29 Aug

Covers Refreshed

I’ve wanted a brighter cover for 10KH since about five minutes after publication. While I was changing that, I made some minor tweaks to WCAD to make the text less flat and help with brand consistency.

Someday maybe I’ll upgrade to mantitty, but I have a really hard time finding stock photos of men that don’t make me cringe (is there somewhere I can donate combs and razors for disadvantaged and unkempt models?), so for the time being, the not-to-market abstractions will continue.

11 Aug

The Sentence-Writing Book

Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark is a Kindle Daily Deal for $2.99, price matched at B&N, Kobo, and Apple. Since I can never remember the name, I call this “the sentence-writing book.” Whether you’re writing letters, memos, homework, articles, blog posts, or fiction, this book is filled with strategies to tweak your writing to be more effective at the sentence level. Clark explains at length why old writing chestnuts typically presented as “NEVER DO THIS THING” are indeed problematic when carelessly done but can be wielded to good effect with intent. Once you understand the effect of passive voice and adverbs and so forth, you can make an informed decision about whether that technique belongs in a sentence or needs to be eliminated with a rewrite.

I give paper copies to students, writers, and everyone else I know who has occasion to communicate via the written word. If you fall under any of those headings, I recommend grabbing this helpful guide digitally while it’s cheap.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

14 Jun

Procrastibaking

I’m working on the revision of the first chapter of New Book. Chapter One being the root of all evil/virtue makes it a particularly challenging puzzle, and staring at the words while debating overlong whether I’ve said too much or too little or skimped on setting or misplaced a hook or done some other disastrous thing that will cause the rest of the book to dissolve into a puddle of bubbling slime can be just a teensy bit demoralizing.

Bread always helps. Bread is always the answer. Bread is a steadfast friend in the darkest hour.

Today’s bread buddy takes the form of a dozen chewy homemade English muffins from The Model Bakery Cookbook (which also brought us Croissants, Y’all!) Mine aren’t anywhere near as pretty as theirs, but all dough fried in clarified butter is beautiful in its own special way. And now that I’m familiar with biga, I whipped up another batch to add to pizza dough for tonight’s dinner.

Morning-After Update: These make amazing English muffin pizzas (especially the bottoms, which soaked up most of the frying butter and subsequently emerge from a 10-minute pizza bake crunchy and sizzling as a pan pizza). They’re also bigger than the feeble little bagged version in the bread aisle at the grocer, so you get a meal instead of a snack.

Faith in my basic life skills competence restored, I brazenly return to the task that scares the everloving crap out of me…

22 May

Crap Draft Accomplished!

I had my doubts this day would ever arrive (it’s been a rough seven months in many, many respects), but I finally scrounged up enough oomph to blast through the last 20,000 words or so and reached the finish line of the first full draft of New Book.

(I wrote a similar post about 10KH on May 13 of last year, so despite what has often felt like backward progress, I’m actually not that far behind where I expected to be.)

Back when I started with 40,000 words of partial scenes and dialogue snippets, I predicted this draft would be about 80,000 words, and I was pretty darn close.

Considering I barely write full sentences on the first pass, that’s a lot of words. Some of them will get cut, but I’ll have to add a lot more to put some meat on the bare bones.

What now? Well, right now, it’s late and I’m having the book shakes, so after I post this, I’m calling it a night. Tomorrow, I’ll overheat my printer and use up a toner cartridge printing out the manuscript because I prefer words I can touch to words on a screen. Then, I’ll let the story rest for a few days while I reread my craft notebooks and my go-to how-to-write books to refresh my skills and jog loose ideas for the work that lies ahead. Then, armed with a stack of notes, a plan, and a mighty pen, I’ll rewrite until the story is as good as Ren 2017 can make it. (After that will come editors and more revision and proofreading and formatting and the boring parts of publishing. The cover, at least, is pretty much done already, so that’s one less thing to extend the delay.)

Let’s see, what can I tell you about it without violating my NOBODY LOOKS AT THE PRECIOUUUUUUUUS policy? I already gave you one hint in an earlier post.

So… Hint #2: Being in the public eye carries with it an element of risk, which adds a suspense subplot—not enough that I’d dare categorize it in Romantic Suspense, but there’s definitely some physical peril in addition to the emotional ups and downs.

AND THAT’S ALL YOU GET OF THE PRECIOUUUUUUUUUUS FOR NOW! If you have any questions about this book or writing or menstrual cups or whatever, drop them in the comments. I’ll only evade and hiss at some of them.

