News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Wednesday Writer's Corner on Short Hiatus

Hi Gang.  I feel bad, but JC and I are working under a deadline.  The next Noble Dead book, The Dog in the Dark, is due in January, and we've both been putting in a lot of computer time trying to get the first draft finished for our publisher.  I'm going take a short hiatus on the Wednesday Writer's Corner, but will resume it once we get the next book turned in--probably in early January.

The Wednesday Writer’s Corner: Responding to Reviews

Now some of you are already published, and many of you who keep on trying will eventually be published.  So, this week’s advice applies to your situation after you’ve been published.  For published writers, this may be one of the most essential pieces of survival advice you’ll ever receive. 

Are you ready?  Here goes:

Negative Reviews

Never . . . never ever . . . ever ever, publicly respond to a negative reader review.  Never ever email someone who’s given you a negative reader review.  For God’s sake don’t read a negative review on Amazon and then click on “comment” and tell the reviewer (in public) what a complete idiot he/she must be to give your book a bad review.


The Wednesday Writer’s Corner: Can you give me some tips on how to get a novel published?

I have a “contact” email address attached to this website, and the question above is by far the most common email I receive.  In fact, most of the emails I receive are from hopeful writers looking for advice on how to get published.

This is not an easy question to answer, and in truth, it took me years to sort of figure all this out.  However, keep in mind that at this point in my life, I’ve been working with the same publisher and the same literary agency since 2001, and so the process for publishing has been a different for me over the last eleven years then it would be for someone trying to break in.  But . . . I don’t think things have changed that much.  I do have friends who’ve recently landed their first agent and sold their first novel project.

The basics are:
Complete a publishable novel.  Get the book finished and polished.

Write a 4-5 page novel synopsis.

Get yourself an agent.

Have the agent shop the novel. 

The Wednesday Writer's Corner Takes a Week Off

Hi folks!  I'm doing some cooking and prepping for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm going to take a holiday from the Wednesday Writer's Corner this week.

Tune in again next Wednesday.

Happy Turkey Day!

Going “Indie”: Are traditional writers really lazy?

For those who pay attention to Internet blog debates, the whole flame war between “indie” writers and traditionally published is getting heated—and in my opinion, somewhat ridiculous.

For those of you just coming into the room here, a number of writers are both practicing and loudly (and I do mean loudly) proposing that we all ditch our agents, ditch our publishers, and independently publish our own books—focusing mainly on electronic sales.  The great upside of this is that places like Amazon (Kindle), Apple (iPad) and B&N (Nook) keep only 30% of the take, and the writer gets 70% of the take.  This is a MUCH larger cut for the writer than a traditional publisher pays.

A traditional New York publisher pays between 8% and 15% percent royalties—depending on book format—and as I covered earlier this week, your agent will also take 15% of what you earn because most writers working with a New York publisher have agents.

Okay, so 70% versus 8 to 15% is fabulous . . . well, if anyone knows your book actually exists.

Those Lazy Traditional Writers

The main accusation from the folks who take the “indie” path is that traditional writers are lazy.  I don’t care much for name calling in general, but this one really bothers me.

Powell's Authorfest Recap

All went well, and we caught up with some friends in the spare moments. A few photos were snapped along the way, so if curious, drop by the Noble Dead Saga's official Facebook page to check those out.

The photos are courtesy of authors Louise Marley and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Book Signing: Powell’s Authorfest

The Wednesday Writer’s Corner: Finances for the Self-Employed

Okay to start, I don’t personally know many writers who are like me and JC in the sense that writing novels constitutes 100% of their income—and in all honesty, I’m not sure I would recommend it.  Most of the professional writers I know have a spouse/partner with a full time job, or the writer has a job and manages to finish a book a year around the cracks of time.

But JC and I are both full time writers.

Depending on both the publishing industry and sales to the general public, this can be a tenuous way to live.  Self-employed people are also in charge of their own health insurance and their own retirement, so think about this carefully as you’re making career plans. But for today, I’m just going to talk about how the money breaks down for a full time writer (who is working with a publisher).

