Tuesday, June 30, 2009

mleh

It's too damn hot.
Right about now I'm thinking wistfully of snowy days in Michigan.

I took this from my front porch back in 2000, after a major bizzard. Ahhh, I once wished for a warmer climate... Careful what you wish for.

Come winter, of course, I'll be wishing for higher temperatures. Just can't please some people, can ya?

;o)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Watch Your Axes



You know me. I'm all about books. And if you've been here long enough, you know I appreciate books with an underlying philosophy behind them. However, sometimes an author can go too far and underlying philosophy turns into a festival of axe grinding.

I just put down (okay, I wrote this post last night) a book after the first 55 pages because it was just such a festival. I really should've known better, but I don't read jacket copy. I like starting books fresh - without catching whatever wave the blurb writers and copy artists have in mind. After closing the book, never to open it again, I read the back and saw a hint of what might be inside. Heh. I could've save myself $4.79+tax. (Another clue was the book's presence on the 40% off rack, but I'm all about bargains.)

Of course, after reading what I read, the author blurb on the back seems a way off-base: "An electrifying ride that rings with authenticity." Authenticity? Ummm, only if you believe all the crap you see on MSNBC. Personally, I lost my suspension of disbelief in the first few pages.

Anyway, I didn't start this post to kvetch about the particular travesty of publishing. If nothing else, this book reminded me of an important point about writing fiction:

The story is the most important thing.


Whatever else you might have to say about politics or philosophy or any other idea, never lose sight of the fact that someone laid down good money to read a story.

I hope that I've artfully woven my ideas into my stories. Sure, Caldera is anti-ecoterrorist. It's crucial to the story, but taking that stand shouldn't interfere with the reader's enjoyment of the story. (Unless the reader is an eco-terrorist. Then they would probably chuck my book against a wall after the first few chapters, and that's fine with me.) I think 99.9% of the rest of the world can enjoy the story I've written without thinking they've picked up a treatise on the evils of eco-zealots.

Writers certainly can, and do, have strong opinions. That's fine. I think Ken Follett did an awesome job with Hammer of Eden, even if it might piss a few people off . I think Dan Brown wrote awesome stories in both Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. I appreciate Michael Crichton's story within research in his book The State of Fear. I might not agree with every idea these men put forth, but I really enjoyed the stories those ideas were woven into.

Because in every instance, the story was the most important thing (even if Crichton did feel the need to justify himself with footnotes, which was a little irritating).

I probably could've pushed my way through the rest of this book tonight - even with the axe-grinding - but beyond that, the damn thing wasn't even that well written. (Which totally pissed me off.) After spending a large chunk of today editing, I found myself picking at too many of this author's sentences. Between those distractions and the numerous cheap shots, I couldn't focus on the premise of this "roller-coaster ride of suspense".

Roller-coasters speed straight along. Sure, they have twists and turns, but you're always headed in one direction. This book had too many points where I was pulled out of the story to be a roller-coaster. A school bus, perhaps.

In this person's defense, though, I can see how some of the Amazon reviewers applauded this book. I guess if the author's philosophies had been even a smidgen more in line with my own, I might've been able to stay in the story more easily. But seriously, once you've taken pot-shots at the country, the government and the military, where can the story go but down?

Of course, that's when the author made a snide comment about Reagan. Sorry, folks, but I happen to think that even with his faults, he was the best President this nation has seen in a long long time. But even if you don't agree, sniping at a Alzheimer's victim who kept jelly beans in the oval office is like kicking a three-legged puppy for tripping over your shoes.

And I still would've let it go if the rest of the story had been worthwhile. Even I can set aside my feelings for a good novel.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check my work to make sure I haven't slid into the grinding wheel and taken my potential readers along for the ride.

(In the interest of keeping the blog snert free, I won't be sharing the author and title of this book. I reviewed it at Amazon, and that was more attention than this book deserved.)

PS. I totally stole the picture from Jennifer Lyon's blog. It fit too well to leave it out.

 *All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Book Review

When I picked up Vamped, I admit it was with ulterior motives. Sure, I wanted a good book to read, but I also wanted to be able to say I'd read the book. You see, the author is none other than literary agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency, and I was still waiting on a reply to the query I sent to her. You know, if she happened to request pages and we ended up talking. (Dream big much?)

Anyway, I went into Vamped hoping I'd like it. It has all the earmarks of a book I'd enjoy. I'm a fan of paranormals, and I enjoy reading YA novels. Of course, I don't love every book in either genre, but I was prepared to slog through the book whether I enjoyed it or not.

Starting out I got a vibe like it was going to be similar to Happy Hour of the Damned, which I didn't like and didn't finish. I wasn't exactly grooving on the spoiled chick turned vampire, but I kept reading. And you know what?

Ms. Diver surprised me. About halfway through the first chapter, I wanted to put the book down and move on to one of my other purchases. But I promised myself I'd finish the damn book. Good thing, too. Just a little bit further, I began to see where she was going with her character development. Farther along, and sure enough, she gave me a likeable and sympathetic character. Then she hit me with the whammy and presented a heroic MC. (I love me some heroic characters, doncha know.)

Darling Daughter hasn't read Vamped yet, so I can't give you the teen POV on this novel, but for my part, I ended up enjoying the story. I am glad I kept reading, and my experience here reminds me to give new authors a chance. Who knows, maybe I'll go back and finish Happy Hour.

So, tell me, have you ever kept reading something you were pretty sure you wouldn't like? Did you end up liking it, or were your first instincts the best ones? Dish in the comments, but please be nice.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Auntie Em Auntie Em

Yesterday's work was pre-empted by life. In the morning, I was exercising and running errands. I thought I'd work last night, but then we had one mother of a storm. Two tornados were spotted in this county - neither were too close to me, and both headed away from where I'm at, so it's all good.

I don't like storms, but I'm fascinated by them. It's almost like the way a deer is fascinated by headlights - until they get run over by a semi, that is.

