Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Love Me. See my Jacket?

I love me. I really really love me.  See, look, I'm giving myself lots and lots of hugs.  The jacket?  Oh that.  That's to help me love myself more.  Really it is.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go roll around a plump and puffy room for a while.  I'll be back once the doctors say I've loved myself enough.


ETA: Don't mind me.  I was working on my blurb.  How 250 words can drive a person so far around the bend is anyone's guess.

 *All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement* - It was of a guy in a straight-jacket

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Queries and First Chapters - Things to Avoid

In case you didn't notice, I finished the rewrite.  With everything else going on, I totally forgot to celebrate.  Woohoo. 

Of course, finishing the rewrite means I now have other stuff on my mind - like editing and querying.  Last night, amidst a rousing discussion of universities and what we can or can't afford, I dropped out and started working on my query blurb.  After several attempts, I think I have a good beginning.  I haven't looked at it yet today, so whether that was just my tired brain going 'This looks awesome, now go to bed' or it was actually pretty good remains to be seen.

In keeping with the direction my brain's been going, my eyes landed on a link I hadn't seen before: Agents' Chapter One Pet Peeves.  Thank goodness I haven't done any of those in this draft.  (And for more, head on over to Part Two.)  Oddly enough, over at PubRants, agent Kristin Nelson talks about what she's seeing - but doesn't want to - in queries.  So between those two places, it's kind of a lesson in 'what NOT to do'.

With as tight as the industry is right now, I don't want to do anything to bulldoze my own work under the pile of rejections.  Sometimes this whole thing feels like a puzzle game - where you have to do everything in perfect sequence to move on to the next level.  Here's hoping that this is the book where I've hit everything in sequence and the door slides open. 

Keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Monday, June 28, 2010


The ACT scores are in and Daughter got a composite score of....


Pardon me while I dance.

4 Authors

This morning the gals at BookEnds posted something fun and I wanted to play along.  The idea is to post four authors - dead or alive - you'd want to have lunch with.  So here goes...

Ayn Rand - because I think she'd have the most interesting stories to tell about her life in Russia, her time in Hollywood (I'd love to hear the story of how she met Cecil B. DeMille in her own words), and the early days of 20th century publishing.  I've seen several interviews she did and even with the thick accent, she was a very eloquent woman.  Of course, I'd probably spend the whole lunch drooling on myself and feeling inadequate.

Robert Louis Stevenson - beyond his novels and his poetry - which are brilliant in themselves - I think RLS was probably a man out of time.  His ideas were so far ahead of the era he was in, I'm surprised he got anything published.  I mean seriously, how could lunch with the guy who wrote this poem not be interesting?

Jim Butcher - because, let's face it, I want his career.  That and I think he'd be a hoot to hang out with.  (Or maybe I'm just assuming he'd be a lot like Harry Dresden - minus the magic.)  And then if we had lunch and became friends, he could introduce me to his wife.  In my fantasy-land, the three of us could sit up all night bouncing story ideas off each other, or just hanging out talking sports and music and movies. 

Seanan McGuire - I didn't even know this chick existed a year ago.  Now she's one of my favorite writers.  She inspires me.  We'd have lunch, talk cats and crazy things.  We'd laugh about the pretentious guy at the next table and secretly wish for the waiter to spill water in his lap. 

If you could have lunch with any four authors, who would they be?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

THE END is near

No, that's not some kind of prediction of the zombie apocalypse.  It's just my way of saying I wrote the climax last night.  All that's left is the denouement and I can put this puppy in the 'finished' column. 

I'd tell you which book this is in the scheme of my work, but truth be told, I've lost count.  Let's just say I've written a lot of books since late January of '04.  And this one doesn't even really count as a 'new book', since I wrote this one already and this is the total rewrite.

You know, I've been to other blogs where the writer can guesstimate his total word count.  Ugh.  Mine's got to be in the millions by now.  Right?

:shrug:  Not that it matters.  I'll just keep writing and keep writing and maybe someday someone will want to buy something.  Anyway, enough about that...

It's definitely a good thing. And it means I should have this draft done sometime today or at the latest tomorrow. Yay me.

