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Archive for January, 2010

Hello Deer

Camera Critters

This photo was taken at the Rocky Mountain National Park. As you can see, the elk is wearing a tracking device. We saw quite a few elk during our travels.

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To see more photographs of animals visit Camera Critters.

Rock ‘n Roll, Baby!

During our recent trip to Wellington, we decided we’d like to catch the Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton. We wanted to see a few of the sights instead of hanging around the city for the entire weekend. The weather wasn’t too good with lots of wind and rain, but after considering the weather forecast, and ringing my brother-in-law who is a weather guru, we decided to risk it and book the ferry plus a Marlborough wine tour.

The cancellation of the first ferry and the subsequent delay while they loaded extra cars and passengers on our ferry should have been a warning. But no. Mr. Munro and I happily boarded, found a good seat and settled in with a latte each. We were delayed about an hour before the ferry set off. The first part of the journey as we left the harbour was okay, but the moment we entered the open sea, it was all on.

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Rock ‘n roll, baby.

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The ferry went up, slammed down, tossed a little from side to side. The ferry was a big one, but the waves were crashing over the bow. And to think I’d wondered about all the white paper bags on each table in the cafe. Within minutes, passengers were grabbing bags and throwing up. I have to admit the crew were really good, whisking bags around, going around and offering aid and small chips of ice to passengers. At no time did the ferry smell like vomit, which was pretty amazing. Luckily, both Mr. Munro and I are good sailors with cast iron stomachs. We watched everyone else, and when the bars reopened when we re-entered calmer waters, we had another coffee and enjoyed the passing scenery as we entered the Marlborough Sounds.

Cook Strait separates the North and South Islands. It is about 22km wide and is known for its wild waters.

Are you a good traveller? Do you get seasick? Airsick? Other forms of motion sickness?

Great Things About Being Single

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been reading non-fiction books about relationships again as a form of research. Without fail I come across interesting tidbits and germs of ideas for stories. Yesterday I was reading Hot Love – How To Get It by Tracey Cox, and she had an amusing list of some of the great things about being single. I thought they’d make an excellent TT.

Thirteen Great Things About Being Single

1. Both sexes – You don’t have to answer to anyone.

2. Male – no one rolls their eyes when the remote accidentally sticks on the sports channel.

3. Male – You can clip your toenails without someone vomiting in the background.

4. Male – You don’t have to tell her she doesn’t look fat/her bottom’s not big/more than a handful is a waste.

5. Female – Everything smells clean and fresh. There are no lingering boy smells.

6. Female – You can change your mind every five minutes just for the hell of it.

7. Female – Fat days seem less important. So long as your stomach’s flat by Friday night, who cares if you’re bloated on Tuesday?

8. Female – You can talk on the phone all night about absolutely nothing and lie outrageously about how wonderful Susan looked in her new outfit without someone saying afterward, “But you told me she looked like mutton dressed up as lamb.”

9. Male – You don’t have to be nice to her stuck-up, snotty friends.

10. Female – You don’t have to explain why it’s essential to own 25 pairs of black shoes.

11. Male/Female – The toilet seat is exactly how you like it.

12. Male – No one tells you you’re driving too fast.

13. Male – You don’t have to battle past feminine apparel and toiletries just to get in the bathroom.

One extra because it made me laugh – Female – You can make your own smells without feeling unladylike.

Source: HOT LOVE(How to Get It) by Tracey Cox

Do you have any things to add to my list?

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two)

This is part two about the pros and cons of writing for different publishers. Part one appeared yesterday.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two) by Brenna Lyons

Choosing your publishers: Risk Management?

Bride Ball by Brenna LyonsSplitting your investments- This is actually another reason that many people choose more than one publisher. There are authors who have experienced the fall of a publisher and had to scramble to place all their books again. Understandably, they don’t want that to happen to them again, so they keep their eggs in different baskets. But…

Watch your percentages in high risk baskets– You have to look on choosing publishers as risk management much as you would view investing your money. What makes a high risk? A new company. A company that doesn’t have a full, competent, experienced staff. A company based on a “radical new idea” for shaking up the industry. An owner who doesn’t have a solid business plan. An owner that lacks people skills…or depends too highly on people skills and too little on business sense. A business that has already had financial and interpersonal blow-ups. You can take on some high risk, as long as you balance it with low to moderate risk publishers. It’s a good idea to weight your basket toward low and moderate risk companies and not high risk. Even the most aggressive planning doesn’t advocate putting all your resources in high risk. Placing all of your work with high risk carries the high risk of losing it all.

