Journal 2011

December 17, 2011
Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays, everyone! I so appreciate your support and comments throughout the year, and I’d like to give you all a holiday gift.

Everyone who visits my Facebook page and “likes” the December 17 wall post (the one matching this Journal entry) between now and December 25 will receive a free Nook or Kindle Clearwater Crossing e-book—your choice of any title between #2 and #12. If you pick Hope Happens, you’ll have to wait until February, but I’m good for it then. :-)

And Apple lovers, please don’t think I’ve forgotten you; New Year’s Resolution #1 for me in 2012 is to work out those Apple hurdles. (The year will be less new when that happens, but iTunes doesn’t allow e-book gifting yet anyway, so I hope you’ll enjoy a Kindle or Nook book.)

Merry Christmas to all, and feel free to invite a friend to get a book too—that will be a gift from both of us!

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


December 5, 2011
Everyday I Write the Book

If I had written this song by Mr. Costello, I'd have spelled the title "Every Day I Write the Book," but I was singing these lyrics with glee way, way before I knew how prophetic they'd turn out to be. There's no way not to love a guy who routinely turns phrases such as "She said that she was working for the ABC news; it was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use."

Like many other writers, I listen to a lot of music, to the point that the catalog of songs in my head can become part of the process. There are rare times when I need to work in silence, but more often I have music playing in the background, just softly enough to be blocked out by my conscious mind when extra concentration is required. The subconscious knows the music is there, though. I'm pretty sure the subconscious feeds on it.

That's probably the reason—although I didn't set out with a (conscious) plan to do this—that so many books in the Clearwater Crossing series have titles that are also song titles. Within the twenty-book series, I count six well known songs and a band, although it wouldn't surprise me if some of the other titles are also songs I just don't know about. (Consciously.)

Because many songs and books take their titles from widely used phrases, a certain amount of title crossover happens unintentionally. That was the case with Heart & Soul; Promises, Promises; and Don't Look Back. Having come up with these book titles, I then realized that they were also song titles. I don't have a strong emotional attachment to any of those songs, but I didn't let that stop me from using a good title.

Three other books, however, share titles with songs that have been particular favorites of mine: Dream On, Love Hurts, and More Than This. I can't even think any of these phrases without the corresponding song beginning to play in my head, so when I chose these titles, I did so not only because they fit their books but also because of the extra meaning those songs added for me. I was aware that my brain would wear out these tunes until the books were finished, but I was fine with that. There are many worse things in life than having a good song stuck in your head. :-)

"More Than This" may be the least well known of the three songs above, but it's especially haunting. Last month I was surprised to stumble across a cover by Norah Jones, but the original Bryan Ferry version is the one that plays on in my mind. If you're not familiar with "More Than This," you can listen here.

And speaking of "More Than This," Clearwater Crossing #11; More Than This is now available as an e-book. Eleven down—nine more to come!

Available at Amazon.com

Available at BarnesandNoble.com

 

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


November 11, 2011
DST: Don't Sleep Through (Breakfast)

The clocks "fell back" from DST to standard time this week, which means that now I'm up at 6:15 a.m. because there's absolutely no explaining the "extra hour of sleep" theory to dogs. If there's a knob for adjusting canine stomach clocks, I still haven't found it. The upside is that I've had an extra hour in my day all week, which gave me time to update my journal.

I haven't been posting here as much as I used to because 1) this has been a busy year and 2) I do check in via my Facebook page with updates between posts. I enjoy hearing from readers over there and also through e-mail:

A lot of the e-mail I get lately is about Clearwater Crossing. That's how I know people are wondering when e-book #11, More Than This, will be available. The answer is . . . next month! I don't have an exact date yet, but I'll post progress reports on my Facebook page as the release gets closer. I'm especially looking forward to the publication of More Than This, because No Doubt ends with a pretty big cliffhanger. Not that I'll be tying things up with a bow in More Than This. Clearwater Crossing wouldn't be the same without its cliffs. :-)

Reading Clearwater Crossing sometimes feels like this. So did writing it.
(No, that isn't me. Except metaphorically speaking.)

I also know from Facebook/e-mail that some of you have taken on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel this month in celebration of NaNoWriMo. I'm guessing that NaNoWriMo is also the reason publishers are offering so many writing-related e-books for free right now. Whatever the reason, if you're into writing at all, you'll want to check out these free books:

Write That Book Already
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing
How to Be a Writer
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing
Getting the Words Right
Story Structure Architect

The links included above are for Kindle versions at Amazon.com, but these titles are also free for Nook at BN.com. In the interest of fairness, the next time I post a list like this, I'll use Barnes & Noble links; this time, if you want the Nook version, just run a search over there.

