Sunday, November 30, 2008

Received Without Contents

Technically, Susan Wiggs ended her gratitude project on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. I extended mine a few extra days. I hope everyone took time each day to think of the good things, whether or not you posted them here.

For me, I'm staring at an empty box, trying to see the 'bright side' - something Frankie Castor, the heroine of When Danger Calls does very well. When the doorbell rang yesterday, I found a box on the porch. It's holiday time, so that's not too unusual. Since I'd hurt my back, I was leery about picking it up, but it was very light. And empty. No bottom; flaps folded in. A sticker on the front said, "Received Without Contents." I looked at who sent it. My publisher. Those were undoubtedly my advance author copies of When Danger Calls. Lost. Gone. And, it was Saturday on a holiday weekend, so nobody to call. So, instead of more happy dance news, I've got an empty box.

Tomorrow, I'm volunteering at the SWAT Roundup, a competition for SWAT teams from all over the country. I'll try to keep things updated here.

For now, it's Sunday. Enjoy the day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It sounds nicer in "English"

What I'm reading: Born to Run, by James Grippando

With widespread family, I do a lot of shopping on line. Much easier than going out, buying, wrapping, packing, standing in line at the Post Office, and paying extra for shipping. (I believe I mentioned it cost over $15 to send a $2.50 bag of stuffing mix to my daughter in Northern Ireland.

And, since that daughter lives in Northern Ireland, I shopped at Amazon's UK "store" for gifts for her and her husband. Today I got the notice that my order had been shipped. Only over there, they don't say that. Instead, it was dispatched, and by Royal Mail, no less. OK, I know their postal system is the Royal Mail (and I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the Royal Mail carriers when I visited England), but the Amazon email conjured up images of the Queen handing my purchases to a gallant messenger who lea onto his royal steed and gallops away to deliver the goods.

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Nice drugs for pulled back muscles
2. Thermal-Care heat wraps
3. On-line shopping

Friday, November 28, 2008

And, technology strikes again

What I'm reading: Home is Where the Heart Is, by Suzanne Brockmann

After I finished yesterday's post, some power from above decided I'd had enough good news for a day, and I got a warning pop-up about the USB cable on my battery back up power supply. Before my trusted IT hubby could get there, loud clicking noises ensued. Then a pop. Then bad smells like something electrical burning.

He sent me away while he worked. His report: Power supply shorted out. Sparks. Not good. He did hook up my laptop to my desk monitor, and to the wireless keyboard so at least I don't have to type on the laptop, but I'm still working off my laptop, which is NOT a replication of my PC.

MOST of my files are backed up externally. But not ALL my files. Some might not have been updated in longer than they should have. (I'm thinking all my financial writing records, neatly organized into the IRS Schedule C categories).

But, nothing we could do on Thanksgiving day, so we bummed around until it was time to leave for dinner, had a very good meal (excellent curried butternut squash soup) and came home to Netflix.

This morning, we brought the computer into the Office Depot's Tech department, where for a flat fee (not a LOW flat fee, but reasonable), they ship it off to their central repair facility, diagnose and fix what's wrong. Normal turnaround time is a week, but it's a holiday, and I'm never that lucky. Until then, there's no way to know if the data on my hard drive survived the sparking and burning stuff.

Another fun glitch -- when I went to buy touchup paint for my car, the dealership had to order it. They don't stock it. Today, several weeks later, hubby decides he wants to have a go and see if the paint will cover the bumper scrapes from too-high curbs. He opens the paint. And yeah, it's the wrong color. Not a 'wrong shade', but a totally different color. It'll be Tuesday before they get in a replacement.

Today's Gratitude List
1. The curried butternut squash soup at The Everglades
2. That we were home when the computer shorted so the house didn't burn down
3. (again). My IT hubby.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A little happy dancing on Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving. May you all have something to be thankful for.

It will be quiet at our place. We had a family get-together two weeks ago, so it's just the two of us. We'll laze most of the day away, before going out to eat. And we'll listen to Alice's Restaurant, our own family tradition. Last year we had a most untraditional Thanksgiving dinner, since we were in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and that's not one of their big holidays. We found a Mediterranean restaurant near out hotel and enjoyed some yummy seafood.

My day started with a nice surprise -- the Laurel Wreath Contest announced its winners. I'd written that one off, because they'd said they'd have the winners in mid-October. I'd entered both my print books, Finding Sarah and What's in a Name?. Today's email said :

1st place – The Suicide Club - Gayle Wilson - Mira
2nd place – What's in a Name? - Terry Odell - Cerridwen
3rd place – Finding Sarah – Terry Odell - Cerridwen

I checked all the categories -- mine were the only small press books to win anything, so I'm very proud to be up there with the big names -- again.

And, if you're bored, hubby sent this link. For more of a challenge, slide the 'sherry' bar before you start.

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Family and friends
2. Arlo Guthrie for Alice's Restaurant
3. Catherine for encouraging me to enter the Laurel Wreath

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nearest Book Experiment - Just for Fun

My daughter posted this on her Facebook page, and I thought it might be fun to do it over here. It's very simple:

1. Find the nearest book (right now, wherever you are-not a favorite book, the nearest book!).
2. Turn to page 56
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Copy it and add it to the comments.

I'll share some family favorite holiday recipes with one commenter. Let's play for a couple of days to give everyone a chance to share.

