Thursday, April 30, 2009

Writing Update

It's been a busy writing week for me. Comes with the whole "get up at 4:30 a.m. because I am a crazy woman" territory. Here's where my projects stand:

1. SHADOWING FATE: Finishing the revisions requested by my agent. The last two scenes were just not working, no matter what I did, so I finally opened a new doc and started typing from scratch, rather than trying to work within my existing material. I think I've got it now.

2. DYING TO REMEMBER: Because so many people (both on and off line) have requested this book, I submitted a query for it to The Wild Rose Press, an e-pub that also sells paperback copies of their novels through Amazon. If they offer me a contract for DTR, I can post a link on my site after it's published and all interested readers may purchase a copy and read to their heart's content.

3. Super Secret Project: I'm really excited about an idea I have for a Middle Grade novel. My agent wants to see a chunk of it when it's ready so I have the green light to write it. (Much better than sending her an idea and having her gently inform me that in no way would THAT ever sell.) I'll be working on this after meeting my weekly writing goal for the Fate series.

4. Workshops: I finishing critiquing a few additional queries sent to me by members of the query workshop I taught the first two weeks of April. I'm now planning a workshop to give at May's Music City Romance Writers meeting. I will be taking three methods actors use to get into character and translating that into tools we can use to write authentic characters. Because I've had requests, I'll be setting up a class loop off this blog in June or July to run a Query Workshop for any writer interested in joining.

5. Critiquing: Besides the queries, I've critiqued chapters for a CP, brainstormed with another, and currently have 1 manuscript, 1 partial, and 1 query left in my inbox to read for others.

6. Other: I need to get one of those page count stat things on my blog (Yes, yes, that is the official term for it.) for both Twisting Fate and Super Secret Project. Last time I tried to use a page count thingie, it wouldn't work. Somehow, even the simplest pieces of code can sense my innate techno-idiot status and enjoy flaunting failure in my face.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Upcoming Opportunities

A Cup of Comfort and Redbook Magazine are sponsoring the Silver Lining Story Contest.
Write a 1000-2000 words personal essay about finding comfort in today's tough times and you could win $1000 and publication in Redbook.

The deadline for entries is May 15. Read the guidelines here.

Enter my local RWA chapter's Melody of Love contest. We have some excellent judges lined up!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nothing Works Like A Little Action

A fellow writer asked me last week what I do to combat the inner "you suck" messages that follow hard on the heels of a rejection, a contest flop, or a dry spell in our writing.

I could give you some long, complicated answer and write a truly inspiring blog post but honestly, I can sum it up in two words: take action.

Whenever I received a rejection from an agent, I sat down at the computer, did a little research, and queried two more. When I didn't place well in a contest, I focused on the next project at hand and set a goal to have it ready for the next big contest. When I face a dry spell in my writing (and we all have those days where writing is like wringing water from a rock), I keep writing.

Maybe I write something different--take a scene from a new perspective, outline another project, interview my characters--but nothing cures the inner "I suck" voice like proving it wrong and action is the only way to do that.

Because the truth is, most of the agents out there weren't for me. Some of the contest judges I received didn't think I hung the moon. And sometimes my writing sucks--but sometimes it's brilliant. I wouldn't get to the brilliant if I stopped at "you suck."

Feeling discouraged? Query another agent. Take a workshop. Brainstorm with other writers. Enter another contest. Write another chapter. Take action. You'll stomp that whiny little voice of doubt into silence when you do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spaz, I Tell You!

1. Getting up at 4:30 a.m., while productive, makes me feel like I should be halfway through my day by 9 a.m.

2. Daredevil will probably be a writer when he grows up.

3. I say this because he's been writing novels (and wondering aloud at my astounding lack of progress when he can complete five a day and I can't) for several years.

4. And because he asks me if I understand what it feels like to look around a public place and pretend to be the other people I see.

5. And because he walks by a restaurant doorway lit with green neon and exclaims loudly, "Beware! The Green Door of Doom!"

6. I think we may have misnamed our new kitten.

7. We call her Samantha (actually, we call her Sam or Sammy) but truly, she should be a Spaz.

8. She talks constantly and if she doesn't receive the proper reply (hard to know what that is...imitating her seems to be the WRONG button to push), she begins meowing with the kind of volume and ferocity rarely seen in the feline species.

9. Also, she has a thing for chewing on ears.

10. And for deciding that NOW is the time to pet kitty. Never mind that NOW is 3:15 a.m. Pet or be masticated. Your choice.

11. Last week I struggled through the ending scenes of SF (revisions) and finally decided that the character giving me so much trouble would have to be in a dead faint, her mouth firmly shut, so that I can finish this scene in peace.

12. And so, this morning she fainted dead away and will not be revived soon enough to recover her powers of speech before I type The End.

13. That'll teach her.

14. Have a Super Secret Project idea that must take second place to the hours devoted to the Fate series but is tugging at my brain nonetheless.