And finally, no one has e-mailed me about turkey, but I can't be the only person with Thanksgiving on the brain. I enjoy cooking, and Thanksgiving is a cook's playground. I'm not sure yet what we'll be eating in addition to turkey this year, but there's a pretty good chance that banana bread will make its annual appearance. You didn't know banana bread is traditional for Thanksgiving? Neither did I, until I got married.

Thanks for visiting,
and Happy Thanksgiving!

Laura


October 12, 2011
There's No Doubt It's October

October is upon us. I know this because the leaves are falling, the temperatures are cooling, and I've already finished my first bag of candy corn. (Don't worry, I have more.)

This has been an extremely busy summer for me, in all the best ways. Now that fall has arrived, though, I'm starting to panic a little. Why? Because all those same summer things are still going on and now I have fall things too. Not to mention that we're staring down the barrel of the holidays, which always make things even busier. Yikes! Let's not think about the holidays yet.

Let's focus instead on something I have actually finished: Clearwater Crossing #10, No Doubt, is now available as an e-book!

No Doubt, a Clearwater Crossing e-book by Laura Peyton Roberts

Available at Amazon.com

Available at BarnesandNoble.com

I had a lot of fun revisiting this title. Nicole is in trouble with her parents, who pull strings to get her a job they hope will teach her responsibility. The job is in food service, something I had firsthand experience with as a teen. While No Doubt is entirely fictional (as is all of Clearwater Crossing), Nicole's job provided me with an outlet for putting that old experience to new use—and I had a blast doing it. Stupid rules, ugly outfits, bad pay, creepy bosses . . . No Doubt has it all!

Here's an excerpt from Nicole's first day on the job:

She reached the end of the drugstore and stopped dead in her tracks. The sight before her was so heinous, so in excess of her very worst nightmares, that all she could do was stand and stare.

WIENERAGEOUS, the sign over the shoe box of a building proclaimed in blue-and-orange neon. A pink neon arrow pointed from the sign down to the sloping roof, which was painted in red-and-white checkerboard squares. The exterior walls sported vertical stripes of pink and purple, with a continuous, canary yellow board making a bright horizontal break between them and the edge of the roof. A few deserted tables with orange fiberglass umbrellas occupied a small concrete slab out front; a single-lane drive-through looped around the other three sides of the building.

“This is not happening,” Nicole begged under her breath. Wienerageous was the most aggressively ugly fast-food dive she’d ever seen. She approached it cautiously, one step at a time, hoping it was a mirage.

The name wasn’t bad enough? she wailed silently as she inched forward. Look at this place! I can’t tell Courtney I’m working here—she’ll give me grief for the rest of my life!

Nicole was almost to the front door when it opened suddenly from within. An employee was coming outside, a full plastic trash bag in one hand. The girl stopped when she saw Nicole and held the door open wide.

“Welcome to Wienerageous, where our smiles are contagious!” she said with a big grin.

Nicole could only stare. The poor girl was wearing the most hideous, the most embarrassing uniform Nicole had ever seen. The garish interior of the little restaurant swam out of focus as Nicole tried to take in the fact that she might have to wear one just like it.

“Tell me the truth,” she whispered desperately. “Do they make you say that to the customers?”

The girl glanced around her, then shrugged. “I didn’t think it up on my own.”

Despite the fact that the door was still being held for her, letting all the warm air in the restaurant out into the cold, Nicole stood paralyzed in the doorway, her entire social life passing before her eyes. She pictured herself wearing that horrendous outfit, saying that ridiculous slogan to total strangers, and her mind boggled.

Then she imagined having to say it to someone she knew and nearly burst into tears.

She took a faltering step inside, just one thought in her head: No one can ever find out I’m working here. No one. Never, ever, ever!

 

The response to my September promotions at Amazon and BN.com has been phenomenal. My thanks to the many thousands of you who downloaded Get a Life and gave Clearwater Crossing a try. I hope you'll enjoy No Doubt!

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


September 3, 2011
The Awesome Just Keeps Coming!

Two things blew up on me yesterday: 1) my nearly new air mattress, and 2) the Amazon.com ranking for my newly free Kindle edition of Clearwater Crossing #1, Get a Life.

Okay, the mattress thing was more of a slow leak, and since I was sleeping on it at the time, the awesomeness of that particular event was not immediately apparent. Awesome showed up a few hours later, when I discovered that I was still within the warranty period and could return that mattress for a refund.