Mine: "Seconds later that promise was fulfilled by ten-foot iron gates." (Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman)

Today's Gratitude List:
1. The new veggie garden

2. The nice clerk at Michael's framing department, who trimmed my picture so I could fit it into a stock 16x20 frame and save the cost of custom framing -- and waived the usual fee. Maybe the cute factor of the photo helped.

3. Google Alerts for When Danger Calls. People are chec
king it out. Maybe they're pre-ordering. But I'm grateful just that they're looking. Honest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reality in characters?

What I'm reading: Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman

Following through on yesterday's post about things that can 'date' novels, I recall my first writing mentor chastising me for describing a scene where a group of volunteers was repairing a house to "the barn raising scene in Witness." She called it 'cheating' to use someone else's description. Given how long it's been since Witness came out now, it would have also dated the book, although I suppose it's on television often enough that people who weren't even born when it hit the theaters have seen it several times.

What about character descriptions? One question that crops up in blog interviews is, "Who would play your characters if they made your book into a movie?" (Sorry, hubby, but it's probably not going to happen in this lifetime, but hang in there). I'm not a movie-going person, and don't watch a lot of television. I'd be hard-pressed to conjure up images of the latest celebrities if an author used them to describe a character. So, not only would they date the book, they might be lost on readers.

I prefer to paint my characters with much broader strokes, and let the readers fill in the details with their own images. Diana Gabaldon says the same thing: she refuses to answer the question because she wants readers to keep whatever images they've got of Jamie and Claire.

I'm not much into paranormal or YA books, so the Twilight phenomenon has passed me by. However it's buzzing around the blog circuit now that the movie is out, and it's interesting to follow the threads where people have been 'disappointed' because the characters didn't match the visions they brought into the theater with them.

When I started writing, I wrote Highlander fan fiction, and the characters were already defined. When I adapted one of my short story ideas into What's in a Name?, the hero, Blake Windsor, bore an uncanny resemblance to Duncan MacLeod. However, I had to go in and describe him in more detail, because the novel was not a Highlander story, and readers needed to see Blake. But the first time we see Blake, I don't bother with a lot of detail. Partly because Kelli, the heroine, is trying to get rid of him, so she's not going to spend a lot of time analyzing every facial feature, and partly because I didn't want to stop the progress of the story and make the reader remember a lot of details. So, this is all we see:

She inched the door open. Swallowed. Twice. A man waited on her porch, wearing jeans and a windbreaker over a black turtleneck, holding an olive-green duffel bag. He stood at least six-two, with black hair that hung almost to his shoulders. Even the fact that his face and a razor hadn’t kept company in several days didn’t detract from his raw good looks.

“I’m Kelli.” She forced herself to meet his eyes. Dark chocolate brown, they grabbed and wouldn’t let go.

I'd rather the reader fill in the blanks for what constitutes "raw good looks."

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Nit-picky crit partners who make me think.
2. No school this week, so no traffic on the way to the Y
3. Richard, my hairdresser, who is one of my best promoters.

Monday, November 24, 2008

If it's real, is it dated?

One of the pleasures of discovering "new" authors is being able to read a whole bunch of their books at once instead of waiting between releases. But this often means I'm reading books written years ago, which means they're "dated." I know my agent didn't want me to refer to "March of the Penguins" in my manuscript, because it would date the book.

But I write in the present and like to keep things real. For technology, it's almost impossible. Even if I had a three-book contract and my books were all in production, by the time they hit the shelves, they'd be out of date. I tiptoe around some of these issues by creating my own covert ops teams working for a made-up company so I can give them what they need to have, and I can fudge a little on the 'it doesn't work that way'—because I think there's an implied "yet". I've only set one book and one short story in a real city, again, because things change so quickly. My hero and heroine in one book had dinner at a Thai restaurant in my neighborhood. After the book had gone into production, the restaurant closed. (And so did its replacement; we're up to the third restaurant in that location.) Another Thai restaurant showed up in the same shopping center, but not where the original was.

This hit me again as I was reading early books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. They took place in New York, and there were not only references to the Twin Towers, but one of the characters had an office in one of the buildings. Even knowing the books were written pre-9/11, it still had a kind of creepy feel.

Certainly when authors write about major metropolitan areas, or even small home towns, they're likely to use real landmarks. I love when Harry Bosch goes to the Farmers Market in LA, because I grew up there. But what if it closed? It's already totally different from the way it was when I was a child, but it's still there, and many of the remembered shops remain. (But I still wish Harry Bosch had seen the baker frosting one of the 'pink elephant' cakes when he stood in front of Humphrey's window.)

At breakfast yesterday, my friend said she'd re-read Second Chance Rose after going to LA with her grandchildren and visiting the museums and rose garden where so much of the story takes place. She said she doubly enjoyed it because she was going, "Yes! The dinosaurs! I saw them!" And, she'd walked through the rose garden where Rose met Richard. For her, the story became more alive because she could relate to the setting. But what if she'd gone there and they'd bulldozed the rose garden, or replaced the T-rex and Triceratops skeletons in the lobby with an old Model T Ford?

What do you think? If you pick up a book and read about something that no longer exists, does it bother you? Do you prefer everything be made up so there's no chance of being out of date, at least with setting?

