Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Week In Review



1. Bought my plane ticket for San Francisco yesterday.

2. Now I just have to cajole Paul into picking me up from the airport at 1 in the morning.

3. He'll be up with nothing better to do. ;)

4. The #4 key on this keyboard started sticking this morning.

5. Even though I rarely find a use for the #4 key, this is still annoying.

6. My Chow dog stuck his head under the grill to lick some grease that dripped onto the deck.

7. Naturally that means the rest of the grease dripped onto him.

8. Long-haired dog + grease = a trip to the groomers. *holds nose* The sooner the better.

9. The Scientist had his tonsils out Wednesday and is doing very well.

10. Even ate scrambled eggs and salad last night (his choice of combination, not mine).

11. Daredevil wants to know when he can own his own weed-whacker.

12. I told him to watch the skies carefully and let me know the minute he sees a goat fly by and we'll rush right down to Lowe's and make it happen.

13. I have fallen in love with fillo dough.

14. Yesterday, I researched ways to kill an octopus.

15. Wierd, I know.

16. We leave for Florida in three weeks - Disney World, Epcott Center, Sea World, and the beach.

17. Never fear, my pretties, this computer will travel with me.

18. My kids have cabin fever already - mostly due to the fact that until the Scientist is recovered, we aren't running around doing anything of interest.

19. Went back through SHADOWING FATE and put in a bit more description (not much, just enough to paint the picture) and then soldiered on through the new material.

20. I will have it finished and in the hands of Janet Reid and Katy (my CP) by next Sunday night. Will also send it to two other agents who've read samples and expressed an interest.

21. Because I'm using all my creative brain cells on SF at the moment, I don't feel like I have much left over for entertaining you, my faithful blog readers.

22. Never fear - a scathingly witty commentary on life, goats, and idiots of every description will be in your very near future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Facts - Both Strange and Mundane

Some Facts (Wierd and Otherwise) I've Researched For My Books:

* Sites of interest in Dublin, Ireland.

* Chinese Surnames

* Mapquest from a hotel in Detroit to a neighborhood on the outskirts of town.

* Manolo Blahniks

* Recipe for herbed pork chops

* Rental cars

* Carpet cleaning companies

* Underwater predators

* Obscure Greek mythology

* Amnesia

* The Irish Armed Garda

* Restaurants in New York City

* The Detroit PD

* German food

* Small town names in Louisiana, New Jersey, California, and Tennessee

* Synonyms for the words "blur" and "tentacle"

Why you would want to know any of this, I have no idea. But it's just past midnight, I'm tired, and this is the best I've got. =D

Balancing POV

Guest Blogger: Rachel Grant

Thanks so much for sharing your readers with me, C.J.! I love to talk about craft, and my husband gets tired of hearing me ramble on, so it’s probably better if I redirect my random musings to people who actually care about the subject.

Although I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, I spent a decade of my life pursuing something else entirely, which has given me great fodder for my writing. I think I first decided to major in archaeology because it sounded cool. Of course, this Calvin and Hobbs cartoon sums up the profession nicely and is required to be posted in every archaeologist’s office. Actually, the work really was cool, but strangely enough, unlike the way archaeology is portrayed in books and movies, there was a decided lack of mysteries to solve, and treasure hunting is pretty much taboo. Fortunately for me, I have an active imagination and to make the job even more fun, I spent some of the more mundane hours thinking up story ideas.

Later, when I became a stay at home mom, I finally had a chance to write some of those stories down. My Golden Heart finaling manuscript, Murder in Situ, was my first attempt at writing a book, and I’ve learned so much from the process, starting with the fact that it is perfectly okay to write a really, really lousy first draft. Critiques are a gift, and revision is a wonderful thing.

So, on to what I’ve learned about point of view during the revision process....

Choosing the Right POV for the scene and Balancing POV

A while ago I was instructed (challenged, ordered — any of these verbs will do) to use only one point of view (POV) per scene. I didn’t head hop, but I did change POV usually once or twice in a scene, and I was told this was giving too much away, and therefore killing the tension in my scenes. I was also told by the same person to alternate POV with each scene for balance and pacing.

I decided to give this directive a try because the command came from Jill Barnett, a New York Times bestselling author who has devoted twenty-plus years to studying craft, and I have the highest respect for her writing and her skill at zeroing in on the problems in a story. But changing to one POV per scene meant that I had to rewrite my entire masterpiece —I mean manuscript— and decide which POV was most important for every scene.

As a starting point, Jill gave me these three tips for selecting POV:

1) Ask yourself who has the most at stake.

2) Ask yourself what information you want to reveal.

3) Ask yourself what information you don’t want to reveal and why..

I added more to the list:

4) Which character is on scene first? Is that the ideal character to use for POV?

5) Do I need to change the scene opening to use a different and stronger POV?

One stumbling block I had when making this switch was losing the incredibly brilliant internal dialogue of the character whose POV I was no longer using. So I implemented a rule:

Rule #1) Put incredibly brilliant internal dialogue into actual dialogue.

Now my characters were saying the wonderful things they’d only been thinking before, and I had a whole new dynamic that was so much better. Making them say their thoughts made the tension between them active and exciting. Now they had chemistry in a way that had been missing in earlier drafts.

Most scenes were relatively easy, as the character identified in tip #4 gave me my POV character. But sometimes it wasn’t so easy. I made a road map of my story, making sure I alternated POV wherever possible. I discovered that some parts of the story were POV heavy for my heroine, where she was at work and the hero was nowhere to be found.

First I created new scenes for the hero and inserted him and his investigations (he’s a cop) between the heroine-heavy sections of the book. His investigation became more important, instead of just the heroine’s work (she’s an archaeologist) as the driver for the mystery. But I couldn’t do that everywhere, putting him in some of her work scenes would not serve the story.

What to do? Well, I chose to elevate a secondary character to POV character. But wait, her only purpose was to be the heroine’s best friend and sounding board. Now that I’m giving her a POV she has to have something relevant to add. She needs to tell the reader something new, some piece of the mystery that only she knows about. She needs to be another force that drives the mystery.

Bam! My secondary best friend now had her own goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC) and a pivotal role in the story. The story got a new layer, and the sequel I had planned for the best friend gained urgency. Plus I’d learned a new rule:

Rule #2) All POV characters need to have something important to add to the story, their own GMC, and information not available without using their POV.

Okay, so now I had the whole book revised, one POV per scene. I’d maintained some great lines by making them dialogue and improved story pacing and balance by elevating a secondary character to POV character and alternating POV in every scene.

All done, right? Not exactly. I’m a draft writer, and for me, now it was time to revise and polish. Time to tighten those scenes and make the prose sing. This is where I discovered I’d made the wrong choice in POV character in a few scenes.

So, how do you know when you’ve chosen the wrong POV? This is my nine step process:

1. Rewrite the scene for hours and hours, stubbornly stick to the same POV, but fail to see why the brilliant dialogue has fallen apart, the heroine has become whiney and bitter, and the hero has become a groveling wimp. Tell yourself it’s still sexy.

2. Change the dialogue. If the hero doesn’t say the words that trigger the heroine’s internal and external whining, then the hero doesn’t have to grovel.

3. Congratulate yourself on the brilliant fix.

4. Send an email to your mentor, gushing about how you’ve realized that changing the dialogue sequence fixed the tone of the scene, and how you finally get so much of what she’s been trying to teach you.

5. Read Jill’s reply: “The other option is to tell the scene from the other person's POV. Remember the Kinsale quote?”

Here, for your benefit, is the Laura Kinsale quote to which she was referring:

“Sometimes the most impact comes from seeing the scene NOT from the person with the most emotional investment, but instead from the other person. It increases sympathy.”


6. Feel a ton of bricks hit you on the head. When that doesn’t hurt enough, smack yourself.

7. Chant the phrase: “of course the POV is wrong” until your Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man impersonation is perfect.

8. Flip the POV. Discover that you don’t have to show the heroine’s wounded pride, and see how the hero can explain himself without groveling. Notice that the hero no longer even needs to apologize. And now it really is sexy.

9. Or, skip the first steps and just ask Jill Barnett. She can tell you.

Rachel's web site is currently under construction but you can visit her soon at www.booksbyrachelgrant.com.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday's List (on a Tuesday)



1. Yesterday we spent about 40 minutes at the Renaissance Festival before the heavens opened up and sent us enough rain to flood the area within 30 short minutes.

2. We literally waded out to our car.

3. *sigh* The good news is, leaving early prevented me from giving in to the temptation to buy this incredibly cool dragon wall sconce candle holder I fell in love with.

4. Naturally, I am surrounded with laundry (thankfully most of it clean!!) to deal with today.

5. I am currently revising the villain's scenes in SHADOWING FATE to make his motivation clearer and to introduce an additional level of "oh crap!".

