Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tip or Death?

One cover fee for Medieval Monster's Club - $20
Three rounds of Bloody Marys for the ladies - $50
One tank of gas used up cruising in the 9-4 - $120

Learning that people tip huge when their server carries a sword and shows no hesitation in using it: Priceless

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And The Winner Is

*Thank you to my fellow Golden Heart finalists for providing some of the contest links!*

If you're serious about your writing career, you've probably already realized that getting published is an uphill battle. The road to being published is littered with discarded manuscripts, worn-out ideas, rejection letters, harsh critiques, and consolation tubs of Ben & Jerry's. Or maybe that's just me.

You can be a strong, imaginative writer and never be published. Why? Well, that's the million dollar question. "Why" is different for each writer. Maybe you need some serious critiquing of your manuscript to whip it into shape. Maybe you've trotted out an old idea and littered your manuscript with cliches. Maybe your idea is original but parts of your execution are flawed. Maybe the right person has yet to see your material. Maybe you're two steps ahead or behind the market.

Whatever the reason, entering contests can be one avenue to addressing many of those issues. Before I go into the benefits to entering contests and how to use them to your advantage, let me say one thing.

Get thee to a critique group - preferably one of the junkyard dog variety - first. There's no point entering contests with an unpolished manuscript. You won't get far enough to get helpful feedback. And before you assure me that others have read (and loved!) your manuscript, allow me to inform you that your mother, you spouse, and your two best friends do not count as critique partners. Either they love you too much to be totally honest, or they lack the expertise to truly identify and coach you through your weaknesses.

That said, once you have a polished manuscript, contests can give you an edge in this industry. Contests come in all shapes and sizes, from "first chapter" contests (Enter one if you find one! Your first chapter sells or rejects your ms to an agent!), to complete manuscript contests, to hook or query writing contests on literary blogs. Deciding what you need to get from a contest helps you to narrow down your options to those that are right for you.


1. Polishing Craft: these are the contests on popular agent or writer's blogs (like fangs, fur, and fey located on my sidebar) where unpubbed authors can write hooks or queries or send in first chapters and get honest, quick feedback from the published authors who run the blogs as well as from the other writers who read the blog.

2. Manuscript Litmus Test: smaller contests (like those run by some local RWA chapters) that judge first chapters, specific scenes from your novel, prologues etc. If the contest offers specific feedback from its judges, you can learn quite a bit about the impact (or lack thereof) your manuscript has on potential readers.

3. Gaining the Attention of Editors: many of the smaller contests have some published authors and an editor or two judging them and you never know what will come of that. All of the national contests that I'm aware of have a team of acquiring editors waiting to read and judge your work. The upside of this is, of course, that even without winning you can gain the attention of an editor who wants to read more of your manuscript. The downside (not really a downside, more a word to the wise) is that in national contests like this, with hundreds of entries, your manuscript must pass a first round of judges (usually pubbed and unpubbed authors alike) to reach the judges. Like I said, get thee to a critique group.

4. Getting Your Name Out: all of these contests benefit you as you build your "brand" by getting your name into literary circles. As long as you maintain your professionalism and capitalize on any momentum gained by your contest entries, this is a good thing. The publishing world is all about networking and you can't network if you don't know anyone.

Personally, I don't enter contests that don't provide either specific feedback from editors, agents, or respected published authors or national name recognition with a shot at a publishing deal. (I'll take one without the other.)


1. Network: I entered FFF's hook writing contest last year and was chosen as a semi-finalist. My work was posted for anyone on the site to critique and those critiques helped me as I re-worked both my hook and my first chapter. Also, by getting my work out there and by commenting on other writer's work, I met my current critique partner Katy, gained a working relationship with a published author, and garnered the interest of a stellar agent. This year I've finaled in the Golden Heart and am on a loop with the other finalists, an invaluable resource of combined experience, encouragement, and connections. Wisely entering contests and then becoming an active participant forges connections you need to succeed in publishing.

2. Feedback: I research contests before I enter so I know what type of feedback I can expect. Any viable feedback can be used to your advantage in helping you craft your novel into a marketable masterpiece. I encourage you to take any feedback you receive, let it sink in for a few days to move you beyond your first reaction, and then decide how/if to use it. It's up to you if you decide to incorporate the feedback you receive but I would say if you hear the same general idea from more than one source, you now have some very helpful critiques to use in shaping your novel.

3. Leverage: Sucess in contests or complimentary feedback from a recognizable source can be used as leverage to get your ms in front of the right people. For example, I'm currently querying DTR and I'm using results from two contests to get myself in the door. First, when I send e-queries my subject line reads "Query- Golden Heart Finalist". I want an agent looking through her inbox of 89 messages, all saying Query to see mine and think "Hey! Someone who's already passed a 'can you write a decent manuscript' test. Let's start there." In the body of my query, as part of my "stats" paragraph, I say that DTR is a GH finalist and that a critique by Publisher's Weekly (gained during my semi-finalist stage in the contest) said its strengths are "perfect setting, emminently likeable characters, and sharp, funny dialoge". That's taking contest results and using them to my advantage.

Where to find reputable contests:

Romance Contests Loop: lists current contests, deadlines, finalists, and winners.

Romance Writers of America: membership gets you a monthly publication listing current contests, workshops, mini-conferences, which editors are currently looking for submissions, as well as author-written articles covering all aspects of the craft.

Stephie Smith Contest Links: lists contests, eligibility, deadlines/fees, and the judges' details.

Mystery Writers of America: similar perks as RWA but for those who write crime, thrillers, suspense (with or without a romance element).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Similar perks as RWA for sci-fi and fantasy writers.

*As a note for writers with elements of romance in their novels, the most presitigious contests within the romance genre and/or those with excellent feedback (according the Contest Queens, my fellow Golden Heart finalists) are as follows: The Golden Heart, The Maggie, The Daphne du Maurier, The Molly, The Linda Howard, Put Your Heart In A book, The Sheila, American Title, The Emily, and The Laurie. I'm sure there are others as well so if you're reading this and you have a recommendation, please leave a comment!

Monday, April 28, 2008


Excuse Me?

My hubby's radio show recently signed a deal with a local television news program to do some sort of cross-broadcasting promotional whatnot. I'm pretty fuzzy on the details. All I know is that because of this deal, my hubby is in a tv commericial, a fact that delights my children to no end, and now he has to watch Dancing With The Stars, a show which, up until this point, we've treated with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for finding spiders in your shower or science experiments lurking in the veggie drawer.

My hubby is on his second week of watching DWTS (No, no, that doesn't stand for Dimwits...). I stayed with him the first week, out of a wifely obligation to mitigate his suffering as much as possible. This week I decided he had a husbandly obligation to soldier through it alone while I stayed upstairs and read books with the kids.

Not watching with him, however, does not excuse me from a blow by blow of his brief excursion into ballroom hell and so after the show finished, he found me upstairs and began telling me the dramatic highlight of the evening. Apparently, near the end of their routine, one couple was unable to truly finish because the man injured his arm and was unable to fully extend, much less lift with it.

Immediately following their botched ending, the host cut to a commercial break and medics swooped in to ascertain the extent of the injury. When the commercials ended, the host gravely informed the viewing audience that the man (now swathed in bandages) was experiencing a severe muscle cramp.

Well ouch. No wonder he couldn't lift and separate. I nodded my head in token sympathy but my hubby wasn't done.

Once this announcement was made, the judges swiftly invoked their deepest sympathies for the pair's unfortunate piece of luck and then, when the dancers went backstage to recieve their scores, all of the other dancers stood and gave them a standing O.

