Thursday, February 21, 2008

Monkey Wrenches and Stuff Like That

by guest blogger Colby Hodge

Futuristic action romance author and PRISM award winner Colby Hodge joins us in the lair today with insights about where unexpected revisions can lead. Her new book, Twist, has generated quite a buzz. Best-selling author Susan Squires calls it "a whip-smart rollercoaster ride with a tortured hero and a kick-ass heroine." RITA winner Linnea Sinclair describes it as a "[f]ast-paced, gripping, haunting and sexy . . . story of the redemptive power of love," and USA today best-seller Alyssa Day says "Twist rockets its way through enough twists and turns to satisfy any fan of action-adventure romance." However, it isn't the book she set out to write. Colby also writes historical romance as Cindy Holby and YA romance as Kassy Taylor. Welcome, Colby!

At around page 200 of my manuscript for Twist, my current release from Dorchester's exciting new Shomi line I had a monkey wrench thrown at me from out of the blue. Yes there are specific guidelines for this line. And apparently when I pitched it to the acquiring editor he got so excited about my concept that he forgot one part of the guidelines.

No vampires or werewolves.

So I'm halfway through the book I get a really sweet and apologetic email from my editor.

"Colby, I forgot...we're not using vampires or werewolves in this line."

"uh,” me immediately on the phone because I had to call him to yell at him and I knew he was hiding behind the email. “(insert editors name here). Did you forget that the vampires are my bad guys?"

"Nope.” Nervous laugh because I’m pretty sure he thought I was on my way to NYC to kill him. “But still, we got to do something. Make them nonvampire vampires or something like that." (That’s a generalization of what he said.)

I’d like to take time to mention that this email came while I was really cruising with the book. The words just trickled from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard to the screen without any effort on my part. I was in tra-la-la mode. I was thinking the book will be done six weeks before deadline. I can take some time to put together some proposals. I can go to the spa. I can actually take and enjoy my vacation.

So after I had a morning meltdown we put our heads together. And what did we come up with?

Aliens. Aliens who are the reason there is a vampire legend. Actually it was pretty cool to come up with a new concept on an old tale. Plus we made up lots of slang and my heroine only lost a few of her really snarky lines. It was also pretty cool to find out the things he saw in the manuscript. For instance, I called the bad guys ticks, as in ticks suck your blood. When I changed the blood sucking vampires to time sucking aliens I thought I’d loose the tick slang. He said leave it in. As in tick-tock you’re running out of time. And it totally worked. It was great to have someone to bounce things off of it and he applied himself to it just as much as I did. Of course he sort of had too since it was all his fault.

Then I had to go back and rewrite the first half of the book and make sure that it all made sense. When I got that done and was ready to start the down hill slide of finishing up the story my dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma and I spent a lot of time writing in quiet corners of hospital waiting rooms. I guess my time sucking aliens were pretty serious about coming after me. The book was two weeks late getting turned in then I got my edits during a really bad time with my dad. More time sucked away. But eventually the book got done and my dad is in remission. That was quite a few monkey wrenches for one book. But I think everything turned out okay in the end. For me, my dad, and my editor.

Meanwhile how do you handle revisions, in writing or in life? Have you ever had to adapt quickly to a surprise?

Colby is giving away a copy of Twist to one lucky commenter. To learn more about Colby and her alter-egos, visit the website they share,


Ann M. said...

Wow.. what a story. I don't blame your editor. I'm sure if you could have you would have pulled him through the phone to kill him.

I love the book cover. I have my first Shomi book in my TBR pile for my Romance Readers Group.

Do you feel this new line is aiming for the readership in their 20's and 30's?

Aunty Cindy said...

You snagged the Golden Rooster!

Welcome to the Lair, Colby! You must be BUSYBUSYBUSY writing under 3 different names in 3 subgenres. Can you tell us how all that came about?


Helen said...

Congrats ann m on the GR have fun with him

What a great post Colby and what a busy person you are and very strong to have handled what was thrown at you and surely came up with a wonderful book. So glad your Father is doing better.

Two weeks ago at work I came in and found that our office had been moved don't get me wrong I new that we were having a new office built but I hadn't been told when we were moving and when i got into work one day it had all been moved not to bad I suppose as the hard work was done by someone else but it is still hard getting used to a new layout.