Today's Gratitude List

1. A new blog follower
2. My hot herbal shoulder wrap
3. An empty bike at the Y this morning

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday's List

What I'm reading: Rules of Prey, by John Sandford

Today's Gratitude List:

1. Cool, less humid weather for "not bad" hair days
2. Hubby, my IT specialist and paddle fan light installation expert
3. Sandra's tomato-spinach soup recipe

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In Memory of Mars

Life comes with tough decisions. Accepting the responsibility for the life of a pet is one of them. I've been in that situation more than once. Yesterday, our daughter and her husband were faced with the challenge of deciding whether the quality of life for one of their dogs was worth prolonging it. After many months, his condition deteriorated to the point where the decision became critical.

They put him down yesterday, at home, with his family around him. He'll be missed.

Puppy Mars, affectionately known as "Big Giant Head"

Mars and Juno - we thought she was a 'big' dog until they got Mars, who's just a puppy here.

Mars' Last Day

Today's Gratitude List
1. Pets, for the joy they can bring.
2. Susan, my massage therapist for the 'most pleasure a person can have without moving a muscle'
3. A solid night's sleep

Friday, November 21, 2008

Authors and Inspiration

What I'm reading: Running Blind, by Lee Child

The promised a recap of last night's book signing event at Urban Think! Bookstore with Michael Connelly.

Last night's venture into the wilds of downtown Orlando was well worth the trip. Since we figured Michael Connelly would be a big draw even to the small indie store, Urban Think!, we decided to make an evening of it and have dinner first. Traffic was typical, which meant it took about 50 minutes instead of 25, and the interstate has new off ramps, so our poor GPS lady was very busy "recalculating route."

We arrived about 90 minutes prior to the scheduled time and hubby picked the restaurant since he was doing me the favor of driving. (Night driving issues for me). His choice of Tortilla Flats meant we were in and out in another 30 minutes, so we took advantage of the shared space of Infusion Tea at Urban Think! and it turned out it was the first anniversary of the tea shop cohabiting with the bookstore, so drinks were two for one. And their chocolate biscotti was excellent. Unlike the Janet Evanovich signing we'd tried to attend about a year ago, lines didn't go outside and around the block. However, the store filled up steadily.

Mr. Connelly shared some of his writing background. It seems he moved from New Jersey to Florida as a 12 year old and had to deal with not only culture shock by climate shock. The summer hangout was a local park, and it didn't take long for a pressing need for shade. A small building sat at the edge of the park, and the boys watched a banner unfurl proclaiming "Now Air Conditioned." They went inside and the librarian was gracious, saying they were welcome, but there were 2 rules. One, keep it quiet, and Two, they had to be reading. She asked Michael Connelly how old he was, and he said 13, wanting to sound older. She gave him "To Kill a Mockingbird" and told him there were several copies on the shelf, so he could continue to read it each time he came in. He admitted to us that it took all summer to finish the book (and that included getting caught with a Mickey Spillane tucked behind his assigned book—the librarian said he could read that one when he was 14).

Did "To Kill a Mockingbird" inspire him to become a writer? No. But it laid the seeds for what he feels is an underlying theme in his books: someone who has a tough choice to make and does what he thinks is the right thing.

Since he was at the store to promote his newest release, The Brass Verdict, he told us about the inspiration for Michael Haller, first seen in The Lincoln Lawyer. It happened at opening day at Dodger Stadium. The day every seat is filled, and there are more people in suits and ties than t-shirts (because the stadium's location is convenient to the downtown crowd.) The man sitting next to him was an attorney, and when Mr. Connelly asked where his office was, the man replied, "my car." He was quick to add that it didn't make him the world's worst lawyer, that it was a luxury car, with a driver (someone who couldn't pay his legal fees), mobile fax and a trunk big enough to hold two file cabinets. It also meant he could take cases at all 40 of LA's courthouses.

The two men stayed until the end of the game (in LA, most people leave early to avoid the traffic) and Mr. Connelly says he still relies on the man for advice for making his writing accurate.

Accuracy was another topic he touched up. Mr. Connelly lives in Florida now, and he has many contacts in Florida law enforcement and judicial systems. However, Harry Bosch lives and works in Los Angeles, and Connelly also has people there who vet his work because the two states have different laws and procedures. Even the big guys have to do their homework.

The man who introduced Mr. Connelly was a local AP English teacher, and the store was full of his students. Yes, they got 'extra credit' for showing up, but they also asked questions and seemed truly interested. It's gratifying to see young people making the connection between school and real life.

Which brings me to Today's Gratitude List:
1. Teachers, so many of whom go the extra mile for their students
2. Urban Think! Bookstore for its support of Page 15
3. Hubby for driving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Author Talks

What I'm reading: Tripwire, by Lee Child

First: There were some comments about the yummy chocolate cake from the restaurant: Here it is:

And, now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post:

I volunteered to give my, "How I got started writing by mistake" program for the Lake County Library System. Yesterday the coordinator emailed me to tell me they've moved the presentation to PJ's Coffee and Wine Bar. I'm very curious about the reception an unknown author will get. It's not for a couple of weeks yet, so maybe they'll be doing some heavy promotion. And, worst case scenario, the "wine bar" part of the venue offers some great options if nobody shows up, or wants to listen.

