Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The 5th Deadly Sin: Indecision

Welcome to the Fifth Deadly Sin: Indecision. You’re probably wondering what that applies to. Deciding on a publisher? Going ePub? Multiple Submissions? Not being decisive on those things could slow you down, yes, but believe it or not, not having made a decision about Point Of View is what could kill you. Figuratively speaking.

Now, if you’re a beginner, you might not even have a clue that there’s a huge conflict between writers as to which school of POV they attend--Vista Puro or Head Hopper U. Think of it like the gangs in West Side Story. Not that we break into wild dance fights or anything, but as long as we don’t start strolling in each other’s territory, telling the other how wrong we are, the Community gets by with it’s two different factions. Of course, there are the independents, those home-schooled souls known as the One-hops. (Please note, these are not the ACTUAL names of the groups, but for my purposes, names were needed and I enjoy having fun with that.) So, lets go over what each school is teaching.

Vista Puro are the POV purists. These are the authors that believe you should have only one point of view per scene. If something important happens in another characters head you a) show some sort of indication to the current point of view, be it physical action, dialogue or a blend of the two or b) wait until you go into the other person’s pov (if you have it in your book) to go into detail. Attendees of Vista Puro are excellent at first person stories, like Janet Evanovich.

Head Hopper U is where an author learns to have multiple points of view in a scene. This is both a sign of a beginner and also, in rare cases, the sign of a very advanced author. Imagine Mariah Carey singing an extremely complicated song, say “Vision Of Love”. It’s a thing of beauty with various notes that showcase her entire scale. Now picture a ten year old girl that is tone deaf, attempting to sing the same song at the top of her lungs. Now that just ain’t pretty.

Head Hopping is when, to illustrate the reaction and actions of multiple people in a scene, you simply switch to their point of view. And the next person’s. Then the next. Or back to the first. While the thinking is that you get a more complete story this way, reading from a truly omniscient view, it also puts the onus on the reader to keep it all straight. It might not be so terribly difficult to follow if there’s two people in a conversation. Make it a roomful and you have a splitting head ache. There is an art to switching, it needs to be blended, natural, skilled. The most famous head-hopper is Nora Roberts. (But trust me, there’s a reason the saying exists, “If you ain’t Nora, you can’t do it.”)

Finally, there’s the One-hops, those wily independant souls who feel there is a middle ground between the two extremes--switching POV once in a scene. At most. A switch is merely going from one head to another. Switching back is considered a completely other switch and One-hops will beat you silly for it. One-hops also do not do this switch in each and every scene. It’s an exception behavior, used primarily for love scenes and important scenes where a turning point of some kind has occurred.

There are problems with all types of POVs, depending on your weaknesses as a writer.

POV purists steel-wall themselves into a box, scene by scene by scene. It requires serious dedication and discipline not to slip into another POV--those switches can sneak in on you--and it also probably adds quite a bit of word count to get important issues across. If you’re a writer who tends to write long and uses revision time to delete like a maniac, Vista Puro is probably not for you. You’ll need to learn to get more across in more concise space.

Head Hoppers run the risk of alienating their readers. Too many hops per scene and they’ll throw your book away. At the very least, it limits your ability to surprise your reader and it also completely removes your ability to deliver deflection. If they know what everyone is thinking...how on earth can you purposely hide any truths from them? This might not be the choice you want to make as a mystery writer.

One-hops are continually at war with themselves, deciding if a scene is important enough to warrant a hop. They do have certain freedoms that Purists do not and of course, they also have to develop discipline that Head-hoppers do not. But a One-hop must also have the skills of both. Dedication to keeping the POV tight, but the ability to blend and lead the reader to a smooth POV transition. It does require training, so don’t think it’s the easy choice.

Ultimately, the one decision every writer must make is which school to attend. If you do not make it, you will discover that your career will stagnate, and here’s why. Consistency is the name of the game. Editors expect you to develop over time, even as an unpub. However, once you reach a certain level or they see your work several times, they also expect you to maintain certain strengths--such as understanding POV as a tool and using it to tell your story well.

POV is a foundation, if yours is unstable from book to book to book, you show no consistency to the reading editor and that makes you risky to try to develop. Why waste time on someone who can’t make a firm decision on how they want their writing to progress? Changing your mind often, particularly as an unpub, makes you look as if you’re trying to follow a trend, not your voice.

Editors do not have time to make those choices for you and more importantly, it’s not their job to. Their job is to find people ready to publish, or at least showing they have the fortitude to be developed without losing the thing that makes their writing special. Editors don’t get paid well enough to be our mothers.

POV is only the first decision we need to make. There are more coming, many of them harder--Which line do I target? Do I get an agent? Do I write for muliple lines? Muliple publishers? Do I attempt the jump to Single Title?--. Make POV your foundation. Build your career like a house on top of it. No matter which kind of POV you make your own, you need to learn the strengths of it and stand by your decisions. After all, you’ll be living on them, won’t you?

Next Week: The 4th Deadly Sin: Inaccuracy

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Power of Stew!

Before I begin today's post, I thought I'd give y'all a funny addendum to "It's Okay To Poo With The Lights On". So, this morning, out of sheer laziness, I went to do my morning abolutions and didn't flip the switch. My son--ever interested in things Mom might be doing without his consent--comes running in and gasps before running back out. Now, at this I just roll my eyes because, well, I'm not about to ask him first and if he's horrified, oh well.... At least, that's what I was thinking before the boy comes running back in, giggling with glee because he's brought me a present: his flashlight. It was already on, too, because apparently, seven year olds can be thoughtful. LOL! Is that a sign, or what?

So, anyway, since I started today's topic by mentioning being on the pot, let's talk about stew.

Or rather, the art of stewing.

As if writing for publication didn't take enough time out of your life. Months working on a book. Months waiting on query response. More months waiting on partials or fulls. But believe it or not, I find that despite these sometimes desert wide waiting periods, writers are pretty impatient folks. Some of us write more than one book at a time. We submit to various publishers, overlapping our submission months so that we always have something in somewhere. We revise for other submissions in our spare time. And, of course, we expect each other to write at lightening speed.

Personally, that bugs me to no end.

I'm a fast writer, but I take time off between books. I fear writing the same character or plot over and over again by not properly flushing one book out of my head before beginning another. And then there's those odd writing quirks of mine: can't write a character until I know their name, can't start the most vividly imagined book without the correct first line. So I take time to think about it. Even to ignore it so that I can focus on it clearer when I come back. This is my process and just between us, I kinda like it.

But there is always that pressure--real or imagined--from other writers. Write faster. Work quicker.

My question is if this pressure to write faster, from project to project, is what really slows us down? Without taking that time to really think a project through, don't we in effect require more rewriting and revision at the end of the story because we didn't know what we were doing from the beginning? Some call it pre-writing. Some call it plotting, but I call it stewing. Allowing a project to germinate. It doesn't mean that a person MUST stew, but don't beat yourself up if you need to. It might mean the difference between keeping up with CPs or other writers at your same level...or having less frustration at the end of your project, making you a happier writer. And that's good for everyone, isn't it?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Weekend Wrap-Up:

I've decided...I'm not talking enough about what I should be. Relating real life to writing life. I'd like to officially blame hormones. Unofficially, I don't know what it really is. I think it just has a lot to do with the fact that I'm not writing much.

Summer is hell for several reasons, primary of which is the fact that it is the three month period when you can be damn sure that no real writing will be taking place. The kid is out of school, work suddenly becomes massively demanding and worse, the days both last forever...and are incredibly short. There's more to get done, more people to consider and all of them want your attention.

I like to consider them stew months. It's too hot to think up a plot anyway. Shoot, here in SoCal, it's nearly too hot for sex (though some of us just suffer through it anyway, ;) ). I spend those months looking for stories to write. Perusing things I could be editing, if I was any kind of real writer. Truth is, no matter how much I'd like to be writing--and believe me, I dream of it--whether I get any done in the summer months doesn't make me a good writer or a bad one. As long as I do SOME thing that is writing related.

(Please, God, say you count blogging.)

So while I haven't done anything for my writing, I have made a lot of career decisions and made some forward motion. Maybe summer is less my season in Hell and more my season of decision. Instead of living in my fantasies, I spend three months making decisions that shape my year. After all, one thing I'm learning from my fellow Belfrites who are ePubs, nearly as important as the writing when it comes to being an author is also being your own PR manager. You need to know what you want from your career before you can get it.

So, to that end, I'm going to lend a hand to my sistah and show you a new book out that you want to read:

When independent and fun-loving flight attendant Lea Harding meets Coop Masterson, tight-ass air marshal and superhero savior, her first
instinct is to run. Like the wind. But Coop has a relaxed, sensual side that captivates her, and soon what she wants is his tight ass in her bed.

Never quite able to live up to his own expectations, Coop is enraptured with Lea, inside and out. He falls in love with her past,and craves a shared future, but she won't accept help from anyone. Let alone him.

A scorching weekend of surf-n-sex arouses Lea's long dormant emotions and has her questioning what true freedom means. The intensity of Coop's lovemaking and the weight of his desires speak to a vulnerable spot in her soul she'd rather deny. So she sets a timeline for a "hot sex only" relationship.

