Saturday, December 30, 2006

We pause for a commercial message

The Cerridwen Chat group is having a "Free For All" all day January 1st. Cerridwen Press authors will be posting excerpts, offerering free downloads, holding contests, answering questions. If you'd like to drop by, join the yahoo group at

I'll be there talking about Finding Sarah

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On Unexpected Changes

What I'm reading: Improper Alliance by Jane Toombs; More GH entries; more Crapometer posts

What I'm wrting: Chapter 18.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of posting, Blogger goes all Google on me. This is more of a test to see if I have to unlearn anything, so it'll be short.

I thought I had a handle on Dalton, but he went all gentleman on me in chapter 17, so everything got pushed up about 10 pages. I guess he can wait; it was his idea, after all. I just go where he takes me.

Had a nice meeting with my CP this morning--it feels good to have some live brainstorm time. And fresh eyes to say, "I got this, enough already" or "Huh? What are you talking about?" shows me where I'm over explaining or assuming the ESP thing is going.

I've borrowed my husband's PDA to see what it's like to read a book on the small screen. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the backlight is great for reading in bed, and for some reason, probably the unfamiliar format, my internal editor stays turned off. I'm waiting for the universal e-book formatting to take effect (I should live that long).

And last--we saw Casino Royale on Monday (our own Christmas tradition--a movie and Chinese food). After countless explosions, chases, gunfights, near-death escapes, and plenty of decolletage, all requirements of my husband's, after the movie he says, "too much mush."

I'll be making his New Year's Resolutions pretty soon.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

On Murphy's Law

What I'm reading: Lady of the Two Lands by Elizabeth Delisi; Golden Heart entries; More of the Crapometer

What I'm writing: End of chapter 17. Buildup to "The Scene"

After figuring out my postcards, I ran into three glitches. 1. The printer generated too much heat, apparently, and after about 2 sheets, the ink glommed up the rollers. 2. The card stock had defective perforations, so the cards didn't separate neatly. 3. The printer ran out of a color cartridge or two. My background green faded away to nothing.

I returned the stock, although they did let me keep the ones I'd already printed on the back. I bought some matte ones, but they're 4 to a page, not 2. Figured it would be cheaper for trials, but they're smaller, so back to the formatting board.

Starting Over hit Cerridwen's spreadsheet Friday, so I've been working on my cover request form. I know I want the bald eagle and the nests on the cover. I hope the cover department can come up with something that looks like the undeveloped Florida terrain. If you say Florida, everyone envisions airboats zipping through the sawgrass, but that's not where the scene takes place.

I also think I'm going to start a scoresheet for writers who have their character 'thumb the safety off their Glocks.' I don't know a whole lot about handguns, but I do know that Glocks don't have that kind of safety.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More waiting; more promotion

What I'm reading: Dust to Dust by Tami Hoag; Miss Snark's Crapometer; Golden Heart entries; Sophie Metropolis by Tori Carrington

What I'm writing: Chapter 17

Now that I've finished scoring a RWA chapter contest, it's time to dig into the Golden Heart entries. I received 7 to judge. Although I've judged lots of local chapter contests, this is my first go at the 'biggie'.

Both my publishers are in holiday mode, so the waiting continues. I did get my advance copies of Finding Sarah, and on a scary note, that means that the publisher is sending out ARCs for reviews. Considering what my heart rate jumped to when I scrolled down to find out what Miss Snark had to say about my hook, I'm not sure I'll survive dealing with reviews.

I've been fighting with Word and Avery templates, but I emerged victorious and have my first promotional piece for Finding Sarah laid out, tested, and ready to print. Until I see some financial returns, I'm going low-budget and DIY whenever possible. I've got a postcard sized flat—cover image on the front and blurb copy on the back. Now I'll have something to put out on the 'goodie tables' at conferences. I don't know what the return is in terms of sales, but I know I'll get a charge out of seeing my cover. I also had a turn at a Writerspace chat the other night to promo Sarah, and that was fun.

Meanwhile, I've finally (I think—nothing's ever permanent) figured out how to weave a couple of threads together in Dalton's story. Minor characters have a way of demanding more page time, and I have to give them a good reason to be there. It's also time to start brainstorming meetings again. I'm meeting my CP next week, and looking forward to some recharging.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Waiting

What I'm reading: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag; contest entries

What I'm writing: Chapter 16

With everything done on "my end", the reality of relative helplessness sets in. According to my delivery confirmations, Rescued Hearts reached the editor on Wednesday. I sent polite follow-up emails to two agents who have had requested submissions for months. "Romancing the Geek" has been received and is sitting in the editor's inbox, waiting its turn. I guess the 'control freak' in me hasn't gone away.

I'm learning about the promotional end of e-books by participating in 'author' or 'publisher' days at several on-line groups. Not quite as chaotic as live chats, but time consuming nevertheless. And until Sarah is released, there's no effective way to judge the return on the effort.

Time to re-read what I wrote last night and get back to work.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Getting Back to Routines

A quick entry tonight.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity of being four steps behind in everything, I have finished my Valentine's Day story, tentatively titled "Romancing the Geek," and I plan to submit it to the Champagne Rose line editor tomorrow. When I started, I planned a short-short, under 5,000 words, but (and not totally unexpectedly) the characters demanded more of their stories be told. It ended up at a shade over 11,000 words.

Rescued Hearts is on its way to the publisher, so I'm back in 'wait' mode. But my holiday company is gone, my work responsibilities have gone from bonfires and chaos to something I can keep up with. I've even found time for my middle-of-the-day reading routine, although today it was reading contest entries.

And I got my "author copy" of Finding Sarah. It's getting more and more real.

Tomorrow--Back to Dalton and Miri, for sure.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Happy News

What I'm reading: Inside Delta Force by Eric L. Haney ; contest entries
What I'm writing: My Valentine's Day short (still). Also a promo prologue piece for Finding Sarah.

I got a couple of nice surprises while I was away at a 2 day meeting. First, an editor had offered to critique my first three chapters of Rescued Hearts as a pure favor. Instead of feedback, I got a request for the full manuscript. And, she said she'd offer some advice before I sent the final version in. How kind of her.

