Author Archive

On E-reading

Last night, unable to sleep, I went looking for books at the library and then, when I failed to find anything of interest, bought a few from a bookstore. That I did this at two in the morning only struck me as wondrous about an hour into reading the book that finally grabbed my interest (Flapper, by Joshua Zeitz, and it’s awesome, if you too have been bitten by the 1920s bug).

Insomnia leads to rumination, so as I lay on the couch, my pondering of the thrill of instant gratification yielded to memories of other kinds of gratification. more »

My sister the secret rock star.

Necessary preface: this is a true story…and it just happened to me.

So, about eight weeks ago, my younger sister, Shelley, comes to me and says, “Hey, I wrote a book.”

(You may recognize Shelley’s name if you read The Duke of Shadows.  The book is dedicated to her for good reason.  She found the manuscript under a bed, where I’d abandoned it after numerous literary agents declined to represent it.  Having read and liked the book, Shelley convinced me to try again. She is the reason that I’m now a published author.)

I’d always known Shelley was a talented writer and an avid reader, but I had no idea that she’d been writing fiction, much less novel-length fiction. So here’s how our conversation went:

Me: “You’ve been writing?  Hey, that’s awesome!  I always said you should give it a go.”

My sister: “In fact, I’ve been writing for some time.  This is my…oh, seventh manuscript?”

Me: “What?!?”

My sister: “Yeah, I enjoy it.”

Me: “Um.  Okay, that’s awesome.  A bit…secretive, but purely awesome all the same.  So, what kind of book is it?”

My sister: “YA, set in the near future.”

Me (thinking myself witty): “Hmm, let me guess: it’s about a girl who meets and falls in love with a mysterious and slightly sadistic stranger in her chem/bio/gym class.”

My sister: “Wrong all around.  For one thing, the protagonist is a teenage guy.”

Me: “A guy?  Huh.”  (I think to myself: Bummer.  I prefer female protagonists.)  “Well, can I read it?”

My sister: “Sure!  Emailing it now.”

24 hours later…

Me (purely astonished): “Shel, this book is…amazing.  I mean… I’m kind of speechless.  It’s that good.  Totally intense, but also amazingly funny in parts.  I literally couldn’t put it down until I was finished reading it. It’s just…awesome.”

My sister: “Thanks!  Good to hear!”

Me: “What I’m saying is that this book could be published. You should be querying agents RIGHT NOW.  I could give you some tips—”

My sister:  “Oh, I already have an agent.”

Me:  “…What? You already have an agent?”

My sister: “Yep.  I queried a while back and [big fancy NY agent] liked it a lot.  He’s planning on submitting in January.”

Me: “Um.  Um.  YOU NEVER BREATHED A WORD OF THIS.  YOU DO REALIZE THAT?”

My sister (no doubt blinking innocently):  “Well, I didn’t know if anything would come of it.  Still might go nowhere, you know?  Maybe just forget you read it.”

Me: “NOT LIKELY.”

My sister: “Seriously, you never know.  Maybe nobody will want it.”

Six weeks pass

Me (unable to play it cool any longer): “Shel, any news from your agent?”

My sister: “Oh, yeah, nice news!”

Me (dying of excitement): “What kind of news?”

My sister:  “It just sold in a pre-empt for [a sum that my brain translates to a gazillion trillion dollars].”

Me (collecting jaw off floor): “…This means you’re buying me dinner from now on, right?  ’Cause I’m a starving student, you know.  You owe me dinners.  You owe me LOTS of dinners.”

My sister:  “Dude, WTF?  No way.  You’re the big sister!  You buy the dinners!”

Me: “You’re the super-secretive 007 writer whose book just got bought AS A PRE-EMPT about ten seconds after I found out that you’d started writing!”

My sister: “Okay, fine.  I’ll send you a Cliff bar in the mail.”

Here’s the text of the Publisher’s Weekly announcement that just appeared:

S.J. Kincaid’s INSIGNIA, in which a teenage video gamer becomes a government weapon in a futuristic world at war, to Molly O’Neill at Katherine Tegen Books, in a pre-empt, in a significant deal, in a three-book deal, by David Dunton at Harvey Klinger.