6. The Scientist gets his tonsils taken out tomorrow and he's nervous.

7. I waited on a particularly unpleasant man this past weekend who (after demanding a magnifying glass and then asking what kind of restaurant doesn't keep magnifying glasses available - umm, ALL of them? - and then haranguing me constantly about the itmes on the menu) wanted to know if our special that night was all you can eat.

8. My reply: "If all you can eat is what's on the plate I bring out to you, then yes."

9. He didn't see the humor but then boorish morons so rarely do.

10. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: There are no circumstances (besides simply atrocious service - not food! We don't control the food! - service) under which $1 is an appropriate tip. I don't care if you ordered less than $10 worth of food and you're so behind the times you don't realize the going rate is 20%. I don't care if you're just one person. You took up the server's table when they could have had a party of 4 instead and while you don't have to tip to compensate for that, you do need to make waiting on you worth their while. $1 is cheap and insulting.

11. It's rainy today, much to my children's dismay, so we can't go to the pool.

12. I saw camels up close and personal yesterday.

13. Shifty creatures.

14. Just as likely to sit on you and spit in your general direction as to do anything you ask.

15. Noticed many women wearing fake animal tails yesterday at the RF.

16. One person would be eccentric. Two would be some sort of weird coincidence. A scattered crowd of tail wearers (some wearing more than one - perhaps conflicted over which forest creature they'd like to be?) denotes a trend.

17. I want it put on record that this is a trend I will not be embracing.

18. I found a really awesome cookbook this weekend at Borders and will be trying some of the new recipes this week.

19. Stuffed Shitake looks best to me but since my hubby and kiddos would rather eat sand than consume mushrooms, that will have to wait for a girl's night.

20. Finally, in honor of veterans, may I encourage all of us to treat those in military service (and those who have served in the past) with gratitude and respect. Let us not take our freedom for granted.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Puss In ... Armor?

While Juan Pedro is quite enamored of the newest member of his household, he worries that pictures like this might compromise his image as the Merchant of Death.




Friday, May 23, 2008

Week In Review



1. I picked up Jeaniene Frost's ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE yesterday and am now going to have to draft an email of complaint to her. (Yes, yes, I know her.)

2. Why?

3. Because the book was so good, I stayed up late to finish it when I really should have been finishing writing my own.

4. Now I have to write after work tonight and I won't be getting home until 11.

5. I blame her.

6. We are taking the kids to see Indiana Jones today.

7. Paul is hooking us up with tickets which is not the reason I'm one of his best friends but it certainly doesn't stink either.

8. I need to find a gorgeous dress to wear for the Golden Heart award ceremony.

9. Waited on a man in his seventies (or more) the other night who came in by himself and was reading a book.

10. Naturally, I always ask what people are reading and begin a conversation about the author.

11. This time, to my complete surprise, I knew the author personally.

12. The man was reading Celeste Bradley, my first critique partner.

13. He had a little trouble telling me he was reading TO WED A SCANDALOUS SPY. ;)

14. It's not every day you see a man enjoying a romance novel but he sat at the table for almost an hour, laughing his head off.

15. Having read SCANDALOUS SPY myself, I can safely say that the heroine is laugh outloud funny.

16. I hope one day someone waits on a 75 year old man and he's laughing outloud to one of my books.

17. We're going to the Renaissance Festival on Monday with Paul and Kelly.

18. I will have to leave my wallet in my car to restrain my impulse to add to my dragon collection.

19. I don't really like lasagne.

20. Reader Question: What is a popular food that you just can't stand?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

California Ears

Tuesday, I was out at the kids' school for the Scientist's award ceremony. While we waited for the kids to arrive, I began chatting with the mom sitting next to me. She was discussing the fact that she is working this summer for the first time in two years.

When I asked if her kids were going to camps or daycare, she said, "No, they'll be with my husband but they'll have to get up early. He forums."

Forums? I didn't know "forum" was a verb. My mind raced as I tried to picture a job description to go with "forums".

"He does what?" I asked.

"He forums." She said.

Did he go from business to business running forums? Was he a political advisor? Was this an educational thing?

Slightly embarrassed that I did not know the answer, I asked, "How do you "forum"?"

The mom looked confused and said "Well...there's cows and chickens and hay..."

OHHHHHH. Farms.

Said with a rich southern accent, it gains a syllable.

Clearly, my California ears were showing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brokenhearted

If any of my blog readers pray, I would ask that you lift up the family of singer Steven Curtis Chapman. He is a Christian singer who lives here locally and is a huge advocate for adoption from China (they've adopted three girls from China). Today this loving family experienced a huge tragedy - one of their older boys accidentally ran over their five year old daughter (Maria, their youngest) and she died as a result.

Words can't express how deep this grief goes. Please pray for their family and especially for the poor boy who was driving the car. As a mother, I can't even stand to contemplate losing one of my kids and to have to worry that another child might take his life over it would be unbearable.

I thank you for lifting them up with me.

Ni!





"I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay!" - Everybody! Sing with me!

What - not a Monty Python fan? *sniffs* Well then go away and I shall taunt you a second time. This post will be rife with MP references...hie thyself to the nearest Blockbuster and enhance thy comedic education.


My hubby, though not a lumberjack per say, decided to channel one this weekend while doing yardwork. We had a tree in our backyard that died sometime over the winter months.

I say "had" because my hubby decided to remove it this weekend.

This was fine with me, but I was curious to see what method of removal he would choose. Last time he became irritated with innocent foliage, I heard the lawnmower engine revving and came outside to see him cackling (no, no...it wasn't laughter. I distinctly heard "cackling") as he mowed down four small shrubs that, up until that moment, he'd always had to weave around while mowing.

He got tired of weaving and just took them out. Sopranos style.

I didn't think our lawnmower could survive a run in with a tree (even a small, dead tree) but I didn't exactly put it past my hubby to try.

My fears were all for naught as he stepped outside - looking sane, minus the cackling - holding a hacksaw.

How much damage could he possibly do with a hacksaw? (those of you who regularly watch horror flicks need not answer that)

My hubby hacked, dug, lugged, and otherwise disposed of the tree and somewhere along the way he discovered a little known law of physics. It's the Law of Deforestation which states that once a man has a hacksaw in hand and branches to cut, he will not stop hacking and chopping and maiming...err, I mean cutting until his wife walks out the door and catches him in the act.

The dead tree was gone. But there were other trees in the yard. None of them were technically dead yet (I'm feeling better! I think I'd like to go for a walk!) but still...

There was a tree that irritated him whenever he mowed.

It's gone now.

And there were branches that seemed just a little low.

They're gone now too.

And then were two kind of scraggly bushes along the front of the house. (Bring me a shrubbery!)

Yup, you guessed it. Gone.

He was exhilarated. He was a man, doing what men do! He was one with his hacksaw, taming his patch of the planet ...

Until I ventured outside to view his progress. Now his hacksaw has something in common with the trees...

It's gone.

Discovering Your Voice

Guest blogger: Lynn Raye Harris

You’ve decided to write a romance novel. Or maybe you’ve been writing romance and you’re contemplating a switch in subgenre. You’ve been writing about vampires and want to write a hot historical. Or the hot historical is turning into gritty romantic suspense. Maybe you’re confused and unsure what to write.

How do you know where you belong, where your voice is a natural fit? I don’t have the one-size fits all answer to that, but I’ve learned some things about genre and voice recently that I’d like to share.

But first we have to go back to the beginning. My first romance manuscript was a whopping medieval tome. How did I arrive in the Middle Ages? I think it was the armor. ;)

Seriously, I love history and I was reading widely about British history when this particular time period caught my eye. I became very interested in Edward I and his battle to conquer Wales. A book (a terrible, huge, meandering book) was born.

Next came a Regency historical. The clothes! The manners! The hot dukes and cheeky maidens! After that foray, a time-travel medieval novella was in order. Ahem. Are you getting the picture here? I had no clue what I was doing and wrote whatever sparked my fancy at the moment.

Next, I tried a single-title contemporary. I was finally starting to figure something out – my life revolved around the military and I was very well equipped to write a military hero. Naturally, since my husband was in the Air Force, I chose to write about a Navy guy – something about which I knew nothing at all. :/

Okay, I was getting there, but not quite.

Finally, finally, I realized something. I love romantic suspense. I love military Special Forces teams. I gobbled up these kinds of books, the ones with teams (military or not) and danger. Duh.

This time when I sat down, I tried a military romantic suspense. And my voice blossomed. I finally felt at home with what I was writing. I loved opening this story every day and seeing what happened next. I’m on the third set of revisions, but this manuscript is HOT PURSUIT, my Golden Heart ® Finalist.

This is where I should say goodbye and thanks for having me, right? I found my genre through trial and error and now I’m home.

