Saturday, August 30, 2008

New challenge

Well folks, earlier this week we talked about starting up a new challenge and several people expressed interest. So let's do it! I was thinking, to start, let's do a smaller time frame. Each of us are at different stages of projects, so you'll have to adapt this to fit your needs.

My challenge for us all is to finish our project by the end of September. For me, that's finishing the first draft of my WIP before university starts back up on September 29. Does anyone else have a manuscript they are near finishing, or edits that they think they can complete by the end of the month?

Just a four week committment. What do you think? Are you up for it? State your goal in the comments so we can keep track and support each other.

By the way, go Ducks! This is where I'm headed today, and many Saturdays this fall. Autzen Stadium. Sigh, I love football season.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm a nice person...honest!

Dear Dr. So-and-So,
My wife needs some research help. She wants to know how to poison someone and make their death look natural. Can you give me specific drug and dosing instructions on how this might work?
Thanks,
Writer-husband
Okay, I don't know why the above email would cause problems. All I did was ask the DH to use some of his medical connections to get the research questions answered that I need for the wip. This was the dr's reply:

Dear Writer-husband,
Get a lawyer.
Dr. So-and So

I kid you not. This happened. And Dr. So-and-So is a big doc in my hubby's territory. Needless to say, hubby's scrambling to clarify the situation. Surprisingly, though, this isn't the first reaction I've gotten to my poison murder question. When I asked the brother of a close friend (the brother is a PA in Gresham, btw), his response was, "Can I have your hubby's cell number? I think he needs to know what you're asking here." When I contacted an ME with the same question, she hedged in her response, then never got back to me with specifics. When I asked a cop friend, his mind suddenly went blank. I mean, come on people. Do I look like a psycho murdering woman?????

Okay, maybe the above photo is a bad one to post with this blog. Really. I'm a nice person. I just need to know the details of how to kill someone by poisoning and make it look like natural causes. Is that so much to ask????

Ever had any research questions that got you weird looks (or people running for the hills)?????

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SWIMMIN' UP STREAM

I recently heard an analogy about swimming up stream. The speaker said we can make our lives harder or easier. Harder by trying to swim upstream or easier by going with the flow of the stream to let it carry us where we want to be.

This analogy came back to me a couple nights ago as I was looking at my "to do" list and starting to get frustrated by what I didn't get done. Never mind that I had been pushing myself and working hard all day--again. Projects I was wrapping up gave only a moment's satisfaction before I plunged back into my never-ending list of things that "should" have been complete.

Then a quiet voice inside my head repeated that analogy. Was I making my life harder or easier? Was I swimming upstream or letting the flow take me where I wanted to go? Rather than focusing on one project at a time and feeling the joy and satisfaction of working on that project, I had been pushing and fussing about what I still had to do, which makes me cranky. When I'm cranky, my dogs fuss at each other more and my grandson acts wilder and crazier. Duh moment. I need to let things come to me instead of trying to force things. When I go with the flow, I don't run into so many snafus, and the answers to what seem like problems come easily.

Lately, judging contests has been on my "to do" list. I haven't done this for quite awhile, but re-entering the world of contests has been a good review of things to watch in my own writing. Judging guidelines are also great for these tips, such as making sure the conflict is obvious and the characters have strong motivation for what they do. Here are some reminders from the entries I recently judged:

--Perhaps it's my detail-oriented personality, but "little" things like grammar, spelling, formatting and punctuation do matter. I judged one entry that sometimes indented paragraphs and sometimes didn't. Sometimes put two returns between paragraphs and sometimes one. Quotation marks seemed to be tossed onto the page at random without regard to whether anyone was speaking or not and rarely came in sets, but just an opening quotation or a closing one. In contrast, the formatting and punctuation in another entry were pretty much invisible because they were correct and consistent. I was able to enjoy the story instead of trying to figure out what the heck the jumble of words and symbols meant. My internal editor is too strong to make the worst of these mistakes, but I do need to watch out for things such as often-repeated words and overused dashes!

--I had one entry where the hero's name changed and the writer didn't catch that snafu. Ouch! Sometimes the most obvious errors are the easiest to overlook.

--A subgenre I wouldn't normally pick up was the story that pulled me in the most. A good reminder to keep an open mind and take the time to discover something new--or perhaps push the envelope in my own writing.

Lest you now fear bringing anything to share at a critique meeting, please know that I did find something positive to say about each entry. I am also very aware that I hold someone's "baby" in my judging hands and, if I'm struggling with an entry, I'll flag that entry to the contest coordinator to be sure I'm not completely missing something obvious to other judges.

A contest that I recently judged was also interesting because the coordinator sent a comparison chart of how each judge scored the entries. One manuscript I struggled with also got low marks from the other two judges. We didn't score so consistently with some of the other entries. The group of entries I helped judge included the lowest overall score and the highest overall score in the contest, so there was a wide range of writing quality in the entries I received.

Do you enter contests? Why? I entered a few before I was published, mainly to connect with an editor I was targeting. I had good experiences and got wonderful feedback, met some of the judges and had a great conversation with one in particular. Now I'm looking for contests where I can enter my published work for that coveted "award-winning author" title. Beyond "what's in it for me," judging contests is simply a nice way to connect and "give back" to our community of romance writers. It's not just going with the flow of the stream, but making sure I'm in a stream that's important to me. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PULPY FICTION, A CAUTIONARY TALE


Please, welcome a guest blogger today. Let me introduce Dr. Paper, a renowned psychoanalyst specializing in the treatment of patients with written word issues. His patient, Mr. Sy Nopsis, has bravely agreed to share this rare glimpse into a document in trouble…

Dr. Paper: So, Mr. Nopsis, why are you here today?

Sy (nervously, doubly so now that he realizes he's included two adverbs in his thought process): She's straying.

Dr. Paper: Tell me more.

Sy: She's not coming home like she used to. She's going somewhere else for, you know, inspiration.

Dr. Paper (who has heard it all before, shakes his binding): How do you know this for sure?

Sy: Late nights, strange words showing up, strange ideas we never talked about, she doesn't consult me like she used to… sob… she ... she doesn't need…me…

Dr. Paper: Calm down, Sy. When did you notice this…er, disassociation?

Sy (blotting his blurring ink) : Just recently. Until, say, yesterday, she was always stopping by. You know, checking things, talking to me, adding a word here and there, telling me how much she appreciated me being there for her whenever she needed me...

Dr. Paper: Now, come on, perhaps you're overreacting…

Sy: Oh yeah? Maybe I should contact her editor. Maybe I should tell that nice lady that my … sob… writer is using other words behind her back. Huh?

Dr. Paper: You wouldn't do that!

Sy: I would! I'm desperate. She's straying, I tell you, she's drifting away from me…

Dr. Paper: Perhaps she's just outgrown you, Sy.

Sy: Profound silence.

Dr. Paper: Even in the best of relationships, Sy, people move on, they have evolving needs.

Sy: I know when it happened. It was when she hit second to last chapter and she started having these ideas and then she came to me for direction and I said, "Hero and heroine work together to save the day." That was the moment. She snarled at me. She accused me of being vague. Me! Then she stormed off.