The Wednesday’s Writer Corner: The Stages of Getting a Novel Ready for Publication

Back when JC and I sold DHAMPIR, we were so blissfully ignorant about what was going to happen next, that we didn’t even realize just how many stages actually “were” going to happen next.  I’ll probably talk about negotiations and contracts in a future post, but that really is a different topic, so I’m going to sort of jump over that.  The only thing I need to mention is that writer is typically paid an “advance against royalties”—sort of like a loan against how much your book will earn.  A typical first advance from a New York publisher is around $6,000.  Half of that is paid upon signing the contract and the other half upon “Delivery and Acceptance,” and I’ll chat about that in a minute.  Do note that the signing check won’t arrive until between six weeks and two months after you sign the contract—or at least that’s how it works for us.

So, here are the steps a typical novel takes to reach publication.

S3B1: Between Their Worlds

It’s finally here… the back cover summary for the beginning of Series 3 of the Noble Dead Saga. Visit and select “Books” from the site’s main menu and then select “Series 3, Book 1, Between Their Worlds” in the right-hand menu on that page.

That is the last info about the book that can be released, as we all wait until January 3rd, 2012, when the book appears on the shelves. Pre-orders are available at all online venues. Links to some of those are available within the book’s information on our site. Magiere, Leesil and Chap are back!


We've got the comments function turned off at my website--for a number of reasons--but these same posts show up on my Facebook page, and the comments function is available there if people feel like chatting.  Just click on the link below.


News Options: Facebook Linkage

facebookNews linkage options for readers and other visitors have received a small update; look to the sidebar of our site(s). If you already chose your preferred method to receive our updates, you do not need to make any changes. More such convenience tweaks (and expansion of options) are planned for the near future. Stay tuned.

Writing to the Market: “Should I write what I like or what I think will get me published?”

This is a very tricky question that has caused many writers anguish and stress because the answer is complicated—if there is an answer.

My general feeling is that if you try to force yourself to write novels you don’t care about, readers won’t care about them either.  So, here are thoughts on this issue . . .

The Artistic Personality: Is it really okay to treat other people like crap?

This post is a little different from typical “writing advice," but the question above has plagued me for years—possibly because I think how some artists answer it is complete hogwash.  Back in college, artistic people (mainly writers) were the crux of my daily world.  Some of them were awesome (I’m married to one of them), but I remember meeting more than my share of the stereotypes.

You know . . . the tall, good-looking, brooding poet/dude who didn’t shower often enough and who let his girlfriend support him and cook his meals, and he barely noticed her, and when I pointed this out, he answered, “I’m a poet.  I have an artist’s nature.”

“And that gives you the right to treat your girlfriend like crap?”

It was really none of my business, and I decided that at some point she’d probably realize he was never going to notice her efforts or give her any help, and she’d get herself out.

Big News

Okay, I've been sitting on some big news for a while, but I couldn't announce it until now. I just signed the contracts for a new series called THE MIST TORN WITCHES. This is a high/dark fantasy series, very similar in tone and style to the first three Noble Dead books (and it's set in Droevinka). It's about a pair of orphaned sisters (kind of gypsy-ish), one of whom can read people's futures, who become obligated to the local nobility and have to use their own abilities to solve supernatural murder mysteries.  The first book probably won't hit the shelves until spring of 2013.  But I'm really excited!

The Wednesday Writer's Corner: How Important is Research?

One of the most common questions that budding writers ask JC or me is, “Do you do a great deal of research for your books?”  The short answer is, “Yes and no.”  We’ve purchased and read a ridiculous amount of books in the last ten years . . . on vampires, medieval fortresses, Eastern European myths, etc, but for the most part this research has proven to be a “jumping off point” for the actual stories we end up writing.

“How does that work?” you ask. 

So, here goes . . .

1) Inspiration for Story Ideas

Research into myth and legend can be a wonderful way to generate story ideas.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to avoid Internet research (which would be a topic for a different post) and just focus on the books we’ve used.  Two books we’ve leaned upon heavily are Matthew Bunson’s The Vampire Encyclopedia and Paul Barber’s Vampires, Burial, and Death.

Book Signing: Powell’s Authorfest

Barb and J.C. will attend “Authorfest” at the Beaverton Powell’s bookstore.  This is a fun event where many local SF/Fantasy authors will be in attendance and signing their books.  Since it is a bookstore (and one of our favorite local chains), of course books are on sale during the event. The store staff makes a great effort to be certain all current books by attending authors are available. Please join us if you can!

