Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Author Mindy Klasky Interview & book giveaway

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
Klasky continues her adorable As You Wish series with this nearly cinematic romantic comedy. When Rebecca Morris's boyfriend runs off with all her personal funds as well as millions of dollars from their theater group's endowment, her friend Kira comforts her with a box of old costumes and a brass lamp that houses a genie. Becca's wish for a new condo lands her next door to playwright Ryan Thompson, whose latest play conveniently fills a gap in the theater's schedule. Ryan and Becca's working and romantic relationships are challenged by an obnoxious show sponsor, Ryan's guerrilla gardening mother, and mischievous gender-shifting genie Teel (familiar from 2009's How Not to Make a Wish). With broadly comic characters, even pacing, and a charming romance, this cozy evening's read will leave readers smiling. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

I promised a few days ago that I would post an interview with Mindy Klasky, author of WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD, the book I told y'all you had to go read. Yesterday was the book's official release date, so here is a Q & A with Mindy to celebrate! AND SHE'LL BE GIVING AWAY A COPY OF THE BOOK TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER! SO GO TO IT!

Mindy Klasky Interview

Describe a typical day for you. How you do get yourself to sit still long enough to complete an idea/story?
In theory, I wake up, send my husband off to work, attend a fitness class at the community center, eat a breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit, make a pot of tea, then sit down and draft 2500 words each day. I break for lunch, then run household errands and spend the afternoon reading materials related to my current or next project before making a healthful, well-balanced dinner.

In practice, I'm usually running behind on deadlines for a variety of reasons, some of which are my own fault, and many of which are not. When I'm running behind, my days are a lot more harried: I wake up, send hubby to work, rush through some fitness activity (walking, an exercise DVD), skip breakfast, drink too much tea, write 5000 words, gulp lunch, edit 5000 words, then frantically make dinner from my carefully cultivated stash of "ready in 20 minute" recipes.

Having contract deadlines hanging over my head is a great way to concentrate on completing ideas and stories. I have never missed a contractual deadline, and I'm determined not to do so – even when I'd rather be outside in the fresh air, or lazing around reading a book for fun. My first publishing break came about because an author missed his publishing slot, and I'm not willing to give up mine!

Which do you like better, writing the first draft or editing? What is the most difficult aspect of editing?
I've always preferred editing to writing. I find a blank screen totally intimidating. While I try to avoid being scared off by having an outline for everything I draft, my favorite part of the writing process is creating the second draft of a chapter. Then, I get to roll up my figurative sleeves to get into the nitty-gritty interplay of words, massaging the scene into the best storytelling that it can be.

The most difficult aspect of editing, for me, is knowing when to move on. Because of my aversion to writing new material, I tend to delay when I'm making my so-called, really-this-time-I-mean-it "final pass" on a chapter, convincing myself that I should read and re-read the entire section, every time I tweak one tiny word.

What three books or authors have had the largest impact on your writing?
I suspect that the real answer to this question would be "my Jane and Dick readers" – those were the books I used to learn how to read, and they inspired my lifelong interest in reading and writing. Instead, I'll give a few more specific answers:

J.R.R. Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which infused me with a sense of wonder that has rarely been equaled in my reading life, convincing me that made-up worlds could be every bit as real as the one I live in, with complete histories for every character and place.

Katherine Kurtz's DERYNI series, which I read and re-read in junior high and high school, because the characters seemed so real, and because their moral dilemmas (and yes, sometimes melodramas) captured my imagination and made me long to create my own characters.

Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY, which still makes me laugh out loud at the crazy antics of a Singleton in a world of Smug Marrieds.

What fascinating piece of research did you find while writing WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD?
WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD is the story of Becca Morris, a dramaturg for a theater company in New York. When I started writing the novel, I had a vague idea of what dramaturgs do, based on the essays that I'd read in a variety of theater programs over the years. In order to get a better idea of Becca's day-to-day life, I contacted three prominent dramaturgs at local theaters and invited them over for dinner, so that I could ask them detailed questions about their jobs.

The dramaturgs who helped me were incredibly generous with their time, and they shared numerous tales, many of which made it into Becca's story. One of the key things that surprised me as we all chatted around the dinner table, was how many ethical issues a dramaturg must resolve, particularly when working on a new, never-before-staged play. Of course, I gave Becca every ethical dilemma that I could!