Dr. Paper ( nodding so fast his lines blur): Can you blame her?

Sy: No. She needed specifics and I didn't have them.

Dr. Paper: Don't be too hard on yourself. After all, you can't be more than the sum of what she's invested in you. She just realized the relationship was over before you did.

Sy (sighs): This always happens. There comes a time when I'm not enough.

Dr. Paper: It happens to the best of us.

And thus ends this interview. No longer needed, no longer consulted on every issue, Sy Nopsis cried himself into a pulpy ball at this point. He had outlived his usefulness, and I, Dr. Paper, was forced to move on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School AKA Eight Days til Vacation



At the end of summer I clean out the girls' closets. They try on every item of clothing, and I decide if it's too short, too tight, or too ripped. The too short and too tight items are handed down to the next girl, and the ripped (always jeans) get hacked into shorts. The kids love this day.

We start in the oldest girl's closet as daughter #2 watches #1 try on clothes and offers commentary. "That's way too tight."
I study the pair of jeans daughter #1 has on from last spring and decide they aren't too snug. They should fit through the first month or two of school, but daughter #2 shakes her head. "Definitely too tight." I look carefully at daughter #2. Her gaze is locked on the cool stitching and rhinestones on the jeans. She wants them. Badly.

When I was a kid, I hated hand-me-downs. My sister was six years older than me, so by the time I got her clothes the fashions were a little wrong. Plus I hated used clothing. My kids love getting the older sisters' clothes. There have been emotional tears in the past when a favorite outfit no longer fits and it is handed down to the next girl. The original owner doesn't care that it no longer fits; she simply doesn't want her younger sister to have it.

This trickle down effect has had a couple of obvious results. The youngest's closet is jam-packed and the oldest's is nearly empty. This year #1 had one pair of snug jeans and a pair of sweat pants that still fit. No skirts, no dresses. So she gets the most new clothes. Daughters #2 and #3 always protest this fact during the shopping trips, but a reminder that the new items will be in their closets in a year or two pacifies them. But I buy them new stuff, too. Girl clothing is just so damned cute I can't resist.

Some of the basics I've learned over the years:

1. Spend the extra money on good brand name socks. The store brand socks suck and the little seam at the toes drives kids crazy when they put on their shoes.

2. Buy more socks then you think you'll need. Yesterday I bought 23 pairs.

3. Kid underwear shrinks. It may look the right size in the store, but once it's washed it fits the next child down, not the intended child.

4. Buy more underwear than you think you'll need.

5. Buy with room to grow!! Especially with shoes and jeans. My mom doesn't get this. She'll buy them clothing that'll fit for a month.

6. Spend the extra money on good brand name tennis shoes. They'll hold together and look nice through two kids. Store brand won't survive through one kid.

7. When feasible, shop with one kid at a time. (snort) When all three kids go, I return home with purchases I hadn't planned on making. I couldn't say no when daughter #2 fell in love with the fuzzy TOL print clogs with inch and a half heels. TOL = touch of leopard. I would've wanted them when I was eight, too. I'm sure her teachers will wonder what in the hell her mom was thinking. This is the same daughter that wanted her sister's rhinestone jeans.

Right now, everyone's closets are well stocked. Fresh school supplies are in the backpacks, ready for the first day. I won't go into the pains of school supply shopping or backpack fashions. (High School Musical vs. Hannah Montana) That is a whole other post. Next Wednesday morning as the bus hauls away all three girls, I'll wave and blow kisses. Then I'll hit Starbucks for a first day of school mini-celebration and then curl up with my laptop for six blissful, uninterrupted hours of work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Big changes

I've been going along, working on my WIP. Reading through what I have and trying to add a little bit more here and there. Then BAM, the dreaded epiphany. This isn't working! The timeline isn't right. The continued connection (i.e. why the hero and heroine are still interacting) doesn't fit. The conflict isn't quite right. It's just not fitting together as well as it should.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through the story at this point. It's light on words because I'm dialogue heavy in my first draft, I need to layer back in the internals, setting, etc. So 3/4 of the way through I get this epiphany. Granted, I'm glad I've had the epiphany. It will make the book better, but goodness gracious I just want to get the draft done!

I can't in good conscious continue with the draft the way it is now. I'd be knowingly making a ton more work for myself. But I also don't want to go back and rewrite what I have, to fit into my new idea. I just want to cross that finish line. But it seems odd to finish the book pretending that the first part of it matches in storylines.

Have any of you faced this problem before? What did you do - rewrite it before continuing, or just fix it all later?

Also, is anyone up for kickstarting some sort of writing challenge or doing some goal-setting? Either a short month-long thing, or for the rest of the year, or just the fall?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

JUST CHECKING


How's everyone doing? It's Saturday, time to check in and report progress or just what you're up to. Traffic on the blog has fallen off lately, it seems to me. Is everyone grabbing the last bit of summer fun?

Paty is normally an early blogger like I am, so I assume she's off setting sprinklers or herding grandchildren, so I'll go first. I'm on page 220, Chapter Ten. Don't know if I'll get much writing done today -- hope to. My goal is to finish the book in August so I have the first two weeks of September to get it to make sense.

How are you doing?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where am I?


I've been discussing fantasy clichés on my blog over the past week or so, and the fact that clichés can become original when given the author's own unique twist. So many plot clichés are actually story elements traditional for a lot of fiction, regardless of the genre.

How about a character who finds herself transport to a different world. A space alien abduction might be cliché, but there are plenty of other ways a character can travel from one world to the next, and for a variety of reasons. This is a story element, not a cliché. Calling this plot point a cliché is practically like saying that making villains evil is cliché. Not every story has one, and those that do don't have to be exactly the same.

What are the different reasons a character might find him or herself in a different world?

Quest: This could involve traveling to an alien world or alternate dimension. Lots of fantasy stories feature a quest of some kind, like finding the magic amulet or rescuing the princess. However, I've heard many agents say they'll reject a story with this kind of quest story line, but I suppose if it's different enough, it could pass. It's all about the writing.

Amnesia: Here's an interesting idea, having the MC suddenly find himself in a place he doesn't recognize and has no idea how he got there, or even who he is. The story is spent trying to solve the mystery. There was a television show like that a few years ago, but it didn't make it past the first or second season, so the mystery of the guy's identity was never solved. I've always wondered about that...

Accident: An incantation goes awry and the character doesn't arrive in the destination he'd intended. Time travel stories are good for this, like H.G. Wells' Time Machine. Great conflict potential. I also remember an episode on the Angel TV series where Cordelia is accidentally transported to the demon dimension of Pyleia after reciting an incantation from a book. Turns out it wasn't really an accident because the Powers That Be sent her there on purpose. Great episode (I have all 5 seasons on DVD).

Adventure: A curious character intentionally travels to another dimension, planet, country, or place in time just to see what it's like, and encounters all kinds of fascinating surprises. Maybe she finds love. Maybe she finds the true purpose to her life. Maybe she realizes adventure isn't what it's cracked up to be. Great theme opportunities here, and some interesting character arcs to explore.