Date: Sunday 11/13/2011
Time: 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97005

The Wednesday Writer's Corner: Chapter Length in a Novel

JC and I are often asked questions by hopeful, young writers, and I've kept a mental list of the most common ones.  Here is a surprising question I get asked . . . well, a lot.

"How long should each chapter in a book be?"

The frequency of this question has surprised me over the years because I think some writers really struggle with this--and they worry.  But honestly, there is no right or wrong answer here.  Some writers prefer very short chapters to try and keep the pace quick.  Some writers alternate the point of view between characters by giving only one character the entire "chapter" and then another character the next entire chapter and so on.  Others, like me and JC, use multiple scenes inside a chapter, and often, each chapter tells a small story of its own inside the larger plot, so the length of our chapters depends upon what needs to "happen."

In the current Noble Dead book we are drafting, the longest chapter so far is 39 pages, and the shortest chapter is 11 pages.  If we go longer than 50 pages, we normally take another look at the arc in the chapter and see if we might break it up.

But I think my best answer to this question would be, "It depends on the kind of book you're writing.  It depends on the structure you've chosen.  Follow your instincts, and really, don't worry about it."

The October Writing Cycle

Since our books have been "due" on the exact same months for years, we've unconsciously seemed to develop a writing rhythm that revolves around the seasons.  I write a Vampire Memories book in the spring, and then in early summer, we start outlining the next Noble Dead book together.  This may seem strange, but outlining a Noble Dead book is by far the most time consuming aspect.  It takes a number of months.  We brainstorm and work on the outline in the morning, passing it back and forth, and then we work in our veggie garden in the afternoon.  Here in Oregon, summers are surprisingly warm and dry.  People who visit are often quite surprised by how little it rains from June through September.  Then in October . . . the sky turns gray, and the rain becomes relentless.  That's also when we complete the Noble Dead outline and turn to serious drafting, holed up in our little house, watching the veggie garden beginning to fade, but I always feel both very driven and very content to write every day, bringing our outline to life.  We will continue this through January, when the book is due.  Then I kind of mentally collapse for a month, and then I gear up to write a Vampire Memories novel . . . and the whole process starts again.  It will rain here from now until May.  But I don't mind at all.

Book Sightings: VM4: In Memories We Fear

Book "placement" in the bookstores is often crucial to whether a book/series becomes a success or not.  JC and I used to live near Boulder, Colorado, and we ran up into Denver all the time, so we could always check in a variety of bookstores (B&N, Tattered Cover, etc) to see how our books were being displayed.  A book really has to be visible to reach an audience.  I'm honestly not sure how this going to work with the movement toward e-books.

However . . . now, we live just a tad off the beaten path in Oregon (nowhere near a bookstore), so we have to rely on other folks to let us know how our books are being displayed in the stores.  I've been hearing reports on VM4: In Memories We Fear, and it seems the best place to find it in a Barnes & Noble is to look in the New SF/Fantasy section, on the "new" mass market shelf.  It should be there!

A Long Day

Wow, between stressing over the release day for In Memories We Fear, drafting for five hours on a Noble Dead novel, and doing some last minute things to get this site ready for prime time viewing . . . this is how we feel.

Kindle Version–VM4: In Memories We Fear

I just went through the Kindle e-version for In Memories We Fear, and it looks good — very clean.  I always do this when a new book comes out. The e-version for S1B6: Child of a Dead God came out with no scene breaks — none.  Anyone who reads our books, and knows that we switch character point of view in each new scene, can imagine how difficult it would be a read a Noble Dead book with no scene breaks. Once we alerted her, our fabulous editor jumped on this and got it fixed. But I still like to check the e-versions when they come out and just make sure.

Release–VM4: In Memories We Fear

VM4_usa_smallJC created a spiffy new website for me for the publication of In Memories We Fear.  I’m excited about this novel.  Even though it is book four, I’ve had this story rolling around inside my head since I first pitched the series.

You can view excerpts from this novel on the Books page.

Happy reading!

Release Schedule

Hi Gang,

I've received emails about the "order" of the books and release dates for upcoming books, so I thought I'd do a post here. First, my publisher has decided to go straight to mass market release for future Vampire Memories books.

So, Memories of Envy will be released in mass market format on June 7th 2011. You can find the proper order and release dates of past and future books/editions on the "Books" page (see the site menu).