Umm, okay. I guess. I don't really get it, though. Aren't standing O's reserved for incredible, once-in-a-lifetime performances or acts of sheer bravery in the face of nearly insurmountable odds? Since when are standing O's handed out to make someone feel better about a reality tv show? It's not like he's Kerri Strug running, vaulting, and freakin' nailing the landing on a broken ankle to push the U.S. team into gymnastic gold. Now that deserved a standing O and still makes me a little choked up to remember it.

But whatever, right? I don't really care about any of this. Until my hubby informs me that after the next duo performs their dance, the judges congratulate them on being able to pull it together and perform after what just happened.

Excuse me?

So, just to recap: A man gets a muscle cramp in his arm, thus hampering his efforts in a show designed to breathe stale life into an already flagging B-list career, and because of it he earns sympathy, a standing O, a trip to the hospital for observation and care, and those who must perform in his wake are given kudos for being able to shove aside their emotional reaction.

Well now DWTS (hmm, maybe it does stand for Dimwits...) earns an emotional reaction from me. Cramps are painful beasts, there's no denying. Any woman over the age of 14 knows that. In fact, we bear cramps every 3 to 4 weeks that make a solitary arm cramp look like child's play. We endure agony twisting through our lower abdomen, piercing our ovaries, radiating up our spine, and setting up camp like a rowdy troop of Boy Scouts in our posteriors. We cramp so hard, some days we can barely walk, much less dance. We pop Midol way beyond the recommended dosage and chase it down with brownies and cheap wine. We stifle road rage, pits of depression, and sketchy plans to waltz into over-stuffed Walmarts with Mace and a yen to bring down anyone thinner or happier than ourselves. And we do this every single month.

I must admit that no one has ever given me a standing O for that.

So, DWTS, you'll forgive me (and the thousands of other women watching your show) if I cannot summon up deep wells of sympathy and admiration for a man having to deal with a cramp in his arm. However, let him take on the female version of cramping for just one hour and successfully finish his ballet routine and I'll be the first one on my feet.

Monday's List

1. I just received another request for DTR from an agent I queried last week. Yay!

2. Have all three kids home from school today due to a stomach bug.

3. Since I also have the same stomach bug, this is not fun.

4. Regular readers of this blog will know that I give out a quasi-annual (a word that means whenever I feel like it) Idiot Patron Award for customers of my restaurant displaying levels of idiocy far exceeding the general garden variety idiocy one usual sees.

5. For months that title has been held by the man who ordered a BLT and then complained that there was nothing but Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato on his sandwich.

6. In truth, I thought nothing could unseat him and he would be Idiot Patron for life.

7. I was wrong.

8. Last week, three twenty-something guys in workshirts came in, sat at my friend's table, looked over the menu for a minute, and then asked her where our dollar menu was located.

9. You enter a sit-down dining establishment, one where bread comes free with the meal and you have to tip your waitress, and you ask for a dollar menu? You, sirs, are the new proud recipients of the Idiot Patron Award.

10. Congratulations.

11. I really love the color orange.

12. Having the kids home makes all the writing I need to accomplish fairly difficult to do.

13. I'm going to blog about snails soon. Trust me, you'll find it funny.

14. My original critique partner, author Celeste Bradley, has a new trio of historicals on the market and the most recent novel hit the NYT's Bestsellers list!

15. This is a huge accomplishment in the publishing world and I'm thrilled for her.

16. I need to test drive a Harley for character research purposes.

17. My hubby needs to test drive a Harley to see what he's missing by being a responsible father.

18. And no, I don't mean he's responsible because he isn't risking his life driving a motorcycle on the freeways.

19. He's responsible because only a naive fool brings a motorcycle and its keys anywhere near Daredevil's adventure-loving, consequence-oblivious little soul.

20. I've been researching some really excellent contest info for tomorrow's Writing Process post so stay tuned...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Work In Progress Update

Current WIP:

2. Outlining TWISTING FATE
3. Small revisions to DYING TO REMEMBER.

Additional Writing Projects:
1. Bi-weekly Writing Process blog posts
2. DYING TO PUNISH - DTR's sequel
3. Building main character for series to follow FATE.

Contests & Agent Search:
1. DTR currently Golden Heart finalist
2. Sizing up several smaller contests to enter SHADOWING FATE to get it in front of editors
3. Sent out 10 agent queries last week and have a request from Jessica Faust of BookEnds as of last night. Yay!!

Scarred For Life

Saturday, April 26, 2008

To Be, Or Not To Be

1. I realized I left things off of yesterday's list.

2. This is because my brain is a strange and twisted creature full of fanciful ideas but prone to forget them thirty seconds after they first appear.

3. In honor of our as-yet-unnamed skull, I dragged out my hardbound copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare and perused my all-time favorite play - Hamlet.

4. The skull in Hamlet (as you are no doubt already aware) is called Yorick and once belonged to the court jester.

5. I'm not sure I can name this skull Yorick - sounds too much like a hockey player from Canada or like, "Yo! Rick!"

6. My hubby wants to name it Anne Boleyn which, I must admit, sounds like a good plan.

7. Paul and Kelly come home today.

8. One can only hope Juan Pedro has removed all traces of his wild week alone.

9. I've submitted DTR now to ten agents, meeting my goal for two a day this week.

10. Now I'm going to go back to concentrating on the FATE series.

11. Speaking of which, I found the perfect icon for SHADOWING FATE and posted it, along with a quote from Alexa, on the sidebar.

12. I really want to find a pair of stilettos with a chinese dragon on them for myself but google turned up empty.

13. I just realized my cell phone has been on "silent" for two days straight.

14. *drum roll please* I am now totally caught up on the laundry! What day is it?? Highlight it. This is a rare and wonderful occasion.

15. *sigh* My ironing pile, on the other hand, needs its own apartment.

16. I hope the writers who lurk on ths blog are enjoying the Writing Process series I'm doing.

17. I don't eat pizza.

18. Or apples.

19. Yes, yes, or chocolate. My hubby says that makes me un-American.

20. And finally, some wisdom for those just becoming familiar with the concept of adoption: Do not refer to my three biological boys as my "real" children or say to me, as the wait to bring home my daughter stretches into its third year, that "at least I already have children of my own". You're right. I do have children of my own. Three boys and a daughter. Origins do not create family. Love does.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Week In Review

1. May is almost here and while I'm really excited about seeing Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones, I wish there was a Pirates 4 coming out as well.

2. Why is the rum always gone?

3. Lost had a new episode last night after several weeks of re-runs.

4. I've faithfully submitted to agents this week via e-submissions.

5. Except for a few who were recommended by fellow writers but who, oddly enough, have zero web presence.

6. I know people will say that some agents prefer not to do stuff on the web and blah, blah, blah but honestly, in this day and age, if you don't have a web presence, I worry that you can't get the job done.

7. Middle Tennessee is currently experiencing swarms of those big, ugly, harmless bugs that look like flying should be totally impossible. I don't know the technical name but we always called them Mosquito Eaters.

8. Although, has anyone actually seen one of them eat a mosquito?

9. I'm just thankful I'm dealing with those instead of with moths.

10. They'd have to cart me off to the loony bin.

11. We now have a realistic looking plastic skull sitting on our living room bookshelf. (Beside the collected works of Poe so he'll feel right at home)

12. We got him because my hubby works in radio and they get strange presents from the major networks.

13. I think this was to promote a show called "Bones" but I could be wrong.

14. Anyway, he's here now and he needs a name. Perhaps something Poe-esque or lifted from Hamlet?

15. Let me know if you have suggestions.

16. You do realize you are faithfully reading the blog of a woman who hates chocolate, is afraid of moths, and not only names, but contructs real-life adventures for inanimate objects, right?

