Shh… It’s Vewy Vewy Quiet. And CakeWrecks Rocks.

If you’re a regular reader here, you may have noticed I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet lately. There are a number of reasons for that, some of which I hope to share soon.

But in the meanwhile, one of my favorite non-publishing blogs, Cake Wrecks, had done a special Sunday Sweets Edition on books!

You must check it out the Reading Rocks post on Cake Wrecks. Like, right this minute would be good.

Everything is coming together! *snort*

And you’re welcome. πŸ™‚

Always a Silver Lining… The Upside of the Great Pager Swap Fiasco

If you read my last post, you might think the Great Pager Swap 2009 was all hassle and no payoff. But you’d be mistaken.

I have an unpredictable schedule that can keep me away from a computer for big chunks of time. I also have in-laws with dial-up whom we visit frequently.

Like every other author seeking representation, I don’t want to miss a reply from an agent when I can’t get online. So I set up an email filter that forwards messages with “Query” or “The Edge of Memory” in the subject to my text pager.

This works great, overall, but it did backfire on me once.

An email reply on my full manuscript was forwarded to my pager from an agent who’d requested my full after reading my partial. My pager displayed the beginning of the message:

From: Awesome Agent

Re: Requested Full Manuscript of The Edge of Memory

Dear Heather,

Thank you so much for letting me review The Edge of Memory. I’m really intrigued by the premise and definitely think it has appeal in today’s market

<snip>

As you’ve probably guessed, I thought this might be good news, but the next sentence (which didn’t make it onto my pager display) started with “However.”Β  When I finally made it back online, I was crushed.

It turned out to be a great response nonetheless, since her feedback gave me a Eureka moment that made my manuscript much stronger. But I could have done without the false hopes.

Well, my new pager displays more than twice as much text as the old one did. And I doubt any agent will beat around the bush that long before lobbing a “However” or an “Unfortunately” at me.

So, you see… there is a reason for everything. Even for the Great Pager Swap Fiasco.

Today, In a Nutshell… or Pages and Pages

Today has been an uberwacky sort of day. Here’s a little rundown of the highlights:

  1. Woke up. Late. (cuz I was up late coughing. It’s the end of a stinky virus)
  2. Scuzzled around like a madwoman and lead-footed it to work.
  3. Arrived to big banner announcing that the hospital is switching pager service providers, which means the stinging sensation deep in the ample belly of the gluteus maximus muscle will reach 10 out of 10 on the pain scale. Seriously… the task: every single pager used by every single person in the hospital needs to be collected and deactivated, and every single person must be issued a new pager, which must be programmed and updated in the paging system. All the while, making sure that everyone can be reached by SOME pager, since this is, you know, a hospital and sometimes sick people need stuff. As you might guess, this changeover is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Contemplated this process which made me cough until my head hurt.
  5. Entered the physician lounge, where lines were short, so I paged the doc I was about to take over for and suggested she come down to swap out her pager.
  6. Swapped out my pager and was given a shiny new one as they swiftly pulled the battery out of my old one, ripped the label off, and chucked it into a large box. I was told my long-range number had changed and would now be the hospital area code and pager prefix followed by “1123”
  7. Exclaimed, “I get the Fibonacci pager”
  8. Endured blank looks from pager swapper chicks.
  9. Marveled at my own geekiness.
  10. Was sent to another “station” to get my pager activated.
  11. Was told I was activated, received a test page, and congratulated myself on escaping the Great Pager Swap with minimal casualties.
  12. Flagged down the other doc when she arrived to switch out her pager. Bear in mind, she’d been working for over 24 hours. She gave the Pager Swapper Princesses the pediatric admit pager by mistake. (The pediatric admit pager is carried by the senior resident most of the time, but when the residents are unavailable because of lecture or rounds or whatever, we cover for pediatric admissions to the hospital.)
  13. Watched her eyes widen to improbable size when she realized her mistake, by which time the pediatric admit pager was de-batteried, stripped of all labels and chucked into the Big Box o’Pagers with no identifying marks.
  14. Assumed a cheery tone as I said, “No problem! All the pagers need to be swapped out anyway. So let’s just switch your old pager for a new peds admit pager.”
  15. Felt a steely burn as the Page Swapper Princess narrowed her eyes. “We can’t do that here. We can only accept physician pagers. All the other pagers are being swapped in a room in the basement.”
  16. Pointed out she had, in fact,Β  already accepted a non-physician pager. She was not swayed.
  17. Dragged the post-call doc into the basement (since pediatric hospitalists do not leave a fallen comrade on the field), on a quest for a room neither of us had ever heard of called “The Four Seasons”
  18. Exhausted practically every hallway and was preparing to check for Narnia-wardrobe type closets when we finally found the appropriate room.
  19. Explained the situation approximately 19 times and then waited while the Pager Swapper Queen and a swarm of drones attempted to sort out the pager perplexity.
  20. Finally got upstairs to our office about an hour behind schedule, where we ran into our education director with an interview candidate. He was glad to bump into us and informed us we couldn’t be paged. As in, AT ALL.
  21. Checked the system and, indeed, no pager listed.
  22. Called the operator for help. She tried to send me on another pilgrimage to the Pager Swapper Queen, but when I protested, she told me to hold on. After a few minutes of muffled murmurs, she came back on the line. “We did something,” she said. “Try it again.”
  23. Laughed until I coughed and then coughed until my head hurt.
  24. Practically fainted when Lo and behold and gloryosky, the pager worked.