And then will begin the process of tidying up this manuscript so I can start querying again.  Wish me luck.

(BTW, I'll be posting another request for people to beta read this, so if you're interested, feel free to email me via the link in my profile - or comment here and I'll contact you.  I'm hoping to be ready by the end of July.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Need a Sassy Gay Friend

I spent the past couple of days edging the yard.  It looks great, but since I don't have a weedwhipper, I did it all with this little hand held torture device.  The yard looks great - well, if you ignore that it's all weeds - but my hands are big puffy sausages of discomfort.

Yeah, yeah.  I do need a little cheese to go with that.

I also need a Sassy Gay Friend to kick my ass. Like this guy with Desdemona:

D: "Othello's ordered me to bed."
SGF: "Yeah, well he's also ordered a pillow at Bed, Bath and Beyond that's good for smothering."


Anyway, I've come to the decision that I don't want to finish this book.  And I'll stomp my feet and hold my breath if anyone tries to make me.  I'm enjoying these people and this world too much.  If I finish this, who knows if I'll ever be able to be with them again.  I mean, if no one buys this, why bother with the sequels?  Right?  :pout:

Okay, so yes, I'll finish this.  I'll even have it done by the end of June like I promised.  But that doesn't mean I have to like writing THE END.  :end pout:

Have you ever written a story you didn't want to end?  Do you need a sassy gay friend, too?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekly Update

Is it already a week later?  Sheesh.  Where did those days go?  No, seriously.  I have no idea what I did since last Friday.  According to the old spreadsheet, I wrote just over 10K words.  I read a book or two.  I took the kid out for some teen driving time.

I'm this close (picture me holding my finger and thumb about a half-inch apart) to finishing DLN's second first draft.  It bears little resemblance to the first version - well, except for the genies, the MC, her dog and a couple of her friends.  (Yes, Natalie, I kept Zeke.)  Jo - the MC - is still gritty, but she's got more about her to make her sympathetic to a wider range of readers.  Oh, and there are more bodies.

Last Friday, I finished the latest Sentinel book by Shannon Butcher (Why do my fingers always want to type 'Bitcher'?) and it was probably her best yet.  I also read the second Bullet Catchers novel by Roxanne St. Claire.  I could kick myself for not finding these books years ago and reading them in order.  Sheesh.  Right now, every book I read seems to be in some series or another.  Is it just me or are stand alone books going the way of the dinosaur?

As for Daughter - which is where I suspect the rest of my week went - we're still racking up student driver miles.  This week, we used some of that time to pick up job applications.  That's right... my baby is applying for her first job.  :sniffle:  This morning she even has her first job interview with an acquaintance of mine.  She'll be trying to snag an internship type position in a property management office.  Because in this economy, she has a better shot finding a non-paying job to gain experience than she does finding a paying job to gain mullah.  And personally I'd rather have her getting the experience than the $7.24/hr to bag groceries*.  Of course, bagging groceries isn't her only paying option.  She'll be putting her app in at a florist nearby, too.  If she can get the internship and the paying job, hurray!

And that's my life in a nutshell this past week.  What better place for a nut, right?  How are things in your universe?

*$7.24 to bag groceries???  They're kidding right?  I didn't make that much per hour until I was like... god, I think I was 28 years old before I crossed the $7/hr barrier.  :shudder:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Contest Entry

This morning I entered Janet Reid's latest writing contest.  The contest is to write a story in less than 100 words that has the following five words in it: Even, Tramp, Shuffle, Lair, and Epic - with extra points fro using the phrase 'Til death do us part' somewhere in it.

My entry isn't up yet (ETA: It's at 8:58am.), but here's what I came up with:

“Til death do us part.” I couldn’t believe the tramp kept a straight face. Death would part them soon and she knew it. After the ‘kiss the bride’ thing, they’d race down the aisle – him to his epic fail and her to merry widowhood. The guests would shuffle to their post-wedding debauchery. But her? Her plans left no room for partying. Not until after. Her prey might even enjoy his last minutes in her lair. The others did. If I had my way, this was her last conquest. No more dead grooms for her.

Not bad for first thing in the morning, if I do say so myself.  I'm probably not going to win, but it was a good exercise for the ol' writing muscles.  