09 May

May Sale

WE’RE OVERSTOCKED ON ALL CAPS, BOLDS, AND EXCLAMATION POINTS, SO WE’RE PRACTICALLY GIVING THEM AWAY!!!!!!!

I made a mistake, so the US-only Countdown Deal originally planned for May 9-15 and the UK-only Countdown Deal the following week are now one MEGA INTERNATIONAL 7-DAY WORLDWIDE SALE, MAY 9 THROUGH MAY 15, 2017!

In the US, a sleazier marketer than I might exploit the proximity to the Hallmark holiday by calling it a MEGA INTERNATIONAL 7-DAY EXTENDED PRE-MOTHER’S DAY WORLDWIDE SALE!

🌺 💝 📚 MOM! 📚 💝 🌺

This will be the first price drop on Ten Thousand Hours since the preorder/early adopter discount back in November, and EVERYBODY GETS THE DEAL!

US $0.99

Canada $0.99

Australia $0.99

UK £0.99

France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain €0.99

Japan ¥99

India ₹99

Brazil $2.99

Mexico $17.99

And everywhere that is not one of those countries but has the ability to buy from one of those Amazon stores!

Lest you think I’m shafting our friends to the south, prices listed reflect the currency exchange on $0.99 USD rounded down to the nearest 99. When I say EVERYBODY GETS THE DEAL, I mean EVERYBODY GETS THE DEAL, even if it looks like SOMEBODY GETS GOUGED!

I’ve booked plenty of third-party promo to spread the word, but if anyone who read the book and liked it (or read it and has a scathing, GIF-laden review hilarious enough to drum up interest) would care to further boost the signal, below is a link that should localize to the appropriate Amazon store for any clicker worldwide (courtesy of BestAzon):

http://bit.ly/2oRDGxV

Copy and paste at will! Or visit the product page and grab your own affiliate-coded link if you’re into that sort of thing. No reason you shouldn’t pick up a few pennies, too!

MY LOSS IS YOUR BAR-GAIN! EVERY BOOK MUST GO, GO, GO! SUPPLIES ARE NOT LIMITED, BUT THE DURATION OF THE SALE IS, SO ACT TODAY OR AT LEAST NO LATER THAN MAY 15!

11 Feb

Humblebrag

Ah, screw being humble. I made croissants, y’all!

Baby croissants!

All grown up!

Flakier than the before model in a Head & Shoulders commercial!

I gave the KitchenAid the day off and got my hands in the dough, since it doesn’t need kneading. I didn’t even use the fancy European butter called for in the recipe, and they came out pretty freaking spectacular—tender-chewy on the inside and crispy-flaky on the outside.

(UPDATE: The day after, they’re soft enough to slice neatly for sandwiches, fancy French toast, or a shortcake/napoleon substitute. I put half a dozen in the freezer for later and will let you know what they’re like upon reheat.)

(UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: After two weeks in the freezer, they’re good as new with 15 minutes in the oven, so no need to worry about what you’re going to do with 16 croissants before they get stale. Simply plop the extras in the freezer to enjoy at a later date. Even super lazy slow-cooker stew becomes elevated when served with a warm, flaky [nobody needs to know it’s leftovers] croissant on the side.)

It took seven hours start to finish, but that’s mostly down time while the dough rests rather than hard labor (as in the case of the eight-hour meringue-mousse torte…).

The recipe is from The Model Bakery Cookbook. I picked it up the other day when the Kindle Daily Deals were all cookbooks, but I have since realized I detest digital cookbooks, so I’ll be ordering the hardcover, too.

If you have a jumbo tablet so every recipe isn’t 10 screens long (because it’s super uncool to have to swipe while your hands are coated with flour and butter) and you don’t like to make notes in the margins of your cookbooks, the ebook is fine (and cheaper).

08 Feb

Someone Asked: Reading Habits

Q: The only romances I ever see you reading on Goodreads are historicals. Are you planning to write one?

A: I used to do that in a past writing life, and I can state with certainty I have no intention of doing so again. I have absolutely no interest in the history part of historical romances, which is a good way to piss off a large portion of the readership thereof, so I’m not going to venture into their realm.

The appeal of reading historicals for me (other than nostalgia — I grew up on a diet of Lindsey and Woodiwiss) is probably the lack of phones and internet, to be honest. If someone wanted to disturb your privacy, they had to bestir themselves to write and post a letter or travel to face you.

Imagine how much more civil discourse would be if screaming idiots had to travel hundreds of miles to deliver their abuse within distance of being physically harmed by yourself or your second, as opposed to flinging their shit consequence-free on the internet. And no telemarketers! Nobody checking their texts in the middle of a date!