In fact, it’s been going off merrily ever since.

So, um… Yay?

U Got the Look: Novel Marketing and Prom Ensembles

Well, Prom season is upon us. You may wonder what the heck that has to do with marketing a novel. Well, I’ll tell you.

But first, I’d like to introduce this into evidence:

That’s me (with my sister) on my way to the prom circa 1992.

Now, if you’re like me, after looking at this picture, you’re rubbing your stinging nose with one hand while wiping the coffee off your laptop with the other. Which is hard to do when you’re shaking with laughter. I mean that is really quite the look, right?Β  Check out the asymmetric hair-do and the “floating pearl” necklace. Not to mention the white iridescent tights. And when you’re uberpale, the best look is almost always baby pink patterned satin over white tulle, natch.

Here’s the thing:

At the time, I thought I looked awesome. Other people thought I looked awesome, too. I overheard my date’s younger sister whining that her brother must have bribed me or something cuz OMG, she’s actually pretty!

Unfortunately, I believe writing is a bit like fashion. I finished the first draft of The Edge of Memory in 7 weeks. I did a quick grammar edit, and then shipped the manuscript off to a bevy of test readers for feedback, while I took a month away “for perspective.” (yeah, right.)

Over the next several months, I completed several major edits. I then decided I was done tinkering and ready to seek representation. I read the blogging agents mantras of “Don’t Query Before You’re Ready” and “Write a Great Book” and felt confident. I loved my manuscript. I didn’t think it was perfect, of course, but I thought I’d reached the point where I needed professional feedback to progress further.

I was both right and wrong.

Since that first stopping point (when my book was titled “Still Haunted”), I’ve done at least six more rounds of editing. And each time I finish a round of edits, I cringe to look at the previous drafts. Just like that prom picture, I look at those versions and wonder, “what the heck I was thinking?”

In February, an agent who had requested a partial and then my full manuscript pointed out a plot detail that bothered her. She gave me a eureka moment and I subsequently rewrote several scenes. I am very pleased with the resulting manuscript, and have not edited again since (which, of course, shatters my previous record of approximately nine minutes between edits). I think this time I finally have reached the most polished version I can produce.

Naturally, I wish I had known that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was when I first began querying. But then, I’m not sure I would have reached this place without the submission process. Certainly, I might never have had the eureka moment without that agent’s input.

The take-home point here is that I’m glad I’ve never been a Query Player (much as I’ve tried). If I had queried a zillion agents when I first thought my manuscript was ready, I’d have burned all my bridges.

But since I’ve only queried a few agents at a time, I’ve got a chance to show my best work. And I’m grateful for that.

This one time… at band camp…

Okay, I never actually went to band camp.

But I was in a band.

No, not that sort of band. A supercool 80’s rock band, circa 1987.