I think the appeal of the foreign land or alternate dimension is the sense of awe we enjoy when encountering the unknown. Speculative fiction is all about the unknown, and whether we choose to fear or embrace it. It's one of the most exciting aspects about the genre. Avoiding it because it's misconstrued as cliché would be like giving the entire genre that distinction. If that happened, what would I have to read?

I know this is mostly about fantasy, but it can apply to any genre. When you take a fish out of water, what does she do?

I'm on my way to Eugene to spend time with both my Oregon daughter and my Colorado daughter, who's staying at her sister's house for the next few days. And of course she brought little baby Adam, my grandson, along. Squeee!! I'll be wearing my grandma hat for the next few days as I cavort with my girls to shop, bike ride, stay up late watching movies, and do yoga in the mornings. Now that's heaven! Point is, I may or may not respond to comments right away. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Writing for Olympic Gold

A lot has been written in the last few days about Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals. (Michael who? He's a swimmer, who last week broke Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals in a single Olympics, and now has 14 total gold medals, making him arguably the greatest Olympian ever). Many writers have focused on what comes next for him, and what happens once you achieve stratospheric success.

Last week, in an online chat Suzanne Brockmann fielded similar questions and discussed how she reconciled achieving NYT status and realizing that she was "still me." She writes, "It was my goal. And at the same time, I'm constantly freaked out by the fact that I'm actually to this place. I said it earlier -- I'm still me. For a while, it was weirdly hard to achieve success, because then you go, "Now what?" It stumped me for a bit." Phelps has said similar things, that he always knew 8 golds were possible, but that he's absolutely dumbfounded that it happened.

What gets me about both of their stories is that they both believed, absolutely, that their wildest dreams were possible, and they lived their lives as if it would happen. NBC has a great video detailing Phelps' training schedule and how he crams 9,000 calories and umpteen miles of swimming into each day.

So, I asked myself, how would I live if I had NYT status or even just an NY contract. What would I need to do to fulfill my obligations? How many words would I average each day? How much time spent networking? How many proposals each year? Could I start living that way right now?

And then, I spent the next 3 days in a deep, deep, dark funk as I realized that it's not just that I CAN'T live like that right now, I'm not sure I want to make those sacrifices. I visualized a week, a month, a year, spent living like that, and honestly, I'm not sure I can do it at this point in my life. And that's a rather humbling thing to realize about yourself--that you may not have what it takes, not because you lack for talent (a whole separate issue), but that you're not willing to do the hard work required.

But, this gives me a starting point. Something to strive for and wrestle with as I try to sort out that timeless dilemma of work and family. I think asking myself these questions is a really good thing, even if I don't like the answers. And then I have to ask myself WHY I feel guilty and what I can do to either change my answer or get happier with it.

Now, you try. Visualize your wildest success. Poof! You have it! You're living it. Now what. What does your day look like? Your week? Your year? What would you do AFTER you achieved your wildest dreams? Are you willing to make those changes now? To really believe 100% that your dreams will come true? If you already have a part of the dream--a contract, a book, a room of your own--what has changed about your daily routine? Your priorities? Have you struggled with the "What next?" question? Do you have the makings of an Olympic champion?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Show vs Tell

Hi all. sorry for the delay. The lightning we had yesterday took out the transformer for my wireless internet. Thank you, Lori for filling in for me yesterday!

I just finished the edits my editor requested on Miner. Most of it turned out to be comments by her: Telling. Show me this.

I took a look at some sites that described show vs tell- and to be truthful, I’m still confused.

So, I’m going to put up five sentences from books and have you tell me if they are telling or showing and if you think they are telling rewrite them to make them showing.

1) ...he said in a manner that indicated she didn’t believe him at all.

2) And his hair, Mimi thought disbelievingly staring up at him, was perfet.

3) He knew he'd botched it even before he heard her quiet intake of breath.

4) She shook off the fanciful feeling and straightened her shoulders.

5) Immediately, the smells of wild onions and animal tallow filled his head.

Monday, August 18, 2008

WRITE N FORGE

—From "County Fairs," October 1997, National Geographic magazine
Photograph by Randy Olson

Paty called me this morning. She without internet this morning. They have lightening and she thinks it may have hit her transformer. So, I’m posting today. She’ll post tomorrow.

I grew up in a county known for it’s annual Pig N Ford races. They began in 1925. Imagine five goggled men scrambling from one side of the dusty horse racetrack, each grabbing a twenty pound piglet out of a big wooden bin, dashing to their model-T, starting their antiquated vehicle by hand, cranking the engine with a squirming hog under their arm. Once started they jump into the drivers seat and head around the track, carrying their squealing partner in their arm. Round completed they stop the jalopy, kill the engine, return their high-pitched noise maker to the bin, grab another baby pig and repeat the same process a total of three times.

One contestant always manages to lose his piglet. Man and beast engage in a new short-term picture snapping event. A wild pattern of zigging and zagging down the track ensues and ends in a wrestling match. The crowd cheers the duo. Back in the strong arms of his triumphant surrogate parent the wayward animal, still in protest, wiggles and shrieks.

We can apply the art of writing to the same game principles. You strap on your thinking cap. Dig into your pen of ideas, grasping a handful of notes and tote the precious darlings against your heart on your accelerated dash to your laptop. Push the necessary buttons to crank-start your computer, hop into your chair, and hope your characters won’t scream and squeal at the turning points, black moment and resolution you’ve manipulated and implemented for them to perform.

Plan in motion you steer through the first draft avoiding backstory, charging through each scene and chapter. You stop, take a deep breath and dig deeper into your pen of plot ideas. Another circle through your book you fill in those pesky sinking holes, dangling participles, adjectives and adverbs. For added enhancement and clarity you ordain a few descriptive phrases and finish the second round, each scene enriched. On the final lap you fine tune your manuscript adding or subtracting words, polish any lingering rusty spots and jaunt to the finish line.

Did you embrace your characters to the end, or do you need to chase them down across the pages? Do you need to tackle their protests with pitch-perfect proses, wrap a tighter sentence structure around their scenes and convince them they need to join you at the finish line?

What rules do you apply to your writing game in your race to the finish line?

Show vs Tell

The edits I received back from my editor had many things marked 'telling, show me this'. I agonized over several of the sentences thinking what is she talking about. I thought I knew showing and telling. But I found I was digging deep enough.

Do you know the difference between show vs tell and do you agonize over which is which? Does it matter to you?

Here are some sentenced

Saturday, August 16, 2008

SATURDAY CHECK IN


Hey everyone, how's it going? It looks as though Paty is busy with family or weddings this weekend and as I'm sitting here working anyway, I thought I'd go ahead and post a check-in.

That little cutie up there, btw, is my grand-daughter Carmen when she was two or so. The photo evokes Saturday morning to me for some reason.

Okay, where are you in your WIP, how's life treating you, are you working too hard or not hard enough or is all just right?

I am on page 176 with the hope of reaching 190 by tomorrow night, but we'll see. There's family in town and you all know how that goes. Meanwhile, along with the editor's okay to proceed, I also got asked to submit the art pages asap and so I did. As that task (which includes a short synopsis) always looms like a tremendous black hole, it's kind of fun having it out of the way so soon.

