Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Working Hard or Hardly Working

Sorry I never came back yesterday. I meant to, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. But even though I wasn't here on the blog, I was working. Off and on throughout yesterday I was tweaking Blink, and I was reading The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, I was keeping up with the industry by reading other people's blogs, and I was hanging out at the Romance Divas forum .

Right now I'm sure you're thinking to yourself that other than tweaking Blink, the rest sounds more like screwing off than working. I know how it looks, and you're probably right - it was not so much work as play, but at least it was productive play. I could've spent the day playing Tetris, or watching Judge Judy, or sleeping. Those are totally unproductive. Instead, I read a book that, while it wasn't in my genre, was filled with excellent writing and writers should be able to glean experience from anything they read. I also did my morning run through the blogosphere, and since my blogrolls consists of posts by authors, agents and editors, it's work I can enjoy.

And hanging out at Romance Divas can be incredibly productive. Most of the posts there are helpful and informative, while still being fun. It's nice to hang out with other writers - especially since none of them are out to crap on your parade. It's necessary to network, to commiserate, and to get/give a little empathy from people who truly understand.

Of course, the hour I spent watching Animal Cops was screwing off - unless I can stretch to it was location research (but I'm not writing a book set in NY or Houston or Detroit) or pretend that I'm planning a book wherein the villains are animal abusers (which I'm not).

I guess what I'm trying to do here is assuage my own guilt. I haven't written new words in a while, and that always makes me feel like a slug. But when I really look at what I'm doing with my day, it isn't nearly as slug-like as I think.

What are you up to? Anything you'd like to admit to doing that maybe isn't as work-like as it should be, but still can be labeled work?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brief Update

I'm still slogging through Blink to eradicate the extra 'it's. The only thing I can say about the process at this point is that it's a probably great cure for insomnia. Since I don't have insomnia, I think it's causing a bout of narcolepsy. Now every time I see the word 'it', I want to fall asleep.


Back later.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Book Review

Today I'm talking to you about a book I heard a lot about, and because of the buzz, looked forward to reading. It's a collection of mystery/suspense/thriller short stories called Killer Year.

First let me start off by saying I like the premise of this book. A group of people from International Thriller Writers got together and decided to promote the work of their debut members, and with those thirteen stories, they added in three from bigger name novelists who also belong to ITW. Each of the thirteen stories has an introduction by someone more recognizable, and I was interested to see who said what and how it compared to the story being presented.

Unfortunately, most of the stories missed the mark for me, and many of those I never finished reading.

Now I'm the kind of gal who, when she slaps down good money for a book, wants to read all of the book (except the sex scenes - I'm no prude, but I'm just not into reading that anymore, and I'm fine with skipping those pages). I try my hardest to finish reading stories I start. In the cases of some of these stories, I just couldn't make myself finish, and in one or two cases, I couldn't make myself move beyond the first couple paragraphs.

Of course, in keeping with my mantra of 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything', I'm not going to point out which stories were which. Let's just say for some of them the voice threw me, and in others the subject matter, and with at least one, the total negative sense of life made me want to rip out my eyes.

I really wanted to like this book - partly because I'm a fan of the genres, and partly because I wanted to see what the industry is putting out there. With the latter, knowing that this may be what the industry is looking for was just depressing. I can't write what I won't read, and I don't really want to. I don't read books to become depressed, and I don't know anyone who does. Sure I like a good cry when the writing is so awesome I get sucked into the character and crying is called for, but I don't want to come through the crying and feel like life is hopeless.

So, in the end, I'm dreadfully sorry I paid for this book. If I'd known what it was going to be like, I might've still checked it out through the library - read the few good stories, and been content - without shelling out my limited book funds. I'm even a little pissed that I put a research book on forensic science back on the shelf so I could buy this. Live and learn.

Next week on Sunday Book Review look for a positive review. I hate writing negative reviews, but I think this one just needed to be written.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday's Special Site

In keeping with the new blog, I'm trying out a couple of weekly features. Sunday is going to be my book review day, and Saturday will be the day when I pick a site I like and pass the link along. Sometimes the site will be a blog, other times a writer's site, and occasionally, I'll just pick something fun. We'll see how it goes.

For the first Special Site, I'd like to invite you all to check out a daily blog-read for me...