Bliss!

I do read some contemporary and paranormal romance and some fantasy, thrillers, and horror. (I’m reading The Strain currently.) It depends what kind of mood I’m in, what’s unread on my Kindle, and how much I want to risk being influenced writing wise. There’s at least one book I’m actively avoiding because I don’t want to compare it to my story in progress (for better or worse…), but Guillermo isn’t going to butt into my rough draft and urge me to do as he does, and Loretta Chase isn’t going to tempt me to slap couture hats and gowns on my characters.

Also, my author Goodreads isn’t super reflective of my reading reality, so take anything you see there with a shake of salt. (My unprofessional reader account has thousands of books with more variety and actual opinions attached.)

05 Feb

Someone Asked: Obstacles

Q: What is your biggest writing obstacle?

A: Perfectionism and self-loathing doubt, which are not unrelated.

I want the words to come out DONE. If a scene (or a sentence) isn’t going to be perfect, recording the wrong words feels like a waste of time. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years and still struggle with the known fact that the whole story has to exist before good decisions can be made about what’s truly important, what’s missing, what doesn’t belong, what needs to change to strengthen the story.

I waste a lot of time on my mission to not waste time. It’s stupid to agonize over the description of an eyebrow when the entire chapter it’s in might not survive, but I’ll do it anyway and then feel the need to defend it (dammit, I worked hard on that!) even when it doesn’t belong, which never serves the story.

Next Book has been particularly rough because the first chapter reads like one from a finished book, and Chapter 2 is word vomit. I felt really skilled… and then I made that page break and forgot how to do everything. Objectively, I’m aware the solution to the problem lies beyond Chapter 2, but instead of banging out a placeholder to bridge the gap and powering forward to the part that will tell me what Chapter 2 must accomplish that it currently isn’t, I wasted an embarrassing amount of time guessing and wallowing in despair.

“Honey, get some therapy.”

Had it. Look, this is part of my process. I have to be demolished every time to build something new or it will just be the same old shit with a fresh coat of paint. I wish the process was faster, but for some weird reason, I persist in battling against my destruction, even when I know it’s inevitable and ultimately for the best.

Fortunately, I’m now sufficiently torn down to move forward with construction. There’s garbage all over the site, but I’m working around it. Chapter 2 is finally behind me, and a rough draft that exists is an achievable goal.

Obstacle circumvented until next time.

10 Dec

2016: The Year in Sugar and Gluten

I’m far from done with the year’s baking, but I’ll be too busy doing it to take pictures of it for the next little while, so here’s the recap for 2016.

This year, I conquered cinnamon rolls. (The secret is doughnut dough. Shh.)

I gave up trying to make a good chocolate chip cookie out of identifiable ingredients, threw French vanilla pudding mix into the dough, and found a winner. (The secret is tetrasodium pyrophosphate, I guess. Shh.)

The most impressive-looking things were the chocolate meringue torte and the snowflake bread. The torte was a full eight-hour workday, and I’ll never make it again for less than $100 or true love. The snowflake was surprisingly easy, and I immediately started making a list of other things to stuff it with. (That’s one of the things I’m making a lot of for the remainder of the year.)

I learned buttermilk is the secret to lemon curd that holds together, you can fake half-and-half with milk and butter (for cooking, not in your coffee) if you don’t want to drive 20 miles to the nearest grocery store for one ingredient when you get a hankering for coconut cream pie, shortbread is my new favorite pie crust, and flash photography is why my food always looked wet in pictures. (Now it looks dark because this kitchen lighting leaves something to be desired and often blurry because my camera has a reeeeeeally slow shutter when the flash is off.)

That apple-oatmeal cookie picture looks so boss because it was a contest entry and I was trying to be fancy. (I didn’t win despite my food staging. When I made the winning recipes and people said they weren’t up to my usual standards, I gloated. I’m petty like that.)

The only disaster I recall was the S’more Cake, which failed on two fronts. Did you know an unopened box of graham crackers can be not only stale but downright rancid? Now you do. And when I tell you The Only Reason I Own A Hand Mixer Frosting does not belong between cake layers, it’s because the top two layers of that S’more Cake slid off and landed on the floor… not that it was much of a loss in light of the rancid graham frosting on the outside of the cake. I might have oopsed it off the counter myself if it hadn’t jumped.

Oh, and I took two eggs out of the cheesecake I’m not invited anywhere without. Now it puffs less, collapses less, and doesn’t crack. I’ll probably post the basic recipe soon. IT’S NOT THAT HARD.