If you’re curious to learn more, go check out her blog (http://sjkincaid.blogspot.com/)!  Me, I’ll be over here on the fainting couch, recovering from the vapors. :)

In which I get chatty about nothing in particular

Over the holidays, I (finally!) made it home to my parents’ house for a solid twenty days. It was fantastic to be back in the Bay Area, surrounded by mountains and water every-which-way I looked.  No offense to the Jersey folks – the shore is very beautiful – but I like a little sudden elevation with my ocean.  Not to mention the food!  I’m a glutton when in California.  Sourdough baguette, good wine, Zachary’s deep-dish pizza, fresh artichokes and Brussels sprouts from the Sonoma Coast…

TANGENT/

Speaking of Brussels sprouts, I’ve been noticing a disturbing web-wide trend of disparaging these heroic vegetables.  (Carolyn Jewel, I am looking at you!  Yes, I saw that interview!)  While driving along the coast, I obtained two stalks of Brussels sprouts and they changed my world.  I am here to tell you that said stalks are 1) fun to wave like wands; 2) ideal for bopping people atop the head; 3) DELICIOUS.  I now issue a dare to all the haters:

1. You get some Brussels sprouts and slice them into thirds.

2. You put them into a bowl and add a whole lot of olive oil, salt, and chopped raw garlic.

3. You mix it all up.

4. You toss the contents onto a tinfoil-covered pan and cook it for twenty to twenty-five minutes at 400-425 degrees, depending on your oven.

5. When the sprouts look nicely browned on top, you remove the pan and you eat the sprouts with sour cream.

6. Then you come back and talk to me about how you like Brussels sprouts!

* Disclaimer: If you steam the sprouts, all bets are off.  I cannot argue with the awfulness of steamed Brussels sprouts.

/END TANGENT

I am one of those curious children who truly enjoys being at home with my parents, doing nothing.  Indeed, if left to my own devices, I would have been shamefully content to spend all twenty days of my break sitting on my parents’ couch, egg nog (AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS) to my left, sourdough bread and e-reader to my right, mainlining various World War II-themed miniseries. Winds of War and War and Remembrance?  So fantastic!  (Apart from the whole miscasting thing. Robert Mitchum is a fantastic actor, but he was 65 at the time the first series was shot, playing a character who’s supposed to be 39 or 40.  As a result, a romance that thrilled me in the book began to seem rather…icky…on-screen.)

But the Lad, AKA my partner in crime, was out in California to meet the parents.  And he insisted we Do Stuff.  Which, you know, sounded reasonable.

So off we went to the aquarium in Monterey, where I ogled a great many jellyfish, cuttle-fish, octopuses (nope, it doesn’t pluralize to octopi, apparently.  This bums me out for obscure reasons.  I guess I like the idea of a Latinate sea creature), sharks, and otters.  I return to you with a discovery: the underwater world is twice as weird as anything ever shown to me in Star Trek: The Next Generation (a formative influence).

The aquarium experience also got me thinking about how wonder is such a devalued feeling in adult life.  As a child, so many things are new and strange, but once we grow up and settle into jobs and learn the art of juggling bills and various other responsibilities, we tend to forget to take time to search for the strange and unexpected.  I certainly forget how rejuvenating it can be to encounter something you knew absolutely nothing about.  Sea horses, for instance—did you know they could look like this?

Seahorse!

Not a great photo, but trust me, the sea horse is technicolor.

At the aquarium, I felt like a wide-eyed kid as I walked through those rooms, and I left feeling younger and lighter, somehow.

The other wondrous highlight of my holiday was The Secret River, by Kate Grenville.  This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that conjures 18th century London and Australia with vivid, gripping immediacy.  I highly recommend it to the historical fiction fans out there!

All right, I feel a wee bit bad having posted and said not a word about writing.  Suffice it to say that A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal is off my desk, into production, and features a heroine who’s my favorite yet.  (How amusing: I feel slightly bad admitting that…as though Lydia and Emma and Gwen et al might take offense.  Ha!)  I’ll be sure to speak more of ALLiS in my next post. In the meantime, please attend to your Brussels sprouts!

Contest winners! Prepare to be moisturized!

Update from Sherry:  Carrie, Barb in MD, and Vi, your prizes are on their way.  Joie, yours will go out very soon.  Liz, we are waiting to hear from you!

After an in-depth consultation with Random.org, we offer congratulations to the winners of our contest:

Carrie

Joie

Barb in MD

Liz (1:05PM)

and our GRAND PRIZE WINNER, Vi (6:08PM)!

Soon-to-be-gleaming winners, please let Sherry know where to send your goodies!

Writing in the Dark

A NOTE FROM SHERRY: In honor of WICKED BECOMES YOU’s release next Tuesday, Plotters and Manipulators United is running a contest. Leave a comment to this post on how much you love Meredith’s books and/or how eagerly you are looking forward to WICKED BECOMES YOU, and you will be entered into a drawing. Five winners will each get a crazy-becomes-Sherry tin of organic shea butter, with the grand prize winner also getting a $25 Godiva Chocolate Gift Certificate, which Sherry just rediscovered in her goody drawer. Best of luck.  Contest ends at 11:59PM (Standard Blog Time) on Friday, April 30th!