15. When did we start shoving the words "none" "the" and "less" together? Laziness? Conservation of spaces?

16. Fringe is getting better each week. I think I'm actually warming up to Anna what's-her-name, the lead actress.

17. Still, I watch for the treat that is John Noble's Walter Bishop.

18. No one has ever made the word "posit" sound so interesting.

19. And now, I must make like a Hobbit and get my second breakfast. The one from 5 a.m. is long gone.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What's For Breakfast?

This vintage video is one of my all time favorite comedy classics. Dad is great! He gives us chocolate cake!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Truth Has Consequences

If you're a writer, you need to read this post by Lilith Saintcrow. That is all. Just go read it. You won't regret it.

Top Ten Reasons Hershey's Puts A "Consume In Moderation" Warning On Their Dark Chocolate

1. Death By Chocolate isn't just a fancy dessert.

2. Somebody, somewhere, sued when it was found that their copious consumption of dark chocolate was directly responsible for their fifty pound weight gain.

3. The high concentration of anti-oxidants in dark chocolate reverse the signs of aging--eat too much and you're Benjamin Button.

4. Joan Rivers eats three bars a day. (See #3 for her reason.)

5. Causes giddy euphoria directly linked to the mystifying popularity of Britney Spears, reality television starring C list has-beens, and pants with phrases embroidered across the buttocks.

6. It's a confirmed fact that substituting dark chocolate M&M's for regular M&M's during writer's sessions gave us such cinematic gems as Gigli and Glitter.

7. Reverse Psychology: Tell a woman she can't consume an entire chocolate bar in one sitting and see how long it takes her to defy you.

8. Research held in long-buried files located somewhere in Area 51 prove that excessive eating of dark chocolate transforms the consumer into a human-alien hybrid. (see #4)

9. NASA recently discovered a link between Superman's powers and an unusually high daily intake of dark chocolate.

10. Three words: Accelerate colon cleansing

And that's your Friday Top Ten list for the day, folks. Go forth and consume dark chocolate!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It All Started With A Shoe

I'd love to own a pair of these shoes. That's probably an understatement. I'd take out any prospective shoe buyer standing between me and this pair of shoes using nothing but the bits and pieces of whatever flotsam lurks at the bottom of my handbag--pennies, used popsicle sticks (yes, my children view me as a walking trash receptacle), and dental floss. So, it will not surprise you that when I saw this pic, I snatched it up, drooled over it a bit, and then realize my covetous thoughts were turning in an entirely unexpected direction.

What if these shoes belonged to an elf queen?

What if they were magic shoes?

What if wearing these shoes would give a mortal the power to rule all Magical beings--at least until someone pried them off her feet?

And that, for me, is how a story is born. An image, a line from a song, a stray thought and my imagination is off and running. Which is why I think for writers (or artists of any kind) surrounding oneself with things that inspire us is important.

Collect pictures that spark your imagination. Open a file of quotes, poems, and phrases that captivate your mind. Keep everything that speaks to you because one day, a picture of a shoe could be the start of a best-selling series.

Now, off to discover where to buy these shoes...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Get Me Started #5

From Sarah's first sentence.

"I coveted the red shoes," I half-whispered to the I-Bench-Press-Semi-Trucks-In-My-Spare-Time goon guarding the Presidio's entrance.

He stared at me in silence, beady little eyes showing more malice than intellect.

I was going to kill Freddy if I had the wrong password. Again. There're only so many times a girl can expect to escape death. Even a girl like me.

"Are you going to let me in or what?" I took an aggressive step forward--offense being the best defense--and wrinkled my nose as the unmistakable burnt rubber stench of Krygon hit my nose. Just what I needed. A confrontation with a muscle-bound junkie mainlining magic he had no way to control.

"That's not the password," he said, scowling at me.

Stupid, stupid Freddy. Stupid, dead Freddy.

Of course, to kill Freddy I had to survive this little fiasco first. Nothing like a little motivation.

"Yes, it is." I fisted my hands against my hips--all the better to reach my weapons should this turn ugly.

He shook his head.

I rolled my eyes. "What happened? Suck down too much Krygon to even remember a simple little phrase?" I leaned closer, breathing through my mouth to avoid gagging. "What do you think Lothorian would do to you if he knew you were sampling the product?"

His scowl morphed into a murderous glare. Not really the direction I was hoping the conversation would go.

"Fortunately, you're in luck, my friend." I slapped my left hand against his chest while my right slid my chain out of its holster. "I'm in a generous mood. I won't tell Lothorian about your ... activities if you just let me in."

He snatched my left hand, closing a giant paw around my wrist and twisting like he was wringing out a wet towel. I let him spin me, and when I came full circle my chain--fifteen pounds of silver-coated steel--flew toward him with a vengeance.

I planted my right foot, leaned forward on the ball of my left, and whipped the chain around his neck. Twice.

Silver bit into his skin, burning against the illicit magic coursing through his blood, and sinking toward bone.

He screamed, releasing my wrist to claw at his neck as I threw my weight backward, hauling against the chain with every ounce of my five foot three frame. He had me by twelve inches and at least two hundred pounds. Turns out size isn't everything. Attitude and really cool weapons go a long way toward evening the playing field.