For Coop, who has failed himself over and over and senses in Lea his long awaited mate, winning her reluctant heart and making her body throb for him only becomes a race against the clock in the most urgently passionate fight of his life.

"The downloadable e-book version is available at www.ellorascave.com. I'd love it if you'd visit my blog for up to the minute news, announcements and laughs( http://annwesleyhardin.bravejournal.com/ ) But if I don't see you there, maybe I'll catch you at the open house booksigning for Layover's print release this winter! Dates and times to follow. Until next time, bon voyage!"-- Ann Wesley Hardin

See y'all tomorrow when I'll be attempting to discuss some craft-ish thinking. :)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Five Friday Tidbits

Yes, it's time to be grateful again, and I am. I really, really am. (You just can't tell because I'm grumpy this week.)

• I get to be a columnist! (Thank you RTB!) (Yes, fully aware I'm beating a dead horse, so sorry about that, but it's exciting to me...mostly cause aside from working, I don't do a whole lot, lol, and as I discovered I have two more weeks before school starts...I'm taking any pleasure I can get.)

• I'm getting a washer and dryer! I know, as I live in an apartment, this is a shock. Sure, I regularly swear and want to kick the machine in the laundry room across the hall--except for the time it came after me like Linda Blair, spewing fluid, jerking and grinding it's body over the floor in ceaseless circles--because they're screwed up, don't wash or don't dry or I only need to do one load, but I have to fill the laundry card with enough money to do three or not do wash at all, but I never imagined they'd want to put one in my actual apartment. It'll take a month...and there's going to be workmen inside my apt from 8-5 Monday-Friday for a while, making holes in my walls so it can happen...but, I'm thrilled! (See, if you go outside in your jammies enough times, people will do ANYTHING to make you stop!)

• I've hopefully discovered that link problem--fixing as soon as I'm done posting, I swear--and my site will be operational! (God save you all.)

• I'm feeling good for the first time in a week and am walking like a regular girl! The last few days have rendered me waddling like a cowgirl who's been on one too many bulls. Depressingly, my issues cause pain to radiate down to my knees on the bad days. I won't lie and say I don't complain--I believe I'm doing so right now, actually--but I can still handle it. (No choice, dr says I can't mix meds and add a pain killer.) And hey, it's damn funny to watch. I'm pretty sure next time it happens, hubby will film. (I'll owe him, y'all have NO idea the levels of bitchdom I have achieved this week.)

• Sister Pet is coming back to stay with me. She's been doing slave labor at my mother's for a month, helping to refurbish Mom's bathroom. Personally, I'm more grateful I live over an hour away and therefore have not been called to duty. (Maybe THAT should be a point all by itself.) Just about anyone who lives nearby has been called in and has a hand or some blood in that rebuild. Anyhow, while it's not always easy to have someone else in the house--darn, there goes the nekkid living room television time!--, it is a real help to have someone keep an eye on Moo from time to time. He's been babysat roughly 10 times (aside from when I worked the first three months of his life) in the last seven years. One included while I was rushed to the ER, which hubby told me to stop smiling about because it was NOT a date. She's rather kidlike herself, so she plays with him...which means that I can go more than fifteen seconds between "mommy!"s. I love that woman.

So, am I glad for having adult company in the day? Yes!

Am I MORE glad that I, too, can now take part in the slave labor of keeping the family Pet? You betcha!

Hope y'all are having a great week and have a better weekend ahead!


Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Sick Returns...with a website!

Howdy Everyone!

Sorry for the sudden shortfall of blogging. It turns out that my war with the insides is going to be a bit more chronic than I'd like to admit. Somedays it wins--I couldn't ride my stationary bike today--some days it loses. Sadly, I'm a wuss of epic proportions and I have yet to figure out what penalties it gets when I feel good.

But in much better news, you may have noticed my lovely, beautiful new link on my interesting stuff column. Yes, despite my pathetic PR skills when it comes to myself, Romancing The Blog has offered me a regular columnist spot!

For those who missed it!

Can you see my imagined happy dance (please, a rump does not get to this size by actually getting up to dance.) In honor of this fabulous kindness on the parts of the RTB powers that be, I have vastly improved my Extremely Crappy website. It is now, Mildly Crappy Website. Yes, click and be awed with it's craptasticness. What can I say, I'm attempting some slight professionalism.

You'll note, however, that I have yet to place a "contact me" portion to that page, lol...So, if you're made miserable, I don't have to hear about it. ;) I figure I'll add that when I have the site completely full. If you click on the excerpts and down to novellas, you can see some of my short stories I wrote for the Reading Groups folksies, including a historical that is bound to have you laughing because it's amazingly bad. If some of the side links don't load that page on the first try, click or click again. (I doubled my link and well, it's broken. LOL!)

Back tomorrow with Five Friday Tidbits!


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The 6th Deadly Sin: Vanity

Welcome back to the Seven Deadly Sins study. Last week, we covered Overconfidence. This week, we’ll be taking a look at a far more destructive sin: Vanity. (Bear with me, this is a long post)

As writers, success is a very subjective and elusive thing. Meaning, most of us take it where we can get it. We write to please others, and having achieved that, often are pleased with ourselves. To that end, since selling works of fiction is so difficult, we develop a sense of pride in our rejections and critiques.

Beginning Writers are noted for their abundance of “form letter” rejections; often for the same book to different lines and publishers.

Moderate Writers can pick out the single lines or paragraphs that were written by the reading editor, smiling--and yes, I’m guilty too--while they trace the actual ink signature.

Advanced Writers tend to recieve the multi-page rejection/revision letters. Sometimes they are bulletted with specific revisions required. Other letters are detailed business letters explaining why the book doesn’t work for them in it’s current form, but explains also what larger themes and underlying difficulties keep the work from being publishable. Advanced writers pour over these letters, searching for any possible compliment, raking their own backs at each now painfully obvious mistake.

No matter what stage you are in, it is fully possible to become vain about your writing. The stage you’re in is simply a clearer way of defining how ashamed of yourself you should be.

Let’s define vanity, as it pertains to a writer. To be vain is not to say to yourself, “I love this line! It’s funny, it’s brilliant!”. Writing Vanity is best described as believing you are above criticism.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A writer should always have the guts to fight for important aspects of their writing should a Critter not agree with something they created. But you should have a stronger argument than, “You just don’t get it.” Ultimately, a Critter’s role is to help you by looking for the weakest points of your project and reporting them to you for retooling. They shouldn’t be in it for the glory of being your CP or for the opportunity to take you down a peg. Your job as the Critted is to accept those critiques with grace instead of as an invitaiton to war. This means picking your battles when defending your work. When you’re vain is when you simply refuse to bend.

Advanced writers are perhaps most guilty of this. You’ve identified your process by now. You know what works for you. You’re “this” close to selling and have developed a good business relationship with your reading editor. Things are looking well. But your Critter thinks that something isn’t working in your story. You “know” this is core to the internal conflict, it must stay. Even though the Critter makes a modicum of sense about it completely undermining something else or not being a strong enough motivation. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You know you’re right and refuse to consider adjustment. And this will kill your story.

The truth is, Advanced Writers are a lot like doctors. They make horrific patients. So well versed in writing terminology and philosophy of craft, they usually cannot see the forest for the trees and put up the loudest arguments as to why they are right. But many times, they are wrong and it costs them. Knowing your stuff and knowing your story do not necessarily mean knowing everything.

Second in line is the Beginning Writer. Few people are as cock sure that they know what they are doing as people who do not. They are shocked at form letters and justifiably mystified as to what they can do to improve, since form letters tell you pretty much nothing about your work individually. I’ve come across a few who simply assume the editor was “clearing her desk” or my favorite, “They probably had an editorial assistant read it.”, assuming that EAs have no knowledge of the business. A beginner has not had their teeth kicked in hard enough to know better.

But the moderate level writers, it can still happen to you. You’ve been at this a while. You’ve found that it’s coming a little easier to write. Perhaps you get the sense that you’ve outgrown your critique partner. They aren’t able to help you with the craft end as much. They aren’t as familliar with “house style” grammar and you find that their corrections aren’t helping. They defer to you more often than not and crits have become little more than compliment sheets. This is a very dangerous stage for a writer because you don’t necessarily know where the floor really is, or how far off of it you’ve gotten. You know enough to know you know more than the average bear. But can you tell if you’re turning into an arrogant pup?

To find out, lets take a look at the role of Critiques. The purpose of criticism is to have someone impartial look over your work for errors you might not be able to see, as most writers simply get too close to the project by the time it is finished.

Vanity will render these critiques utterly useless if you believe that you know much more than anyone who reads for you. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a Critter is only as valuable as the level to which they write. Or even how long they’ve been writing. Fresh eyes are fresh eyes and everyone has strengths. Just as all writers have weaknesses.

Falling too deeply in love with your own flow can make it hard to see the basics and where you are failing them. It will blindside you so that when a rejection is rendered, you may not even be able to take the advice of the reading editor--and this, my friends, is career suicide. There is always something to learn.

So how do you sort the constructive criticism from the unhelpful without succumbing to vanity? The most important thing is to investigate the Critter’s explanation for each point.