How did you get your agent? Do you work with one publisher or several?In the early 1990's, I completed my fourth novel, a quest fantasy. (I had completed two category romances and one mystery prior to the fantasy novel. All four of those novels will never see the light of day, for which you should be very, very thankful.) The quest novel had better characters and a stronger plot than my earlier work, so I decided to track down an agent.

I used a Writers Digest book that listed fee-charging and non-fee-charging agents. There were indexes in the back, which I used to identify non-fee-charging agents who were accepting new clients and who represented works of fantasy fiction. (No author should ever pay an agent up front for representation; agents should only earn their money on commission from sales.) I sent query letters to my top ten agents, and was thrilled when one, Agent X, agreed to represent me.

Six years later, after I had broken up with Agent X twice (and taken him back), he broke up with me. In those six years, he had not sold my quest fantasy, and he concluded that my most recent manuscript was too flawed to sell. Nevertheless, we parted under good terms, and he recommended that I contact several other agents. One of those agents – Richard Curtis – saw something more in that most recent manuscript. He agreed to represent me, and he sold that book – THE GLASSWRIGHTS' APPRENTICE – in a year.

I have worked with two publishers so far (Roc for my traditional fantasy, and Harlequin for my contemporary comic romances.) Different manuscripts are appropriate for different publishing houses; I suspect that I'll work with several more publishers before my career is over!

Do you have a dream project that you haven't written yet?I have – literally – six projects that are clamoring for attention at the back of my brain right now. All of them will have to wait until I finish the As You Wish Series (the third volume will be out in October 2010), and the Night Court Series (vampires, and lawyers, and Washington, D.C., oh my!), which will start in April 2011.

The six projects include several different genres: category romance, magic realism, YA issues fiction, etc. For now, I'm making notes about each of these stories, and I hope to choose one to complete within the coming year.

What do you hope readers will take away from WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD?First and foremost, WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD (and the entire As You Wish Series) is entertainment. I hope that readers will escape into the book, enjoy themselves, laugh a lot, and learn a little.

GOOD/BAD has a few "real world" issues running through it. Becca Morris, the heroine, learns a great deal about the world around her – both the local world of New York City (where she discovers the joys and dangers of guerilla gardening!) and the wider world, including Africa (where she learns about the plight of many women who struggle to make ends meet in challenging political and social environments.)

If nothing else, I hope that readers will leave with a distinct sense of which popcorn flavors are good and which are bad. (Yes, there's ample opportunity in the book to explore the bad….)

I had the pleasure of meeting Mindy in person at last year's RWA, and we have been online pals for ages. (She is also an insanely good freelance editor; I've worked with her professionally and she taught me a lot about improving my writing.) She's just as smart, funny, and sweet as she seems in this interview. I hope you'll take a peek at her books!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Mailbox that Was--a Picture

This is a picture of my mailbox that was...

The artist, Mary Helen Epps, did a great job on it. I told her I wanted a red dragon holding a little black kitten. She took it from there. And somehow made the cat look just like my cat Magic when she was a kitten.

Update on the Great Stolen Lawn Saga

My day...well...remember how the town highway guys stole my lawn? One of the things they did wrong (that I complained about) was to leave my mailbox--which was hand-painted by one of my former artists with a big red dragon holding a little black kitten--sticking way out with hardly any soil around it. I was concerned that after a hard rain it might fall over.

So this morning at 8, I heard the trucks and went out to see what the "boys" were up to now. They said, "we're here to move your mailbox back." So I said, "well, okay." And they said, "So where is it?" And I turned around and the FUCKING THING WAS GONE. Yes, that's right. In the middle of the night, someone came and removed (sing it again) THE WHOLE DAMN THING (including the cement it took me an entire freakin' day to get right when I put the damn thing in all by myself...since I don't know squat about cement). Just left a hole in the ground, and me looking at the highway boys and the highway boys looking at me.

But no mailbox.

So. Let's recap. The town highway guys stole my lawn. And they left my cool mailbox hanging out. And someone else came and stole that. If these things go in threes, I may not have a driveway tomorrow morning.

Le sigh.

