Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Review of My Work

It's been a while since I did this, and over the years I've done so much I can't keep track of everything I've written. So...

Below is a list of my accomplishments to date (those works in bold are complete):

A Hero of Novel Proportions - women's lit - short story - originally written in 2001 - rewritten in 2004

Spectacle (renamed Fear Itself)* - suspense - novel - 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For - SF - novel - begun but never completed - 2005

Caldera (renamed The Nature of Destruction)* - suspense - novel - 2005

Mirror* - women's lit - short story - 2005

Spunky the Bunny - children's story - 2005 - rewrite of English assignment from 1985

Fire* - literary - short story - 2005

Counseling - women's lit - short story - 2006

Blink* - speculative - novel - 2006-2009

Miguel - literary - short story - 2006

Bad Fluffy Bunny - SF - short story - 2006

Haudego* - speculative - short story - 2006

Space Bunnies - SF - novel - 2006 - rewrite of Bad Fluffy Bunny into novel form - never completed

A Widow's Justice - mystery - novel - 2006 - drafted to THE END but never completely edited

Pigwell* - literary - short story - 2007 - written for a specific contest

Redemption - SF/literary - novel - 2007 - begun but never completed

Cut & Dried (book one of the JA mystery series) - novel - 2007 - begun but not completed

Nanotechnology - suspense - novel - 2007-2009 - drafted to THE END but not completely edited

RTL* - speculative - novel - 2007-2008

Manhunter (renamed Dying Embers)* - suspense - novel - 2008

EQ - speculative - novel - 2009 - begun but not completed

Fertile Ground - suspense - novel - 2009 - begun but not completed

DLN - paranormal suspense - WIP - estimated completion by 12/31/09

As you can see, I've been busy. Looking at everything I've done, in a way I'm proud and in another I'm bummed. I've written a lot, and worked my ass to a flabby mass, but I'm still unpublished. Still, I keep hammering away (or banging my head on a rock, if you will). Remember the manta is: If not this one, then the next one. And the next one. And the next one. Until I see one in print.

I guess I'll just keep working until I publish or I die of old age - whichever comes first. :shrug: At least no one can ever say I wasn't prolific.

*submitted in one way or another.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Am I Blue?

Something's different... Can't put my finger on it...

Oh yeah, the color scheme's different. You can always tell when I feel like I need a change: I redecorate. (Or I get a puppy, but that's another story.*) Consider it the blogging equivalent of slapping a fresh coat of paint on the living room walls. Brightens the place up a bit and helps shock the old senses back out of whatever funk they've fallen into.

Hope you like the new look of the place. I expect it'll stay like this for at least a few months.

What do you do when you need a change in your life?

*My brother was convinced I went to the Humane Society every time I needed a change in my life. Looking back at the times when I got my last two dogs, he's probably right. I also buy new clothes or rearrange my furniture.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Salute to Autumn

I love it when a flock of geese flies low enough over me that I can hear the air through their wings.

Spring is my favorite season, but Autumn is a close second. The air gets so crisp you can almost smell the snow coming, but it hasn't arrived yet. The gently dropping temperatures provide a welcome respite from the hot dryness of summer. (Or the hot wetness, depending on where you live.)

Lately, squirrels are darting all over the neighborhood, picking up little treasures to help them make it through another winter. They look so funny with a big corn cob clenched in their mouths as they try to scale a tree. And when they chase each other for possession of some large find, I nearly fall over laughing. One year I watched a squirrel make off with the neighbor's seed bell. Watching the furry brown thief cross the road with this big ball of seeds was almost worth the fact that he buried his loot in my front yard. The hole was tremendous, but I left it alone. I hope he remembered where he hid it.

The trees haven't begun to turn here yet, but I love the brilliant shades of gold and red and orange. Autumn in the Upper Peninsula was always a colorful pallet, and I'd revel in the artistry of nature preparing itself for the harshness of the coming snows. Here the pallet isn't nearly as spectacular, but it still provides beauty in an otherwise dreary landscape.

Nighttime is now spent wrapped in comforters and fluffy socks. My favorite sweatshirts are wearable again. And football has arrived in all its glory. (Of course, my favorite sweatshirts all say U of M so that makes wearing them even better.)

They're calling for a particularly nasty Winter here on the Eastern plains. Summer was too wet and too mild for us to expect anything else. But the snow is still weeks away. For now, I'll enjoy the cooler temperatures and like a squirrel I'll gather up my precious nuggets of sunshine to tide me over from November to March.

What's your favorite part of Autumn? (Even if you don't like this season, I'm sure you can find at least one good thing.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Update of Sorts

Howdy there. Between Daughter's illness and my own weather-related complaints, I haven't gotten much done this week. (Excuses, excuses. Right?)

I'm up to 8700 words typed into the WIP. It has a really nifty title, btw, but it's so nifty that I'm afraid if I post it online, someone who's closer to publication will snatch it up. :shrug: I'm probably just being paranoid, but just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean people aren't after me. LOL

Aside from the typed words, I've got about ten pages handwritten. It's slow going, but I still think it's working for me. Whenever I feel the urge, I pick up the notepad and write - during commercials, while Daughter is working on her lessons at my computer, and even during sports. (I can always catch the replay if the crowd noise alerts me to a super-special play.) Meanwhile, I figured out a couple of plot twists and a nice subplot that I can weave in. With this WIP, I've also got all sorts of ideas popping up to make this into a series, if I ever get a contract.