17. Plus I'm leery of goats.

18. I'd really like to own a souped-up racing lawnmower.

19. Preferably one with an amp and some kickin' speakers so I can cruise in style.

20. And finally, today is Katy's birthday (wandereringray)!! We met last year via the internet and our shared passion for writing and have progressed from well-matched critique partners to lifelong friends. Katy, I wish you well, I'm grateful for you, and if kung-fu every fails you, I'll step on your opponent in one of my four-inch stilettos.

I'd raise a glass to Katy but, as usual, the rum is gone.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Whispered, Sneered, Glowered...Said

In thinking about discussing the art of writing dialogue with you, I decided to start with cleaning up what, for many newer authors, is a classic mistake - using flowery dialogue tags to convey far too much information.

I know, I know, I'm the girl who always says a writer needs to make every word count but trust me on this one. Dialogue is essential to your plot, your pacing, and your character development. Dialogue tags are useful only to show which character is speaking.

My first draft of DYING TO REMEMBER was rife with the kind of overly descriptive dialogue tags to which I am now adamantly opposed. Every character whispered, sneered, laughed, or "said ___fill in appropriate adverb here___" his or her lines. My rationale was simple. My characters were not wooden puppets simply standing there delivering lines. There was emotion, movement, and life expressed in their dialogue and I wanted to make sure every last shred of that life was brought to the attention of my readers. With that in mind, I embellished every single dialogue tag with adverbs or fancy verbs or, so help me Shakespeare, both.

My first critique partner, pubbed author Celeste Bradley, slammed me on it and rightfully so. Instead of bringing life to my scenes, I was choking them to death. Abundant, descriptive dialogue tags distract the reader and clutter up the page, slowing your novel's pace and yanking your reader out of the flow of dialogue.

I rewrote, using the three strategies I'm going to share with you, and the result was a tightly paced novel where each scene expresses emotion, movement, and life and the critique written by Publisher's Weekly said "sharp, funny dialogue" was one of DTR's strengths.

My Rules For Dialogue Tags:

1. Use "said" in place of more descriptive words as much as possible.

I gleaned this advice from Janet Evanovich (author of the laugh-out-loud funny Stephanie Plum series). She said it would be noticeable to the author (yikes! I've used "said" ten times in one page!) but not to the reader. All the reader notices in the dialogue.

Which is really the point, right? You aren't writing dialogue so you can hurry up and tell the reader your character was speaking "tremulously" or "angrily" or whatever other fantastic adverb you've got up your literary sleeve. You're writing dialogue to advance your plot and develop your characters and the dialogue needs to take center stage.

2. Eschew dialogue tags when they aren't needed.

If you have a scene with only two people, there will be points throughout the scene where you can safely go back and forth between the characters without adding any dialogue tags at all and your reader won't get lost. I think four in a row is about the limit unless you have one of the characters address the other by name to secure the order of the speakers in the reader's mind again. This increases the pace of your novel and lets your dialogue shine in center stage.

Now you're probably thinking, "But C.J.! I have to let the reader know the emotions behind my character's words! I can't just use "said" or nothing at all for my entire book!"

Of course you can't. That's where rule #3 comes in.

3. Use brief descriptive sentences to convey both movement and emotion and use your adverbs sparingly.

A sentence describing a character's action is a great way to make every word count. You can show emotion by a character's actions - the old (but true!) maxim to show, not tell. Don't tell me your character is nervous. Show me her fingers tapping a jagged rhythm against her desk. Let the subtleties of your writing weave the emotion into the scene through your character's movement.

When a sentence describing a character's emotion is called for (You can't always show emotion through body language. Sometimes your character has explore their inner angels and demons.), use active voice and watch your similies and metaphors. A good similie or metaphor can really capture the heart of your scene and bring color and texture to your writing. Too many similies or metaphors in a scene (or in a novel, for that matter) bring clutter and significant irritation on the part of the reader who wishes you would just say what you mean.

Finally, treat adverbs like cayenne pepper - use just enough to add interest and flavor without overpowering your novel.

Here is an example of these three rules in action from a scene in DYING TO REMEMBER:

She was on her ninth piece of paper when she found it. An economy single reserved for the following day to Jason Clarke. Feeling the familiar thrill of the chase, she grabbed her cell phone and punched in a number she’d committed to memory earlier in the day.

“This is Dr. Gallagher.” Crisp, professional, edged with weariness.

“This is Detective Hurley.” A very long pause. She would pay good money to see his expression.

“It’s late.” He sounded wary.

“And yet you couldn’t resist answering.”

“I thought it might be urgent.”

“You thought it might be Quinn needing help with Emily.” She said. “It must be hard to resent her and care about what happens to her at the same time.”

He was silent for so long she worried he might hang up. “Dr. Gallagher?”

“I tricked her.” He said quietly. “I gave her hope that she could rest emotionally. When she decided to trust me, I surprised her into another flashback.”

“You had to.”

“I tell myself the same but it doesn’t help.”

“I’m sorry.” She said gently.

“As am I but that isn’t why you called.” He replied, the momentary vulnerability in his voice disappearing.

“I’m still at the hotel. I’ve found something.” She caught the manager’s glare again as he paced past the office. “Jason Clarke has a room reserved for check-in tomorrow afternoon.”

“Has he really? In that case, I think a welcoming committee would be appropriate.”

“My thoughts exactly, mate. I’ll be over there in less than thirty minutes to discuss strategy.” She said and stood.

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll bring food as well. I know the manager would love to open the kitchen and give me sandwiches to speed me on my way.” She walked to the office door and opened it.

“You’ll do no such thing.” He said sternly.

“You don’t eat sandwiches?”

“Of course I eat sandwiches.” He said. “Just not at - what time is it? - nearly midnight. I don’t eat sandwiches at midnight.”

“Well then, you can watch me eat. We have some strategizing to do.”

“You are not coming over here.”

“I’ll bet that tone works on just about everyone, doesn’t it?” She cheerfully signaled the manager.

“I mean it, Meaghan.”

“There, now, we’ve just moved to a first name basis. How could I possibly stay away? I’ll see you in half an hour.” She clicked the phone shut and turned her attention to the task of intimidating the manager out of a decent midnight snack.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hump Day Lunacy

I interrupt this week's flow of instructive, illuminating, and somewhat entertaining posts to bring you some hump day lunacy. A quiz I took on blogthings told me "what kind of music I am". Since my computer is safely in one piece still, we know the answer didn't come back "country".

You Are Punk Music

You've thought long and hard about what mainstream society has to offer...

And you've pretty much decided that most normal things aren't for you.

You're creative, expressive, and likely to do things yourself.

You are a rebel and a fighter. You'll defend your point of view to anyone.

Query Clinic

A query letter is the author's written introduction of herself and her work to prospective agents and editors. The irony of query writing is that it is one simple page, summarizing what you've already written, and yet most writers would rather start a new novel than face condensing their magnum opus into a hook appropriate for the back of a book.

It is absolutely vital that a writer be able to craft a finely honed query letter. If you claim to be a writer and your query letter has simple mechanical errors, convoluted sentences, or is flat-out boring, it will be hard to get an agent or editor to read your work. Remember, most agents are looking at over 100 new submissions on their desk each week! You have to do everything possible to stand out from the pack.