Constructive criticism involves sound reasoning and craft implications. If they say word choice is awkward or motivation seems lacking or that the scene drags, look for ways they could be right instead of wrong. A good part of receiving critiques for your betterment is your attitude. If you’re looking for a fight, you will find one. Look for a helping hand and odds are, you’ll find that instead. Good critters will provide not only indications that something is off, they will often offer suggestions to improve or ask questions that you can work the answers for in, thus strengthening the weak point.

An unhelpful critter can be identified by utter lacking of craft or reasoning. They only have opinions and are explained as such: “This doesn’t work for me. You should do...” Beware of the angry critiques, or the ones where your critter feels the need to hammer a point by explaining throughout the document where you have screwed up repeatedly. A good critter will note a repeating error, not by fingering it with a neon sign, but by showing an example once or twice and informing the writer that this is something they should look out for throughout the document. The most unhelpful critiques are the compliment types. Accept compliments for what they are--one person’s opinion that can help you feel more secure about a line or a plot or a character and about you; no more, no less. Compliments should be accepted and then ignored. They are not facts you can lay in front of the editor and therefore, do you no good. No matter how from the heart they may be, professionally, do not take them to heart.

The next task to avoiding vanity is to actually make use of critiques, particularly without beating yourself to the ground. Many authors fear egos--I’m one of them--because they can so easily grow out of control. Now that you can identify a way to judge if a critique is worth heeding, you can hopefully do the using part. Not beating yourself up because the crit is right about having gone the wrong way (particularly if it means major rewrites)...this is much easier said than done. But it should be done with grace.

Just because you are not Queen of the World does not mean you’re the slime of it instead. Me, for example. I’m basically one of those types who responds best to negative reinforcement, which means in my own critiques I’m painfully blunt and I spend a lot of time telling myself that I’m stupid for making various mistakes. I kick myself when I’m down. Why? Because I learn from mistakes. I learn from failing. Truthfully, I just get pissed off and I hate giving anyone the satisfaction of being right that I suck at something--even myself--so I strive to do better. But it’s a pretty unhealthy way to motivate yourself not to make the same mistake again.

Ask yourself a few questions when crits hit to the bone. Is this a craftpoint you knew well? Is this something you can study to improve? Is it a minor point in the whole tapestry of the manuscript? Judge yourself from an impartial point of view. Learn from a crit. Make notes to yourself and place them somewhere in view of your most common writing area--things to remember. I have a mousepad I was gifted with at Nationals one year that has nearly every inch of it printed with some sort of craft point reminder: GMC, Word Count=Page Count charts, BIC HOC, Scene & Serial, etc, etc, etc. I use it as a frame for my son’s picture, another reminder of who else I’m writing for. Try to turn a mistake into a lesson you can use later.

It’s very difficult to make yourself admit things about your writing. We all want to get it right. We all want to sell. But the only thing you gain by not being able to see the value in other’s people’s viewpoint is the ability to sell yourself--short.

Next week’s lesson: Deadly Sin #5) Indecision


Hello everyone!

I'm hoping to have this up for you soon, however, my son dr's appointment is very early and I might not have it up until afterward. If the Tuesday Teach Lesson is not up by 9am PST, it should be up around Noon.

Wish us luck, it's heart screen day.

Much love,

Monday, August 22, 2005

Weekend Wrapup

Chargers won! I know it was pre-season, but man they looked fine! Okay, football moment over.

I had set some goals, apparently none of which I achieved, but I DID get to the shoe store and find Moo some badly needed school shoes. Apparently, the boy pulled another overnight growth spurt and went up nearly an entire shoe size. So, he's now the proud owner of some boy's 3 sneakers. He had to walk out in them, I had no idea his toes were curled under in his regular ones.

Writing...well, no, that didn't happen either. But I had a great day with my Mother In Law and hubby while we school shopped. But I did get a Really Terrible Website built. I'm teaching myself better HTML so, it'll change quite a bit until I get it right. I'm hoping to be able to use it to place excerpts and the like, perhaps a place to see all the articles in one place. We'll see. Right now it's more an exercise in HTML.

Also, it apparently appalls everyone in my family--in laws included--that I am either too cheap (I am) or too broke (I am) for cable. I find it hilarious that it's considered a "Utility" in my Quicken Program. Remember the good ole days when cable was for rich people and regular folk just tuned stuff in. You know...yesterday?

Well, my sister has come to save me from my cheap brokeness, lol. She'll be staying with me for a time and has decreed that with the new season starting up, she can't asked to guess what the hell people might be investigating on CSI. Not, is that a blood platlet or an organ. More "Is that a guy or a chick?" So she might have a point. She's buying, so I said sure. You want to blow 50 bucks a month on tv, I ain't gonna stop you. So, sometime later today, the cable fairy will descend upon my home for the first time since March of '03. (We had cable for three months then, prior to that, it had been nearly a year, when we were at the inlaws, then before that, we went about two or three years without cable just fine.)

It does make me wonder what the world has come to. I could wax philosophical about it, I suppose. Tie it in somehow with the renown of American obesity and the death rate and how McDonald's is truly to blame with their supersizes and impossible to chemically break-down french fries...but really, let's stick to the most gripping of issues:

Will my blog suffer? Will my non-existent writing be stimulated or stymied?

I guess we'll find out!

Remember tomorrow, Tuesday Teach Day: The 6th Deadly Sin: Vanity!


Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Keys Have Been Found!

I knew they'd be somewhere stupid, but even I have to take a moment of silence at how remarkably dumb this place was.

Picture it.

Last Saturday, I went with Moo to Hubby's work while he did some office catch up. It was fun. I edited hard copy, Moo watched Jimmy Neutron and Monsters Inc and drew pictures. It was lovely. It was also cold. Thankfully, hubby works at a helmet company and they have jacket inventory to study what would go well with those kinds of things. So, hubby grabs me a coat for the duration.

As we are leaving, he asks me, "You sure you got your keys?"

I jangle them and say yes. I am smug. I am sooooo wrong.

So, as we're walking out, all stuff in my arms I realize I'm still wearing the jacket and hand it over to hubby to put away. We then leave the building and go to Walmart where we walk around and spend money we barely have on essentials. We come home. Funny...I must have put my keys in the bowels of my bag, but no worries. I'll find them.

Except I didn't find them. Ripped apart the house. Nope, not here. Called Walmart. Not there either. Hubby searches at work. Nope, not there either. I am doomed. Apparently, the federal mandate that losing a mail key is a $250 dollar replacement fee is not as important to me as I thought. I'm screwed. Yes, stress level goes ballistic because I've been doing this all week. I'd lost my mouse pen. I'd lost my sister's check. I was even starting to lose cooking utensils. Summer is NOT my friend.

So, after a week of mayhem--but I DID find the check AND the mouse...on separate days. Still, I couldn't get over how upset the loss of my keys had made me. Then, because the three synapses I have had to connect at some point, I send this email to my husband:

Subj: Before you leave work...

I know you'll prolly have another late night, but do you think you can
check the pockets on that jacket I was wearing? Maybe my keys are in
there. If not, no sweat, but you never know with me. I might have been that dumb.


So, about ten minutes later I recieve the long awaited news from the man I love with all my heart. The man who has given me a beautiful child and ten years of commitment, love, passion and protection. Yes, that self-same man who stole my heart eighteen years ago and hasn't relinquished hold of it since. And that was:

U are.

Ten Tenorio

LOL, well, I never said he wasn't honest.

Apparently, I actually put the bloody keys in the jacket pocket about a minute before I gave it back to him, completely knowing that it wasn't mine and I wasn't taking it home.

Somewhere, an absent-minded professor is laughing at me.
That's okay, so am I.

Smooches all!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Five Friday Tidbits

I took a day off yesterday. I had to. It was either that or fall down in a pile and weep. (Which I think I did anyway, but that's neither here nor there.) I'm just exhausted. Hubby has been working until roughly midnight most days this week and when he gets here, we have a late meal and talk. Then we wake up early--him earlier, cause I'm a lazy cow--but I spend the rest of the day at the "Mommy Range" while he gets to work with hopefully less interruptions per second. I'm not sure which of us is getting the better deal.

So, why was this bad? Well, my first ever requested article went up yesterday on Romancing The Blog. Did I let y'all know? Nope. Did I make the most of such a golden opportunity? Nope. My very, very bad. But in my defense, I just managed to keep the kid happy for a day without making either of us cry. Also it's still up, second today, when you go to their site. :) I'm extolling the virtues of being an insect. :) Must read material, that. :) Would love to see if y'all have any thoughts. :)

So, what are my Five Friday Tidbits this week?

• My first ever article of any kind was epubbed!

• I got my crap together and finally set up an appointment to make sure Moo has not inherited my congenital heart defect. (I'm still debating if this makes me a coward or not, as he shows absolutely no signs of it. Mine was partially diagnosed at age four due to chronic chest pain. It's a minor issue that only should cause him problems when seeing a dentist--thanks to the monster antibiotics we faulty valve people have to take so dentists will treat us. I swear, if it was a more serious complication, he'd have been checked out ten minutes after his birth.)

• I am 80% done with the final edits on my latest WIP. (Of course, I'll be adding another 7k, so that goes down to like 60%, but let's not mince words, I'm finally being productive.)