It will be interesting to compare it to tonight's program at a local indie bookstore that also serves food and beverages. Of course, Michael Connelly is a slightly bigger draw than I am. I'm really looking forward to it—to the extent that I actually went up to the bookstore last week to pre-buy the book. AND pay full hard cover retail. I've met Mr. Connelly at a conference, and he's a gracious man as well as a favorite author. He has a way of doing the dreaded "tell" in such a way that it comes across totally naturally. If I stop and think about it, all the information he presents (things that come across as info dumps when done poorly) seem totally natural. If you stop to take things apart, there's no real reason Harry Bosch would stop to think about some of the basics, but it works and never feels like it's Michael Connelly on the page. Plus, he comes from my home town, and reading his books is a trip down memory lane. Hubby's even discovered him, and is going back for more.

I realized I forgot yesterday's Gratitude Project List. Blame it on jet-lag?

Nov. 19:

1. Cold enough to make white chili

2. The budget still permits my house cleaning service.

3. An empty checkout line at Publix

Nov. 20:

1. That hubby will give up spinning to go see Michael Connelly with me.

2. Mary Jo and Bob at the Y who always have friendly smiles and make me glad I showed up.

3. Extra time to read

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Ten Irritating Phrases

What I'm reading: Tripwire, by Lee Child

First -- the "after shot" taken one day after yesterday's photo from Colorado Springs. We had quite a variety of weather conditions over our 5 day visit.

As I start thinking about editing my WIP, I found this a timely tidbit:

Oxford University complies list of top 10 irritating phrases:
"I personally" made third place – an expression that BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys has described as "the linguistic equivalent of having chips with rice." Also making the top 10 is the grammatically incorrect "shouldn't of", instead of "shouldn't have". The phrases appear in a book called Damp Squid, named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib, a type of firework. The researchers who compiled the list monitor the use of phrases in a database called the Oxford University Corpus, which comprises books, papers, magazines, broadcast, the internet and other sources. The database alerts them to new words and phrases and can tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused.

And here they are:

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7

10 - It's not rocket science

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The dreaded homecoming

What I'm reading: Kiss and Tell, by Suzanne Brockmann

First: the picture I couldn't upload last Friday. We woke up to fluffy white stuff coming down from the sky.

Home again. Where to start? I never know what to do first. Unpack, which fills the laundry hamper. Catch up on email? Could take half a day (because I did have chances to clean out inboxes while I was away). Format photos? My son the photographer takes great ones, but he gives them to me in a HUGE format. Yes, if I want to have prints made, it's nice to have the hi-res, large dimension shots, but they're hard to share via email, web, etc. So, I put on a pot of coffee and bounce from one task to the next, never feeling like I've accomplished much.

The return trip was relatively uneventful. Hubby's learning curve is still very steep--his name was called for an upgrade on the Colorado to Atlanta leg of the flight. He comes back feeling very pleased with himself. "Did you ask where I was on the list?" I said. "No," he replied. He did go over and ask, then, and reported that there were no upgrades left. Now, it's not like he was really getting all that much: our regular seats were in an exit row, which meant sufficient legroom. We'd arrived at the airport in plenty of time, so we had lunch, so getting airline food wasn't a boon. Yes, there's free booze. Not to mention, the man falls asleep almost as soon as the plane levels off, and he can sleep in any seat on a plane. But, traveling with me, apparently, wasn't as cool as a free glass or two of wine, I guess.

His regular seat was empty, which was nice for spreading out. My row-mate was a large man. He wasn't pleased that the armrests in the exit row didn't move up--he fit, but barely. And when he asked for a seat-belt extender, he learned that the FAA will not allow their use in the exit rows. He managed to click his belt shut, but barely. Lucky he wasn't on the trip FROM Atlanta, where the air was so rough the seatbelt sign never went off. At any rate, when I explained why we had the empty seat between us, he said, "Oh, someone's in big trouble."

On the next leg, being a few people too low on the upgrade list, I took my coach seat. Not an exit row this time, but it's a 1 hour flight. Shortly before they closed the boarding door, a flight attendant came and handed me another boarding pass with a first-class seat. I grabbed my stuff and moved. I was settling in when I heard my name and turned. The man in the seat behind me was a good friend, a colleague of my husband's, and our regular Sunday at Panera buddy. Small world. (So, coincidences DO happen--don't discount all of them when you're reading a book!). Hubby was on the other side of the plane, but when we disembarked at the end of the flight, he told me he'd told the airline that unless I was upgraded along with him, he would sit in coach. Why he didn't mention this while we were waiting to board is beyond me, but that's probably hooked into the XY thing along with not comprehending why it's just fine to leave your traveling companion in coach while you imbibe up front.

Now it's back to catching up on routines.

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Safe travel
2. Elissa's chicken artichoke recipe
3. Cool weather at home

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homeward bound

We'll be off to the airport shortly.  Delta is teasing us with 'standby' status for an upgrade.  It's one of those last-minute things, so we won't know until we're ready to check in.  We'll have to see what hubby does this time if he's bumped up without me.  Used to be people who booked flights together were kept together, but no more, and his frequent flyer status is a level above mine.

Having family so far away, especially with a new grandson is a challenge, but we certainly made the most of our short visit.  

Last night, we had fun with raclette.  I don't know if one says, 'eating raclette' or 'making raclette' or 'doing raclette', but it was yummy.  

It was a short trip, but a busy one. Let's hope I can post some happy airline experiences on my gratitude list tomorrow.  And once I'm back on my computer, I'll be able to do things like post pictures and change font colors.  Blogger and Safari seem to have issues.  