The awesomeness of having a book fly up the Amazon rankings probably requires no explanation, but here goes anyway. I've been trying for months to get Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com to offer free downloads of Get a Life, so last Saturday I was thrilled when (thanks to Smashwords, where it's also free) Get a Life finally became a free NOOK book. It has been climbing B&N's rankings ever since, which I can only say is awesome.

Then, sometime Thursday night, Amazon decided to price match and made the Kindle edition free too. By the time I went to bed on Friday, Get a Life had already jumped to #53 on the Amazon Top 100 Free list and to #3 in their Children's Fiction Top 100 Free. That's so incredibly awesome that I'm not even sure awesome covers it. I might have just broken awesome.

Before we let awesome limp off to recover, though, I have to mention that all of this free reading has come online just in time for the Labor Day weekend. A free book to read at the beach or pool during the last long weekend of summer? Do I even need to say what that is?  :-)

           

Free at Amazon.com!

Free at Barnesandnoble.com!

Free at Smashwords.com!

 

Wishing you all a fantastic holiday weekend!
See you soon,

Laura


August 20, 2011
The Summer I Dusted off "Awesome"

We can all agree that the word awesome has seen a lot of use. So much use, in fact, that many of us put it on semi-permanent hiatus a while back. As a lover of words, I've always been fascinated by slang—the sources from which new expressions catch on, the ways in which they go out. Very little slang remains evergreen; cool is the only example I can think of that's been in use without (required) irony my whole life. However, if you hang around long enough, you sometimes see old favorites come back. Bad is one I've seen twice (although it's been superceded now by sick and the more recent ill), and this summer I'm making a case for the return of awesome.

The weather in southern California has been gorgeous since May. I realize that in contrast to hotter and colder parts of the country our weather often looks pretty good, but native Californians don't compare the weather to other places—we compare it to other years here. Last year brought us the coldest summer on record for a very long time. Everyone was talking about it (and not in a cheerful, philosophical way, either). This summer's weather has been immeasurably better. It has been, in a word, awesome.

Furthering my enjoyment of that great weather, I've been lucky enough to spend lots of time at a beach house lately. Walking my dogs on the sand, waking up to a water view, hearing the surf as I go to sleep, seeing whales from indoors has been—you guessed it—awesome.

Sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what's needed to kick the writing into high gear, too. I am getting quite close now to finishing the first draft of my latest manuscript. And yes, there's always a ton more work to do after that. But finishing a first draft, the most time-consuming, nerve-wracking part of the process? Awesome!

And wait, there's more! My goddaughter is heading off to start college next week. Super, super awesome. (What the heck—let's bring back super too.)

Plus my favorite dancer won this season on So You Think You Can Dance. Melanie's response to all that love? Can you guess?

 

Life is not always awesome, as we all know, which is why when we're lucky enough to encounter it, I believe in calling awesome out and giving it its due. So this summer I'm saying it loud. I'm saying it proud. And if my renewed use of awesome causes a few people to smile behind their hands, that's okay. I'm smiling too.

Smiling is awesome.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


July 5, 2011
Energy Independence Day

Happy Fifth of July! I hope you all enjoyed a great holiday weekend. The weather in San Diego was fantastic and much appreciated, even more so because we had a weird weather pattern last year that succeeded in permanently delaying summer temperatures. As a result, this feels like our first summer in two years, which makes it doubly welcome.

What did I do to celebrate? I wrote and hung out with my dogs on Saturday, played a fun round of golf on Sunday, and walked along a little-known beach Monday morning, where the crowd was already thick enough to convince me not to come back with my kayak. I don't even want to imagine what the well known beaches looked like. Actually, thanks to our local news, I don't have to imagine:

 

I watched the fireworks over San Diego Bay from another of my "secret" spots. Great show and a really nice crowd. Yes, crowd. Secret spots are getting harder to find :-).

Monday was also the day the Roberts clan declared energy independence from the man! Which is to say we became our own man—for electricity, at least. The solar panels we installed last winter finally caught up with our winter energy debt (having generated as much as we used) and started banking more than we're using. If all goes according to plan, this solar surplus should continue for about the next three months, so that we come out energy-even at the end of the year. Stay tuned (if you're interested in that sort of thing).

What else? If you follow my Facebook page, you already know that Clearwater Crossing e-book #9, Skin Deep, went live at Amazon just in time for the holiday weekend. For some reason, B&N.com is being slow to post this time, but as soon as they do, I'll update my links.

Available now at Amazon.com

So that's the news from here for now. Time to get off the Internet and back to work on my novel-in-progress!