On the homeside of life, Daughter is settling nicely into her Junior year of high school. Six hours of classes a day, plus homework, plus driver's ed. (One more driver's ed class to go, and she can take her permit test. Yay!) This term we're doing: Philosophy, Astronomy, Literature, Spanish II, Intro to Management, and Business Math. Philosophy and Management were the electives she chose this year. Since she's now thinking about a degree in business, I think she's made some wise choices. She's well on track to have all her requirements for whatever college she wants to get into.

In other life news, I've lost a few pounds. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm beginning to feel better in general. My body doesn't do well above a certain poundage, and it doesn't hesitate to let me know when I slack off. Of course, the cold and rainy week we've had isn't helping, but unless I want to move to AZ, I need to stop whining and get over it already.

How are things in your world? Has Fall fallen on you yet? If you're a writer, how are the words coming along? If not, how's life treating you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sick Day

Not me... Knock on wood. Darling Daughter came down with a rousing case of stomach flu last night (1:30am - Weee). Needless to say, I'm disinfecting the house, doing her laundry and providing whatever support she requires.

If anyone else needs me, I'll be around here somewhere.

PS. Purell is my friend. I sure as hell don't want whatever she's got.

Update: The malady was downgraded to a slight case of food poisoning from questionable braunschweiger. (Her food, btw. Liverwurst grosses me out.) Anyway, she's on the mend and felt well enough to attend her driver's ed class tonight. I think she would've had to be dragging a bloody stump to miss that class. I only wish I could get that kind of devotion from her with her other schoolwork. ;o)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's Talk About POV

Let's talk about first, baby.
Let's talk about POV.
Let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.

Ummm... sorry for the impromptu song. The minute I typed the subject, the old song popped into my head - with new words. (I do that all the time, btw, but that's a story for another day.)

Anyway, onward to POV. When I first started this writing thing, I thought 3rd omni was the only way to go. What better way to show everything you need to show then by becoming the god of the book and narrating everything from outside the story? After all, the majority of my favorite books were third omni. Weren't they?

Uhhh. I must've missed that day in English. Thinking about it now, some are third limited. But still...

My first two books are written in third omni. I don't think I did a bad job of it, really. Those people who've read Spectacle and Caldera told me I did a good job with third omni. But (there's always a 'but' isn't there?), a few kind hearts told me people aren't really interested in third omni anymore. I guess it's dated. (Which makes sense since most of my favorite books at the time date mid-20th century and earlier.)

Okay, fine. I can do third limited. It took a little work to shift away from the omniscient view of my worlds, but I did it. Every book I've finished* since Caldera has been in that POV. I like it and it works for me. I still catch myself dancing through a little head-hop every now and then, but if I don't catch it during editing, my beta readers and crit partners usually do.

I'm a big proponent of 'write the book the way it needs to be written'. Usually the story tells me where it needs to go. (Okay, okay... Put away the 'I love me jacket'. I know the books aren't really talking to me.) Except when it doesn't.

You see, this new WIP - the one I just trashed 30K word for - is having a split personality disorder. The words in my head are first person, but when they hit the page, they're third limited. I tried to write it in first. Really I did. I thought that since the muse was talking to me in first, the book wanted to be written in first and my fingers were rebelling.


I tried writing a scene out in first, and the process made pulling teeth without anesthesia look like a fun endeavor. I got a page and a half written in a half hour (keeping in mind I'm still writing longhand, that's still way too long for so few words). Then I rewrote the same scene in third limited, and the sucker just flew out onto the pages.

What does this mean? I'm not sure really. My brain is still feeding me snippets of scenes in first - like I'm inside Jo's head - but the words come out through my hands in third. I may write the whole damn book, and then go back to switch it all into first. :shrug: Whatever gets the job done.

Maybe this is the way this particular book needs to be written. Third at first and then First in the end. Confusing? Heh. To paraphrase the ever-wise Steven Wright: I'm like this all the time.

What do you think? Ever written a book in one POV and changed it? Ever tried to write the same scene from different POVs? How'd it work for you?

What's your favorite POV to write in, and which POV do you prefer to read? Are they the same?

* I have an unfinished novel in first. It's still a viable story that works in first POV, I just have to finish it.

(Darling Daughter pointed out that she didn't have any clue what song I was talking about. If you don't recognize the song from the paraphrasing, it's Let's Talk About Sex by Salt n Pepa.)