My Cerridwen editor approved my long-ago-written prologue for Finding Sarah, one that I wrote more for me than the book, but she said I could use it as a promotional giveaway.

AND -- she offered a contract on Starting Over, the sequel to Finding Sarah. The one I'd waited so long to finish the final draft because I wanted to get the local sheriff's department building operations. (You know, like how to you get a fax? Where's the lab?)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Choosing Readers

What I'm reading: A Knight's Vengeance by Catherine Kean

What I'm writing: My geek Valentine's Day story.

I've been working on my Valentine's Day short story, which keeps getting longer—but easier to cut after it's all out there, I've found. My characters insist on having their back stories well established, although it doesn't need to end up on the page. Although I'm not sure what the title will be, right now, it's The Socialization of a Geek. (Anyone think that's a clunky title? Is 'Socialization' not a romance fiction word? Let me know.)

At any rate, I'm about 8500 words into the story, and on my way out to take my kids to the airport, I must have clicked one of the hot keys on my keyboard, because the printer whirred and starting spitting out the pages. Since I'd already used the paper (and not from my recycled paper tray, either!) I figured it was a good excuse to ask my husband to give it a first read.

All of a sudden, he comes into my office with one of his 'trying to look mad but laughing' faces and says, "What's wrong with giving someone an electronic tire gauge for Valentine's Day?"

Guess I drew that character quirk from a little too close to home. In his defense, the tire gauge accompanied roses and chocolates.

Maybe I need to get one of these:

One takes ones story ideas where one finds them. Just be careful who you ask to read it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Voice

What I'm reading: Learning Curve by Terry McLaughlin; Cinderella Tannenbaum, by Dara Edmondson

What I'm writing: My Valentine's Day story, still untitled.

I found my notes from the Voice workshop given by Barbara Samuel. Although she lectured, chatted, and imparted lots of valuable information, most of the day was spent in free writing to help us discover our voices. As she puts it, your voice is your body, your style is the clothing you put on. Or, if your voice is a potato, your style is how you cook it. Another thing I found interesting, since I thought my voice in "Words" was very different from what I'd consider my 'normal' voice, was her comparison to changing the way you speak based on where you are and who you're with is a change of style, not voice. An author with a strong voice will often hear readers say, "You sound just like your book." Another tidbit--avoid 'writerly language' because you'll lose your voice.

Barbara wanted us to see that our voices are determined by where we come from, what impressed us growing up, our neighborhoods, the languages and dialects we spoke and heard. She started out with a 3 minute timed writing with the prompt, "I am seven years old..." When we finished, brave souls shared their writing, and it was fascinating to see what resonated for us. We moved on to, "I am twelve years old..." which brought forth a lot of angst. From there, we looked at being born into other cultures, to writing about our relatives, and trying to define the culture we were brought up in, remembering what the house we lived in at age twelve was like, what it was like to be eighteen--all exercises to get us in touch with ourselves.

Then we moved on to seeing what kind of people we were. She had us list 15 things we loved, and I was surprised to find that I, the scientist, was really a very sensual person. I had trouble with my top 10 movies, mostly because we hardly ever go see any. But the ones I listed were pretty much all adventure flicks, which goes along with the romantic suspense stories I'm working on.

Our final exercises were to take a picture from a stack she passed around the room, and write about it. Then, we passed the picture to the person next to us and wrote about the one they'd picked. We learned how much easier it was to write about something we "liked", and also how two people writing about exactly the same picture, could come up with totally different 'voices.' I wrote about two people on a cruise ship, and my partner wrote about an alien invasion.

She left us with a 4 page worksheet to take home and use to develop everything we'd worked on.

A great day!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Odds and Ends - Frustrations and Research

What I'm reading: Born in Death by JD Robb

What I'm writing: Revising Starting Over; working on my Valentine's Day short story.

I was going to write about Barbara Samuel’s Voice workshop this morning, since I’ve been delinquent about posting, but I can’t find the safe place I put the steno pad where I took my notes and did my writing. It’ll turn up. With family descending for the holiday, there will be all sort of things rediscovered when I go through my desk and other piles of stuff in preparation for relinquishing my office.

First, a personal scream. I decided to enjoy the cold snap and transferred my manuscript to my laptop so I could sit by the fire (okay, it’s just a Presto log, but heck, this is Florida, and fireplaces are for atmosphere, not heat). After editing about 170 pages, it was time to call it a night. Of course you know what’s coming. I saved the file to my flash drive. At least I swore that’s what I was doing, but no, I took what was on the flash drive originally and overwrote the file I’d just revised. Back to square one, or page 181, which is where I’d started. Major stomping, swearing, hair-pulling. Yes, I know better.

My SWAT Commander contact did have an hour to spare for me Friday (he had to serve a warrant that afternoon) so I got a first-hand look at the main office building for the sheriff’s department. It was a genuine maze—I wouldn’t last two minutes without getting lost. Tom was kind enough to show me the kinds of spaces my deputy would have access to. It was Friday, so dress was casual, and it was also the CID Thanksgiving lunch, so there weren’t a lot of people around. But I did get confirmation on most of the stuff I’d made up, I met their resident sketch artist who showed me his portfolio, saw the lab where my deputy went to see if his results were ready.

Got the ‘local interest’ stuff, too—color of the walls, carpet, the sounds of training classes from behind not-quite-closed doors, and the amazing friendliness of everyone in the building. A feel for the need for keys for access to various areas. A peek into an interview room—nothing like the ones on tv. Small, no glass or one-way mirror. No cameras in the ceiling. Just a room with a tiny table—more like a counter—attached to the wall and a couple of chairs. Definitely serves the purpose, which is to make the person uncomfortable.

I suppose after last night’s stupidity, it was a good thing to know I didn’t really have that much to change. I didn’t know the front of the building was glass, or what the reception area looked like. As I wrote, of course more questions arose, but I’m ready to tackle the rewrite. And hope my editor approves.

Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Double Negatives

What I'm reading: A Killing Night by Jonathon King

What I'm working on: A Valentine' Day short story, and chapter 15, plus edits.

I finally finished a 1100 piece hard copy mailing and am ready to rejoin life again.