Once when I was a teenager, I was home alone during a tornado warning and I spent the entire time standing on the porch watching the clouds swirl in circles above me. I was scared shitless, but I couldn't stop watching. Or take yesterday, for example. I really probably should have been hiding in the basement watching the weather on TV. Instead I was wandering the house looking out all the windows, monitoring the warnings on the boob tube, and refreshing the radar online every few minutes.

Anyway, yesterday's storm passed without too much trauma. A lot of limbs were blown out of trees. After what appeared to be an inch of rain in an hour, the leak in my basement sprouted anew, and I spent some time (and a lot of towels) stemming the flow, so the drywall we just got dry again would stay that way.

My husband took a nap just before the storm headed this way, and he slept through it all. Lucky guy. I would've woken him if it got really nasty, but it wasn't. He shrugs off storms anyway. I'm the one who quietly freaks out.

Since I was a kid, I've been this way. You wouldn't think growing up in Michigan would present a lot of tornado encounters, but I lived at the West end of what we referred to as Tornado Alley. (Not to be confused with the major Tornado Alley that runs through the middle of the nation.) Between Lansing and Flint there's a lot of flat farmland. Tornados regularly spawn in there and drop on Genesee County. Sure, they're only EF1 or EF2, but still pretty scary. Needless to say, many hours of my childhood were spent in our basement while my father wandered the house watching for a funnel to drop.

I come by this honestly. I learned later Dad was terrified of tornados. That's why he wandered the house. He couldn't stand waiting in the basement for the worst to happen. He wanted to see it coming, so he could - I'm guessing - keep his family safe. For our part, we kids spent the time collecting cobwebs into cotton candy, and catching salamanders. Mom usually sat on a chair by the stairs and read. We never worried because Dad did the worrying for us. If he'd called down that he saw a tornado, we all would've taken further shelter, but he never had to.

So, I spend my tornado time wandering the house while Darling Daughter waits in the basement. If it gets bad enough - like last year - I go wait with her and the cat while the man of the house scans the skies. (You should've seen us crammed into the bathtub of the last house, but that's another story.)

How do you handle bad weather?

Oh, and since it's supposed to be time for the Saturday Super Site, I'll give you a couple weather sites I couldn't live without - Weather Underground and The Weather Channel. Oh, and a fun weather blog by some storm chasers - The Southern Weather Brigade.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Did You Buy It?

Spurred by Nathan Bransford's yesterday post, and considering I rolled over 50 books read this year, I thought I'd share a little bit about my book buying habits, and ask you to tell me about yours.

Last night, I finished reading Marco Polo. (You can see all the books I've read this year over at this post so I'm not going to repeat links.) This book was an impulse buy at the local thrift store. I was skipping through the shelves of old books and the title jumped out at me. You see, years ago - when I was a mere lass - I was enthralled by a mini-series about the same subject. I pulled the book from the shelf and sure enough, the top of the cover said it was soon to be a mini-series. Hurray! I had to buy it and see if the book was as awesome as I remembered the TV show being. I wasn't disappointed.

When I look over the books I've read this year, almost half of them are members of different series I'm working my way through. Wherever you see Monica McCarty, Karin Tabke, Lynn or SL Viehl, Jim Butcher, Allison Brennan, Gena Showalter, Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, Rachel Vincent, or GA Aiken, those are series titles. I'm caught up on most of those, but I still have some of Lynn's Stardoc series and a few of the Dresden Files novels to work through. I'm also missing one of Gena's Atlantis series.

I have different reasons for reading the other books. In some cases, I picked up the book because of the author's association with someone else I read. For instance, I bought SJ Day, Natalie Collins and Jennifer Lyon because of their participation in the Murder She Writes blog. On the same note, I bought Carrie Ryan because she used to be part of the Manuscript Mavens group. And I picked up the Shannon Butcher because I love her husband's novels.

Other times, I buy a book because of its value to my own writing. For my suspense writing, I read Jance, Reichs, Robards, Gerritsen, Gerard, LeCarre, and Whitney. Although, I have to admit, I haven't read or written much in this genre this year, to keep abreast of the speculative world, I read Shusterman and Ryan (yes, she served two purposes).

In one instance, I bought the book purely for its 'suck up' value. If an agent you're querying has written a book, I figure you damn sure better read it - just in case they want to represent you, then you can say "I read your book" without being a liar. So, I bought Vamped by Lucienne Diver. Good thing I like paranormal and YA - and good thing I really did enjoy it. I'd hate to have read the book and hated it. I'll read the book to suck up, but I won't lie about whether I liked it.

Any other unmentioned books on my 2009 list were read for a combination of enjoyment and research into the craft. I figure any book I read teaches me how to improve my own writing. (Not that I didn't enjoy almost all of the books I read this year.*)

Your turn. Why do you buy the books you do? Have you ever picked up a book for a specific reason, and then regretted it?

*I'm not telling which books I didn't enjoy - unless I've already given it a negative review. I don't enjoy trashing other people's work, and since it's a matter of personal taste, it's not helpful anyway.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Day is Today???

I woke up this morning certain it was Thursday and wondering where the hell Wednesday went. I even started kicking myself for missing a post. I sat stymied by the missing day in my memory. Sure, my Dilbert calendar was still showing Tuesday's page, but I was so sure I missed hump-day that I convinced myself I forgot to rip yesterday's page off.

Even after I figured out that today is actually the day I thought I lost, I had to ask my husband for confirmation. Bless his heart, he didn't even look at me funny when I asked him what day it was. Thank goodness I have the man to ground me in reality.

Has that ever happened to you? Or am I just too weird to be allowed out in public?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bad Brain Day

Well, it was probably a good thing I couldn't write new words last night. I edited one chapter of Nano, during which I learned I was having what I call 'A Bad Brain Day'. You know how sometimes you know you know which word to use, but you can't think of it? Or worse, every similar word is popping into your head instead? Last night the worst word was 'relief'. It took me five minutes of trying numerous words before it finally jumped out and slapped me.

Umm, yeah. I'm a writer afflicted with word-finding-difficulty. Wee. Smack me in the head and call me damaged. (Okay, so that already happened. You'd think after 15 years, I'd be used to it.)