Have Fun

Wendy said...

Colby, I read the manuscript of your book a few days ago for reviewing and LOVED IT. Are you thinking of writing a sequel to i or something of the sort?

I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. :)

Gillian Layne said...


Colby, I read the excerpt on Amazon--very cool! But this post about how it came to be is amazing. You are a true professional, lady. Your editor must love you. And I think the whole time-sucking alien concept is neat.

My teenage girls and I give that cover a two-thumbs-up!

I like life to be very predictable. Life is not. Age is certainly helping me learn to roll with the punches. I'm glad your father is doing well.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, life does have a very nasty habit of putting some monkey wrenches in the works. I had just taken a new position at work when my mother became very ill. Where I work there are 3 campuses (hospitals)on my birthday, mother went went into congestive heart failure and in less than 24 hours we were in all three divisions. When I came out of my house there was a street fight between our two houses. I called for help and then there were police AND the street fight. We couldn't get out of either driveway, my thought was get her somewhere, anywhere. I borrowed a neighbors car and took her two blocks to the first hospital that doesn't deal with such emergencies (they stabilized her), they had an ambulance take her to another division (which deals with trauma), they put her in a bed while they contacted the third hospital (where we needed to be in the first place) who didn't have a bed, approximately 5 hours later we went to that division and 3 days later she had open heart surgery. I spent two weeks basically in the hospital with my mother. I knew I was going to lose not only my new position but possibly my job as well. I didn't. I thought I might lose my mind in there as well. I didn't. I dealt with it just as you did. After all, is that not what women do?
I saw a little saying one time and though it is trite, I think it says it all. Put your big girl panties on and "deal with it". So, we do.

Deb Marlowe said...

Hi Cindy/Colby!

So glad to hear your Dad is doing better! I'm looking forward to Twist!

Any idea when your next Kassy Taylor will be out?

Cindy Holby said...

Thanks everyone for the cover love. I think I got one of the best Shomi covers. Yes the new Shomi line is geared towards the college age and up readership.

The three different names came about because of the three totally different genres. The first book I wrote was the historical, Chase The Wind. While I was shopping that around I wrote Stargazer. Since the books were so different my agent, editor and I felt a different name was needed. The same with the YA's. Kassy and Tayler are my girl friends daughters who inspired a lot of my YA.

As of now I have two historicals to write. I think I could do a sequel to Twist and I have a few other ideas for Shomi and I must write Zander's story from my Oasis series. At the moment, because of my dad's illness and life in general I want to take a step back, breathe, and figure out what I want to do next.

Not sure when Kassy will have another book out. Unfortunately my new agent doesn't rep YA's and even thought I have three proposals, I've been too busy with the other stuff to get them out there. I really love YA's a lot. They are fun to write and since I never truly grew up I love visiting that world.

doglady said...

Congrats on GR, Ann! Have fun with him!

Great interview, Colby. Wow, you make me tired! How do you manage to juggle the three genres and not go nuts? That is a terrific cover, by the way.

I am sure your editor really did fear for his life. He sounds like a smart cookie. Well, except for the part where he dared to call you that far into the book and told you what you had to change. Not smart!

With me, after a critique from someone whose opinion I really value and concurrence by some contest judges, I now have to go back through the novel I am writing the last two chapters of and bring out / define / ratchet up / elucidate the inner conflict for BOTH my hero and heroine. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK!!! BUT, I really love this novel, so I'll do it!

Trish Milburn said...

First, this book sounds really cool. I'm going to order it after I finish typing this comment. And your story gives me some inspiration. I'm in the midst of big revisions for my YA editor, and I have to tackle it a little bit at a time because I feel overwhelmed when I look at them as a whole.

I had one of those life monkey wrenches thrown at me in January. My mom was ill for about half of the month. She lives in a different state, so I was out of town and busy helping her while watching the days to my Feb. 15 deadline tick away. When I got home, I wrote like a mad woman.

I'm so glad to hear your dad is doing better. That's a really tough situation to go through.

Esri Rose said...

Congratulations on dealing with a tough time, and I'm so glad your dad is doing better!