Do your homework with ALL publishers– Having more than one publisher does not make you all knowing. No matter how much you might like to claim you can, you cannot “spot a good company or bad” at a hundred paces, though it is usually easier to spot warning signs of a bad risk than it is to say with conviction that the company is a good one at a glance. You have to research all prospective publishers and assess their risk factors. For more information see my two part series about choosing a publisher. Part one. Part two.

New companies/old associates: does experience translate?– As I said earlier, it is never a good idea to choose a company just for…the company you would be keeping, though choosing not to work with someone you clash with may be a very good idea. Just because someone has good ideas for marketing her own book does not mean the person is capable of marketing an entire company. Just because someone was an EIC for five years does not mean that person is skilled as a company owner and will make the right decisions for the company when given all decision making. Not all experience is equal, and friendship is not business savvy.

You can actually hurt your chances rather than help them– Choosing the wrong publishers can hinder you toward your goals….which we will cover more in contracts. But, you can also hinder yourself by spreading your books too thin. Conventional wisdom says that it takes roughly three books with any publisher to start making a name with the company…and making decent money. It is almost impossible to break even and build an audience when you have one or two books each thrown in a half dozen venues.

Special concerns when you have more than one?

Contract provisions to watch out for– You have to be very careful, especially with the contract you sign. There are contracts that specify that the author is expected to keep a web site for only the publisher’s books…or that the publisher will not link to your site if you don’t comply. Forcing you to split your audience (or not giving you the same exposure they give every other author) is counterproductive to your aims of building an audience, and you should not sign something that does it. Always keep your contractual obligations in mind when signing a contract. Can you live to each contract you sign? How long will your rights be held up? How soon can you move to another publisher if things don’t work out? Do you have an “out clause?” Never sign a contract that gives blanket first refusal rights. Why?

Splitting series and related books– You do not want to be forced into a position where you have to split a series or related books from a series because you have signed first refusal to someone else. Keeping related books together is usually a good idea. Putting out shorts in anthologies that relate back to an established world somewhere else, while not overly appreciated by the anthology publisher in some cases, are a different matter. I look on them more as throwing out bait. It’s further exploiting the idea of bringing readers from one company home to another. Always spell out how far that “series” ranges in first right of refusal clauses. If you write the same world in another timeline and with new characters, is that still the series? If you write related books not on the same world (don’t you love science fiction?), is it still the series? The first is debatable. The second is arguably no, even if you see characters from the series there.

Pen Names– Never allow a company to own your pen name. That both steals your word of mouth from you and forces you to split your marketing. Instead of selling YOU and the books. You are forced to sell YOU and YOU and the books. This is a bad idea all the way around. The closer you can bring your pen names, assuming you aren’t writing in clashing genres like erotica and children’s, the better it is for you. It is always better to spend $100 promoting Brenna Lyons than $60 promoting Brenna Lyons and $40 promoting Brenna Stuart, with no apparent connection between them. If you are separating two adult reading genres, you may want a single site that splits into the pen names/genres. That allows for possible carry-over from one pen name to the other from regular readers. If your genres are children’s and adult, you may want two different sites entirely! In fact, it’s probably preferable that you do it that way.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Thanks so much for the informative posts, Brenna! If anyone has any questions just ask them in the comments section.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one)

I’m a member of the Marketing for Romance Writers loop. There’s a wealth of knowledge available in this group, mainly promo and marketing advice but there are also discussions about other writing related things such as publishers. Late last year the subject of writing for different publishers was raised. Author Brenna Lyons had such awesome advice about the pros and cons that I asked if she’d write a post for me on the subject. Over to Brenna…

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one) by Brenna Lyons

Why do it?

All I Want For Christmas by Brenna LyonsYou’re a prolific author– It is possible to overload the system of a single publisher, if you submit everything you write to that one. Can you imagine the havoc that could cause with a prolific author?

You write in several genres– It’s a solid fact that authors who write in many genres may not be able to place all of their books with a single house. If you sign with a publisher for your fantasy erotic romance books and then you write a straight fantasy book, that publisher is likely not your market.

To work with publishers/authors/editors you enjoy– This is not my favorite reason to change or add publishers, but some people do choose publishers this way. For me, it is more important that I think the people I will be working with know what they are doing, are pleasant (or at least tolerable) to work with, and have a smooth-running system that I feel will work well for me.