Today's Gratitude List:

1.  Seeing a deer in the parking lot of the deli while we were having breakfast.

2. That hubby had fun on the range on his birthday.

3. Time spent with Joey, seeing how much he's changed in the last 5 months.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday in The Springs

What I'm reading: One Juror Down, by Heather Hiestand

Our visit is wrapping up -- flying home tomorrow.

Today's Gratitude List

1. Jay Boyar and Orlando Magazine for supporting local authors

2. A sunny day with the park within walking distance so Joey (and hubby) could play on the swings.

3. An evening enjoying family, even if their team didn't win.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What I'm reading:  Trust No One, by Katie Reus

Since it's the weekend, no 'real' discussion topics.  
And remember, the Gratitude Project came via Susan Wiggs -- feel free to join in.

Today's Gratitude List

1. A bright, crisp sunny day
2. Joey, who was ever so patient and well behaved despite the interminably slow service at the restaurant last night.
3. Time spent with good food, good wine, family and friends (and  killer chocolate cake.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's that white stuff

What I'm reading: Steeplechase by Blair Bancroft

I wish I could say the trip went smoothly -- but that would be stretching the truth. However, it's unfair to blame the airlines for what Mother Nature throws at them.

We took off on time. Hubby accepted the upgrade --given it's a 1 hour flight to Atlanta, and I had an exit row aisle seat and there's no service in either cabin, I won't even give him a hard time about 'abandoning me'. As it turned out, nobody took his seat, so I had lots of room.

However, watching the flight track on the in-seat screen, the straight line between Orlando and Atlanta started doing loops and zig zags. Bad weather had closed the Atlanta airport, and everything was stuck on hold until it opened. Once it did, we landed, but due to all the aircraft juggling for position, we were on the ground for over half an hour before we got to our gate. Our departure gate had moved from the too-good-to-be-true right next to the arrival gate to another terminal, so we did the race through the airport and just made our flight.

Although we pushed away from the gate on time, the back-up meant there were about 35 planes ahead of us waiting to take off. Another good half hour. And, there was no 'smooth air' so the seat belt sign was on until 30 minutes before landing. No meal (even if it was 'for purchase') or beverage service. I think first class got fed, but hubby wasn't upgraded on this leg, so no grumbles.

But we arrived safe and sound, and to our surprise, so did our luggage. I've been enjoying watching our grandson -- he's at that stage where everything is fascinating. They sure didn't have toys like that when our kids were little, but he's still just as happy with wrapping paper as the gift inside.

Jet-lag plus an early awakening to make our flight meant we went to bed early. This morning, we woke up to SNOW!

Today's Gratitude List
1. The efficient baggage handlers at the Atlanta airport.
2. The view of snow outside my son's front door after leaving 80 degree humid weather.
3. An infant's giggle.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Headed out west

Since I've been dealing with a couple of rejections, today's quote seemed appropriate.

First, be ever mindful that it's a privilege rather than a God-given right to be able to write for a living; that the opportunities are few, though sought after by many; and thus, that it's healthiest to view the years of rejection as a crude winnowing process in which those left standing are those who have endured because they must write. Second, rejection is never, ever to be taken personally or doomfully. All that counts is improving your craft.
~Robert Draper

I'm off for 5 days out west to visit family, enjoy a change of scenery and climate, and do some vegging.

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post on my blog, but while I'm gone you can occupy yourself by reading the first chapter of When Danger Calls, which I've just posted on my website. If you enjoy it, it's available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Links are on my site as well.

AND … if you're in a generous mood and haven't already done so, a few more votes for Hidden Fire at Night Owl Reviews (link at the right) – then scroll way down to Romantic Suspense --- would be appreciated. It's one vote per person, so if you've already voted – Thanks!

Today's Gratitude List:

1. My faithful blog followers

2. Pre-printed boarding passes and on-line baggage checking

3. Time with distant family

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sexual Tension - It's Not the Sex, part 3

To recap from yesterday:

We're looking at the 12 Steps to Intimacy – from Intimate Behavior by Desmond Morris

This ties back into the hard-wiring established to enhance survival in early man. Studies have shown that relationships that don't follow these steps tend to be shorter-lived than those that progress naturally through them. In a broad generalization, women prefer to move through the steps, whether it be consciously or not. Just like a building requires a strong foundation, so does a relationship.

The steps below are given from a male to female standpoint, so we're looking at the male as instigator, although these steps will work both ways. As authors, we're "pushing" the characters together and "pulling them apart" to create sexual tension.

To continue with the list:

7. Mouth to mouth-
Kissing. The first kiss is a milestone in any romance novel. Both parties are vulnerable. Look at the romance books you've read and see how many of these 'first kiss' encounters are cut short. The author is creating tension by pulling the characters apart. How is the kiss described? Is the author pushing the characters together with their reactions to the sensations?

In an erotic romance, this might be the first step. It's also going to happen very early in the book. However, for a believable HEA ending, the couple needs to backtrack and lay the foundations for the relationship beyond the scope of sex.

8. Hand to head-
This is done by both men and women. Whereas the initial kiss may have been only a touching of lips, as the relationship develops, the woman may run her fingers through the man's hair. The man may cradle the woman's face. Allowing someone to touch one's head shows a deepening trust. Does the woman allow the touch, or does she pull away?

9. Hand to body
This step moves the couple into the beginnings of foreplay. This is another area where the author is likely to use the external plot to pull the characters apart. The phone rings. Someone knocks on the door. However, it's still quite possible for the emotional pull-apart. Is the character having second thoughts? Is there too much guilt?