Anyway, some days with this are better than others. Last night, I muddled through. Thank Gates for the thesaurus function in Word. Without it, I'd be doomed.

Here's hoping my brain cooperates today. I think this morning it's doing fine, but we'll see what the rest of the day brings. How's your brain today?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Foggy Path

Just after sitting down to write a few minutes ago, a realization hit me. I have no idea where to go from here.

Since I don't plot (for the most part), my writing is more like wandering down an uncharted path in the fog. With no map and no compass, I've only got my instinct to guide me. Most of the time, they're a pretty safe guide and I can sense when the path is going to twist and turn. Sometimes the direction takes me completely by surprise.

And occasionally - like now - I find myself at what seems to be overgrown wilderness. In front of me is a tall hedge of brambles, and I can't see any way to move forward again. No way through is apparent on either side. I'm sure I'm on the right path, so going back isn't an option. It's like in the movie Labyrinth - sometimes the way through is right in front of me, but I can't see it.

I could just hack my way through, but that almost never works out to my advantage in the end.

So here I sit. I could be here for a while or the fog could lift suddenly at any time. Maybe I should build a campfire and work on the edits for Nano while I'm waiting.

Anyone got any marshmallows?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Book Review

Sorry to be so late today, but I wanted to finish this book so I could review it.

With her latest (maybe the last... :gasp:) book in her Highlander series - Highland Scoundrel - Monica McCarty nailed it again.

Hot Highlanders and gutsy lassies notwithstanding, she managed once again to pull this reader into a world I never would've dreamed I'd be interested in. I mean, seriously, me reading about 17th century Scotland? If you'd asked me a year or so ago, I'd have said I wasn't into historicals. And if I'd been silly enough to stick to that thought, I would've missed out on one hell of a ride.

With Highland Scoundrel, Monica catches up with the last of the Campbell siblings - bastard brother Duncan. He's been tried and convicted as a traitor to the crown, and on the run for the past ten years. Except he was framed, and the one he thinks stuck it to him a decade before is the only woman he's ever loved - Jeannie Grant. After living the life of a mercenary exile in Ireland, he comes home to clear his name and recapture his life. In order to do that, he has to get Jeannie - now the widow Gordon - to admit her part and give him the proof he needs to be a free man once more.

If only it were that easy - but easy stories don't make for great novels.

Jeannie never betrayed Duncan, but helping him prove his innocence means jeopardizing everything she's worked so hard at - including the lies she told to save her son from the very life of bastardy his real father suffered.

After all the torment they've been through, trust is harder to win back than the love they thought they lost but can't deny.

:sigh: The story does my hopeless romantic heart good.

I hope this isn't the last Highlander. If it is, though, I'll survive and anxiously wait to see what Monica has planned next.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday's Super Site

Feeling stressed out? I give you....

The Stress Relief Fish Tank

Torment this animated fishie and you'll feel better. I know I always do. (No real fishies were harmed in the making of this animation. And the animated fish recovers quite well from his torture, so no worries.)

Or if you can't bring yourself to poison, blow up, shoot at, beat or jostle the little goldfish, try some soothing sounds at:

The Online Stress Reducer

You'll feel so much better if you kick back and relax before you resume killing people in your manuscript. Seriously.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Weekly Update

Late update today.

5095 words written on FG.
4 chapters edited on Nano.
No queries out this week.

Overall, I'm not too disappointed. I got some good words out, and I actually worked 7 days in a row. Yay, me.

And, here's the recipe for Coconut Bread I promised last week. I discovered tonight that it works really well as the base for Berry Shortcake. Too decadent.

Coconut Bread

1/4 cup butter or margarine (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt1 cup milk
3/4 cup flaked coconut
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk into wet mixture. Once completely mixed, fold in coconut. Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Sprinkle sugar on top (to taste). Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes (at least) before removing from pan to finish cooling. Slice and serve. (Good by itself. Even better with ice cream.)

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Halfway

I just rolled over the halfway point for Fertile Ground. Yay.

I was hoping to get the first draft done by the end of this month, but with about 20-30K left to write (out of a final draft of 80K or so), I'm guessing that's a little over-confident. Maybe by the middle of July I'll have the first go-round done. That leaves September for editing this one.

I'm shooting for the edits to be totally finished on Nano by that time, so it's all good.

Now, we'll see how those plans play out.

Time for a little happy dance.

Thinking About Doing Something ≠ Action

Following yesterday's Amusing Myself post, and keeping with what's been on my mind recently, I've been considering the difference between what I've been thinking about doing and what I really have been doing.

Thus, the title: Thinking about doing something does not equal Action.

I keep thinking about my weight and my general physical shape. I wouldn't be surprised if large portions of my body were in atrophy. I think about exercising, and you know what? I haven't lost a pound or gotten in any better shape.

I've been thinking about my career and where my writing is actually going. Now, in this case, I am actually doing the writing, but am I doing enough? I'm still not published, and with each passing day, the fact continues to weigh on me. If every day was a pound of fat, I wouldn't be able to roll myself out of bed - which is probably why I can't seem to roll myself off the mental couch. I can think about (read: stew over) not being published, but those thoughts really aren't getting me anywhere.

Some days I sit and think about cleaning the house. I still have unpacked boxes from the move in October. I have cobwebs that need to be eradicated. I have files to organize. I have papers to sort through and throw out. I can spend hours thinking about all of these things, but they're still sitting there.

Sometimes I wonder if this blog, the forums, the websites, and the so-called research aren't just more of the same. Thinking about doing instead of doing.

This morning I got off my ever-widening ass and took a walk - sixteen blocks is a start. Do that every other day, and maybe I'll be able to look at myself in a mirror without wanting to retch.

Last night I wrote almost 2000 words. Pulling myself almost to 50% finished with the first draft of Fertile Ground.

Monday I vacuumed and spot washed the kitchen floor. (Okay, I only did it because I was ashamed to let the landlady see how messy my floors had gotten - but the point is, I did it.)