Have you ever entered a spur of the moment contest like this?  How'd you do?  You've got until midnight tonight to enter this yourself.  If you do, leave a comment so we can check out your entry, too.  =o)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Picture Pause

For some reason I can't keep my eyes open tonight...

Much like this little family:

Right after I snapped the pic, Mama Mallard tucked her head under her wing and joined her two babies in Lullaby Land.  Sounds like a plan, if you ask me.  Too bad I promised myself I'd write tonight. 

Sleep well, wherever you are.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bad Weather, Bad Bugs, and Bad Critters

Last night we got a humdinger of a storm.  Golfball sized hail and a half inch of rain with tornadic activity just to the southeast of us.  And people wonder why I call this Kansas-lite.  (Pics to come later.)  Needless to say Daughter spent some quality time in the basement with Kira cat.  Husband and I spent our quality time between watching the skies and watching the radar.  (BTW, if you haven't gotten any of the apps from The Weather Channel, I'd highly recommend them.  The one for Firefox puts weather alerts at the bottom of my browser.)  We also spent some time outside under the overhang.  Which is when I got hit with a ice ball right behind my knee and right in the place where the spider bit me.

Yep.  I got bit by a spider.  First time in my life as far as I know.  I didn't see it, but from all the research I did online, it was probably a jumping spider.  Since we have brown recluse around here and black widows, I spent a lot of time making sure it wasn't either of those.  Not fatal, but certainly not comfortable either.  If you're bothered by gross stuff, skip the next few sentences.  The bite started out like a mosquito bite that itched and burned.  Then it got a tiny blister in the center (which is why I researched it so hard).  For about a day, it looked like I had a zit back there.  The blister went away but now I have a quarter sized red splotch that still itches.  Following online advice, I'm applying Neosporin alternately with  hydrocortizone.  As long as it doesn't get infected, I'm fine. (Not that the hailstone hit did it any good.  Of all the places to get hit, why there?)

As for bad critters, a friend of mine posted a snippet of her work online recently.  Personally, I thought it was pretty good.  I mean, she said it was a rough first of her first attempt at writing a novel.  Even given that, it was pretty good.  This morning I went to her site to find that she'd removed the snippet because some numbnuts was making rude comments about her work.  I'm at a loss to understand why people do this.  Is it just that their lives are so empty that they have nothing better to do?  Or is it that their lives are so full of pain, they can't help but spread their misery to others?  :shrug:  I mean, I could see someone coming along and tearing her up if she said she wanted hard crits of her work, but she didn't.  All she was doing was posting something she hoped her blog readers would enjoy. 

And that's part of the reason I monitor my comments section.  Yeah, it probably stops some good people from commenting - which is too bad - but it keeps the trolls off my blog and my back.  When a nasty comment comes, I glance at it and delete it.  It never makes it where anyone else can see it.  (Doesn't mean that sludge doesn't hurt, but at least it's gone forever.)

You turn.  Anything you want to talk about?  Anything the good blog readers want to say?  (Because at this blog, it's NO TROLLS ALLOWED.)  Feel free to vent a little in the comments. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Okay, I admit it.  I still don't know how this is going to end, but I'm having too much fun writing it to stop and think about the direction now.  Also, I'm pretty darn close to writing myself into a corner.  Isn't that great?

And one thought runs through my head at a time like this...  'All right, Joan Wilder.  Write us out of this one.'


Of course, it's always possible I'm losing my mind.  Weeeee. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekly Update & an Epiphany

It's been a slow writing week, and I think I know why...

You see, I had an epiphany this morning while reading and commenting on Amber Murphy's blog.  I don't know how this story is going to end and I'm getting really close to where the climax and denouement ought to go.  Tension building, plot twists abound, and soon all this is going to have to wrap up into a nice neat little package (with a few choice threads poking out for use in later books, of course).

That's why I'm pulling words instead of being pushed by them.  D'oh!