Big book deal any day now. That's what I'm telling myself. Big book deal any day now. Hello, universe?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Spells

My next book, EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK, is coming out in July (*dances with joy*). So I thought I would start giving everyone a little taste of what's in it, by sharing a spell on a Sunday each month.

I know that I--like many folks--am always striving to bring more balance into my life. So I thought I'd start with a Balance Spell. You'll note that each spell has instructions and "Optional Extras." These are tools you can use to boost the energy of the spell if you want to...but they are just that, optional.

I hope that some of you will find at least one or two of these spells helpful. I'm open to requests, too. If there is something you need a spell for, feel free to say so in the comment section. And if there's one in the book, I'll post it an a Sunday over the next couple of months.

Thanks for stopping by for a spell :-)


Goal: To bring balance to an off-kilter life or situation

Optional Extras: Four items to represent Earth, Air, Fire and Water (for instance, a rock, a feather, a small candle and a bowl of water), one black candle and one white candle

Note: Since this is a spell for balance, make sure your altar is set up in a balanced way. Start by visualizing the imbalances in your life or a particular situation (too much work or stress, not enough love) and picture them being balanced out by whatever you are lacking. If you are too overwhelmed to even figure out what you need, just feel yourself opening up to whatever the gods send in response to your prayer. Then light the dark and light candles.

Earth and Air, Water and Fire

Grant to me my heart’s desire

Balance now my troubled life

Wash away confusion’s strife

Even out the high and low

Gently soothe the ebb and flow

Dark and light in balance be

From extremes please set me free

Calm, serene and peaceful I

With ease and grace my days will fly

As above and so below

Balance to my life bestow

After: Stand up, close your eyes, and feel the new balance within and without. When things get hectic, remind yourself of that balance, but don’t forget to work on bringing in whatever you need to create it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Somebody stole my yard

Subtitle: And I'd like to kick somebody's *ss.

I live in a rural area, outside a small rural hamlet. For the last week, I've seen that the town highway department has been trimming back areas by the side of the (very narrow) road, including some overgrown sections that nobody lives on. Cool.

When I got home from work today, however, I discovered that the boys with the large machinery had applied said trimming to the front of my yard--in the process removing up to NINE FEET of soil, lawn, old rose bushes, poppy plants, and EVERYTHING ELSE.

Here is what was left:

Not pretty.

I felt, to be honest, like I had been violated. I love my house, and the property it sits on. It is a part of my soul. And yes, as the town highway supervisor so belligerantly informed me, they have the legal right to remove as much as they want (and they're coming back for some of the trees).

But ow.


Must read books: WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD

I read a lot of books. a LOT of books, people. So when I put one down at the end of the story and say, "I have to tell everyone to get this book," you know that really means something.

I just finished reading Mindy Klasky's new book, WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD. It is the second in her genie series (the first, HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH, was also spectacular), but it can easily be read as a stand-alone book.

This book knocked my socks off. Seriously. It is funny, charming, intelligent, and clever. And there's a genie. And theater. And a cute guy...

I've convinced the wonderful Mindy to come do a Q and A here next Tuesday. But in the meanwhile, run don't walk to buy this book!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

As requested, THAT scene. 18 and up only, please.

For those who requested (begged, nagged, pleaded) -- here is the dream sequence from my current work in progress, PENTACLES AND PREDATORS. It is erotic (although not in the usual way), so BE FOREWARNED.

She walked down to the ocean and lay down in the surf; half in and half out of the water as if caught between the land and the sea. The waves curled between her thighs and slid up to caress her breasts, tender and salty like a lover’s tears.
It was as if she was drawn to a magical place outside of space and time.There was no fear. There were no questions. Only the waves, and her.
The water should have been cold, but felt as warm as a living man would; touching strongly but gently, ebbing and flowing with a passionate embrace. The waves kissed the delicate flesh between her legs, easing in and out to mingle with her own dewy fluids.
It was as if she was filled with the perfectly fitting flesh of a lover who had been formed by the sea just for her pleasure. And that pleasure grew until her body could no longer contain it. Still held by a strange calm, the liquid clamax seemed to go on and on—at once overwhelmingly intense and oddly distant.
Her whole being seemed to suffuse with a feeling of serene well-being, and she could feel herself melt into the sand, into the ocean, into the sky.
For a moment, she thought she saw a glimpse of something above her, as if the full moon overhead had glinted, just for a moment, off soft green eyes and white teeth shining in a satisfied smile. And then there were just the waves, softly stroking, and murmuring her name. Donata. Donata. Donata.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cute cats