And that's about it. Sure, I can be proud of those things, but are they enough? I know I wrote a post a few days ago about celebrating the little things, but I forgot that there's a caveat to the celebration. Celebrate, but don't accept. Little accomplishments are fine, but they aren't enough.

So I wrote 2000 words last night. If I never push beyond that - and I'm not talking wordcount - no one but me will ever read those words. I have to do more. Sure, I did some housework, but I can't just stop there - otherwise my home will become a pigsty, and no one will be happy. Okay, I walked a little. If I do that every day, I might lose some weight, and my legs will be more shapely, but what about my belly and my arms and my butt? Walking ain't gonna cut it, sister.

I've always been an intensely lazy person. Ask my mother. Better yet, ask my sisters - they love razzing me about my profound laziness as a kid. If left to my druthers, I'd be lying on the couch watching reruns or sitting here playing tetris. If I could, I'd lay over there shouting the lines of my books over here while my daughter types them up. (Except I can't write that way. If my hands ever give out, I'm screwed.)

I guess the point of this post is that I recognize the problem. I'm not quite sure how to fix it, but they say recognizing your weakness is the first step toward fixing it. And this is something I have to do on my own. No one can start my internal gumption engine but me. I have to start it and I have to keep it going.

And the next step is to quit talking about starting it. I need to jumpstart, kickstart... pull on the damn cord like it was an old lawn mower.

I'm off to complete some action. What are you doing today?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Amusing Myself

Okay, so yesterday my big bold wonderful author/agent post turned out to be a huge time suck. If I'd bothered to research, I might've discovered for myself that querytracker already did the work. :shrug: Thanks for the heads-up, Brit. If nothing else, looking at all the client lists for numerous literary agencies amused me.

Of course, it also gave me increased respect for Trident Media Group. Yow, they represent a lot of authors I know and like. It also made me drool over the idea of nabbing Janklow & Nesbit, but I'm not delusional. I'm just mildly neurotic.

Anyway, I'm leaving the list up in the Important Stuff section over there on the right. I'll probably add to it as I go along, just because. Finding ways to amuse myself, ya know.

It's been a week for that. I won't go into the gory details. Lord knows, you've all read enough of those here already. Let's just say I'm forcing myself to re-examine my goals and priorities and leave it at that.

In other news, while we're drying out the basement, the three fans trained on the carpet are making my whole house STINK. Really. I've got an incredible funk going on in here. Time to light numerous scented candles and hope the conflicting scents don't render me comatose. Keep those fingers crossed.

There... I now have Orange Cream, Butter Cookie, Apples & Cinnamon, Fruit & Berries and something called Heavenly Home. If that doesn't kill the smell, I've still got Ocean Breeze and Blueberry Muffin. Ooo, and the basket of older candles. Don't make me whip out the Glade. (Seriously. That stuff is overpowering sometimes.)

All part of amusing myself. Right now, I've also got surfing squirrel outside to amuse me. He's on the ground, but once he's done with the seed there, I'm sure he'll jump off the house onto the feeder. Afterwards, he'll go over to this spooly-thing and lay down while he digests. It's a ritual.

Next up, a little light reading... then TV. Woohoo. Do I know how to live, or what? ;o)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Authors and Their Agents

Over at Romance Divas, someone asked the question of how to find out who represented a certain author, and it occurred to me that there really isn't a a central location for this kind of information.

So...

I'm going to try and keep a list of my own. It's not going to be anywhere near complete (that would take a monumental effort), and since authors occasionally change agents, it might not always be up to date. But it's a start. If you know of any author/agent relationships, let me know in the comments and I'll add them as we go along. (Links will be added as time permits. Until then, try: Agent Sites, Blogs, Etc.) Also, if I got anything wrong, let me know.

Agatha Christie estate - Harold Ober Associates
Alison Kent - Donald Maass Literary Agency: Jennifer Jackson
Allison Brennan - Trident Media Group: Kimberly Whalen
Ally Carter - Nelson Literary Agency: Kristen Nelson
Anne Rice - Janklow & Nesbit
Arthur C. Clarke - Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Russell Galen
Beatrice Small - The Ethan Ellenberg Agency
Brandon Sanderson (no relation) - JABberwocky
Brian Herbert and the DUNE estate - Trident Media Group
Catherine Coulter - Trident Media Group
Charlaine Harris - JABberwocky
Cherry Adair - Trident Media Group: Kimberly Whalen
Clive Barker - Janklow & Nesbit
Danielle Steel - Janklow & Nesbit
David Baldacci - The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency, Inc.
David McCullough - Janklow & Nesbit
Dean Koontz - LJK Literary Management
Debbie Macomber - The Park Literary Agency, LLC
Debra Webb - Levine Greenberg Literary Agency
Diana Killian - BookEnds, LLC
Diana Peterfreund - The Knight Agency
Douglas Preston - Janklow & Nesbit
F. Scott Fitzgerald estate - Harold Ober Associates
Gena Showalter - The Knight Agency
Harlan Coben - The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency
Isaac Asimov estate - Trident Media Group
Jaci Burton - Trident Media Group
Jackie Barbosa - Marsal Lyon LiteraryAgency
Jenna Black - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Jennifer Haymore - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Jill Monroe - shows up on the client lists of both The Knight Agency and Trident Media Group
Jim Butcher - Donald Maass Literary Agency: Jennifer Jackson
Johanna Lindsey - The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency
John Grisham - The Gernert Company
Karen Robards - Trident Media Group
Karin Tabke - Trident Media Group
Kristen Painter - The Knight Agency
Linda Lael Miller - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Linnea Sinclair - Nelson Literary Agency
Lucienne Diver - Nelson Literary Agency
Margaret Weis - The Plains Agency
Marjorie M. Liu - The Knight Agency: Lucienne Diver
MaryJanice Davidson - The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
Maya Banks - Trident Media Group
Maya Reynolds - BookEnds, LLC
Mercedes Lackey - Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Russell Galen
Michael Crichton estate - Janklow & Nesbit
M.J. Rose - Loretta Barrett Books
Neal Shusterman - Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Nicholas Sparks - The Park Literary Group, LLC
Pearl S. Buck estate - Harold Ober Associates
Phillip K. Dick - Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Russell Galen
Rachel Vincent - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Rhonda Stapleton - Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Richard Adams - Harold Ober Associates
Robin Cook - Janklow & Nesbit
Roxanne St. Claire - Trident Media Group: Kimberly Whalen
Sherrilyn Kenyon - Lowenstein-Yost Associates: Zoe Fishman
Simon Green - JABberwocky
Sophie Kinsella - Inkwell Management
Tamora Pierce - Harold Ober Associates
Terry Brooks - Janklow & Nesbit
Terry Goodkind - Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Russell Galen
T.H. White estate - Harold Ober Associates
Tom Clancy (Op-Center only) - Trident Media Group
Toni McGee Causey - Trident Media Group: Kimberly Whalen
Tony Hillerman - Curtis Brown, LTD
Vicki Lewis Thompson - Trident Media Group: Robert Gottlieb
Wendy Roberts - Irene Goodman Literary Agency