Getting in on special collections or projects– This is actually a good reason to join a publisher…if your other concerns are met as well. Think of it this way. Even if it’s the collection you think is perfect for you, if the contract and staff are far less than ideal, you are better off taking your personal ideas elsewhere. Remember that this is your career!

A new concept or contract option that you enjoy– Unfortunately, some authors are so dead-set on making sure a particular thing is addressed at their next company that they allow themselves to be blinded to the less savory aspects of the company they target. You have to keep the full package in mind. It is typically easier to convince company B to add something you want than to convince company D to change half a contract that you don’t like to suit you, just because it already has that one item covered.

In addition, a new concept in publishing is good…if it works. Keep in mind that many of the more radical designs don’t last very long. A company that gives you 75% of cover price sounds great…until you find out that you won’t be able to sell a quarter of the books you did with your old publisher.

The pros to having more than one publisher?

Reaching new readers who haven’t read you before– There is no denying that you will likely reach some readers at the new company who are not regular buyers of the old one. However, while some readers buy a company, many readers buy the author. That means that, once introduced to you, the readers are typically willing to follow you from publisher to publisher…as long as they are comfortable with the publisher sites…or they follow you to one-stop places like ARe/OmniLit or Fictionwise, where they can buy books from you with several publishers at once.

Name building at double or triple the speed…maybe– This sounds good in theory. But while it is true that you are reaching more readers, there is typically an overflow of readers that read both houses…or one company may have a large audience while another is new and has a small one. You can’t count on doubling your publishers meaning that your double the readers who know you.

Less wait time for editors/release date…maybe– You may very well reduce your wait overall, since you are waiting editors at several publishers, so you can get four books through in the time you might have gotten one or two through at a single publisher. However, you may lengthen your wait on a particular book.

Not being pigeonholed into one genre or style– This is one of the most widely-stated reasons for people choosing to have more than one publisher.

The cons to having more than one publisher?

Planning ahead to fulfill your contracts– You have to keep an eye on what you agree to do and when. If you have three books coming in for edits, you better have everything out of your way and be prepared for some long nights and days getting those edits done in the 30 days you have to do all three! And, you don’t want to burn out.

The “Prolific Trap”– When you’re prolific, you often get contacted by your publishers saying things like, “We have X going on. You’ll put something into that, right?” This is where you get into an interesting balancing act. Do you say “I can’t” and get on a publisher’s bad side? Do you say “yes” and figure out a way to make it happen? That depends on your comfort level.

Glutting the market on your name– It is possible to put out so many books that the readers can’t keep up…or don’t want to keep up. At what point do the readers’ eyes glaze over? The problem is that there is no set number I can give you. If you write really well, that glut may not come for a long time.

Expectations of publishers– Your publishers have certain expectations of their authors. The problem comes when you either have conflicting schedules…you should be in chat with B at the same time C is doing a list game you should be taking part in…or you are get used to the expectations for one and have problems changing gears.

Keeping your mind in the game: which publisher is which– You could make a file of printouts or a database of guidelines and house styles a prerequisite for having more than one publisher. Worse, it’s easy to start resenting one company for not being more like another. You can suggest changes gently, but if they don’t want to change, you either have to live with it quietly or not sign them any more books. You are under no obligation to stay with a company that doesn’t offer what you need as an author PAST what you have already contracted.

Arranging SOME crossover readership to aid in the transition– You want to find new readers, but you also need the old readers following you along and bringing new readers with them by word of mouth. Having some distribution channels or promotion channels that overlap is a wonderful thing.

The “Leave your other publisher at the door” problem– Imagine a well-meaning reader or reviewer congratulates you on an award finaled for with a publisher on the wrong list…or someone mentions a series from publisher B in publisher C’s chat. Though it is beyond your control, and no matter how skillfully you handle it, it will still be held against you to a certain degree.

Come back for part two tomorrow.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Road Trip: Auckland to Wellington

the van I haven’t done the trip from Auckland to Wellington for a long time. Yep, I was excited about the prospect of a trip South. We picked up the van we had to drive to Wellington the night before. It’s a little van with vinyl seats and not much leg room. Mr. Munro complained the van didn’t like going fast. He had trouble coaxing it past 100km per hour, which is our speed limit. After little sleep (we had a phone call at 2.00am – highly uncivilized if you ask me!!) we hit the road at six-thirty.

