Monday, May 27, 2013

Chatting with my Editor Part 4

This is the last post in this series of chats with my editor.  If you want to read Parts 1 to 3, scroll down through my blog :)

At the end of Part 3, I asked Mary-Theresa this question: After the cover and copy are finalized, how much do you get involved with the marketing and publicity of my books?

MTH: That’s the part that I have the least input with and it can be nerve-wracking! Luckily we have a talented marketing and PR group who take the titles to the sales force, discuss where to advertise, what signings to support, how and where to position the title and arrange for blogging tours and interviews. I’m there for backup to talk up the story as needed, review some of the print materials, and talk to whoever needs me! But once I’ve turned in the last bit, I need to let go and hopefully just communicate the information between author and marketing/PR and do all I can to support both sides of the equation.

I need to remember that my focus is now on getting the author to work on the next title and make sure it’s equally fabulous! I will do what I can to support the author and be available for questions, but it’s out of my hands. Probably because each editor would be jumping up and down demanding all attention on her author and title! We all trust the other departments to do their best for each title, and I think we’ve got a great group working for MIRA (and TEEN and LUNA and all the other imprints!)

Bookmark for promotion
Maria—how do you balance the PR with an individual title and the needs of the next book and your personal life as well?

MVS: That's a good question! It's very hard to balance PR with writing and my family. With keeping up with my social media sites, my website, my email newsletter, my contests, blog, setting my event schedule, printing bookmarks, and responding to emails, I could easily spend over forty hours a week just on promoting my books. When my book is first released, it can be overwhelming and I've a hard time getting my writing done for the next book - especially when my book comes out in the US, UK and Australia all at the same time!

In order to balance my time, I've made a few decisions.  I don't tweet and I only use Facebook and Goodreads for promotion, and they're linked to my blog. I limit my time answering emails and I've hired my sister-in-law to keep track of the readers who enter my contests. I only blog a couple times a week (unless I'm close to a deadline, then there won't be any posts that month), and I send my newsletter out quarterly (instead of bi-monthly).  My poor website is update quarterly as well.

Since my new contract is for 4 books to be written in 3 years, I've cut back on my events (book signings, conferences, etc...) and I've cut back on writing short stories (for now!), and I'm not mentoring as many Seton Hill students.  Mostly so I have time for my family.

Right now my day looks something like this: Wake up around noon, eat breakfast and then work on promotion/emails/articles/Seton Hill. My kids come home around 3 pm and I cook dinner and do the mom/taxi thing until they go to bed around 10 pm. Then I write until 3 am and go to sleep. This schedule really works for me and I'm able to get my new book written while still having time to promote my other stories.

Thanks for chatting with me Mary-Theresa!  Working with you all these years has been a true pleasure and I hope we continue to be partners for years to come.  You're not allowed to retire until I do ;>

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chatting with my Editor Part 3

For those just tuning in - I've been posting a chat with my editor of nine years!  To read part 1, click here:  and to read part 2, click here:

MTH: And while the manuscript bits are happening, we're also trying to find the perfect cover and copy to represent the book. How do you find that process?

MVS: I always feel out of the loop when it comes to the covers for my books.  I know I fill out an art fact sheet about my books, including character descriptions, synopsis, visual elements, etc...  But after that, I've no idea how the artists, photographers and designers take those comments and transform them into a beautiful cover.  I did enjoy the few times I was able to "help."   It was fun picking the direction of the cover model's gaze for INSIDE OUT.  And I tell everyone the glass starfish on the cover of SEA GLASS is yours.  I would love to be more involved, but realize I'm already busy enough and designing covers is NOT my expertise.  Plus I love them all so I've no complaints.

FYI: Since I was a part of INSIDE OUT's cover, here's the process of going from a concept to the final cover (with email comments):

Email from MTH: Just wanted to give you a heads up on the concept we’ll be working with for INSIDE OUT.
The type is wrong, of course, and the heroine is too old with too much makeup. However, the overall concept of her tearing through something, is one that we all found appealing. It’s simple, bright and quite effective we think.
And here's the two pictures of the model for me to choose from - in one of the draft covers right after the concept, the model was looking over the reader's shoulder. Trella wouldn't hesitate to met anyone gaze so and they agreed to change it :)
Email from MTH - I’m leaning toward 88 but some like 65.
Thoughts on which I should encourage? (It will be cropped to match the other image)
We do realize the model’s eyes are blue, and you’ve got brown, so we’re torn. The blue pops and we could use it in the type color to set it off. Can we change Trella’s eye color, or should we change this model’s to brown?

I liked #65 - and I agreed with the blue eyes "popping" so I incorporated her blue eyes into the story.  Then they added the right model and came up with this cover:

Which is still different than the final cover art:

Now back to the chat!

As for the cover copy, I'm so very glad you write them (or your editorial assistant).  I would find it impossible to boil down a hundred thousand word novel into two paragraphs. And it's a fun reversal of roles when I get the chance to edit your copy ;>

Mary-Theresa -- After the cover and copy are finalized, how much do you get involved with the marketing and publicity of my books?

