DC Area Storytellers

The DC Area Storytellers are a group of authors of multiple genres residing in or near the Washington, DC area. Published within the fields of romance, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, fiction and non-fiction, this diverse group of authors offers a wide range of works for readers to savor.

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Yesterday I Will

Sunday, May 31, 2009
Last August, Jim Levin of the York Emporium bookstore and curiosity shop announced a writing competition. The only criteria were the story had to be under five thousand words and it needed to carry the title "Yesterday I Will". Inspired by a preview of Weird Tales' first One-Minute Weird Tale, I wrote a 69-word story that I thought was pretty funny. Fortunately, the judges agreed. The story made it to the final anthology, which I finally got to hold in my hot little hands at Balticon. No reviews so far, and it's only available through Fortress Publishing, Amazon and The York Emporium, but if you like new voices and edgy science fiction, this is the anthology for you.

And then there's my story... ;-)
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The Dreaded Part of the Process

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
You thought I was going to say CEs (copy edits), didn't you! HAH! Those are easy compared to the...ugh photo session for a picture at the back of the book.

I was going to pay someone to take my picture, but then money got tight (the DH has GOT to stop remodeling!). When money ran out, I thought, okay, I can use that dated photo I have on the website, OR I can get the DH and a friend to do some photos. So this past weekend, the DH aka Tim "Toolman" Taylor and his friend AL dragged out ladders and cameras for a home grown photo shoot. Me, I was struggling not to sneeze, tear up or otherwise be miserable from allergies, thanks to all the pollen that STILL does exist in our neck of the woods.

The photo shoot was fun, but I was looking at some of the DH's shots on the digital camera and thinking, OMG...

well I won't tell you what I was thinking because it's too disgusting even for me and my self-deprecating wit. Out of the shots the DH took, I found ONE that I might have been able to live with, but in the end I said no, I'll stick with the current professional shot I have.

Then tonight, Tim "Toolman" Taylor walks in from Target with Al's photos from Saturday (Al has an antique camera and it requires film) . Tim hands me a small clip sheet of about 12 photos.

"This is it."

"What do you mean this is it?"

"That's all they could find on the roll."

"How in the hell can you not find at least 36 shots on that roll of film. I KNOW Al took a lot more than this!"

"Well there's only what you see on the sheet. Look at the negatives." Tim snaps the negatives out of their folds like someone displaying a plastic wallet string of credit cards. "See, look at all the blank spots."

So I'm going OMG, I'm just NOT suppose to have my picture taken. So I scan through them on the computer with Tim hanging over my shoulder. We get to one and Tims says,

"Hey, I like that one, it's good." His words make me slowly turn my head and I give him THE LOOK!

"You can't be serious."

"No, I like it. What's wrong with it?"

Now I look at him with that "who are you and what have you done with my husband" look. I shake my head slowly.

"Umm, well for one thing I look like Quasimodo, hunchback and ALL! Now go away and I'll figure out what I want. Naturally Tim's feeling a bit resentful.

"I don't know what you don't like about the picture. I think it's a good shot."

Clearly the man has no marketing sense whatsoevah! So I thought I'd post them here to see what others thought. Take a look and vote for your fav. I think I've already made up my mind, but I'm always willing to be persuaded otherwise. We're always tougher on ourselves, or so I've heard. These are all in B&W because that's how they're going to appear in the book. Better that you see them the way they're going to be!

Photo 1

This one is really scary because I AM my Mother's DAUGHTER! AAAAAAHHHH! Seriously, I do look like my Mom in this photo, the Italian hand curled, the smile and the laughing squint! *grin*

Photo 2

This shot looks like I'm getting ready to tell you exactly what I think. Do I really need this kind of a shot in the back of a book??

Photo 3

I feel certain this is NOT the one. I look too smug and moderately intelligent. The expression on my face says, you looking at me? You looking at ME? Why? My picture is here in the back of the book because I'm the author.

Photo 4

This one sort of LOOKS like an author photo, BUT it looks like I was having a HORRIBLY Bad hair day, when in fact, my hair actually looked nice that day. On the side it looks like I've got a bowl style hair cut where the hair stops just short of the ear. Sort of like that Hitler sideswipe hairstyle. God Forbid!