Once I get into a scene, I crank, but after that scene's through, I don't quite know where I'm going from here and it's like pulling teeth to get the next bit started.  =o\

Of course, I'm a firm believer that knowing the problem is half the battle to solving it.  So...  Next up on my agenda is plotting out the course for the rest of the book.  Here's hoping once I get a general idea, the floodgates will open and I'll smack this out of the park.  My goal is to have this draft in the bag by June 30.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Such is the life of a plansterer, I guess.  How are things with you?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Picture Pause - Part Two

I'm pretty proud of this shot of Old Tom - one of the strays who was fighting under my window last week.

Enjoy.  I'll be back later (or tomorrow) with a weekly update.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Picture Pause

I took this on my morning walk.  Did I mention how much I love my new camera?  I never would've gotten this with my old camera - the zoom was too weak.

These guys were swimming around until they noticed me taking pictures. I guess they were ready for their closeup. ;o)

So far, I'm getting the hang of this new toy for nature shots. I'm still working on building my skills in other areas. Maybe tomorrow I'll show you a couple manmade things.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Research Link

I found this tonight while doing a little writing research.  (Okay, I was trying to come up with titles for the as yet unwritten - and unasked for - sequels to DLN.  So sue me.) 

More Words

You can type in the beginning of a word and find all the other words that begin the same.  Or even take a chunk from the middle of a word and find all the words that have the same middle.  Supposedly great for crossword puzzles, but it hit the mark for me tonight. 

If nothing else, it's a fun and writerly way to waste time.  Like we need any more of those.  ;o)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hope in a Hopeless World

As you may know, I'm a fan of dystopian - or speculative - fiction.  One thing all of these types of stories have one thing in common.  Somehow somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong.  Either in mankind's thinking or in its actions, we as a species fucked up our current semi-happy existence.

At least that's the idea.

So, the road ahead is bad.  People have died, or been disfigured, or been oppressed.  Technology may or may not be gone.  The world may be covered in zombies, each of them lusting after your yummy brains.

But in my opinion, there should still be hope somewhere in even those hopeless worlds.  Look at Anthem by Ayn Rand.  Technology is gone, men are oppressed, and the hero is shunted off to the job of street sweeper because... well, because he tested too smart to be anything else.  He's in danger of being burned at the stake, for petesakes.  And then he gets away.  He takes his ladyfriend and escapes.  They live their lives - however hard - in happiness.

For me, speculative novels should all have an element of hope in them.  Not just hope for one, but hope that someday, their little bit of hope will build and expand to fill an entire culture.

To use another example, look at Fahrenheit 451.  The culture is at an all time low, there's the impending threat of war, and the one person Montag feels any kind of connection with mysteriously disappears.  He's hunted like a friggin' animal, but he escapes.  He finds other people hiding in the woods who are like him and who want to preserve whatever small amount of knowledge they can, so they can hold onto the hope of a better future.

Hope in a hopeless world.  I don't really care how bad things get.  Take everything away from your characters, but for petesakes, leave them hope.

Conflict is what novels are built on.  Without it, books would be happy lala things that no one would want to read.  Conversely, a book that is all conflict without even a glimmer of a chance of a happy ending are stories I don't want to read.  No matter how rough life gets, how crappy the economy is, how violent or depraved society gets, I hold onto the hope that someday, somehow it will get better.

That's what I need from my dystopian fiction, too.  A little hope, however vague and elusive its object might be.  This is why - regardless of how well written they may be - I can't recommend 1984 or Brave New World.  Those worlds are hopeless and they will continue to be hopeless into eternity.  Most dystopian books - at least the ones I've read - aren't like that.  Every once in a while one will be published that kills hope along with a lot of characters (well, if not their bodies, at least their characters' spirits).  I don't understand why they sell so well or why anyone would make them into movies - even movies that aren't so close to the story in the first place.

But then again, I may be a little naive.  What do you think?  Got any good titles of dystopian fiction with hope in it?  (Let's leave out the negative titles - unless you want to email the titles to me so I can avoid them.)

(And for as silly as the topmost picture is, I'm serious about this.  If I wasn't, I wouldn't write what I do.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This n That

Well, the ACT is over and she's confident she did okay.  We'll know for sure in 6-8 weeks.  For my part, I drove an hour to the test, dropped her off, and screwed around for almost 4 hours while she slaved over the test papers. 