• I've been asked and voted to join the Belfry Collective, which is already proving to be great for my writing mind. Of course, all I want to do now is write, but that's not a terrible side effect of stimulating conversation. :)

• My quest to see all the Rocky movies again is slowly coming true. I have watched Rocky 1, 2 and 4 (albeit in Spanish on canal 54, but that's okay. Made for a fun date with hubby!) Rocky 3 is coming in my Netflix mail today and Rocky 5 will be here tomorrow. My summer will soon be complete.

So, now my goals for next week are to finish writing up the next Deadly Sin, finish my final edits, enter them and let the CPs at it and get the school shopping done for the Amazing Growth Rate Boy. (Age 7 and he's roughly about 4'8". Maybe more. And he grows overnight. Pray his school clothes last him to winter.)

I also very much promise to rest this weekend and be a much more cheerful soul next week!
Hope y'all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Wedding Date

Now I don't usually do this, but this movie deserves a review.

I LOVE romantic comedies. Which is a pretty good reason all by itself why I'm so incredibly disappointed by so many of them.

Hollywood seems to think a romcom will be successful if you follow the formula: Girl meets guy, girl screws up, girl does everything humanly possible to maintain all the lies she tells to stay in guy's visual hemisphere and then confesses all right when she has him where she wants him, thus showing her inner wonderfulness (and thus she's forgiveable). This is all done to the wacky charm of her not so normal family and off-beat friends. They end up together and you know they are going to have beautiful children and be really happy together, the end. Sometimes, this formula is so beaten into shape that you know the jokes, punchlines and wacky family schtick before the end of the beginning credits.

I HATE being patronized, which is why I--particularly as a romcom writer--can't stand so many romantic comedies or, and this drives my family absolutely nuts, can point out the glaring holes in a movie's plot. Loved HITCH, but I also concluded the evening by claiming that the heroine's ridiculously thin excuse for an Internal Conflict was a cop out. ("Oh, my sister fell in some thin ice when we were practically zygotes. As a result of this incredibly tiny scene, the hero will see that all of my commitment phobias stem from the fact that I didn't reach my lazy ass hand in and get her, which makes me a risk to his emotional well-being." Good lord, I've seen stronger conflict on a crossword puzzle.)

So, you should really pay attention when I say that if you love this genre, you NEED to see this film.

Why? Let's put it this way, in the first twenty minutes, the heroine turns to the hero and goes, "You know how some people have family members who are crazy but you love them anyway?...My family's not like that." And just like that, you have a sigh of relief.

This is not laugh a minute, see who's falling down in the backround material. This is honest comedy. Bitter fruit served on priceless silver. From the outrageous but wonderful cousin TJ, who has some of the best jokes (Seeing the Hero and jaw-droppingly saying, "Oh my God, I think I've just come.") to Dermot Mulroney, who seems to have shed his nice guy image to become rock hard, butt nekid and damn near makes you come too. He had abs in this movie I'm pretty sure God never intended. He's distant, dry and truly, if he'd had more roles like this ten years ago, everyone would be saying, "Brad WHO?" (That scar on his lip gets sexier with each twenty minutes, I'm not kidding. WHERE did he get it??)

Better yet, this one has a plot you can believe. Debra Messing plays Kat, an American girl who is returning to her adopted English home for her sister's wedding. The sister she doesn't get along with. Where, much to her horror, the best man is none other than the former boy next door, her ex-fiancé, who dumped her unceremoniously two years ago. And everyone knows it. She hires an escort to make him regret ever being such an idiot. Enter Mulroney. He's--at best--amused by her desperation and uppity moral position, as she's fairly horrified that she's paying a man 6000 dollars to pretend to be her lover for a weekend. She has it mostly planned out and yes, to a degree she looks down on him. But he's patient, he's decent (and indecent, thank you Mr. Mulroney!), and he's honest, something she's never experienced before.

The movie is full of the unexpected, the poignant, the painfully real and the sweetly romantic. Good music choices and choice moments for the humor should make it a must rent for all romance enthusiasts. If this is where romance is headed in Hollywood, I'm FINALLY so glad to be a romcom fan!

Psst!--If you click on the image, you can play the wedding game on the site!


The Last Place You'd Like To See: Inside Dee's Mind

So, it's Wednesday and I'm just desperately trying to figure out something to blog about.

I always tell my sisters that I don't write letters really well or often because I just don't do much of interest to anyone else. So, I will spend my Wednesday by filling you in on my meandering brain.

Wake up, check.
Try with all your effort to go back to sleep, check.
Admit defeat when you realize the boy is awake already,check.
Start blogging and blog hopping...uh...

Well, I did some hopping. Just light, to wake me up. I find that if I'm falling down sleepy at any point in the day, I can blog hop or, now, thank the Lord, football is back in swing. Sure, all their talking about is what temper tantrum the maniacally insecure T.O. is throwing and how this will either cost the Eagles the Superbowl, a lot of money or both. (I'm going to put my five bucks in that they will pay him. They want those rings too badly.) (Oh, and they are SO not going back to the 'Bowl, not this way.)

Anyhow, I'm eagerly awaiting the first Charger game of the preseason that shows on regular television because I'm not only a fan, I'm a cheap fan. No cable and the buggers played their last game on ESPN. Have they no respect for people who don't want to pay 50 bucks a month for tv? I've got an antennae and netflicks. I am a happy girl. MOST of the time.

In other odd news, I can't find my keys. Normally, I wouldn't say that in public, but it's driving me bonkers. I keep losing things this week. I fully expect for them to show up in a pair of pants or something stupid like that. I've obviously been playing hide and seek with myself lately and I'm SO tired of it. Maybe if I curl up under my brand new duvet I'll feel better!

LOL, yes, that thing I've been dreaming of forever has finally occurred. Hubby and I went to IKEA and there was a cheap duvet and a not so cheap cover, but it's worth it. We haven't bought a new bedspread in ten years, so this is my anniversary present...three months early. (Hopefully, this means three months of celebration!)

So, look upon the gorgeousness of my beautiful new blankie!

Isn't it LOVELY?? So cuddly and SOFT!

Oh, but look at the embroidery!

Yes, I'm gushing, gimme a break, it's been ten years since I did this!

Oh, and I'm in the throes of full blown baby fever. Again. Last night I had yet another dream of having just had a baby. I realized upon waking up that this baby felt exactly like my son when he was that size, so it was mostly just memories tormenting me. My husband seems to understand that this is hard for me, but sometimes I wonder if he realizes that it's almost painful for me. He mentioned that I might just want another baby because I want a new puppy, kind of thing. Something cute and new and I'm going to be tired of it when it's not fun anymore.

Because I got tired of the LAST kid? I asked him. And no, Moo drives me nuts at times, but every mother goes through that. He's seven. It's his JOB. Am I insane to want another baby when I'm finally getting time to work on my career? To have a quiet cup of tea and financial security looks like it might be only a few more years away? Of course I am, but I can't seem to get my heart to figure that out. Or my head. The only one that is on course is my stubborn, lazy, not good for much but discomfort uterus. Hubby has finally figured out that the endometriosis means that the already short term use of the big U has an even shorter use. But that doesn't mean we can add on another kid right now. And ultimately, I think I'll have to come to terms with the fact that despite hubby's somewhat stated desire for another child (and yet, happy bliss with the status quo), we will probably not have another one.

But that's just too depressing to accept right now.

The good news is that I'm back on my exercise bike. I'm back to my 8 mile minimum, 5 days a week. I'm even on that Special K 2 bowls of cereal a day diet. I will capture and shrink The Ass That Defies Weight Loss. And, if all else fails, I have a steak knife and a vaccuum. I'm sure SOMEthing can be done. :)

Well, that about covers the state of my brain today. Which means there's only one question left to ask.

Are you all right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The 7th Deadly Sin: Overconfidence

It is often said that most people do not think writing a book is terribly difficult. Ask around, you’ll find several folks, going about their everyday business, who think that since they know something about something, they can write about it. (Which is probably how this entire project came about, if I were to think about it.) Those people generally haven’t gotten around to it yet, is all. Or so they say.

But the truth is, writing is hard. If you can read, you can probably write a page or two on a subject and feel pretty good about it. And when these people who think it’s so easy get around to actually doing it, they--like poliwogs taking on olympic swimmers--don’t get very far. They lose interest. They realize they were shooting their mouths off. Or, my favorite, they simply don’t have time.

Of the percentage of people who claim they can write a book, only roughly five percent will ever get around to trying. Only one percent of them will actually complete one. What percentage of them do you think can sell it?

If you said one percent of them, you’re aiming high.

I’m not here to say, “Do this and your book will sell.” I’m honestly not qualified to do that. Not because I haven’t yet sold one--though I haven’t--but because I don’t think anyone can promise that and anyone who tries is lying to you.

Publishing your book with a reputable publisher or distributer is a subjective goal. You not only have to write well and focused, you need to understand that you have to write to someone else’s preferences. And you have to be able to put your ego down far enough to be happy about it.