But wait, I’m not done. Nothing says you aren’t equipped to write in more than one genre, or that your voice isn’t adaptable somewhere you might not have ever considered.

When I was growing up, I read Harlequin Presents by the cartload. I still read them, though not exclusively. I love the Presents alpha male and his glittering, wealthy, international world. I love those heroines who are frequently at a disadvantage with this guy but who still manage to conquer his heart.

So when Harlequin Mills & Boon announced they were looking for new writers and were having a first chapter contest, I decided Why not? I wrote one chapter and a two-page synopsis and sent it off. Then I wrote another one.

On March 20, 2008, at around 1PM Central Time (not that I remember or anything), my cell phone rang. Sally Williamson from Harlequin was calling to tell me that one of my entries (the second one I wrote), THE SPANISH MAGNATE’S REVENGE, was chosen by the editorial team as the winner. I would now be working with Sally to finish my book for the Presents line.

Was I shocked? Oh yeah. And happier than you can believe. I feel like I got The Call but without the contract or check. Apparently, my voice is also very well suited to writing about wealthy alpha heroes and the women who conquer them. Not surprising, really, when I took the time to think about it. Whether he’s a military operative or a Spanish billionaire, my heroes are strong alpha males. At their core, they are hard, protective, thrilling men who would do anything for the women they love.

Maybe that’s the key. You need to figure out who your characters are, what thread they have in common, and then you’ll find your voice and your genre. If you’re writing something that seems forced, or wanting a change, think about your characters and their core beliefs.

In truth, I think voice is more important than genre. I think, if you know your characters and who they are, what they believe, and what they want, the world you set them down in becomes secondary.

But that’s just me, and I know not everyone agrees. Do I seem to be contradicting myself? After all, I tried a medieval, a Regency, a time-travel, and a contemporary before finding a natural fit in romantic suspense and classic romance. But I think if I went back today, knowing my voice now, and tried those other genres, I’d either get it right immediately or realize it didn’t work and move on.

Yeah, so this post is clear as mud, right? Just like figuring out which genre to write in. Write often, try new things, know your characters, and don’t be surprised if you find your home somewhere you never considered before. Happy writing!

Reader Questions:

Where have your genre experiments led you?

Did you find your voice somewhere you least expected it?

If you're happy with what you're writing, how did you arrive there? Trial and error, or you just knew where you fit?

Is there a genre you'd like to try but aren't sure if you can do it?


Lynn Raye Harris writes steamy suspense and classic romance. After a lifetime of military moves, she lives in Northern Alabama with two spoiled cats and one spoiled husband. She blogs semi-regularly at www.lynnrayeharris.blogspot.com. Her website, which doesn’t yet reflect her dual writing personality, is at www.lynnrayeharris.com.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Greetings...

When Daredevil came home from school, he walked up to me, raised one eyebrow (a look he started giving me the day he was born) and said, in a very formal voice, "Salutations."

When I laughed, he looked worried and asked, "Do you even know what that word means?"

When I said it meant "greetings" he just shook his head sadly.

"No, mom, it just means hello. I can say hello from now on if that's easier for you."

Lol. I love my kids.

Fixing A Languishing Scene

Because I'm in the middle of revisions for SHADOWING FATE and need to spend the bulk of my writing time there, todays Writing Process post will be short, sweet, and hopefully helpful. =)

Sometimes, I sit down to write a scene and everything just falls into place. The dialogue sparks naturally, the conflict leaps off the page, and I know exactly what happens next.

Sometimes, I sit down to write a scene and the words move sluggishly or refuse to come at all. Those are the scenes that I return to later and, upon re-reading, realize I've just written the equivalent of vanilla frozen yogurt - bland and pointless.

Here's a trick to fix that scenario:

1. Every scene must advance the conflict(s) in your novel. No fillers, please.

2. Within the scene, each character needs to have an individual goal. Doesn't have to be lofty. Maybe your hero wants to win an argument. Maybe your secondary character needs to get to work on time. Doesn't matter. What matters is that every character in the scene has their own personal goal, driving their actions and dialogue.

3. When the scene feels like you're slogging through mud, do a goal check. Does the scene advance your conflict or are you getting sloppy and shoving something in just to provide an info dump on your poor, unsuspecting reader? Do each of your scene's character's have a definable goal within the scene? If not, figure out what their goals are and re-write the scene with those in mind.

That's it. Short, sweet, and hopefully helpful, as promised. Off to finish creating mayhem on a page.

Monday, May 19, 2008

For Grayback, With Love

Monday's List




1. Speaking of getting up early...I'm going to have to either get up at 5 a.m. all summer to write or stay up late.

2. Tis nearly impossible to write coherent sentences with three boys awake in the house.

3. I have some HUGE writing goals this week and, of course, it's one of my busiest weeks:

*Working two to three shifts
*Three separate award ceremonies at the kids' school - on different days, none of them back to back
*Two end of the year picnics - different days, different times
*Running the Scientist up to Nashville Wed. morning for pre-tonsils-are-coming-out labwork
*A dr.'s appointment
*My children's insistence that I drive them on the last day of school so all they have to do is run into their classrooms, pick up their report card and leave
*A Girl's Night Out
*And a trip to the Renaissance Festival.

4. Piece of cake.

5. Not that I eat cake anymore.

6. I am surprised and a bit annoyed at how many aspiring authors whine about getting a form rejection.

7. Does it really matter why an agent said no??

8. Dust yourself off and move on.

9. I love all things peach.

10. I do not appreciate jelly beans that look like Buttered Popcorn flavor but in actuality are Rotten Eggs.

11. Thank you J.K. Rowling.

12. I did laundry this weekend which means I got the unenviable job of cleaning out the pockets of my boys' pants.

13. I'd go into details on the wierd items they found necessary to shovel into their pockets and leave for their unsuspecting (but fortunately, strong-stomached) mother, but I don't like to dwell on it.

14. Please do not give your main character a love interest named "Bubba" and expect me to take you seriously.

15. Likewise, please do not name your main characters after weapons, emotions, or kitchen appliances and expect me to read your book without constantly rolling my eyes.

16. I saw a preview this weekend for what could possibly be the dumbest movie idea ever. Actually, the synopsis of the movie looks pretty interesting for kids but the trailer is one of those what were they thinking? moments.

17. I am reluctantly giving up my flannel sheets for the summer.

18. I introduced my hubby to the joys of Dean Koontz's ODD THOMAS this weekend.

19. I have a stack of books to read - from Koontz to Frost to some new-to-me authors but I have to finish my own writing before I will read any of theirs.

20. Reader question: What is your favorite kind of villain in a book?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Something To Consider

The most interesting and compelling villains are the ones who would describe themselves as heroes of the story. - Janet Reid, literary agent, aka QueryShark

Bathrobes, People. Bathrobes.

To Do List - Weekend Edition

1. See Prince Caspian....Yay!! Loved it!! Theater packed full of high school kids nonwithstanding!

2. Pick jaw up off of floor over recent request for SHADOWING FATE from the Query Shark. (Submitted for feedback, not expecting an actual page request and must confess that I recieved the request when I checked my email at 2 am last night and am still giddy...)

3. Figure out how to make my stiletto purchases tax-deductible.

4. *sigh* Laundry. Always laundry.

5. Finish my revision of SHADOWING FATE (thank you Katy for the early morning soundboard that fixed my secondary character issue!!!!).

6. Actually, working on the revision is going to take most of the weekend and a chunk of the upcoming week as well because I want to get this manuscript in Janet Reid's capable hands as soon as possible.

7. I have several new-to-me authors waiting to be read but they have to take a backseat for a while.

8. Tomorrow we have our Community Group over (15-20 friends) and I confess I may be holed upstairs in my room killing off hapless secondary characters and living vicariously through Alexa.

9. Hmmm....should probably get the house vacuumed and the bathrooms wiped down.

10. Luckily, my hubby is amazingly supportive of me and will take care of that (with the use of the free labor that is our children).

11. I might eat, if I remember that I'm hungry.

12. I might sleep, if my eyes refuse to stay open.

13. I will definitely remember to charge my cell phone.

14. I think this is more than enough for one girl's list.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Week In Review




1. Lol. My Star Wars is showing...

2. Though actually, being able to kill someone with a thought is pretty cool.

3. Er, umm, for literature, I mean. And movies. Fiction. Strictly fiction.

4. Moving on.

5. Somehow it's Friday (well, if you want to get technical with me it's still Thursday but studies show that the opinions I hold on Thursday are 99.999996% certain to still be with me on Friday so I'm safe) and I feel like this week was a blur.

6. Let's see what took up chunks of my time:

Sunday: Mother's Day, taught Sunday school, went to church, was pampered by my hubby and kids, read a good book. Nice day.

Monday: I can't even remember Monday. It's been repressed.