Who else is working on this hot Saturday afternoon???

Friday, August 15, 2008

20 questions

Since Elisabeth is away tanning and relaxing in my favorite place on this earth (trying not to be too jealous, but it's difficult), I'm going to post today. I'm going to just post a bunch of silly questions. It will be fun to see what you all answer, and maybe it will give us ideas for character quirks.

1. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
2. What's your first thought when you wake up?
3. What do you think about before you go to bed?
4. If you had to pick another genre to write, what would it be?
5. If you had to choose another career, (not a writer or your day job) what would it be?
6. You just won $1,000,000 - what do you do with it?
7. Name up to five celebrity crushes.
8. What's the first thing you notice in the opposite sex?
9. If you could live anywhere in the world (other than where you are now), where would you live?
10. If you only had one vacation opportunity for the rest of your life, what place would you visit?
11. Name one thing you miss about being a kid.
12. Name one thing you love about being an adult.
13. Do you have any hidden talents?
14. If you got to spend one night in a mall, by yourself, what would you do? Everything is open...
15. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
16. Are you a collector of anything?
17. What's your all-time favorite book?
18. If you could have lunch with any 3 people (alive or dead and they all speak English, magically), who would they be?
19. What's your ideal day off?
20. What's your number one pet peeve?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MY WAY


For several years now, I've been selling books by writing three chapters and a synopsis which I then send off to New York. Then I wait two or three months until I hear if the book sells. Once it's sold, I look at it again, sometimes for the first time since it left the house months before, and start writing Chapter Four.

The wisdom of this is, of course, that I don't spend time writing a book that doesn't sell or compound a wrong turn. The down side is just as obvious. Getting back into a book you haven't paid much attention to for months is very difficult, especially if you've been a busy little writer and actually started developing additional ideas. By the time you have a contract and a deadline, it's likely you're invested in a whole other project which must then be put on hold while you go through the painful getting to know you again phase with the first book.

But this book … this book is different.

This book had a 11 week deadline and that was from page one to page 280. Not only that, there was no plot, just a wild hook from the senior editor. All suggestions about what to do with that hook turned out to be dead ends, at least to me. Plotting was filled with issues that required a lot of research (plotting alone can take me two months), some of which had to be ditched. Finally, I came up with a plot and then started writing the three chapters and the synopsis. Making it come together was like pulling teeth. Some books are gimmes, this book WAS NOT.

Finally, finally it seemed to work. Oh, happy days. But the original plan was to take it to S.F. and hand it over to my editor and when that didn't work out, I had to email it and life being what it was, ye old editor didn't get it read before she left town. And then she had the unmitigated gall to take a vacation. Finally she got back to work but immediately came down with some horrible bug and had to go home.

Meanwhile, I just kept writing as per our plan. The book was due in just weeks -- I had to keep going, no choice. But I was also getting nervous. If they hated the direction I'd taken the story (a very real possibility), I wouldn't have time to rethink and rewrite the whole thing. When the contract came, I sat on it for a week and then thought, what the hell, and signed it. As I realized the art forms were due -- on a book no where near half done -- the unreality of the situation just kept growing.

But in the last few days, something neat has happened. Without any feedback, it's totally my book and for the first time in many, many years I am writing a book from start to finish with absolutely no breaks. And because I am so worried about the deadline, I am writing it fast for me, setting daily page goals and not quitting until I meet them. Wheee! It's fun!

Is it perfect? Uh, no. Is it full of holes, dangling plot points, confusing mysteries and a character whose name changed halfway through and which I just noticed? It sure is and if I think about it too carefully, I get jumpy, but that's what the editing phase is for and if I get this done in a timely manner I'll actually have the time to do a decent job of it.

So, probably today or tomorrow, my editor will finally read the proposal and I'm almost sorry. If she doesn't like it, well, I'll fight for it. My heart goes out to this heroine and I have a feeling the tension is building just fine. In the end, I may have to contemplate changes, but meanwhile I have rediscovered the fun of writing a book all in one piece, everyday, building momentum. I would love to do the next book from start to finish as well -- it has a much longer deadline -- yet realize it may not be practical, I may revert.

And yes, I realize there are writers out there who always write their books like this. There are writers who call their own shots from beginning to end. There are writers who refuse to write a synopsis and swear their editors buy without one. In fact, many of us go to contract without a synopsis all the time -- this book and the next are cases in point -- but there has to be an acceptable proposal package somewhere along the acquiring line and that's a basic truth for just about everyone I know.

I guess that's why I have a nervous knot in my stomach and have for twenty-four hours.. At the stage where you have three chapters and a synopsis, it's easier to accept changes that need to be made. Characters haven't fully developed yet, you're not totally engaged. By the time you've passed the half way mark, the situation has changed. The characters are as committed to their paths as are you to yours.

The other day when Wavy asked opinions about whether to launch into major rewrites with an established book or start a new one, I thought of this aspect. To those of you who have gutted a book and rebuilt it from the ground up, kudos. I just hope you had ample time to do it. If push comes to shove and I can see that changes must be made and agree that I have taken wrong turns, I'll do it, too.

But for now, until the phone rings, I'm going to keep doing it, yep, you guessed it, just like Frankie up there. My way.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Sparks the Write Side of your Brain?

Five feet in athletic shoes have washed up on the coasts of British Columbia and Washington. Four of them are right feet. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26014848/

I've been following this story for months. It keeps getting stranger. Every time it's updated, the suspense writer in me rubs her hands together and itches for the keyboard. Isn't anyone missing all these feet?? The article said the feet separated naturally from the leg. Not hacked off. That blows my serial killer with a foot fetish theory. But what about creating a killer who likes to leave trophys from his victims in public places?

There was an Oregonian article last year about brothers named for Jesse James and Frank James. The brothers were in prison. They'd had a rotten upbringing, but the paper tried to blame the name choice a little bit for their actions. Hmmm. Antagonists name after real villains. Nature or nurture?

An article about twins who'd lost their twin sat on my desk for months. Their utter sadness and loneliness touched a deep place in me. My heroine could have a twin who died. How would that affect who she is today?

What have you read or seen lately that made your write brain sit up and take notice?




Monday, August 11, 2008

A neverending battle

Now that I have returned home from my break away from "real life," I'm faced with what, is for me at least, a never-ending battle. To start a new book idea before I've finished the last one. I know it's a problem that plagues many new writers. By now I had hoped I would have broken through it. I'm further in my current WIP than the others I've started, but I'm determined to finish this one.


But there's this other idea...it takes place in Italy...it has archaeologists...immortals...cool amulets...ITALY! Ugh. Why can't I put my brain on pause? So I'm trying to just let that one percolate (hehe I love finding ways to use that word) while I finish this other book. Then I could start the second one while leaving the first one to sit. Then go back and edit the first when I get to a standstill with the second. Yadda yadda. Start a great cycle.

But...ITALY!!!

Are any of you facing that problem? Have you unearthed an ancient secret on how to work through it? Or does chocolate help?