Writerly Blogs (Pt 3 - Everything Else)

Blogs I need to visit more often - because they have awesome information and witty people:

The Novel Racers
Edie Ramer
Maya Reynolds
Magical Musings
Writer Beware
Sean Ashby
Jill Monroe
Sisters in Crime (mostly defunct, but still has some good stuff)
The Literary Maze
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers
Author! Author! (Anne Mini)
Writer Unboxed
Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room
The Goddess Blogs
To Be Read - So Many Authors... So Little Time
First Offenders
Killer Hobbies
A Writer's Journey (S. O. Esposito)
Word Wenches
Avon Romance Blog
Dear Author
Wordgirl's Work in Progress
Teri Brown Writes!
Simply Wait
Natasha Fondren: Adventures in Writing on the Road (formerly SpyScribbler)
The Adams Zone (Linda Adams)
Romance Divas Divine Blog
Argh Ink (Jennifer Crusie)
Flogging the Quill
Tess Gerritsen's Blog
Samhain Weblog
Fangs, Fur, Fey
Apex Book Company Blog
Much Cheaper Than Therapy
Tor (the blog's right on the homepage)
Whatever (John Scalzi)
Mysterious Matters: Mystery Publishing Demystified
A Really Nice Murder Blog
The Literary Lab

And if you're looking for a boatload of authorly blogs to visit, check out: Authors Blogs.

If I've forgotten your blog, or you'd like your blog added to this list, please leave a comment or email me. (Not that I really need more blogs to visit, but I like having the links, and who knows? Your blog might be the one to help some fellow writer.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

They Might Be Giants

Long long ago, when I was still living in Michigan and Darling Daughter was small, I bought her a Tiny Tunes videotape with fun music and cartoons. Two of the cartoons were set to a band I'd never heard of called, of all things, They Might Be Giants. I liked the songs so much, I rushed out and bought the cassette.

And fell in love with the humor and intelligence and sheer wit of this band.

Flash forward a decade... After numerous moves and hundreds of miles, I lost track of the cassette and forgot about the band almost entirely. Until I saw a greatest hits compilation at Barnes & Noble. It had most of the songs I loved from that old tape, so I slapped down my cash and we spent the drive home listening to some of the silliest and smartest music I've found. Total geek heaven.

The reason I bring it up this morning, though, is that I woke up with one of their songs stuck in my head, and if I don't get it out, I'm going to go fruitbatshitcrazy. Here's hoping that by sharing this with you, it'll leave my head so I can get some real thinking done. I hope you enjoy it, and don't get the song stuck in your head, too. (Which is why I'm not linking to the video - I'm crazy, I'm not cruel.)

Why Does the Sun Shine?
By They Might Be Giants

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees

Yo ho, it's hot, the sun is not
A place where we could live
But here on earth there'd be no life
Without the light it gives

We need it's light
We need it's heat
We need it's energy
Without the sun, without a doubt
There'd be no you and me

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees

The sun is hot
It is so hot that everything on it is a gas: iron, copper, aluminum, and many others.

The sun is large
If the sun were hollow, a million earths could fit inside. and yet, the sun is only a middle-sized star.

The sun is far away
About 93 million miles away, and thats why it looks so small.
And even when its out of sight
The sun shines night and day

The sun gives heat
The sun gives light
The sunlight that we see
The sunlight comes from our own sun's Atomic energy
Scientists have found that the sun is a huge atom-smashing machine. the heat and light of the sun come from the nuclear reactions of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and helium.

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees

Have a great day everyone. Here's hoping the sun's shining wherever you are. =o)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writerly Blogs (Pt 2 - Morning Reads)

Continuing on with yesterday's post... Here are more of the writerly blog links I have in my favorites.

Most mornings I stop by:
Jen Hayley
The Sound of Rain (Natalie Murphy)
Miss Snark's First Victim
The Write Life (Karin Tabke)
Jennifer Lyon
Murder She Writes
Paperback Writer (Lynn or S.L. Viehl)
Kristen Painter's Divalicious Blog
The Fictionistas
Jackie Barbosa
Carrie's Procrastinatory Outlet (Carrie Ryan)
Historical Romance Author Erica Ridley
Romantic Inks
Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker
Major Musings (Jennifer Major)
Diana Peterfreund
Wendy Roberts
Romancing the Highlander (Monica McCarty)
The Good Girls Kill for Money Club
Romancing the Blog
Work in Progress (Rachel Vincent)
Kristophrenia (Kristy Baxter)
One Word, One Rung, One Day (Travis Erwin)
Jeaniene Frost
Literary Rambles (Casy L. McCormick)
Just Keep Writing and Other Thoughts (Liz Fenwick)
Debs-Daydreams in the Shed

Between the first dozen or so of the Agent links and all of the above, is it any wonder I spend the first 90-some minutes every day glued to my computer? Whooph, I'm tired just copying all those.

Tomorrow I'll try to wrap up this series with the rest of my favorite writerly blogs. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writerly Blogs (Pt1 - Agent Folder)

Wednesday at Kristophrenia, she asked for recommendations of publishing blogs, and her request reminded me that I haven't updated my list of writerly blogs in a long time. It also reminded me that I have a huge list of blogs I should be visiting, but in reality, I only get to a fraction of the number every day.