Tuesday: Visit to my oncologist - why can't I repress that??! One year to the "cure" mark. Visit to B & N and a bag full of new books. Lunch with hubby. Work.

Wednesday: Mother's Tea with Daredevil at school, grocery store, work, exercise.

Thursday: housework, writing, sick kiddo, reading Katy's latest novel (that girl is an incredible well of creativity!).

Friday: sick kiddo home from school most likely, working a day shift for a someone which means hubby has to get here right after the morning show ends, possibly going to a later showing of Prince Caspian.

At least, that's how I assume Friday will go. Most days get at least one or two monkey wrenches thrown in so we'll see.

7. Can't wait to send out queries for SHADOWING FATE.

8. I'm very excited about this novel.

9. We had interesting dialogue in the comments section of "One Author's Journey to SOLD" post on whether book covers affect sales and perception of the genre.

10. I think they do. I've gone to the bookstore specifically looking for a few new paranormal books, for example, and avoided some based solely on their cover (never even read the back of the book). I also think some types of covers might trigger a "well that isn't serious/good/entertaining writing" reaction based on perception alone.

11. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion as a reader in the comments here: Do covers attract you to books/authors you haven't tried? Do you avoid certain books or genres based on the cover?

12. Dang it, I just realized I have a movie due back at Blockbuster tonight.

13. See? Monkey wrenches.

14. It was the movie Hitman and I think I may do a post on it in relation to writing: one of those almost good movies but missed. For me, at least.

15. Read a book recently by a NYT's best selling author (and one I read frequently) and am tired of seeing some of the same expressions/plot devices used and re-used throughout her books.

16. What is her editor thinking??

17. When I've published umpteen books, I still want my editor to look me in the eye and say, "C.J., you can do better. Push yourself and get the edge back into your Voice."

18. I cannot throw a football well to save my life...in fact, if you are anywhere near me, my throw might very well cost you yours.

19. But I can tackle. I'm very good at tackling.

20. I'd like to leave you with some sage advice but honestly the only thing coming to mind is this: When one decides to go "cow tipping", one should always aim for the side of the cow. Approaching the front is, of course, pointless, and sneaking up on the business end of a bovine is like playing Russian Roulette with a well-stocked septic tank. The results are rarely ever pretty.

Consequences & Repercussions

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Thin Ice

Many of my friends went ice skating this past Monday.

I did not.

For those of you struggling to understand why, may I just take a moment to call attention to the time I got a black eye from my cat, or the time I walked into a tree, or my graceless stop, drop, and roll routine on my way to my car.

If that still doesn't convince you that I should never be allowed to try maintaining my balance on a sheet of ice with a potential weapon strapped to my feet, I thought I'd tell you about my last foray into the sport of ice skating.

In my childhood, with much practice, I became a decent roller skater. I didn't do tight little spins or jumps but I could hold my own comfortably at high speeds without worrying that I would take out a toddler or flip over the half-wall and land in somebody's pizza.

When my friends broached the concept of ice skating with me, I initially balked because a) I lack basic balance and coordination and b) I lack basic balance and coordination. They tossed all of my objections out the window with the logical argument that if I could roller skate, I could ice skate.

This is a falsehood of enormous proportions.

For one, roller skates have four wheels. Four. They are like mini-SUVs. There's no wobbling around on a blade thin enough to slice deli meat.

For another, roller rinks are notoriously non-slippery. No one expects you to maintain your balance on a surface that, were it located on the roads, would cause every driver to pull over and haul out some chains before proceeding with caution.

I, however, believed my friends because I'd always loved to watch figure skating and I was slightly exhilarated by the idea that by mastering clunky roller skates when I was 12, I had unknowingly prepared myself for mastery of the ice as well.

I strapped on a pair of ice skates and stood shakily on the rubber mat outside the rink as doubts began to set in.

"I can't even stand on the mat!" I told my friends. "How will I be able to stand on the ice?"

"It's easier." They lied. "You'll be gliding."

"How do I move forward?" I asked, watching skaters whiz by with various degrees of proficiency.

"Just like roller skates." They lied.

"How do I stop?" I asked.

"Lean to the side a bit and sort of skid to a stop like you're sliding in to home base." They lied.

And then they entered the ice rink and began to skate.

I watched for a moment and, besides one or two little bobbles, no one fell, slammed into the wall, or maimed a toddler. I tried to convince myself that if they could do it, I could do it.

The fact that never once has that argument held up in any kind of sport requiring balance and coordination did not stop me from trying it again.

I entered the rink.

The saw blades strapped to my feet scissored uncontrollably and I grabbed for the wall.

A child was already on the wall.

I could not, in good conscience, take a child down with me so I abandoned plan A.

Plan B involved a very painful collision with the ice.

I was not dismayed. I'd fallen a time or two while learning to roller skate. I'd expected this.

I tried to rise and discovered a little known fact: keeping one's balance on a sheet of ice while wearing butcher knives on one's feet is against the laws of physics.

There are those who can safely flaunt the laws of physics and make it look easy and then there are people like me.

On my third attempt to untangle the heap that was me on the ice, I got the brilliant idea to get on all fours and then slowly inch my legs up to a standing position.

It worked.

Sort of.

Now I was bent at the waist, with my legs mostly straight, pointing my derriere at anyone who wanted to enter the rink, with my hands glued to the ice to help me keep my balance.

It was time to stand.

I did. I rose from the waist, kept myself erect as I jerked and wobbled, and then decided I needed to move forward.

My friends said it was just like roller skating. I remember the motion of gently pushing out with one foot and then the other to gain momentum. I tentatively mimicked the motion and moved forward with all the grace of a rhino on stilts.

Ignoring the spasmodic jerking of my body as it strove to maintain its already precarious balance, I focused on the positive: I was moving.

I pushed out again with my foot and two things happened simultaneously: One, I gained momentum. Two, my foot refused to return to me.

Now I was moving, alright, and it occured to me that I had neglected to ask my friends how to steer.

Steering, however, was the least of my worries. My left foot was drifting further and further from my body until my body began to scream at me: "Splits! We're doing the splits!!"

"No!" I said firmly to my left leg, and my right, and anything in between. "No splits."

My body didn't listen.

Years earlier, I'd attended gymnastic lessons for months and in the safe, non-icy, no-lethal-weapons-attached-to-me setting, my body had steadfastly refused to do anything remotely resembling the splits.

Now was not the time to remedy my track record.

Nevermind that my flexibility wouldn't allow for the splits and I'd probably rip a tendon or two that would render walking impossible. I was wearing jeans. One does not do the splits in fitted jeans unless one wants to give the crowd more than they paid to see.

"No!" I said again, outloud. "No splits!"

My right leg drifted away from my left leg in direct defiance of my orders. Meanwhile, my struggles had increased my momentum until every person on the rink was in danger of being bull-dozed by a woman doing a 3/4 split with straining jeans, an unfortunate tendency to yell at herself in public and zero ability to steer.

I cast about frantically for any shred of advice from my friends that would help me fix the situation before I did something truly embarassing and called to mind their instructions for stopping.

It was something about sliding into home base.

I was approaching a curve. It was now or never. I shifted my weight to my right, tried to mimick a slide into home base, and flipped into the air instead.

The good news: I did indeed slide to a stop, just like my friends instructed.

The bad news: The wall stopped my slide.

I pulled myself cautiously to my feet and joined the parade of children clinging to the wall, as I made my way around the rink, one baby step at a time, all the while planning a much more interesting use for my ice skates the instant I saw my friends.

One Author's Journey to SOLD!

Kris Kennedy, a Golden Heart finalist, writes historical romances and recently signed a two book deal. You can learn more about Kris's writing (and her mostly dyed blonde moments) at her web site.


Name:

LOL, CJ. Right off the bat, my blonde (mostly dyed, anymore) is showing. I don't know if you meant my name, of the book's name, so I'll give you both! :-)

I'm Kris Kennedy, and my book, for now, is titled The Kinds Of Wanting. I thought that was a hot, interesting title, but apparently I'm wrong. LOL And, seeing as I know nothing about the publishing business, I think I'll trust my editor.

And so, I had a title vote at my website and got LOTS of great suggestions. I sent the top rated ones to my editor (and tacked on a few new ones, when he didn't gasp in amazement after first glance), so now we'll wait and see what they do with it.

I'll be posting the new title as soon as I know it, and giving away prizes, so come and visit! I will be updating folks on my publishing journey--what each step along the way is like, so come visit my website often. And sign up for the newsletter!

How long have you been writing?

I guess I've been writing romance in earnest since 2000. Although, I took a MAJOR break for about 2 1/2 years after my son was born. Who knew how much a person needed sleep? How weak and pathetic a brain can become when deprived of just a few . . . sweet hours . . . . of . . . uninterrupted . . . sleep.