10. Mouth to breast
This step shows a great deal of trust. It's still possible for the woman to pull back, although this is another step along the foreplay route.

11. Hand to genitals
Most of the time, this is the point at which there's no turning back. The commitment has been made. If the woman does change her mind, it will be very frustrating for the male (a MAJOR conflict). It's also likely to label the woman as a "tease".

12. Genitals to genitals
This is the sex act. It may happen on or off the page. However by now, the reader should be at least as anxious for the relationship to be consummated as the characters are. Perhaps more.

After this point, the author is challenged with maintaining tension. Just as the ratings plunged when the stars of "Moonlighting" finally slept together, once the hero and heroine have had sex, the author is likely to be spending more page time on the plot conflicts. In non-erotic romance, further sex scenes tend to be less detailed.

These steps follow a natural, logical progression. However, it's not a rule that one must show them all, or even show them in this order. Leapfrogging or hopscotching through the steps does happen. However, the strongest relationships are those where all 12 steps are followed. An research indicates that couples who repeat these steps regularly have longer, more satisfactory relationships.

This wraps up my workshop notes. I hope you've found something useful, either for yourself or your writing.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Colorado for a long weekend.

Today's Gratitude List:

1. Hubby, for working on the paddle fan lights before leaving for work AND being the bed fairy.

2. My agent, who believes in my work despite the rejections

3. Joey, the world's cutest grandson. See you soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sexual Tension - It's Not the Sex - Part 2

Today, we'll continue with my workshop notes. As an aside, my agent sent me a rejection letter yesterday, but in a moment of synchronicity, the editor said there was some "nice sexual tension."

12 Steps to Intimacy – from Intimate Behavior: A Zoologist's Classic Study of Human Intimacy
by Desmond Morris (originally published in 1971)

Once again, this ties back into the hard-wiring established to enhance survival in early man. Studies have shown that relationships that don't follow these steps tend to be shorter-lived than those that progress naturally through them. In a broad generalization, women prefer to move through the steps, whether it be consciously or not. Just like a building requires a strong foundation, so does a relationship.

The steps below are given from a male to female standpoint, so we're looking at the male as instigator, although these steps will work both ways.

I'll try to discuss them in terms of yesterday's "Push-Pull" mechanisms. In this case, we're talking about the author "pushing" the characters together and "pulling them apart" to create sexual tension.

1. Eye to body
This is the sizing up of a potential mate. The woman walks into the room. The man looks at her and decides if she's someone who appears to meet his criteria. Hard wiring suggests he's looking for a mate who appears healthy and able to bear his offspring, but we've all met guys where merely having two X chromosomes is enough. However, if the female doesn't measure up, he moves away.

2. Eye to eye
Assuming the woman passed muster in step 1, the man will attempt to make eye contact. If the woman averts her eyes, that's a "pull away." The man has the choice of moving on, or perhaps accepting the challenge and trying again. Be aware that a fixed gaze can also be viewed as threat behavior, so there's more fodder for the push-pull.

3. Voice to voice
If she's accepted his gaze (and, by the way, the woman is doing the same kind of sizing up at the same time), the next step is to strike up a conversation. You want to pull them apart, perhaps your hero uses the pickup line from hell, tells a bad joke, or is a "me me me" conversationalist.

4. Hand to hand (or arm)
The very first step in physical contact. This is the step where intimacy begins. Allowing someone to touch is a measure of trust. The woman is accepting some vulnerability here. Touching signals to others that there's a 'couple' forming.

5. Arm to shoulder
Putting an arm around the woman's shoulder (what teenager in a movie theater hasn't tried that move?) Holding hands still allows keeping some distance, but an arm around the shoulder draws the couple closer on a physical level. Trust continues to build. Again, if the woman pulls away, you've created some tension. She may not be ready for this step yet.

6. Arm to waist, or back
Here, if the woman is put off by the man, she'll move away, often unconsciously. If he puts a hand at the small of her back, she may increase her pace to move out of reach. Arms around the waist show a growing familiarity and comfort in the relationship.

These first six steps are basic, and seem almost intuitive. Nothing here is out of the scope of the public arena. In a sweet romance, there might not be a whole lot more than this on the page. In an erotic romance, these first steps might take place on page one. As the author, you have to decide how to show the progression, and what kind of devices you'll use to keep them from forging ahead.

Does your heroine retreat behind dark sunglasses? Does she get a thrill when his hand brushes her arm? Using the devices mentioned yesterday, you can develop any of these with dialog, internal monologue, or plot. Add a second male to the mix and watch the territorial dogs go at it, each moving through the steps to 'claim' the woman as his. At the approach of another man, does your hero take your heroine's hand? Put his on her shoulder? Does he glare at the intruder, keeping steady eye contact?

Tomorrow, I'll finish the last six, which move us from "just friends" to "intimate."

Today's Gratitude List:

1. Finding gas was under $2 at Costco
2. A day cold enough to make soup
3. Burnt caramel almonds from Recchiuti

Also -- I'm a guest blogger at Simply Romance Reviews today, although I don't know what time they'll post it. I'm talking about some of the basics of writing, and how I started with The Wild Rose Press. I'm giving away a download, so please pop by and leave a comment there once I'm "up." I'll allow a couple of days to select the winner.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sexual Tension - it's not the sex

What I'm reading: Play Dirty by Sandra Brown

As promised, I'm sharing my workshop notes from author Eileen Ann Brennan's workshop: Creating Sexual Tension.