Wishing you all a great summer.
Thanks for visiting,

Laura

Update: Skin Deep is now available at B&N.com.


June 20, 2011
Happy Summer Update

I kicked off summer a little early this year (below), but the free summer reading keeps on coming! Clearwater Crossing #1; Get a Life just became available as a free download at the iTunes store.

If you have an account with Apple (or want to sign up for one), your free copy is only a click away!

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


June 2, 2011
Happy Summer!

I love summer. If you're still in school, I'm betting you do too. According to my calendar, summer doesn't officially start until the 21st of June, but we're past Memorial Day now, so I'm going for it.

Summer and reading are practically synonymous in my mind, so my first order of summer business is announcing the winner of my summer contest. Congratulations to Alex R., winner of signed copies of The Queen of Second Place and Queen B!

I hope to do a lot of reading myself this summer, as there are a ridiculous number of great books out. If you love to read too but don't have a lot of money, be sure to check out all the free e-book sites on-line. My favorites are Amazon's Top 100 Free, Barnes & Noble's Free NOOK Books, Free Books for Your Kindle at eReaderIQ.com, and the various "free" lists at Smashwords.com. Project Gutenberg is still awesome for classics, but those other lists all contain current copyrighted books for free legal download. Many of these books are the work of authors with lots of other titles they're hoping you'll try, so a good percentage are the first title in a series. Which brings me to HUGE NEWS:

Get a Life, a Clearwater Crossing e-book by Laura Peyton Roberts

Free NOW at Smashwords.com
and through iTunes!

That's right! Clearwater Crossing e-book #1; Get a Life is currently available for FREE at Smashwords! Consider this my summer gift to you, and to everyone you want to tell about it. :-)

If you don't have an e-reader, don't despair—you don't need one. All of the free books mentioned above can be read via free software downloaded to your computer or phone. Go to the site of your choice to get more information about that.

What else will I be doing this summer? Writing, of course. Probably playing some golf here and there. If the weather stays warm enough, I hope to take out the kayak at least once. And, as always, I'll be watching So You Think You Can Dance.

I love So You Think You Can Dance. Even though it has convinced me that I can't dance. Every season on that show I see at least one thing that I didn't know the human body was capable of—and certainly would never have thought of myself. This, for example:

Seriously. How awesome is that? In just the premiere last week, one dancer showed off his spine-twisting signature move "the insect" and we got schooled on turfing. Last night's episode 2 featured whacking. (There are about five different ways to spell whacking; I picked one). I love this show most when it gives me dances I haven't seen often—or ever. If I could give just one note to the producers, it would be "less ballroom, more street."

Other summer projects? Finding a yogurt I actually like and converting Clearwater Crossing #9; Skin Deep into e-book code. Skin Deep is scheduled to be available in July; I'll have more information on that as the date gets closer.

I hope you've all got lots of fun summer plans too. If not, I highly recommend making them up as you go along. That's usually the most fun of all.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


May 23, 2011
Revision Is Just Surgery with Lower Stakes

A well constructed piece of writing is like a human body. You can do a certain amount of cutting and sewing. In a dire emergency, you can even transplant an organ. But you can't rip out a heart and stick in a liver. You can only alter things so far before the patient dies. I believe most writers know this instinctively, which is why the thought of major revisions can be so paralyzing.

What can be harder to remember when faced with the need for major revisions is that without surgery this patient is going to die anyway. The only certain fatality occurs if you do nothing. Sit with that thought long enough, and risky surgery starts looking downright attractive, yet fear of taking the knife to your own child can still make your mind go blank.

But story surgeons enjoy an advantage that real surgeons don't: We can always go back to our first drafts. In fact, we can botch revisions all day long and start fresh as many times as we need to. The best difference between revision and real surgery? Even on the worst day of revision, the only thing lost is words.

Brain freeze and writer's cramp? I've been there, buddy.

 

I'm not claiming to be a revision expert. Like most writers who've been at this a while, I've got things in the drawer that I couldn't resuscitate. But every book I've ever published has been revised—some modestly, some radically—and over the course of all those changes, I've devised some strategies. Since many of you are writers too, I offer a few tips here:

1) Breathe. If you're as much of a stresser as I am, the stakes are probably not as high as you're making them. Try my revision mantra: "I can always change it back."

2) Do the easy stuff first. Revisions in my manuscripts tend to fall into five categories: 1) easy stuff I know I need to do, 2) easy stuff someone else thinks I need to do, 3) harder stuff I know I need to do, 4) harder stuff someone else thinks I need to do, and 5) stuff I'm terrified to do. I don't go through my pages formally marking things into these categories, but I tend to have a list of needed revisions, and when I scan through it, I know what's what.