- - -

Now I'm going to talk a bit about my trip. :) Sorry if this is a long post...I'm usually a short poster. The weirdest feelings were associated with the trip. Every couple of days, I'd step out of my flat to walk to the restaurant for dinner and think - "wow, I'm in Italy." That was especially prominent when we were in Old Town Gravina because it's full of narrow, cobblestone streets.


I had another odd feeling when I returned to my apartment here, the first night. I was looking for something to wear to work the next day, a familiar routine, and it felt like I had never left. That Italy was a dream. Fortunately, I have the pictures to prove it wasn't. And the memories. And the friends. I'm most thankful that I met three girls who will likely be close friends for life. It's so wonderful to automatically click with people like that.


The other fabulous part of the trip was the archaeological experience and learning that it is something I want to do. I was worried that I'd get there and hate it. But I learned that archaeology of excavating buildings and kilns doesn't interest me. But grave archaeology does. And it's not just bones, I need the grave goods. It's nice to know that.


As for places, I must say the Amalfi Coast is beyond spectacular. While staying in Pompei for the weekend, we spent the day in Sorrento. We started off with a double decker bus ride, something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember. It took us through Sorrento and the hills in the nearby towns. I'm definitely spending a weekend there next year! It was gorgeous.

Rome had some beautiful monuments and locations. But the city was a bit too big for me. We saw this amazing place. It was a crypt with the remains of friars of the cemetery of the Franciscan Capuchin Friars. Below the church, there is a small area with several rooms. Inside of the rooms there are, well, monuments (it's hard to find the right word) that are elaborate displays of the friars' bones into designs or images. We couldn't take photos, but here's a link (click on the crypt link at the top) with a few. It was very moving. It's creepy because there are so many bones and a few mummified friars, but also a touching display. That was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. It's difficult to tell on that link, but everything you see on those photos is bone.

We also saw the Colosseum, Roman Forum (my fave!!) and Trevi Fountain. A highlight of our two half-days in Rome was definitely the Hard Rock Cafe on our last day. We'd been eating Italian food for five weeks, and I didn't like much of the food (northern Italian food is what most people think of when they drool over Italian food, southern is different...). I'm also finicky and weird, I'll admit it.

I've changed my pronunciations of some things too. People keep correcting me, haha! Like in Italy, bruschetta isn't pronounced brew-shet-ta. It's brew-sket-ta. And the island of Capri isn't ca-pree. It's cap-ree. And focaccia is pronounced with hard c's. Fo-cach-a. Then the whole biscuit vs. cookie thing. And chips, crisps, fries debacle.

Mmm bruschetta. I've made it three times since I got home. Mmmmm. I'll have to bring some to the meeting! Hope y'all don't mind a little garlic ;)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saturday Check In


Wow! Wavy, you got all kinds of great advice. Now to figure out which works for you. I know we'll all be on pins and needles waiting to see what you decide.

Saturday Check In- I finished edits on Miner this week. I'm going to do one last read through and send it back to my editor. I wrote the query letter to go with the Pinkerton story and I am rewriting the beginning of the Pinkerton story. I'll hold off another week to send to the agent because I really want to get farther along on the story before I send it to the requesting agent and the others who said they were looking for historical westerns/series.

I will be scarce on the blog and loop the rest of the month. our daughter from Alaska and her three children will descend on me on Tuesday- Then her sister will come over with her two the following week and by the end of that week our Air Force son will be here with his two. ACK! Then we are spending a weekend in the valley attending two weddings(My oldest brother's girls) and then my daughters and their broods will be gone, but I'll be watching my son's two while he heads to his new base and gets things set up. Then the dh and I will take the kids to him in South Dakota. But, at this time, I should make this month's meeting. And with all this, I plan to get partials out to agents! Am I crazy or what??

Friday, August 08, 2008

When to get out the Mothballs????

I've got a dilemma, so I'm tossing this up here. I think Danita is still on Hiatus, but if she posts, I'll take this down.

When is it time to let go of a MS? I've been reading a lot of craft books recently, and it's slowly (okay, really it's taken a YEAR) dawned on me that this WIP that I'm currently revising isn't going to be the one to sell. (Yes, Alice, it's the funeral one). Don't get me wrong, it's still the book of my heart and all that, but I don't think it's THE book. I think even though I haven't written much in the last year, my understanding of the craft, especially conflict has grown, and I'm wondering what my next step should be.

Let's call this a multiple choice test:
1) withhold judgment and revise the whole thing. Complete gut level overhaul. Slash and burn, baby.
2) withhold judgment and continue with original revisions, pushing aside new doubts
2) Revise just enough to get a contest entry/GH entry out of it
3) Get out the mothballs. It's time to shelve it.
4) Start new project

Option four is easier said than done b/c I've got several starts in the last few months to choose from, and I'm having a bit of a hard time committing to one. Futhermore, I find I'm having a hard time accepting that MS #1 and #3 just won't see the light of day.

I know most of you have been here too. When is it time to say goodbye to a MS? When is it time to gut it? Have you shelved a MS only to come back to it years later? Does it make sense to keep circulating a MS that you're not sure is "The One"? How do you separate fear of failure, perfectionism, and instinct here? HELP!!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Writing the Series Novel


I love reading series novels. It's so fun getting caught up in a fictional world and getting to know characters you'll be visiting again in future books. The anticipation that comes with a series is intoxicating. You watch for news about that author to find out when the next book releases so that you can be first in line to buy it hot off the shelf.

So it's no wonder I like to write these kinds of books. Unfortunately, my experience writing a series would fit in a thimble because I don't have any. The first book gets written with books 2, 3 and 4 in mind, but so far, a series sale has yet to happen for me.

I had a paranormal mystery series started a few years ago, and when book one was finished, I immediately launched into writing book two. I was so sure it would sell. I'd been working with an agent for several months on revisions, so I thought that once we were done, she'd agree to represent me. But she didn't. And I couldn't drum up any more interest from other agents. I was a hundred pages into the second book, and I lost steam once I accepted the fact that book one was going nowhere.

I wrote a stand alone book after that, a romantic suspense novel that was tons of fun to write. Of course I had an idea for a second book set in the same story world, same characters, but with a new relationship between two secondaries, the brother and the woman ex-cultist who had unwittingly betrayed the hero and heroine. But with that book, I got no farther than a small press and I didn't have the motivation I needed to pursue my idea for book two in that series. Maybe someday in the future, after I get my rights back.

I learned two lessons: 1) Don't start writing book two until book one sells; 2) Write book one as if there will never be another book to follow it.

Then I write the book that got me my agent, an urban fantasy novel that's ripe for several sequels. But I haven't started writing book two. I learned my lesson, right? Wait until book one sells. Though ideas for books two and three are burning my brain, I've forced myself to ignore them. Instead, I've begun a new book for a new series I have planned and it gives me butterflies just to think about it. So wouldn't you know that my agent sends me an email asking if I've started writing book two in my Knights urban fantasy series. *head desk*

Speaking of series novels, there was a fabulous article in the last RWR called "The New Romance." It's about series romance novels that don't always get the traditional happy ending. If you haven't read it yet, it's a must read. It's become a trend for a series to be about one heroine's story continued over several books, and the reaction from readers has been very positive. I'm ecstatic about this! My novel has a relationship with romantic tension being the strongest glue, and a promise of more to come in future books. Will they or won't they? Something tragic happens to the hero and he and my heroine are forced apart at the end, thus no happy ending. But that's okay! It's obvious their relationship is far from over.