The IGO contest final round has been decided, and Rescued Hearts wasn't "best of the best" although I'm still please with the first place finish in Romantic Suspense. I haven't seen comments, if any, from the editor who judged the last round. However--she is also the editor who requested the partial of Rescued Hearts at the Emerald City conference, so my hopes that she's interested enough to want more have taken a tumble. Kind of a two-for-one rejection, although techncially I haven't heard back about my partial. However, if she'd wanted more based on the contest entry, she'd have told the coordinator.

All I can hope is that it was the overall story she didn't care for, because I know the pages she read for the contest were "old" and I've cleaned them up a lot. The manuscript scored well enough, despite some of the glitches, so that I don't think the cleaner version would make it any more "marketable" in the eyes of an editor.

With the IGO now complete, my contest "career" is officially over--if you don't count being coordinator for my chapter's contest. I need to line up editor judges--my least favorite part of the whole job.

Meanwhile, I have a very tentative date to get a tour of the local sheriff's office tomorrow--my contact is a SWAT commander, and at the moment the only thing on his schedule for tomorrow is serving a search warrant at 3 PM. (That sounds so cool!) But anything can happen between now and tomorrow morning. There are plenty of bad guys out there. We'll see

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On Half-Empty Glasses

What I'm reading: True Confessions of the Stratford Park PTA, by Nancy Robards Thompson

What I'm working on: Fixing some continuity issues in Chapter 11.

I got home and found a flat brown cardboard box on my front porch Friday. When I opened it, I found a plaque and a check for $35 – my prize for winning the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest in my category. I'd totally forgotten that there was more to the contest than the usual "get your pages on an editor's desk" prize.

I made a copy of the check for my files and glanced around my office trying to decide if I want to put the plaque somewhere obvious to people coming into the room (not that there are many of them since I work in a back bedroom of my house) or in front of my desk where it will remind me that someone liked my writing.

Then I read the cover letter and saw, "(the editor) did not make any comments on your entry, so rather than return it, it has been shredded."

Okay, I don't object to the shredding. I already have a foot-high stack of contest entry pages in my draft paper stack for printing hard copies of things I need to edit, but not keep. I don't need another 25 pages. But to me, the 'no comments' came across as a form rejection letter—albeit one with a $35 check attached. I'm not saying I thought for a nanosecond about not cashing the check—but some of the delight in the win was negated by not getting what to me was the 'real' prize—editorial feedback. Was my entry the least bad of the three she judged? Or super, but just not something she was looking for at the moment? All I know is that she thought it was better than the other 2 finalists' entries, but I don't know what she thought about it. She didn't request it, and I don't know why, or how to make it better.

Am I looking at a half-empty glass? Maybe. Celebrate the win, forget the rest. I did get feedback from editors in the other contests where the manuscript finaled, and as a writer, that's more valuable than the prize money.

As a contest coordinator, I sit on the other side of the desk. I have to recruit these editor final round judges, and they are prized for giving up their time to read contest manuscripts. In our chapter contest, we tell the judges that they are not obligated to fill out score sheets or mark up the manuscripts, but suggest as politely as we can that it would be really, really appreciated by the entrants if they did. So far, only 1 of our judges has merely ranked the entries. Most fill out a score sheet with comments, and some go so far as to write specific notes on the manuscript, and even notes to the authors.

Those kinds of judges are gold. My entry went from that judge to another editor who will get the first place finishers in each category to select a 'best of the best' winner. Win or not, I have my fingers crossed for comments.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Being Busy

What I've been reading: Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker; An Unlikely Match, by Cynthia Thomason; I'll be Home for Christmas (anthology )–Linda Lael Miller, Catherine Mulvany, Julie Leto & Roxanne St. Claire

What I'm working on: Chapter 15

Note: I've got a contest on my website—pop over and enter. Say you came from the blog when you enter and I'll send you my brother's secret for a fast-roasting, guaranteed moist turkey. He's a chef—retired from a Los Angeles restaurant, and this is how he roasted them in his kitchen.

I'm still waiting to hear from the Sheriff's Office about details for Starting Over. I'm not too impatient, because I have enough other stuff to keep me busy, including a major renewal project for work. I hadn't expected everything to be so far behind (although I don't know why that surprises me) and hadn't counted on having to do everything manually. We were supposed to be set up for e-commerce, but --- stuff happens.

I did slide off the fence (still wincing from the splinters) and register for the Fun in the Sun Conference in February. I signed up for an agent/editor appointment. I need to take another look at Rescued Hearts and go through all the feedback and see if I can make it a stronger work. I can appreciate anonymity in the judges, but it would be nice to know a tad more about what they write. Comments from an inspirational writer, or a sweet category writer don't carry the same weight with me once they move beyond catching basic writing gliches—like I can't believe I actually got my hero's boss's name wrong – and on the same page where I had it right! Why can't I see these things in my own work. I've got another piece to critique for an on-line group, and those things jump off the page.

Our RWA chapter is having a workshop on voice Saturday, given by Barbara Samuel. I'll be interested in that one. I've been told my voice is 'strong' which can be good or bad—if readers don't like the voice, then they're not going to read the book.

Back to work—I'll try to check in with news about the workshop.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On Getting Back Into the Groove

What I'm reading: Echo Park by Michael Connelly

What I'm writing: Chapter 14 – at last.

Things have started down the road to 'normal'. My manuscripts are turned in, my cover request form for What's in a Name? was received, and after reading the first 13 chapters of "Book 5" last weekend, I think I have a pretty good feel for Dalton and Miri again. I've been participating in "AuthorDays" for Wild Rose Press in several Yahoo Groups, and it's a new experience. I'm not used to promoting, and the time and energy spent in these groups gets daunting. However, there's no financial outlay, so it's a good place to start.

I'm trying to decide if I can afford to go to the Fun in the Sun conference in Miami in February. Finding Sarah will be a brand new release, and the CEO of Cerridwen Press will be there, so it's probably a good career move. It's also near where I lived for 13 years and I have very little desire to go back. Not to mention it takes place right on one of those 'major' birthdays, and I was hoping for a different sort of celebration. I need to decide soon, though, or it'll get even more expensive.