That had to be a shock, but it's so cool that the solution involves something really unique! I haven't had anything like that happen -- I'm too new. My editor pointed out where there were problems in the relationship arc, I thanked her a bunch because I knew there were but couldn't spot them, and we went on from there. Title woes were another thing. I LOVE the title "Twist," especially with the tagline that precedes it. Well done!

Dianna, what a NIGHTMARE with your mother. I'm thinking those big-girl panties must have given you a wedgie from being pulled on so much. Whew.

Claudia Dain said...

Hi Colby!! I'm so sorry to hear about your dad, but happy that he's doing so much better. Congrats on writing such a fresh, original concept!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

esri rose, oh yes, huge wedgie! Those monkey wrenches have a way of doing that. I think that through the ages women are the ones that excel at "getting it done" though don't you? To quote a fav TV character "Jack O'Neil" "It's what we do." LOL

terrio said...

Congrats, Ann on the GR. Think she's noticed the bird following her around yet?

My life is Monkey Wrench central at times. I moved to VA in 2004 only to be ordered by a judge 6 weeks later to drive back to AR every other weekend until a new decision could be made. There are many more details to the story but suffice it to say, my (5 at the time) daughter and I drove about 40K miles in 8 months but I finally won out. Life got more than difficult but as mentioned already, I had to pull out those Big Girl Panties and deal with it!

Life is much better now. MUCH!

Nancy said...

Ann M., congrats on snagging the rooster!

Wow, Helen! You dealt with the moving thing way better than I would've. I operate on visual memory. If something isn't where I remember seeing it last, I'm completely thrown, so having the contents of my desk packed and unpacked by someone else would've been a huge problem for me.

Dianna--that's quite a two weeks you've described! As you say, sometimes we just have to deal. Congratulations on getting through it. I'm glad everything worked out okay.

Doglady, good luck with the revisions. That kind of thing can be so hard to do, but sometimes it's that particular insight, leading to yet another (often unwelcome) round of revision, that makes the book sell. I hope yours will.

Terrio, that's a heckuva lot of driving! I'm glad it finally worked out.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Cindy - Great post! Makes you wonder sometimes if everything was really supposed to work like that - monkey wrenches and all - right from the start. I love the time-sucking aliens concept. What a fresh - Dare I say it - Twist *g*.

Hugs on the health difficulties with your father. More hugs to Dianna and Trish in a similar vein.

Terrio - Sounds like you've filled your emotional well to overflowing with your cross-country treks. I suspect some of that experience will flow onto the page, carefully disquised, of course.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning Colby, and welcome to the Lair! We're glad to have you with us and yikes on t he monkey wrench. Sounds like you came up with not only a great solution, but a unique story line to boot.

The only big monkey wrench I've had recently was five different friends insisted the ending of chapter one for my last MIP (Mess in progress), was actually where the story had to start. Being the stubborn person I am, it took five of them to tell me that before I agreed. Which of course meant rewriting the beginning before submitting it anywhere else. But I have to admit they were right!

terrio said...

Nancy & Donna - It's a wonder I don't get hives when I get in the car these days. LOL! In actually got to the point that the truckers would honk and wave to us just because they saw us on their route so much. And I always stayed in the same hotels so I wonder if that night clerk in Nashville is worried about not seeing me. LOL!

You know, I don't read vamps/weres but I've never thought about aliens. That might be fun. I'll add it to my (long!) list. *g*

limecello said...

Congrats, Ann!

Cindy- what a post. I love that you went from vampires ... to aliens! (Although I think my head would have exploded if I had to go through that conversation.) That's so fun that you got to use "ticks" - and it still worked. I'm so glad your dad is doing better. That must've been an incredibly hard time.

p226 said...

I have yet to experience this. As such, I'm cruising along in "ignorance is bliss" mode.

Bliss... sweet bliss....

I refuse to believe that editors actually want you to change stuff. This won't happen to me. *g*

Minna said...

Isn't there always something? Like when I wanted to go to Canada for a couple of months as an exchange student. I had filled all the possible papers, because I was told "sure, you can go there". And then I was told I can't go because there was no one coming to Finland through ISEP (International Stdent Exchange Program) from Canada. I cursed all the way home and then filled ALL those papers all over again.