Sexual tension -- what is it?

What it's NOT; The act of sex, or making love

What it IS: the anticipation, the wanting, but not being able to have. Brennan defines it as foreplay for the mind.

In a romance, it's a given that the hero and heroine will be together at the end of the book. Give them the happily ever after in chapter 3, and the book is over. In order to create sexual tension, the author must constantly push the characters together and then pull them apart. Since our speaker writes erotic romance, she mentioned the challenge of writing in that genre, because readers expect there will be consummated sex at the very beginning of the book, so there's not much sexual tension. But for the non-erotic romances, the relationship generally builds before the characters have sex.

Throughout the book, the characters should have an escalating awareness of each other, and anticipation of the culmination of the relationship needs to climb along with it. She used the movie, "While You Were Sleeping" as an example of how the tension builds.

She lists four major areas an author should consider when creating sexual tension, or the "Push-Pull"

1. Plot and Conflict. When the internal conflict eases, bring it back with the external conflicts of the plot. Pulling away can be both emotional OR physical.

2. Dialog
In this area, she suggests using innuendo, subtext, sexual/sensual terms in non-sexual conversation, and double entendres. Although these are closely related, innuendo tends to be more subtle and is often non-verbal. A character might rub his hands along his jeans, or move his hands suggestively on the steering wheel as he drives.

3. Senses
Brennan breaks the senses into two categories: active and passive.
The Active senses are those over which the character has some control. He can choose to see, touch, or taste.
The Passive senses are those that are received by the character: smell and sound. These tend to be more sensual.

4. Emotions between hero and heroine
She stressed that the mechanics of whose body parts are where, or Tab A and Slot B are not particularly sensual. It's more important to describe the feelings of the characters, what they're thinking. Internal monologue works well here. (She adds—only up to a point, especially in the male POV, where thinking tends to disappear once the sexual act is underway.)

We then had some interactive practice – With the following setup, half the room was to continue in Francois' POV, the other half in Lady Claudine's, using the basics above to create emotion and sexual tension: "Francois entered his chamber, shrugged off his cloak, then saw Lady Claudine standing by the window. He went to her and touched her arm."

My first reaction was Chamber? Cloak? Lady Claudine? Not exactly a setup for someone who writes action adventure romance. But the fun came as everyone shared their brief paragraphs, because no two people wrote the same basic follow up. This goes back to each of us having a unique voice. Some went with the romantic liaison, some with the woman seducing the man, others with her being captive. Or accepting a dare to appear in his chamber. Even given the same plot, we'd all write different books – but that's a digression.

Tomorrow, I'll go through the way we as writers can use her suggestions along with Desmond Morris' steps to intimacy, laid out in his book, Intimate Behavior. Hope you'll come back.

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Hubby for bringing home a surprise box of Godiva truffles.
2. A guilt-free day of sitting around not doing much of anything
3. My aunt, who is still in good spirits after breaking her wrist less than a month after breaking her shoulder

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Gratitude Project

Today's Gratitude List

1. Sundays at Panera with hubby and friends

2. Cooler weather, so we can open some windows and enjoy the fresh air--and lower electric bills.

3. Central Florida Romance writers -- yesterday's meeting showed how much support they give to everyone regardless of where they are along writing's path.

Back to normal blogging tomorrow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Time for reading

What I'm reading: Salvation in Death, by J.D. Robb

Today's Gratitude List -
since my new writing is 'on hiatus' while I deal with rewrites, I have a lot more reading time. Today's list is of some favorite characters.

1. Eve and Roarke, for pulling me out of any funk.

2. Harry Bosch, for the nostalgic peeks at Los Angeles, my home town.

3. Spenser, for making me laugh.

Friday, November 07, 2008

No Theme Today

No real theme today, just odds and ends.

Tomorrow our RWA chapter is hosting Eileen Ann Brennan, who's going to address the topic of sexual tension. As always, I'll be posting notes next week. I'm not sure exactly what day the post will show up, so please check back. Or, you can become a 'follower' of the blog and you'll be notified of new posts. Or the feed option. I'm still in awe of all this technology.

Last night's event for the Ovarian Cancer Alliance was fun--a definite change of pace from a book signing. Vendors from all over town were there--everything from free chair massages to jewelry to toys. And of course there were three local writers with books to sign! Oh, and did I mention free food and wine? Dara and Katie--you were great table partners (but Katie, next time get a table that doesn't take four people to carry!)

My crit partner and I met earlier in the day and did some brainstorming. It's been a while since we've had time for a face to face meet, and it was great to get the wheels turning. I still don't have the definitive title for Fozzie's book; there's a theme of 'setting roots' in the book, but most of the titles we tossed around sounded like gardening or genealogy books. Definitely have to work on it some more.

Today's Gratitude List

1. All the wonderful people who came out last night in support of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

2. Dara, for her great ideas

3. Tom, for volunteering to read my knife fight scene and make sure I didn't say anything stupid.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Those Two Little Words

Last night, I typed "The End" on my manuscript. It's just shy of 115,000 words, which is a bit on the long side, but I had to write it all. I'll deal with what gets cut after I let it sit for a while so I can look at it more objectively.