When his eyes rolled back into his head and he crumpled to the ground in a dead faint, I slid my chain free. Tucking it into its holster, I stepped over him and into the teeming darkness of Presidio wondering how high the body count would rise tonight and how soon I could return home to add Freddy to the list.

How To Write A Scintillating Blog Post

In five minutes or less:

1. Open blog page and hit "sign in" button.

2. Curse for the fifty-thousandth time as blogger opens but refuses, despite repeated requests, to remember your log-in information.

3. Type in log-in information.

4. Check the box marked "remember log-in information" for the fifty-first-thousandth time--proving that either hope springs or idiocy abounds.

5. Hit "create post" button.

6. Stare at empty page.

7. Glance at clock and realize time is of the essence--five minutes to go before you must leave for work.

8. Wonder what you can blog about that will be both interesting and non-time-consuming.

9. Flying monkeys.

10. Indian soda made from cow's urine.

11. The extreme likelihood that Joan Rivers is a Zombie and no one yet realizes it.

12. Discard each idea as either too time-consuming (really the cow's urine soda deserves much thoughtful pontification), too hackneyed (who really cares about flying monkeys?), or too obvious. (Joan Rivers is a Zombie, folks. Accept and move on.)

13. Check picture file to see if anything interesting sparks your imagination.

14. Check time.

15. Three minutes left.

16. Check Twitter in case anyone has said anything remotely interesting, controversial, or inspiring.

17. Decide that a war of irritating song lyrics, while good clean fun on Twitter, might fall flat on your blog.

18. 867-5309

19. And IIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuuu.

20. Hey, Makarena!

21. One minute left.

22. Realize that blogging excellence might be found in your latest string of key word searches.

23. Click on stats button and pray for gold.

24. Find searches containing the words "dog flings poop" and "goat farmer" instead.

25. Admit that the goal of offering lofty, high-brow entertainment has now been achieved.

26. Recognize that as such, today's post can hardly top such excellence.

27. Decide to leave well enough alone.

28. Find one more keyword search with which to inspire your readers on a Tuesday morning.

20. Monkey flings popsicle goat.

21. And really, I think that says it all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chocolate-Covered Gummies & Imaginary Friends

1. I've decided to start a new tradition on this blog.

2. Top Ten lists every Friday.

3. Or most Fridays.

4. Depending on whether anyone else in the literary world (Oh, fine...the world at large) needs to be put back in their place.

5. I had a hilarious Top Ten planned for last Friday (Did you know Hershey's puts a warning label on some of their products?!) but was sidetracked by Miss Everyone-Who-Writes-Outside-My-Genre-Is-A-Hack.

6. Stay tuned for this week's shenanigans.

7. My sister has made my boys' decade by buying them each a DS Lite.

8. Now I only have to answer the "When is the package going to arrive?!" question fifty times a day.

9. Small sacrifice to make for having someone else anti up to bring joy to their little hearts.

10. Tinks has an imaginary friend.

11. It's both funny and slightly scary.

12. She's adopted a tiger Webkinz (Can she see the colors and know it looks somewhat like Carly?) and carries it around in her mouth by the back of it's neck, gives it a bath, sleeps with it, and wrestles it into submission whenever her devious kitty brain tells her the tiger has displayed the unmitigated gall to resist her ministrations.

13. I'm calling the rescue shelter today to see if there's another kitten who will meet our specifications (female, short-hair, friendly, not afraid of dogs or loud boys) before Tinks has a complete mental breakdown.

14. As usual, my Monday To Do list is worse than any other day of the week.

15. This is because it's the only day I have where I don't have to go to my day job and the kids are in school, giving me precious blocks of uninterrupted time.

16. I saw a package of chocolate-covered gummy bears in Walgreens last week.

17. Seriously, candy-making-folks, this is sooo not a good idea.

18. Only totally desperate chocolate addicts (Hi Mom!) and small children who are so insanely grateful to have candy--any candy!--in their clutches will eat this travesty.

19. The rest of us, if we gather the courage to try it at all, will gag and spit it out.

20. Reader Question: What's an interesting question for an upcoming poll on this blog?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh No She Didn't

Yesterday a blog post by a writer of literary fiction gained the notice of writers and lit agents both. Links were posted on Twitter--as an example of a writer who didn't understand that publishing is a business.

I read the post, and while I didn't leave a comment there (partially because jumping into online arguments isn't my style and partially because it was clear in the comment trail that the post's author wasn't open to any argument but her own), it made me think.

Here, in her own words, is the gist of the complaint:

The substantial and nearly unassailable wall that separates you from us has been under construction for decades. You can find the names of its architects and gatekeepers on your telephone-callers list, and in your email in-box. They are the literary agents—that league of intellectual-property purveyors who bring you every new manuscript you ever see, those men and women who are so anxious to gain access to the caverns of treasure they believe you sit upon like some great golden goose that they would likely hack one another’s heads off were they not united by one self-serving mission: to ensure that quality fiction never hits your desk.

I can answer that question for you. I can tell you why your desk is piling up with flimsy bits of vampire literature, fantasy, romance, detective stories and the kind of first-draft bubble gum that used to be called chick-lit but is now shuffled in with other women’s writing in order to give it heft—although as far as you can see, neither the quality nor the subject matter has improved—which you are required to somehow turn into publishable books. It is because the vast majority of literary agents do not, in fact, have any interest in literature. They are only interested in jackpots.