It turned out that the van wasn’t too bad for leg space and a towel stopped the problem of sticking to the vinyl seats. The van loved going up hills, which was a bonus, but on the down side it also loved to guzzle gas. We had to stop three times to refill during the eight hour drive.

The weather was beautiful, without a cloud in the sky. The iPod worked well and we drove with the windows down and the music blaring – well as much as Mr. Munro lets the music blare. He’s a fuddy-duddy that way!

We stopped at Lake Taupo, which is the biggest lake in New Zealand, and supposedly the site of the largest volcanic reaction the world has ever seen. You’ve probably heard me mention Taupo before. I like it very much and have some wonderful memories of family holidays spent there as a teenager. I pointed out the street where my mother received a parking ticket and where we went to the movies. The lake was flat calm and the trio of mountains were visible across the water. That’s unusual so we took photos.

Lake Taupo

We drove down the Desert Road and managed to take some great shots of the mountains. The Desert Road is mostly tussock, but parts of it are very sandy. During winter this stretch of road is often closed due to snow and ice. The NZ army do a lot of their training here before troops are sent overseas. The terrain is certainly challenging, and while it’s very pretty, I wouldn’t want to be there in the middle of winter.

Mt Ruapehu

Ngauruhoe from the Desert Road

The rest of the drive was through farm land before we hit the coast and the sea. The pohutukawa trees seem to flower later down here. The trees were ablaze with scarlet flowers. Pohutukawa flowers always remind me of Christmas. We drove into the central city of Wellington and found our serviced apartment without any problem. It’s very central – just a brief walk away from most of the tourist spots. We can even see a sliver of the waterfront from our balcony.

View from our apartment

I’ve done a lot of travelling, and I think a person would have to go a long way to see better scenery. New Zealand really is a pretty country, not that I’m biased or anything.

Do you enjoy road trips? When and where did you take your last road trip?

Easy Fishing

Camera Critters

This photo was taken at the Goat Island Marine Reserve in New Zealand. The water is clear and the area pristine and full of fish. I took this photo of blue mau-mau from the rocks. People snorkle and dive here, but as you can see it’s easy to see fish without getting wet. You can also paddle at the water’s edge and huge fish swim around your legs.

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To see more photographs of animals visit Camera Critters.

Playing the Odds

Author Adrienne Kress has an interesting post called It’s Not About the Odds. She talks about the luck required in getting a publishing contract and how you can slant those odds in your favor by doing a great query letter.

Rebecca at Dirty Sexy Books has a tongue in cheek post about urban fantasy stories. If you’re not really sure what an urban fantasy is read the Ten Commandments of Urban Fantasy.

Margie Lawson has a guest post at Routines for Writers. It’s all about writing body language and verbal cues–an important thing in good characterization.

And finally, You Are What You Eat, Foods That Improve Your Sex Drive is an article by Elizabeth Black that makes for very interesting reading. Stay about from fried foods and rich cream sauces – that’s all I’m saying! :grin:

I’m reading a book called The Wolf Almanac by Robert H Busch. It’s research for a new idea I have, and you might have guessed from the title that my story will feature wolves.

What are you reading at the moment?

Things With Bite

Thursday Thirteen

During a recent evening walk, hubby and I were talking about bed bugs, which then led to other things that bite.

Thirteen Things That Bite

1. Bed bugs

2. Fleas

3. Sandflies

4. Spiders

5. Snakes

6. Mosquitoes

7. Scorpions

8. Leeches

9. Ticks

10. Cats and Dogs

11. Sea Lice

12. Bumble Bees

13. Head Lice

A few of the above things have latched on to me. I’ve had malaria, which was MOST unpleasant and as a child caught head lice. Yuck! I’m thankful we don’t have snakes in New Zealand. So far, I’ve escaped bed bugs. I hope that trend continues.

Have you received bites from any of the above? Do you have any things with bite that I can add to my list?

Finding Love & Fortune, Old Age & Wrinkles

Tea For Two Where do you find love? It’s a question I asked here on my blog not long ago, producing some interesting answers. Today the Tea For Two Tour continues at Love Romance Passion and I’m talking about romance and meeting places. I’m also doing a giveaway so don’t forget to come and say hello.

Random thought – I must have more wrinkles than I thought because the bus driver stopped at the old folk’s home to let me off the bus, instead of continuing to the stop just a bit farther down the road. (which is closer to my house) He was trying to be nice, but I think I should be insulted. What do you think? LOL I think everyone is picking on me this year, that’s what I think.