During that time, I did manage to get a new haircut.  Not usually a big deal in the scheme of things, but I haven't gotten my hair cut since March of '09.  Plus, it looks pretty good.  (If you only knew how many bad haircuts I've had over the last decade, you'd know why that's a big deal and why it's been that long since the last one.)  Anyway, the gal at the Walmart who cut my hair was awesome.  With my luck, she won't be there the next time I need a haircut.  (Like the gal in Utah who did an awesome job with my hair and then moved out of state.  Which was the last time I got a decent cut.)  I'll post a pic when I have one.

Another big weee thing I did was shop.  Too bad the town really only has a Walmart to shop around in.  I picked up some necessaries - you know, like coffee and paper plates - and some unnecessaries - like the newest Rick Riordan hardcover and a CD by a band I've only ever seen on VH1's Jump Start.

In other unrelated news, mid-week last week, I also got my book order in from Amazon.  I got the new Lynn Viehl Kyndred novel Dreamveil, the next Sentinel novel by Shannon Butcher, the second Bullet Catcher by Roxanne St. Claire, the second Cal Leandros novel by Rob Thurman, and something by an author I've never tried. That one is The Battle Sylph by LJ McDonald. 

Beyond that, yesterday was a day of battling rain, driving and waiting.  I had planned to spend the morning walking through the newly revamped downtown, but the rain shot that in the butt.  So, I sat in my car writing notes for the next scenes of DLN, listening to my new CD (One Republic), and just generally chilling out.  Today I'm drained, my back hurts and I can't seem to work up the energy to write.  We'll see what later brings.

What do you do when you've got time to kill in a different town, but it's pouring rain and there isn't a mall in sight? 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Weekly Update

Last night we had one humdinger of a storm with sirens going off all around.  No tornadoes spotted here, thank goodness, but that one in Arapahoe County made the national news--even Mom saw it.  (And do you think I could find a frickin' picture of it online?  No.  That's of a different one in the same county 2 years ago.)

In other news, Daughter will be taking the ACT tomorrow.  Finally.  Every spare moment these past few weeks has been spent with her on my computer - pouring over trigonometry lessons and sample tests and science stuff.  It'll be nice to have my computer back between 9am and 5pm Mon-Fri.  Maybe now I can get some extra work done and get this draft finished by the end of June.  Wouldn't that be loverly?

Which brings me around to the word count for the week.  I did just under 10K since last Friday.  Not burning up the keyboard, but the words I wrote were good ones.  I have Jo and the gang in hot water, things are getting more tense and they're all wondering where the next blow is going to come from.  Teehee.  I'm so mean to my characters, but I love them.

How are things in your world?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Going For a Walk

For real.  Not in my head.  Although, I'll probably do some walking in my head while I'm out there getting exercise.  I've got Jo and her friends up against a wall, and I'm not quite sure where they need to go from here.  Hell, I haven't even really figured out what the new climax to this new version of DLN is going to be. 

Here's hoping the walk shaves some calories off my ever-widening ass (yes, there is a song that goes along with the term - to the tune of Poor Wandering One from Pirates of Penzance - and no, my song's not that good) and sparks something in my head.

What do you do when you need to think through some aspect of your writing?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

Sounds like the first question heard before a fight breaks out, but that's not what I mean.  I'm talking about the premise behind the NBC show Who Do You Think You Are? - where celebrities trace their ancestral roots and find out 'who they really are'.

First off, let me go on the record as saying that I don't believe anyone's family history represents who they are as individuals.  I just find the research into familial past interesting.  (If you get a chance to watch the Matthew Broderick episode, for instance, he's related to a soldier who died in the Civil War.  Pretty eerie considering Broderick's movie Glory.) 

Recently I was chatting with my middle sister and she mentioned that Mom has been trying to find out more information about her great grandmother - my great great? - but she's coming up empty.  I flexed my fingers, cracked my knuckles and dove in.  Nada.  I even went to the Ellis Island Record Search.  We know Grandma Anna came over around 1901 and entered the US at Ellis Island, but...  Well, we're not 100% sure about the spelling of her name and she might not have come through Ellis.  I'm not giving up, but finding info on women is always harder because our last names change.