Query Do's and Don'ts: (culled from agent blogs and workshops at conferences)

1. Always make sure you've addressed the agent correctly. I'm always shocked at how many agents post rejected queries where the writer spelled their name wrong, addressed it to "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern". This screams "I didn't do my research" and makes you look like an idiot. Research the agents you want to approach (use sites on my sidebar for help), make sure they are currently accepting submissions in your genre and that they've sold in the last year, and then address them correctly!

2. Only send what the agent wants to see. All agents have different submission guidelines. It takes thirty seconds to read the submission guidelines on each agent's website and tailor your submission package to them. I have a query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters of DTR ready to go so whatever the agent wants, I send. DO NOT make the mistake of seeing that they want one sample chapter and sending them fifty pages instead. They can tell if they like your writing by reading one chapter. If you aren't confident that your first chapter will grab them, it's time to rewrite until it will.

3. Write a hook that makes you want to buy your own book. The meat of your query should read like the back of a book. A great way to do this is to grab four or five books you just had to buy based on what you read on the back, line them up, read their backs, and figure out what grabbed you. Then duplicate that feel in your own hook. A good hook gives a clear sense of the main characters, the conflict, and the stakes and makes a potential reader want to read more. Your query needs to be no more than one page, in business letter format, so your hook has to be only two to three paragraphs.

4. Include one paragraph listing your "stats". You need to tell agents how many words your completed manuscript contains, what genre it fits into, any previous publishing credentials or "stand out" details like finaling in the Golden Heart contest. I use this paragraph to give the agent a sense of where I see my career heading (paranormal thrillers) and that I'm in it for the long haul.

5. Make sure you use correct business letter format. If you don't know how to do this, google it and find out. It's essential that you give your contact information and that if it's a snail mail query, you include a SASE with the correct postage, not metered.

6. Be careful how you stand out. I've read stories of agents receiving queries on scented, colored paper, in envelopes marked "Urgent" or filled with confetti, and even queries that arrived with gifts for the agent. Don't be an idiot. You stand out by being more talented and more professional than the rest. You gain attention by having a unique voice and a high concept plot. You leave the confetti for your kid's birthday party. Besides, if your writing stinks, all the confetti in the world won't buy you a contract.

7. Remain professional at all times. You will get rejection letters. If J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz were rejected, you better believe you will be too. Rejections come for a variety of reasons. Maybe the agent just signed a similar project. Maybe you just didn't "wow" her enough but you will the next one you try. Maybe you need to get a hard-nosed critique partner and rewrite your manuscript. Maybe your idea has been done too often and your take isn't unique enough. Whatever the reason, be professional in your response. Every agent who took the time to read my work and send a response received a thank you note from me. Those who took the time to write a personal note on their rejection letter got an extra special thank you from me. That's time they took to reach out to me when they wouldn't make a dime. I respect their time. The literary community is a tight knit community and being rude to a few will soon get your name black-balled to the many.

Likewise, make sure any public web presence you have is professional enough to withstand a prospective agent googling your name. Google my name and you get this site. I've made sure that I'm personal enough to be engaging and entertaining without crossing the line into sharing too much info that might be off-putting to a prospective agent.

8. Avoid the following mistakes:

*Don't pitch more than one project at a time. If you want to mention that your book is the first in a series or that you are working on something else, find a way to do it that doesn't qualify as a double pitch. Usually I can work this into my "stats" paragraph.

*Don't pitch an incomplete manuscript. I don't care if you're sure you can have it finished by the time an agent asks for it. You want to make sure the agent knows the manuscript is complete (i.e. Saving Sally is a chick lit novel complete at 92,000 words.) because unless you've been previously published, you don't have the track record necessary to successfully submit a work in progress.

*Don't compare yourself to other authors. Saying "I am the next J.K. Rowling" gives the impression that you have a huge ego and might be difficult to work with, not to mention the fact that it screams "Amateur!". And if your writing sample doesn't hold up to your claim, you end up looking incredibly stupid.

*Don't say you're better than what's on the market today. We've all picked up a book and thought, "Sheesh. I can write better than this." Maybe you can, but a professional query letter is not the place to bring it up. Besides, someone might read your work and think the same thing.

*Don't tell the agent you have a life-changing book or an important book or anything that smacks of hyperbole. If it's life-changing (and fiction rarely is) or if it's important, the agent is certainly smart enough to decide that for themselves but saying things like this makes you look like you don't visit reality very often and that makes you a risky business partner.

*Don't dare the agent to take you on or threaten that if you don't hear from them soon, you'll shop it around elsewhere. Most agents expect that you are doing simultaneous submissions. Don't do anything that makes you look like a difficult diva. Your writing would have to truly be better than Koontz at that point for an agent to ever call.

*For more mistakes to avoid, I recommend browsing the blogs of Agent X, The Rejecter, and Kristin Nelson. Links are on my sidebar.

I will do a hook "how to" soon but here is my query letter for DTR:

Dear Ms. Faust, (Name spelled correctly, I've researched and she is accepted submissions in my genre and I like her sales record.)

(I start immediately with the hook. I leave the stats paragraph for the bottom because I want to instantly grab her attention.) Emily Gallows is sick of living in fear. Armed with some kickboxing lessons and a take-no-prisoners attitude, she relocates to the picturesque town of Eavanbaugh, Ireland. She has mere days to set a trap to catch the murderer on her trail. Her new landlord, ex-mercenary fighter turned security consultant Quinn O' Reilly, is going to help her do it. He just doesn't know it.

Quinn is a hero with a few unvanquished demons of his own. When an in-depth background check on his new tenant reveals frightening discrepancies, he is surprised to find he wants to protect Emily as much as he wants the truth. Protecting the fiercely independent Emily, however, is easier said than done.

Emily and Quinn form an uneasy alliance to recover her memories that identify a killer who has nothing left to lose. As the body count rises, and the investigation raises more questions than it answers, the chemistry between Quinn and Emily heats up as well. Too late, they realize the truth may not save them from a killer disguised as someone they've grown to trust.

DYING TO REMEMBER is currently a finalist in RWA's Golden Heart in the romantic suspense category and is finished at 94,000 words. (Pertinent details handled in one sentence: length, genre, special credentials) The full manuscript is also with Alex Logan at Grand Central upon her request and she has asked to see my current work in progress, a parnormal thriller. (Now I've told her I'm serious about my career and I'm working on a new genre. If she isn't interested in romantic suspense right now, she might want to see my paranormal.) I am interested in partnering with an agent who is committed to building long-term careers with her authors. I've included a synopsis and the first three chapters. I appreciate you taking the time to consider my work. (Always thank the agent for their time.)


C.J. Redwine

Monday, April 21, 2008

Prepare To Die

I did it. Finally. Thanks to my hubby, who provided an excellent sounding board for my brainstorming session (especially considering that he hasn't read SHADOWING FATE yet, or maybe because he hasn't read it...), I know how to kill what doesn't exist.

I can finish the book.

My fellow writers will understand the weight that is lifted off my shoulders now. =)

Off to set up my characters for a chilling death scene and a twist that has ramifications for the entire series...


Age wrinkles the body; Quitting wrinkles the soul.

- General Douglas MacArthur

Work In Progress

Current WIP: SHADOWING FATE - nearly finished. Would already be finished if I didn't obsessively rewrite every chapter before moving on. =D

Other writing projects: Writing Process blog series, DYING TO PUNISH - sequel to DYING TO REMEMBER, current Golden Heart finalist.