Anyway, because it's so huge, I had to break it up. Here's Part One of the link list in no particular order - including a new to me writerly blogs I just found out about (look for the *):

In my 'Agents' folder (not all agents, btw - I really need to reorganize):

BookEnds, LLC
Et in arcadia, ego (Jennifer Jackson)
Janet Reid
QueryShark (Ms. Reid's other blog)
Editorial Ass
Nathan Bransford
PubRants (Kristen Nelson)
KT Literary
The Knight Agency
The Public Query Slushpile
Guide to Literary Agents: Editor's Blog*
Crowe's Nest (Sara Crowe and the authors she represents)
Bent on Books (Jenny Bent)
The Waxman Literary Agency
The Book Deal (Alan Rizler -Consulting Editor)
Authorial, agently and personal ramblings (Lucienne Diver)
Writing and Rambling (Nephele Tempest)
The Intern
The Rejectionist
Caren Johnson Literary Agency
Brillig (Joshua Bilmes)
Diana Fox
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
The New Literary Agents (KT Public Relations)
Lyons Literary LLC
The Swivet (Colleen Lindsay)
Agent in the Middle (Lori Perkins)
Bunny Eat Bunny (Brenda Bowen)
The Rejecter
Book Cannibal (Cameron McClure)
Rachelle Gardner
Girl Meets Book (Jamie Brenner)
Welcome to My Worlds (Kelly Mortimer)
FinePrint Literary Management
all that's new(s) from A to Z (Andrew Zach)
Literary Agent News
Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency
Upstart Crow Literary

I'll get to the rest either later today or tomorrow, and I'll put the links up under 'Important Stuff' over there on the right. I hope you find some useful and fun information in them thar blogs.

See you around the blogosphere. =o)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Picture Pause

Too pooped to post anything but a picture. See how you like this:

We got this sight last month. Of course, I had to take pictures.

May you always have rainbows in your life when you need them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Get Scammed

Trolling the blogosphere this morning, I came across some good news on agent Kristen Nelson's blog: FL Atty General Sues Scammer.

It probably shouldn't but it still surprises me that people fall for these scams. Please, if you're reading this, remember that money flows toward the writer. You shouldn't be paying an agent anything out of pocket. Even when the agent says you might be expected to pay for incidental expenses - like postage for shipping your manuscript to publishers - that comes out of your earnings after you publish.

When I first started this lonely road to publication, I knew this was a fact. Sure, there were times when I felt disheartened and discouraged enough to think about paying someone to publish my book, but I knew better. Even my mother told me early on - Never pay anyone. (And we're not talking self-publishing which can be a viable way to get your words in print.) How my mother knew this when she's never written, never thought about writing, and has never had contact with the publishing world, I'll never know - but she's a very wise woman.

I almost got caught in the PA trap (not Pennsylvania... the other PA) - because a 'friend' who thought he was being helpful sent me the link to their site. After reading through the comments, something smelled hinky about the whole thing, though, so I beat feet in the other direction. But the lure was soooo tempting. (And I would've ended up wriggling on the end of the line with a nasty hook in my mouth.)

I don't know how many of my readers are new to the game, but I think it bears repeating (just in case someone stumbles across this advice): Don't fall prey to scammers. Even if you've gotten a million rejections and it feels like the only person who loves your work is the guy who wants $600 up front. Stay strong. No matter what golden words flow from his mouth, he'll take your money and never sell your books. The only thing that will happen is he'll be $600 richer, and you'll be left waiting for a settlement from some court case. Cut out the middle man and keep your money.

Anyone else got any helpful hints for the newer writers out there? Any new scams we should be aware of?

On a non-writerly note, I saw on the news yesterday where a scammer using a real company's name is sending out checks - cashable checks - with instructions on how to be a 'secret shopper' for their company. Apparently all you have to do is deposit the check, then spend some money at a couple national businesses, after which you fill out a comment card on the service you received. The third business they want you to scope out is Western Union, and you evaluate the service by wiring money from the initial deposit to the scammer's account. What they don't tell you is the initial check is rubber, but the wire transfers are real. I'm not how all of it works, but the guy interviewed on the news got screwed out of a few thousand dollars.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This n That

I wish I could say I forgot to post yesterday. The truth is every time I thought about posting - and it was a lot, trust me - all I could come up with would've turned into a rant. Life's too short for all that negativity. So today, I'm just going to offer up a few different things and see if we can avoid the rant...

But I can't not mention this. Yesterday at Diana Peterfreund's blog, she wrote a post that ended with something that really made me glad I homeschool. According to a NY Times article approximately 75,000 schools are using this 'Reading Management' software thing that assigns point values to books, and then the students have to read x-number of points. Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with that idea when taken at face value. If I'd only just heard about this thing, I might've even thought it sounded great. The problem comes when there doesn't seem to be any objective reason for assigning points to any given book. I mean, seriously, a Gossip Girls book got more points than HAMLET? WTF? Anyway, I said I wasn't going to rant, and there I go doing it, so I'll let you consider the ramifications behind teaching our kids that pop culture carries more weight than great literature. Feh.

Look ahead folks. What you see is the world of Fahrenheit 451 creeping closer...

And speaking of speculative fiction, I got a lead on an agent who's currently looking for dystopic novels. Since I haven't sent Blink to her, I'll be jumping on that later this morning. Yay. I really love this book, and I won't give up on it until I see it in print.