Of course, we had no musical training whatsoever, unless you count forcing my 7-year-old cousin to show me what she’d learned in piano lessons for the previous 2 years. One of us was slightly tone deaf. And we had no instruments, save my beloved casio keyboard/calculator (about 12 inches long):

BUT…

We were thirteen years old…
One blonde, one brunette, AND one redhead…
who had watched Dirty Dancing at least 100 times and memorized all the dance moves.

AND

We had an original song– music and lyrics composed by yours truly.

I KNOW! How could we not have made it?

Perhaps it was because we only performed in my best friend’s basement. Alone. Or maybe it was because we never quite hit on the right combination of jelly bracelets and legwarmers. I’m afraid the world may never know.

Sadly, (or perhaps not-so-sadly) I don’t have the capacity to add the original tune to my wordpress blog. However, you may rest assured that Mr. Kiddoc feels it was perfectly representative of the time period and could have been a HUGE hit in 1987.

So I present for your amusement,

It’s a Fantasy

It’s a fantasy
That I dream each night
I envision you
Holding me tight.
If you’d take a chance
Like I wish you’d do
Then my fantasy
Could be coming true (It’s coming true!)

Chorus:

It’s a fantasy
It’s my hopes and dreams
You’re the one for me
This I know
Tonight I’ll wish upon a star
And wherever you are
I hope you feel my love
for you forever

Cuz in my fantasy
We are lovers, you and I
And you say that we’ll
Be together ’til we die
You will notice me
On that magic day
And you’ll say to me
Those three words I wish you’d say.

(Repeat chorus)

It’s a fantasy
It’s a fantasy
It’s a fantasy*

(* the last one should be whispered for dramatic effect, natch.)

So… now for the audience participation:

Guess the NAME of my band. Alternative names may be suggested in the comments. πŸ˜‰

When Query Met Sadly: Can Agents and Aspiring Authors Really Be Friends?

This something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in the wake of Agentfail fallout regarding agents making themselves (as people, not just as agents) accessible online.

Because in the course of “establishing an online presence,” I’ve encountered quite a few agents who are funny and fabulous. People whom I enjoy interacting with as much as any of my online contacts (or, as Mr. Kiddoc calls them, my imaginary friends).

But it gets a bit tricksy sometimes. If any of my other online contacts posted they were having a bad day, I wouldn’t hesitate to try to cheer them up. I would use tongue-in-cheek humor without reservation. But when it’s an agent-type person, I worry I’ll seem insincere. I wouldn’t need a motive, ulterior or otherwise, to do these things. But I can’t deny that I do have a motive, shading my every action with personal gain.

It’s almost a consolation prize to have received rejections from a couple of these agenty peeps. Of course, I am disappointed not to be working with them, but at least I don’t feel cloying if I tell them when they crack me up or post something particularly helpful.

And all of this musing reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, which I now present for you with a few minor word substitutions:

Query Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Agent: Why not?
Query Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that aspiring authors and agents can’t be friends because the representation part always gets in the way.
Sally Agent: That’s not true. I have a number of aspiring author friends and there is no representation involved.
Query Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Agent: Yes I do.
Query Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Agent: Yes I do.
Query Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Agent: You’re saying I’m representing these authors without my knowledge?
Query Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to be represented by you.
Sally Agent: They do not.
Query Burns: Do too.
Sally Agent: They do not.
Query Burns: Do too.
Sally Agent: How do you know?
Query Burns: Because no author can be friends with an agent that reps his or her genre. He always wants to be represented by her.
Sally Agent: So, you’re saying that an author can be friends with a agent who doesn’t?
Query Burns: No. You pretty much want to sign with them too.
Sally Agent: What if THEY don’t want to represent YOU?
Query Burns: Doesn’t matter because the representation thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

But, Twittering/Blogging Agents, I like you for your minds, I swear.

Here’s to friendship anyway!

I Have Finally ARRIVED!

I received a google alert for my book title, The Edge of Memory, this morning. The link led to a chatboard discussion comparing various social networking sites.

At first, I thought the alert was related to the series of Social Networking posts I’ve started on the Querytracker Blog. But then I remembered the flag was on my book title, not my name. So I followed the link and snooped around.

Hmmm… nothing about me or my book that I could see… just someone complaining that he didn’t have enough memory to run a particular social networking site.