These purveyors of literary costume jewelry seek out the kind of quirky but unsubstantial mental junk food that is as similar as possible to last season’s bestsellers

We submit our pitches in good faith by email or snail mail (depending on the dictates of the individual agent-god. They tell us how they want us to submit right on their websites!) where they are read by interns with little experience of literature or life, and are rejected.

Some of us have had our query letters rejected more than 50 times.

She goes on to rail against literary agents as killers of talent (indeed, that is the title of her post) and bemoans the fate of mid list literary authors who can't gain traction in a publishing industry focused on (shockingly enough) making money.

So, here's the thing. You can write anything you want. You can't, however, demand that it be published. Walking into the process of querying with an attitude that your genre is so much more significant and worthy than any other genre and publishers would recognize your goldmine of talent if only those interfering agents would move out of the way, shows at best a real lack of understanding of publishing as a business and at worst a hubris that, quite frankly, staggers me.

Writing is art. Publishing is the process of selling art. Who buys art? The consumer. Therefore, to stay in business, publishers must stock the shelves with books the consumers want to read. You are certainly free to write books other than what consumers are buying, but you have no grounds to stomp your feet and throw a tantrum when publishers refuse to buy your work. They have a business to run. They buy what sells.

Blaming your lack of sales on agents is just ridiculous. Agents find what they know their editorial contacts are looking for. Also, if you're firmly anti-agent, you're free to submit directly to any major publishing house you want. I know. I did that with my first novel and received a request right away from Grand Central. And complaining because your query has been rejected 50 times makes you look like a rank amateur. 50 times is nothing. Don't believe me? Ask John Grisham. Nora Roberts. Linda Howard. J.K. Rowling. Or any number of authors currently stocking the best-seller shelf at your local Barnes & Noble. 50 is a drop in the hat. It simply means you haven't found the right agent (the one who loves your voice or has room for another client or doesn't have anything similar on her client list right now) or your work isn't ready or--better hang on tight for this one--your work isn't what will sell right now.

Calling paranormal (vampires), romance, fantasy, chick lit, and detective stories flimsy bits the publishers are somehow required to turn into publishable books is insulting and demeaning to the cadre of writers out there who pour themselves into their stories and (gasp) get them published. Again, you're free to write whatever you want. But spewing scorn at other writers who choose to write what they want is inexcusable. Who knows which of these contemporary popular authors will one day be studied as part of our cannon of classic literature? Don't think it could happen to one of these pieces of "literary costume jewelry"? I guess you aren't familiar with Edgar Allen Poe (inventor of the modern detective story you so despise), Jane Austen (romance anyone?), Mary Shelley (paranormal's mama), J.R.R. Tolkien (the godfather of fantasy), Mark Twain (YA, here's looking at you), Charles Dickens (first published as serial chapters in a local newspaper) and others.

I understand the frustration of creating art and having nowhere to go with it. But levying your anger and bitterness at literary agents and authors of books that climb the New York Time's bestseller charts is foolish, unproductive, and flat-out offensive. If you want to be published, keep working on your craft. Query until you find an agent. Write the next manuscript. And the next. And the next after that.

Write. Revise. Query. Repeat as necessary. And back off the unbelievable hubris that assures you your writing is so much more valuable than that of those writers who do manage to snag an agent and a huge publishing contract with their flimsy bit of literary costume jewelry.

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. If you're determined to combine the two, put your head down, attack your craft with tenacity, and treat your colleagues with respect.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For The Love Of Biscuits

I see a lot of rather bad behavior from people in my line of work, but the one that gets to me the most is when someone thinks it's somehow appropriate to throw a tantrum over food. And by tantrum, I mean yelling, tossing their silverware down on the table, and going on and on about how their life is absolutely ruined because we ran out of meatloaf.

The other night, a man pitched a fit over biscuits. Biscuits. I'm used to grown-ups behaving like a spoiled two year old denied his favorite blankie at bedtime, but on this particular day, I just couldn't take it.

Setting the Scene: Last Friday, a mere five hours after I'd watched Carly die and only one hour after a tornado devastated our neighboring city--killing a mother and child and wiping out blocks of homes.

The Conversation:

Me: *bringing their dinner to their table a scant six minutes after they'd placed their order--even for us, that's really fast.* Here you go. We've got fresh biscuits coming out of the oven in just a moment so I'll be right back out with your bread.

Man: *slaps his hand down on the table* Well that's just great. How long do I have to wait? Is my food going to get cold?

Me: Not if you start eating it now. By the time I walk back to the kitchen, the bread will be ready and I'll be right back out.

Man: *throws his spoon onto the table* You've just ruined my day. I can't believe this *^$#.

Me: *realizes that maybe he's just come from Murfreesboro and lost everything* I'm sorry. You've had a bad day? Did you get caught in that tornado?

Man: *looks at me like I have three heads* I wasn't having a bad day until you brought out food without the biscuits.