(Please note that while Sherry will ship anywhere, the gift certificate is only good for purchases in the U.S.)


Sherry and I both have new releases coming up – mine next Tuesday, hers on May 25th. You may have heard certain shocking rumors about these books. For instance:

His at Night has no flashbacks. (Not a one!)

Wicked Becomes You has no drug addictions. (No laudanum, no habitual heavy drinking, and not even a hint of opium!)

Disbelieving, you may have asked, What’s going on here? Has the sky fallen? Are pigs flying?

Okay, so I can’t comment with any certainty on the last question. I’m in India right now, and I often spot bands of roving street pigs doing very odd things.

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Ye odds and ye ends

I’ve been going through an Oscar Wilde phase, which has led me to some intriguing primary sources, all of them fierce Victorian debates about interior design. What with Ruskin and Morris et al convinced that beautiful architecture and interiors made for serene and beautiful minds, designing and furnishing one’s home was A Very Serious Business in the 1880s and 1890s. I am instructed by said texts that it is crucial to have a central focal point for a room — a painting or an object d’art (preferably Japanesque) to orient one’s attention and soothe one’s aggrieved sensibilities and draw the whole room into perfect accord.

With this in mind, I must admit that this blog post is officially Aesthetically Unsound. There is no unitary theme or accord to it; it is drawn from the drawer in my brain filled with random, rattling shiny bits. I suggest you gird yourself for the five-and-dime experience by spending a moment gazing upon this authentically Aesthetic objet.

Beautiful, no?

All right, on to the glitter: awesome sisters, book trailers, and bad music.
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In which Meredith interrogates Sherry on craft

Meredith: Look at any forum devoted to writing and you’ll find a few topics dedicated to the “standard questions” that writers get asked: Where do you get your ideas? How do you find the time?  How do you figure out what happens next?  How do you manage to actually finish a story?

These questions may be standard, but the answers are anything but.  Every writer seems to have a slightly (or drastically) different way of working.

Some of the methods I’ve come across make me white with terror.  For example, covering my entire living room wall with color-coded 8×6 Post It notes. Or outlining.  Others turn me green with jealousy (ahem: the Shitty First Draft).  All of them fascinate me. There may, in fact, be something a bit neurotic about the avidity with which I read explanations of methods that I know won’t work for me.  It reminds me of that phase in eighth grade when my friends and I used to get together to bake brownies, drink milkshakes, and watch exercise videos.

Anyway, there’s a specific reason that craft — and in particular, craftly excellence — is on my mind.  I’ve just reread Sherry’s new release, Not Quite a HusbandNQAH effortlessly blends superb prose, incredibly nuanced characterization,  sizzling chemistry, very hot sex, and other manner of high drama (rebellions! potentially fatal illnesses! death-defying treks! many whizzing bullets!) into a moving, dare I say epic romance that traverses a not-so-familiar but altogether fascinating part of the world.  It’s a tour de force, and since I share a blog with her, I get to ask how she does it.  Sherry, brace yourself for interrogation!

(Sherry: When I first joined RWA–after finishing the first draft of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS–and heard people mention the RWA craft-loop, I used to think it was women more dexterous than me talking about their macramé.  That should tell you how much I know about craft.  So read at your own peril!)

Sherry, I understand that the idea for NQAH was sparked by a viewing of The Painted Veil.  How do you proceed once you’ve got the seedling of an idea?  Do you outline, do you daydream, or do you simply begin to write?
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Google and the Resurrection of Ghosts

I have no idea how other authors begin a new project.  But with Bound by Your Touch rushing toward the shelves (the first review is already in!) and Written on Your Skin off to print, it’s time to start working on the next book.  For me, that usually begins with a backstory that pops into my head, fully formed.  (This is not as cool as it sounds.  The backstory is what happens before the book starts.  Suffice it to say, I would much prefer to have PLOTS pop fully formed into my mind.  (Plotters, you have my undying envy.))

The question then becomes: how does this backstory make for a plot?  To answer this question, I… procrastinate. I play with random ideas, read everything I can get my hands on, and daydream to a long and inspiring playlist of Music that Deeply Offends My Boyfriend’s Superior Taste.

I also occasionally entertain myself by searching Parliamentary records and date-restricted Google results. During my most recent search, I discovered a Ghost in the Google Machine: Eva Fox-Strangway, birthdate: unknown; death: March 1910.

Eva Fox-Strangway: who were you?  Not who you said you were: that much is clear.

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