In other news, Biggest Loser starts tonight. I can't weight wait to see what the new season will bring. Hopefully more inspiration and less drama. But hey, if I didn't have that one Detroit chick to hate last year, the real competitors wouldn't have shined as much. I'm also hoping to get some nifty new tips for my own health. That tortilla pizza thing last year was awesome, and the whole idea of doing different exercises every other day to burn calories more efficiently was awesome.

Of course, now Tuesday nights are hell for me. NCIS, the WSOP and Biggest Loser??? All on at the same time? Crap. I suppose I should be grateful they don't show college football on Tuesdays, too. I'm torn enough as it is.

Lastly, I just wanted to mention that even though I haven't written much this year (compared to the last two years), I've been reading up a storm. So much so, in fact, that I've almost reached the amount of books I read all of last year and it's only September. Wow, there've been some awesome books published in 2009, and there are plenty more yet to come. Some of my favorite current authors have topped themselves this year, and the future promises even better stuff. I'm in awe of these people.

Your turn: Anything to add about any of the above? Read anything awesome this year? What shows are you anxiously awaiting? Or do you have a peeve to get off your chest?

Comment away.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Book Review

Every once in a while, I try a new author. I've been burned a few times over the past few years, but occasionally I find a new book that sends me right over the edge into reader euphoria. Today's review is just such a book.

Last month while trolling through the romance section at Borders, I noticed a nifty cover with an interesting title. A quick scan across the back cover and Desire Untamed by Pamela Palmer was added to the stack. Now I wish I'd bought the other books in the same series. :grump:

Anyway, picture a woman torn by the terminal illness of her mother, suddenly encountering a man who wants to take her away from it all - literally. This beast of a guy keeps telling Kara she's the chosen one of his people, and all she wants to do is run. Problem is, when she tries to run, she's attacked by the draden (like demon ghosts) who want to suck the lifeforce right out of her. If it weren't for the guy, she'd be dead. And if it weren't for the guy, she'd be living life as a human - which she isn't.

Lyon's job is to find the Radiant, and bring her home to save their people. Too bad she thinks she's human, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with the Therians. Tough luck for her, because without her power, their people will die. Now he has to convince her of the importance of her job, and keep her alive, while fighting this growing attraction he feels for her. Tough luck for him, too, since the rituals have already said she's destined to bond with someone else.

Add in a betrayal and some interesting plot twists, and you've got one hell of a paranormal romance by an author I never heard of until that day at Borders. Ms. Palmer, where have you been all this time? Lurking in the Ps when you should have an endcap all your own, that's where. Shame on your publisher, and shame on the bookstores for not giving you the placement you deserve. Shame shame shame. This book is right up there with the paranormal genius of Lynn Viehl, Gena Showalter, Jennifer Lyon and Rachel Vincent, in my opinion. You should be getting better publicity.

Now I have to hunt down the rest of her books online or wait until my next trip out of town. And you all now how much I hate waiting. Grrr.

Anyway, if you're into paranormal romance, and you love a good twist on the supernatural, give this series a whirl. You won't be disappointed. I know neither myself nor Darling Daughter are.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thought

Just now Hubby and I were outside chatting when the neighbor's cat strolled by. (I call him Simon - long story.) After discovering that I didn't have any kitty food out and I wasn't going to bring him any, Simon strolled away, but not before marking his territory (i.e. a nearby bush).

A few comments between Hubby and I later, and I was reminded of a deep thought I've had before...

You see, we have a problem with graffiti in this town and, I'd venture to say, in this nation. Some people just can't seem to stop themselves from marking up other people's property. Why? Enter the only answer that makes any sense - and today's deep thought:

Graffiti is the human equivalent of peeing on a bush.

Ponder that for a while, and tell me what you think.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekly Update

Well, hello. I haven't had much to update for some time now, but I'm trying to change that. So, here's my week in a nutshell...

If you read yesterday's post, you know I've taken to the notebook method, so I can't really say too much about word count. I did get the first chapter typed into the computer and it's sitting at 1900+ words. Chapter two is still on paper, though. I've got about 7-8 written pages, and I realized the end of the chapter is a perfect place to insert a scene I wrote in the previous incarnation of this book. The book may have changed drastically, but the MC's backstory is pretty much the same. Once I figured that out, I started Chapter three and I'm a few pages in on that. Yay.

Additionally, last night I had not one but two epiphanies about this story. The first was in the middle of the Steelers game, so I picked up the notebook, wrote the idea down, and threw some dark red lines around it (because above and below it is actual story). The second hit me while I was trying to fall asleep. It ran laps around my brain until I finally dragged myself out of bed to write that one down, too. Both are awesome ideas, and will make the story so much richer. Ahhh, just what it needed. =o)

In other news, Daughter started her Junior year of high school, and so far, so good. She really does amaze me. I'm so proud of her. I can't believe how much she's matured even over the summer. She's an awesome person now, but she's going to make one hell of an adult.

So, that's my world this week. How's yours? Had an epiphanies lately?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to the Basics

Day two of the schedule went well. I'm exercising like I want to, I've curtailed my out of control TV watching (plus the snacking that goes with it), and I'm writing again. I'm actually writing on and off throughout the day, but... I'm not producing nearly as many words every day as I have in the past. In fact, I don't even know how many words I'm writing a day. The reason?