Murder She Writes

I've been visiting the MSW gals for a couple years now - back when it was just the five of them: Allison Brennan, Karin Tabke, Natalie M. Roberts (aka Natalie R. Collins), Deborah LeBlanc and Jennifer Apodaca (aka Jennifer Lyon). Not too long ago, they added another five fabulous gals and made the blog twice as wonderful. The newest additions are: Toni McGee Causey, S.J. Day, Heather Graham, Roxanne St. Claire, and Debra Webb.

Now these ladies have a lot in common, but I think the thing that brought them together at MSW is that they all kill people - albeit only in writing. Aside from their murderous bent, they are all awesome writers and incredibly bright ladies to boot. Their posts every day provide a glimpse into their writing careers, or give their readers something to think about, or allow their fellow writers insight into what this writing life is all about.

I haven't missed a weekday morning with them since I found MSW - through Karin Tabke's blog way back when I was still learning about this whole writerly blogosphere. I'm ashamed to say I don't comment nearly as often as I should, because they're usually posting about something worth commenting on. I've found hope and inspiration within their posts, and I've learned something about my own writing along the way. Additionally, I've come to them to refill the well when I was feeling low.

So, if you haven't visited the blog, please wander over to soak up the knowledge, and the camaraderie that comes from being with such incredibly talented people.

Oh, and as an aside... Allison Brennan's latest book just hit the shelves, so if you're a fan of romantic suspense, run out and get yourself a copy of Sudden Death. I scooped mine up the other day. I'm only a few pages in, but it's already got me. If I'm not careful, I won't be getting to bed until I hit THE END.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shoveling my Brains Out

As predicted.

I don't know if we got the other five inches, but the wind was blowing and we have drifts. Yay.

Break's over. Back to shoveling.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Synopsis Draft Complete

Six pages and tingling fingers, but it's done. I'll take the old editing freshener to it over the weekend, and it should be as lovely as lilacs in no time.

Meanwhile, it's come to my attention that I may have way too many 'felt' words in my manuscript - and too many occasions of 'it'. I started rectifying that error this morning, and got all the 'felt's dealt with. I'm still work on the 'its'. I'll probably get both the synopsis and the tidying done round about the same time. Then I may finally be ready to start querying. Yay.

(Fear? What fear? We don't gots no stinkin' fear.)

Oh, and on the snow front... We got a friggin' blizzard today. Stupid weather. And they're predicting a possible 'nother five inches by morning. I'll be shoveling my brains out tomorrow morning. Ugh.

How are things with you?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Forging Ahead

I've got the fear in a half-Nelson now. It's still trying to get the upper hand, but I think I'm winning. My synopsis is more than two-thirds of the way done now, and although it's still filled with stinkiness, it's there. (Limburger cheese wrapped in sweat socks stinky.) Here's hoping I can finish it up and spray it with Febreeze.

Additionally, I've been plugging agent info into my database with wild abandon. (Okay, not wild - I get a few in and the repetition makes me too sleepy to go on. Worked wonders to get me to bed last night, though.) Life would be easier if I just imported the agents I wanted from the last book's database, but each of those have notes and things attached, and because of the ancient program I use, I have to take all or take none. I chose none. I want a fresh start with this book. Data entry is sleep-inducing, but it's better than the alternative - which is trying to keep track of all my submissions in my head or in hardcopy. Umm... No.

So, with some last minute tweaks and this synopsis that I need to de-stink, it could be a week or two at least before I get to submitting.

Of course, that little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I'm using all these things as an excuse, but I'm trying to remind that little bastard of the pitfalls of sending out a manuscript too soon. We'll battle that out in the steel-cage of my skull over the next few days. If I start talking in a deep villiany voice, you'll know it won. ;o)

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Snow and Fear and Other Fun Stuff

Okay, so maybe snow isn't fun. At least not anymore. More like 'fun' in the sarcastic sense of the word. It was 70 here just two days ago. Today they closed the school because of the blizzardy conditions. Not usually a big thing in this house, but since my daughter was supposed to take her standardized tests today at the public school, she's got the day off. Her first snow day since we started homeschooling. So I guess that would be fun.

