Category: Mortal Path
Posted by: Dakota

Dark Time Cover

Dark Time's lovely cover has been nominated in a cover art contest! It would be so cool to win the cover art contest hosted by All Things Urban Fantasy! New for 2009, the contest offers up to five choices in each of fifteen categories. Voting is open from December 1-31. Seeing all these gorgeous covers collected in one spot is eye candy overload!

Visit and scroll down until you find Dark Time under Best Debut (New Author/Series/Standalone). You can vote in any/all of the other categories too!

Can I bribe you with turkey leftovers?
Category: Mortal Path
Posted by: Dakota
... of dawn, that is. I'm pushing hard on finishing book two of the Mortal Path series. My natural tendency to write at night is spilling over into the time when most people are hitting the snooze buttons on their alarms.

Did you know that the hour before dawn is the best for listening to bird song? That time when gray is dominant and sounds are muted, and even the wind takes a rest, seems to have special appeal to our avian friends. I love catching this early morning free concert.

The past few mornings the windows have been closed and the air conditioner humming, so at the end of my writing day I'm listening to energy use. We're in a fierce heat wave here in St. Louis, with the heat index around 110 and no relief in site this week.

All that heat puts me in the mood to write about the desert. The real stuff, not the namby-pamby deserts we have in the U.S. This is book two's epigraph:

In this desert there are a great many evil spirits
and also hot winds; those who encounter them
perish to a man. There are neither birds above
nor beasts below. Gazing on all sides as far as
the eye can reach in order to mark the track, no
guidance is to be obtained save from the
rotting bones of dead men, which point the way.

—Chinese monk Fa Xian describing the
Taklimakan Desert, 5th century

This is a great quote, because it not only describes a real desert used as a location in the book, but the writing process that produces the book. Evil spirits surely are what lead me down unproductive paths and result in tossed scenes. The birds and beasts are helpful friends who want to meddle with the story and are banished. Marking the track--trying to plan what comes ahead in the story--is surely a task best left to dead men. And as for the hot winds, that can go two ways. One would be the overblown prose to be viciously stomped out. The other would be the sex scenes, probably the hardest thing to write so they don't come out sounding corny. Throbbing members on aisle 5.

So, epitaph as metaphor. I need more sleep. No, make that more words written.
Category: Writing Tips
Posted by: Dakota
Advice abounds on the web for aspiring writers trying to get an agent or get published. A great deal of angst and energy is expended leading up to the signing of the book contract. What then? What's beyond the curtain? Let's take a peek.

I can tell you that it isn't all putting your feet up and waiting for the accolades to roll in. You'll be plunged into the work on your next book and the ever-growing work on the business of writing. Here's an outline of a theoretical (but grounded in reality) year after the contract is signed.

You sign a book contract December 31, 2008!
Here’s what you have to look forward to in the months to come.

January 2009

Send your agent a thank you card or gift.
In rare cases your acquiring editor will assign a new editor to work with you - if so, introduce yourself and establish a working relationship.
Begin work on any revisions your editor has requested.
Begin collecting a mailing list of bookstores and individuals for promotion.
Supply any needed permissions to editor for quotes used inside your manuscript.
Continue working on the proposal for your next book, which will be done under a deadline.
Contact possible sources of jacket quotes for permission to send a manuscript to them. Be bold. Ask members of writing organizations you belong to. Be sure you're selecting writers whose work is similar to yours.

» Read More

05/31/09: A Day in the Life

Category: Everything Else
Posted by: Dakota
First, the random line from Dark Time:

She let her rented Taurus take her to the airport, driving on automatic as she mulled over the unusual experience of having someone within arm’s length drop dead, and she hadn’t done it.

I have strange habits as a writer. I know this because when the subject of "What's your day like?" comes up when I'm in a group of writers, I keep my mouth shut and listen to others answer. I've learned this because when I did speak up, there was usually silence followed by questions directed at the other authors.