Agent search: Sent e-queries today for DTR to two agents: Ethan Ellenberg and Jessica Faust. Decided to use my momentum as a GH finalist to gain some attention for my career and hopefully find the right agent. My goal is to send out two queries a day this week and to sign up for an agent pitch spot at RWA's conference as well.

Future projects: Currently outlining TWISTING FATE, the second in the Alexa series, DYING TO SURVIVE, third and final in the DYING series, and beginning character sketches for the series following Alexa (which is, surprisingly enough, named already - shocking given my difficulty with titles, but I'm feeling fairly territorial over the name since a) it's very unique and b) it's an intricate part of the story so I'm not sharing). =)

Squirrel Cribs

Monday's List

1. It's Monday again. Wait...what?!

2. Sheesh, what a busy week it was.

3. Found another new band (new to me, at least) that I really love. Fireflight. It's Evanescence meets Red.

4. Or something like that. :D

5. And since Paul is on his honeymoon, I discovered this band before him which is totally cool because that rarely happens. (Of course the last time it did, I discovered Submersed which is by far one of the coolest new bands I've heard in a long while so I'm on a winning streak.)

6. Have my next oncologist appointment this week. (I think. Need to double check.)

7. That is never fun.

8. Some things my oncologist could do to improve the experience:

a. Dispense with the useless small talk while probing far enough to cause convulsions in my small intestines. I truly DO NOT wish to talk about my kids at that moment.
b. Warm up that stupid specula. One of these days I'm going to just snap and use it on him in return...we'll call it Advanced Sensitivity To The Plight Of The Women In Your Office Training. Asttpotwiyot for short. It's a quick, one-minute course and as a bonus, it's FREE!
c. Provide magazines in the exam room that I would actually read. Something beyond Men's GQ and Bass Pro Fishing (I kid you not.). I'm actually not all that pleased with the idea of men in general and fishing rods in particular during this exercise in frozen torture.

9. Sadly, no matter how many times I make these suggestions (and YES, I do make them), my Dr. just laughs and shakes his head and says something about enjoying my "spirit".

10. Better hope he doesn't comment about my hormones this time or my "spirit" might run away with my tongue.

11. I mentioned that Paul and Kelly's wedding was a beautiful expression of how deeply they love each other and how blessed they are with family and friends.

12. I failed to mention that my bridesmaid's dress, while undeniably gorgeous, placed me one small sneeze away from a wardrobe malfunction.

13. Not exactly the moment I wish to have recorded forever on my best friends' wedding video.

14. Thankfully, Kelly had us carrying carved wood flowers (looked real but without that pesky pollen) so my assets remained precariously in place.

15. I believe I've never mentioned on this blog before that in the early days of my marriage, before I realized that Victoria's Secret was my friend no matter how much she costs, I went to Disneyland with some girl friends wearing an undergarment purchased from Walmart.

16. Not the wisest choice for a girl with curves.

17. We decided to ride the Star Tours ride - a 3-D romp through the galaxy where you buckle yourself into a row of seats and hold on to the arm rests for dear life.

18. Only I was sandwiched between a friend and some teenage boy who was just clueless enough not to realize that the armrests were supposed to be shared. That's the point of the extra width and the line carved into the middle.

19. Thus I was left hanging onto one arm rest while we bounced our way through the ride.

20. Things were relatively fine until we hit the part of the ride where our spaceship was dodging a meteor shower - unsuccessfully, it turned out.

21. We hit a meteor, the entire ship shuddered and lunged and, lacking a second handhold, I bounced significantly in my seat and punched myself in the chin with my chest.

22. And yes, my friend happened to be looking at me when it happened so no, I never lived it down.

23. My loving friends suggested that I should have them licensed, like black belts license their hands.

24. Very funny.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Week In Review

1. Paul and Kelly get married tonight. I'm really happy for them both.

2. Last night was their rehearsal dinner. We went to Shogun's, a hibachi grill.

3. We brought our kids.

4. Our chef was highly entertaining and while he was making fried rice, he tossed a ball of rice toward each of my kids, presumably aiming for their mouths.

5. The Scientist got a rice ball to the eye ball.

6. Daredevil ducked and we had to instantly restrain his impulse to throw something back at the chef. Especially since all he had at the moment was his fork.

7. Starshine stared straight at the chef while the ball of rice sailed over his head and then looked around and said, "What? What just happened?"

8. Next thing I know, Starshine is chewing a mouthful of rice. When asked where he found it, he vaguely pointed behind him and I wisely chose not to pursue that line of questioning.

9. No matter what the FDA and the Center for Disease Control might tell you about eating stuff off the floors, or washing hands, or not licking substances of a dubious nature on a dare, my children have proven to be pretty much indestructible.

10. The chef lit an onion on fire and Starshine said, "Ooooh, shiny!"

11. Then the chef spread three silver bowls out onto his grill, filled them full of whatever fluid he was using to promote flame, and lit them each on fire.

12. My children thought it was cool.

13. Daredevil was especially entranced, which was fine with me until the chef (proving that if he does have children, they must be girls) offered Daredevil one of the bowls.

14. We snatched Daredevil's hands away as he eagerly reached for his prize. We aren't quite ready to be known as the parents responsible for the destruction of middle Tennessee.

15. I was interviewed yesterday for our local newspaper re: DYING TO REMEMBER finaling in the Golden Heart.

16. The story will run in next Wednesday's paper.

17. Random fact about me: I always keep my toenails painted.

18. One never knows when one will need to wear a gorgeous pair of open-toe stilettos so one must always be prepared.

19. And finally, a picture of one of my hubby's recent cake designs:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Medieval Double-Mints?

Tonight, at Paul and Kelly's rehearsal dinner, I spotted a waiter who bore a striking resemblance to our own Juan Pedro. Could this be JP's long lost twin? His doppelganger? Just a far-fetched coincidence?

No one knows for sure as the mysterious waiter refused to answer any of my questions and, indeed, maintained an air of silent menace throughout the entire meal.

I Vs. He/She

Choosing which point of view (POV) to use when writing a novel can be tricky. Sometimes the choice is abundantly clear; sometimes you are one third of the way into the novel before you realize your POV choice isn't working.

is written in third person (he said, she said) because the structure of the novel requires it. I switch scenes within each chapter, jumping from one character to another, feeding the reader pieces of information to raise the suspense and their interest before switching to another scene and picking up another thread within the story. Unless your main character is present in every single scene, an impossibility in DTR since it jumps from one country to another, first person (I said) won't work.

I loved using third person for DTR because I got to inhabit the minds of three primary characters and numerous interesting secondary characters and that was fun. To effectively use third person, the writer must switch gears with each character and spend a little time inside the new character's life. It is essential that each character have their own nuances, their own way of speaking, of moving, their own flaws and strengths. Nothing bores me more than picking up a book and having every character mysteriously sound just like everyone else. Each character has a unique way of thinking, of speaking, of being and when using third person, it is the writer's job to breathe life into each character, no matter how minor that character may be.

The benefit of using third person is the freedom to wander through your setting, seeing details and scenes through various viewpoints, developing your characters from inside their heads as well as from outward behavior, and the ability to rapidly switch gears, intensifying the pacing of your novel.

SHADOWING FATE is written in first person. I chose this because Alexa has a strong, unique voice and is herself the crux of the story. Using first person gives the writer the ability to infuse the entire story with one character's voice, viewpoint, and inner conflict, all of which are essential to the FATE series.