In other news, after getting a nudge or two from some kindly butt-kicking friends, I got off my ass and did something productive yesterday. I went to AgentQuery and printed off the first round of agents to query. Then I sat down and started writing the dreaded synopsis for Blink - something which a couple of key agents ask for up-front. Right now, it totally sucks, but at least it's started. I can fix sucks. I can't fix nonexistent.

I'm still scared, but it's like me and my fear of grasshoppers. Last summer I was driving around out in the countryside, taking pictures and soaking up a beautiful day. Since it was so beautiful, I had the car windows open as I drove. Of course, I wasn't thinking about the fact that the countryside around here is rife with big, huge nasty grasshoppers (or locusts, if you want to be totally grossed out). These things can get several inches long and man, are they ever ugly. So, I'm out driving and enjoying the scenery when a grasshopper flies right in through my open window. :shudder: I'm totally freaked out just having the thing in my car, but even worse, it's sitting on my dashboard - STARING AT ME. (I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.) The car is moving, so I can't freak out like I regularly would. Instead, I swallow the fear and pull the car safely to the side of the road. Then I get out of the car and think about what I'm going to do. I can't just NOT get back in. I'm miles from town - miles from anything really - and how silly would it be for my husband to get a call that I'm stranded because of a grasshopper.

What's a girl to do?

Well, I sucked it up. I took off my shoe and beat the hell out of that evil bug. It tried jumping in my face, but by the time I was through, it was a smear on my carpeting. (Eww, gross.) Sure, there was some shrieking and waving of arms like a little sissy, but I got the job done, and went back to my lovely country drive (sans open windows).

This is similar to that. I'm scared. It's irrational, I know - like my fear of the harmless grasshoppers of the world - but the fear is there. I can't let it stop me. I can't let the fear drive me off the road, and I can't let it leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere. I have to take off my shoe and beat the hell out of it, even if I almost wet myself in the process.

Trolling the blogosphere this morning, I read a post by Jessica Faust that almost seems like she could've been talking to me. It's called Just Do It and to quote her oh-so eloquent words: "Do you have a dream? Do you really want to get published? Then quit with the excuses, get off your butt, and make the dream happen."

So, that's what I'm going to do. Fear or not. Squirms be damned. I am going to do this. Even if it kills me.

Oh, and I forgot the fun stuff part. This morning, via The Fictionistas, I made myself into a superhero. I am:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fear and Nausea

Blink has been finished for a few weeks now. Nano sits waiting for the red pen. The rest of my manuscripts languish in their folders. And here I sit.

I have nothing on submission right now (unless you count last year's full that I never heard back on), and every time I start thinking about putting together a list of agents to query for Blink, I suddenly find something else I need to do.


Well, near as I can figure, I'm chicken. Every time I think about querying Blink, the fear rises inside my stomach until it's either do something else, or look for the nearest porcelain god. The more I think about it, the more it seems like that's my main problem with editing Nano, or even starting a new story.

It's a crippling case of the squirms.

Of course, I wasn't sure what the problem was until I thought about it. If you've been following the old Writing Spectacle, you might know I'm a big fan of introspection. Well, this took a major feat of introspection over this sick thing I've been experiencing. At first I thought I just needed to shake things up. Hence the new blog. Then I questioned my own commitment to this writing llife I've chosen.

In the end, all of that was smoke and mirrors. The real problem, and the one that was so hard to figure out, is that I'm scared shitless. I mean, not scared like there's a madman with a gun who's going to hack off my finer bits if I don't write, but scared nonetheless.

What if I send Blink out and fail... again? Ek, I can feel myself getting queasy just thinking about it.

What if I can't edit Nano to the point where it all comes together and makes sense? :gack:

Or worse. What if I've lost it? What if the spark that produced Spectacle and RTL and Manhunter has gone out? :shudder: Pepto, anyone?

These are the things I've been so desperately avoiding these past few weeks... Okay, months. I don't want to stare fear in the face, and every time I try, I get the nausea instead. It's my body's way of pulling a Monty Python: "Run away! Run away!" No wonder even spring cleaning looks preferable.

I haven't figured out what I'm going to do about this. I sure as hell haven't beaten it yet. Right now I just want to crawl back to bed and claim that I'm still not up to snuff physically to fight this mental battle. (Being sick is a great excuse, btw, but that's all it is. It's not like I can't sit here and work with a box of Kleenex next to me. I won't type as fast, but my fingers aren't sick.)