Not every manuscript involves category 5 (thank goodness!), but since diving in is always the hardest part, I never start there. Instead, I like to ease into the water with category 1. Rolling through the easiest items first not only builds confidence and momentum, but also tends to uncover lots of overlap with category 2 items, which I knock out next. At this point, I can already see that the manuscript is better, so embarking on category 3 seems like less of an event. Category 4 can still be challenging, but, as before, some of it has already been knocked out with category 3. And even though Category 5 tends to stay scary, by this point I'm on a roll and mentally prepared to make those hardest calls. (I also really want to finish and may be running out of time, both powerful motivators.)

3) Look for repetition. So what am I looking for in the previously mentioned five categories? One thing I try to stamp out in revisions is repetition. Ways to repeat yourself in a book are many and include overusing certain words and phrases, failing to vary sentence structure, failing to vary settings and events (when every third scene involves drinking coffee, for example, someone's going to call you out on it), and pounding home themes or plot elements that ought to land gently. Writers work on manuscripts for so long that by Chapter 15 it's easy to forget we've already used the word "horrified" ten times. We're often not aware of personal habits of speech or favorite phrases that stick out glaringly to others. And in our zeal to make sure readers follow our most important points, we may not always realize when we've made these points well enough—possibly more than once.

Finding repetition is an area where outside readers can be extremely valuable. Someone who isn't so close to the story is going to notice things you won't. Skilled readers can tell you not only which phrases and idiosyncrasies are getting on their nerves, but where in the story you start telling them things they already know. I like to make my points, but I do believe it's better not to beat readers over the head with them.

4) Less is more. If you want readers to keep turning pages, you need to pay attention to pacing. Anything that doesn't move the story forward in a significant way tends to erode reader patience and is usually better eliminated. This can mean removing anything from a word or paragraph to an entire subplot. Tighter is better. Make it move.

5) When in doubt, cut it out. I'm not talking about length here; I'm talking about those elements you can't make feel right no matter what you do. If you've massaged and massaged something, you still don't like it, and you can't figure out why, try simply cutting it out. Sometimes the best revision is deletion.

6) Sleep on it. There are days you just have to walk away. This strategy was counterintuitive for me, because I'm not a morning person, but it's amazing how often solutions become obvious when I'm fresh—even when that occurs in the morning.

7) Postpone going on that no-sugar diet. I wouldn't recommend choosing this moment to give up caffeine, either. Your dietary requirements may vary, but any lifestyle change that makes you cranky(er) is not what you need right now. What you need is mac and cheese, Diet Mtn Dew, and a five-pound box of See's Candy. Oh, wait—that's what I need. Where's my shopping list?

 

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

PS—There's still time to enter my summer drawing for free books! Information here.
PPS—Thanks to Michelle H. for suggesting this Journal topic on my Facebook page.


May 2, 2011
How Did I Miss April?

I had all the best intentions about posting here last month. I even had an entry half written. So it's a little disturbing to realize that I've missed April completely and landed in May—and still not finished last month's post.

What have I been doing instead? So many things that it's hard to keep track, but on the writing front it boils down to trying to finish the first draft of a new manuscript and translating Clearwater Crossing #8; One Real Thing into e-book code. So yeah: no April post, no first draft, but I'm happy to report that I did achieve this:

One Real Thing, a Clearwater Crossing e-book by Laura Peyton Roberts

Available now!

 

Here's the new expanded description for One Real Thing:

Not only did Melanie fail to resolve her feelings about her mother’s death, she did what she swore she never would: She let Jesse into her life. Now that she’s opened the door, would slamming it shut be a losing move?

Jenna has a secret—a big one—and strict orders from sister Caitlin not to tell anyone. Jenna has given her word . . . but keeping quiet is killing her!

Ben has never kissed anyone, and it’s starting to drive him crazy. He’s determined to get his first kiss by the new year’s end. All he needs is a plan . . .

Leah and Miguel have never been closer, which is why she’s dreading the finals of the modeling contest she reluctantly entered. She’s only competing because the top prize is a major scholarship—but her college plans and Miguel’s don’t line up at all. Can she and Miguel stay together? Or are two very different futures destined to pull them apart?

Nicole has a fun story line in this book too. Not to give too much away, it involves her younger sister Heather, blackmail, and a ridiculous amount of toilet paper.

