want, one thing the household needs and then donate to a charity to help those completely without. It lacks the shiny, brightly wrapped anticipation of mystery packages under the tree, but it also ensures that every dime spent is on something needed and wanted without waste of time exchanging things or waste of money putting something in the closet never to be seen again. We help each other whittle down the list of things made over the year to the one we really want and the one we both really need and then put them under the tree along with the reciept for the charity donation to wait until Yule or Christmas Day, depending on the gift. Being under the tree is nostalgic because for us as adults it's not about the mystery but the feeling of the holidays. The reciept is a reminder to keep others in our thoughts and to hope that everyone has done a little something for another over the holiday season to make things that much better.

Two years ago things went as planned. Last year we did it all plus extra suprise gifts off either the individual list or household list. This year...well this year we're doing the donation first just in case with our own gifts to come later on. The financial situation has changed but the season hasn't. It's still about givng of self before the giving of things. I wish the global economy hadn't needed to collapse to remind us all of that, but since it did let's run with it as a nation.

This holiday season stay within your budget not only with what you spend but with what you don't. Go through your closets and exchange those things never worn or never used with others who really need them right now. Maybe a friend really needs that coat you never liked and still have hanging with the tag on it while you could do with some good boots this season that were a half size off for her. Buy your kids the new gadgets in your price range but take the old gadgets they never use to GoodWill or whatever organizations line up with your personal stance and make sure there's a Christmas memory for someone with less this year. For those of you in good financial balance, look around and talk with your family about whether or not you really NEED something new this year, or how much that needs to cost. Just five dollars from each family member could change the life of someone for years to come given to the right charity.

And for those of you in our situation, wondering what you're going to do, just barely getting Thankgiving together and worried about Christmas because unlike me you have children--stop worrying. I remember tough times as a child and trust me, it's never going to be about the gift when they're older but about the time spent with them while home from school during winter break. They may be young enough that they're still asking for things or old enough that they're hormonal about things, but if you raised them right they're bright enough to understand if you just tell them the situation and give them other things instead. How about a full day of your attention doing whatever they like to do that's low or no cost? Make it a holiday tradition and they'll remember it for the rest of their lives. With older children, make the tough decision of getting something small and in thanks for having a roof over your head and food on your table, you'll spend time or what other little money you've set aside doing for those who don't have those simple luxuries. Again, where not traditional, it'll be an impact that makes them the adults you want them to be.

Whether you're having a full traditional or vegetarian/vegan feast, a scaled down version or a frozen Swanson turkey dinner, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holiday Season! Hold to the sanity I've been seeing and pass whatever extra you have down to those a rung or more beneath you on the recovery ladder to make sure we all keep climbing upward.

Happy Holidays Ramble ~ Done!


20 November 2010

Saturday Six: Snapshots of CapClave 2010

CapClave, the Washington DC SF/fantasy convention focusing on short fiction, is my hometown con and the culmination of most years' con calendar.
This year, however, I didn't get to enjoy it as much as usual. The con was splendid. The problem was all mine. Unfortunately, the dates (October 22-24) fell smack in the middle of the house's last round of Snowpocalypse repairs, and I couldn't leave it for long. Equally unfortunate, I missed a group shot of the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readers. But I did take home almost twenty memory-perfect photos, and you get to sample six.

Two of my favorite writers, Jeri Smith-Ready (left) and Mindy Klasky sign autographs October 23. Jeri had the big wow moment in Saturday's "Music in Books" panel when she mentioned (casually, no less--she's smoooooth) she once played Crow in a production of Sam Sheppard's Tooth of the Crime. Mindy is gearing up to write several contracted romances for Harlequin's Silhouette line. So many books; I gotta find time!

Laura Anne Gilman models the leather dress I lusted after at this year's Dragon*Con. Much as it pains me, it looks better on her than it would've on me. Among the new experiences at this year's Capclave were costume sightings. Laura Anne wore hers because folks nagged. But several attendees apparently just decided it would be a good idea. I hope that proves to be a trend.