Update: Heh. For a more comprehesive and professional list, see the URL in Brit's comment. I should've known better than to think it wouldn't be out there somewhere. Thanks Brit.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doo dee doo

I know. I really should try to post in the morning. By the time I get done writing, my hands are too tingly to write a blog post.

Feh. I'll worry about that when my hands drop off. If I let tingles bother me, I'd have stopped writing 700 words short of my total for the day. So there.

Anyway, it's been a pain in the butt today. Yesterday we discovered a leak in the basement, and between then and this afternoon, much time was spent on clean up. Most of my work was yesterday as I scrambled to move boxes before they were irrevocably damaged. Today I spent some time helping the landlady move furniture and toss waterlogged stuff. Now we've got fans running, trying to dry out the carpet. Tomorrow, more water sucking fun. Yay.

Heh. I also managed to blow out my good knee yesterday. Now I'm limping from both sides. Double yay. Nothing like trying to sleep when no matter which way you lay, it puts pressure on your achy joints. =op

Anyway, enough about my craptastic 48 hours. I spent some time today watching the squirrel surf my bird feeder. I love my feeder. I posted the squirrel pic a few days ago, so I thought tonight, I'd give you a picture of my feeder's regulars - the finches.

For your enjoyment, I give you: Mr. and Mrs. Housefinch.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Book Review

So many books, so little space to review... Seriously. As much as I've been reading lately, I could devote every day of the week to reviews. But this is a writing blog. (Okay, not so much writing lately, but you get the point.)

Anyway. It was hard to choose this week's book from all my recent reads. In the end, I basically threw a dart and came up with:

Blood Magic by Jennifer Lyon

Now, you may be more familiar with Ms. Lyon as Jen Apodaca - the name she wrote mysteries under - but no matter who you know her as, she's got talent and it shows more than ever in her last release - Blood Magic.

I'm a few months behind the times with this review. Blood Magic came out in February, but with my infrequent trips to the big stores, I had to wait. If I'd known the book was going to be this awesome, I would've been a lot quicker.

Witch hunters have come for Darcy MacAlister. That alone would be enough of a problem, especially since she never knew she was a witch, but when the one who kidnaps her also makes her yearn for some lovin', being hunted is the least of her worries. She's got to save a little girl from a death curse using a spell she doesn't know, while keeping her sanity and her heart from breaking into a million little pieces.

Axel Locke needs the little witch to help his baby sister, but thanks to a spell cast thirty years before, he and the other Wing Slayer Hunters can't be around witches without wanting to spill their blood. Torn between the spell and his own oath to never kill the good witches, he has to choose whether he will lose his family or lose his soul. He never thought there'd be another choice - losing his heart.

This book is a definite break from Jen's work as Ms. Apodaca - and thus the reinvention of her persona. Her Samantha Shaw mysteries are light and fun and frisky. Her foray into paranormal romance is tense and sexy and thrilling. I can't wait for the next book to come out. (Soul Magic, btw. A look at what happens between Wing Slayer Hunter Sutton and witch Carla.)

If you're a fan of Gena Showalter's paranormals, I think you'll definitely enjoy Jennifer Lyon's Blood Magic. She and Gena share a similar style and tone. And if you're worried about more of the 'same ol same ol', don't be. Jen's writing may be similar, but she differentiates herself with her premise and her voice.

Check her out. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

For Lack of Words

I'll give you a picture...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weekly Update

Seems like it's been bipolar week on The Writing Spectacle, eh? Started out positive, went to middlin', and then went straight to Wanda Whiner. Pardon me while I slap myself around a bit.

But that's all part of the spectacle. Right?

Anyway, I did get some stuff done since last Friday - I mean besides going a little Sybil. (I'm not a loon. Really, I'm not.)

Over the weekend, I got down and dirty with Nano. I edited five chapters. I snipped and added and tweaked and reworded, leaving the grand total of gain/loss at minus 500 words. I've been eliminating every scene from this one character's POV, which helps. I'm not sure whether I'll weave some of that back in, or just leave it as is. He's a crucial character, but I think he was getting too much face time.

In addition to that, I managed to write just over 4000 new words on Fertile Ground. Half of that was last night, but I'm not sneezing at getting words out. Those words mean I'm about halfway through the first draft (if the first draft is between 60 and 70K, that is). Hurray. I'm also seeing where I can go back and tweak. I need to develop the male hero-type character more, so he's less a secondary and more a real hero. I also need to weave in some of the heroine's backstory, to show her internal conflict and motivation more clearly.

Now, not everything this week was wonderful. You might have guessed that I received a disheartening rejection based on yesterday's whine. You'd be right, but the weird thing is, I didn't get the rejection until after the post. Foresight, perhaps? It was another good rejection, but it didn't help my mood at all. She liked my writing, but she didn't love it enough to represent it. As feedback on a full goes, it was a wee bit sparse, but at least it was feedback.