Find out the answer in my next blog post!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chatting with my Editor Part 2

I'm chatting with my editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey, who's been working with me for the last nine years.  If you haven't read it, check out Part 1 here:

MTH: Maria--how do you see the revision process going?

MVS: The revision process is easier for me.  My first draft is always the hardest to write.  It's when I discover all the story elements and plot.  I start with a character, a situation, and a vague ending, but what happens along the way is usually unplanned.  Once the first draft is finished, then comes the fun part.  I'll do a revision and send it to Mary-Theresa.  When you returns it to me with your comments, I open the file and read through them all.  Then I need a day to calm down!  It's funny how when I first read them, I'll be annoyed, impatient, exasperated, depressed, and excited (when I get that rare smiley face).  These emotions don't happen at the same time--it's like a rollercoaster ride, depending on the comment.

But after a day, I realize you're right about everything and what you're not "getting" I need to explain/show it better.  And there are times I will ask for more details about why you don't like something and you always have a good explanation (grumble - more work for me).  It's very rare when we don't agree. Opal's choice in SPY GLASS is one example. And Kerrick's actions in the beginning of TOUCH OF POWER is another (I actually toned him down a bit!). I think we work well together. Your comments always improves the story.  Always.

Mary-Theresa--since my story proposals tend to be vague and I never follow them, I'm curious about your reaction to my first drafts.  For example, what was your first impression when TOUCH OF POWER arrived?

MTH: I have learned that you tend to follow the story more than the synopsis, but as long as it makes for something stronger, I'm all for it!

Usually I'll first read the manuscript through fairly quickly, just to enjoy the story and to read it as a reader will. But I'll also note places where I got confused or lost or the characters didn't seem consistent. Then I'll go through more slowly, this time making more detailed notes as I go along, and perhaps revising the first ones as things are revealed later. It used to be scribbles in the margins, but now I can type comments on the document, which makes transferring things much easier--though I do occasionally miss curling up in a chair with a manuscript and pencil! I did find that when I switched to commenting on screen it lost some of the immediacy of the good marginalia at first, but that comes back as I stop and "hear" the lines sing, or the endings twist. I then like to let it sit in my mind for another day or so while some things get fleshed out and other concerns come to the forefront. As it settles, the themes and overall structural issues fall into place. Then I will get ready to send back the manuscript with an overview about the larger issues that stopped me.

I always keep in mind the author's intentions and goals, but she is so close to the story that she doesn't always put onto the pages exactly what is meant by this or that. I try to pose my concerns as questions or the occasional what if you did this scenario, but I trust the author to come up with the answers that suit her story best.

TOUCH OF POWER was one of the stories I just gobbled up! The freshness of Avry's world, and her dilemmas was compelling. I still don't think I'd be as willing to take on the pains and scars of others though--the Healers have more generosity of spirit and body than I do! The differences in the Realms went beyond Ixia and Sitia, and I saw that you were creating a new world that was vivid and grounded in different ways. And though I had a couple of issues with the hero, he balanced out Avry's selflessness nicely!

Throughout the manuscript there were shadings of familiar elements as Avry struggled to understand her powers and place in the world, but the situations were so different, and her voice was all her own, that it just felt really new and exciting. I've always looked forward to Maria's stories, and seeing where she's going with them, but TOUCH OF POWER brought me back to some of the early excitement of my first loves--Yelena and Valek--and the wonder of discovering their worlds.

Asking around the office, you'll find that I was saying it was like when we first read POISON STUDY and were captured by that emotion all over again!

And while the manuscript bits are happening, we're also trying to find the perfect cover and copy to represent the book.

Maria -- How do you find that process?

Find out my answer in Part 3!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chatting with my Editor Part 1

I’ve been working with my editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey of Harlequin pretty much from the beginning of my writing career.  My very first editor, Helen French (out of the UK office) who made the call and bought POISON STUDY and MAGIC STUDY worked with me for about six months before leaving the company.  And, as a brand new author, still shiny, I was immediately worried because I’ve heard stories of orphaned authors, where the editor who loved her story leaves, and no one else in the company is interested at all.

Mary-Theresa quickly stepped in, and she’s been mine…or rather I’ve been hers ever since.  Nine years of answering all my questions, addressing my concerns, and editing my manuscripts.

I thought it would be fun to have a chat with my editor about our nine years together.

Me & Mary-Theresa

MVS:  Let’s start at the beginning.  Back in 2003, you were in charge of Harlequin's new fantasy imprint called LUNA Books and looking for fantasy novels with strong female protagonists and romantic sub-plots.  I sent you the first 3 chapters and a synopsis of POISON STUDY in June (I still have a copy of the letter) and 4 months later I get a call from Helen, asking me for the rest of the story, which she read over the weekend and bought on Monday.  Do you remember that initial submission?  What were you thinking when you sent the chapters to Helen?
LUNA Ladies (left to right): C.E. Murphy, Maria V. Snyder, Mary-Theresa Hussey, Michelle Sagara, Laura Anne Gilman
MTH: 2003 seems so long ago--and really just around the last corner! I do remember that when we were starting up LUNA we had a clear vision in our minds, but it was very hard to explain to authors and agents. So I read a lot of projects and struggled to get that balance right. I had received your proposal and really enjoyed it and marked it to ask for a complete. Then Helen French, who worked in our UK office, but was in our office for an RWA business trip, really wanted to work on LUNA, so I gave her a few projects, including POISON STUDY.

