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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!

New Jersey, New Jersey

So I went to New Jersey for the Put Your Heart in a Book conference.

I did my packing over several days and remembered a lot of things that I might otherwise have forgotten, had I packed in a hurry.  As usual, however, I forgot my hairbrush.  But not to worry, you can’t tell the difference–which was why I demoted hairbrushes from friends to nodding acquaintances in the first place.  :-)

Another thing I forgot was a pretty basket to display all the promo goodies I’d taken to NJ.  I took a look around the hotel room and pressed into service the lovely black box used to hold paper coffee cups, coffee pouches, teabags, sugar packets and such.  It was perfect.  I might never bother taking a basket with me again.  :-)

But you are here to read about Meredith.  So allow me to report that yes, she is alive and well–and looking awfully cute in a cowhide-print dress and red boots.  Chic with a touch of bohemian quirk.  (My conference attire, on the other hand, swing from twee to tarty and back, with very little in between.)

She is very close to finishing her next book–due out in July 2011.  The book is going to have a marriage of convenience theme and a heroine who knows her way around salty language, both of which I love.  Alas, I did not get a chance to read the manuscript, but I did get to fondle  the lucky Alpha Smart that will birth the next Meredith Duran masterpiece.

Meredith gave her very first romance writing workshop at the conference, on using backstory to shape what a character fears, and then having those deep-seated fears drive the story forward.  It was brilliant and profoundly insightful.

I give an occasional workshop on evoking emotions which advises entering a character via their deepest, darkest pain.

Fear and pain, two sides of the same coin, wouldn’t you say?  Little wonder Meredith and I see eye-to-eye on so many things.

(But as exceptional as Meredith’s workshop was, I’m afraid I am going to have to hand the best-in-show award to the one given by the one and only Anne Stuart.  I am never going to write a hero dark enough to rival Anne’s renowned antiheroes, but I went to her How to Write the Dark Romance workshop just to be nearer her barbed halo.

Anne Stuart

Okay, I went because I was curious as to just how fun and fearless she could be.  I left a squealing fangirl of her sheer awesomeness.  On my gravestone I want the epitaph: “There is only ever one Anne Stuart, but Sherry Thomas made herself into a pretty good fascimile.”

I only regret I didn’t invite myself up to her room to see the pig.)

And wouldn’t you know, Meredith promised that after she’s done with the current manuscript, she’s going to blog on a regular basis.  I can’t wait.  Meredith has one of the most immense and satisfying minds around.

Which was why I was saddened that she left the conference right after the book signing on Saturday.  But if her going home sooner is going to produce the next Meredith Duran oeuvre sooner, then I must do my part for romance and let her go.  :-)

Let’s see, what else?  If you have the chance, definitely attend the NJRWA conference.  It is run with wonderful vigor and efficiency.  Robyn Carr gave a great speech on her 30-years-in-the-making overnight success.  (We got to sit at conference chair Miriam Allenson’s table; she was on the opposite end of the table from us, but it was a thrill getting a special seating asignment!)  Virginia Kantra showed me the Roman woman strut–definitely ask her to tell you the story should you be lucky enough to run into her.  And the one and only Anne Stuart sat down next to me toward the end of the book signing and said, “I hear you write pretty racy books.”

Folks, at that  moment I’d have admitted to writing anything, least of all racy books!

And at the booksellers’ luncheon I met Stacey Agdern, who works at the bookstore at Grand Central Station.  I really can’t think of a cooler place on earth!  Here’s me, Stacey (r), and Kate Garrabrant (l), who is more familiarly known as Katiebabs around the romance blogosphere.

And this, just because it’s the next picture in my camera, the tableau Senior Kidlet arranged before the house.  The Great Pumpkin Pickaxe Massacre.  Pretty good way to salvage a destroyed jack-o-lantern, I say.  :-)

Written on Your Skin: And You Call This a Book Launch?

I know, I know.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  Today Meredith’s long-awaited WRITTEN ON YOUR SKIN hits the shelves and we’ve nothing for it.  In fact, I totally forgot about it until I saw the fabulous A+ review it received at Dear Author.

So I’ll just post a video of Meredith I stumbled across on YouTube last week.

As you can see, her photos don’t do her justice and she is disgustingly gorgeous in person.  Now time for everyone to run out and get WRITTEN ON YOUR SKIN!

Not Quite Enough About Meredith

I can tell you this much.  Neither Meredith nor I planned to be on deadline so soon together.  But well, we are.  :-)

Meredith has a deadline in August.  And so do I, since 10 days ago when my agent emailed and said she wanted the first draft of the next tour-de-force done by August 1.  LOL, guess no-matter how much I deny being in the shitty-first-draft camp, I’ve been unmistakably tainted by my undeniably shitty first drafts.

Had things been different we’d hold a much grander celebration.  But now we’ll just toss this little interview out and call it a release party.  Enjoy!

You have said on this blog that you brainstorm to blaring Top 40 hits on the radio. Can you give me some examples of songs that have helped Bound by Your Touch and Written on Your Skin take shape? more »

Meredith Duran Is Here and You Should Be AFRAID!

To know Meredith Duran is to hate your own parents.

She is talented.  God, is she talented.  You could put her on the cover of a romance directly, no retouching required.  She can drink George Clooney under the table–a quality, particularly in a woman, that makes me green with envy, as a cup of hot cocoa can drink me under the table.  And she will mostly likely put a Ph.D. after her name in a couple of years, something that my shallow, snobbish soul covets, but is too lazy to do anything about.

Meredith and I have always been destined to meet and fall in mutual fangirl adoration, though neither of us knew it.  Or at least, I didn’t.  You see, we have been part of the same menage for years, both of us sharing the same critique partner, Janine of Dear Author.   But we’ve never critiqued each other–and still don’t–and I didn’t even know she existed until she won the Gather.com contest.  Upon which point, Janine excitedly mention to me this other critique partner, and I asked, sobbing, “Since when have you been cheating on me?”  :-)

(To Meredith, once and for all, I came first, I’m the chief wife, you are just the concubine!)

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