Joan said...

Colby/Cindy welcome to the lair!!!

I've read you as Cindy and absolutely LOVED Rising Wind. Not only was it a good story it was set in a "different" historical setting. Hurray for different time periods!

I'm still having to work through the Shomi covers....not my cup of tea so to speak. I realize this type of graphics is popular but reminds me too much of the "Speed Racer" cartoon growing up.

I didn't much like Speed Racer. Or his monkey.

Hmmm...I don't like the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz either....

King Kong gets on my nerves...

Hm. I'm sensing a theme here.

Glad you're Dad is doing well

tetewa said...

Glad you could be here today and I'm looking forward to Twist!

Cindy Holby said...

Rising Wind

I loved writing Rising Wind. It was such a personal story for me since I grew up on the battlefield in Pt. Pleasant. It was my aboslute favorite place to go as kid. And yep, my dad thought I was weird because its the only place I wanted to go. Little did I know that one day I'd be writing the story of the battle.

Loving the big girl panties theme. I never looked at it that way. Sometimes you just got to do what you gotta do.

As far as switching genre's are concerned I don't have much trouble doing it. Except I really dislike getting into the reseach part of writing histocials.. I"m really anal about it being right and also get caught up in the oh shiny stuff. I'm writing about 1773 Aberdeen Scotland right now and found a web cam. It was way cool to see the street scene and the North Sea beyond.

Waving to Claudia and Deb! Hope to see you guys soon!

Amy Andrews said...

Hi Colby. Interesting background to Twist. Think I would have had a heart attack!

Revisions - bane of my life. The ones that make the book better, great. The ones that make it a completely different story? Not so great....

Marilynn said...

This book sounds great! I love a good sci fi. I am sorry to hear about your dad. It is never easy to go through something like that.

Marilynn said...

I love a good sci fi.

I am sorry to hear about your dad it is so tough when something like that happens and life continues.

catslady said...

Wow what perserverance. I would have either gone screaming into the night or rolled up in a ball sucking my thumb lol. Obviously I'm not a writer. I like the cover too - reminds me of my daughter's anime. Glad everything came out well for your dad, too.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Colby! Welcome to the Lair and thanks for sharing your story with us. I admire you for soldiering on through all of those setbacks and coming through with flying colours. Thanks so much for visiting!

Anna Campbell said...

Colby, welcome to the lair! Nancy, thank you for inviting yet another fascinating guest to play with the Banditas. Congratulations on the release of Twist. It sounds absolutely fantastic! And I love how the 'tick' idea translated so smoothly!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Colby! I'm late - what's new? - but wanted to add my welcome to the Lair! :> Always glad to see a cooool paranormal. Love the cover and can "see" the marketing geared toward the anime generation. I was just wincing (hard, too) at the thought of being so far into the book and having that call come in. Arrrgh. What a trooper you are to have pulled it out. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? Ha! So sorry to hear about your Dad, but glad to know he's okay as well. Sometimes those hospital waiting rooms make for good writing time though, and writing makes for a good escape from the reality of the waiting room.

Ann M. Congrats on the GR! :>

Oh, and Colby, you and Trish M are my heroes, writing in multiple genres. :> I bow in your general direction!

Caren Crane said...

Colby, great to see you here! I can't comment during the work day, thanks to Big Brother, or I would have come to play earlier!

I am amazed by your ability to write such different stories and keep track of the business of having three pseudonyms! *bows*

Ann M., congrats on snagging the GR! Try to steer him away from junk food. After all the time he spent with Jennifer lately, he's developed a penchant for it. Jennifer, what were you feeding him?!

Caren Crane said...

P226, you make me laugh and laugh! No revisions - har-de-har-har!

Of course, there's always the chance YOU may not be asked to do any.


Caren Crane said...

Minna, did you ever get to go to Canada?!

jo robertson said...

Welcome to the Lair, Colby. What a great story about overcoming a serious obstacle!

Minna said...

Well, I went to U.S.A., but after my studies there were over I went to Canada for 2 weeks to see my relatives.

Cherie J said...

As a stay at home mom to a 4 year old boy and a 16 month old girl I have truly had to learn to improvise. Expect the unexpected has become my life. :-)