And then I saw it. My book title, linking to my ABNA entry.

That’s right. Thanks to Amazon.com, I’ve become a stealth ad, triggered by the keyword memory.

Awesome.

Empathyfail: A Writer-Doctor’s Thoughts on Agentfail

If you’re the sort of person that reads my blog, chances are outrageously high that you have heard all about Queryfail and Agentfail. I’ve read all 230+ comments on the BookEnds post.

And what struck me most about the more angry comments posted there was the lack of understanding. I hate the crickets treatment as much as the next writer, but despite the fact that, indeed, it would take only a few seconds to send a reply, I understand why some agents can’t do that.

It’s true… if an agent reads a query and knows instantly that the project is not for them, it would take only a few seconds to paste a rejection. But if they waffle just a bit, they might not want to reject it instantly. Maybe a day or two later, one of those not-instant-rejections will stick out as something that interests them after all. Keeping track of every yes, no, and maybe can quickly get overwhelming, as any bride can tell you. Since the default response is “no” regardless of the agent’s policy, I can understand why a no-reply-means-no policy is the path of least resistance, given the numbers of queries received. Don’t get me wrong… I greatly prefer to receive a response, and certainly favor agents who take the time to respond, but I understand the ones who don’t.

Perhaps the gripes that hit home the hardest for me were those where people complained about agents tweeting or blogging about things like snack foods and reality TV, arguing that these agents had no right to be behind in responding to queries and manuscripts if they had time for such trivialities.

Yikes. I have been on the other end of this argument too many times. I totally get this. As a physician, I have worked crazy hours for over a decade. I frequently work through meals, go without sleep. On several occasions, when I’ve taken a break to run to the bathroom or down a cup of coffee, I’ve had family members chastise me.

“Glad to see you’ve got your coffee, Doc, while we’ve been waiting here for an hour.”

And I get it. I get that they’re frustrated, cuz they’ve entrusted their kids to my care and all they want is for someone to give them an answer on what’s going on and what to expect. A cup of coffee seems unbearably trivial when you’re worried about someone you love.

And so I put things like coffee and meals, my own medication when I’m ill, etc. on hold a lot of the time, but I can’t do it always. I know that sometimes I need a few minutes or a graham cracker or something to keep my stamina up, or I won’t be any good at my job in the first place.

A lot of writers love their books like children, so I understand the frustration and the desperation. But, you know… we’re writers. We’re also supposed to be better than the average bear at putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Agents need to look after their own needs… which includes indulging on occasion. No one can work every second and be good at what they do.

I’m not saying agents or writers are perfect, cuz heaven knows none of us are, but I do think we deserve to try to understand each other a little better.

Back on the Chain Gang: Heart to Heart

This round of the blog chain has gone all creative-writing-assignment.

The topic, chosen by Jessica Verday:

I’ve chosen to put all of you writers to the test and am throwing down the challenge to…WRITE! I want a short story. (Mine is 250 words. Feel free to write one hundred, three hundred, five hundred…whatever! words)

Mary Lindsey was before me and I’ll be the last link this round.

Now the last time I wrote a short story, was the last time I actually had a creative writing assignment. Read: high school. Short stories are not my medium, but here goes:

Shape of a Heart

Brice patted the lump in his jacket pocket as his eyes darted to the entry once more. Any minute now. A drizzle of cold perspiration crept down his right side. Maybe he should have rented a tux, but then Desiree would guess for sure and Brice would never live that down.

He threw back the rest of his gimlet and then sucked on an ice cube as he waved at the waiter for another drink. The waiter whisked the empty glass away just in time.

Desiree stood posed in the entryway, the slender straight-away of her long legs drawing his eyes to the gentle slope of her hips. She slid soundlessly across the room, her dark curls barely daring to bounce. At the table next to Brice’s, a man made a hollow sound and bent to rub his shin, revealing familiar daggers in the eyes of the woman who’d done the kicking. If Desiree hadn’t told Brice herself that he should propose, he would never have believed she’d say ‘yes’ to someone like him. But she did tell you, he reminded himself, so what are you so nervous about?

Brice leapt to his feet to pull back her chair as she wafted towards his table. “You look beautiful as always.” He kissed her cheek and adjusted the chair as she settled into place.