I had a lovely Spring Equinox get-together with Blue Moon Circle yesterday, and I'm plugging away on the second PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS book. The online writing class I'm teaching is going very well. Other than that, not much to report, so in an effort to keep to my "blogging regularly" goal, I am going to post a couple of pictures of my adorable cats. When in doubt, cats are always a good fallback position!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Must Read Books: WILD RIDE by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

My favorite author on the planet, Jennifer Crusie, has a new book out with sometime-writing partner Bob Mayer. If you have never read any of her books, run don't walk to get one--they are funny, clever, and full of heart. And her two previous books with Bob are a triumph. Bob is a former Green Beret with over 30 published books on his own, and the combination of his macho characters and her quirky characters is a marriage made in reading heaven. Their last book together, AGNES AND THE HITMAN, made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to have to invest in new underwear.

Their new book, out today, is called WILD RIDE, and it is their first paranormal (her books would normally be called humorous romance, probably and his are adventure). And it ROCKS!!

My favorite lines so far:
"I'm drowning my sorrows," Mab said, enunciating clearly.
"How's that going?"
"Not too well." She gazed at the empty cups sadly. "The little suckers are buoyant as all hell.""

You can go to Amazon to check out more about the book

But take my word for it: you want to read this one. Seriously, you owe it to yourself. It's like chocolate for the brain. Hummy, smily, happiness-making.

But don't take my word for it--check out these reviews (from the Crusie/Mayer website):

The New York Times bestselling duo of Crusie and Mayer team up again with a hilarious paranormal novel that shows why the wildest ride at the Dreamland Amusement Park isn’t the roller coaster.

Reviews for Wild Ride:
“A fun, quick-paced read with engaging characters, a clever story line that never seems ridiculous, and laugh-out-loud moments. ” --Library Journal

The dynamite team of Crusie and Mayer make a most welcome return, this time putting their own touches on the urban fantasy genre with a hilarious demonic adventure... Sarcastic wit and offbeat humor are Crusie–Mayer staples, and they get even nuttier when supernatural shenanigans are added. This is one ride you won't want to end! --Romantic Times

"“Wild Ride” is as wacky and wonderful as a Frank Capra movie, if Capra had dropped acid and dreamed up a demon-infested Potterville crawling with evil minion teddy bears. The story is both warmly, weirdly familiar and totally original, infused with Crusie's and Mayer’s strong, uniquely recognizable voices yet unlike any of their other books." --Romance B(u)y The Book

I'm not kidding, people--you want to check out this book!!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Writing challenges and spring

I have a confession to make: I don't usually struggle much with my writing.

That's not to say it is easy, exactly. But for the most part, the writing usually flows pretty smoothly. I don't generate the amount of ideas that some of my writer pals do [at one point my friend Alex Bledsoe was writing seven books at a time--one for every day of the week!], but when I am working on a novel, the writing normally flows with relative ease.

I am discovering, however, that starting the second book in a series is a challenge.

I have written three novels so far (we're not counting the nonfiction books in this-completely different process). The first two were also meant to be series books, and I have notes for the books that would come next, but I've never actually started the second book in either series. [My friend Mindy Klasky says you should never write the second book until you have sold the first one, and I followed this advice. Good thing, too, or book three--which got me my agent--would never have been written. Which is her point, I believe.]

But since my agent is confident that we'll sell PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS, I have started working on the second book in that series, tentitively called PENTACLES AND PREDATORS. Here is the problem:

With the second book in the series, you have to remind the folks who read the first one of what happened, while also making it clear for anyone who didn't read the first book. You don't want to bore the first group, or confuse the second one. Nor do you want to have what is referred to as an "info dump," which is when an author basically plops a bunch of "you need to know this" information in the middle of the first chapter--usually to the detriment of the pacing and the plot.