Me: *slowly realizes that yes indeed this man is having a fit over something as unimportant as bread* So, you're only upset because the bread is coming out two minutes after your dinner?

Man: Only?! I like my biscuits with my meal. I want them now! I don't want to wait for two minutes and you've ruined my dinner now.

Me: *feels thin grasp on temper snap with a resounding crack* Let me get this straight. The only thing that's gone wrong for you today is your biscuits arriving shortly after your plate of food? You haven't lost a loved one? Haven't watched anyone die? Haven't been told you have cancer? Haven't lost your job? Haven't had your entire home turned into kindling at the whim of Mother Nature? It seems to me that you've got nothing to complain about and getting angry over biscuits is insulting to everyone else who does.

And I slapped his plate of food in front of him, fetched his biscuits and slapped them down too, and then watched as he crumpled up a one dollar bill and threw it onto the table as he left. I don't think I got through to him, but maybe he'll think twice next time before deciding something an inconsequential as food is worth such poor behavior.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Saga of Milk Pills, Comic Relief, & Poo

Time once again for us to take a peek at what search terms are bringing intrepid Googlers to this blog.

1. Snort milk pills: No, no, no. You're doing it all wrong. True comedic genius lies is the snorting of actual milk. Pills don't have nearly the same effect. Plus, they get stuck in your sinus cavity and then you have to explain your particular brand of idiocy to the local E.R. Stick with liquids, my friend. Liquids.

2. I hate having the last word: Really? I don't share that sentiment. Don't worry, though. Around here, you won't ever have to worry about it. =D

3. Is eating bananas with pickles common?: Ah, no. And really, if it was common, wouldn't you already know it? Absolutely no one I'm personally acquainted with walks around eating bananas and pickles at the same time. Never mind the disastrous clash of tastes, combining those two textures would be enough to violently trigger my gag reflex.

4. Poo Saga: I'd love to claim ignorance on this one but, sadly, you've come to the right place.

5. Laptop case fairy: Deep breath now--there is no laptop case fairy. I realize this crushes your dreams and renders obsolete many a fond childhood memory, but it's true. There is, however, a shiny new laptop fairy. She just hasn't seen fit to visit me yet.

6. Mytheatretaugyou: I'm not sure which is more disturbing. The fact that someone thought this was a valid search term or the fact that it landed them here.

7. Where does comic relief begin and end?: Right here, my friend. Right here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beware The Zombie Goat

Today, as promised, a post on zombies. Not just any zombies. Zombie goats.

Unlike ordinary zombies who stalk through the streets muttering "Brains! Brains!" with the single goal of finding an unwary human and dining on the contents of their cranium, zombie goats are a much more insidious creature. As I've discovered an inexcusable lack of information on the Internet regarding this terrifying threat to our way of life, I will now take it upon myself to educate the public:

Ways in Which Zombie Goats Differ From Ordinary Zombies:

1. They are goats.

2. They do not have to die to be infected with the Zombiagulus Virus and indeed are often born with it.

3. They show no preference for brains so donning your protective Zombie Helmet does nothing to keep you safe.

4. They lure their victims with displays of cuteness.

5. They chew anything and everything, often starting with the outer limbs so as to render their victims incapable of flight.

6. They pretend to be foolishly stupid, lulling their victims into complacency before they strike.

7. They infiltrate even the most sacred of human-animal sanctuaries: The Petting Zoo.

Ways To Repel the Zombie Goat:

1. Wear stripes, solid colors, or nothing at all. Whatever you do, DON'T WEAR PLAID. It aggravates the unnatural horizontal pupil of the Zombie Goat.

2. Play anti-Zombie Goat music--Vintage 80's, Classic Rock, and Elvis are sure repellents. Be careful, however. Playing Barry Manilow or Bette Midler has been known to spark county-wide Zombie Goat riots, leaving very few survivors.

3. Avoid the hairstyle-that-wouldn't-die: The Mullet. Zombie Goats recognize those wearing a Mullet as natural prey. Something about Survival of the Fittest and Natural Selection.

Ways To Defeat The Evil Zombie Goat:

1. The Zombie Goat has only one natural predator:

Don't have one of these? Get one. Fast. Don't wait for tragedy to strike. Act now. Zombie Cats available at local pet shelters in your area.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Heartbroken - Again

Today, I promised you zombies, but that will have to wait. This morning our baby kitten Carly lost her fight against the FIP virus. It's almost two months to the day since we lost Taz. Carly was suffering and I'm relieved she's not in pain any more, but I'm crushed all the same. So, no blogging for a day or two while I grieve another loss.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Face Only A Goat-Farmer Could Love

1. See? Goats are disturbing.

2. Yesterday, I hit a moment of blogger's block and asked for suggestions on Twitter.

3. The first topic suggestion was zombies.

4. I realized suddenly that this blog has a regrettable lack of information on zombies, a situation I plan to rectify tomorrow.

5. Stay tuned.

6. Today, I get to go pee in a cup to prove to my company that I was not flying high on crack when I bashed my brains in on the shelf in the walk-in cooler.