Her lips permitted a slight curve. “That hardly gives a woman cause to make special effort.”

He cringed as he slid into his own seat. “Now, honey, you know that’s not what I meant…”

“Especially when her boyfriend shows up in the same brown designer knock-off suit as every Friday night for the last six months.”

“I thought you liked this suit.” His collar had shrunk at least an inch. He wiped his hands on his pants.

Her large diamond pendant flashed candlelight in her cleavage as she leaned over to look through her lashes at him. “I said I liked you out of that suit.”

He smiled as he shifted in his seat. “Well, this is a nice restaurant. They require pants. So we’ll just have to wait until after dinner.”

“So let’s order.”

He exhaled as her eyes disappeared behind the menu. All he had to do now was keep her in a good mood until dessert.

*

Brice hardly touched his chicken piccata. Actually, he didn’t care for chicken; he’d just gotten used to ordering whatever was inexpensive. Desiree raised one dark eyebrow like the blade of a scythe as she wriggled her seafood fork deep in her lobster tail. She’d be ready for dessert soon. Slipping his hand into the lumpy pocket, he felt the soft heart-shaped velvet box roll into his palm. He perched his fist on his knee and his fingers clamped until his knuckles hurt. His tongue felt too big for his mouth and he took a gulping sip of his wine.

Desiree’s eyes settled on his loaded plate. “If there’s something wrong with your food you should send it back.”

“No, it’s fine.” Brice stabbed a large hunk of meat and packed it into his mouth. “It’s delicious.” He struggled to speak normally with his lips stretched tight over his full mouth. “Perfect,” he meant to say, but the meat lodging in his windpipe snuffed the sound. Not now! He forced a smile as he twisted his fingers into an “OK.”Β  No way was he coughing that thing out in front of Desiree… especially not with her engagement ring in his lap. He kept the ring out of sight as he shot to his feet and Desiree’s eyebrows rose almost as quickly. Fighting the burning tightness in his throat, he held one finger aloft and nodded towards the restrooms before walking away.

He could feel Desiree’s eyes searing the back of his head as he entered the men’s room. Deserted. His chest and belly spasmed as he gave in to the urge to cough. Silence. Setting the velvet heart on the counter, he caught his own wide eyes in the mirror as his shoulders shook in silent convulsions. His face was red as his tie. Balling his hands into fists, he plunged them into his belly, pushing up as hard as he could, but the chicken wouldn’t dislodge. He felt dizzy. His face blazed purple. He fingered the cell phone in his pocket, but how could he call when he couldn’t talk? His eyes darted to the door, still stubbornly closed. Didn’t anyone ever use the bathroom in this place?

He knew he should return to the dining room where someone could help him, but Desiree would never let him forget something like that. He had to find a way to get it out himself. His lungs were filling with sands and pin-pricks swarmed over his legs like fire ants. He couldn’t make it back to the dining room if he tried. The edges of his vision faded to black as his gaze tunneled on the heart-shaped box clamshelled open with the 4-carat ring inside.

Desiree had said three carats minimum. The same day she suggested he switch majors from music to business. His vision narrowed to a pinpoint on the flash of the diamond, the clearest diamond the jeweler had available. But even under the jewelry store lighting, the stone hadn’t sparkled like this and that’s how Brice knew he was dying. He grabbed at it like a toddler at a soap bubble. Each facet reflected images from the last few months: his guitar in a box for Goodwill, the look in Boomerang’s eyes when Brice left him at his brother’s.

Brice wondered how long it would be until they found him, dead on the marble floor with the ring in his fist. He pictured Desiree’s face smooth like powdered sugar when she saw him. “Such a shame,” she’d say as she reached for his hand. “This wasn’t what I wanted at all. The cut is all wrong.”

Enough! What am I thinking?

Pushing against the cold porcelain of the sink, he hoisted himself from his slump. He staggered towards the hazy charcoal lines that he knew must be the bathroom stalls, dropping the ring box at the base of the commode. The toilet seat seemed glued in place as he ripped it up and then belly flopped, driving the edge of the toilet seat into his diaphragm. He heard a slap and a plink as the ball of chicken bounced against the wall and landed in the toilet. Sucking in the sweet coolness of air, he leaned against the cold metal wall of the stall, panting. He pulled a few sheets of toilet paper from the roll and mopped his forehead. “That was close.” His voice scratched.