With my interest in writing series fiction, I trolled the Internet for more information. Slim pickin's, let me tell you. But I did find an author's blog with a mini workshop that's perfect for any writer thinking about writing a series. The author's name is Kaye Dacus.

Kaye lays out the three different types of series books. First is the Spinoff, which reminds me of the continuity series of category fiction from Harlequin and Sillhouette. Same world, different stories and characters. Then there's the Serial novel that features one main character who has separate adventures in each book, like the alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton. Last, we have the Sequel novel, which is the same principal as the trilogy, though the main story line can last across more than just three books. Epic fantasy novels are famous for this because the stories are so broad in scope, but other genres are fitting neatly into this sequel category as well.

I'm still gun-shy over starting book two in my Knights series, afraid I'll jinx myself. I'm going to play it cool until that contract happens. I have a strong feeling that this time it will. Even so, I'm sticking to my plan of getting a new series going before continuing on with the other one. Who says I can't write two series at once? *gulp*

What are your thoughts about series fiction? Is it a trend with a short fuse, or is it destined to blow up to be the next big thing? Are you writing one, and if so, which of the three types does your series fit into?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside . . .

No, it's not. I KNOW, you all are probably reading today's topic and really wanting a sip of whatever's in my coffee cup, but I assure you it's just a fictional chill. Romance writers just adore wind, rain, and snow---even when it's 900 degrees outside, I can always count on my TBR pile for something cooling. Now, why do romance writers have such a fascination with bad weather? One line:

"Darling, let's get you out of these wet clothes . . . ."


Back when my interest in romance novels was more . . . educational . . . I used to scan for bad weather, knowing that a love scene was sure to follow. And, surprisingly enough, after hundreds of blizzards, floods, freak rainstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, early snows, surprise spring blizzards, lake dunking, pool plops, sprinkler malfunctions, heroine overboards, canoe tippings, and all the conveniently located abandoned cabins along the way, the line still holds. A soaking wet heroine is just one roaring fire away from bliss.

"Let's get you warmed up . . . "

The rules governing this trope are simple: 1) the heroine can not have planned on the bad weather. The more unsuitable her present garment, the better. 2) The hero and the heroine must be separated from the supporting cast by a good distance. (Ideally, they have no way to contact said support network and summon sweaters and a mocha latte.) 3) The heroine must be away from her own wardrobe--and that of any other similarly sized female. (Contemporary writers occasionally make this element fresh by separating the hero from his levis, but the best possible scenario has BOTH hero and heroine in need of fresh clothing, and 4) The heat is off. Hypothermia threatens . . . . . No sense in being soaking wet in Hawaii in June. You want SUFFERING.

You'd think with rules this simple that this trope would go the way of babies-on-the-doorstep and be a relic, but no, I've read 3 novels in the last WEEK that all use some variation of the above. And they were all fabulous reads, mainstream single title romances--a historical, a western, and a contemporary. And each one handled the scene in such a way that it felt fresh, even though I've read the same basic scenario so many times. (I wonder if a snowglobe shatters every time an editor reads "Blizzard!" on synopsis?) All the NYT authors have done it (some with alarming regularity), and some how it's managed to evolve into that rare beast: the beloved cliche.

I think it works because there's something truly magical about forcing intimacy between two people before they are ready and cutting them off from the outside world. It's romance in the purest sense of the word. And, it's a scenario that's open to limitless interpretations. Want to give it a try? You've got 50 words or less to give us a scene including the line, "Let's get you out of those wet clothes." I guarantee you that we'll see a half dozen examples showcasing why this cliche is anything but tired. I'll come back by and post mine too!

Are there any soaking wet heroines (or heroes!!) in the MS's under your bed? Any blizzards or rainstorms enabling cupid in your WIP?

Let's get you out of those wet clothes . . . .

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

When you read a good book laced with humor what makes you laugh? Is it the witty dialogue of a character; the descriptive attire of a character or setting; or maybe a character caught in an embarrassing or silly situation? We all have different taste. One person might roll on the floor in uncontrollable laughter over a scene involving a convertible, a carwash, and a big dog, another person might emit only a small grin, and still another may shake their head. There are as many different situations to induce laughter as there are authors who write them.

First, you must introduce humor to your reader on the first page and plant humor throughout your book. Is the set up and delivery of your humorous scenes important? Absolutely. Make those scenes come alive with well placed action verbs that show rather than tell, and spot-on dialog.

You only need one humorous character. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove all of your own logic and sensibility to reach the core of your humorous character. The humor in your story doesn’t have to be your sense of humor. Remember, your goal is to make your reader laugh, not your characters.

Continually ask yourself what would make this scene or situation funnier. Let the obvious reaction brew and percolate inside you, then pour it onto the page and ask yourself: What hysterical concoction can I create that the reader doesn’t expect to receive?

Weigh your romantic comedy against the amount of drama. If the emphasis is on comedy, you’ve written a romantic comedy. If the balance swings toward drama, you've penned a romance with humorous elements. Romantic comedy usually has three main elements of conflict. Global: characters and their world. Direct: characters against characters. Inner: character at odds with themself. To remove one of these conflicts, you risk lessening the stakes the characters have in the story.

Even the lightest romantic comedies have underlying emotional elements. Without them, all you’ll have is a collection of comic skits void of any emotion to glue them together. The reader might be amused, but they won’t be drawn into a deep connection with the characters. You must tap into your characters deep point of view to demonstrate a relationship growing between two people.

Don’t forget, well placed comic lines serve an important function. They offer a great way for the author to relax the pace for a moment and allow the reader to pause and catch their breath before the next intense round emerges. Comic lines in dialogue also create great relief and reduce the intense pressure in a serious or suspenseful scene. Let your reader slow their pounding heart, rest their anxious soul, and relax their white-knuckled grip on their book.

So, what makes you grin, giggle, laugh, or roll on the floor in hysterics? Do you write humor into your stories?

Monday, August 04, 2008

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

When you read a good book laced with humor what makes you laugh? Is it the witty dialogue of a character; the descriptive attire of a character or setting; or maybe a character caught in an embarrassing or silly situation? We all have different taste. One person might roll on the floor in uncontrollable laughter over a scene involving a convertible, a carwash, and a big dog, another person might emit only a small grin, and still another may shake their head. There are as many different situations to induce laughter as there are authors who write them.

First, you must introduce humor to your reader on the first page and plant humor throughout your book. Is the set up and delivery of your humorous scenes important? Absolutely. Make those scenes come alive with well placed action verbs that show rather than tell, and spot-on dialog.

You only need one humorous character. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove all of your own logic and sensibility to reach the core of your humorous character. The humor in your story doesn’t have to be your sense of humor. Remember, your goal is to make your reader laugh, not your characters.