So, I went a little psychotic there for about 1 1/2 years, with little sleep, husband overseas travelling for work for most of that 2nd year, and my mother passing away, and I didn't get much writing done.

But I felt like I crawled out of my cave when my little guy turned about 2 1/2, and I started writing and entering contests again at that point.


What made you decide to pursue writing novels?

Ha! What to say to that? Is it really a decision?

I remember this: my step-father & mother gave my husband & I their old computer, maybe back in 1999. I used to write endlessly as a child, w/ pen and paper, so I got excited, thinking, 'Maybe I can do it with the computer.'

I sat there that first night, in front of the glowing screen, and I just started typing.

It was like digging up mud. Slow, pointless, heavy.

In other words, it wasn't flowing.

Until I read my first ROMANCE novel. I took the plunge and checked out one of those 80's romance novels from the library. I'd been eyeing it for a year or more, but was always too embarrassed to check out, b/c of the covers. LOL.

But I'll tell you what--I read that book, and THAT NIGHT I was up until 3 a.m. typing. Fingers flying over keys, creating typos like a mad woman.

The next morning my husband said, "Wow. It's nice to see you really into something." LOL.

He had no idea. I had no idea. It was way past ideas--it just had to be.


What genre do you write and how did you choose it?

I write medievals, mostly, although I do have several half-written contemp. stories & one Georgian, which was the first story I ever wrote, and it will NEVER see the light of day.

The contemps will come, but they have to wait, b/c I really love the sweeping, dangerous feel of the middle ages.


Where do your ideas come from?

The short answer: everywhere!

TV shows, a line in the newspaper, a line in a 11th century monk's chronicle, where some mention is made of "And King Art O'Conchobar laid waste the land between the loch's for want of the woman," or something, and I'm thinking, "Oh, yeah!' LOL The tragedies of other people make great fodder for the storyteller.

For any Lord of the Rings fans (the books) you may remember when Sam & Frodo were far into their quest, dying of thirst and and weary beyond words. Sam, in his simple, philosophical way, reflected how the hard times are not the ones you want to live through, but they make the best stories. I thought that was very wise. :-)


How do you approach writing a novel? (plotter or pantser?)

Aaaa! The heart of my current matter. I have always just winged it (wung it? LOL)

But I got burned on my last ms, one of the Golden Heart finaling ones, the one I just sold.

I wrote this story over such a long time, that it evolved and morphed significantly. I ended up re-writing it so many times. Major, major plot points shifted, characters got more tortured (An aside: I love a tortured hero. If you do too, look for my book in the Spring. But first, check my website for the title, so you know what book to look for! LOL).

Recently, I've been trying to plan (plot) a little more. But I'm scared the Fire might go out (or muse, or enthusiasm, or whatever you want to call it. It feels like a fire in me, so I call it that).

So, I am trying to balance the two different approaches, developing a new, more organized process that still keeps the Fire alive.

Funnily enough (is that a word?), much of that Fire comes from discipline. Self-discipline. Disciplining myself to sit and write every day.

Writing begets writing. The more I write, the more I CAN write, the more I WANT TO write, the more IDEAS I have for writing, the more EXCITED I get about it.

I think that's true for everything. The more we do of anything, the more energy we get for that thing, if it's a our passion.


Are you working with an agent?

Yes, I have an agent. Barbara Poelle, at the Irene Goodman Agency.


How did you choose the right one?

She had some good editorial feedback for me, and that is something feel I need at this point. When I'm flowing, I can do 10-15 different things with a scene, w/ a story. I can amp this up, tone that down, add this in, cut that out, etc etc, and still feel I'm being true to the story.

What I need is some direction. It's great to have an industry professional to give me feedback.


Tell us the story of hearing that you'd "sold"!

Some people may have heard this already (up to 550 times, perhaps) so please, pass on by if so! :-)

I was tending my 3 y.o. son, who had just developed pink eye. It was a tough morning for me, b/c, due to the pink eye, he couldn't go to school, so, whoosh, there went my precious 2 1/2 hrs of writing time that day.

(Sure, I can and do write at night, after he's in bed, but, oh boy, am I not at my romance-writing best at 8 pm after a day w/ a non-stop 3 y.o.)

Anyhow, I was forcibly--I mean, lovingly--holding a warm compress to his eye when my agent called w/ the news.

Sorta changed my outlook on what kind of day it was going to be. :-)


Were contests an important part of your publishing journey?

I think they have been, for so many reasons!

Above all, even if you think you've gained noting from a contest but scores all over the map and another $25 down the tube, you have at least been reminded of how SUBJECTIVE this business is. And that is super important to remember. No one is required to love our stories, no matter how hard we've labored on them.

Contests serve many purposes (I always want to say 'purpii" instead of 'purposes') depending on where we are in the journey of getting pubbed.

Early on, all I wanted was feedback. I don't think I even realized that there WERE editors as judges in those first few I entered. I was just overwhelmed with the idea that, for only $25, I could get three other people to look at my story and give me feedback.

(And there's a new, tangential realization: inflation has not affected the contest realm, has it? It was $25 when I first started entering back in, oh, 2001, and it's $25 today, Nice!)

I do recall with fondness my first contest. Or rather, the results from it. One judge very gently pointed out that I may want to consider the concept of 'Point Of View' for my characters and my scenes.

I was electrified. What's that?, I thought. I re-read her explanation. POV? Cool!

I remember my thank-you letter (I must still have it somewhere, on that parent-donated computer, probably). I said something about thank-you for suggesting this "concept called 'Point Of View.' I think it will be very helpful."

LOL LOL LOL.

Yes, Kris. Sort-of.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?

I think I still AM an aspiring author! But here's what I believe, to the core of my being, after almost 20 years as a psychotherapist: persistence can overcome all.

Keep Showing Up.

Mentally, emotionally. Be There. Because when the Opportunity walks by, you need to be there, too.

People sometimes look at others and think, "Well, sure, if I had the [FILL IN THE BLANK: time/ money/success/judge/editor/the XYZ] she had . . . ."

But chances are, that person has worked her b*tt off to get where she is, whether you witnessed all those efforts or not.

"Must be nice..." kinda thinking kills energy and enthusiasm faster than . . . a sleepless 3 y.o. LOL.

I know this, because I've been known to engage in that kind of thinking myself sometimes, when I'm feeling low. And I know how it makes me feel. Lower yet. Awful.

And it isn't valid thinking anyhow. I mean, if we must destroy our enthusiasm, let's do it with something that makes SENSE!

Because persistence tied to even a modicum of talent, wins. Every time.

Now, I have questions for all of you!

~ What do you think of romance covers? Do you like them hot? Do you think they affect how the romance genre is viewed by others?

~ How do you stay motivated? I'm not just talking to writers, here, either! I want to know from everyone, what keeps you going?

Thanks for listening to all my blather! Now I can't wait to read your comments and listen to all yours. LOL
Kris

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Finding Your Voice

"Voice" may be the single most important element in writing a novel. Voice conveys attitude, culture, motivation, identifies characters, and sets your work apart from the hundreds of other novels waiting for an editor's attention.


1. How I Found My Voice:

Finding my literary voice took some experimenting with genres and POVs. I had to stop reading books in my genre areas of interest for a few months and start playing around with characters in my head. I wanted to "cleanse the palette" for a little while so I could construct a novel without anyone else's voices edging in.

My first novel (DTR) is third-person romantic suspense. It's solid writing and I like it but I felt that I didn't quite capture enough originality in my voice using that vehicle. I sat down and made a list of what I really loved in my favorite books and it looked something like this:

1. Strong heroine with interesting inner dialogue that makes me laugh.

2. Suspense woven throughout.

3. Heroine who likes to dish out a little sass. Sort of chick lit style voice but with less whining about men?? Explore this.

4. Romantic element, doesn't have to be paramount.

5. Some sort of "gimmick" that reveals the character's voice (like Blaire in Linda Howard's To Die For who kept making those hilarious lists or a character in one of Johanna Lindsey's novels (How To Marry A Duke? something like that) who started each chapter by writing a new vocabulary word in her journal and then using it in a sentence - ostensibly to cement its meaning in her head - that gave you a humorous insight into the events of the upcoming chapter.)

6. Paranormal or otherworldly element, but am a little tired of the same old vampires/shape-shifters/werewolves bit.

I looked over my list and decided I would try a first person POV so I could capture my heroine's inner dialogue and dish out some sass and then I spent months brainstorming a paranormal suspense series that didn't include any of the usual suspects. Everyone (from my CP to a prospective agent who has read both my GH ms and a sample of SF) says SF has a strong, unique voice. Because the writing flows so well and I love what I can do with this, I have to agree.

2. How I Developed My Voice:

I developed it by learning the craft of writing in first person and by constantly checking my WIP against my list to make sure I'm hitting on the main elements I love.