So go ahead. Vote and let me know what you think. You're not going to hurt my feelings a bit. Hell, I've survived bad reviews, what could anyone possibly say to me that would hurt? Maybe that I don't look like my Mom?? Ok, that would probably sting. In truth, I like seeing her face in me. Means she's in my heart and shining out through my face. *grin*
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Shameless Balticon Promotion

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I’m going back on con time this weekend. From Friday to Monday, May 22-25, you’ll find me at Balticon, Baltimore’s premier science fiction and fantasy con, held over the Memorial Day Weekend at the Hunt Valley Marriott. I hope you’ll check it out. And if you’re looking for me in particular, here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday, 6 p.m.
Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy - Panelists will help you see the humor you may have missed in the work of Charles Stross and others. They will also look at the history of humor in the genres from Feghoots to the present. Panelists: Tom Doyle, Grig Larson, James Daniel Ross and Jean Marie Ward.

Saturday, 3 p.m.
Television Science Fiction and Fantasy – Admit it, you love it. But it makes you feel so guilty in the morning. Panelists: Dale Arnold, Brenda Clough, Thomas Horman, Elaine Stiles and Jean Marie Ward.

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading – Six of Balticon’s featured women writers bring you into their worlds with six-minute readings from their newest fiction. (I plan to read my latest, “Lord Bai’s Discovery of Bacon”. The editor who asked for it will be in the audience. Be afraid. Be very afraid.) Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roxanne Bland, Kelly A. Harmon, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward and Trisha J. Woolridge.

Sunday, 4 p.m.
Reading as Exploration - Tell us about books you have explored recently or those you remember from the past. Panelists: David Glenn Anderson, Robert R. Chase, Darrell Schweitzer, Jean Marie Ward and Martin Morse Wooster.

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Friday, May 15, 2009
The Horror of It All - My book is terrorizing me.

I’ve been terrorized by the next book in my paranormal series. I know my world pretty well, and I’ve been looking forward to telling the story of the two secondary characters (Lysander and Phaedra) from Book 1. Just one problem, they’ve not been very cooperative when it comes to sharing their story. Pulling a bone from the jaws of a pit bull would be easier than getting these two to talk.

I’ve been terrorized by the next book in my paranormal series. I know my world pretty well, and I’ve been looking forward to telling the story of the two secondary characters (Lysander and Phaedra) from Book 1. Just one problem, they’ve not been very cooperative when it comes to sharing their story. Pulling a bone from the jaws of a pit bull would be easier than getting these two to talk.

The whole process has been so bad that I’ve been losing sleep over it. Over the past week, I’ve woken up at 2am, 3am, 4am sporadically with questions that I don’t have answers too. Sometimes I get up to try and answer the questions and other times I lie there wanting to cry because all I can see is that deadline barreling down at me like a train. And trust me; waking up at these hours in the morning doesn’t bode well for an 8-hour work day. All I can say is, I didn’t sign up for this kind of mental anguish.

I’m Losing It

So last night I went to bed at 8pm, frightened, utterly exhausted and debating whether I need to ask for a proposal deadline extension—NOT a good thing in my book. But there I was looking down the barrel of a gun with about two pages of a 12-13 page synopsis written, and I’m looking at a proposal deadline middle of June. I mean, what do I do, call and say, “Hey, sorry my characters aren’t talking to me, and I’m not sure I can get this to you in time.” Yeah, and what bridge did you last buy?

I set my alarm for 4:30am. I figure that will give me eight solid hours of sleep, which will hopefully give me some stamina to write. It took less than five minutes for me to drop off into the la petite mort, although a really small, irrational part of me was wishing for la grand mort (no not really, I’m depressed about all this but definitely not suicidal).

A Sleepy Epiphany

But here I am, sleeping peacefully and something wakes me up. I look at the clock and it’s ONLY 10:15pm. WTF, I took all of my drugs, including my sleeping pill and all I can get out are two hours of nods? So I lay there for a minute trying to go back to sleep. Then it hits me. I mean it hits me right between the eyes, I know how to make this process easier. I’ve been here before, I just didn’t remember it. Immediately I scramble out of bed and race toward the computer (ok, so I fell out of bed and stumbled sleepy-eyed toward the computer).