Today I went to an 18 author book signing at a "local" mall (40-minute drive, when "my" malls are more like 10 – 20 minutes away). I can't deny a twinge of envy at not having anything to sign. Even when Finding Sarah is released, it's not going to be something I can sign. Which comes back to the Yahoo Groups where e-book readers seem to hang out.

I've been in touch with our local PIO at the Sheriff's Department. Now all I can do is wait for his answers so I can fix all the stuff I made up in Starting Over.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Quick Treat

I woke up to find a message from my editor. The Australia time difference is killer, even more now that we've both gone on Daylight Savings Time -- in opposite directions. She's springing forward while I'm falling backward.

But I got an early Halloween treat -- an ISBN and a release date for "What's in a Name?"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Rejections, Feedback, and Moving Forward

What I'm reading: Kiss of Darkness by Heather Graham
What I'm working on: Finding the compelling hook

I got one of those "good" rejection letters yesterday. The kind where the agent (who had requested the full manuscript) says "Your writing is terfific" and then there's that BUT. In this case, it was that the story wasn't complicated or layered enough for single title. She also went on to say that all I need is that one thing that's truly different or compelling, and the other nice words -- "Please do keep me in mind for future works."

Time to reevaluate both Rescued Hearts and Dalton's book. How do I find the right "hook?" One of the final round contest judges, an editor, thought the plot for Rescued Hearts was too complex. However, I don't know what genre filter she was using when she read it. It appears too complicated for category, but not complex enough for single title. Maybe. All I can do is try to adjust, move on, and hope it's a fit for someone.

Meanwhile, I have a family deal in Pittsburgh this weekend. I've got a hard copy of as much of Dalton as I've written printed to keep me busy on the plane. I'll be looking for hooks and things compelling.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quick Bit of News

Rescued Hearts, my Pollyanna meets Delta Force novel won first place in Romantic Suspense in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest! It now goes to another editor with the first place finishers in the various categories for a "best of the best" judging.

Good news/bad news/no news? The editor who will be doing that judging is the same one who requested the partial at the Emerald City Conference. I'm not sure if that's good, not good, or won't make a difference. She's going to be judging contest pages I submitted several months ago, and the partial I sent her has already been tweaked with improvements. I don't know whether to point this out now, or simply sit back and let nature run its course.

And, about an hour ago, I got the final results for the Jasmine where my manuscript finished second in its category. This means I'm done with contests--at least the typical RWA contests which are limited to unpublished authors. I think I'm ready to move on, although I'll be looking at all the feedback from all the judges in all the contests to decide what to do with the novel.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Catching My Breath - at last!

What I've been reading: Lots of RWA and Emerald City freebies. The Redemption of Matthew Quinn by Katheen O'Brien; Finding Home by Marie Ferrarella;Every Waking Moment by Brenda Novak; Invisible Recruit by Mary Buckham; The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh

What I'm working on: blurbs, dedications and excerpts

Finally a moment to catch my breath. I got my final line edits done well within the deadline, and the editor is happy with them. It's a whole new 'game' - you see comments from FLE and you're sure the reader must have missed something that's plain as day--or is it? Those people get paid to pick nits, and it's a matter of taking a deep breath and accepting that a reader probably won't be reading quite as carefully, so if things are slipping by (like your hero's hair color), then maybe you'd better elaborate, mention it more often, even if you can point to references on three separate pages in the first chapter, and make sure it's as clear to a reader as it is to the image you carry in your head. I know the Pregnant Pigs are laughing and saying, "I told you so!" when they remember how many sessions I drove them nuts trying to figure out whether I was writing it wrong or they were reading it wrong. A little of both, most of the time.

I took "exception" with only one comment, which dealt with the hero's condom stash. If he brought protection with him to the heroine's apartment, but later, they were back at his, it seemed reasonable for him to reach into his nightstand drawer, not his wallet. Guys don't really bring their ENTIRE supply with them on dates, do they?

I adjusted the scene--double difficult since it was in his POV, so he knew darn well where he kept his condoms. My editor seemed satisfied with the compromise, and I learned that it's more important to look at things from directions I never thought existed. Being "right" doesn't matter, like a scene in the hospital where the hero hands the heroine a cell phone and tells her to call her mother. Whether or not cell phones are "allowed" (and the hero was a cop, so nobody was going to confiscate it) wasn't the point. In the scene, we never saw the heroine actually make the call, so I think I got around that one, too. When I was in the hospital, I used my cell phone and nobody cared, although I was in a "regular" room, not the ER or ICU.

With Sarah on her way, I got up the next morning to find Kelli & Blake in my inbox waiting for their first round edits, with a 'within a week, please' message from the editor. Also a note to find more creative words than "damn." I need to expand my profanity horizons, but to be truthful, I think "damn" pops off the fingertips as often as "just". It's my newest search and destroy word.

My contest-winning entry for Wild Rose needed PR blurbs, info sheets and excerpts. Had to deal with those, too.

But now, I think I can take the evening off, and start fresh tomorrow. Will it be with Colleen & Graham, who need advice from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, or Dalton & Miri, who have been stuck in chapter 13 (better than chapter 11, right?) far too long.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On Writing, Reading and Men

As promised – the ‘guy’ thing.

The stipulation of the Wild Rose Press contest was that a garden had to play a central role somehow. I posted about how I dealt with writing the story on my website ( at “Behind the Scenes” but this is a little bit more for you.

I slaved over the research, because it's set in a real place in LA, and I haven't been there in decades, although it was a very special childhood place, and he couldn't remember a lot about it either. I found maps and diagrams of the rose garden at Exposition Park, but the museum wasn't well represented on the internet, so I emailed their 'info' address with questions. The PR lady at the natural history museum nearly set the cops after me, I think when I tried to find out if a visitor would have his backpack checked, and what the menu was in the cafeteria, and what the diorama hall looked like now (and I think this was for 3 paragraphs in the story, but I'm anal!) She finally said she had told me everything the legal department would allow.

Since I was afraid to bug her any more, my husband gave me a colleague's name who worked near there and he took pictures for me. After much angst, I finished the story. Someone a contest was scarier than just submitting it, because with a submission, it only has to come “close” and they’ll work with you to fix it. For a contest, it’s a one-shot deal. I had my husband proofread it, because he’s got a good eye for glitches that I don’t see after numerous editing trips through the manuscript.

