Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is it the end of the year already?

2008 has flown by! I can't believe tomorrow is New Year's Eve. It seems like just last week it was Thanksgiving. I can't complain, though. This has been my best year as a writer yet. I survived my first attempt at copy writing, I had two short stories published (one in print, one online), and I signed my first contract (ever) with The Wild Rose Press. I've survived editing and galleys, something that wasn't nearly as painful or difficult as I'd expected. I received my first cover--and I still think Nicola Martinez is one of the most amazing cover artists out there!

With such a great year, I can hardly wait to see what 2009 brings. I already know I'll have to learn more about promoting my work; my rosette is being released July 1. I'm determined to learn XHTML so I can update my own website rather than having to rely on my generous big brother to do it for me. He's already a busy man, and with his first baby due in March, I have no doubt he's going to be even busier. I also want to learn to use Joomla! if I can, because it looks like an awesome program and I'm sure it would make updating my website even easier. Unfotunately, from what I hear, Joomla! can be very confusing and a lot of people have given up on trying to figure out how to use it.

So, what are my New Year's resolutions for 2009? I'm not sure yet. I'll think about it, and post them on Thursday--New Year's Day.

Have a great end of 2008, and I'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope you’re all enjoying the day with your family and friends, celebrating the true reason for the holiday: the birth of Christ. Yes, all of the celebrations, gift-giving, etc. are fun, but we also need to praise God that He gave us His Son to pay for our sins. And even though December 25 is the one day of the year that Christ most likely was not born on, it still serves as a reminder that He was born and spent his entire life giving to others. By dying on the cross at the age of thirty-three, He gave all of mankind the ultimate gift: the gift of eternal life. All we have to do is accept that gift and invite Him into our hearts.

As my gift to you, and as a reminder of the loving sacrifice of Christ, here’s a pattern I came up with for a crocheted cross. It’s a simple design that’s great for beginners doesn’t take long to make. I used black acrylic yarn and a size G hook (because that’s what I had handy at the time), but you can use whatever color and type of yarn you want. Make sure the hook is the right size for the yarn, and remember that a large hook and bulkier yarn will make a larger cross while a small hook with thinner yarn will make a smaller one.

The pattern is written with the following standard abbreviations:

ch = chain
hdc = half-double crochet
sl st = slip stitch
st = stitch

Every ch 2 counts as one hdc.

Without further ado, here’s the pattern for your crocheting pleasure:

Crochet Cross
by E.A. West


Ch 6, hdc in third ch from hook, hdc 2, ch 2, turn

(Hdc 3, ch 2, turn) 3 times

Fasten off

Top and Arms

Ch 4, sl st to base, sl st next three st, chain 6, turn

Hdc in third ch from hook, hdc across, ch 2, turn

Hdc across, ch 1, turn

Sl st in first 5 st, ch 2, hdc next 3 st, ch 2, turn

Hdc 3

Fasten off and weave in ends.

This pattern is untested, so please forgive any mistakes you may find. Also, please let me know if you do find any mistakes so I can fix it and post a corrected version.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I finally have that website I’ve mentioned off and on for months! Check it out: http://eawest.mcphitty.com. I can’t take the credit for the beautiful design, however. I only provided the copy for the site. My brilliant computer science instructor brother built the site for me. He did an amazing job, and yes, I’ve told him several times how much I love it.

One of my goals is to learn XHTML (something my brother says is essential to web design). Until I do, however, my awesome brother has promised to update my site whenever necessary. All I have to do is send him new content.

My other piece of exciting news involves Dreams Do Come True, my short story contracted by The Wild Rose Press. I have a release date! Dreams Do Come True will be released July 1, 2009. I can hardly wait! Of course, I have a ton of work between now and then to learn how to promote an e-book, plus doing the actual promotion. For now, however, I’m still doing the happy dance! Learning promotion can wait until after Christmas.

Have a marvelous week and enjoy this wonderful season of giving and love!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: House of Dark Shadows

Thomas Nelson has published another excellent book, this one for teens. House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo is a wild ride of teenage angst over moving six hundred miles from everything familiar, a new house with weird vibes, and hidden rooms that lead to far-flung times and places. Fifteen-year-old Xander King is convinced his life is over when his parents decide to move the family from L.A. to a secluded small town. While house-hunting, the Kings look at a huge house surrounded by creepy woods at the end of a road. Everyone loves the place, except for Xander. In addition to being surrounded by the creepiest woods he’s ever seen, things don’t behave normally inside the house. Sounds come from the wrong direction, people aren’t where they seem to be, and the house itself makes strange noises.

The Kings move into their dream house and things get even weirder. The linen closet leads to locker one-nineteen in Pinedale Middle and Senior High School. A secret door in the upstairs hallway leads to an impossibly long hallway lined with doors—doors that lead to portals to distant places and times.