It took me several minutes to find what I was looking for, but when I did, I was overjoyed. I had all but a small portion of the synopsis laid out in about two hours. Here’s what I did. I remembered I’d blogged about how a synopsis is like calculus, but I just couldn’t remember WHERE, but I eventually found it. I posted the following blog on RWA Online HEA CafĂ© blog August 31, 2007. And thanks to that blog post, I got that damn synopsis pretty much written, now on to writing four or five chapters to go with the synopsis. A writer’s work is never done. Oh, and I’m reposting it here so I can remember to look here in another moment of panic in the wee hours of the morning!!!!

Synopses and “Calculus Just Is” Moments"

Synopsis From Hell

I despise synopsis writing. I’m a pantser, and I’d never written a synopsis BEFORE finishing the book. But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to write a synopsis for a book where I’d only written 50 pages.

Writing this synopsis was ten times worse than writer’s block. All I could do was sit at the screen and wonder what to put on the page. I know how to write a synopsis, when the book is already written. That’s easy for me, but how was I supposed to write one BEFORE I’d written the ending. Now I had written about 50 pages of the book, but it still didn’t help me much figuring out what to include in the synopsis. Sure I had an “idea” of what the black moment might be like, but what else did I need?

Outlines - Fault Lines

I don’t follow a formula, outline, etc. when I write. Words just flow out of me, and then I go back and edit. But you can’t do that with a synopsis. Think of it as being a map. A map for what direction the book is headed in. I’d never drawn a book map before, so I went surfing on the net. I figured, hey someone out there has an idea for how to write a synopsis.

Now you’d think Google or Dogpile would yield tons of results on how to write a synopsis. Umm, no. Either I wasn’t spelling synopsis correctly or there the knowledgebase was running a little dry. But then I found her!

Alicia Rasley

She had this wonderful article on the three acts found in a book. http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artthreeacts.htm

So here I was reading the article, and suddenly it was like being in calculus class. If you’ve ever taken calculus, you know that understanding it requires you to accept the fact that “it just is.” A concept I found difficult to grasp until two weeks before the end of the semester. The lightbulb came on! It was wonderful. I could finally accept that calculus just is.

I share that with you because when I was reading Alicia’s article, I had one of those “calculus just is” moments. Here it was in black and white. Everything I needed to go into my synopsis. Alicia had laid it all out for me. The result was magic for me. I took the headings from Alicia’s article, and opened a document in Word, where I listed the primary points from the article.

Initiating Event
External Conflict Emerges
Antagonist Shows Up
Conflict Rises
The Reversal
The Point of No Return
The Dark Moment
The Climax
The Resolution

Under each header, I wrote a brief blurb, scene, explanation for the action that occurs under the header. I did this for each one all the way through to The Point of No Return or it might have been Crisis. I can’t remember. Anyway, I’m thinking, WTF do I do now??? For two days I couldn’t write another word. I was in the dark about how to finish the damn thing. Then it hit me. Why not work backward! I had a basic idea of how I wanted the book to end, so I essentially worked my way back to get those last scenes in my head.

The Resolution

In the process, I wrote one of the best synopses I’ve ever written. Now the process outlined above may or may not help you write a synopsis, but as I tell my kids, you have to at least try it. If you don’t like it then you eat or do something else. While it might seem like a formula, it isn’t really. It’s just a list of the necessary ingredients that have to go in a book and the writer has to add in those same ingredients to a synopsis. It’s taken me five long years to have my “calculus just is” moment when it comes to synopsis writing, but now that I have, it’s going to be a lot easier from here on out.

In response to this blog, Claire Delacroix directed me to a class she'd done about synopses and it's a HUGE help as well. Check it out at the RWA HEA Cafe

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Worse Rejections

Thursday, May 14, 2009
How do agents and editors really think? Puzzling out rejections.

Not long ago I read a lively blog thread on “worst rejections,” a topic productive of endless reminiscence and speculation. Have you received rejections that baffled you with their ambiguity and cluelessness? Or, worse yet, an implicit rejection in the form of a requested submission being completely ignored?