 

Summer Contest

And now, because it's May, it's time to make good on my Facebook promise and kick off my summer contest! Everyone who sends me an e-mail labeled "contest" or joins my Facebook page between now and June 1 will automatically be entered in my June 2 drawing for a signed set of The Queen of Second Place and Queen B.

The Queen of Second Place by Laura Peyton RobertsQueen B by Laura Peyton Roberts

A whole lot of beach or poolside entertainment!

“Light and funny” —Booklist                             "Hilarious light reading" —B&N.com

 

My e-mail address is: or join my Facebook page here.

Even if you don't join my Facebook page (and I wish you would), it'll be the best place to check for updates in May. Because there's still that first draft to finish. So if I don't journal again until June, you already know why!

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


March 25, 2011
Novel Equipment

Finding the perfect equipment with which to write a novel is about five percent necessity and ninety-five percent procrastination. However, since I consider procrastination a completely necessary part of my process, I've devoted a lot of time to this quest. As many of you are writers too, I thought you might be interested in knowing which equipment has been most helpful to me.

1. MS Word. There are a lot of Word haters out there, but I don't know why. I've written every one of my novels (as well as a master's thesis and a whole lot of geology reports) with Word and have never encountered a single word processing need that Word doesn't have covered. My own favorite Word trick is customizing AutoCorrect to make it type my characters' names for me (e.g., I type b followed by a space, and Word automatically corrects b to Balthazar)—huge time saver! Random House uses Word too, and remote editing and copyediting are easy via the Track Changes feature. Before we began editing digitally and e-mailing manuscripts, everyone used to take turns marking up a paper copy with different colored pencils. We then shipped the hard copy back and forth, usually "overnight." I sure don't miss that UPS bill, but I do miss . . .

2. Colored Pencils. I've collected a lot of colored pencils. With an average of four people marking up my old paper manuscripts, red and blue were always taken before I jumped in. Plain pencil wasn't an option because it doesn't stand out well enough. Some colors don't photocopy. Which left me using purple, orange, and anything else in my assorted boxes that was visible enough, didn't look too much like someone else's color, and showed up on a copy. I finally settled on green just before we switched to doing everything digitally. I have a box of green pencils in my drawer right now that will probably last longer than I do.

3. Index Cards. All is not lost with the colored pencils, though, because I still use them for shading POVs and other elements in my outlines, which I usually work up on white index cards. Couldn't I just use colored cards instead? Yes, and I have, but many of those card colors don't contrast well with pencil. Also, in the outline stage it's not unusual for me to have only slightly more than no idea what I'm doing, and it's a lot easier to erase pencil shading than recopy whole cards.

4. Various Index Card Holders. There is no way of knowing how many hours I've devoted to finding the Ultimate Index Card Holder. (I'm pretty sure I don't want to see that figure anyway.) My UICH would securely hold every card exactly where I placed it, allow me to move cards easily, let me fully see every card (no overlapping), hold as many cards as I needed, and be completely portable. Sounds simple, right? But finding the UICH has turned into my search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Every time I think This will be the one! . . . it's not.

This early acquisition looked pretty good—but turned out to be more pretty than good. The cards fall out too easily and block each other from view:

It holds up to 30 cards. Unfortunately, I can only read the front five.

 

This magnetic whiteboard securely holds twenty-one non-overlapping cards and is easily moved around the house (or couch, or bed):

Why the colored cards? Because I used up all my white ones.

On the downside, a magnetic board this size doesn't go unnoticed at writing venues other than home, it gets annoying moving all the lower cards every time I insert a new one, and the system fails at twenty-two cards. Still, this setup does the job well enough that at one point I considered covering the closet doors in my office with sheet metal and magnetizing cards to their much larger (but sadly less portable) surface. Then I heard about . . .

5. Scrivener. This Mac writing software recently debuted a beta version for Windows and I couldn't wait to try its Corkboard feature. Could this be my UICH at last? So far I've only plotted one novel this way, and between my lack of Scrivener skills and the expected bugs in the beta version, things haven't gone 100 percent smoothly. However, I've been learning, Scrivener's been refining, and I'm extremely encouraged that this is going to be the one. Unlimited cards, color coding, portable, discreet, no overlapping, no wobbling, no manual reshuffling . . . it pretty much has it all. And that's just the Corkboard—there are a lot of other cool features too.

6. Paper and erasers. No matter how digital writing becomes, I will always want to see my final few drafts on paper, which is where the real ripping apart happens. I pencil new things in, erase them, pencil different things in, erase, repeat, etc. As long as paper and erasers exist, those two industries are in no danger of ever losing my business. Don't you wish Dunder Mifflin delivered?