All I’m here to do is share with you what I’ve gleaned in eight years of writing toward publication and five years of working on a publisher’s website, meeting hundreds of writers and learning both with and from them as well as the hundreds of authors who’ve shared their experiences with us. It must be said, as well, that I’ve picked up quite a bit from my own rejections, of which there have been many. Thankfully, there was a lot of encouragement as well, and I’m hoping that this book can help you to identify not only these sins in your writing, but any others you may have added on.

As we cover the Seven Deadly Sins of Romance Writing, we will begin with the most basic, working our way up each week to the most criminal. Today’s topic is “OverConfidence”.

In today’s day and age, with the multiplicity of pubs, epubs andd writers flooding the place with book after book after book, it’s pretty easy to get to thinking that publishing won’t be difficult. Publishing romance shouldn’t be hard at all--since apparently those people read anything. And Writing Category Romance can be done in your sleep.

So let’s take a look at what you’re up against shall we, using Harlequin as an example because they have the widest worldwide distribution and the highest number of categories--which is always growing. We will discount, for the moment, that not all their US lines are Romance (about 4 of the open submission lines are specifically not romance geared.) and only count those that a person could submit to without an agent. That leaves you roughly 21 lines of varying types. They each offer a differing number of releases per month, but most put out between 4 and 6. For arguments sake, let’s say that generously on average, each of these lines puts out 4 books per month, because some imprints only release 1 or 2 a month, not counting rereleases. That’s an average of 84 books. 1008 books a year, give or take.

How many people do you suppose submit manuscripts a year? (And yes, include those already established authors, folks, ‘cause they’re your competition. They need some of thost 1008 slots to feed their families, too. And they have contracts that often require them to get read before you.)

The last round figure I was given was back in 2000, so you can bet it’s probably gone up as Harlequin has introduced their new lines and new writing contests for Blaze and for the new Epic line. Back then, it was a minimum of 10,000 unpubbed’s submissions a year.

Ten to one odds don’t sound so bad, eh? Well, you’re plucky. This can count in your favor, or against you. Remember those published authors? They will easily take half, possibly 3/4 of the slots. Now it’s as much as 10,000 submissions for 250 slots. Feeling the pressure yet? Now there are limited staff to read all of your submissions--please limit to one query at a time from any one author. And there’s the Query/Synopsis stage to pass before you even get a manuscript in. It can take you up to 3 months to find out that you can submit. How long did it take you to finish the book? Tack that on. Then add roughly six months. If you’re lucky, that’s how long it can take to find out you’re rejected. You can easily spend an entire year waiting on the fate of ONE BOOK.

If that doesn’t dry your mouth, you’re not overconfident.

You’re stupid.

So, now that you’re appropriately educated on your odds, you’re probably wondering what your state of mind has to do with actually publishing. This is a good question.

Should you go into writing with the belief that it is easy, you will not bother to learn the craft that will get you published. We all have to learn these skills, we mostly do it before we sell, some do part of it after they sell, some unlucky few, must do all of it after they sell.

Should you go into submitting with the belief that you will sell on the first try--though it has been done, I can’t argue that--you set yourself up for the worst kind of pratfall.

Publishers primarily want a good book. If they get a primadonna along with it, you can bet selling book number two is going to be difficult because no one wants to work with the unprofessional. You wouldn’t let a loudmouth plumber in your bathroom every time the sink had a leak, would you? Why should they?

Not to mention, there’s a reason we have the phrase “One-Hit Wonders”. The wrong mindframe--primarily overconfidence about your skills or your talent--can mean the difference between the quickly forgotten and the gainfully employed. Book number one does not ensure that they will buy book number two. There is no magic formula and though your contract will state they have first crack at anything you write next, they will only buy what is worth their time and money. Everyone has talent at something. But talent doesn’t put food on the table. Work does.

So how do you chip away at your own overconfidence without making yourself a begging peon? It’s not easy. But what will help are achievable goals that you can set for yourself. Appreciate that there are many others who came before you--and are willing to share where they made their mistakes. Of course you continue to write. Of course you continue to submit. But the main point is that you take the genre of romance as seriously as you would any other. And that you treat writing as the very difficult job it is. It requires talent, yes, but mostly it requires training, dedication and skill. You must be willing to accept that someone will have a similar idea. That someone you know will sell first--but that doesn’t make YOU any less of a writer. You must accept that failing is not the part where you get rejected.

Failing is quitting.

Quiting is usually the result of shattered overconfidence.

That, my friend, is where overconfidence can cost you your dream.

So be wary of thinking you have it all planned out or that you have the magic key or that the realm to which you have opened a door is easy to handle. You’re beginning a quest. The proper attitude is but the beginning.

Next Tuesday: The 6th Deadly Sin Number: Vanity

Tuesday Teach Day: Introduction To The Seven Deadly Sins

I thought it best to let you know what y'all are getting into. I had this idea some time ago, to write a hopefully informative, non-windbag explanation of the seven core issues that will keep you from publishing.

At first, it was a quick post idea. Then, I realized it could be expanded into a lesson. Then, once I came up with the outline, I realized it had to be seven completely separate articles, each one concentrating and detailing the most serious mistakes that universally contribute to rejections and returned manuscripts.

You can't tell someone what they're doing wrong without giving them some tips to avoid or repair them, so I did my best to add those in as well. I sincerely hope that you'll be able to get some use out of this info and that you'll follow along for the entire series. :)

Many hugs,
Best to your writing,

Monday, August 15, 2005

"It's Okay To Poo With The Lights On"

My son has an odd habit. It's primarily because he hates reverberating sound, but the bathroom he uses most has a fan attached to the light. Hit the switch and you're pretty sure a lawnmower has gone on somewhere nearby. Now, he's all right if WE put the light on for his baths or to brush teeth or to take him in there ourselves and he's content to do his business if ti's on.

But when he says the magic word-- slightly afraid sounding, because it couldn't wait for a commercial???--"Potty!", it's an open-all-hatches, run-for-your-lives experience. His other odd habit is shimmying out of his pants on the waaaaay to the bathroom (This was fun at the sushi restaurant, when he mooned half the establishment in his desperation to make it on time.) is probably for another blog post. But I digress.

The point is, when my son goes to the bathroom on his own, he does it in the dark. You go check on him and all your see is the whites of his eyes and his teeth gleaming at you from the shadows. When he gets older, this might take on a tiger like quality, but for now, he looks like the wild tomcat you catch on top of your beloved kitty in the middle of the night; haunched, wary and at the same time, quite proud of himself. So, then you turn the lights on, inspect him for cleanliness, then let him go. It's the same every time.

The other day, I walked in, not shocked at all that he was wailing, "I'm done!" from the pits of despair again and I remind him, "You know...it's okay to poo with the lights on."

And that's when I realized there's a lesson there that more than Moo needs to learn.

See, me, I'm a CP person. I need my CP. No, wait, let me truly express.


I write, I giggle in self-appreciation at my own intelligence and cleverness and wit and then I wallow in terrified guilt. What if I'm just pleasing myself? What if this is crap of the highest order that not even the grand Nora could polish into more than a poodle's stinky twinkie? So, I mail it off to my CP so that she can smell it and tell me if it's worth continuing. I am, in all due honesty, a ball of insecurity and prolific one at that. My CP, thankfully, has not taken to hiding from me yet. (Give her time.)

But she's a different type--and this isn't a dig, so nobody gets to think it is. Her writing insecurities involve word quantity and word choice. Has she layered enough? Is this the right thing to say? Is there more white space than there should be? I picture her with a mondo-sized tub of word polish, loving her sentences into beautiful, golden script that she'll hopefully allow me to blind my eyes on.

Then I look down at my hastily swiped over plate of poo that I've served up to her and feel, well...shitty.

Shouldn't I put that kind of love and affection into it before I serve it to her? Shouldn't I be so kind that I make sure it's the best damn poo she's ever seen? And I work harder, but my own process strictly is that I need to see the story through, then polish. I polish in the middle and I kill the flow. That's just how it goes. I just can't seem to make the chapters keep flowing forward if I don't know that the last ones made any sense. The insecurities about my plots or my motivations or any number of issues get louder and louder and I simply must have her opinion or I'll crack. Do I have guilt that if I'm on a roll, I bombard her with nearly a chapter a day while she permits me to peek at one every six months?

You bet your golden arse I do.

But, apparently, I poo with the lights on while she's a light's off kinda gal. Maybe my needing to put light on my work as I go--thus making a victim out of my CP-- makes me co-dependent. I'm all right with that, and I've certainly been called worse, as long as she continues not to mind.

Does it make me a glory hound? Am I just seeking affirmation and praise so that I can feel good about who I am and continue to attempt to publish without purposely ending my life believing I will win posthumous awards for my misunderstood grandeur? Am I wookin por wub in all da wong paces? Hard to say. It's long been established that I am in deep need of psychological services. But does wanting to have my writing checked over for horrible left turns make me evil, vain and abusive to my CP? This blog post probably does, but no, I'm going to go out on a limb and say something I hope will take the burden from other writers who also need the light so badly.

It's okay to poo with the lights on. If your CP doesn't mind, neither should you.

And I think that's all the thinking I should have to--or be allowed to--do on a Monday Morning.

Tomorrow, Tuesday Teach Day Lesson: We begin the first of "The 7 Deadly Sins of Romance Writing" series!