In the past, I've researched the infamous cousin Otto - a background figure in Hitler's cabinet.  All my life, I've heard stories about the man - kind of a cautionary tale, if you will - but I didn't know how much of what Dad told me was true.  Otto worked for Hitler, Otto was acquitted at Nuremberg.  I did the same search a couple months ago, and cousin Otto has his own Wikipedia page now.  (We've always called him 'cousin' but we don't really know how he's related.  Still, look at his nose.  That's the good old Meissner nose.  My Dad's nose, his brother's nose, my brother's nose...)  Turns out in this case, Dad was right.  Other than working for Hitler - grandfathered in because of his work for Kaiser Wilhelm - Otto wasn't proven to be a really bad man. 

Using Google, I found more information about my paternal grandfather - the first chief of police for Melvindale, MI.  Their website has his name wrong - it was Wilhelm and Meissner has two Ss - but he's right there for the world to see.  (Grandpa supposedly arrested several members of The Purple Gang.)  I can even find a mention of my father - when he worked for the Nixon campaign in 1969.

Supposedly we're also related to President Zachary Taylor and General Sherman - on my mother's side - but I don't have any proof of that.  I do know that Mom's paternal side of the family hailed mostly from Tennessee.  (There's even a possibility we're related to The Judds.  "Say hey, cousin Ashley, could you invite me to your next premier?")  About a decade ago one of Mom's cousins - we have lots of cousins - did a genealogy search because he was joining the LDS Church and discovered a whole lot of stuff, which he passed along to other family members.  The paperwork Mom got included copies of the bills of sale for slaves. 

All of the above is interesting.  None of it makes me who I am.  I'm not responsible for the faults or the accomplishments of my ancestors.  I'm not a racist or a Nazi.  I'm not politically active or musically talented.  I've never been in the military and I'm not Mormon.  I'm also not German, Irish, Native American, Polish, Welsh, and English... Regardless of what my ancestral genes say.  I'm an American - whoever and whatever the rest of them were.

As far as I can tell, there isn't a single writer in the bunch - and when I boil all the background away, that's what really matters about who I am.  I'm a writer, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend.

Who do you think you are?  Any golden apples or rotten fruit hanging in your family tree?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I don't know if it's the heat or what, but I have been frickin' tired lately.  I took two naps on Sunday.  Could be the stupid mattress or the neighbor's dog or the fact that Jay and Tom won't quit fighting over Callie (they were at it again this morning).  Whatever it is, I've been sticking to writing and keeping house - which leaves little left over for blogging.

Of course it doesn't help that I was up this morning at 5:15am.  Bleh.

I always sleep better in the winter.

So, how have you been sleeping lately?  What keeps you up at night or wakes you early? 

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

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Random Things

Yesterday three teenage boys were slouching their way down the sidewalk when one of them says: "I can say anything I want.  It's a free country."  I wonder if he understands what living in a free country means, or if he just thinks it gives him the right to be an slug.  Of course, this came the day after we we watched the National Spelling Bee - ten bright kids with brighter futures.  By comparison those teenage boys were just sad.

It finally rained here.  I think the last time we saw moisture from the sky was at the beginning of May.  No wonder my grass seed won't grow.  (And yes, I've been watering, but I can only do so much without nature doing its job.)  I haven't checked the rain gauge yet, but I'm going to guess 2/10ths of an inch*.

In keeping with the old superstition about famous people dying in threes...  Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper and Rue McClanahan all died recently.  With the passing of Art Linkletter and coach John Wooden, the next group of three has already started.  As maudlin as it sounds, anyone want to take a guess at who the third from this next group is going to be?  (Yes, I'm awful, but it's not like I'm hoping someone dies.  I'm just taking guesses about it.  Think of this as a mini-Dead Pool - without the psycho serial killer.)

Anyway, I still watch reruns of The Golden Girls - almost every morning.  If you didn't recognize the name, Rue McClanahan played Blanche on that show.  She wasn't my favorite character, but I still enjoyed her work.  My favorite character was actually Sophia.  If you watched the show, which one was your favorite?