When I told my husband that my garden story won, he said (of course) congrats. He didn’t sound all that excited (but unless I get a three-book deal with a six figure advance, I don’t think he ever will). I asked if he remembered reading it. He said he wasn't sure--so I reminded him of all the problems with the museum, and he still wasn't sure. So I said, 'it's the one where they had sex on the couch," and he goes -- "Oh, yeah -- and they went for walks in the garden and there was the dog, and she made lasagna......yeah, I remember that one."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On Deadlines

Wow! I've heard plenty of authors say, "I'm on deadline" and wondered why they couldn't squeeze out time for emails, or chapter meetings, or whatever. This morning (and I got up early because I forgot to finish something for my "real" job last night) I find the final line edits for Finding Sarah in my email inbox. There's a 72 hour turnaround time, and because my editor is in Australia, I've lost a good number of those hours already. Should be interesting, and I've got the coffee on.

Quick note--my short story "Second Chance Rose" won first place in Wild Rose Press's grand opening contest and will be part of a print anthology coming out in early 2007. I was going to post a cute story about my husband's reaction but I have to start reading those FLEs. Check back after Monday, and maybe I'll get it up here by then. And more about what the final copy editor had to say about Sarah and Randy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Back from the Emerald City

After a jam-packed weekend in Seattle (or Bellevue, if you want to be technical) for the Emerald City Conference, I'm playing catch-up.

My contest entry, Rescued Hearts, won second place in the Emerald City Opener in the Romantic Suspense division. First would have (of course) been nice, but I'm proud of my finish on a new novel, and it was so much more exciting to be at the awards ceremony instead of getting a phone call or an email. The conference organizers did a great job. If I'd won the Suzanne Brockmann critique, it would have been perfect. But I did come away with an official ATF t-shirt. And a request for a partial from a Berkley editor.

Lots of workshops, lots of new craft tips, marketing tips, and wonderful networking. I have to admit I flaunted my new cover for Finding Sarah shamelesslly. I ate way too much, of course--and they had fantastic desserts at both lunch AND dinner.

Feel free to ask questions.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some Good News

Yesterday, I got the cover art for Finding Sarah. I'm more than pleased. Since the title sounds very 'chick lit' or 'category' I asked the art department to try to make a cover that played up the mystery/suspense angle of the story. I think they succeeded, don't you?

There's a link to a larger image at my website from the Coming Soon page.

And after spending the weekend proofreading and making last-minute touches to my third book, What's In a Name?, I sent it off to my editor. She said she'd get back to me next week. Imagine my surprise when the next day, I had a contract offer in my inbox.

A cover and a contract on another book--such a nice reward for a day of fasting. Once I get back from Seattle, I'll knuckle down and dig into the research I need to make my second book, which is a spin-off from Finding Sarah, accurate with respect to our local sheriff's department. Note to self--stick with making up towns and cities! Much less hassle.

Have to start getting organized for Seattle. Time to stop thinking about Sarah, about Colleen & Graham, or Kelli & Blake, or Miri & Dalton and reconnect with Frankie & Ryan so I can pitch.

I'll be back Monday night, and hope to update by Wednesday.

Monday, October 02, 2006

On Promotion

What I'm reading: Always Mine by Sophia Johnson; A Visible Darkness by Jonathon King

What I'm working on: Reviewing Rescued Hearts for pitching at the Emerald City; Chapter 13 of book 5

Saturday was my first organized "promotional" venture. A Yahoo group scheduled all Wild Rose Press authors to participate in their group, answering questions, offering excerpts and donating prizes. Of course, this was the day Yahoo Groups went off line, so it was more like talking to yourself and waiting for the eventual surge of messages once the floodgates were opened.

Overall, I'm curious to see whether sales at Wild Rose showed a significant increase, although I'm sure many people were simply frustrated when messages didn't go through so they left.

On Thursday, I leave for Seattle and the Emerald City conference. Rescued Hearts is a finalist in their contest, and I'll be there in person for the award ceremony, but it's also another opportunity to network and pick up more pointers on the craft as well as the business side of writing.

I have a new contest on my website. Answer a simple question and be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of any one of my Wild Rose Press short stories.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On Pronouns

What I've been reading: Envy and Richochet by Sandra Brown

What I'm working on: Chapter 13, and a re-read of Rescued Hearts after an agent requested a full this morning.

Can the work ever be done enough? Today it's all about pronouns versus proper names. Pronouns are 'invisible', or so 'they' say, but somehow a paragraph full of "he" or "she" seems to scream for a "Ryan" or "Frankie." After a contest judge circled all the "Ryans" on my entry, I went back to 'real' books on my shelf to see how the names on spines handled it in third person pov books. So much for listening to critique partners who say, "you used 'he' seventeen times on this page."

Today I'll be doing searches and replaces on my proper names. Given that the manuscript is 100,000 words, this entry is done.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Secondary Characters

What I've read since last time: The Intern Affair by Roxanne St. Claire; The Garden of Eden by Faye Kellerman; Ladies' Man by Suzanne Brockmann

What I'm reading: Under Orders by Dick Francis

What I'm working on: More critiques and Chapter 12

I've kept to my writing goal of 1000 words a day, which is easier when you don't have too much 'other' stuff to do--like work at your job. Right now, secondary characters are my focus. How much is needed? At what point does a reader expect the secondary character to move into a larger role? If they're going to appear in only one scene, how much do you flesh them out. I have a lot of fun when I write these sorts of scenes, but someone asked if it was really 'worth it' to put a minor character in a wheelchair. I hadn't given it much thought -- to be honest, I was tired of looking for fresh words to use to show her getting from her desk to the fax machine in the office, and I decided there was no reason she couldn't do her job from a wheelchair. To me, it was no more significant that giving a few words about her hair/eye/skin color, physical build -- the little snapshots that help a reader see the scene.