House of Dark Shadows is packed with vibrant descriptions that bring the story to life. It’s easy to get drawn into the story and experience everything along with Xander and his younger brother David. And the ending leaves the reader hanging and begging for more. As the last page says, “NOT THE END...” Thankfully, House of Dark Shadows is only Book 1 of Dreamhouse Kings, so those who are waiting in suspense to find out what happens next can read Book 2.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When it's cold outside...

...hope for snow. I love snow, as anyone who knows me can tell you. The other thing they can tell you is that I hate ice. It scares the daylights out of me when I hear an ice storm is headed my way. I've been through too many ice storms that have knocked out my power for two or more days. I don't mind power outages in warm weather, but if there's ice that means it's really cold. No power means no heat. No heat means I'm freezing my toes off. What I wouldn't give for a fireplace, wood burning stove, or pellet stove. I have a kerosene heater, so I won't freeze to death, but kerosene reeks. I'd much rather smell woodsmoke.

Okay, enough whining. If my power goes out with the ice that's coming tonight, it shouldn't be out too long (I hope). It's supposed to be close to fifty tomorrow with rain that will help melt the ice off the power lines.

Now, for something I found this morning that appeals to my sometimes warped sense of humor. Of course, it wouldn't be nearly as funny if the cow had been injured, but the cow apparently wasn't hurt. According to an Associated Press article, a British pilot making an emergency landing hit a cow. Thanks to that article, I found a video that shows it. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. For those of you animal lovers out there (like me), don't worry. The official report says the cow was "apparently uninjured."

Have a wonderful and warm weekend! If you decide to go flying, watch out for cows. They can be hard on your plane.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Celebration

Come join the fun at White Roses in Bloom! Stories, poems, recipes and more are posted every day by the authors of the White Rose line at The Wild Rose Press. The Christmas Celebration runs through the end of the month, so be sure to stop by often for new Christmas-related posts.

Have a happy Tuesday and enjoy the Christmas Celebration!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Too Cute...

To make up for yesterday's rant, and to help you get in the Christmas spirit, here's a video I'm sure you'll love:

Have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What happened to good old sweet romance?

Warning: This post is a rant based on the frustration of an author/reader (namely, me).

It’s no secret that I write inspirational and sweet romance. I also enjoy reading inspirational and sweet romances. Here’s my problem: I can’t find online groups for inspirational or sweet romance authors/readers that are active. The active romance groups...well, that’s where the rant comes in.

I joined a few romance email loops in the last couple of weeks thinking I could use the loops to promote my short story when it’s released. You know, like all the other authors on those loops. When promoting e-books, online promotion is essential. But I got some emails from these groups, including excerpts from the latest release of various romance authors. Nearly every one of the excerpts was labeled adult, explicit, graphic, or NC-17. There were quite a few labeled M/M (male/male) or m/m/f (male/male/female), and one that was labeled f/f (female/female).

Talk about an assault on my sensibilities. Yes, there are people who like that kind of thing, but as a Christian all of that goes against what I believe. I like romances as much as the next person, but what I don’t like is the graphic sex scenes that seem prevalent in so many “romances.” In some books I’ve read, I’ve had to skip over multiple scenes that were graphic about what the hero and heroine were doing. In some of them, the terms used were rather crude. There’s nothing romantic (to me) about that stuff. To me, the romance is the emotional side of the relationship, not graphic physical descriptions.

I’ve heard the saying “Sex sells” and it appears to be live and well in the romance industry. But what about those of us who prefer the love scenes to happen behind closed doors so that we don’t have to read all of those explicit descriptions? I know, there are sweet romances out there, and I appreciate the authors and publishers who have produced them, but why can the active romance groups focus on them? I would love to participate in a group or two specifically for inspirational and sweet romances. As an author, I need to find where readers of inspirational and sweet romances hang out so I can promote my work. But it seems like the word “romance” brings about two groups: those who think all romance novels are “bodice-rippers” (so far from the truth), and those who equate romance novels with hot sex scenes.

I belong to neither group. I see romance as a wonderful genre with so many possibilities for stories. They leave the reader with that warm fuzzy feeling of a happily-ever-after ending, and tug at your heartstrings all through the story. The best romances (in my mind) are the ones where the hero and heroine stay fully clothed (swimsuits are okay if there’s a beach/pool scene) and have to work to resist the temptation to strip and jump into bed together. If there is a love scene between the two of them, I don’t want to see it. To me, that’s a private moment that doesn’t need to be shown. It can be implied in so many ways without following the hero and heroine into the bedroom and giving a blow by blow description of what they’re doing.