 

Add two computers, a clipboard for revising pages, and a printer or two, and you have my basic writing equipment. I use a lot more software in the course of my other author activities, but first I write the books—and every time I start thinking I need a new gadget to do that, I try to remind myself that plenty of the world's favorite stories were written using a bottle of ink and a feather.

I try. And then I wonder what additional marvels those writers could have created with an Ultimate Index Card Holder.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


March 2, 2011
Feeling Leprechaun Lucky?

It's that time of year again, time to start thinking Green. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, everyone who "likes" my Facebook page or sends me an e-mail with "green" in the subject line by March 16 will be automatically entered in my drawing to win a signed copy of Green. I'll be drawing two winners on March 17, so tell a leprechaun-loving friend!

"But what does Green have to do with St. Patrick's Day?" you may be asking. "Doesn't that whole book take place during the summer?" Well, yes, but it's full of leprechauns. Full of leprechauns.

It's also full of green. The entire time I was writing Green, I imagined a land with lush green blankets of clover stretching in every direction. There are green clothes, green eyes, green doughnuts, green hair. Trust me, there's a whole lot of green.

And according to Wikipedia, St. Patrick's Day is all about the green:

Seattle and other cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Chicago dyes its river green and has done so since 1962 when sewer workers used green dye to check for sewer discharges and had the idea to turn the river green for Saint Patrick's Day. Originally 100 pounds of vegetable dye was used to turn the river green for a whole week but now only forty pounds of dye is used and the colour only lasts for several hours. Indianapolis also dyes its main canal green. Savannah dyes its downtown city fountains green. Missouri University of Science and Technology-St Pat's Board Alumni paint 12 city blocks kelly green with mops before the annual parade. In Jamestown, New York, the Chadakoin River (a small tributary that connects Conewango Creek with its source at Chautauqua Lake is dyed green each year. Columbia, SC dyes its fountain green in the area known as Five Points (a popular collegiate location near the University of South Carolina ).

 

I've posted video of Chicago's green river before, but I think it's so cool that here's some more:

Meanwhile, in Clearwater Crossing news, Clearwater Crossing e-book #7, New Beginnings is now available at Amazon and B&N.com. And while Two-Thirds-Free February has ended, e-books #1 and 2 will remain 99¢ each through March! Check them all out here.

Thanks for visiting!
More soon,

Laura

PS— E-mail goes to:

Update 3/17: Happy St. Patrick's Day, and congratulations to contest winners Melissa and Missy!


February 17, 2011
February Book Report

There's lots of book-related news to report this month:

RIGHT NOW: If you haven't already taken advantage of Two-Thirds Free February, you still have time! Clearwater Crossing series e-books are 99¢ for the rest of this month.

Clearwater Crossing e-Books are 99¢ in February!

 

MARCH 1(ish): I'm nearly done proofing the e-book version of Clearwater Crossing #7, New Beginnings, which means it ought to go live at the very beginning of March. I'll post a notice on my Facebook page as soon as New Beginnings is available, so if you haven't already visited, please join us over there.

New Beginnings, a Clearwater Crossing Series e-book by Laura Peyton Roberts

 

MARCH 17: St. Patrick's Day! I'll admit this holiday hasn't always been a big deal to me, but now that I've written a leprechaun book, how can I not get excited? I don't know yet what else I may be doing to celebrate, but I'll definitely be giving away a couple signed copies of Green. Everyone who "likes" my Facebook page will automatically be entered in that drawing (when it happens), and I'll take e-mail entries too, for people who don't use Facebook. More info on this in March!

Green by Laura Peyton Roberts, paperback edition

 

Meanwhile, on the home front, the weather folk have predicted rain here every day for (at least) the next week. Which is why it probably shouldn't surprise me that my dogs are sunbathing on the patio right now. We did get rained on the past two days, though, so I suspect the forecasters will eventually be proved correct again. Conclusion? I should probably get my act together and walk those sunbathing dogs while I still have the chance today.

If I were in charge of the weather, clouds would only empty for ten minutes every morning at 3 a.m. (like a natural sprinkler) and I'd never have to deal with rain again. There are a few things I like about bad weather, though, so in the interest of positive thinking, I've compiled a list of the ones I'm most likely to enjoy this weekend: hot chocolate, fires in the fireplace, golf on TV, and (of course) curling up with a good book.

You know what? That actually sounds pretty fun. :-)

Hope you have fun plans too!
More soon,

Laura


January 31, 2011
Clearwater Crossing's Two-Thirds Free February!