I've gone back to the basics. I'm writing this WIP by hand - red pen, trusty five-subject notebook. And you know what? It's working for me. I write while Darling Daughter's doing her online Astronomy class and while she's working in Excel for this semester's Business Math (her computer doesn't have either internet access or the spreadsheet program). I also write while Hubby is watching the news, and I can even work during the Yankees - as long as I stick to commercial breaks.

Whoda thunk that working sans computer would be so freeing? Not me, certainly. I'm a techno-child from way back before Windows was invented. Hell, I wrote my first program in Basic in 1986. (When it ran, it displayed a koala holding a banner that said 'G'day'.)

Anyway, I'm cranking along - albeit nowhere near 50+ words a minute. What I'm doing is writing a chapter and then typing it all into the computer, editing as I go. The first chapter's already in here, and I've got most of the second waiting to hit the electron stream. Maybe once I get back in the groove, I can sit here again and zip through, but as long as this is working, I'm sticking to it. Anything that gets the words out is peachy in my book. (And peachy for my book.)

Pretty good considering I thought wiping out those 30K words was going to derail me. Now I've hoisted my caboose back on track. Look our November*, here I come.

Have you ever gotten through a slump by falling back on unconventional means? Dish the details - in case anyone else needs a tip to get over their own.

*While I don't actually participate in NaNoWriMo, I try to celebrate National Novel Writing Month by writing as much as I can. During November a couple years ago, I wrote most of my third book. I finished it two weeks into December.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Schedule Nazi

Sorry, I could think of a way to make this a 'foodie' post... Unless you make the jump from Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode.

With this week's start of school, I've been thinking about schedules and my lack thereof. I don't have a schedule, but more and more I'm beginning to see that I need one.

Okay, I guess to say I have no schedule at all isn't fair. My typical day usually looks like this:

Somewhere between 5 and 6:30am - get up and make coffee - 15 minutes.
After that, read blogs for about 60-90 minutes.
Go for a walk- 20-30 minutes
Run errands - 60-90 minutes

At this point, if I'm running ahead of schedule, I play a little poker for an hour or so.

By now I've reached sometimes between 11 and noon. Depending on the time, I watch a little TV until my husband gets home for lunch, then we spend his lunch hour together.

From one until five, I waste my day in various ways - usually watching TV or playing poker. Then I cook dinner and watch more TV. Long about 8 - if I'm in the mood - I drag my ever-widening ass off the couch and write until bedtime (or until my hands get tired - usually an hour or so).

Yeah, it's a schedule, but I don't think it's really working for me. I haven't really accomplished much this summer... Hell, this year... and I'm feeling way too much guilt to let it continue.


Time to become the Schedule Nazi. No rest for you!

I just put the finishing touches on Darling Daughter's school schedule, and my own will run alongside that.

Wakeup time to 7 - read blogs and email
7-9am - Exercise, etc.
9-10am - Run errands while she's at the library.
10-11am - Work
11-12 - Eat lunch, exercise, be available for questions about school, etc.
12-1 - Hang out with Hubby
1-5 - Work, teach, exercise, etc.
5-7 - Dinner
7-Bedtime - Work. (If the hands get tired, sneak in a little TV.)

Daughter has classes from 10-11 and 12-5, during which I make myself available for discussion, questions, instruction, etc., but she doesn't need full-time guidance anymore. I'm more support staff than teacher these days, which is just as well since she's already past anything I can actually give instruction on. (Seriously, what would I know about Chemistry, Physics, Higher Math, or Spanish? I never took those classes.)

Here's hoping I stick to the schedule. So far, it's looking good, but we'll see how it works from here. If I slip this time, I'm going to kick my own butt.

Do you have a schedule? How's it working out for you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Are What You Eat

In keeping with this week's food theme...

I've heard some people say "I don't read fiction". That's fine. Some people just aren't that into it. But when the person making that statement is also someone who writes fiction, there's a problem. It's the same with people who want to write non-fiction, but haven't a clue because they don't read it.

You are what you eat, people.

Would you really want to buy a steak made by a vegan chef? Or a vegan dish whipped together by a professed meat lover? If you watched Top Chef Masters, you'll understand that last one. An excellent chef, and seemingly wonderful person, got kicked off the show because the challenge was to create a vegan dish, and he just couldn't do it. I felt really bad for the guy, because the food he cooked previously looked too yummy for words. The vegan dish? Ugh. I can't really imagine eating vegan anyway, but the guy's rice ice cream just looked gross. (And a slap in the face to ice cream lovers everywhere, IMO.)

The problem was, this guy didn't eat vegan, he didn't cook vegan, and I suspect his views on vegan cooking were about the same as mine. (Eww, yuck.) So, even though he's one of the best chefs in the world, he failed.

No matter how awesome a writer you are, if you're writing something you have no interest in reading, your work is going to come out the same way. And really, unless you're trapped into it like that poor chef, why would you want to?

You know how they say 'write what you know'? Well, I suspect part of that maxim is writing what you understand as a reader. If you're the kind of person who devours romance novels, one would think you'd be writing them. Or if you're strictly a non-fiction reader, take a stab at writing that. Do not write what you hate simply because it's what's you think might sell.