Yesterday I was awakened at 4:52am by the sound of a cat fight.  Sure enough I slipped outside to find Jay - my long-haired black stray - and Tom - the orange tiger stray who looks like Morris - fighting over the pretty little calico that lives one block over.  She took off, but the two boys stood in the alley looking put out that I interrupted their testosterone games.  (For what it's worth, I think Jay won.  Most of the fur tufts were orange.)  Jay came back later, inhaled some kibble and flopped in the shade.  Tom slunk by in the early evening.  So both are okay.  In fact, I was just outside and Jay came up for his breakfast.  (He never gets too close.  He's feral.)

As a result of said early and rude awakening, I didn't get a damn thing done yesterday.  Well, other than finishing Academ's Fury.  

When a penny is left in a pocket and it doesn't come out in the washer, it makes a hideous screeching noise when it gets stuck in the dryer.  Lucky me, Husband pulled it out before I went insane.

Any random things you'd like to add?

(Public Service Message...  If you haven't already heard this a million times, get your pets spayed or neutered so their unwanted babies don't end up as strays - starving, getting hit by cars, or dying in some other horrible way.)

*Yep.  2/10ths of an inch.  Am I psychic?  No, it's just the amount we usually get.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekly Update & Upping the Stakes

I was going to do a post about upping the stakes in your story, but then I realized it's Friday and I haven't done an update in a while.  So, I decided to do both...

Since last we updated (May 22), I've written 17425 words - most of which were pretty good if I do say so myself.  My heroine is in a deep mess, a killer is running around offing innocents, and her former lover is driving her nuts.  The dog holds the key, but he ain't talking*.  Or maybe the old lady's the one with the answers.  In either case, Jo is up to her ass in alligators and the water's rising.  Which is always good.

And a good segue into the post I planned last night for this morning...

Recently I read Changes by Jim Butcher.  Right now I'm reading Academ's Fury by the same guy.  Two different series in two different genres with one major commonality - throughout the story, Mr. Butcher keeps upping the stakes. You all know how I hate spoilers, but in order to talk about this, I'm going to have to release a few... so if you're planning on reading either of those books, stop reading this post now. 

In Changes, Mr. Butcher has put Harry in a precarious position and it seems like every chapter, the heat gets turned up on poor Harry.  Just when you think there's nothing else that could go wrong, another thing goes wrong.  In one chapter, someone tries to kill Harry then his house catches fire, his cat runs away and he breaks his back...  And you think that's enough, but then...  BAM, in order to fix his crushed spine, he agrees to give up his...

Sorry, I just can't give that spoiler away.  The point here is that the story just keeps getting more and more intense.  (Sometimes too much so, IMO, but I can't deny the idea is brilliant.)

Now, I'm only halfway through Academ's Fury, but last night I was struck by the way Butcher writes the tension.  Just when I think to myself 'Okay, things have gotten as bad as they can get', they get just a little bit worse.  This book is written with different POVs and different locations for a few key characters, and right now, every single group is up shit creek. The situation looks bleak all over Alera Imperia and it looks like the only way out is in a pine box.

I know Butcher will make everything right - maybe not for everybody, but by the end, most everything will work out for all the major characters.  And maybe that's what pissed me off about Changes.  He didn't make everything right again before the end of the book.  But that's neither here nor there.  I was on the edge of my seat, rapidly flipping pages, throughout the whole book and I'm about at that point in AF (which started out a little slow, but is quickly catching up).

In the words of Mickey Spillane "The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book."  I'd go one further and say that upping the stakes gets the reader through the middle chapters to the last chapter and all of that tension sells the next book - especially if you're writing a series.  This is what I'm trying to achieve with my own WIP.  I want this to be written in such a way that the reader can't help but buy the next book and the next... ad infinitum, or until my hands drop off.

Now it's your turn.  How do you feel about books that up the stakes?  Do you have any other examples I can hunt down and devour in my quest?  Any books that upped the stakes so high you wanted to throw the damn thing against a wall?