Then there's the 'how long' to make the interaction. My hero has a reputation as a charmer. If he knows the woman, he's going to do his standard schmoozing. So, now I'm up to about a page of things that add color, but the point of the scene is to get the faxes into Dalton's hand. Could I have written it so he simply walks in, goes to the fax machine and gets them? Sure. But then I look at the 'don't make things easy' approach. So I toss a 'guardian of the fax machine' into the room. Which leads to the banter between them, the little rituals they have to go through, and pretty soon I have another half page of "stuff." I tell myself the character might come back later (I'm not a plotter) or maybe I'll be able to use her in the next book.

And then there's the character who preliminary readers want to see more of. I'm dealing with that--because I like her a lot, too. I hadn't planned to bring her into the story again, but she had too big a scene to ignore. Even I can see the investment in getting to know her and so I'm dreaming up ways to get Grace back into the story without digressing or having the dreaded, "Grace! Imagine meeting you here." coincidence thing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Release Date

According to the e-mail waiting in my Inbox this morning (love the time difference between Florida and Australia!), "Finding Sarah" has a projected release date of February 15th -- a late Valentine! That does make it all seem real.

More details at my website.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On Contests - 3

What I'm reading: The Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathon King; Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper

What I'm working on: Chapter 10, Scene 2. Dalton's reaction to 'the kiss'

Contests, part 3

You've entered, and with luck, have your manuscripts in front of you, full of helpful notations and score sheets with lots of comments. A lot of luck! It's probably never going to happen in that kind of detail.

I recently got feedback from a 'big name' RWA contest that prides itself on feedback. Two judges. NO marks on the manuscript other than a few circled typos. One wrote a grand total of 101 words of feedback on the manuscript, and 38 on the synopsis. The other wrote NOTHING about the manuscript and typed a full page about the synopsis. And given all the comments were for things to add, and it was already longer than what agents are asking to see with partials, I don't know how useful it was.

Without judges, contests can't happen. No matter how much a coordinator (and the entrants) want to see all kinds of helpful feedback, one can't impose a lot of demands on the judges, or they'll simply decline to participate. And despite their best intentions when they volunteered, sometimes other priorities sneak into the mix--maybe they're on a last-minute deadline if they're published, or maybe there are family or work-related crises and your pages, where you've sweated over every single word and comma, are given a cursory read. If you're entering a contests to have everyone tell you how great your work is, you're wasting your time and money.

As the recipient of the feedback, you have to remind yourself that each reader is just that -- a single reader. Each will bring her own likes, dislikes and biases to the read, no matter how they pride themselves on total impartiality. They will also have different opinions of what each score represents, so even when several judges have wonderful things to say, it's possible one considers an "8" wonderful, and another hands out "10s" unless the work looks like a third grader wrote it.

Be realistic. You've gone to a movie everyone raved about and wondered what the fuss was about. You've picked up books you can't get into, and they're selling. Same goes for your manuscript.

Take what you think makes sense. Don't obsess. Okay, if the scores aren't what you expected, it's all right to stomp around the house, cry a little and hit the chocolate stash. Put the pages aside. Come back in a few days and compare them, both the manuscript pages and the score sheets. Do all the judges have a similar comment about a particular scene or passage? If so, pay attention. Do they totally disagree? That's actually a good thing, because you get to decide which is right. Stephen King said, "Tie goes to the author." The important thing is to THINK about all the comments. It's fine to dismiss them if they don't make sense to you.

Remember. Agents and editors bring their own likes, dislikes and biases to the read. And, they've got that other factor going -- they know what they can sell, and bottom line, publishing is a business. No matter how wonderful your story might be, if it doesn't fit their needs, it's a rejection.

I find that quite often, a comment that has me wondering what the heck the reader could possible be thinking ends up with me realizing there was something "off" about that passage, although for an entirely different reason. Revision is a re-vision. Look at your work with new eyes.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Brief Detour

A brief detour from discussing contests. In the course of 3 days, I got first round edits, second round edits, cover art request forms, blurb forms, dedication forms, excerpt forms … all the things that go along with writing. Things I hadn't given a lot of thought. Like having to track changes, accepting or rejecting deletions and insertions, making comments, deleting comments. A simple switch from quotes to italics was a three-step process to say I agreed. And then there were all the trademark searches. That was a new one. I did discover a company name I made up actually existed, though, so I changed it.

My editor's in Australia, so we are rarely able to communicate back and forth at the same time. I was nervous about opening the first edit files, having no idea what to expect. Lots of changes? Or what might have been worse – no changes. I knew the story couldn't be perfect. Many of her changes were formatting. A few were because she speaks Aussie and I speak American, and there are some things that make perfect sense to an American reader that seem wrong down under—and vice versa. A few were amazing catches. I've rewritten the story so many times, made so many cuts (it was 143,000 words in its first POS draft stage, and is about 89,000 now) but I knew the story so well that I didn't notice where I'd cut out bits where Colleen told Randy she would call her brother. Or that I forgot to give Sarah a washcloth, but had her use it. Everything turned around so fast, between being put on the production spreadsheet and going to final edits, that it amazed me anyone could do that meticulous a read. Kudos to Helen for her eagle eyes and brain that can hang onto an entire novel.

Since Cerridwen is sticking with Finding Sarah as the title, I had to write a 200 word max blurb bringing out the mystery/suspense angle. Then, to select the excerpt that would hook without giving away too much of the plot. Opening pages? First time h/h see each other? Inciting incident? I think it took longer to decide which section to use than to write the words in the first place.

Cover art – something to make it look like a mystery/suspense. I'd heard great things about Cerridwen involving authors in the process, and their 2 page form brought that home. Of course, the Art Department has the last word, but they now know what my h/h look like, what images I think are important, what other covers I like, what elements I don't like.

It's all very exciting, and they're telling me that if things run smoothly, line edits and cover might be done by mid-November.

You can read a little more on my website. Click on "coming soon."

Back to contests next time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

On Contests - 2

What I'm reading: Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs, plus a lot of critique work

What I'm writing: Chapter 10.

First bit of great news: My Cerridwen editor tells me that my novel is on her production spreadsheet, so it's actually going to happen. I have a two page form to fill out just on cover design. Heck, I'm still not happy with the title, and I thought they were usually changed anyway, so I didn't really think about it. But "Finding Sarah" sounds awfully 'Harlequin Category" to me—not like the mystery/suspense it really is. And that brings up the same Mystery vs. Suspense issue I was talking about. I have to fill in something on a 'genre' line, and I'm not sure if it'd be marketed better as mystery/suspense or romantic suspense.