Big hugs,

Saturday, August 13, 2005

How To Poison Your Child & Other Fun Weekend Games

The peas went down in flames. They've been renamed "green corn" and I do believe have taken on placement as "Spawn of Satan". (As noted by the boy's recent exclaimation of "666!". He added a 9 after that, but I think it was just to remove the horrified look on my face."

Now, for those of you without special needs children, when you have them, you can actually break them down into 1 of 2 types.

Eaters: No matter how physically disabled or mentally unstable they can get, if your kid eats, he eats a lot or he eats without effort. There are other difficulties, but dinner isn't usually the worst of them.

Non-Eaters: You will cry, you will beg, you'll do whatever your doctor suggests. And most of it won't help. You have a non-eater. This is politely referred to as a kid with "food aversions". You think minestrone is delish? He'd rather eat his own pooh. And you'd probably have more success with that goal than with the soup. They're specific about what they eat. How they eat it. God help you if you change it. And of course, there is the medical side effects. These kids are not the healthiest souls you'll ever come across. It's important to provide them with another source of vitamins & minerals.

I've come to the place where I am wondering if there is a rig out there that straps all necessary minerals to the skin, so that my son can get them by osmossis, 'cause he sure ain't getting them orally.

I used to lay him on the floor, bundled tight in towels, crouch over him with my knees on either sides of him arms, and drop by (immediately spit out) drop, medicate him with liquid vitamins. It's been labeled a holy day, the day we discovered we could mix his daily serving into his pb&j sandwich. This lasted for a while, but he's got the taste buds of the cruelest culinary reviewer and could pick out which sandwich was poisoned and which was not.

We found tropical liquid.

I believe the bottle is still full.

We tried gummivites, which worked for a while, but he's since decided that he hates them. (A fact he rediscovered tonight, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) For background, I should give you a roll on how this kid tastes. I've been told that he has an excess of sour buds, meaning that EVERYTHING tastes sour to a degree. Take stuff that already has a sourness and you're basically pouring battery acid on his tongue. Most veggies and fruit juices apply, which is why the only thing born in nature that he will eat is a banana. He likes salty. He lives for soy sauce. He likes burned. He does NOT like fruit, veggies, he'll show you exactly where you can put your milk, thank you very much, and if you come anywhere near him with medicine, you better be wearing a cup.

But he's seven now. He's growing fast and eating only utter crap. This has to stop. So, we're back on the "try a veggie" schedule. And he enthusiastically agreed to try gummy vitamins again.

Then spit it out so fast you'd think the thing was crawling.

Usually, you have to pick your battles and this is the one I picked. He put it in his mouth...and gagged. Over and over again. he tried crying. He issued countless "No"s. (I'm telling you, REALLY sick of that word!) So, I hauled out the liquid and gave him a choice. After another rebellious No, he was bundled. He was mounted. He was squirted.

You never saw a kid beg for gummies so hard in your life. He all but shoved it in his mouth.

And promptly gagged. He tried himself, over and over again, to get it down, but it wouldn't go, not even in small bits. But what he DID let us do--first time in life--was drop the vitamin into his water and drink it. He doesn't drink anything when he can see something at the bottom. This insprired the brilliant and wonderful husband.

New poison treatment: microwave gummi in bit of water to melt it down, then put some in his water all day until gummy is consumed. The kid actually drank it! Glory Hallelujah, we might be able to get him reasonably healthy again!

As for the other weekend games, we spent a lot of time with him throwing suction cup darts at my forehead.

Tune in Monday to see if small child survived the weekend!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Five Friday Tidbits:

Friday shall be my day of lazy, but it shall also be my day of grateful. I will impart my good news in bullet format because while I am grateful for the upcoming weekend, I'm dead tired already. (And come on, thinking up five good things at this point every week has got to be hard for everyone.)

• I got back to my blog after more than a month of absence from anything but work.

• Hubby not only ate what I cooked last night, he wanted more WHILE watching "The Cutting Edge"--rather a lot like a tiger being fed birdfood while teaching a hippo to dance in ballerina shoes. 3-star miracle there. (It was probably due to exhaustion, but I'm taking what I can get.)

• Moo lost his Goddard (Jimmy Neutron's mechanical dog, for those not living with a Jimmy addicted child) figure while walking in a parking lot yesterday. When we arrived where we were and realized it was gone, I was looking around hoping not to look frantic. Tears in his eyes, my son wraps his skinny arms around my neck, voice wobbling he says, "Don't worry, Mommy, we'll find him." (Tiny Tim ain't got diddly on this kid, seriously.) Why is this good? Hubby scores again while we scoured the parking lot by finding pebble sized Goddard in the middle of the road before a car can run it over.

• Exterminator came to kill off unnatural ant population attempting to take over my kitchen as their primary water supply. While this sadly means I can cook again, it also means I can put the dishes on the counter for ten minutes (okay, three hours, so I'm a pig who hates doing dishes). Glory for the slovenly!

• Moo licked several pieces of corn! Hey, if Jimmy can crack it and get a whole song, Moo licking it--infinitely harder for an autistic kid with food aversions up the yang--this is a bloody miracle. The last time he had a vegetable, the millenium hadn't even turned. Today, we're going to approach the lickage of PEAS! Wish me luck!


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Special Thanks to Vanessa Jaye

Okay, I do a lot of HTML, which means I do a lot of stealing. LOL! It's mostly that I find really cool stuff, view source and pick out the code and figure out how to make it work for me. I really like HTML, so this is--shockingly--fun for me.

So, there I was checking out Vanessa Jaye's site and girlfriend has a progress counter! Never seen THIS before.

The reason being that this is not the easiest code y'all ever did see, lol. I spent my Blog reading time making it work for me--see sidebar for gloriousness, lol--and even had to call my mathematician sister to convert what a percentage would be in solid numbers. (Yes, I'm THAT dumb.) But there it is, all pretty and requiring me to be beholden to get my lazy butt in gear. As I add WIPS or Submissions, Revisions or...*angelic singing here, please*, even a sale, you'll know about it and be able to rag me if it looks like I'm not cracking on it.

Many thanks, VJ! GIANT Hugs! (PS--she's on my sidebar too, so check her out, especially if you want to know what Fetus Spears is up to, lol)

Wish me luck!

I'm About To Say Something I'll Probably Regret...

Which of course, means that I'll truck right along and say it anyway.

There's a new trend out there. It's not a telethon--do they still have those?--but something that started recently is the very charitable kindness of authors raising money for other authors in need by offering many different things for auction or donation. Am I nuts? Is this something that's been going on for a while and I missed it? Because I'm thinking I may be the only cynical nut who is wondering this very bad thing to question.

Is it bad to take part in these events?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad practice. It's wonderful, eye catching and helpful all the way around. I'm wondering why it hasn't been done sooner. I mean, even on eHQ, members are going on about how helpful these author critiques are. How great it was to get some one on one time with someone who knows. This is invaluable for them and most likely to the authors that are being helped.

I suppose--and this is the part I regret--that my fear lies only in that people see these kinds of terrible things as an "opportunity". Not the authors--although, I wouldn't be shocked if that didn't occur to them, either--but the people who benefit. I'm one of those souls who tends to overthink and if there's a way to feel bad about a good thing, I'm sure I can come up with it. But, morally, are these events a good thing?

It's extremely expensive to go to a crit service and let's face it, getting feedback from an author you admire is about as meteorically phenomenal as getting a good rejection/revision letter from your most adored editor. But after a while, do the fans that take part even care about the person that so deeply needs the help the authors are raising money to provide? Does this make us a step-above ambulance chasing? Am I dumb to think that should matter in the slightest? Is it any different than the bake sales and car washes my family put together to pay for my brother's funeral?

How do we go about helping first and benefitting later? Or benfitting at all? Is it still charity if we benefit?

Would love to know what others think. Am I crazy? Does that make me less wrong?

But, on that note, be you ambulance chaser or not, would like to let anyone who perhaps missed it know that author Marianne Mancusi lost her home to an unfortunate lightning strike during Nationals and has to start all over. Sending best wishes out to Marianne and also letting everyone know that there IS a way to help: Fundraisers are being organized, including both direct contributions and auctions--in case you want to help for help's sake. The site with the info is: http://www.literarychicks.com . Take a look. :)

Many hugs to all,

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Because I Can...

I thought it'd be fun to see if I can post pics very well on this puppy. So, giving a few a shot.

This is a larger pic of the eHQ.com pic I use, taken by the lovely Ms X (This Christine). It's one of the two pictures ever taken of me in my life that make me look REALLY good and may well be the only one to survive me, lol.

Here's us hosties at the 25th Anniversary sign in Reno.

This is the one my hubby took of our handsome, prize winning son after the summer festival where he won prize after prize. Be sure to check out the haul on the table. ;)

Now let's just hope this works!

Is It Sacrilegious To Write For Multiple Genres?

((Please note, there's some religious humor here. If you are easily offended, you may want to skip today's reading.))

Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned.

I have a bad habit. I have thoughts outside my genre.

A lot of them.

For some, that's a cardinal sin. For example, if Romance were a religion, it'd be like an Orthodox Jew talking about considering eating a ham sandwich.