*sorry.  that was kinda spoilerish, but no more so than a back cover blurb.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Knowing Your Target Market, or Not as the Case May Be

I just got spam for windscreen repair in Kuala Lampur.  Ummm, those guys really don't  know their target market, do they.  Which really has nothing to do with today's post.  I mean, I suppose I could write a post about knowing who you're writing for and how to market toward those readers, but... well... I suck at that.  Not the marketing part, but the knowing part. 

:shrug:  I write for myself.  I'd like to think I'm not so bizarre that others won't want to read the same stuff I read - and therefore the stuff I write - but identifying them?  That's like trying to identify which people are eventually going to becoming your BFFs by running them through a reality game show.  (Oh, wait, that's what Paris Hilton does. D'oh!)  Or in an example closer to home, that's like me trying to figure out who in a crowd of people I can have an intelligent conversation with by just looking at them. 

Needless to say, I'm not good at that either.

This was easier when I was selling electronic components.  I knew who wanted capacitors, or cordsets, or EMI filters.  Except, now that I think about it, when I was cold-calling.  That's basically driving through an industrial park and stopping by companies you think might be interested in your product - asking for the purchaser and more often than not leaving literature at the front desk never to be heard from again.  I sucked at that, too.  Sure, when I could see into their warehouse and saw electronics-looking stuff poking out of boxes, it was a safe bet they wanted what I had.  But that was so rare.  I wasted a lot of time at the reception desks of food processing companies and paper goods distributors and toy manufacturers (the non-electronic kind). 

And then I'd find the one - like the guy who ran an engineering business out of a big Victorian house in the suburbs.  That wasn't a cold-call, it was a lead, but when I stopped to check out the lead, I thought it would be a waste of my time.  Turns out the guy was designing something totally amazing for the local headquarters of a national pizza chain.  His designs turned into something you might've heard of - The Heatwave Bag for Dominoes.  That was a major sale for me, big money for my company, and we all worked well together until he changed the design and our cordsets got swapped out for a less expensive kind that had a better lead time.  And he wasn't even a lead for cordsets.  He started out looking for a little plastic box to put the guts of a controlling device into.  (Sold him those, too, if I remember correctly.)

But that's neither here nor there, is it?

I guess it's stuff like the above example that makes people mass market to anybody.  It's what leads a windscreen repair business in Malaysia to land their spam in my box.  It's not an efficient way to market, but sometimes one unexpected contact can make the whole thing worth your time and money. 

How does this translate to writing?  I dunno.  I'm just rambling.  I'm in no way suggesting that you mass query anyone who looks like they might be related to publishing.  It all goes better when we target where we attempt a sales call.  Lord knows, I've got the targeting part down when it comes to queries.  It's just the end users I don't know about.  Seriously. 

Think about it.  Does Brandon Mull even think about a middle-age housewife/writer when he writes things like Fablehaven??  I'm guessing not.  I know I'm not the target market for Rick Riordan either, but I inhale his books.  And when Dean Lorey wrote his Nightmare Academy series, he was thinking about the MG market - not me - but I'm the one inhaling his books when they come out.  (And then donating them to the library so kids can enjoy them, too.)

I guess all we can do to target our readers is the best we can do and hope for sales after that.  I also expect this thought process is what leads some writers to say things like 'my book will appeal to everyone' in their query letters.  Because, really, who knows.  Maybe someday I'll get a fan letter from a 70-yr old grandma and a 16-yr old honor student in the same day. 

It could happen.

Now it's your turn.  You tell me.  Who do you think your target market is?  If you're already published, what's the most unexpected fan you ever encountered?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

See Saturn, Mars and Venus

Tonight and for the next several weeks, people in the northern hemisphere are going to be treated to three bright 'stars' in the western night sky.  I'm talking about the planets Venus, Mars and Saturn.  (Mercury and Jupiter should be visible in the eastern sky early in the morning.  Mercury about a half hour before sunrise and Jupiter around 3am - if you're awake and feel like stargazing.) 

Right now, I can see Venus.  It looks like the first star in the sky off to the west, but it doesn't twinkle.  (And if it doesn't twinkle, don't wish on it.)  I'll head out in a little while to try and catch Mars - up and to the left of Venus - and Saturn - up and to the left of Mars. 

Enjoy your stargazing and I'll see you tomorrow.