3. How Important Is Voice?:

Voice is incredibly important. Someone once said "there are no new ideas - just new takes on old ideas" and whether that's true or not, Voice is what sets your novel apart from every other paranormal or historical or romance on the shelf. That doesn't mean you don't work hard on plot, setting and characters but if you have a stellar plot and a ho-hum Voice, you won't grab anyone's attention for long. However, a fabulous Voice in a ho-hum plot may get you someone who sees your potential and wants to work with you.

Besides, some of the most interesting voices in contemporary fiction are short on plot. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series comes to mind. I never read those for the plot (which is often loopy and far-fetched) but I never miss a book because her Voice is so entertaining.

4. Some Unique Voices In Literature:

Janet Evanovich - slapstick comedy on a page
J.D. Robb - gritty, edgy, fast-paced suspense with surprising flashes of humor and heart and a cast of characters with strong individual voices that come right off the page.
Lemony Snicket - sardonic, unique, utterly different from anything else I've read.
Dean Koontz - lyrical prose slowly sweeping along chilling elements of nightmarish suspense.
Laura Lippman - intense characters that feel as real to you as your next door neighbor.

Additional discussion about experimenting with different genres to find your voice can be found at Jessica Faust's blog. So how did you find your literary voice?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday's List



1. Lest my dog, Bear, become too jealous of Taz's recent fifteen seconds of blogger fame, I posted a pic of him today.

2. Mother's Day was nice: hubby cooked a steak dinner and did all the cleaning, kids all made cards, and I received a gift card to Barnes & Nobles (always the perfect gift for me!) and the new Gwen Stefani perfume I like.

3. Went to see What Happens In Vegas with Kailani and laughed often.

4. Went to Wal-Mart before that and realized that it would be in the public's best interest for designers to stop manufacturing tube tops for anyone over a size 4.

5. Those suckers are not equipped to lock and load the girls.

6. Strangely, the women who most need to be locked and loaded seem fine with relying on a strip of terry cloth to do so.

7. Scary.

8. But not as scary as men who wear overalls.

9. I started reading a book (and because I'm not going to be complimentary, I won't name the author) which is extremely well known and was even made into a wildly successful movie several years ago. I've never read anything by this author and thought I'd see what the fuss was about.

10. I hate it.

11. I can't understand how anyone waded through the dense, no-white-space-for-miles pages, and actually found her antiquated writing style (reminds me of something written two centuries ago) and her lack of anything close to action or suspense interesting but there you have it.

12. On a much better note, I finally grabbed book one (Twilight) in Stephanie Meyer's much acclaimed series and it is everything I'd hoped it would be.

13. I do not care for Strawberry Twizzlers.

14. My hubby, my kids, and two friends get to go see a sneak preview of Prince Caspian tomorrow night.

15. I, most unfortunately, have to work.

16. Because I am a mature woman, I am not going to sulk or pout or point out that neither of these friends really cared about the movie while I had the trailer up on my blog months ago.

17. But whatever.

18. I have too much stuff eating chunks of my time this week.

19. Not the least of which is my impending visit to my oncologist tomorrow.

20. And finally: When one foolishly chooses not to use a light while walking from the bed to the bathroom at night because one selflessly cares about not waking one's hubby, one must expect the dog to have switched locations, thereby causing one to hurtle through the air, bouncing off the vacuum cleaner some soon-to-be-dead child left in the middle of one's bedroom floor, before smacking, face first, into the doorjamb outside one's bathroom.

21. And to think my friends (most of whom read this blog and are thus familiar with my peculiar brand of clumsiness and poor timing) thought I would accept an invitation to go ice skating with them today.

22. If I'm going to take my life into my own slippery little hands, there must be something really important at stake.

23. Like shoes.

24. Really excellent shoes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Week In Review



1. Actually, sadly, I do know how the concepts of cooking and cleaning apply to me.

2. They try to take over my world...

3. Thankfully, I possess the fortitude to resist.

4. Every time I pet my cat, my dog gets jealous.

5. Starshine now asks daily if he can own a fish.

6. He promises to clean the bowl every day.

7. This would be a small miracle considering the usual state of his bedroom.

8. However, he is very persistent with this request.

9. All other family members have remained neutral on the issue, except the cat.

10. She's very supportive.

11. I will take a picture of Anne Boleyn in all her bony glory and post it next week.

12. The Renaissance Festival has come to town and my hubby, Paul, and I never miss it.

13. This week, while handing a man his plate of food, the momentum of the plate's forward motion carried one precariously placed piece of bacon off the plate, onto the man's lap, and (due to his regrettably slow reflexes) onto the floor.

14. One piece.

15. I instantly apologized and told him I'd return with another piece from the kitchen. Takes less than a minute. It's Cracker Barrel. We always have bacon.

16. He threw what can only be described as a tantrum. He raised his voice and explained the facts of life as he saw them. The gist of his complaint was that, and I quote, "Nothing is worse than not having all of your food on your plate when you start eating."

17. Oh really???

18. Fed up with his arrogant, self-centered drivel, I replied: "Cancer is worse. Katrina was worse. Losing a child is worse." And in the resulting silence, I left to get his one piece of bacon.

19. Not surprisingly, I did not receive a tip.

20. That's okay. I adjust attitudes for free.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Shark Attack

Want your query critiqued by a literary agent unafraid to mince words? Head over to QueryShark and enjoy!

A Chance To Help

You won't find this on the news...I don't know why. Maybe the Sudanese government is suppressing the information. Maybe with all of the devestation in Myanmar, the total destruction of one village doesn't rate a story. I don't know. What I do know is this:

My church partners with ALARM ministry (an African-based operation, run by Celestin Musekura, that seeks to bring stability, education, and support to Africa by raising up leaders and giving supplies and education to local Africans so they can be a positive influence for change in their own communities) and we have a specific partnership with a church in Lietnohm, a town in southern Sudan.

Within the last forty-eight hours, Dinka tribe members (one of the warring tribes within Sudan) showed up in Lietnohm with automatic weapons, something they've never done, and leveled the entire village to the ground.

The latest information, (which came from Celestin yesterday following a conference call with ALARM staff in Kenya/Sudan).

*Every home and building that could be set on fire was burned to the ground. Every dwelling is gone.

*All contents in those dwellings are gone (food, clothes, supplies). At least 30,000are without food, clothes, supplies, shelter.

*The UN is looking into the situation, but has not yet sent in an assessment team.

*They will not respond until the assessment is done. The soonest they would likely be able to respond with food and supply drops is several weeks out.

*The area appears “secure” as the aggressors have returned home. Evidently SPLA soldiers have been dispatched to provide an added measure of security, but with the total devastation of the community, it’s unlikely there is any incentive to return.

*The nature and scope of the attack was unusual and suspicious. Though retaliatory attacks between tribes are somewhat normal (cattle for cattle, an eye for an eye), scorched earth attacks (total devastation of a community’s resources) are the tactics commonly used by the radical Muslim dominated government of Sudan, and not the way of the Dinka. Additionally, the attacking Dinka tribe had heavy weapons, also not typical, indicating an alliance with someone outside the tribal network. Though not established yet as fact, it’s quite possible that the hostility between the tribes was leveraged by an outside party to destabilize the region.

I can't understand why the U.N would hang back after the region is stable and refuse to send in assessment teams to provide aid to the hundres of women and children who are now homeless and starving but I do know we cannot wait for them to decide to act.

If you want to help, you can donate to either ALARM (who is currently gathering funds and bringing in food, supplies, and shelter) or you can donate to Fellowship Bible and mark it for Lietnohm as we are taking up a collection this Sunday to send for immediate relief.

I hope if the plight of Africa moves you, and if you cannot stand to see such injustice and such apathy on the part of the international community, that you will step into the gap with me and help rebuild the shattered community of Lietnohm.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Electric Cake!

My hubby's radio station opened a new studio last week and commissioned my hubby to make a cake for the celebration. He chose to make a replica of a mixing console, complete with all the knobs, buttons, slides, and other electronic gizmos.




Looks like a real mixing console! People walking into the studio didn't realize it was cake.


Using the Web to Your Advantage

Today's Writing Process post is going in a different direction. In this post, I'm going to assume you're a serious writer, you've finished (or nearly finished) a novel you plan to submit to agents, and you are focused on the goal of being published.

Agents interested in talking with you about representation will google your name. Then, they actually read what they've googled. With that in mind, how you present yourself on the web can help or hurt your publishing career.

The following advice is gleaned from entries I read on the blogs of Rachel Vater, Jennifer Jackson, Kristin Nelson, and Jessica Faust, all top notch literary agents.

1. Don't write anything in your blog, myspace, livejournal that you don't want a stranger, your grandmother, or a potential business partner to read.