So, here’s the question: As an inspirational and sweet romance reader and author, where do I find like-minded people? This country is so focused on sex that it can be difficult to keep the innocence (no, I don’t mean naivety) I prefer. I’m bombarded on all sides by sex (whether blatant or with innuendo) through television, movies, even music that I don’t want to read about it as well. Books are, and always have been, my escape. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding romance groups, forums, etc. that hold the same moral standards I do.

I did find one group that sounds like it’s got like-minded people in it, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also getting connected with other authors of inspirational romance. One things I’ve learned through talking with those other authors is that I’m not the only one having trouble knowing where to promote my story. We’re all in the same boat. We know the readers are out there, we just don’t know where to find them.

If you know of any inspirational or sweet romance e-groups, websites, forums, etc., please let me know so I can share it with my fellow inspirational romance authors. As I said, online promotion is essential for e-books, but you have to know where to direct that promotion.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coming up for air...only to find a world gone mad

I admit it. I've been pretty self-absorbed and out of touch for the last week or so. My life (after my brother and sister-in-law went home after Thanksgiving) has revolved around work and my own writing. Thanks to that, I wound up with four hundred or so emails yesterday that I had to wade through. Plus, the last week has been interesting/scary for the publishing world. The big publishers are having all kinds of financial difficulties. Between layoffs, reorganization, and pay freezes, it's looking pretty bleak for places like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and especially Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Christian publishers aren't immune, either. Thomas Nelson just laid off 55 people, about 10% of their employees.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a huge name in the education market, is one of the scarier looks at what's happening to publishing. A week or so ago, they announced an acquisitions freeze. That means no new contracts. Since then, it appears the acquisitions freeze doesn't affect all departments as was originally reported, but I have no doubt acquisitions will slow to barely a trickle. There are some other things going on at HMH that I haven't had a chance to catch up on, but it's not looking good for them.

I've heard of several publishing executives that have quit or been fired. Some are still in their current positions but looking at other job opportunities. The number of layoffs in the publishing industry continues to grow every week. Random House is going through a restructuring period that's dismantling Doubleday and Bantam Dell and redistributing the pieces to other divisions. Penguin and HarperCollins have put a freeze on all pay raises for now.

Yes, this is a scary time in publishing. As far as I know, nothing like this has ever happened. Everyone thought the publishing industry was somewhat immune to the economic climate, but this wacky roller coaster ride is proof that no one is immune.

However, there is some good news that's come out in the last few days. Fictionwise, a big e-book retailer, has partnered with Stanza to bring something like 40,000 titles to the iPhone. Last week, Pan Macmillian announced they've signed with Stanza as well. A couple of weeks ago, BooksOnBoard, a huge digital book and audiobook online retailer with around 270,000 titles in its catalogue, joined forces with Stanza. This is great news for e-book publishers and authors. We're gaining recognition and the world is finally taking us seriously. Between Oprah endorsing Kindle and Stanza gaining access to huge numbers of titles for the iPhone, I don't see how author organizations (*cough* RWA *cough*) can possibly look down on e-pubbed authors. We're a large community with a voice that's finally being heard.

I've known for years that publishing is an unpredicatable world full of ups and downs. I just never expected it to be this wild a ride. I'm in it for the long haul, however. No matter how scary, exasperating, or confusing this industry can be, it's where I belong.

If you want to stay up on the latest in the publishing industry, I highly recommend signing up for the free e-newsletters from Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace. You can also find a ton of information on the GalleyCat blog at mediabistro.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Patterns on the Page

I've noticed something about my writing, and thinking back over the thousands of books I've read in my lifetime, it's really not that unusual. What am I talking about, you ask? Patterns. Every author seems to have patterns in their writing that all of their stories follow, at least to a certain extent. One pattern that's prevalent in a lot of my writing, especially in the YA written under a pseudonym, is this: girl is in bad situation, girl moves (sometimes to non-custodial parent, sometimes to foster/adoptive family), life improves. I know that sounds really dull, but that's my formula that I can't seem to get away from. Now, out of that I can come up with dozens of unique stories.

How does that work? Well, it's kind of like the romance formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Sounds boring until you look at all the thousands of romance novels out there that are unique and great reads. Just because there's a formula doesn't mean all the stories are identical; only the underlying pattern is the same. You can have an endless number of plots that are at opposite ends of the imagination, yet they follow the same basic pattern.

I guess it's kind of like the old saying that there aren't any new ideas, only new ways to write them. Following a formula is the same way. It's the same old pattern written in a new way. And that new way is what makes great books.

Don't worry if all of your writing follows a pattern. Write the story in your heart. Make it as unique as possible, and embrace your own personal writing formula. Changing the formula that works for you is like trying to change your handwriting: yes, it's possible to do, but you're likely to have an awkward mess that doesn't look natural to anyone.