I'm still at a stuck point with submitting. I need to climb back on the horse, but for right now, I'm thinking maybe I should walk for while rather than risk getting thrown when I'm already so sore. (I know, I'm mixing metaphors, but it's my blog and I'll mix if I want to. =op)

In other news, my daughter found an awesome recipe for Coconut Bread. Yummers. If any of you seem interested, I'll post it next week.

If you have any news to share, feel free. Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feeder Surfing - Squirrel Style







Tired

I'm tired. I don't even know why since I went to bed early and woke up at a decent time. It's just before nine here, and I'm already ready for a nap...

But that's not the tired I wanted to talk about today.

I sat down to send out a few more queries this morning, and every single agent I looked at made me realize that I'm tired of this game. I send and send, and I write and write... And nothing. No wonder I've been reading my brains out recently. It's so much easier to let myself slip into another person's world.

Don't worry. This never lasts for long. If you've been reading along, you know I go through this every so often, and I always manage to get back in the game.

Ya know, at this point, I'm even tired of feeling tired. It's a stupid cycle. I was going to compare it to a roller-coaster, but those are at least interesting. This up down up down up down is boring the crap out of me.

And I'm not bored with writing, per se. I love it. I love putting my words down and pulling them together into a story. I'm just bored with the other half of the writing business. Another query to send, another synopsis to write, and another rejection. Rinse repeat. Ad nauseum. It's back around to the point where I want to write a query letter that says:

Dear Agent Person,

Here's another book I wrote.

kthxbai

I know I have to put the work in. I know it's all part of the game. I'm just tired of doing it. Sisyphus had an easier gig. At least when you're rolling a rock uphill, the scenery changes. This is more like the middle dog of a sled dog team. I just keep pulling and running, and all I see ahead is pooch-crack.

Don't mind me. I'm just venting. I know I'm probably not the only one out there who's been through this. Everyone has their days, and this is mine.

And no, I don't want any cheese to go with this whine. I've got enough, and I'm tired of that, too.

Just for fun, I'll leave you with the song that got stuck in my head the second I wrote the subject of this post... Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Picture Pause

Since I've been hard at work... umm... reading, I thought I'd share another picture with you. This one is from when I lived in Utah. I wasn't sure where I took this shot, but upon further inspection of the other photos, I'm guessing it was on the Eastern slope of the Wasatch somewhere south of Park City.

This was the day we got it into our heads that the road warnings must've been overkill... It was May, after all... and almost got stuck in a snow drift trying to get over the top. Oh, and the drop off the side of the road... I almost wet myself. Nothing like looking out the window straight down. Gack. Lucky for us, we made it and came out above one of the many ski lodges out that way.

The above shot was earlier in the day, before the harrowing ride up Mt. Hell. As bleh as parts of Utah may be, there's some awesome scenery there, too.

Oh, and just before we got to the sign that said something to the effect of 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here', we went through this incredible birch forest. This picture doesn't totally capture the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of white trunks, but I think you can get a glimmer of the idea.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

What I want to talk about this morning is recognizing your own worth. This was touched off by something I read at MamaWriters this morning.

Sometimes we don't always realize how important we are. We don't see that the little accomplishments are worthy of celebration. It's a shame, really. Every little thing we succeed at is worth something. This weekend, I cleaned my husband's bathroom. Not a great thing in the scheme of accomplishments, but if you knew how much I hate to clean, taking the time to scrub a toilet is something to shout about.

One thing we all can do to take a more positive look at ourselves and our own accomplishments is a little exercise I assigned last week for Psychology class. I had my daughter write down every positive thing about herself that she could think of. And when she couldn't think of anything else, I gave her a few things to consider. Then I had her write down all the negative things. Of course, her negative thing list was twice as long, but once we went through every item on both lists, she shortened her negative list, added to her positive list, and felt a whole lot better about herself.

Now, I'm not saying to take 'I can clean toilets' and leave it at that. It's not necessarily the only thing any of us has to be proud of. But listing even the little things will help point you toward the larger things. 'I can clean toilets' leads to 'I keep a tidy house' which could lead to 'I'm an organized person'. And so on.

Looking at the negative things is important, too. If you don't know what you think is wrong, you can't fix it. Right? List them all. Figure out which negative aspects of yourself you have control over, and if they really bother you, make a plan to fix them. Also, look at the things you have no control over, because once you accept the fact they're beyond your control, you can let them go. For instance, if you write out your list and one of the items is 'I'm too short', you need to come to grips with your shortness. You can't change it, and you need to move on.

And don't dwell on the negative things - even those you can change. Make steps to change them, but realize they aren't the most important parts of you. If you're going to dwell on anything, dwell on the positive.

"I am a good mother." Hey, good job raising that kid from a baby to a teenager without killing her or yourself! "I've written six novels." Way to go! That takes a lot of work, and you even though it was tough sometimes, you kept your head down and got it done. "I made an awesome dessert this weekend." Good job! That idea to use cider mix in the frosting was genius.

You get the point. Sure, we've all got things we don't like about ourselves, but I think sometimes we get so mired in the misery, we forget to even take a peek at the glory.

So this week, I'm going to try to accentuate the positive in my own life. For every drop of rain that falls, I'm going to find the flower - even if it kills me. How about you? Are you up for a little positivity this week?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Book Review

If you check my reading progress, you'll see I've been reading my brains out lately. Of course, that leaves me no excuse for not getting around to doing a book review last week - unless I can claim that I was reading at the time. ;o)

With so many great books to choose from, I thought I'd pick Karin Tabke's Blood Sword series. Normally I'm only a passing fan of historical romance, but since Karin is such a great gal (I've been a blog reader for years) and I like the way she writes, I thought I'd give her Blood Sword Series a try. I'm so glad I did.

Hunky and haunted former crusaders bound together by shared misery, these men ride into battle covering each others' backs and keeping a lookout for their prophesied future - for each of them to find the one woman who will share his life and bear him sons. Not that either the men or the women go into the whole thing lightly or easily. Prophecy or no, their encounters are filled with conflict, and with an irresistable pull toward each other.

:swoon:

Anyway, I just finished reading the third book and each book just keeps getting better. They are...