People who eat such things think it's funny to so much as second guess it and think you should just snack down.

Then there's others who gasp and assure you that an unpub trying to write multi-genres means means you are going to Romance Hell--the very bottom of your ultimate editor's Slushpile. (Or, if you're a Romance Catholic who follows all the rules and confesses regularly to your CP readers, perhaps Romance Purgatory; where your mss are trapped in cycle after cycle of revisions with no hint of sale.)

Ultimately, in order to be a multi-genre unpub...you'll need to resign yourself to being a Romance Atheist.

I'm still on the fence, but let's face it, I'm listing to the side--my mother would just DIE if I claimed to be an Atheist, so let's not mention this to her anytime soon. I love smart ass romance. I like characters with fast talk, smart responses and admittedly, they need to be good in bed. Wake-the-neighbors good. Wish-I-could-do-that good.

But every now and then, I wonder...what if someone was trying to kill them?

Or...what if it's in first person and she's lousy at making sense, but great at shopping?

Or...(and this is my favorite crime) I wonder if I could make that a series?



The possibilities are endless. At least, they are in my head. But then my inner Romance Catholic rears her head and reminds me, "You'll never build readership that way! You just want to have it all! You lack focus, you undisciplined upstart!"

Obviously, as Romance Catholics go, I wasn't pleasant. I chafe at rules. Especially since the "Rules of Romance" haven't done a whole lot to get me published in the last eight years. Truly, I can't ignore the big rules--one hero, one heroine; no head-hopping; must have a happy ending. But really, I'd say I chose those before I started writing anyway. (Well, except head hopping, but once I found out about that, I chose not to.)

I suck at the "Traditional" query and short synop. I followed the rules and never got so much as a request for a partial. Made up my own style of query and a one page excerpt and there you go, suddenly, there's interest.

I haven't read the GMC book. My skin starts to burn when I touch it. I do have a rudimentary understanding of it, but don't ask me to point it out in my mss. It takes four hours to dig it out and it's not pretty. I don't like doing it.

I can't pitch to save my life. I'm a writer, speaking doesn't become me. I ramble, I'm unclear, I make off color jokes and as if that wasn't enough, I start nervously swearing like a Tourette's victim.

But does wanting to write multi-genre stories--and trying to see them published--mean that I'm vainly trying to get away with doing anything? Does it make me a writing whore, out desperately to submit where I hear they might be looking more intently for new writers?

I'm thinking...no. I mean, I've spoken to the editors of most lines, they're ALWAYS looking intently. I haven't figured out if I'm vain or not--I probably am, it's been mentioned by people who strongly dislike me that I think about myself entirely too much. Perhaps it's simply a scattershot approach. Perhaps after all these years, I'm a bit at a loss as to what I might be good at writing and I'm subconsciously willing to try new avenues, just to see if they suit my voice.

Or maybe, like most writers, I'm just imaginative. Maybe it's because I'm character driven and some characters drive in seedy areas. Maybe I'm just human with a full spectrum of emotion that can go into my work.

Or maybe, snort, I'm just that good?

Nahhhh. Even I wouldn't go that far. But here's hoping an answer shows itself soon, because my grip is falling off the fence and I'm not real sure where I might land--Romance Orthodox or Romance Atheism.

Or, rather, I just don't know which one I might regret.

Have a great day, folks!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tuesday: Teach Day

It's Tuesday, which I'm hoping to make "Lesson Day", since I have a bad habit of learning only when I'm teaching. So, as I'm digging through my old notes, I've found one other treasure to revisit because it really did have some important stuff to say. I've added to it, so call it something old, something new and to quote the Monty Python gang, "Get On With It!"


Twelve Steps to Giving a Good Critique

I'm going to go out on a limb and just give tips. I had a personal revolution on editing for yourself. ("Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave ) So, I'm going to combine some of what I picked up there with personal practices. I'm also going to pose this as useable for the writer to self-edit, and the critter who sees it afterward. Hope this helps!

Step One: (Specifically for CRITTERS) DON'T REWRITE!

Now, the very first rule is completely forgetting the phrase "If it were me..." Point of fact, it's NOT you. It will never be you. In fact, when critiquing, YOU don't even exist.

You might think I'm being harsh, but how many times have you gotten a crit where a sentence comes back sounding completely different than how you sent it. IF it's even the same sentence?

For example: Tripping on her train and wishing that the champagne she'd drunk wasn't so inebriating, Melinda casually moved through the room.

Bad Crit: Melinda walked through the room, stumbling and drunk on cheap champagne.

Why is this a bad crit? Because this isn't even what the original author is trying to convey. It's REWRITTEN--the first crime of a bad critter. It takes someone else's work and makes it YOURS. Basically, you're requesting a co-written credit, and your crits won't be taken seriously--not even when you have a valid point!


Now, I know you're wondering what I mean. Show and tells are when the author either SHOWS you what the character is like (via dialogue, action or motivation) or TELLS you. I've taken an axe to my own work for telling too much.

Let's look at what I mean: (Dee, showing)

Example: Rita couldn't dance. Danny knew it, and he suspected she was already waiting for him to get in line and ask her just like all the other fools doing so. She looked great against a wall, and had fully mastered a condescending above-it-all look when people deigned to ask her, but the truth was that she ached to be out there, pounding her feet and losing herself in the beat. Which was why Danny decided not to do it. When Miss Rita-can't-dance finally got over herself, he'd be waiting.

Lots of info there about Rita. It's short, it's direct, but it's also "telling" you about Rita, and forming the opinion FOR you. It's a big trap for writers, I know I've fallen into it myself. It's so much easier to give a fully developed character in a few paragraphs to the reader, but it cheats them of getting to know them as three dimensional characters.

So, the trick becomes "showing" Rita to the reader, and letting them see how she is for themselves.

Example: Danny watched the line of boys form in front of Rita, a usual sight at these dances. He listened as, one by one, she rejected their requests to dance.

"Would you like-" That one couldn't even finish his sentence, caught in the wake of Rita's coolly disbelieving eyes. Danny laughed and Rita turned his way. She looked good, he'd give her that. But when her withering gaze didn't work on him, she turned back to her friends.

Another sap stepped up in the line, hoping he might be the one Rita would choose. He wasn't. Disheartened, several boys abandoned the quest. Danny kept his eye on her though, and when she seemed to think no one was looking, he saw her eyes follow her friends onto the dance floor. She bounced with the beat, but nothing one might call dancing. Longing, maybe, but not dancing. She finally caught him staring, and for a moment, there was vulnerability on her face. As if she'd been caught in a secret.

And she had.

But when another boy came to ask for her, her uncaring mask returned to place, and Danny decided that he wasn't going to be one of her rejects. If Rita wanted to dance, she was going to have to come to him.

Now the reader can see Rita. This is a Show.

Critters--It's not your job to rewrite this. It's YOUR job to point out to your author when they are telling too much, and not showing enough. These examples are so you can see the difference.

Writers--A good tip to escape telling is scenes, like above, where things are shown. Since you wrote it and know the story future better than anyone else, ask yourself if the character is conveyed slowly even after the description. Then the character blurb becomes unnecessary, and you can delete it altogether.


Critters--Read it to yourself, preferably out loud. Does it sound forced? Does it sound like something someone would actually say? Does it grate your nerves because it tells you how you should react--even if you don't. Now, don't rewrite it. A critter's main purpose is to point out errors. Not necessarily correct it. If the flow isn't there, make a note for your author and move on.

Writers--Beware the "they laughed uproariously at the joke." trap. It ends up like a laugh track on a bad comedy. The reader shouldn't need to be told when to laugh, or when to cry. Also look out for adverbs on your speaker attributions. They are also guilty of telling your reader how to react.

"I hate you!" she yelled angrilly.

You can pretty much gather this wasn't whispered by the exclamation point. (Which is something else we'll get to later). To quote the book "RESIST the URGE to EXPLAIN". (R.U.E.) I have a big sign next to my comp that says this to remind me not to explain how every sentence sounds. Let your dialogue do the talking, that's what it's there for.

You can, of course, sprinkle a few adverbs in, because what's a cracker without a little salt? Dry, that's what. And without flavor. But try to stick to "saids" as much as you can. Think of them like periods, and use them accordingly. Not to say they should be used for everything (remember the cracker analogy?). You can go without any he said/she saids, or you can use actions to define whose speaking and how they feel.

"I hate you!" She slammed the door hard enough to rattle his teeth.



Critters--Sometimes, a writer is so focused on the current line, they totally forget the last one. Or the last paragragh. Or the last chapter. Or, God help us, the last book. I know, I do it all the time. Especially with names! Sweet lord, I was appalled when I realized that I had two people talking only to each other, and using each other's name each time they spoke!

BTW, have you noticed all the each's in that sentence? I'll bet you did. Tiny things like that can drive a reader nuts, and the writer won't even have a clue they did it. Again, I do it myself. OFTEN. Luckily, I had a Critter who was willing to point it out...with a 2X4 if necessary. Things to look for:

Is a word repeated more than once in a sentence? Or a paragragh? (Anything other than necessary prepositions, of course) Or a page? Again, don't correct--point out. Otherwise, you're doing your kid's homework, and they aren't learning for themselves.