Using first person can be tricky because the writer no longer has the freedom to wander through other characters' minds and instead, must convey a wealth of information about other characters' motives, personality, quirks, strengths, etc. through what they say and do around the main character. Careful use of dialogue and action become essential as is the necessity to allow the reader to discover each character and plot detail at the same pace as the main character. There is a subtlety and complexity involved in feeding information to the reader through the main character while keeping the main character ignorant of its true value or meaning.

For me, choosing the right POV for my novel involves considering the pacing, deciding whether the plot can advance through scenes involving only my main character, and understanding if the voice of my main character is strong enough to need center stage.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday's List (on a Tuesday)

1. Funniest line from this weekend was Daredevil, commenting on his impending haircut: "I think I want to be bald, like Dad. Then I could look like a Rock Star!" (said with flair and a hint of sarcasm...I'm so proud.)

2. Starshine was extremely proud of himself for beating Slash on Hard in Guitar Hero.

3. If that makes little sense to you, join me in the Guitar Hero Losers category and we'll do lunch.

4. Paul returned the 9-4 to me this morning since I had a dentist appointment and needed my vehicle.

5. He returned it with two nearly full 2 liters of soda lying on the floor of the passenger seat.

6. He did not tell me this.

7. I discovered it as I was turning into traffic and suddenly had to contend with two nearly full 2 liters of soda under my feet.

8. I used Paul's name in vain.

9. Loudly.

10. I'm joining with some of the other Golden Heart finalists to offer a professional critique of an unpubbed manuscript in Brenda Novak's
Diabetes Auction.

11. This critique will not be for the faint of heart. =)

12. Saw Die Hard Numero Quatro this weekend.

13. If you discount the fact that nearly every action sequence had something totally improbable happen (a fire hydrant taking out a helicopter, a jet firing missiles into a high traffic bridge just to get one lousy semi...the list is fairly endless), and the fact that you don't get any real information on the motive of the bad guy until the movie is almost over, and also the ridiculous invulnerability McClane displays (15 FBI agents surrounding McClane all take a bullet or two while he remains miraculously unscathed! Twice! Oh no, three times! And even missiles and a collapsing bridge can't make a dent!), it's an entertaining movie.

14. Paul and Kelly's wedding is Friday which means I'm surrounded by cake, cake, and more cake as my hubby works on his masterpieces.

15. Having a small crisis (internally...externally I'm cool, baby, cool) on how/where/if to submit DYING TO REMEMBER.

16. The word in the literary community is that I've got momentum at the moment (along with all the other Golden Heart finalists) and should capitalize on it by submitting, submitting, submitting!

17. I agree - only I'm no longer sure I want this to be my first novel since I want to write paranormal instead.

18. What to do?

19. Going to guest blog on another finalist's site soon. I'll let you know.

20. Earlier I mentioned the 9-4. You'll recall that two weeks ago, Juan Pedro went cruising to his theme song "Rolling In My 9-4".

21. Because I am a goofball with a flair for poetry and a wierd sense of humor, I actually wrote a chorus for that song and sang it as a joke in front of my hubby and a few friends.

22. All of which turned traitor against me and decided I need to finish the song and do a youtube video.

23. The vision is me doing a rap song wearing some serious bling (grill included!) in front of the 9-4.

24. My hubby and his friend are extremely talented at mixing audio/video...check the sidebar for my kids' youtube video as proof.

25. The only problem that I can see with this whole idea is that I've never aspired to fame of the youtube variety and I truly don't think I could legitimately sport a grill.

20. And finally, from a newspaper article sent to me by a friend in the Knoxville, Tennesse area: The annual Miss Polk Salad pageant is coming soon!! Win a crown, a large trophy (yes, it does specify "large"), professional pictures, formal gown (who doesn't need a formal gown while making or eating polk salad?), roses, $400, and $50 for each official appearance during your reign. Dress for the pageant is "Sunday Best".

21. You have to love the South.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can I Buy An "I" ?

My newest pet peeve is television sportscasters who pronouce "immediately" as "ammediately". If speaking is your job, learn how to do it correctly.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


1. I recently remembered that I used to love Cheese Whiz.

2. What could be wrong with cheese in a can?

3. Don't answer that.

4. I reconnected with some of my former students (used to teach high school English) and two of them are married with children now and yes, that makes me feel old.

5. I'm proud of them.

6. I was browsing in Target the other day and discovered that jelly shoes have made a comeback.

7. I wore these in sixth and seventh grade.

8. They were on sale so I tried on a pair as a joke, discovered they were comfortable and bought them. In a pretty pewter gray.

9. Never thought I'd see the day.

10. Paul and Kelly get married a week from today!

11. That means this house will be wedding cake central for the next 7 days.

12. Plus Kelly's shower is at my house Sunday afternoon, which will be fun.

13. I placed a photo-op request for Juan Pedro with Paul, was promised results last week, and have nothing to show for it yet.

14. I might have to "borrow" JP for a while...

15. Paul and Kelly will be in Jamaica. They'll never know.

16. Here's a tip: If I am your waitress and you wish to have a pleasant dining experience, do not ask me to pick up the silverware you drop on the floor.

17. I am not your momma.

18. My kids are pretty awesome.

19. So is my hubby.

20. All I want for Christmas is a maid.

A Light At The End...

I'm sick, I admit it. I laughed so hard when I saw this, I almost cried.

Shh...they're after me!

Yes, yes, I know I promised I would post the Writing Process series every Tuesday and Thursday and I missed Tuesday.

I'd love to tell you why but as that would violate several international treaties and tick off one very determined sheriff, I'll just leave it to your imagination.

However, today is Thursday and as I've broken no laws and started no international incidents thus far, I found the time to write about setting.


Setting The Scene

One of my early American literature classes at Pepperdine focused on the body of works by Nathaniel Hawthorne (for those of you who couldn't care less about early American lit, he's the author of The Scarlet Letter - that book your English teacher used to torture you in high school). I'm a fan of Hawthorne and the dark, intricate themes running through his works but one thing Hawthorne lacked completely was the element of setting.

My professor expounded at length this missing element, claiming that Hawthorne deliberately left his settings vague and murky as a statement on his current social clime and to emphasize that the morality lessons contained in his writings transcended time and place.

All well and good, if it's true. Since Hawthorne's been dead for quite some time, it's difficult to know for sure if he meant to mostly ignore the settings of his works or if he was one of many authors who struggle to make setting come alive for the reader.

Setting the scene grounds your reader in time and place, gives them touchstones of familiarity within your work and helps them build the landscape of your world inside their mind. Setting is also one of those elements that can easily be lost amid dialogue, plot, and pacing. Give too little setting and your reader can't "see the movie" in their mind. Give too much and readers begin skimming your pages, looking for dialogue.

My first draft of DYING TO REMEMBER was a spectacular failure in regards to setting. I overloaded my first few pages with sweeping, dramatic prose ("Purple billowing clouds bruised the twilight sky as storm winds lashed day into night." Not bad unless you have to read two pages of it!) and then, satisfied that I had introduced my readers to Ireland, I all but ignored setting from that point forward and left my readers floundering to create a mental landscape with no real clues from me.

When Celeste Bradley read my first draft, she nailed me on it and, hearing my frustration at how to interject setting without losing the pacing required of a suspense novel, gave me some excellent advice: Set the scene, Hollywood style.

When you watch a movie, at every scene change, the camera pans the new room/building/location, before settling in on the action and dialogue of the characters within the scene. The process of setting the cinematic scene takes mere seconds.

A novel requiring fast pacing or one with multiple scene changes per chapter (both true for DYING TO REMEMBER), needs a cinematic approach to setting. Two or three sentences, crafted wisely, set the scene for the reader, ground them in time and place, and build a mental landscape for your characters to freely roam.