Editors, editors everywhere! Guests of Honor Jeff and Anne Vandermeer (left and right, respectively) and Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke introduce the 2010 Last Drink Bird Head Awards. The awards were created by the Vandermeers to recognize the often unheralded activities which keep science fiction, fantasy and horror community vibrant, relevant and a good place to be. Now part of the process, Neil was one of the first winners.

Michael Swanwick accepts the Last Drink Bird Head Award for Tireless Energy on behalf of Leslie Howle. Leslie was recognized for his work on behalf of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and Hugo House.

Capclave's own Colleen Cahill (left) just before the Vandermeers announced the winner of the Last Drink Bird Head Award for Promotion of Reading. Colleen received the 2010 award for her work as the Library of Congress's advocate for genre fiction and representative to the American Library Association.

To Say Nothing of the Dog: Capclave 2010 Writing Guest of Honor Connie Willis displays a picture of Montmorency, a key player in her time travel sagas, created for her by Capclave artist Lynn Perkins.

Want more? The rest can be found at my Flickr page. Enjoy!

Jean Marie

19 November 2010

Music and Muses

I have friends who swear that they can't write a specific character without music and playlists. I've never been one of those kind of writers...until now. I've been in a slump, but not from writer's block. Nope, no big wall staring me down. I've been writing, but the characters seem flat and lifeless to me. Definitely not what I'm going for as a first-person oriented author!

So I did something I rarely do. I borrowed a page from someone else's playbook. My friend, Colleen, is a wonderful inspiration to me. She uses music for every muse and swears it gives life to her characters. So, I dug in and started looking for a musical style that would help me bring my vampire heroine to life. Just when frustration was about to convince me to toss the piece into the trash and decide NaNoWriMo wasn't for me, CW came to my rescue. I know, television and music? I promise I wasn't drinking. *wink* I was streaming Life Unexpected in the background while I sorted through some Christmas projects and Kate Voegele came on to sing. BOOM! My muse started making comments.

I was FREE!! Literally. I loaded up my WIP, and went to town. Reading back through it, I edited, toned, and reworked it. Suddenly, it wasn't so flat and lifeless...and my heroine began to look a frightening bit like Kate Voegele. *grins* Hey, life is life and I can live with that. Physical appearance is a minor thing to trade off to have the personality spring to the forefront of the manuscript.

So now, I'm pounding away at the next St. George book and thrilled to know that music really does work when the chips are down.

What about you? Have you ever read a character that made you think of a particular musical style, or artist specifically?

15 November 2010

Editing, Shmediting

Okay, that title stinks. Can someone edit it? Seriously.

I'm here to discuss the wild and whacky writing process that I go through each and every time I write a book. Is this a How-To Write a Novel blog? Heck no. It's more of a don't do as I do sort of thing.

Maybe we should entitle it "Kimberley Troutte Reveals Her Writing Secrets: Run Now, Run Fast".

First, I come up with a kickin' idea for a premise. I'm blessed with these, most likely because I'm a little crazy. So a premise might be:

Death falls in love with a woman he has to kill. (Soul Stealer)
A ghost from 15th Century Castile with memory disorder has to solve her murder. (Catch Me in Castile)

The next step in the mad process is to build the characters. It's important to know who they are, what they desperately need, what scares them, who they love, who hurt them...To create flesh and blood people who my readers want to route for, I need to know what makes them tick.

Plotting is the third step. I jot down the scenes that I know I will have to have and leave big holes such as, (this is where a lovey-dovey scene goes) or (big surprise here). In one of my books, a family is on a boat and just about to be boarded by really bad guys with guns. The main character, Dave, knows what he has to do to protect his family.

This is what happens:

“I cut the raft free. Swim for it,” Dave said.

“Can’t! My ear.” Little Davey's hand covered his new ear. “I’m not supposed to swim yet.”

Dave rubbed his son's back. “Sorry, buddy. You’ve got to. I’ll tell you when.”

“What’re you going to do?” Lonnie’s voice trembled.

“Still winging it, angel. Get ready.” He smiled sadly and kissed her on the forehead. He pried Davey’s arms from around his waist. “Love you, guys. Always will.”