2. Keep the profanity to a minimum.

3. Have your freak out moments in private, not on the web.

4. Be careful how much you share about your writing: if you went through a period of playing Guild Wars instead of working on your manuscript, it's best to keep that quiet lest an agent fear you'd revert to ruling virtual worlds about the time your edits were due.

5. Share your personality but make sure you're comfortable with strangers, readers, future business partners knowing that part of you.

6. Realize that some parts of your life are private and should stay that way. That's what friends-locked entries or private myspace journals are for.

7. Don't bash other authors by name. It will come back to haunt you.

8. Don't bash agents or editors who reject you. That will also come back to haunt you.

Basically, use common sense and present yourself both honestly and in the best possible light, keeping in mind that, just as you use agent profiles and blogs to figure out whom you want to work with, agents will google you and do the same.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rock, Paper, Scissors...



It's been a few months since my last pet peeves post. It's time.

1. People who walk up to you and ask how you are and then launch into all the drama in their own life before you have a chance to reply. I should just start charging people like that by the hour.

2. People who take their children to restaurants and then don't clean up after them.

3. Dancing With The Stars

4. Actually, most reality tv shows make this list.

5. Packages of candy that claim to be a fat free food, thus implying that consuming said bag of candy will have no detrimental effect on the size of my thighs.

6. Ugly shoes.

7. Self-doubt that sneaks up on me when I'm least prepared to deal with it.

8. Flowering plants that obstinately refuse to just GROW for the love of Pete. You're in dirt. There's sunlight. What more do you want from me??

9. Anyone who assumes that wearing a bra automatically confers upon me the ability to hem pants.

10. Stupid warning labels. Like the one that warns me not to use a table saw as a kitchen appliance. Or the one that says I shouldn't dry my hair in the shower.

11. The idiot judge who actually awarded cash compensation to the morons who used a table saw to slice their Easter ham or decided to be super-efficient with their time by bringing a hair dryer into their shower.

12. Speed limits.

13. Men who think that because I wear a bra, I'm agreeable to being called Sweet Thing or Darling.

14. Anyone who licks their hands while they eat. FYI: it's disgusting and is guaranteed to rapidly narrow down your social prospects.

15. People who take out their impatience/bad day/poor upbringing on store or restaurant employees.

16. Any mention of Hilary or Obama in the news. Enough, already. Play a game of rock, paper, scissors and give it a rest.

17. Green nail polish.

18. Semi trucks.

19. Flannel anything, with the notable exception of flannel sheets, which are one of the best inventions ever.

20. Radio stations that play the same list of songs every single hour.

Feel free to leave some of yours in the comments section. =)

Feline Game Night

Hump Day Lunacy




Your Fashion Style is Trendy



You love fashion and live to shop

And keeping up with the latest trends is what you love best

You know what's in, out, about to be in, and about to be out

You love to dress your friends and would make a killer celebrity stylist

Help! My Writing Stinks!

Fellow Golden Heart finalist Courtney Milan shares how she turns frustration into inspiration.

What do you write?

The easy answer is that I write historical romances.

The harder answer is I write historical romances set in the interstitial period between the Regency and the Victorian era. Over those few generations, the whole idea of "society" changed from one where people had lived for generation after generation, doing the same inherited jobs for generation after generation, moving in the same social circles for generation after generation . . . . Suddenly, society broke down (especially among the lower classes--but this trickled upwards). People started moving; the industrial age broke out with a vengeance, and the result was a large class of much more mobile workers, instead of a long-rooted rural class.

In the upper classes, this meant that land lost its value as currency. And noble obligation shifted from a system that was almost feudal in terms of its dependency to the far more laissez-faire capitalism that dominated the nineteenth century. People that understood this profited (quite often at the expense of others); those that clung to the old ways did not. It was a time of tremendous social upheaval, and part of what was so upsetting for many is that long-rooted traditions simply disappeared over the course of a decade.

I think there are a number of strong parallels between that time period and ours today. Our grandparents recognize that the world has altered hugely; the children of today, I think, will think that the word "community" means something very different than what they had in their world. I'm not trying to knock either definition; quite the opposite. I think that one of the fundamental human hungers is for community, for a place in society where you fit in and are needed and need others in return. For all that people talk about capitalism and commerce in the news, I think what we most desire is giving. We need to feel like we have something special to give, and we want to receive in return. Love is both the most selfish and the most generous thing in the world.

Romance, in my mind, is ultimately about that hunger. It's about finding the person that grounds you in community. I love writing in an inherently selfish time when the very notion of "community" was in flux, because it means that my hero and my heroine can not only be missing love in their lives, but often are missing that vital connection--and it's one that has been disrupted because the community they would have fallen into twenty years ago no longer really exists in a form that sustains them. So they not only have to grope their way towards love, but they have to invent a place where the future stops being scary.

So the long answer to "what do I write?" is: I write romances where people learn that joining a community--joining the right community--isn't about subsuming themselves into another person or a family, but realizing that love in all its forms makes you into a bigger person.

How long have you been seriously pursuing your writing?

I've been reading longer than I can remember (my mom taught me to read starting as soon as my eyes would focus on a point). I never really stopped. It seemed natural, when I was ten, to want to be an author. I wrote a book. It was not very good, and unfortunately, my self-awareness was a lot better than my ability. I tried again, and again, and again (although I never actually wrote another novel). My honest assessment at that point was that while I was a decent writer, in terms of crafting sentences, I was absolute crap with anything above essay-length.

So I gave up when I was eighteen or so. Mumble-something-years later, I participated in Avon's FanLit contest, and met people who really encouraged me to write seriously. So I did. This was about a year and a half ago--in October of 2006. Luckily, mumble-something years had given me more maturity.

But the honest answer is that I have always been seriously pursuing writing. I've never stopped writing, even though I stopped writing fiction. It's just that my writing took other forms.

Is the Golden Heart your first contest final?

Well.... no. I finaled in two contests somewhat earlier, too--but I have to admit the only reason I entered them was to get feedback for the Golden Heart.

Do you ever doubt yourself as a writer?

My writing moods vary from "I am a genius! Bow before me!" (please someone else admit you have those days too! they're embarrassing to fess up to, but they're SO FUN when they happen) to "I am an idiot--how have I ever managed to convince anyone I am halfway worthwhile? I better delete my book and eat worms."

What do you do with those "eat worms" moments?

I try to use those moments to make lists of things I think I can do to improve. If I did actual editing in the bad moods, I think I could do significant damage. Forcing myself to be really, really specific helps a lot, because it takes all that negativity and makes it constructive.

Can you give an example?

In my last "I am an idiot" mood, I started with the following:

* I am an idiot because my sex scenes are lame and boring.

And then I made myself elaborate:

* My sex scenes are lame because there isn't enough emotion connecting the characters, and they are boring, because they feel like an ordered check list of then-he-touched- that. Yawn.

Which then turned into:

* This scene really shouldn't be about sex; it's all about how my hero doesn't want to say goodbye. And that's what he's trying to communicate the whole time.

* Gee. How do other people who write good sex scenes get around the laundry list? I'm going to go check people who are good at this. Huh--Elizabeth Hoyt uses a lot of actions, but she never lets it feel like a laundry list. Hey--it's because her actions are both specific and reactive. She really slows the crucial moments down and weaves the emotion in, so that every breath is about the underlying conflict in that scene.

So it's all about taking what you don't like and figuring out WHY it isn't working for you?

It's surprising how soon "I am an idiot" can turn into a plan to escape idiocy. So if you're having one of those days . . . run with it! Pick a part of your manuscript and use all that negativity to get specific and constructive. And if you're harping at yourself about something you really can't change, move on and find something that you can do something about.

All you have to do is make sure that if you're saying, "I am a wannabe," you add, "I am a wannabe because . . ." And keep adding that "because" until you've focused in on a specific thing you're doing wrong, and you've identified a way to do it better.



To learn more about Courtney Milan's writing (and what she does in her spare time!), go here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Updated Again!

I just received another request for DTR from one of the agents I queried two weeks ago - Jim McCarthy. Sent off the manuscript minutes after receiving his email. That's 3 down, 7 to go. =)

Work In Progress Update

Current Projects:

SHADOWING FATE - closing in. Just need to convince my plot arc to do as it's told.

DYING TO REMEMBER - revisions finished. Submitted. Done.

The Writing Process blogs - posting every Tuesday/Thursday and now introducing guest blogs and author interviews on Wednesdays! (I have "recently sold" authors, finalists from the Golden Heart, and a few authors you can buy at your local grocery store all lined up for you!!)

Other Projects:

DYING TO PUNISH - sequel to DTR, currently shelved until I need to write it.
TWISTING FATE - characters being developed, plot being twisted...


News:

*Sizing up contests to enter SF in this summer (my goal is three).