7. Since I went to my own dr and didn't submit a worker's comp claim, I think this is ridiculous.

8. Still, they have the power to tell me I can't work a shift until I prove I've got nothing more sinister than Tylenol and Hot Tamales (which are of the devil) in my blood.

9. LOST is having a fantastic season.

10. This morning the Today show announced that romance novels appear to be recession-proof. Sales have gone up 30% since the whole panic about the economy started.

11. Yay for job security!

12. Speaking of novels, here's a friendly fyi: Many people who know me personally have asked me recently to email them a copy of my novel so they can read it.

13. I will NOT do it.

14. It's not because I don't love you, like you, or tolerate you reasonably well.

15. It's not because I'm not thrilled that you're so excited about SF you don't want to wait to read it in paperback form.

16. It's certainly not because I'm upset that you've sworn you'll still buy two copies when it hits the shelves.

17. It's because I lose control over who has the manuscript when I send it out and publisher's don't take kindly to buying work that is already crawling slowly across the Internet for free.

18. So, I may love you, like you, or tolerate you reasonably well, but if you don't already have a copy (i.e. Hubby and critique partners), you'll have to wait to buy your own.

19. I asked for topics on Twitter, but those of you who comment here are always a wealth of interesting ideas, so ...

20. Reader Question: What topic/s should I blog about next time I hit a blogger's block?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

But...Where's The Sparkle?

A few weeks ago, I met a writer friend at my local bookstore for coffee and conversation. Naturally, we also browsed the shelves and selected a few more books for our huge TBR piles. As we approached the cashier, our shiny new books clutched in our hands, we saw the most incredible thing.

Eddie and Bells action figures. Huge action figures. Bigger than Barbies. I guess you know you've arrived when a bookstore is selling action figures of your main characters. I was quite disappointed with them, though. Poor Eddie had not a single sparkle.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Romance Cooties!

Friend and fellow author Kerry Allen has a new site up and running called Romance Cooties. Ostensibly, the premise is a glimpse behind the scenes of a romance novel using the setting of an academy for heroines and four very interesting characters.

In reality, it's some of the most entertaining YA writing I've ever read. If you like YA or you want to learn how to establish VOICE in your writing, head over and check it out. She's brilliant.

Is It Monday Already?

1. The boys are home for Spring Break this week which means I don't have to set my alarm so early.

2. It also means finding quiet time to write is much more difficult to do.

3. Jeaniene Frost has agreed to be interviewed on this blog in May. Yay!!

4. Any questions you'd like to ask her?

5. Carly, one of our kittens, is very sick.

6. The vet says it's fatal. I researched her illness online and only found one case where a cat was cured.

7. I'm forcing food and an auto-immune builder (something I've used successfully myself) down her throat every two hours and praying for a miracle.

8. I don't think one is coming and having to face that grief again so soon is really rough.

9. Started my online query workshop today (it's confined to some specific writer loops or I'd issue a blanket invitation to my blog readers).

10. My house looks like I have three boys home for Spring Break.

11. I'm going to remedy that situation today and they're going to help.

12. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to hear that.

13. The effects of my concussion are nearly non-existent at this point and I'm glad.

14. One of my friends offered to get me a customized helmet and while I could totally rock the helmet look (yeah, right), I turned her down.

15. Two days ago, I was driving home from the store in my hubby's car, grabbed the sun visor to move it to the side--forgetting that the little plastic clip that anchors it in place broke off a while ago--and yanked.

16. Naturally, with nothing anchoring it in place, the sun visor flew toward me and smacked me in the forehead.

17. It didn't hurt.

18. But I did reconsider the whole helmet thing.

19. Reader Question: What questions would you like asked of Jeaniene Frost when I interview her? These can be specific to her as an author or questions for an author in general. I don't promise to use your question, but I'd love to get some ideas. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Love Them Or Hate Them

You-the-writer must have empathy for your characters. You have to like them — or hate them. I’m not saying believe they’re real — that road leads to the Palace of Psychosis, and nobody will visit you there except to mock — but you have to let them into your heart as well as your head. It’s that emotional connection that allows you to care about them, not as the means to deliver a message, or to flip a twist, but as actual individuals going through hell. Once you care about them, you can make other people care about them, too.

If you don’t? if you’re emotionally removed from your characters, or see them merely as markers to be moved along the story, in order to achieve a final goal? The most brilliant prose in the world won’t do you for d---.
(Laura Anne Gilman)

Authentic characters are an intrinsic element to excellent writing. I will read just about anything in any genre if I am captivated by the characters. I need to love the hero and heroine. I must empathize with their struggles, be frustrated with their faults, and sit on pins and needles as their choices spiral the entire plot out of control. I need to despise and fear the villain. I need to reach out with shaky hands to peel away the outer layer and view the ruins beneath what makes him tick. I need to sink beneath the skin of each character until their Voice is as recognizable as my own, their reactions are second-nature, their joys make me pump my fist in victory, and their tragedies cut into me as if they were my own.

When a writer can usher me into each character's inner sanctum, I don't care about genre, plot, or setting. I'm hers.

How do we as writers seduce our readers with our characters? I've talked about authentic motivation, a deep understanding of what formed our characters, and never pushing them in a certain direction simply because our synopsis tells us we should.