Helen's initial excitement was contagious, and we loved seeing that first glimpse of Yelena in the complete manuscript. And then when Helen left, I was happy to work with you again. So I've actually edited all of your projects for us, and it's been a treat over the years. I still remember that opening scene with Yelena in prison, awaiting execution, was dark and complex, and she was a fresh heroine! The voice and the characterization was vivid and then the twists kept coming as we met Valek, discovered the truth about Yelena's position, her past, her magic, and how the world of Ixia unfolded.

Original USA cover for POISON STUDY - Hardcover October 2005

So I've been lucky to see your career develop over the ten novels and some novellas with Harlequin
(and more to come!). Each book unfolded part of the world, and you had a great, strong grasp of your characters. Even when they make decisions I disagree with [MVS - Opal's choice being the biggest :)], you worked on motivating them so it makes sense. So we talk a little on the proposal, then at the revision stage after I've sent my notes, and then occasionally at the edits, but that's generally some minor stuff. I think we've worked ourselves into a good rhythm.

Maria--how do you see the revision process going?
Find out my answer in Part 2 of Chatting with my Editor!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May Madness

And I was doing so well with posting!  Then a few things converged and all my extra time for blogging disappeared.  This post will be a quick update on what's been going on and then I'm going to post a multi-part chat with my editor!

BIG News - TASTE OF DEATH has a new title.  Book 3 of the Healer Series will now be titled, TASTE OF DARKNESS.  Various reasons were given - original title too morbid, too serial-killer-ish.  At first, I wasn't too excited about the change, but I trust my publisher and they were excited about the new title and it seems my Facebook friends are in agreement. So I'm happy. The cover isn't finalized yet, but I can tell you Deep Purple - very dark!  What do you think of the new title?

I've also been working on STORM WATCHER revisions.  The book will be out in October 2013, but I'll be signing ARCs for STORM WATCHER at Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City (Javits Convention Center) on Thursday, May 30th at Table 13 from 3 to 4 pm.  Here's a link to BEA:

Here's the rest of my schedule for May and June:

May 18, 2013 Participating in the Lancaster County Women's Expo. (Spooky Nook Sports Complex, 2913 Spooky Nook Road, Manheim, Pennsylvania, 17545). I'll be selling and signing books from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Women's Expo is a fun-filled and information-packed event, featuring 100+ exhibitors, two fashion shows, demonstrations, shopping, free spa treatments, a Hula Hoop contest, and so much more! It's FREE if you register in advance online, and $5.00 at the door.

May 24-26, 2013 Participating in Balticon 47. (Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland, 21031, 410-785-7000). I'll be teaching a couple writing workshops and sitting in on panels during this weekend-long con. Balticon has over 300 Hours of Multi-Track Programming featuring authors, publishers, editors, artists, scientists, musicians and other creative Science Fiction and Fantasy luminaries. Join over a thousand SF fans for the area's largest and longest running convention of its kind! Visit our huge art show, dealer's room, concerts, dances, gaming room, computer room and video room. Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy in one huge package.

June 27-30, 2013 Participating in In Your Write Mind Workshop. (Seton Hill University, One Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 15601). I'll be teaching a writing workshop during this weekend-long conference for writers. If you're an aspiring author this is the conference for you. Trust me! At this workshop, you'll find a variety of workshop topics, knowledgeable presenters, plenty of chances to network with agents and editors, and you'll meet fellow writers who "get" you. Register online.

Volleyball has dominated my family for the last three months.  My son, Luke is on the high school varsity team (the Bears) as an opposite hitter.  With games twice a week and tournaments on weekends, we watched a lot of great games.  The best part for me was when my son spiked the ball or had a great block, the crowd would cheer Luuuuke in a deep voice - it almost sounded like they were boo-ing. That was very fun to hear!

The Bears finished in 4th place in section 2, and then played the first place section 1 team in playoffs - needless to say, they lost that game, but not without a fight.  The highlight of the season was when the Bears won their home tournament - the boys all received Champion T-shirts and a trophy for the school!  Congrats to the entire team for all their hard work and dedication!!

My daughter Jenna also plays and she joined a club team - the Chargers this winter/spring.  And by utter coincidence both my children finished their seasons on the same day!  YAY!

As for my co-ed volleyball team - the Tornados (I picked the name - can you tell ;) - we ended our season in 5th place and didn't make the playoffs.  It's a fun church league and good exercise. I'm one of the setters - since we play on a men's net, it's harder for me to spike.

So that's the update on what's been dominating my life this spring.  I am currently re-reading my Study books to get ready for writing the next Study adventure - making notes and listing all the names so I don't re-use them in the new book ;)  I'll read the Glass books next and then get to work.

So much for my quick update!