As excited as I am about Green's paperback launch, Clearwater Crossing readers still account for the majority of people who look me up here. That's a lot of loyalty for a series that wasn't available for a few years, and I truly appreciate it.

So for you CCHS fans, I have big news: All Clearwater Crossing e-books are 99¢ (regular price $2.99) for the entire month of February—that's two-thirds free! Now is the perfect time to fill in gaps in your series or recommend it to a friend.

Clearwater Crossing e-Books are 99¢ in February!Clearwater Crossing e-Books are 99¢ in February!Clearwater Crossing e-Books are 99¢ in February!

Will I be doing this again next year? That remains to be seen, so please help me spread the word about Two-Thirds Free February. The more people who get into the beginning of the series, the faster the end can come out!

Thanks for reading!
More soon,

Laura

PS—Look for Clearwater Crossing e-book #7; New Beginnings in March!


January 22, 2011
Of Piracy and Pension Plans

Book piracy has been on my mind a lot this month. First, I discovered one of my own books being offered for illegal download. Then a blog post by agent Kristin Nelson describing how one of her client's books showed up on a pirate site within hours of publication made me realize I was probably "lucky" it had taken as long as it did for someone to steal my book. Finally, I happened on this blog by YA author Saundra Mitchell, and boy, did she hit a nerve. Not only do I (and other published authors in her 200+ comments) agree with everything Saundra said, I'd like to add a few points here.

The process of getting published at all generally takes years of hard work and persistence. Once a book is published, there's no guarantee it will be stocked in stores, and many aren't, missing that crucial chance to connect with readers. Even the books that clear those hurdles stay available only as long as sales are high enough to justify their use of shelf and warehouse space, and with hundreds of new titles coming out each month, that often isn't long. It's not uncommon for good books from major publishers to essentially disappear within months of their release and to go out of print completely in about two years. All this adds up to a harsh reality: the vast majority of authors are not able to support themselves on what they earn through their books. And that's before piracy.

I'd like to believe that a lot of the people who illegally upload and download books don't have a clue about any of this. I suspect they believe authors are all rolling in cash and, if anything, this is a victimless crime. I would invite those people to look at Saundra's math and the linked NY Times article again.

Authors receive their compensation in the form of royalties, a small percentage (often 10 percent or less) of the list price for each book sold, minus agent commission, business expenses, and income tax. That's our entire "salary." We receive no paid vacations or holidays, no sick time, no health insurance, no employer contribution toward social security (meaning that we pay taxes at a much higher rate), and most definitely no pension plan. The closest thing writers have to a retirement plan is royalties on our backlists, books written over a career of many years. Where does that leave us, then, when those books are being stolen instead of sold?

The music industry has already been through this. Illegal downloading has hurt music sales to the point that development of new acts has been compromised and musicians who used to make their money selling albums now have to earn it through tours. Luckily for musicians, they have the tour option. How will authors keep working, I wonder, if piracy impacts book sales to a similar extent?

To present both sides, there are authors who believe that giving away DRM-free copies of a book and choosing not to enforce copyright result in wider exposure, thereby generating more sales for that "free" title. Personally, I doubt this model pencils out for writers under traditional publishing contracts, in which the only legal copies of a book for sale are the standard editions from their publishers. Here's what I know for sure, though: whether or not to make digital downloads of a copyrighted book available for free should be the author's decision.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


January 1, 2011
The Eleven Days of Green

Happy new year, everyone! I hope you had a great time last night and are looking forward to lots of good things coming your way this year. Did you make any resolutions? I usually don't do that, but I did make a couple this year. So maybe making new year's resolutions was also a resolution for me? In any event, I'm changing it up. Isn't that what new years are all about?

My first big event this year is the paperback launch of Green on January 11. Having just finished celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, I was inspired by all those numbered days and presents to kick off my new year with Eleven Days of Green!

Win a signed copy of GREEN by Laura Peyton Roberts

Here's how the Eleven Days works: If you'd like to win a copy of Green, leave a comment under this post on my Facebook page or send an e-mail to with "contest" in the subject line. You only need to do this once between now and January 11. At 11 p.m. PST on January 11, I'll draw one name for every 11 people entered (up to a maximum of 11 books) and those winners will each get a signed paperback copy of Green! That means you can invite all your friends to enter too, because unless and until more than 121 people are in the pool, your odds of winning individually won't get any smaller, while the odds of someone you know winning will increase. Get your whole book club to enter, and if one of you wins you can pass the book around!

Not sure what Green is about? There's an app for that!

Wishing every one of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011!

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

Update—This contest has ended. Congratulations to winners Darla, Monica, and Meghan!


 

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