1) Master of Surrender
2) Master of Torment
3) Master of Craving

You can read them independently, but if you read them out of order, you're going to miss the whole Saracen prison scene in book one - where Karin tells you how they came to be the Blood Swords. You don't need the info to get into the subsequent books, but it just makes the story so much richer.

So if you're looking for some steamy historical romance, complete with gutsy ladies and scorching hot knights, give Karin's books a whirl. Personally, I can't wait to read the next book. Too bad for me, the most recent just came out last week.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday's Super Site

As a self-professed geek, what better site to give you this Saturday than wiseGEEK?

wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions.

I admit I don't stop by here often, but then again, I haven't been doing much research lately. However, when I need a source, wiseGEEK usually has some information for me. For instance, if I wanted to learn about Wicca because I read a lot of paranormal, this site would be a good place to start. (Funny how the ads on the Wicca entry are for Christianity. Hmmm.) Or let's say I want to look into Nanotechnology because I want to write a book with that in it. (Okay, I already did this, but you see what I mean.)

The site has a pretty good search function, and if you're just killing time, you can browse through their categories to find some nifty information - like What is Occam's Razor? or What is Teasel? (I know, I know... none of us needs another time-suck, but hey, at least you're learning while you avoid work.)

Anyway, in this writing business, more information and more ways to access it are always good things. If you visit wiseGEEK, come on back and tell me what things you found. Anything weird, interesting or just plain goofy?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekly Update & Quote Answers

This week in writing includes 2200 new words and one chapter edited. It also includes several queries sent, a couple rejections received, and a foray into submitting one of my other books to a publisher (who I just learned has an open call going on).

Most of the week was spent working on the first days of 11th grade, wherein we're doing a crash (4 hours a day for the next 9 weeks) course in Psychology. So far, it's been working pretty good. Oh, and when I haven't been teaching or working, I've been reading. The trip out of town gave me plenty TBR books to choose from (and unfortunately plenty to do instead of working).

The coming week marks the time to gently nudge the agent who's had a full for two months. We'll see how that goes. It also means I need to get my ever-widening ass in gear and send out another round of queries. You can't win if you don't play. Right?

Now, for the answers to yesterday's quotes:

- No soup for you! (Seinfeld)
- Wienies! Bring me wienies! (Laverne & Shirley)
- I do not think that word means what you think it means. (Princess Bride)
- Morons! I'm surrounded by morons. (All Dogs Go to Heaven)
- Looks like you've got mousse and squirrel in there. (Will and Grace)
- Crap. (said with a Texas accent) (Reba)
- Never say die, but very frequently say OUCH! (The Thief and the Cobbler)
- You're a lean, mean fightin' machine. (Stripes)
- Ooo, wise guy, eh? (The Three Stooges)
- Take off, ya hoser. (The McKenzie Brothers - from some Canadian version of SNL & also the movie Strange Brew)
- One of these days... Bang. Zoom. (The Honeymooners)
- Rut Roh- When Polly's in trouble, I am not slow. It's hip-hip-hip and away I go. (Underdog)
- Fly and be FREE! (Mork and Mindy)
- It's a Cinderella story here at Augusta. (Caddyshack)
- Okay, Joan Wilder. Write us out of this one. (Romancing the Stone)

I'll be back tomorrow for the Saturday Super Site, and Sunday I'll actually do a book review again.

Have a great weekend and a productive week, y'all.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And Now For Something We Hope You'll Really Like

Remember the phrase in the title of this post? It's from Rocky and Bullwinkle. As in "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."

Today, I thought for a little fun I'd post some of my favorite phrases from TV and movies - some of which I use too often in my daily life, much to my husband's irritation (he's not a TV person) - and see how many you recognize.

- No soup for you!

- Wienies! Bring me wienies!

- I do not think that word means what you think it means.

- Morons! I'm surrounded by morons.

- Looks like you've got mousse and squirrel in there.

- Crap. (said with a Texas accent)

- Never say die, but very frequently say OUCH!

- You're a lean, mean fightin' machine.

- Ooo, wise guy, eh?

- Take off, ya hoser.

- One of these days... Bang. Zoom.

- Rut Roh

- When Polly's in trouble, I am not slow. It's hip-hip-hip and away I go.

- Fly and be FREE!

- It's a Cinderella story here at Augusta.

- Okay, Joan Wilder. Write us out of this one.

You know this reminds me of a short story I started a few years ago. It was all about this guy who could only talk in catch phrases, and how he lost the woman he loved because of it.

Oh, and just to add a little weirdness to the end of this post, the other day I was watching CNN or CNBC or some such thing, and this financial guy was talking about being the Master of Your Destiny, and then he referenced the episode on Seinfeld. But I'm sure he didn't know what the hell he was talking about because his comments couldn't have meant what that phrase means in reference to Seinfeld. (And if you don't know, I'm not telling. This isn't that kind of blog.)

* I'll give the shows those quotes came from at the end of tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Unscheduled Rant

As I've said before, I feed the locals strays. (That's BB Kitty - top left - isn't he darling?) I know I shouldn't do it, because I knew I would get attached, but it was such a cold winter and they all looked so hungry, I couldn't help myself.

So I fed them.

I also know I shouldn't name them, for the same reason. I get attached.

But I did name them.

Sometime in late November, a tabby and white female (Mama Kitty - below right) started hanging around the house and she was very obviously pregnant. She started the whole feeding and naming thing. I mean, it's friggin' cold outside and food was scarce. I couldn't just let a pregnant mama starve to death.

Anyway, I started putting food out for her. She had her litter in early December and BB Kitty was the only survivor. She was pregnant again last month, but I think she lost the whole bunch, because last I saw of her, she was skinny again and in heat.

Mama waits for me on the porch every morning, and while she won't let me within five feet, she doesn't run away from me any more. She's even been seen catching a snooze between feedings.