No title yet, though. I am SO bad at coming up with those. It's got to reflect the tone, the theme, the sub-genre, the characters. And be snappy.
And no synopsis, either. I'm still selling on complete manuscripts, so I get to wait until I see what happens in the book before I have to summarize it.

Tonight there's a "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" fund-raising event at a local downtown club (before it opens) for the Ovarian Cancer Alliance. I'll be there with 2 of my writing colleagues. A fine way to celebrate the completion of my book. And maybe I'll get some ideas for the next one.

Today's Gratitude List

1. Getting a clean bill of health from my doctor

2. That the Y is only 5 minutes away, which probably has a great bearing on #1.
3. That hubby didn't fuss when I told him I hadn't given a thought to dinner because I was ALMOST DONE WITH THE BOOK.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Is this the time to be raising prices?

The election is over. The sun rose this morning. I suppose there will still be a few days of total dissection of the election results, but at least no machines should be calling my phone. I could have added this to my gratitude list for the day, but it seems too easy.

Update on book pricing. My publisher sent an email yesterday to all the authors saying that they were working with Amazon to offer more services, which meant an increase in pricing. As of 8:15 this morning, the price at Barnes & Noble was still the 'old' price, with a discount for members. If you want to take advantage of the lower price --- enough said? The publisher says the new deal with Amazon will let them offer deeper discounts???? I'm still wrapping my brain around that one--why raise the price if you intend to lower it? Or are they going to lower it to a price still higher than the 'old' price and make it appear better?

I don't pretend to understand marketing decision, and it's moot, because I have no control over them, but my books compete with mass market NYT best-selling authors, and their books are available for less. Seems that's the price point my publisher should be shooting for, with the allowance for a higher price because they print trade paperback, not mass market. And with everyone tightening belts, is this the best time for a price increase?

And who knows what will happen with my new release, which is hard cover, but from a different publisher entirely. I know that book will be pricey, but I also know it's targeted to the library market, so I encourage any interested readers to request that their library purchase it.

Today's Gratitude list:

1. The wonderful customer service from eBookwise and their technology supplier, eBook Technologies, Inc. My replacement arrived (on a Saturday, no less) and is up and running. I'll be taking it to the doctor's office while I hang around the waiting room.

2. Jessica, for being a first reader, a brainstorming partner, and a fight scene choreographer.

3. My new herb garden.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Just Do It! Vote.

NOTE! Be aware that Amazon has NOT YET fixed the pricing of my two Cerridwen books in print. If you plan to buy them, PLEASE don't spend $16.99. The publisher's price is $9.99, and until Amazon corrects the listing (visible in the widget on the side panel), you can find the books at their normal price at the publisher or Barnes and Noble. Thanks!

What I'm reading: Now and Then, by Robert B. Parker

What I'm writing: The Last Scene(s)! Also a blog for November 11th at Simply Romance Reviews and answering interview questions for CataNetwork. At least those are today's writing goals.

My Gratitude List:

1. My eBookwise reader that lets me read in the dark, without my reading glasses, and lets me read with one hand.

2. The bed fairy who showed up while I was at the Y.

And the Big One:

That it's election day and it will BE OVER tomorrow. No more robocalls. No more annoying commercials that dish dirt on opponents instead of showing what you're going to do. Less junk mail. Not that it matters, I'm sure, but if you sent one of those fancy brochures in the mail that have at least 75% of them devoted to slinging mud, you can be sure I didn't vote for you.

I'll deal with the media's inundating the airwaves with coverage by not watching. Hubby has already come up with some more interesting and enjoyable suggestions. Whether I watch or not, the results won't change. As a matter of fact, it bugs the heck out of me that the media begin declaring winners, especially when the polls aren't closed on the other side of the country.

And let's remember that tomorrow morning, about half the country will be disappointed with the results, regardless of the outcome. Get over it and move on. And the best of luck to whoever wins and inherits the problems facing the country. It's time to look at the big picture, not party lines.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Susan Wiggs' Gratitude Project

This morning I stumbled across Susan Wiggs' Gratitude Project for the month of November. It's simple, really. Just come up with 3 things you're grateful for every day this month. Simple, silly, or profound--doesn't matter. Almost everything we hear lately is negative: the economy is a mess, our planet is a mess, and I refuse to discuss the political climate. So -- 3 things I'm grateful for today.

1. The new paddle fan hubby put in all by himself (and lest I forget, he drags me into the den and points to it at regular intervals).

2. Being able to have a voice in determining who will run our country -- from the local level on up.

3. Knowing that regardless of who is elected, we don't live in a dictatorship and campaign promises are smoke. Nothing changes overnight, and there are checks and balances.

Please get out and vote. If you don't, then please don't complain when things don't seem to be going your way.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

And One More

Son came through with his second pumpkin, which he describes as 'some sort of gremlin thingie.'

More pumpkins

Other Daughter sent pictures of her carvings. However, to be fair, she confessed to using templates. Still, they're cool. Haven't seen the second one my son promised, but with an infant in the house, things often get busy.

Today, I'll be joining a large group of Central Florida authors at "Romancing the Holidays", a book signing event sponsored by Barnes and Noble to raise money for the Adult Literacy League. Any of you in the neighborhood, drop by the Altamonte Mall from 2-5 PM today. There are bags loaded with books and other good stuff for the first 75 customers. Check the CFRW website or mine (under Find Me) for details.