The above quote sums up another aspect of writing compelling characters in one little line--You have to like them — or hate them.

If your characters don't inspire emotion in you, how can they possibly inspire emotion in others?

I'm sure each writer approaches learning her characters in different ways. My approach is simple, though any non-writers reading this will probably think I'm in need of some Prozac and a nice padded room. =) My characters come to life in my head. Usually, the germ of an idea for a book or series arrives first and I start asking myself who the main characters are. I get details in fits and starts. One day I'll be driving and I'll realize the heroine has long red hair and a barbed wire tattoo around her neck.

But why the tattoo? I ask myself.

A few days later, the answer comes and with it, the knowledge that her past is a sticky mess and she's addicted to pecan pancakes swimming in maple syrup.

Are those two items related? Not really. They're details. And over the course of months (Yes, months!), the picture forms. I get to know her past. Her mission. Her personality. Her appearance. Her home. Her dreams. Her faults. The cracks running through her foundation that make her who she is. By the time I sit down to write her book, I know which album on my iTunes best fits her story, what she's wearing in the first scene, and how she's likely to react to the crap I'm about to throw her way.

I'm finishing another small bout of revisions to SF's ending, I'm plotting (kind much plotting as this Pantser can do) TF, and the glimmers of the final book in the series (BF--which does NOT stand for best friend or boy friend or any other ridiculous texting shorthand) are already clamoring for attention.

BUT, the heroine for the series I want to write after Fate is finished is loudly claiming her corner of my mind. And so is her hero. By the time I get to her, I'll know her as well as I know myself. I like her. I'm afraid for her. I want her to succeed. I know the obstacles in her way are enough to break her if she doesn't adapt (which isn't her strong suit). The villains she'll face scare me. So much so that I refuse to delve into one of them until I absolutely have to because it's the stuff of nightmares.

And guess what? The heroine for the series after that is already taking shape.

This is just one writer's way of learning her characters. Each writer has to find the method that works best for them. How you do it doesn't matter, but if you don't sink beneath your characters' skin, your reader won't either. Love your characters. Not the idea of the character that first graced your page, but the real, fleshed-out person--in all her beauty and flaws--and your reader will too. Hate your villain--don't hold him back from scaring you senseless--and your reader will too.

Happy writing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know

I got one of those email forwards today instructing me to change the answers to my own and then send it off to the rest of my mailing list. Instead, the lazy blogger in me decided this might be an entertaining blog entry.

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:30, although my brain engaged sometime later in the morning.

2. Diamonds or pearls? Shoes! What? It's an accessory.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? 12 Rounds (A Big FAT Don't Bother!)

4. What is your favorite TV show? Lost is my favorite show currently on tv (and yes, I'm a rabid fan). Other all-time favorites include Alias and I Love Lucy.

5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Cereal, if I can protect my bowl from my diabolical kittens long enough to wolf it down.

6. What is your middle name? Queen Of Everything

7. What food do you dislike? Green beans, apples, and most forms of chocolate. Also pizza. And don't forget okra. Blech.

8. What is your favorite CD at moment? Red's Innocence And Instinct

9. What kind of car do you drive? A cherry red Ferrari. Oooohhh. You meant my non-imaginary vehicle. Fine. A Saturn Relay. It's a mini-van, but I drive it with a Ferrari attitude.

10. Favorite sandwich? Grilled turkey BLT with Swiss, no mayo. I hate mayo.

11. What characteristic do you despise? Cruelty, dishonesty, and self-centeredness. Also the ability to eat anything at all and still wear a size 2.

12. Favorite item of clothing? Shoes. And by shoes, I mean stilettos, boots, and wedge heels. No flats or flip-flops for me.

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Ireland

14 . Favorite brand of clothing? I don't have one. I seriously do not care about brands. It's silly to pay three times as much for something just because someone's name is on the tag.

15. Where would you retire to? Transylvania. In my own castle. As Queen Of Everything.

16. What was your most recent memorable birthday? That's a weird question. Is it implying that only certain birthdays are memorable or wondering when's the last birthday I remember having? I'm not that old, yanno.

17. Favorite sport to watch? Football, boxing, basketball. Just not golf. That bores me senseless.

18. Furthest place you are sending this? Hm...well, I do have blog readers from Latvia. That's pretty far away.

19. Person you expect to send it back first? I'm going to change this question to the person I think will comment first. Can't be sure which of my regular commenters will hit my blog next, so I'll say either Kerry Allen or Wandereringray.

20. Your Birthday? January 8 (Go ahead and put it on your calendar. I'm very open to flattery and bribes of the bookstore gift card variety.)

21. Are you a morning person or a night person? Either. Whichever I have to be. I learned that this summer when I stayed up until 3 am writing some nights.

22. What is your shoe size? Whatever gets me into the pair I'm currently craving.

23. Pets? A big chow hound named Bear and two feline Divas of Deviousness named Carly and Tinks.

24. Any news you'd like to share with us? Um. *scratches head to think of something not already on the blog* I'll get back to you on this one.