None of this is simple. Or easy. In fact, it is a great big balancing act. I have already rewritten chapter one twice, in fact. After going back and forth and getting some feedback from my wonderful critique partners and writing friends (*throws big kisses to Lisa and Candy*), I think I am FINALLY getting the hang of it. Whew. The rest of the book should go as smoothly as the others, I think.

I guess we'll see. I'd love to hear what other writers have done to deal with this issue, if anyone has run into it.

In the meanwhile, I am really pleased with the way my online writing class is going. As usual, I have an absolutely wonderful bunch of participants and they make it both fun and inspiring to be teaching the class.

Other than that, I am eagerly awaiting spring. The massive amount of snow is slowly melting, and the days are warmer than usual for this time of year (although quite gloomy at the moment). The time change will help, with more light in the evening, too. And the red-winged blackbirds are back!

Happy one week until spring, everyone!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hurry up and wait

Here's the thing about being a professional writer: there is a lot of "hurry up and wait" involved. And if you let it, it will drive you nuts. Crazy. Batty. Around the bend.

But I digress.

What do I mean by "hurry up and wait"? Mostly that when things happen, they happen fast. And you suddenly have a lot of deadlines and things that need to be done all at the same time. And in between those times, you are mostly waiting.

As you know (since you all read this blog religiously), I got The Call at the beginning of last week. I finally had an agent! Yay! (Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency, double yay!)

And for a couple of days, there was a flurry of activity. I had to blog about the experience, of course. And post the news on Twitter and Facebook, and tell all my writer pals (and a number of innocent bystanders who no doubt couldn't care less...). And Elaine asked me to rework my query (which she said, and I quote, was "PERFECT, PERFECT, PERFECT" bless her) into a longer and more detailed pitch for her to use when pitching the book to editors. Be still my heart. So I made myself a tad crazy (see above) for a day or two, trying to come up with the perfect pitch.

And then I waited. And waited. And a week later, I'm still waiting.

What am I waiting for? For Elaine to start pitching the book (which in theory she was going to do today, if nothing came up to push it off her desk for another day or two). To have another phone conversation with her, so I could ask my myriad of undoubtedly silly questions. To find out if I should be working on the follow-up book for the series we are trying to sell, or the contemporary romance I had already started. And if it is the first option, whether the intro chapter I've gotten done actually works or not.

Twitch. Twitch. Twitch.

So what do I do in the "waiting" period, so I don't go too crazy? I write, of course. Because, really, no matter what else is going on with my career, that is my main job. And as long as I am actively writing, I am mostly focusing on the characters, and the plot, and how on earth to describe my protagonist without resorting to cliches. And that way, I'm not focusing on the waiting and the twitching. Much.

Of course, I'm also keeping up with my online writing class that I'm giving, and going to my day job, and writing my blog. Because even with the major ups and downs of being an author, real life goes on.

Today, for instance, I'm waiting for the guy to come and do the yearly cleaning and service on my furnace. And you thought my life wasn't glamorous. *snort*

Thanks for waiting with me...the company makes it easier!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Call

In the publishing world, writers talk a lot about getting The Call.

The Call is when an agent calls and tells you that they liked the manuscript you sent them enough to offer to represent you.

I have been submitting to agents for a little over two years. And this Monday, I got The Call!

I knew I was close. I knew my third manuscript was much better than the first two I sent out. In fact, I only sent it out to my top two picks. Who both said, "I like it, but no."

Luckily for me, one of these fabulous women, Lucienne Diver, who only turned it down because she was already representing someone who had a book too much like mine, agreed to recommend it (and me) to another agent in her agency. That agent had read my 1st book and liked it, but not quite enough. And she reps two of my writer friends, so I knew she was great.

So on Thursday of last week, I sent the ms. for PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS to Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. Late Friday morning, she sent me an email telling me she had read the first half and loved it, and wanting to know if anyone else was reading it. On Saturday morning, she told me she'd read the second half and STILL loved it, and wanted to talk to me.

And at 7:30 Monday night, I got The Call.

To say that I am happy to have this particular agent, and be a part of this particular agency, would be an understatement of epic proportions. I am over the moon!

For all of you that are still waiting for The Call--hang in there. Your day will come.

And for all those who helped me along the way; gave me advice, critiqued the work, held my hand, and told me my day would come--thank you so much!