I keep telling myself it's okay, and I've earned some down time, but I know that the longer I let this fear take hold, the harder it will be to defeat. Last time it was nine months without writing, and I can't afford to let that happen again.

The best I can do right now is hold firm. Draw a line in the sand and say 'this far and no further'. And when I've got the battle plan figured out, move the line. Push the fear back into the dark recesses of my subconscious where it belongs - right alongside my fear of grasshoppers.

Until then, though, I'm a little stuck. I refuse to go back, and I can't move forward. *shrug*

Such is the life of a writer, I guess. Or maybe just this writer.

How about you? What are you afraid of?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Book Review

I'm hoping to make this a weekly event. I'll review one book (or series) every Sunday, or if not me, I'm hoping to talk my daughter into writing some reviews herself - for a change of pace.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a recommendation for Anton Strout's novels. Since his work sounded similar to The Dresden Files, I thought I would give him a whirl. In the end, I'm glad I did.

The reason I say it that way is because when entering his first novel - Dead to Me - I wasn't too keen on some of his writing quirks. But I ventured on. The premise of a former-thief turned governmental paranormal investigator tickled my imagination. I wanted to like the book, and after a few more pages, I was pulled beyond those quirks into the story I'd hoped it would be.

Simon Canderous is a gifted (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with psychometry - which basically means any object he touches sets off a stream of images from the past. It's killing his love life. It's screwing up his chances for friendship. But the upside is, it got him a job with the DEA... and I'm not talking Drug Enforcement, either. It's the Department for Extraordinary Affairs, and they're the only ones stopping all the beasties of evil from running rampant through the streets of New York.

First off, I'm a sucker for paranormal. I'm also a sucker for mysteries and for NYC. So, it was natural for me to be drawn to this series. Once I got past the beginning of the first book, I was enthralled by the writer's sense of humor, his descriptive powers, and his flair for the unusual. So much so, that I finished Dead to Me, and immediately inhaled its sequel - Deader Still.

I'm genuinely glad I slapped down my $16+tax for these two. I'm even gladder that I took the time to search for book one - because I bought book two at Borders and they were out of the first book. (Thank goodness for Hastings.)

So, if you're a fan of paranormal with a twist of mystery and humor, please give Anton Strout's books a try. You won't be disappointed. (At least I hope not. If you are, please don't come back and throw things at me.)

Congratulations on a wonderful new series, Mr. Strout. Keep 'em coming.

...now if I could just remember who recommended him to me... :grumble: stupid brain...

Whoever you are, thank you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Miss Snark's First Victim

If you haven't seen it yet, there's a wonderful blog called Miss Snark's First Victim wherein a person calling herself Authoress talks about this writing thing we do and also hosts contests to help her fellow writers get a little farther down the road from unpub to pub.

Just recently she held a 'Secret Agent' contest. The first fifty people to send her the opening 250 words of their novel get those words posted to her site and critted by a yet-to-be named literary agent - as well as random readers. Last time around the 'secret agent' turned out to be Kristen Nelson. She'll offer up the name of this round's agent on Monday. From the responses to her last contest (which she posted on Friday), she's doing some really positive things for the writing world.

I haven't read all the posts on her site yet, but from what I've seen so far, the posts are intelligent and the critter comments are helpful (without being snotty). So, if you're still in this pre-pub boat, head on by and pick up some pointers on making your work shine.

Thank you for your work Authoress. =o)

Friday, March 20, 2009


Welcome to the new and improved Writing Spectacle!

This new blog is about commitment to my writerly goals and change is the best way to initiate those goals.

For now, take a look around the place and let me know what you think. I'm still not 100% sold on the look, so you may still see some changes, but this is where I'll be living from now on.

Also, if there are any posts you'd like to see in the future, or any questions you'd like answered about the writing process, feel free to let me know. (As always, I retain the right to refuse to answer or post any comments, but I've only rejected a couple comments in the past few years, so your odds are good - as long as you're civil.)

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you a lot in the future.

(For any newcomers, the original Writing Spectacle, in all its glory, can still be found here.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Blogging Home

This is it. Wait for it... It'll get better. Promise.

Right now, though, I'm just screwing around. ;o)