The wheeze of his cell phone echoed through the bathroom. Brice wiped his watering eyes with the heel of his hand and read the Caller ID: Dave.

“Hello?”

“So are you and your hottie girlfriend engaged yet, bro?”

“Nope.” Brice cleared his throat. “And I don’t think we’re going to be.”

“What happened? Chicken out again?”

Brice’s eyes darted from the box, its jaws open like a carnivorous plant, to the ball of meat in the toilet. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.” He grinned. “I chickened out.”

Brice chuckled quietly as he hung up. Then laughter shot out of him with more force than that stupid piece of chicken. Chicken out… it was ridiculous. He pounded his fist against the wall of the stall as his whoops bounced off the walls. When he finally managed to stop laughing, he smoothed his jacket and straightened his tie. Desiree would be ready to pitch a fit he’d kept her waiting so long. Reaching for the ring, he snapped the box closed and tucked it back into his pocket. He couldn’t wait to see what kind of fit she’d pitch when she found out he was leaving her.

Maybe he’d show her the ring first.

Gather ’round, Peeps! Tis the season…

The season to enjoy one of my all-time favorite websites, that is.

The Peeps Research site is deliciously entertaining evidence of what happens when awesomely funny medical students meet extreme boredom (with tasty marshmallow chickens).

The effects of smoking and drinking on Peeps cracks me up.

But my heart will always belong to the attempt to separate the conjoined Peep quintuplets.

You’re welcome. =)

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist

I feel like the father on A Christmas Story: “I’ve won a major award!”

If you’re the sort of folk who reads my blog, you are probably well acquainted with the ABNA contest. For 2009, Amazon accepted up to 10,000 entries of finished novels in February.

They narrowed the entries down to 2,000Β  on the basis of the Pitch (basically the meat of a query letter). Excerpts of the 2000 novels were then reviewed and scored before the 500 quarterfinalists were announced.

And The Edge of Memory was one of those 500 novels.

At this point, the contest gets a bit American Idolish… the quarterfinalist excerpts are posted on Amazon.com for Amazon customers to review. Based on these reviews and a formal score/review of the full manuscript by Publisher’s Weekly, the entries will be cut to 100 semifinalists on April 15th.

So, if you have the time and inclination to read and review my entry, I’d greatly appreciate it. You can download the excerpt here, and then click “Create your own review” to leave your thoughts and star-rating (the button to leave a review is on the right side of the page, just below the “Customer Reviews” heading.

The Doctor is In. In Deep Smit, that is…

Friday again. Yippee!

And this week I am deeply smitten with my awesome blog readers. As you probably know, I’ve been co-authoring the QueryTracker.net blog since December. I’ve recently started a feature there answering writers’ medical questions for their works of fiction.

It’s been a heck of a lot of fun, and the questions are now starting to roll in, which is very exciting.

So big thanks to everyone who’s already jumped in to get the ball rolling. And thanks to those of you who plan to send in your questions later, too.

Talk to Me: In Deep Smit (03-06-09)

So… um… it’s Friday again. Actually, it’s been Friday more than once now. I think with my posting on the QueryTracker.net blog, my In Deep Smit posts will become more biweekly-ish.

But I definitely have something I’m deeply smitten with to share this week.

I’m in the middle of another manuscript revision. An agent who loved my partial and requested my full manuscript identified a plot point that didn’t work for her later in the story. Her comment gave me a eureka moment for a small backstory change that I believe makes the novel stronger.

I rewrote the chapters primarily affected, and now I’m finishing a detailed line edit to make sure I haven’t missed any inconsistencies along the way.

And since I’m going through word by word, I figured I’d take the opportunity to tighten my manuscript wherever possible.

Now, you might think this post would be about the agent who inspired the idea. And I am indeed, deeply grateful toΒ  her for her time and insight. But the object of my affection for discussion today is the Narrator tool on my PC.