Repeat this questioning for phrases. (I realized just recently noticed how often I use "ever present") The one question in particular to add, are you using the same unusual words or phrases in different character's POVs? Does the hero use the same phraseology as the heroine, despite the fact they have very different backrounds? Your CP will be most grateful if you point those out as well.

Writers--Nothing is more grating to a reader than repeated phrases. ESPECIALLY if made different characters. I've seen books where the heroine wonders something to herself (Those kids must have residual battery packs she didn't know about.), and later in the book, someone else says, "Those kids must have residual battery packs I don't know about." AVOID THIS LIKE THE PLAGUE!

Now, there are good exceptions--aren't there always?

Sometimes, something can be an inside joke between the characters and the reader. A great example of this is Elizabeth Bevarly's "Blame it on Bob!" series (Sihouette Desire) in which three best friends grow up in a small town visited every fifteen years by a comet lovingly referred to as "Bob".

The third book centers on the "spinster" character, Kirby, whom everyone in town knows good and well is a virgin. References are made throughout the previous two books about Kirby not having a man of her own, and always end with the sentence: "Not that she hadn't tried." Not much else is said as to how she tried, but every time you see a comment about Kirby, you know what's coming. And you're smiling. (Not to mention peeing your pants waiting to get this book!)

Inside jokes can be a wonderful way for your characters to interface with your reader--but use sparingly. Like all other jokes, and all other repititions, they can be annoying when forced or overused.


Writers--Be as chintzy with your exclamation points and italics as you can. Again, telling how something should be instead of showing. Show your excitement/anger with actions, not adverbs. As for italics, try to reserve for thought or translated language. If you truly need to stress a word in dialogue, okay. That's fine. But make sure you need to!

Critters--This is your comeuppance! This is where you shine! As a writer, I can honestly say the last place we pay attention is to punctuation. Get it down, fix it later is the general thought process. But we often don't see the forest for the trees, if you get my meaning. With all the words, we miss the punctuation because we're lost in story. We know where the pauses are. You don't, and that's where Critters become invaluable. I know I'd never write another word if my Critter dropped me. So, just make sure you have your grammar down--and that you know how to use it in the type of romance you're critting. (Contemporary has a few rules that can be bent. Sometimes, it's okay to bend for flow or voice, your job is to make sure a writer doesn't break it entirely!)


Critters--Make sure you have the time to do a crit before agreeing to do it. You should be able to read comfortably, even a little slower than usual, so that you can be thourough. Rushing through and missing important things is much worse than saying you don't have the time.

Writers--never beat yourself up for taking too long (to write or to self-edit!). As my father often reminded us at the dinner table: "This ain't no damn race!" The point is to do your best work, and do it before you give it to a Critter. After all, they're readers too. They deserve the same respect you give a reader. Best feet forward!

If a possible Critter says they are unable to crit for you, don't push it. They know their time constraints, and a guilty Critter rushing through your work so you don't get mad at them won't do your writing any good.

Step Seven: BE GRACIOUS!

Writers--If you don't like the crit you got, it's most likely because the Critter had a point. Enough points, and you're sure your Critter is of the Porcupine family. But the best thing to do is to take what you can use, and discard the rest. Remember someone took the time to read this for you and try to help. If nothing else, it's the thought that counts!

Critters--If the story is less than satisfactory (meaning that reading this is making your eyes cross and you're getting sick of pointing the same error out over and over again), don't get snippy. No need to kick a person when they're down. You agreed to help, so be helpful. To save your sanity, instead of doing a line by line edit, do a general one. Point out what the most frequent and glaring errors are and report those. Stress that these need to be worked on before being given to another Critter. And remember, nicely!


You've given your Critter your work. They've given it back to you with suggestions and corrections you need to make. Don't make them, then turn right around to be critted again. This isn't a class, where you can make up a grade. Often times, Critters are Writers themselves, and unless you're paying her, she has to have time to see to her own things. Critters, I've learned over hard time and experience, cannot be owned.

Step Nine: DON'T HASSLE!

Writers--Critters need time. As said above, they've got lives too, and unless they have a contract and some cash, you'll just have to wait.

Critters--Writers need time, too. Sometimes, you are dying to read that next chapter--a good sign that the story is strong, BUT, ransom notes on expected crits are bad form. So is threatening the lives of the writers who dare to interrupt a love scene with a chapter break (Sorry Rae!). So, we'll all work on our patience.


I've never been a member of a circle, precisely. There are whole groups that trade chapters weekly. There are benefits and detractions from this type of critting. While you get a varied approach to the crit process, you also may be critted by people who don't like or are unfamilliar with your category. The biggest danger is that crit circles can become a singular voice of criticism and "rules". Everyone ends up sounding alike because they are stripping the individuality out of the writing to please the circle entire.

On the other hand, a good crit circle is invaluable. With more people to read, you see several points of view and can often be read by at least one member at any given time. But be sure to give as equally--and fairly--to each member's work as you'd expect for your own.


Contrary to popular opinion, Critters are not gods. Their words cannot ban you from publication. They are not always right. And even if they know where you live, most critters will not hunt you down if you don't take their advice.

Writer, you create your characters and your plots. Ultimately, the responsibility for their integrity is YOURS. When a story veers off course, even if it's because a critter has recommended it, you can blame no one but yourself. Take care of your work, fight for it, if a Critter is right, they will have a good logical explanation for it. But should that explanation not be good enough for you, you do not need to apologize. Even if you make a mistake, it is better to be secure in your writing than dependent on the opinions of others, particularly a lot of others. That is not license to hold onto your possible errors with both hands. Make sure YOU have as good an argument for keeping things as you would expect from your Critter. Writing takes a strong spine, build it up wisely.


It's not always easy to end a critting relationship. But a writer must be able to end a relationship that is no longer working for them without guilt. Many writer's grow at different paces, be it due to more experience, more craft study or simply more time to write. There is also the destructive Crit Experience, which needs to be removed from your writing.

As with an agent, the writer/critter relationship needs to be a good fit. Unevenly yoked writers critting for each other can hamper both writer's development. The more advanced writer might be held back or over-encouraged by the less developed, who might crit though rose colored glasses, tinted by awe. Or, they simply may not have the craft skill to see where more work is needed.

The Destructive Crit Experience is when a critter is not helpful, but always seems to have a "good" reason for telling you that your writing is failing to work. Like an abusive relationship, it takes courage to escape this kind of relationship, particularly if your CP is your friend.

Ending a critting relationship does not need to be the end of your friendship, if you don't want it to be. You've heard this before, It's all in the execution.

The best way to end a critting relationship is to let the critter know that you are moving on, in as kind a way as you can. Be sure to let them know that you appreciate what they have done for you and the time they have given, but that you will be seeking other avenues of critiquing. You do not have to tell them what those avenues will be, and I leave it to your discretion as to how many details you give them as to why. The important part is to be respectful, honest and if they put the screws to you, be firm in your decision. A fair person will respect your wishes. A destructive one may well take it personally and grow angry, but if that's the case, you don't want that person critting for you anyway.

The more common way of ending a critting relationship is to stop sending chapters and simply fade away. Unfortunately, this can end the relationship in every other way, as well. Before you use this avenue, be sure you are all right with what you are giving up. Critting is one thing, good friendships are another. Be clear with yourself about giving up both.

Hope this helps you all with your critting and crit-recieving!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Slow & The Dead

I've long been having an arguement with myself: Am I slow to blog? Or am I a Dead Blogger?

Slow Bloggers blog very carefully and post to their blogs infrequently.

Dead Bloggers CLAIM they will blog...and just never get around to it.

For a while there, I was doing pretty good. Then July hit and everything fell under the heaping bridge of crap that was my work. August first, my son introduced himself then said, "And you are?"

I like blogging. It's SO much easier than forcing people to listen to my varied thoughts and you know, waste of space ideas. (Aside from editors, who get paid to read waste of space ideas, much to their eternal dismay.) I'm just hoping to make sense. I dread becoming a Dead Blogger. I've actually gotten to looking around my big empty head for some interesting blogging ideas so that I don't run out of stuff to say.

Still, the question remains, where the hell have I been?

Well, on the one hand, I've been working. As many of you may or may not know, I'm a host on eHarlequin.com. It's been a wee bit hectic. We had a redesign and my duties have changed drastically from handling online reads and scheduling author events for the site to handling Harlequin Series and still handling the scheduling. Big adjustment, but very interesting changes, I'm seeing a lot more people this way and it's a real challenge, which I think I needed. A gal can get pretty complacent when she's doing the same thing everyday for years.

Then we had the RWA National Conference in Reno. Now, if you're new to romance, what you will find out is that, like the school year, the Romance Year doesn't start in January. Oh no, our year begins and ends in July. You will find that publishers start--or end, unfortunately--lines or give out the newest information. Authors and editors and agents, oh my! You can go starry-eyed, cross-eyed and bow-legged from the exhaustion at Nationals. And really, if you don't, you're missing something. Everyone's energy peaks in July.

We all fall down in agony and sleep deprivation for at least the first week of August, but that's another blog.

So, now it's August, things have settled down and you, dear and beloved Blog reader....you get to put up with me again.

Happy New Year!