FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Do you keep a regular schedule?
Do you think all writers should keep regular schedules?
Is it okay to use your characters in fan or other fiction?
How do new writers get published?
Do writers' groups help?
What about conferences?
How important is style?
Where do you get your ideas?
What happens to a book after you sell it to a publisher?
What about the cover and the design?
What about TV and movies?
Will there ever be movies of your work?
What happened to the third book of the Sisters of the Night Trilogy?
How can I find books that are out of print?
Do you have an agent?
Do you use pen-names and if so, why?
Do you like to collaborate?
What about using another person's ideas for a book?
How many books do you write in a year?
Do you ever do talks or seminars?
Which is your favorite book?

Want to ask a question?
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Do you keep a regular schedule?

Yes, I do. Generally I work a six-day week, and am at the key-board about six hours a day. I usually research for a couple hours a day on most days. I have learned how important it is to take a day off each week, and usually do except when it is deadline time; then I can spend up to fourteen hours a day working. When I have copy-edited manuscripts to review or page proofs to correct, I cut down my keyboard time by an hour or so and spend about four hours a day working on the manuscript or galleys. Also, except during deadline crunches, one day a week I work on a book that I am doing on spec, with no publisher or genre in mind. It helps keep me fresh and it lets me work on projects there may be no market for without compromising making a living.

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Do you think all writers should keep regular schedules?

If it helps them to write, certainly. If it doesn't, then no. In my case, the schedule is necessary. I write full-time: this is my job and therefore I treat it that way. Those writing part-time have many other factors to consider, and should do, for their own sakes if nothing else. I don't think anyone starting out should set arbitrary goals and deadlines for him- or herself, because imposing limits on doing the work can not only be discouraging, it gives an excuse not to finish what you begin, and finishing is crucial. Learn how your gift works before setting up constraints for it.

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Is it okay to use your characters in fan or other fiction?

No. Absolutely not. It is also against federal law.

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How do new writers get published?

It's never been easy, but the publishing market has become very limiting in the last five years, and it takes great perseverance to find a publisher. That said, this is my usual recommendation: when you have finished your book, go check out the publishers who handle your sort of book and have a look at bookstores to get a good idea about their distribution. Then check out the publishers' websites, looking for the names of editors at the various companies who handle the sort of book you have written -- don't bother looking for an adventure editor if you've written an historical fantasy -- and prepare a query letter for that editor, giving the approximate length of the book (in words, rounded off to the nearest thousand) and a little bit about it. Your entire letter should not be more than a single page long. If your book is based on any special knowledge or information, include this, very briefly, in your letter. Mention any publication credits you may have, but do not make up any -- fibbing about publications can mean a total loss of credibility for you, and that is deadly. Send your query letters out, snail mail, and wait for a response. If you have heard nothing in a month, send a second letter asking if there is any interest in your work, and this time stipulate that if you hear nothing in the next six weeks, you will assume the editor is not interested and will try elsewhere.

As soon as an editor asks to see your book, send it, or as much of it as the editor wishes to see. Do not give the editor more than he or she wishes to see: if a sixty-page portion and a five-page outline is asked for, provide a sixty-page portion and a five-page outline. If more than one editor wants to see your book, tell any and all editors involved that this is a simultaneous submission, then start hunting for an agent, taking care to avoid the sharks if you can. Most writers organizations can advise you about agents. Find out whomelse the agent represents and what kind of track record the agency has. If possible find out how many clients the agency handles so that you don't get in with an agent who is over-committed and hence will have little time for you. When you have a list of possibles amongst agents, write to the agent at the top of your list and say that you have a book in submission with a specific editor and publisher. Supply the names and when you sent in the book, and ask if the agent is interested in handling any resulting negotiations. If the answer is no, then try the next agent on your list and as on until you find someone to work out the contract for you. Contract negotiations are tricky, and an agent can get a better deal than you can ninety-five times out of a hundred, so the percentage you pay is worth it, even if you made the initial contact. Speaking of contracts, ask a writers' organization about agents' contracts - some are more draconian than publishing contracts and should be carefully modified, or rejected completely. And while all this is going on, get to work on your next book.

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Do writers' groups help?

In my opinion, for the most part, no, although some classes taught by working writers can be useful. What almost always happens in writers' groups is that the participants start writing for the other group members, which is deadly in developing an audience. Remember, if you publish, you will hardly ever come in contact with the vast majority of your readers, and so any in-group writing will be lost on them, as well as getting in the way of the story being told. For some working writers, groups of other working writers can be useful, but even then, there is the temptation to go for personal feedback instead of broad audience appeal. But notice I say working -- that makes a real difference.

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What about conferences?

It depends on the conference and what you, as a new writer, want to get out of it. Certainly being able to talk to editors can be helpful, and lectures and panels are usually informative, but there is no magic to these events, and if that is what you're seeking, you'll most likely be disappointed.

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How important is style?

Style, syntax, grammar, all of it can be important, but unless the story is an exciting one with interesting characters, all the style, syntax, and grammar won't save it. And self-consciousness on the part of the writer is usually death to story-telling. By the same token, there are wonderful story-tellers who slam the language around like sacks of trash, but still manage to make you care about what's happening and the characters it's happening to; but they are much rarer than the hyperstylist is in modern fiction. I'd advise you to think of style, syntax, and grammar as intellectual martial arts - you should learn them well enough not to have to pay much attention to them while you work.

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Where do you get your ideas?

You may not like this answer, but if you don't know, I can't tell you. I think it's a sense you're born with, like perfect pitch.

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What happens to a book after you sell it to a publisher?