Continually ask yourself what would make this scene or situation funnier. Let the obvious reaction brew and percolate inside you, then pour it onto the page and ask yourself: What hysterical concoction can I create that the reader doesn’t expect to receive?

Weigh your romantic comedy against the amount of drama. If the emphasis is on comedy, you’ve written a romantic comedy. If the balance swings toward drama, you've penned a romance with humorous elements. Romantic comedy usually has three main elements of conflict. Global: characters and their world. Direct: characters against characters. Inner: character at odds with themself. To remove one of these conflicts, you risk lessening the stakes the characters have in the story.

Even the lightest romantic comedies have underlying emotional elements. Without them, all you’ll have is a collection of comic skits void of any emotion to glue them together. The reader might be amused, but they won’t be drawn into a deep connection with the characters. You must tap into your characters deep point of view to demonstrate a relationship growing between two people.

Don’t forget, well placed comic lines serve an important function. They offer a great way for the author to relax the pace for a moment and allow the reader to pause and catch their breath before the next intense round emerges. Comic lines in dialogue also create great relief and reduce the intense pressure in a serious or suspenseful scene. Let your reader slow their pounding heart, rest their anxious soul, and relax their white-knuckled grip on their book.

So, what makes you grin, giggle, laugh, or roll on the floor in hysterics? Do you write humor into your stories?

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

When you read a good book laced with humor what makes you laugh? Is it the witty dialogue of a character; the descriptive attire of a character or setting; or maybe a character caught in an embarrassing or silly situation? We all have different taste. One person might roll on the floor in uncontrollable laughter over a scene involving a convertible, a carwash, and a big dog, another person might emit only a small grin, and still another may shake their head. There are as many different situations to induce laughter as there are authors who write them.

First, you must introduce humor to your reader on the first page and plant humor throughout your book. Is the set up and delivery of your humorous scenes important? Absolutely. Make those scenes come alive with well placed action verbs that show rather than tell, and spot-on dialog.

You only need one humorous character. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove all of your own logic and sensibility to reach the core of your humorous character. The humor in your story doesn’t have to be your sense of humor. Remember, your goal is to make your reader laugh, not your characters.

Continually ask yourself what would make this scene or situation funnier. Let the obvious reaction brew and percolate inside you, then pour it onto the page and ask yourself: What hysterical concoction can I create that the reader doesn’t expect to receive?

Weigh your romantic comedy against the amount of drama. If the emphasis is on comedy, you’ve written a romantic comedy. If the balance swings toward drama, you've penned a romance with humorous elements. Romantic comedy usually has three main elements of conflict. Global: characters and their world. Direct: characters against characters. Inner: character at odds with themself. To remove one of these conflicts, you risk lessening the stakes the characters have in the story.

Even the lightest romantic comedies have underlying emotional elements. Without them, all you’ll have is a collection of comic skits void of any emotion to glue them together. The reader might be amused, but they won’t be drawn into a deep connection with the characters. You must tap into your characters deep point of view to demonstrate a relationship growing between two people.

Don’t forget, well placed comic lines serve an important function. They offer a great way for the author to relax the pace for a moment and allow the reader to pause and catch their breath before the next intense round emerges. Comic lines in dialogue also create great relief and reduce the intense pressure in a serious or suspenseful scene. Let your reader slow their pounding heart, rest their anxious soul, and relax their white-knuckled grip on their book.

So, what makes you grin, giggle, laugh, or roll on the floor in hysterics? Do you write humor into your stories?

My 2008 RWA Nationals Experience


Be prepared to sit back and read a while!

I arrived at San Francisco on Tuesday an hour late due to plane difficulties. After a wild ride in an airport shuttle van, I found myself standing in a 10 x 10 room with a single bed, sink, and closet. My toilet was down the hall in a small (just a little larger than the toilet) room and the shower was down the hall in another little cubby hole. The toilet and shower were shared with three other hotel patrons. My cousin and her daughter from Santa Rosa came and took me out to dinner in Little Italy. As I waited on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, three people tripped over my feet and one lady hit me in the leg with her shopping bag. And the sidewalk at those times was not crowded! I tell you there were more people milling the streets there than I've seen in my life other than when I've been at Disneyland!

Wednesday morning, I placed my freebies in the goodie room and stowed my workshop paraphernalia in the room where I’d be speaking. Then I headed down to the ballroom to help set up for the literacy signing that night. I folded name tags, hauled books around, and met Yvonne, a nice woman from the Sacramento chapter.

An hour before my workshop, I left the set-up to grab a quick snack and something to drink at the Starbucks in the Hotel. There I met Sarah from Iowa. Her mother lives in Bend. Later in the day as we passed in the hall, she introduced her sister who was at the conference with her.

At my workshop, I plied the attendees with chocolate and filled them with info as well as making them participate in the process. Those who came up with a character trait first received a gift. Afterwards several approached me and said they learned a lot and a couple more stopped me later in the conference and said they enjoyed my workshop.

I spent the afternoon helping with more of the literacy set-up, then in the evening, I attended the signing as an author. I was excited to sit next to Samantha James. I know her and she is a lovely person. Unfortunately, she ended up not attending the conference due to health reasons. However, I was only lonely( I was on the end of a table) for brief periods. Chapter mates Barb, Deb, Jen, Eli and Kendra stopped by. Hearts Through History members Kris Kennedy (who won a Golden Heart – way to go Kris!!) Christine Johnson (who was up for several Golden Hearts), Marline Urso, and Denise MacDonald. And a friend I hadn’t seen since a conference in Vancouver British Columbia, Jenny Anderson stopped by, also Regan Taylor, Joan Swan (also up for a Golden Heart- you so should have won!) Leah Vale and Lisa. And I was visited by Rose City members Darla Luckenbaugh, Maggie Lynch, and Lynn Jordan. Plus Wild Rose Press Editor and Kelly, andWRP authors Helen and Viola. I sold eight books and had a great time! I'm not sure what was up, but when I was down to two books, I borrowed two of Samantha's(You know those regencies are thick and sturdy books) to prop up my book and some man took a picture of me using her books. So Samantha, if he tries to use it to blackmail me, I know you are a sweet person and had you been there, you would have loaned me the books. I rounded out the night with a gathering of MWV attendees.

Thursday started bright and early for me with the Hearts Through History breakfast and annual meeting. I was a guest author on their panel. I enjoyed talking about what I write and the house I write for. Afterwards several people told me it was an inspirational talk. I spent the remainder of the day attending the PRO retreat. They had a panel of agents and I was glad I was there. Four of the five agents on the panel are actively looking for westerns. Woo Hoo!