As I practiced this approach, I discovered four keys to making setting work for my novels:

1. Take the time to set the scene in a new location (for me, usually 2-3 sentences) at the beginning of the scene without losing the voice of the novel.
If the voice of your novel is sassy and somewhat sarcastic (like Alexa), the setting needs to be delivered with overtones of the same. For example, in chapter one of SHADOWING FATE, I need to tell the reader that Alexa lives in New York and is comfortable, even affectionate, toward NY's personal idiosyncasies and I need her unique voice to shine throughout the narrative. I chose to start the chapter with her voice and then interject setting throughout the action to keep up the pace and to give the readers a sense of understanding New York as Alexa sees it. The first hint of setting arrives in paragraph three, is fleshed out in paragraph four, and then I add pieces of setting throughout the action as it's needed.

Why else would I be clinging to the side of an old brick apartment building on Fifth Avenue wearing a little red dress and a gorgeous pair of leopard print Manolo Blahnik stilettos?

I was four stories up, digging into the tiny ledges between brick and grout for balance. My bronze beaded clutch swung gently on my wrist. Beneath me, New Yorkers stalked the streets. Above me, a few intrepid stars winked in the velvet sky, their pale light no competition to the brilliance of downtown Manhattan. Two feet to my left, a fire escape led to an open window and the sound of breaking glass. I hoped the owner of the apartment was far from home.

2. Give your readers a familiar touchstone whenever you return to a location.

Never assume that because a reader has been inside your character's house five times already, they can easily call up the picture you want them to see. It's unnecessary to repeat the same descriptions throughout your novel (and indeed, if you do, you will be swiftly added to my "Donate To Goodwill" pile). What is necessary is to call to mind the details they already know so they are quickly grounded into your new scene.

The t.v. show Lost does this very well. We're in, what, season 5 now? It's not like I don't know the various locations - the beach, the Others' houses, the cave, the jungle, the stations...but just because I know them, doesn't mean the director can cut directly to each character and just start the scene. I need a second to place the scene in the known context of the island. The director accomplishes this by taking two seconds to pan the beach, showing me the makeshift homes, the food tent, and various characters busy in their daily life before the camera arrives at the characters who will be dominating the scene.

This works in a literary context when you choose one or two details about the setting you are returning to and give them to the reader via the characters inner monologue as you set up the scene. You can either choose to remind them of elements they already know (word them differently, par them down) or you can give them more details to round out their picture.

In SHADOWING FATE, I've already had a scene set in Alexa's office building and have described the lobby, her personal office, and the men's restroom (bet that made you curious...). Now, returning for another scene, I feed the reader a few more details in the midst of the action.

The halls of Gordon, Payne, and O’ Donnell are lit by antique bronze wall sconces placed every six feet. Combine those with deep burgundy carpets and the result is an atmosphere of hushed luxury and dimly lit wealth.

I blended into the well of shadows beside my office door by focusing on the cool, slightly dimpled surface of the cream-colored wall until my outward appearance matched it enough to fool someone hurrying by, neglecting to look closely at their surroundings. My father used to call this skill The Chameleon. My mother forbade me to ever use it in our house.

3. Interject setting throughout a scene rather than overloading the beginning.

Give your readers your cinematic sweep near the beginning of the scene, just enough to establish a mental landscape, and then feed them details as the scene unfolds. If you want to read a master at this technique (one of the few authors of suspense novels who uses gorgeous literary prose to describe his settings and takes his sweet time doing it without losing any of his plot's impact), pick up Dean Koontz's Velocity and lose yourself in the setting.

DYING TO REMEMBER is a fast-paced novel and I don't take the time to slowly unfold my setting because I want the pace to match the frantic, we're-running-out-of-time plot. I learned how to make every word count - how to interject a word or two of setting throughout my character's actions by paying attention to what my character was experiencing through their five senses.

Emily noticed two things when she entered the bathroom. One was the tiny claw-foot bathtub, complete with a circular shower curtain of shiny rose lace and a hand-held showerhead. The other was her suitcase.

Someone had been in the bedroom while she slept. She shivered. The fact that the “someone” was Quinn made it marginally better. After all, the man had obviously carried her here and tucked her into bed already. Bringing in her suitcase could hardly be considered intrusive.

She faced a delicately beveled mirror and narrowed her eyes. The cut on her forehead puffed out in a painful bruise and her eyes were shadowed but Emily bypassed all of that to stare at her clothes. In her rush to secure the room, she’d paid no attention to what she was wearing. Now, staring down at faded lavender pajamas, she was mortified.

He’d changed her clothes.

Gritting her teeth at the stiffness in her muscles, she yanked the pajamas off and turned to twist the faucet on the miniscule tub. She vividly remembered wearing jeans and a turtleneck on her trip to Ireland. Jeans, she recalled, that were a soggy, muddy mess by the time she made it to Finn’s Folly. So maybe he hadn’t wanted his fancy sheets covered in mud. She could cut him a little slack.
A quick glance at her body showed clean, glowing skin. She hissed out a breath.
He’d washed her too.

Anger came on the heels of her embarrassment as she spun the combination lock on her suitcase and grabbed shampoo and soap. He was a pig. Worse than a pig. She stepped into the tub and snatched the shower curtain closed.

What’s worse than a pig? A rat. A filthy rodent scuttling through sewers and carrying the plague to innocent children. She flipped the switch for the showerhead, yelping in surprise as icy water hit her face.

She was being unkind to animals. PETA would be offended. She gingerly tested the shower nozzle and found the water alternating between blasts of heat and ice. Resigned to her fate, she quickly hosed down her hair while she searched for a more appropriate insult.

Insensitive idiot. That had potential. The hot water was all but gone and she shivered. Twisting the faucet off, she grabbed a plush towel from the shelf beside the tub.

In the time it took her to drag on another pair of jeans, a stretchy white t-shirt and subdue her curly hair into a tidy braid, she’d come up with an additional twelve insults. Whisking on powdered foundation and a quick swipe of mascara, Emily faced her reflection in the mirror and chose the best of the bunch.
He was a dead man.

4. Have someone read your work and describe your characters and locations to you.

If they can't or their descriptions are radically different from what you intended, roll up your sleeves and fix it.

The two biggest mistakes an author makes in crafting the element of setting are to rush through the writing, neglecting to set the scene for the reader, or to ponderously dump paragraph after paragraph of painstakingly detailed setting on your reader. You should have all those painstaking details in your head. You should feed them to your reader with a light and steady hand. Using the cinematic approach to setting can help you do so successfully.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday's List

1. The weather is gorgous today and the view as I walked around my neighborhood confirms that Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

2. I have a solid list of topics now for the Writing Process series I'm doing. I'll be posting those every Tuesday and Thursday.

3. Unless, of course, I post on Wednesday and Friday just to mess with you.

4. How is it possible to wash 33 pair of boys' socks on a Monday and run out by the following Monday?

5. Even with 3 boys using one pair a day, this does not make sense.

6. Unless you assume that my boys change socks throughout the day due to their propensity for paying strict attention to personal hygiene which I assure you couldn't be further from the truth.

7. It's been a few weeks since I purchased a new pair of shoes (strappy silver heels for Paul and Kelly's wedding) and I'm feeling the urge.

8. Need to reach a personal goal first, then I'll reward myself with shoes.

9. I've invited my Critique Partner (trust me, she deserves the capital letters) to comment freely on my writing posts because we have different approaches to writing and it's helpful to hear from more than one perspective.