Next bit: I got a request for a partial on Rescued Hearts from an agent. They prefer electronic submissions, so it's out the "door."

More contest discussion.

As a coordinator, I know how hard it is to get judges. And if you require a training meeting, you'll lose a bunch of prospective judges who don't have time, or don't live near enough to warrant the trip. Multi-published authors don't feel the need for more 'training' – and I'd agree. The real problem is trying to get everyone to agree on what's a 10 and what's a 2. I always assign judges randomly, so it's possible an entrant hits a panel of high scorers, or low scorers.

Some have 2 judges. Most seem to have 3 (which I prefer). Sometimes contests drop the low score. Others average them. Some have "discrepancy judging" so if you've got one significantly low score, a new reader steps in. Of course, this is an ego-stroke for the entrant, since who's to say the low score is the "wrong" one? But it does give extra feedback, which gives the entrant more bang for her buck.

If I had my druthers, I'd want 5 judges, with high and low scores dropped. Given the difficulty of finding qualified judges to begin with, this is wishful thinking. In an ideal contest, all the judges would be screened with sample pages, and you could try to arrive at some consensus for what a 'fair' score is. That's even more wishful thinking. All anyone has to do is look at the Golden Heart scores – even finalists will have a range of scores for the same work. I had two high and two low for my entry. Which were "right?" Who knows?

Next time: Dealing with those score sheets as an entrant.

Friday, September 01, 2006

On Contests

What I'm reading: I've been going through the freebies from RWA Nationals. Trouble in High Heels by Christina Dodd, and The Marriage Trap by Elizabeth Thornton. I try to avoid my own genre when I'm writing to avoid having the other author's voice bleed through.

What I'm writing: Breaking my own rule and going backward to edit. I'm getting mixed signals from one of my characters, and we're going to have to sit down and decide what her real role is in this book.

Today's topic was inspired by finding out that Rescued Hearts has finaled in another contest. That also eases the 'one point short' pain of the previous one. So, now I'm two-for-five with this manuscript. I've got one last contest out there, but these will be my last, since I signed a contract with an RWA recognized publisher and won't be eligible for most contests anymore. Not necessarily a bad thing!

In honor of my third Wild Rose Press short story release, I'm having my own little 'contest' on my website. This contest is nothing like the real topic for today's post. But check out my website. You can win a free download of one of my stories.

Contests are a fund-raising staple of so many RWA chapters. As a frequent entrant, a judge and a coordinator, I've learned a lot.

Why enter?

If you're just starting, it's a way to get feedback from fresh eyes, and since judges remain anonymous, they might be more honest than your critique group. Critique groups can be great, but they have their own limitations, especially if you've worked and reworked the manuscript. Also, if you're new, there's a good chance the judges will know more about the craft and point out things you need to work on.

Once you're a few steps farther along the writing path, becoming a finalist gets your pages onto the desk of an editor or agent, without having to write a query letter or sit in a slush pile. And, you're likely to get actual feedback rather than the "sorry, this isn't right for me" boilerplate.

Sometimes, you'll get money. I didn't ever realize the Suzannah had a cash award for first place until I won. I felt like a 'real' writer!

So, you're going to enter. What do you look at?

If you think you're ready for the big time, look at the final round judges. Contests can carve big holes out of your budget, and if you final you want to make sure your work is in front of someone who can acquire it, or send it to someone who can if the judge is in a house or agency that shares.

Next: Look long and hard at the score sheets. This is what the judges have to use to mark your manuscript. You can have a great story, but if it doesn't fit the questions, you're not going to score well. You're only sending up to 30 pages, usually less. Be sure the score sheet doesn't make a judge give you points for things that aren't going to show up until chapter 17. One of my pet peeves is any score sheet that deals with secondary characters. They're just not going to be fleshed out in chapter one.

On that note—is it a one size fits all score sheet? Look for those with special sections for each category. Hero and heroine might not both be on the page in chapter 1 for single title. There might not be a hero in Strong Romantic Elements, or Chick Lit. Make sure you won't be penalized before you start.

After that, it's pretty much up to you to decide on the remaining factors. Cost. There's postage and printing to consider. How many judges? Three is better than two, simply because it's easier to judge feedback with that 'tie-breaking' opinion. Contest reputation. Have a lot of entrants had their work requested by agents and editors? Gone on to be published? If you plan to parlay your finals and wins into writing credits in your query letter, the bigger contests carry more weight.

Enough for today. Next time: You've sent your entry. Now what?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On The Road to Publication

Since my last entry, I've finished: The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais. Killing Time by Linda Howard. Scenes of Passion by Suzanne Brockman.

What I'm reading now: Operation: Midnight Guardian by Linda Castillo

What I'm working on: Still book 5 – Chapter 9 now. Dalton's having trouble dealing with his past.

Yesterday was a big day! My short story, "Relationships" is officially published and up for sale at The Wild Rose Press.

I also signed a contract with Cerridwen Press for my first full-length novel.

That was a heck of a lot better than getting the score sheets from a contest where one judge loved Rescued Hearts and another one thought it was mediocre. All the more frustrating because if there had been one more point between the two scores, it would have had a third read, and I might have more confidence in deciding which opinion should carry more weight. Ego notwithstanding, it's wrong to assume that the people who love my stuff are "right" and everyone else is clueless. I'll take their comments and see if I can apply the ones that make sense before I send off any more queries.

Now, it's a matter of waiting, and learning more about the e-publishing realm. I will be interested in following the process and working with an editor on a much longer piece of work. I'm sure it's not going to be the same as working on a short story. As a 'seat of the pants' grammarian, I have already learned that there are labels for things I do because Miss Cook and Mr. Holtby drilled them into my head. I'm still comma challenged from time to time, and despite my "Relationships" editor's attempts to get me to see it, I couldn't grasp any difference between:

"…he crouched on the floor where the girls had settled into their blanket cocoons." versus:
"…he crouched on the floor, where the girls had settled into their blanket cocoons."