On the same track, let's say you love chicken, and you want to eat chicken every day for every meal. Everything chicken you cook turns out perfect, and everyone who eats it raves about your culinary artistry with the amazing poultry. For you, chicken may be enough, but I'm guessing after a while your tastes will change. And if you're cooking the same chicken the same way, your diners are going to get bored with it.

That's why I advocate reading widely. If you're only writing romance, take a dip reading a mystery novel or two. If you only write mystery, try science fiction. As with the perfect chicken chef, you may find new ingredients making their way into your dishes, and the whole experience will be better for it. Your novels will be richer, and your readers will thank you for it.

Because really, you're not only what you eat. You are what you read. The more different types of things you read, the better your writing will be. Make a glorious meal out of every story, and your readers will always come back for more.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Literary Ptomaine and Overcooked Words

This is a bit long and rambly, so bear with me...

As you might know, I love cooking competition shows like Top Chef and Chopped and even The Next Food Network Star (which is more about shaping a TV personality than cooking, IMO). I love to see the contestants create a wonderful dish within the constraints of the challenge. I mean, who would ever think anything as ugly as a monkfish would be served to kids, or that junkfood could be turned into a gourmet delight, or that you could buy enough to make a delectable dish from a gas station convenience store?

In these shows, though, I keep hearing a familiar refrain from the chefs on or near the bottom. Instead of owning up to a crappy dish or a mistake in execution, they say: "But that's the way I like to make that." Maybe they really do think their dish was good, based on their own tastes, but the attitude comes out like: So what if my lentils are so underdone they're inedible, that's the way I like to eat them. (The attitude from a Chopped I watched yesterday.) Who cares if my pasta is mushy, that's how I cook it and everyone seems to love it. (From a Top Chef a couple years ago.)

Hell, I even heard a similar sentiment on Project Runway, when this weird chick was supposed to make a runway dress, and what she made was neither a dress nor runway style. She liked the way she did things, and to hell with everyone else.

Now, I don't really mind that idea. I'm all for it within the confines of my own home and inside my own head. The problem comes when a person enters a competition with that attitude in mind. In a competition, you are no longer just doing things to make you happy. You have to think about what's going to make the judges happy - and typically what makes them happy is what's going to make a wide segment of the populous happy. In general, people don't like undercooked lentils and mushy pasta, so those chefs should've put their personal tastes aside, not because there was anything wrong with their opinions, but because they were in A COMPETITION.

What's this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, think about it. What we do is basically enter into a competition where numerous judges (i.e. agents, publishers and readers) taste our work and decide whether we get to pass on to the next round or get chopped. If we want to win, we have to think about what the judges want, and how to make them happy.


Surely I'm not suggesting we suck up our own tastes and write what we think the judges want to read! Of course I'm not. I would never suggest such a thing... except...

When I'm not talking about tastes, I'm talking about execution. Just like you wouldn't dream of setting a plate of underdone fowl in front of your family, you should shudder at the thought of sending out work that's not thoroughly finished.

Of course, no one's running the risk of throwing up after consuming your manuscript (unless it's really that bad), but the idea is the same. If the execution is off, no one is going to want it, no matter how good you think it is.

Chances are you've already heard tales of writers with the same attitude as the chefs above. They send work out that isn't quite done or that's overdone, and wonder why they're getting rejections. After all, they love their work. They may even insist they don't use commas properly because that's the way they like to write. Or you've heard about the writers who don't want to follow the rules of submitting. Dudes, no matter what you think, you still have to know how to execute or your pink chicken is getting sent back to the kitchen. (And all your hard work's ending up in the circular file.)

Oh, sure, I was as guilty of this as the next newbie. I thought I knew what I was doing five years ago. The dishes I sent out were so undercooked, I'm surprised I didn't give 75% of the agenting world a nasty case of literary ptomaine. Then I took all the advice I could find and overcooked the hell out of my second novel. Talk about dry and flavorless. Yuck.

The idea here is to make sure your execution is the best it can be - in both your story and your submission materials. Sometimes you'll make mistakes, but if you learn from them you'll do better next time. Until eventually you'll win - no matter how strange your ingredients may seem.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Book Review

I know I've been remiss in my reviews. First, I wasn't reading anything I could review, then I was reading so many great books, I couldn't choose just one. For instance, I read several good books this week and last. I thought picking one to review would be really hard.

Until I read Roxanne St. Claire's latest installment of her Bullet Catcher series: Hunt Her Down. (No offense intended to the other authors I read recently.) I haven't read all the Bullet Catchers, but the last four were awesome. They just kept getting better, and this one tops the others.

Maggie Varcek did some bad things when she was younger, but she's changed. She's a great mom, and a solid businesswoman who's trying to make a go of a bar. Too bad her past is coming back to haunt her. Fourteen years ago she slipped away from a drug raid and watched the man she loved get wheeled away under a shroud. Now not only is she running from the drug kingpin who thinks she's holds the key to his missing millions, but the man she needs for protection is the same one she thought was dead.