25. What did you want to be when you were little? A writer, a teacher, and a superhero with magical powers.

26. How are you today? *rolls eyes* Dizzy, but let's not dwell on that.

27. What is your favorite candy? Hot Tamales, which are of the devil.

28. What is your favorite flower? I don't really like flowers. They give me headaches.

29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? The day we receive our little girl's picture from China. The day I sign a book deal. The day someone gives me a pair of those super cool Chanel pistol heels.

30. What's your full name? I often get asked what C.J. stands for. I say Calamity Jane. Judging from the content on this blog, I defy you to call me a liar.

31. What are you listening to right now? Tornado news coverage on the tv.

32. What was the last thing you ate? A crescent roll with cream cheese and salsa in the middle.

33. Do you wish on stars? Sometimes.

34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Red.

35. How is the weather right now? Rain, thunder, lightning ... but the tornado warning is pretty much over for now.

36. The first person you spoke to on the phone today? My hubby. :)

37. Favorite soft drink? Diet Coke with Lime

38. Favorite restaurant? Asuka (hibachi grill) or Logans

39. Real hair color? Ha! With three boys, it's probably gray, but I don't let it go that far.

40. What was your favorite toy as a child? Books, my Wonder Woman underoos, and Strawberry Shortcake. Also toy horses, but that was before a horse rudely kicked me in the head. (*sigh* Yes, yes, another head injury...)

41. Summer or winter? I like both, but autumn is best.

42. Hugs or kisses? Both!

43. Chocolate or vanilla? Both are equally boring unless combined with something I really love. Like strawberries. Or peanut butter. Or coffee.

44. Coffee or tea? Coffee, though the caffeine does have some rather interesting side effects on my personality.

45. Do you want your friends to email you back? I'll change this to "Do you want your readers to comment?" and of course the answer is yes.

46. When was the last time you cried? Last week at the end of Sayid's Lost episode. Which is unusual, because I'm not a crier. Still, it was powerful enough that I got tears in my eyes. But the last time I really cried was February 9th, when my beloved Taz died.

47. What is under your bed? Dust bunnies. A box of cassette tapes (Wow! Do I even have a tape player anymore? I don't think so.) And whatever contraband Tinks has smuggled under there.

48. What did you do last night? I'd love to tell you, but my lawyer says keeping my mouth shut at this point is essential to my case.

49. What are you afraid of? Drowning, driving over bridges (directly relates to the whole drowning thing) and semi trucks. Also, mullets. And while fear isn't an accurate emotion for how I feel about goats, I do find them highly disturbing. Highly. Disturbing.

50. Salty or sweet? Sour and spicy.

51. How many keys on your key ring? 5, I think. I don't care enough about the answer to go check.

52. How many years at your current job? 4

53. Favorite day of the week? Any day I get to stay home from work and spend time with my family instead.

54. How many towns have you lived in? 8

55. Do you make friends easily? I think so, though it takes a while to move beyond the "friendly" stage and into true friendship.

I'll Shoot You In The Leg

1. I recently realized that I neglected to do two or three sentences from my earlier Get Me Started writing exercise.

2. Now, I'm trying to decide if I go ahead and do those three, or start the whole thing all over again.

3. I have to lock myself in my office each morning to eat breakfast while the kittens attack the door, trying to break it down and get to my cereal.

4. I've learned the hard way not to have sympathy for their pathetic meows.

5. The devious little beasts use cuteness to soften up their victims before moving in for the kill.

6. My head is slowly improving. The dr. told me to drink plenty of fluids which, while I'm sure is always a good idea, seems in this case to be code for "Nothing's going to cure this except time but I need to say something vaguely medical so there you go."

7. Besides, the more fluid I drink, the more trips to the commode I'm forced to make and is it really wise to send a dizzy klutz into a small room packed full of unyielding porcelain, marble, and wood?

8. Lost totally rocks this season.

9. Favorite dialogue exchange from last night's show: "Are we under house arrest?" "No, you're free to leave any time you want. But if you do, I'll shoot you in the leg."

10. Paul and I watched 12 Rounds yesterday (which is a colossal waste of time and I might post about it soon) with his gun sitting in the drink holder between us.

11. All those who would foolishly answer their cell phones in the middle of a movie have now been warned.

12. I went with my hubby to his favorite cake decorating supply store in Nashville and learned an interesting fact.

13. My hubby responds to that store the same way I respond to a bookstore (or a shoe store!): Instant fascination with everything and a complete inability to just pick up what he came in for and leave.

14. I had to practically drag him out so we wouldn't be late to the theater.

15. Speaking of browsing bookstores, I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter about preferring to buy my books from a brick and mortar store rather than Amazon or B & N online.

16. I understand many love the "If you bought this, you might also like this" feature, but I rarely go into a store with a specific book or author in mind. I like to wander through the aisles, pick up interesting covers, read samples and then try new stuff.

17. I go to Amazon and have no idea where to start and become quickly bored and frustrated.

18. Sooo, while I understand the adoration some have for online book shopping, I'm going to stick to my old school ways because it's most enjoyable for me.

19. Reader Question: Which do you prefer? Shopping for books online or in a brick and mortar store?

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...