*Sending off requested material to Jessica Faust and Kimberly Whalen today.

*Need to order new business cards before Conference.

*Need to join local RWA chapter this month. (somebody remind me the meeting is the third Saturday...)

*Need to line up other authors for guest blogging.

Monday's List



1. Lest my cat Taz become jealous of all the other felines making appearances on my blog, I decided to post a (rather disturbing) pic of her this morning.

2. My proposal packets go out today to both agents who requested my work.

3. Yay!

4. We had our annual church picnic (which is totally cool because we combine it with a festival of the arts so the whole campus is a showcase of indie music, art, jewelry, food, film...you name it) and I came home with a sunburn.

5. This irritates me because I'm usually so careful.

6. The fact is, my Swedish half comes to life every winter and so for the first few outings of spring/summer I am so white, people walk by me and scream "My eyes! My eyes!"

7. My Dad's olive skin kicks in after a couple weeks, though, and then I tan like I don't even know Sweden exists.

8. I like to cook.

9. I'm going to look for a fun recipe to make for dinner tonight.

10. Unsurprisingly, the laundry will be demanding my attention today.

11. For those of you who've expressed surprise at how much laundry I do, may you have three boys of your own.

12. I would call it "justice". ;)

13. We are going to Florida for a week in June: Sea World, Disney World, Epcott Center, and two days at the beach.

14. Other than the drive to and from, I'm looking forward to it!

15. For those of you who don't understand why I'm dreading the drive - may you have three boys of your own.

16. Speaking of boys, Daredevil threw water on me four times yesterday at the picnic.

17. I would blame him (and I did get him back) but he was only following Paul's example of deviant behavior since Paul threw water on me in a completely unprovoked attack.

18. Paul had better watch his step Tuesday night at work.

19. I always repay my debts.

20. Finally, a bit of sage wisdom from Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Contest Announcement!

Due to popular demand, the American Title competition is returning for one last round. The winner’s book will be published by Dorchester!

To enter, send the first three chapters (no more than 50 pages), a two- to seven-page synopsis and a cover letter (aka query letter) to: American Title Contest, Dorchester Publishing, 200 Madison Ave., Suite 2000, New York, NY 10016. ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY JUNE 15, 2008.

For American Title V, we’re opening up the categories to include: historical, paranormal, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, etc. Sorry, no young adult, women’s fiction or straight contemporary manuscripts this time around.

Manuscripts must be completed prior to entering, and they should run 80,000 to 90,000words. Finalists must agree to participate in each of the five competition rounds -- first line; hero and heroine; story summary; dialogue scene; romantic scene --and must submit copy for all five categories by Aug. 15, 2008.

Get your novel ready and you could be the next American Title champion!

Friday, May 2, 2008

What's Worse Than Pickles?

Tonight, Daredevil had a special evening with his Dad. They went to see a movie and then browsed Borders where they purchased a journal and a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (inspired by the Harry Potter books). The flavors are: Earthworm, Dirt, Sausage, Pickles, Earwax, Soap, Black Pepper, Boogers, Grass, and Vomit. I know. Yum, right?

Because Daredevil is a generous soul, he divided the jelly beans evenly between himself and his brothers and they began sampling. The resulting conversation went something like this:

Starshine: Hey! I only have 1 Vomit. No fair!

Scientist: I have lots of Vomit. You can have mine. I don't like Vomit anymore.

Daredevil: I just ate a Vomit. It was really gross. I almost tried to throw up.

Starshine: (considers the Scientist's pile of Vomit jelly beans) That's okay. I don't need Vomit.

Daredevil: (pops a bean) Yum! Boogers!

Me: How do you know it tastes like boogers?

Daredevil: Because it tastes like boogers.

Scientist: Yeah, Booger is one of the good ones.

Me: It is?

Scientist: And Grass. Grass is good.

Starshine: It tastes better than real grass.

Me: Oh?

Scientist: He's right. It does.

At this point, my hubby wanders in and the Scientist instantly offers him a bean. My hubby is no fool. One day, a few months ago, when I first brought home a box of Bertie's for the kids, my hubby, unaware of my recent purchase and the imminent danger to his tastebuds, was pacing the front lawn, speaking into his cell phone. The kids grabbed a Vomit bean, raced out to the lawn, and offered to "share their candy". My hubby, being a good father and therefore very inclined to encourage his children's generosity, thoughtlessly popped the bean into his mouth, chewed twice, and doubled over gagging.

Interestingly enough, he actually finished and swallowed the bean. He did not, however, ask for seconds and the children were suitably impressed with both the volume of his gag reflex and the becoming shade of puce on his face.

This time, my hubby firmly turned down all attempts to share his children's candy and left the room.

Daredevil: Dirt is good.

Scientist: (eats one) Yay! Earwax. I like earwax.

Starshine: Oooh! I have a lot of Soap! That's great!

Me: Have you all lost your minds?

Daredevil: Want a black pepper? Those are gross.

Me: Black pepper is gross but Booger, Dirt, Earwax, Grass, and Soap are good?

Starshine: I don't like black pepper. I'd rather eat Vomit.

Scientist: Black pepper isn't as bad as Pickles.

Daredevil: Pickles are nasty!

Me: I don't really think any of you understand the meaning of the word "nasty".

Starshine: No, he's right, Mom. Pickles are nasty.

Me: But not Vomit?

Scientist: Oh Vomit is nasty but at least it isn't Pickles.

Daredevil: You know what's worse than Pickles?

Me: (searches the back of the box for what could possibly qualify as the worst flavor of all) Vomit isn't worse than Pickles?

Daredevil: (rolls eyes) No, Mom. Sausage is worse than Pickles. Sausage is nasty.

Me: (gives up ever understanding the minds of my boys and sends them away to munch on Earwax, Boogers, Dirt, and Vomit.)

Scientist: (pops one more as he leaves the room) Sweet!! I got Earthworm!

Week In Review



1. Went to see Forbidden Kingdom this week expecting to absolutely love it.

2. The kung fu scenes were incredible, the settings were a visual banquet, the acting was well done, but...

3. They lost me at the Monkey King - a whimsical beast with golden sideburns, mad kung fu skills, and an unfortunate tendency to giggle like a school girl while dueling with the Jade War Lord, a dude so menacing his mother probably died of fright the moment he was born.

4. Who played the role of the Monkey King?

5. Jet Li, that's who. Which explains the mad kung fu skills but very little else.

6. Look at that face up there. That's a face that says "I can kill you with a thought but a sword is more fun". Jet Li runs up the sides of buildings, disarms and immbolizes fifteen steroid-fed goons at a time with movements that look like lethal poetry, blows up buildings and motorcycles, and uses a sword like it's an extension of himself.

7. Jet Li does not giggle.

8. Anyway, who takes someone with the title "The Monkey King" seriously? Why couldn't he have been the Snake Lord or the Dragon Master?

9. Moving on.

10. Sauteed mushrooms are yummy things.

11. I will be adding a new "feature" (for lack of a better term...my brain refuses the simplest request this morning) to the blog next week: Author Interviews. I'm starting with some of my fellow Golden Heart finalists to give you a peek into how other authors manage aspects of craft, business, and the writer's life.

12. A close friend of our family brought us dinner last night and stayed to enjoy it with us.

13. We've been friends for four years now. The kind of friends where my house doesn't have to be clean for him to come over. We know each other well.

14. He's a quiet guy and unfailingly polite which, as I'm sure you realize from the tone of my blog, can sometimes make me feel like a bull in a china shop because I am rarely quiet and prefer wit and sarcasm to careful politeness with my friends. Well, with anyone, really.

15. Last night, for the first time in four years, I was teasing him about something and he opened his mouth and said "Silence!". I was so proud!

16. Naturally, I was not silent.

17. On this, his maiden voyage into the land of snarkasm, I praised him and let his effort slide by unchallenged.

18. He won't get another freebie.

19. The kids are out of school in another three weeks. Hard to believe.

20. Finally, our own dear Starshine is still actively exploring his own little universe as demonstrated by our dinner conversation the other night:

Me: So how was Fun Run today at school?

Scientist: It was okay.

Me: Do all the grades run on the same size track or do the kindergardeners and pre-k run half laps?

Scientist: I don't know. I think the pre-k runs half laps.

Daredevil: No, the pre-k runs on a different track.

Scientist: There is no different track. The pre-k runs half laps.

Daredevil: Maybe their laps count as two since they're little.

My Hubby: Do the pre-k even participate in Fun Run?

Scientist: Yes! Well, maybe. I think so.

Daredevil: I saw the pre-k outside when I was going in.

Whereupon Starshine looked up from his plate and said: "Hey! We have pre-k at our school!"

Thus demonstrating the accuracy of his nickname. Good morning, Starshine, the earth says hello.

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