In terms of printed books, there are some good references on this process, and its various permutations, but generally it goes like this: your editor asks for revisions, and you will decide which of them you want to do, and provide them to the editor. The book is scheduled on the list and goes for copy-editing (fixing punctuation, grammar and syntax, but not altering text, if it's done properly). The copy-edited manuscript is returned to you between three and six months after your revisions are supplied, and you generally have a week or so to review and correct it, then back it goes to the publisher. In a few more months the galleys or page proofs will arrive, also for review and correction; these page proofs are usually what reviewers see as Advanced Readers Copies, or ARCs. This is the last time you will be able to make changes in the text, and the amount you can change without accruing costs against your royalties is severely limited. You review and correct the galleys/page proofs and return them to the publisher. Approximately three months later, your author's copies should arrive. On average, it takes a year from revisions to books with covers. E-books and print-on-demand books work somewhat differently, but there are also striking similarities.

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What about the cover and the design?

Your editor may or may not ask you about them, and the art department may or may not pay any attention to what the editor says. In almost all cases, the writer does not participate in the cover art or the design of the book. Usually the artist who does the cover doesn't actually read the book, either. He or she may be given a precis, or a summary, or a single chapter to read, or simply be provided instructions about what the art director and promotional department want on the book.

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What about TV and movies?

I wish I could tell you, but it's not an area I've sold in -- yet. There are some very good books about writing and selling TV and film scripts, and some interesting conferences that could be useful.

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Will there ever be movies of your work?

I certainly hope so!

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What happened to the third book, Zhameni: Angel of Death, of the Sisters of the Night Trilogy?

The Sisters of the Night series was to have been three books telling thestory of each of three brides of Dracula. The series was sold through a book packager rather than directly from author-to-publisher. THE ANGRY ANGEL, telling of Kelene, came out in 1998. SOUL OF AN ANGEL, Fenice's story, followed in 1999. A third book, ANGEL OF DEATH, concerning Zhameni, was written and turned in years ago. That was the end of the dealings with the packager who now has total control over the work. The book was supposed to be published by Avon. William Morrow, Avon's parent company, merged with HarperCollins in 1999, so direct contact with the publisher is impossible.

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How can I find books that are out of print?

You need a used book dealer for that, although some specialty stores like The Other Change of Hobbit and Dark Delicacies may have new copies available for sale. Remember, only new sales count toward a writer's royalties. Once a book is remaindered, no more money paid for the book goes to the author, and used books pay nothing to the writer, so whenever possible, buy new if you want to support the writer.

There are new editions of some formerly out-of-print books: A restored edition of A Mortal Glamour came out in February 2007 from Juno Books. Babbage Press reprinted False Dawn in 2002. The Godforsaken was reprinted as Lost Prince in 2008 by Borderlands Press. The Charlie Moon series was re-printed by Ramble House.

Some of the older, out of print Saint-Germain, Olivia and Madelaine novels were recently released as e-books courtesy of Tor Books and E-Reads, including:
Hotel Transylvania (E-Reads)
The Palace (E-Reads)
Blood Games (E-Reads)
Path of the Eclipse (Tor)
Tempting Fate (Tor)
Night Blooming (Tor)
Midnight Harvest (Tor)
A Flame in Byzantium (Olivia; Tor)
Crusader's Torch (Olivia;Tor)
A Candle for d'Artagnan (Olivia; Tor)

My stand-alone fantasy novel To the High Redoubt was also re-released as an e-book from E-Reads.

What if there are no more new books available, such as the Michael books? Where can they be found?

There is a reprint edition of Messages From Michael, the first Michael book that came out in 2005 from Caelum Press, with a new introduction and some additional material. A new edition of the second Michael book, More Messages from Michael, is also available. For other titles, you will have to have a used book dealer search them out for you. Keeping books in print has become more difficult than it was a decade ago, and that tends to have a negative impact on a writer's earnings. See above about some titles that were re-issued in digital formats.

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Do you have an agent?

Yes. I'm represented by Howard Morhaim of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. You might want to check out their website.

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Do you use pen-names and if so, why?

Yes, I do, although for a long time I resisted it, and still have occasional doubts about it. When Bill Fawcett came to me about the Victoire Vernet books, we were told that it couldn't be an obvious collaboration, and so we'd have to do them under a single pen-name. Quinn Fawcett was the result, and continued on through the Mycroft books and the first of the Flemings. I have developed one for non-fiction histories, so the readers won't be expecting novels, and one for certain kinds of non-Saint-Germain horror. I have another for high fantasy. And from more than twenty years back I used a pen name on a romance to avoid a potential contractual conflict.

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Do you like to collaborate?

For the most part, no. Bill's arrangement with me was we would put together a proposal with story-line included, then he'd sell it while I did the first draft, then he'd interpolate specific information for the second, and I'd finish it by smoodging the style. That's about the level of collaboration I'm comfortable with.

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What about using another person's ideas for a book?

That's called stealing, and unless the work being used as story material is long out of copyright, it is not only unprofessional, it is illegal. Every contract has a clause in which the writer guarantees that the work is original with her/him and that it does not infringe any existing copyright, so using other people's ideas is out, unless the writer in question has been dead at least 70 years. It also means that no writer can, legally or ethically, use your good idea for a story. The surest way to guarantee a writer will not write about your favorite idea is to tell him or her about it.

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How many books do you write in a year?

The average is three or four, for moderate advances. Very, very few writers make large amounts of money. If riches are your goal, writing is probably not the best way to achieve them.

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Do you ever do talks or seminars?


Yes, I do. If you know a school or organization that is interested, I have a schedule of fees and terms I'd be happy to provide.

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Which is your favorite book?

The next one.

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