Friday morning started with an agent appointment and finding out my editor appointment had been canceled because the editor couldn’t attend the conference, BUT those who were scheduled to meet with her will be given directions on how to get a full to her. Anyway, my agent appointment went well. She was nice, easy to talk to and loves horses! We had a bond immediately! I told her about my publishing history and briefly the two genres I’m working on. She told me to tell her about the project I was the most passionate about and I, of course, launched into the historical western series. She exclaimed, “I love mysteries!” So… I tweaked the pitch to sound more mystery, which it is as the heroine is looking for someone and she requested a submission. I slid her an Outlaw candy bar which she thought was quite clever and her parting shot. “Now I miss my pony from when I was a girl.” Because my editor apt. didn’t pan out they let me select another open appointment. I selected an agent from someone’s proclamation she likes historical and you’ll find out how the Saturday appointment went after Friday is over. The only entertaining or interesting workshop I attended on Friday was the Dorchester Spotlight. Leah Hultenschmidt and Chris Keesler, editors at Dorchester, are a crack up and thoroughly amusing! That evening a group of Wild Rose Press editors and authors met, visited and some even hung out long enough to have dinner together. It was enjoyable. And after a glass of wine was the first night I slept half way decent.

Saturday, I attended some valuable workshops- Save The Cat! A workshop by Blake Snyder, screenwriter, about writing for screen plays and how the structure fits writing a novel and one on “Theft of Creative Property with Nora Roberts, an attorney, Jane Litte, and Dr. John Barrie who has built a computer program that scans university papers and finds plagiarism. It was a interesting topic and should have had a lot more people in there.

My agent appointment this day didn’t go so well. Yes, the agent does represent historical, but not westerns. She doesn’t even like them. But we had nine minutes to chat about other things and I gave her a candy bar at the end and she thanked me profusely, saying she could use the energy. I went to the nearest mall and had lunch at the food court and who should stand next to me waiting for her food, but the agent I pitched to the day before. I made a comment about them letting her out and she pointed at me and said, “I visited with you yesterday and you made me lonely for my pony.” Then we talked about other things, her food arrived, and she left. But I scored one more time to make an impression. After she left, Linda Needham showed up and we sat and chatted while I finished and she ate her lunch. Then we walked back to the hotel together and had a lovely chat.

That afternoon I ditched workshops and bought Ghirardelli chocolate for the dh and my friend Karen, sour dough bread for another friend, and a couple shirts at Old Navy. I walked into the Fourth Street Deli and Bar for dinner and Patrice, Vicki Lyle’s daughter, and her friend, Viola, were sitting at a table and invited me to join them. We had a great time visiting. Then we realized the time and hustled to our rooms to get beautiful for the awards ceremony. I met Deb and we stood in front of the doors waiting when Kendra and friends arrived. Kendra’s friends disappeared and Eli showed up saying she’d save seats for us since she was sitting with the Golden Heart finalist, Joan Swan. We found the reserved seats and had a wonderful time watching the recipients and the funny Powerpoint presentations between groupings. There were only two finalist that were westerns. I told Deb- I think it’s about time a western won a RITA- so you know what my next goal is! As soon as the ceremony was over, I hightailed it to my motel as I had a 4 am wake up call to get to the airport for my 7am flight. But of course, I didn’t sleep well and ended up with three hours of sleep, getting up at 3 am and writing this blog in long hand on a pad because I didn’t want to use the energy to open up the computer!

But that my friends is my conference experience in a nut shell- and I am proud to say, I talked to more people than I usually do and felt I put myself out there more. Which was my goal. If you went to Nationals how was it for you? If you didn't go what would be your goal when you do?

Oh, and I schmoozed with Pat Pritchard/Alexis Morgan. She likes road trips and is open to speaking to our group at a meeting. So when Lisa gets back, remind me to tell her!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

SATURDAY CHECK IN

Paty is away, either attacking agents and editors in bathrooms, touring Alcatraz or attending workshops, who knows. Tonight they will all attend the award show and the desert gala afterwards and then pack up and fly home. Saturday is always my least favorite day at Nationals as a lot of what I look forward to is over and I'm getting ready to leave. And three hours of sitting in a chair watching people get awards isn't my cup of tea. I believe this year, Wavy would argue with me, mainly because of the emcee.

I renamed the check in! I don't believe there are any challenges right now, just a lot of us with personal goals or inviolate deadlines. If you would like to issue a challenge, feel free to do so.

My check-in: I'm working toward a Sept. 15th deadline and am on page 88 of about 280. It seems insurmountable to me, but somehow I will accomplish it. The uneasy thing is I sent in the proposal and haven't heard back that it was approved and won't until after August 7th. By the time I finally know the direction I have taken (something of a deviation) actually works in NY, I'll have less than 5 weeks left. If they don't like it, ack!

Oh well, all I can do is mosey along the way I am, trailing a bug zapper behind in the hopes it fries the self doubts that like to sneak up from the rear and attack as you are trying to move forward.

So, where are you? Working (the day job), loafing, thinking, plotting, child rearing, gardening, writing or doing related writing chores?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Where Are They Now?

Since Eli's at Nationals, you're stuck with me again. I did get a text message that the literacy signing went well . . . crazy but well. My goddess Suzanne Brockmann was spotted (and they'll be seeing her again as she emcees the RITAs).

But since Wednesday . . .

No news. Luckily, this is a FICTION blog, and we don't need FACTS to have a little fun. We've got a great cast of characters--Eli, Kendra, Paty, Barb, Deb, Jane, and a perfect setting: San Francisco. We've got villains: Book Hoarders! Grumpy Agents! Elevator Hogs! Know-it-Alls! And, we've got plenty of suspense. All in all, we've got the makings of a great tale. Are you ready to play along?

Pick a character (or six), and write a fictional, humorous scene, live from Nationals. You can do dialogue or just give us a synopsis of your predictions.

Here's Mine:

Having just completed her pitch, Paty Jager was startled to see Big Time Editor (BTE) rushing after her.

"Wait! I couldn't help but overhear your pitch to Big Time Agent (BTA)!"

Paty struggled to pick her jaw off the floor. Her feet twitched in nervous anticipation of being shown the door. "Um. Really?"

BTE bubbled with enthusiasm, looking all of eleven. Her real age was probably closer to 25. Just one of the many infants in charge of handing out the golden tickets to the NY publishing world. No, Paty wasn't bitter. At least not very much.

"Your series has NYT bestseller written all over it!"


"I know." Oops. Probably not the best reply, but the circuits between her brain and her mouth had fried.


"Do you have a copy of your proposal with you?"

This HAD to be a trick question. You know, one of those "Stump the Newbie" questions. Luckily, this was her second RWA, and Paty knew the correct answer. "No. Sorry."

"Oh come on!" BTE batted her false eyelashes and adjusted her Calvin Klein suit. "Surely one copy of your MS fit in the cosmetic case allowed by the airlines?"

Okay. Really, there were a half-dozen copies of her proposal sitting in her room. But, she knew better than to admit it. "Not really," she hedged.

"I'd love to get you signed before BTA gets you and offers you to Big Time Rival first! Tell you what, I'm going to head to the ladies room in 15 minutes. First stall on your right. You can just pass me your proposal under the door. It'll be our little secret."

And with that, she strode off in a cloud of expensive perfume and confidence, leaving Paty stupefied. Was she the best thing ever to happen to her, or a horrid practical joke? There was only one way to find out . . .

Of course, in the truth is stranger than fiction category, I'm sure that the REAL stories will be way wackier and way funnier. For the real scoop, you'll want to stay tuned to the blog next week, and join us for our August meeting.