Then there's Max (I haven't gotten a pic of him yet). He's a big long-haired tabby - almost Maine Coon looking. Poor thing was somebody's baby once, considering how much he wants me to pet him and love him. Of all the strays, he's the only one who's not feral. He's had a broken jaw for as long as I've known him, but he does okay. He eats fine, although hard food has a tendency to make him drooly.

Finally, there's Jay (left). He looks like holy hell. His fur is scrubby and missing in places - but not like mange - more like he lost a fight with a shaver. He runs when he sees me, but he's happy to come back once the bowl is full again.

I know none of this is a rant, but wait for it. Monday when I got home from out of town, the road in front of my house was covered in blood. It still grosses me out to think about it. In the middle of the stain was a shape - a small animal shape. A kitty shape, if you will. (Could've been a small dog, but not a squirrel

I'm thankful the local police clean up things like that, but I'm lost as to which of my strays won't be coming for dinner ever again.

Last night, BB Kitty came to the restaurant, but he's the only one I've seen since Monday morning. (It's been pouring rain, so I didn't really expect them to come out, but the wait is killing me.)

And now, time for the rant. What the hell is wrong with people that they can't bother to keep track of their pets? Like in the case of Max, who was loved at some point or he wouldn't be so loveable. If you're not going to love something for the rest of its life, at least have the decency to take it to a shelter, for petesake. Don't just dump the poor thing by the side of the road. And for godsakes, have them fixed so they don't make more unwanted kitties or puppies or bunnies. (My own Kira was a rescue, after having been dumped outside a shelter at 3 weeks old - sans Mother.)

I used to work for animal control, so it's not like I'm a Pollyanna about what happens at shelters. But after seeing numerous animals squished on the roads or starving to death or so diseased it broke my heart, I learned that a gentle death is preferable to a horrific half-life. (Okay, maybe not for them, but seeing a cat dragging it's lower half behind it because it got hit by a car and no one bothered to help it... well, it puts things in perspective.) Hell, if I was suffering that badly, I'd want to be put out of my misery.

Anyway, the point here is that if you want a pet, make sure you actually want it - forever. And if for some reason, you can't take care of it anymore - or you don't really want it after all - seek out a shelter or rescue agency or SPCA chapter. Give them at least a shot at a new life, and barring that, a shot at a more noble death than splattered across the pavement.

I don't blame the driver who hit whichever stray it was (although if it was one of the assholes who fly down this residential street without paying attention, they deserve to be slapped). Most likely the kitty darted into traffic, and there was nothing anyone could do. (I've lost more squirrels that way.) I do blame the people who leave these poor things to fend for themselves in a world where diesel pickup trucks rule the roads.

Of course, this is part of the reason why Kira never leaves the house. (The other part is that she's terrified of outside, but that's another story.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Google is My Friend

Actually, it seems like Google would be every writer's friend. Tonight I needed to find the closest hospital to the worst part of Detroit. And since my time in the Detroit area was more about finding a place to sell electronic components than where to treat a bullet wound, without Google I'd be screwed. Hell, even if I still lived in Michigan, I'd be hard-pressed to find a reason to go into the worst parts of Detroit.

Once I got turned around and ended up at Warren and Wyoming (if I remember correctly). Talk about breaking a few traffic laws getting the hell out of that neighborhood. :shudder: I'm a little country girl who can't run and who didn't have anything more than a screwdriver for defense. (Not as weird as you'd think. I sold screwdrivers, too.) The last thing I wanted to do was stop at the approaching redlight - especially since there were hookers on one corner and drug dealers on the other. After pulling a U-ey and flooring it, I felt loads better, but nother half dozen blocks went by before I stopped wanting to wet my pants.

Anyway, thanks to Google, I don't have to go down there ever again. I just got the general location of the crime, and searched for the closest hospital. Bing bang boom, and she's on her way to Henry Ford. Damn, technology is a wonderful thing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Score

Heh. A book I have been unable to find at any brick and mortar - one that was curiously absent from Amazon even - was located and purchased today.

It's kinda sick that I'm this happy over it. But that's what happens when you start an older series. You have to chase down the ones you missed. Who knew that book four - the one right after a cliffhanger in book three - would be so damn hard to track down.

I'm forever indebted to Barnes and Noble. (Even if I had to drive a half hour out of my way to get there.) Would've saved myself a lot of trouble if Borders had it, but nooooo.

Anyway, I'm talking about Summer Knight - the fourth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Quite a few books on my list were absent from the shelves of either store, but I managed to score quite a few yummy titles.

Books four√ and five of the Dresden Files
Fablehaven #4 - Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
A new release by SJ Day - Eve of Darkness
Sharon Shannon Butcher's first book (she's Jim's wife) - Burning Alive (And my apologies for getting her first name wrong when I posted this.)
Vamped by Lucienne Diver
The third Blood Sword novel by Karin Tabke - Master of Craving
The last hot highlander by Monica McCarty - Highland Scoundrel
Oh, and I can't believe I forgot...
Jennifer Lyon's new book Blood Magic (If you're reading this, feel free to slap me, Jen.)

I started Summer Knight around dinner and I'm halfway through. I'd read it all night, but after the long drive, I'm too pooped to even link to the above books. (I'll try to get to it tomorrow.)

The bummer of the day were the missing books I really wanted, too. The latest Diana Peterfreund - Tap and Gown - wasn't on the shelves at either store. The StarDoc books by S.L. (Lynn) Viehl I'm missing were absent, too. :pout: Plus I completely forgot to check the shelves at Borders for Toni McGee Causey's new book, and it wasn't at B&N. Gah.

I did find an old Foo Fighters CD, though, so I guess it's all good.

Help. I've waited here for you... Everlong... And I wonder, when I sit alone with you, if everything could ever be this real forever... The only thing I'll ever ask of you, you gotta promise not to stop when I say when...

Hehe.

Day Trip

Well, it's that time again. Time for the long haul to buy books. The drive is a pain, but the end result is worth it. I'll dish about my purchases when I get back. (My list is huge. We'll see what I can afford.)

Have a great day out there. And if you feel inclined leave a note about what books you'd buy today if you were me.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with my supremely bored cat. And yes, she really does take over the entire footstool.