I used to be a morning person, but writing changed all that. Now I consider myself lucky if I can answer a routine email by 1pm. So here's how it goes, from noon to noon.

At noon, I'm probably asleep. When the need to take care of natural bodily functions wake me (I implied that this wasn't pretty, and now I've confirmed it), I roll out of bed, my eyes blinking at the insult of daylight. I read the comics section of my local newspaper, squinting at the ever-smaller print and pictures. Two cups of coffee land in my stomach during this time. Caffeine molecules try to outdo each other in terms of stimulating my head to stay erect. Sounds vaguely naughty, but for the caffeine it is a serious challenge.

» Read More

Category: Writing Tips
Posted by: Dakota
Many new writers (and some experienced ones) approach the synopsis grudgingly and with a certain dread. Many times it is left as the last task to do after the manuscript is completed, and is only attempted because an editor or agent has requested one. If that's your attitude, try to cultivate a better one. A synopsis can be a great help in two respects: as a road map and as a sales tool.

If you were planning a driving trip across the US, your personality would dictate how you'd set out. If you were a meticulous planner, you'd have a large number of maps, both broad and detailed, and mark your route with orange marker. You'd have all the hotel stops and sights to see marked out, and you'd have that 30,000 mile service done on your car a couple of weeks in advance. All your hotel reservations would be lined up in a row, and you might even have a daily schedule. A more relaxed traveler might get a USA map, study it the day before the trip, and have a general idea how many miles to traverse each day. The free spirited traveler would wake up one morning, hop in the car, and decide whether to drive east or west.

Writing a novel is a lot like taking a long trip and the synopsis is your trip planner. You're aiming for the middle of the spectrum, the relaxed traveler. A synopsis should be your road map, but not constrain you so that you have no creative freedom along the way. There should be plenty of opportunities to get off the Interstates and mellow out on the country roads.

» Read More

Category: Mortal Path
Posted by: Dakota
I received my copies of the ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of Dark Time and they look terrific! Almost like holding the real book in my hand, except that the real book will have an embossed foil cover. I also found out that each chapter begins with a small scale design, which I thought was a nice touch. The text inside is fairly clean, thanks to the hard work of my copyeditor Ellen Leach and proof editor Will Hinton. A typical example of an error in the ARC is this, from page 206:

She pulled the car inside the barn and left with her the covert entry kit she’d assembled.

Errors like that are a reflection of changes in the author’s thought process which are tough to spot when reading the book for the 15th time and pass a spelling check.

This picking out a sentence business has gotten me interested in looking through the book for sentences that are interesting when taken out of context. Here’s an example.

The government agents would have to explain how an intruder had gotten past them so easily, and how they ended up with their hands and feet tied and their service revolvers boiling merrily away in the stockpot on the stove. – pg 15

Notable for its length of 40 words, so it might also be the longest sentence in the book.

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04/20/09: Welcome!

Category: Mortal Path
Posted by: Dakota
I'm here to share my thoughts about Maliha Crayne and the Mortal Path series, about writing and selling books, and everything else. And to listen with ears wide open to you, readers. If you ask a question here, you'll get an honest answer, which is my idea of sharing--no holding back. If I were you, I'd avoid politics. You'll get more sharing than you could possibly want. My excuse is that I'm genetically predisposed. Okay, I know that's not good science.

Without you there is no Maliha Crayne, except in my mind. I'm so captivated with her and her quest for redemption that I want to keep writing about her for a long time. I hope it works out that way. I can picture Maliha dolls in costumes from all over the world and time periods dating back to the 17th century, with little girls happily braiding her hair and little boys perhaps interested in her, uh, tattoo.

Dark Time, the first book in the series, will be released on July 28th from HarperCollins/Eos. You can check out the rest of my website to learn about the book and the concepts behind it. Links to my site are in the column on the right. You can pre-order Dark Time from many different sources. I think that's a fine idea, don't you?