And then Dave made his move.

Okay, when I wrote that last line in the chapter, I said to myself--Cooool. I wonder what his move is going to be? I had no idea. I left it a hole and kept writing.

After I have a sense of where the story is going, I attack the computer. Really, it's a battlefield. I pound the keys, fight my fears, words fill up the page, I might curse a little, laugh a little, and sometimes cry for joy. It's all pretty crazy and fast. When I'm in the flow, I can crank out that first draft in about six months or less even with a non-writing day-job.

Emphasis on first draft.

The editing process is where the book really comes to life. You see, while writing, I put my head down and go for it--fast, hard, furious. It's the only way I know how to write. But this process means that I miss stuff. Important stuff. I'm too close to the story to see the flaws. This is where critique partners come in.

I have an awesome team of critique partners who really know their stuff. Most are published, the others are nearly published. I learn from each one. I love them dearly because they are all wonderful people and because they keep me from submitting stinky stuff to my editor. And there's no way I can write a first draft that doesn't stink.

Based on suggestions of critique partners and editors I have:

Moved middle chapters to the front and front chapters back.
Cut out one third of a book and started over.
Changed the tense from past to present in the whole. Darn. Book.
Shredded backstory
Rewritten dialogue
Changed genres
Changed Point of Views
Changed character names
Changed titles
Changed settings
Dismantled one book to make it two

I keep hoping that one day I will write the perfect first draft, but honestly don't think that is ever going to happen. My process means that I am going to rewrite at least six times, but more likely a dozen times before the book goes to print. That's okay, because I write stories that I love and each editing makes them that much stronger.

That's Kimberley Troutte's process in a nutshell. I told you it was whacky.

I'd love to hear from other writers. What is your process?


13 November 2010

Your Reality's Showing

Reality shows are all the rage. High ratings, small production budgets, the public gets to gawk at other people without repercussions. What’s not to love? Actually a lot, but that’s a different blog. What I want to talk about today is a completely different subject. A subject for a reality show. Picture this: a couple packs up their small apartment to move across town. Boring? Not if each of the two have a wide streak of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Not the level of that other reality show, but enough to make things interesting. Enter my husband and me. Yep, we’re an interesting couple…but that’s another blog too.

Open with the two of us standing over a stack of empty boxes. Long discussions ensue about where to stack the things until we use them to pack. Then there’s the weeklong discussion about in which room to start packing. Do we work together or separately? Then I stand in the extra bedroom that is my office for two days trying to decide where to start. Then there’s the biggest problem of all. I had this bright idea to put different color stickers on the boxes to designate the rooms the stuff inside came from—and presumably go to in the new place. Over the last few days, we’ve talked about the issue. We’ve both spent time staring at the packages of colorful dots. So far, we’ve decided that my husband thinks yellow says kitchen. I say red. But we could go either way.

I think it has potential. Snappy music and silly commentary that makes serious fun of us. It could be a great show. But then, we’d have to allow strangers into our already cramped home to make fun of an already stressful situation. Hmm.

Sorry Hollywood, you’ll have to find other suckers for your pack and move show.

Now if we could just decide what color screams living room. Sigh.

Have a great weekend!


05 November 2010

The good, bad and the convoluted...

I love movies. I tend to get in certain moods and watch a particular type of movie from time-to-time. Sometimes, I need a romantic comedy fix. Some days it's action; others, such as the Halloween season, it's scary. Once in a while I want a historical period piece -- often with one of the aforementioned elements. I do have two very definite rules, however, as to what I'll watch or not watch.

1. It cannot be rated R or 'higher'.
2. I'd prefer it not be stupid and/or terminally confusing.

Yes, stupid and confusing are very subjective terms. What I might find mind-numbing and/or headache-inducing might be at the top of your fave movie list. To each his or her own. However, just in case you're wondering what movies I might have found bothersome, lately, there are two that immediately come to mind:
Duplicity and The Box ... both of which proved to me that just because a premise sounds good OR I like the actors involved, does NOT mean I'll enjoy the flick.