I had heard that text-to-voice software was included on most recent PC’s, but I’d never bothered looking up how to use it before. I find reading aloud to be a great editing tool, but have noticed that when I read from my manuscript, I sometimes miss problems like missing or repeated words anyway because I know what the text is supposed to say and my brain corrects it without my noticing.

I wanted something that would read my text to me, so I looked up where to find the preinstalled software.

And there she was… Microsoft Anna, the robotic narrator, hiding under “Ease of Access” in my “Accessories” folder.

Together, Anna and I have obsessed over each word of the first 3/4 of my manuscript. Despite frequent careful editing by myself and hundreds of beta readers, I still found a few small typos. I’ve also found a few overuse quirks, like my apparent fondness for starting dialogue lines with “Well,” which each of my characters indulged to some extent.

Hands down, this is the best edit I’ve done. So I’m deeply smitten with Microsoft Anna, and I’m not afraid to shout that to the blogosphere. πŸ™‚

Now, if you don’t mind… Anna and I would like to be alone for a while. πŸ˜‰

An Open Market: Back on the Chain Gang

So someone needs to start off the next round for the blog chain gang.

So all of us on this blog chain gang have worked feverishly on what needs to be done before a novel gets published. Some of us are quite close to publication, including the next link in our chain, Jessica Verday whose debut novel The Hollow will be released later this year. But lately I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the work that needs to be done during and after publication.

Besides writing new stuff, of course.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about marketing.

Now, many aspiring authors I’ve encountered dread the idea of marketing. So you might think I’m getting ahead of myself, but I see this as sort of like wedding planning.

I mean, after all, I’m going to notify all my family and friends of the date when I’ll finally be able to walk down the aisle (of the bookstore) and hold my handsome love (whom I’ve been seriously involved with for a year or two) in my arms.

So why wait until I’m officially “engaged” to start planning?

But seriously, I don’t think it can possibly be too early to start thinking of ways to market your project. Although certainly a publisher might have different ideas and choose to go in another direction, but it can’t hurt to have your own plan developed and ready to go.

So, blog chain buddies…

What plans do YOU have to market your novel? How will you make sure the public finds your work?

(Pssst, gang… this would be an ideal time to show us your book trailer, if you have one)

Naturally, I plan to use the tried-and-true marketing methods (guest blogging, conferences, maximizing my online presence, bookmarks, etc.), but I also have a couple of ideas I’m very excited about that are specific to The Edge of Memory.

First of all, my novel features a silver charm bracelet, which my protagonist discovers with the hidden letter from her birth mother. For a contest prize, I would like to create a similar bracelet. I would also have some less pricey prizes available. To enter the contest, people would have to view my book trailer.

Speaking of book trailers, I already have a mock-up one:

When the time comes, however, I will produce a professional version. And I’m especially excited about that, as my diverse group of test readers includes photographers, actors, musicians, make-up artists/stylists, and an amazing videographer. They might even give me a discount. πŸ™‚

But the idea I’m really excited about doesn’t involve flashy trailers or prizes. It involves a concept I think will help generate interest with a specific group of readers: book clubs.

Book clubs usually involve three main activities: reading the book, discussing the book, and EATING. So all the better if I can create a food connection to my novel, right?

My protagonist Beatrice cooks when she’s stressed… and I gave her a lot to stress about. So there are a few dialogue passages where she’s preparing a meal during the conversation.

A friend of mine runs a fabulous cooking blog (seriously amazing… more drool-worthy pictures than most mortals can handle) and has graciously agreed to some guest blogging with recipes for the meals my character prepares.

How much fun is that? I’m anxious to cook them myself.

Anyway, I’m excited to hear how the rest of the gang envisions themselves marketing their novels. And our next blog chainer will have extra cool insights, since marketing her debut novel is not just a fantasy for Jessica Verday.

I Need a Hero…

Yesterday as I drove in to work for a meeting, I found myself behind a beat-up white Lancer. The driver caught my notice with the pointy silhouette of his sweatshirt-hooded head.

His reflection in the rear-view mirror revealed oversized sunglasses. My eyes drifted to his license plate which read: SUPRDV

And suddenly I understood… clearly, I had stumbled upon a secret identity.

No worries, Super Dave… your secret is safe with me.

Oh… wait…