10. I do not understand the urge to stake pastel-colored flags decorated with bunnies or bees into the dirt beside one's mailbox.

11. I really detest the taste and texture of Peeps.

12. I'm considering taking a kick boxing class this fall.

13. Might go see Nim's Island tonight with Kailani.

14. Saw Sweeney Todd this weekend and because I've always had a soft spot for a well done musical, loved it.

15. But then with Johnny Depp at the helm, it's hard to go wrong.

16. I think I might run another writing challenge here similar to the one where commenters left a first sentence and I turned it into a piece of creative writing.

17. That was fun.

18. Any suggestions are welcome. =)

19. I am a huge fan of the international cheese aisle at Costco.

20. And finally, do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and good with ketschup.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cold Shower Kitty

Week In Review

1. Thursday afternoon, someone backed into the driver's side of the Explorer while I was parked downtown.

2. In this case, "backed into" is a euphamism for "drove-like-Shoe-Carnival-was-offering-a-buy-1-get-3-free-on-all-pairs-of-stilettos".

2. Thankfully, that person was honorable enough to come find me and we filled out an accident report and all that joyousness.

3. Also thankfully, while the door is mangled enough that it won't seal when it's closed, the car is driveable.

4. We hear back on Monday from our insurance company as to rentals and body shops.

5. My in-laws came to town for a brief visit on their way to see other family members in South Carolina.

6. As they rarely see our kids and are thus unfamiliar with the particular joys of raising 3 boys, we subjected them to the seventh level of hell that is Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday night.

7. Found a new band I really like - Submersed.

8. Their current single, "Price of Fame", is one of those songs that grabbed me the first time I heard it and just gets better each time I listen.

9. Paul might relinquish the van when he gets his new car next week.

10. Then again, Juan Pedro loves cruising in the 9-4 so he may not.

11. My hubby has a birthday cake, four cakes for a decorating demonstration at the Southern Women's Show, a wedding cake, and a groom's cake to work on this week.

12. While I long ago got over even a hint of craving for cake, it does make the house smell nice.

13. I discovered that there are people who go to school to learn how to analyze deer poop.

14. I don't recall that being an option at Pepperdine.

15. I have to get my head shot done and sent off to RWA by Tuesday. Yikes.

16. I also need to polish up Alexa and re-write most of the last two chapters wherein I gave away too much information and then send it off to Katy.

17. Then I get the unmitigated joy of writing a synopsis.

18. I'd rather scrape wallpaper or pet a goat.

19. Okay, I'm lying about the goat.

20. You have to watch out for goats.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jane Austen, You're Not

I write paranormal fiction. The kind that come out in paperback until you have a proven track record warranting a hardback book. The kind that are featured on grocery store shelves.

I do not write books that are likely to be chosen for Oprah's next book of the month.

My stories are the kind that keep you up at night, promising yourself that you will put down the book after just one more chapter until it's 2 a.m. and your eyes are crossing. My stories are fast-paced, entertaining rides that unashamedly make no attempt to dissect and discuss the state of mankind today, solve world hunger, or peel back the layers of society to reveal the blight and beauty beneath.

This is because I write paranormal fiction. I do not write literary fiction. I barely read literary fiction. I have some on my shelves, I've enjoyed it and admired it, but it doesn't speak to my heart the way paranormal does.

I am open about what I write. Most of the reactions I receive are positive - ranging from avid interest to those who don't read my genre but are supportive of the fact that I write. One reaction, however, raises my blood pressure just a little.

I have a friend or two who smile a bit condescendingly over my work and tell me that they only like to read "literature". By this, I discovered upon further questioning, they meant works reminiscent of the classics, such as Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.

They wanted something...well...literary and they are convinced nothing worthy of being called literature comes in paperback on a grocery store shelf.

I disagree.

In her day, Jane Austen was a paperback romance writer. It is only distance and historical perspective on the value of her literary contribution that have ensconced her firmly in the annals of Penguin Classics (which are still, incidentally, available in paperback).

Mary Shelley arguably wrote the first paranormal novel. She wrote in a day when women writers were shunned and many were forced to use male psuedonymns to get published at all. Frankenstein is a work of astounding, entertaining genius but it is, at its heart, a paranormal novel rife with the kind of suspense that keeps the reader up for just one more chapter.

My point is this: today's paperback writer's are next century's literary classics. Only time and perspective will tell which authors endure to become a Penguin Classic. I don't mind at all if a reader prefers literary fiction to romance or paranormal. I do mind when someone is ignorant enough to compare today's romance and paranormal writers with yesterday's romance and paranormal writers and find us lacking because we use current idioms, settings, and situations.

I will not accept anyone implying that I am not a "true" author because I write stories that entertain. I will not meekly stand in a corner of the literary world because I write the kind of books that are found on grocery store shelves. I stand proudly beside a host of authors, past and present, who took the characters and ideas clamoring in their heads, used the talent and discipline at their disposal, and forged a work of literature that kept some reader somewhere burning the midnight oil to read just one more chapter.

Quote of the Week

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

- Anonymous


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mid-Week Madness

1. I am excited about the series of posts on writing. It's a fun challenge for myself and seems to be grabbing the interest of several readers, which is always nice.

2. The yeast rolls at Logan's are of the devil.

3. Paul has been driving my sexy '94 Dodge Caravan (yes, the one Juan Pedro nabbed for his night on the town) for about three weeks now while his car was on the fritz.

4. Now he's decided to sell his car and buy a car that used to be an undercover cop car. (Who knew he'd be drawn to that?!)

5. Last night I told him I really wanted to drive an undercover cop car and I wanted to use it for three weeks in payment of him using my van.

6. Naturally, he balked at the idea, perfectly reasonable though it was.

7. He said he'd let me drive his car sometimes. Translation: You can drive it while I'm in the passenger seat making sure you don't do anything stupid like, oh I don't know, flash the lights and make people pull over left and right just so you can get to work on time.

8. Right. Like I made sure he was driving my van under constant supervision.

9. No deal.

10. I explained that this was how he could repay my generosity in loaning him my 9-4.

11. He couldn't argue the point so we began negotiations.

12. He wanted to drive the car for a little while, to savor its newness, and then loan it to me for a few days.

13. Did I tell him I'd like to drive my van for a little while longer to savor its, umm, unique character before loaning it?

14. No I did not.

15. He argued that three weeks was too long.

16. Who has been stuck at home these past three weeks with no vehicle during the day?

17. Me.

18. Still, I was generous enough to amend my offer to two weeks instead of three.

19. He said three days.

20. I said one week, final offer.

21. The agony on his face was easy to read. Buy a new car, one that still looks like an undercover cop car, and immediately loan it to C.J. and continue to drive the 9-4? Untenable. Unless one factors in the fact that Paul thinks he owes me for my generosity.

22. He agreed.

23. I then had the pleasure of yelling "April Fools!!!" and watching the mingled relief and irritation cross his face.

24. Mostly relief.

25. There are two lessons to be learned from this:

1. I do not expect "payment" for a gift freely given.

2. Do not play poker with me for I am skilled in the art of The Bluff.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Add Your 2 Cents

I've started the series of posts on the writing process and have some ideas of my own on what the series will cover but some comments on my first post caused me to add to my list. =)'s the list I'm currently working from. If you have another topic you'd like covered, please suggest it!

*Writing an attention-grabbing first chapter
*Outlines vs. Seat of the Pants
*Writing a series
*The submission process

Harry Potter Trailer & More!

The final trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, and I'm not going to lie. I get choked up every ti...