Very early in my attempt at a writing career, I mailed a follow-up query about a story I’d sent to a small magazine and got a reply to the effect of, “all unsolicited manuscripts have been returned.” What the heck did that mean? All the submissions were so inferior they were rejected in disgust? The magazine was overstocked and therefore automatically returned all manuscripts? They were currently closed?

My two most baffling rejections came from agents. When first trying to sell my werewolf novel SHADOW OF THE BEAST, I sent the prologue and synopsis to an agent who then requested the full manuscript. She eventually rejected the novel on the grounds that a book should begin with something “important” happening. I thought, “Good grief, it starts with both of the heroine’s siblings being killed by a feral animal!” I later realized I’d made a newbie mistake in not including the prologue because the agent already had it. By the time she got the rest of the book, she must have forgotten all about the prologue and thought the story started with the heroine catching a bus to work.

My other most peculiar (and exasperating) agent rejection followed an appointment at the 2000 RWA con. I’d pitched a vampire romance and made it perfectly clear that paranormal romance was the only kind I wanted to write. The agent asked to see the partial. A few months later, she rejected the novel because—it was “too paranormal” for her!

Do you have any provocative or puzzling tales from the rejection trenches?

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I Can Has Podcast

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
If you click on the button, the next voice you'll hear on Gail Z. Martin's Ghost in the Machine podcast is mine. Gail is the multi-talented author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer, and speaking as a recovering PR person, she did an amazing job, especially considering I was having one of those days where my brain wasn't talking to my mouth. LOL Sometimes I think writers have more of those than anybody else. Enjoy!

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It's Slow

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Its Too Darn Hot, That's Too Darn Hot - No make that it's Too Darn SlowNothing new to report on journey with regard to Berkley and its process, except that I’ve received notice of the publisher’s author signing at RWA’s conference in Washington, DC in July, plus the publisher’s party for its authors at the RWA conference. Unfortunately, I won’t have a Berkley book to sign this year, but I will next year!! WOOT! Still it will be great to go to the party where I’ll get to meet my editor for the first time.

I did manage to get my characters figured out for Book 2 in my paranormal series. The deadline for the proposal is LOOMING. The heroine is still uncooperative, but she’s coming around. Usually it’s the hero. But then this isn’t going to be an easy book to write as there are two different threads running beneath the romance. I’ve NO idea whether I can actually pull this off. I want to do this because I know it will be a good book if I can successfully intertwine all three threads without leaving readers scratching their heads as they read the book.

Since I’ve been struggling with the character development in prep for writing Book 2 synopsis, I’ve been doing some promo prep when I need to take a break from dealing with characters. I got my Kismet page uploaded with the official blurb and excerpt. Now I’m working on developing the book video. Finding music to go with the video and the right pictures is pretty time-consuming, primarily because it’s more of an “I’ll know it when I see/hear it” type of deal for me. The photos are always easier than the music because I skim photos on iStockPhoto and find what I’m looking for quickly (usually about four hours). But music requires listening to at least a minute of orchestration, sometimes longer for me to figure out if the music will work. Then I need to download the trial copy and throw it into SwishMax to see if it fits with the initial video I’m developing. I’d say this is double the time it takes to find photos. I do have to say I found this incredible photo on iStockPhoto for my courtesan heroine. I had to crop the photo for censor reasons, but it’s a wonderful photo even from the waist up. Sensual and time period appropriate.

The other thing I’ve been doing is scheduling promo for the upcoming Berkley books. So far, I’ve scheduled quite a bit. I’ve got online advertising pretty much squared away and print is scheduled. I know I’ll be doing a bookmark mailing as well as some flyers. I’m not sure what type of co-op advertising I’ll get from Berkley, but I’m waiting until I get the cover before I ask that question. At this point though, my ad budget is pushing its way up the scale. So far, I’m at approximately $1700 per book. I’d like to get all of this paid BEFORE the end of the year so I can reduce my tax bill to zero. Next year is going to be the first time in years that I’m not going to get some type of a refund. THAT will be a definite shock to our systems.
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