Dan Gallagher didn't mean to fall in love with the girlfriend of a drug dealer, but Maggie was so perfect for him. When doing his job meant faking his death, he did what he had to do - he walked away from the only girl he ever fell for. As a Bullet Catcher, he has the resources to protect her and her child from the dealer who wants thinks she was the mole, but he never counted on discovering the kid he's protecting is his own son.

Through this series, I've been watching Dan work in the background - always solid and seemingly in love with his boss - Lucy Sharpe. In the previous book, Dan loses even the chance for a relationship with Lucy, and I felt bad for the guy. He's a bit of a hothead, but he didn't deserve to be alone. I'm really glad Ms. St. Claire found him love, and gave him a good reason to realize he never really loved Lucy in the first place.

Anyway, even if you've never read the other books in the series, Hunt Her Down can stand alone - as with all the books in this series. Hell, I started with the fourth book, and just kept going (which means I have another series I have to backtrack on, but that's just me).

Keep up the good words, Ms. St. Claire. I can't wait to see what you have planned for the Bullet Catchers in your next book: Make Her Pay (due out 9/29/09).

(If you're interested in learning more about the author, she blogs with the gals at Murder She Writes, and you can find her at: Roxanne St. Claire's Official Website.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

College Football... Ahhhhh

Sorry for the silence, but College Football Saturday crept up on me. So, I spent the majority of today watching the boys mix it up on the gridiron. Ahhh, satisfaction.

The Wolverines won. Thank god for small favors. No offense to Mr. Rodriguez, but since you arrived in Ann Arbor, I find myself missing Lloyd Carr (and I couldn't stand Carr). The hullabaloo over NCAA rule breakage at U of M is disheartening, and watching Rich cry on ESPN made me a little nauseated. You broke the rules, suck it up. This is football, bud. There's definitely no crying in football. Ah, where's Bo Schembeckler when you need him. Rolling in his grave, most likely.

The Spartans won, too, which was expected. They had a better season last year than my beloved Wolverines, and their coach doesn't cry on camera. I'm sad to say it, but if I want to see anyone from the home state in the bowls this year, I'm afraid my hopes might have to rest in Lansing. =o(

In other important college football news, OSU almost lost and to Navy of all people. It was almost as good as watching them lose. Almost.

Not that I didn't do anything else today. I had my notebook and trusty red pen on the couch. I wrote during commercials breaks and halftimes. Got some really good words out on the rewrite for DJ (my working title for the WIP). It feels right this time, so we'll keep on the trail and see where it leads.

How's your holiday weekend going?

Friday, September 4, 2009


I'm having a full-on grump this morning. Must've crawled out from under the wrong side of the rock. Anyway, talk amongst yourselves. If the grump goes away I'll be back later.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

See the Little Lightbulb?

The one over my head? Yeah, that's the one. Of course it means what you think it means. I don't just walk around with a lightbulb over my head for no reason. It ain't a fashion accessory. And I just know as soon as I leave the house, people will start to stare. You're staring already, aren't you?

Why is it there? Oh, well, I had an idea last night. Turned the lightbulb on bright enough to wake me up and get me out of bed. I wrote the idea down, but the light's still shining. (Which is strange because those things usually go out once I acknowledge what they're there for.) Frankly, I'm trying to ignore it. Not that the idea isn't a good one, it's just that it'll mean a lot of work down the drain and a lot more work ahead.

I know, I know... get on with the idea already. Right?

Let's see... I woke up from a totally unrelated dream with the idea to totally rewrite my current WIP. I saw why the damn thing is giving me fits, and where I need to go from here. Hell, I even came up with a title - which has been eluding me since I started this book - so I know the idea is probably the way to go.

And it means that everything I've written so far is destined for the scrap heap. 30+K words swirling down the drain. Just the thought sends shivers through me - and not the good kind either. Basically I'd be scrapping one WIP to start an almost totally new story. Sure, the basic premise is the same, but the specifics will be completely different. Better? Oh, most definitely. Being better doesn't make me feel any better about the work lost, though.

I still have some details to work out, but I think this is sledge hammer I need to finally break down the wall. We'll see how it works out. I'm not deleting what I've already got - just in case - but I have a feeling I won't need it.

Ever have a little lightbulb of your own? Was it a middle-of-the-night flash like me? Or am I the only one who gets to scrap almost half a book and start over?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Well, MIL is gone and one would think the house would just snap back to normalcy. It didn't. I had great dreams of a quiet abode with me back at the keyboard, typing away at my WIP. Nope. Hubby took her to the airport yesterday morning, and while I did get the quiet, I couldn't muster the will to type.

He's taking some extra days off work, so we're technically still on vacation. Maybe that's the problem.

If only it were that easy.

I spent some time over the weekend thinking about the WIP - where I'd been and where I still needed to go to work it into a cogent whole. The love just wasn't there. Which sucks because I was totally head-over-heels with this thing when I started. Now? Meh.

I think I just need to sit down and read through everything that's gone before. I hoping that will reignite my excitement for my WIP. If not, I have some things I'd like to do to an older manuscript so I can try submitting it again.

Then again, it could just be that this vacation/visitor interruption has derailed my train of thought and I just need to push my caboose back onto the tracks.

Do vacations derail you, or can you slip right back into your track without a problem once they're over?