Duplicity turned out to be more spy movie than rom/com. I'm not a huge spy fan. I also found I didn't like either of the main characters -- despite Clive Owen's naturally gorgeous form, face and sexy voice. (sigh) By the time I sat through this rather convoluted, slightly bizarre tale of love and corporate espionage, I really didn't give a damn what happened to anyone. Not a letter of recommendation for me either movie or book-wise. :\

The Box... hmmmm... what shall I say about this little time-warp gem? It started out well. A somewhat fresh idea, although it was taken from an old Twilight Zone episode. But, unfortunately, it still had the smell of mothball-coated-polyester about it. Meaning, it never really made the whole idea current. It was like watching a 1970's made-for-TV movie, but with better effects and color. Not to mention that it was just too dang confusing to be entertaining.

If you've watched either film, I'd like to hear your take on them. I'm sure there are lots of people who enjoyed one or the other... just not me.

Other movies I've seen lately include: Passengers, confusing but I think I liked it; Robin Hood, with Russell Crowe (loved it!); The Sixth Sense, still a paranormal gem, IMHO; and When in Rome, a very cute, very quirky rom/com that I enjoyed immensely.

Anything you've seen that you'd like to recommend or warn against? Let us know... I need some new ideas and popcorn is popping.

~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...

04 November 2010

Copyright Infringement is for Dummies

No, this isn't a spiffy little article to tell you HOW to infringe copyright, it's a publishing world WTF about the business practices of a magazine called Cooks Source Magazine. It seems a blogger realized one of her articles had been reprinted in the magazine without her permission or knowledge and, when she confronted editor Judith Griggs about it, Ms. Griggs told her she should be grateful. Not to mention, Ms. Griggs insisted that anything on the internet is in the public domain and was, therefore, fair game.

So we know know this about Cooks Source Magazine:

1) They're copyright infringers (who steal intellectual property). Several more confirmed instances just this morning (11/4/10).

2) Their employee Jane Griggs can't even edit her own emails.

3) They don't understand the internet.

4) They don't understand public domain and copyright.

5) They thought Monica Gaudio (and probably everyone they stole from) should be thankful they reprinted, and profited from, her article about apple pies without compensating her.

6) They also thought Ms. Gaudio should be thankful they "edited" her article so she can now use it in her portfolio without embarrassment. (I gather that the "editing" consisted of correcting some historically accurate spellings in vintage recipes, but correct me if I'm wrong!)
Here are some articles about the situation which support the above statements:

http://illadore.livejournal.com/30674.html Monica Gaudio's original post about it

http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1553538.html Nick Mamatas's comments about it

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/11/04/the-stupidest-thing-an-editor-with-three-decades-of-experience-has-said-about-the-web-today/ John Scalzi sounds off

http://www.edrants.com/the-cooks-source-scandal-how-a-magazine-profits-on-theft/ Detailed article from Edrants

http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/genreville/?p=851 Publishers Weekly Genreville blog about it

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2010/11/cooks_source_masters_new_recip.html Stinkin' it up on the Washington Post

http://www.boingboing.net/2010/11/04/todays-web-justice-d.html Bouncing onto Boing Boing

http://gizmodo.com/5681714/attention-the-web-is-not-public-domain Gizmodo weighs in

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooks-Source-Magazine/196994196748 Cooks Source Facebook page where they're being schooled by the Interweb (may be deleted soon, visit while you can!)

http://www.jackiebarbosa.com/2010/11/04/some-people-shouldnt-be-allowed-near-the-internet/ My friend Jackie Barbosa helps with the Google Bomb (see below)

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2010/11/04/thursday-midday-links-be-grateful-you-are-plagiarized/ Dear Author post about it

http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/cooks-source-when-the-source-is-plagiarized-the-source-should-feel-grateful/ Smart Bitches' first post about it

http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/judith-griggs-the-google-is-our-friend-not-hers/ Smart Bitches' instructions on how to conduct a Judith Griggs Google Bomb

Here's news that shouldn't be news: when you find things on the internet, be they articles, ebooks, MP3s, artwork, or what have you, that doesn't make it automatically free for your use.
It doesn't matter how much you want it.

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/