One's a restrictive clause, I'm told, but to me, the meaning is clear enough either way.

You can read a excerpt of "Relationships" on my website.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On Characters, Cooking & Music

What I'm reading: Since my last entry, I finished The Last Detective by Robert Crais and Into the Storm by Suzanne Brockmann. Reading Hostage by Robert Crais.

What I'm writing. Book 5, chapter 8.

Developing characters through food and music. Or is it meeting characters? Although I'm supposed to be in control, there are times when they're introducing themselves as much as I'm trying to create them. Often, the music I'm listening to helps me find the characters.

In my first book, I had no idea Randy was an accomplished pianist until more than halfway through the book. Yet when he insisted on sitting down at his grandmother's piano after a miserable day, I sat back and listened. In going back through the manuscript, I discovered that I had to delete exactly one line in order to keep things in character for him. Everything he did was consistent with someone who used music to escape. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Pathetique" seemed to guide the characters.

In my second book, instead of making music, Graham cooked. Here I had this macho deputy sheriff, who worked on his Harley during his time off, but when he sat down and picked up the magazines on his coffee table, he was reading a salmon recipe in Gourmet Magazine. When he was stressed, he made Moussaka. He let me in on his secret a little earlier than Randy had, but he was definitely a closet chef. I admit I had to call upon my brother's expertise when Graham tried to make pancakes but Colleen didn't have baking powder. Graham knew what he was doing but wouldn't tell me.

Blake, in book 3 came to me almost full-blown when I was listening to Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band." The line, "Papa I don't think I love you near enough" defined his character, and any time I needed to know what he would do, I could listen to that song. Later in the book, he connects with Kelli by trying to cook a chicken recipe she made for him early on, and by baking chocolate chip cookies. For some reason, these two never found common musical ground.

In my fourth book, neither character cooked fancy, but Frankie has a daughter, and she makes kid-food. Happy-face pancakes, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Comfort food that ends up helping Ryan face the death of his mother. Frankie and Ryan met dancing to the Eagles.

Dalton's hasn't needed to cook, although I've already set a scene in a kitchen. I don't have his theme song, either. Maybe that's what's slowing down the writing at the moment. I know Dalton's a good dancer—like Ryan, being able to dance was one of the job skills needed to work for Blackthorne, Inc.

Maybe I'll include a recipe or two with each of my novels. I posted one for my short story, "Out of Sight" on my website.

Monday, August 14, 2006

On Mystery and Suspense—and Thrillers, perhaps

What I'm reading: Thrill Me to Death by Roxanne St. Claire

What I'm writing: Book 5, Chapter 6, scene 2 – again.

I've decided that I really don't want to write classic suspense, but in the romance genre, everything is lumped under the "romantic suspense" sub-genre. I don't really like to read true suspense, although the market is full of it. I'm sure there are readers out there who like a good mystery, with romance intertwined, but agents and editors seem to be leaning strongly toward the "suspense is what's selling" approach. But isn't that one of those Catch-22's? People buy it because it's what's out there, and because there aren't a lot of other choices, it continues to sell.

What's the difference? A mystery is a puzzle; the reader is usually two steps behind the protagonist, or at least right with him. In a suspense, the reader is two steps ahead. They're definitely closely intertwined—I'd call them fraternal twins. They often share elements in the same work. And my personal definition of a thriller is a suspense of global proportions – like Christopher Whitcomb's Black and White.

When I read, I don't think it makes it more exciting to see the villain's POV and what he's doing. That's suspense, where you know the bomb is under the table. It's a well-respected genre, don't get me wrong. I just happen to prefer to discover things along with my hero and heroine. Knowing what's around the corner, or behind the tree, makes me want to skip ahead. I feel like it's 'cheating' to know more than the main characters. And I'm often guilty of skimming the villain POV scenes, especially when it's that mysterious "he." I'm more likely to accept that third POV if I don't know it's the villain. Surprise me. Make me go back and see the signs the good author has carefully sprinkled throughout the book. Let me hit myself upside the head and say, "Why didn't I see that one coming?"

I guess it's because my first exposure to the genre was Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band. I was hooked, and never able to love Hitchcock's approach the same way. Don't get me wrong – I'm not dissing the man's genius. It's just not on my "forget the house, who needs to cook? drop everything and spend the day in the chair" to do list.

I write, in the romance convention, from the POV of the hero and heroine, but not the villain. As a matter of fact, in some books, the villain isn't a person, but an organization or conspiracy. There are 'bad guys' to be sure, but nobody sees them until the hero and/or heroine do.

Will I be able to sell? I don't know. Anyone else out there like more of a straight mystery?

Meanwhile, I'm holding fast to my two POV approach, but trying to instill more elements of suspense within my mystery.

Monday, August 07, 2006

On planning a website

What I'm reading: Cover of Night by Linda Howard

What I'm writing: Book 5, Chapter 6.

This morning, I took two printouts of my manuscript to the Post Office. One for the agent, one for the editor who I met at RWA in Atlanta. With that out of my hands, I can get back to Dalton and Miri. After several weeks away, the first thing I have to do is re-read from the beginning and get back into their heads. I've been concentrating on both my short story for Wild Rose's contest, and the edits to my short story, Relationships and to the novel, Rescued Hearts, which means I've lost track of the 'feel' of Dalton and Miri. But I think I'm finding the groove again, getting into their voices.

The other project is a website. Self-promotion isn't my thing, and trying to write about 'me' to a bunch of strangers makes me feel like a stuffed shirt. That's part of why I started this blog. To practice writing about me. And then there's the issue of a picture. I spent years being the one who volunteered to take the pictures so I wouldn't have to be in them.

At RWA, 'branding' was a hot topic. Someone should look at a site and get a definite feel for who it's about. No clue on how to 'brand' myself, especially since the only visible publications I have at the moment are totally different from the mystery based novels I write.

I tell myself it's all preliminary. I haven't seen Cerridwen's contract, so for the time being, I have two short stories for sale at Wild Rose Press, plus one more in the "Coming Soon" category and an email saying there will be a contract.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On resuming "life" after being away

What I'm reading: Vanishing Point by Marcia Muller. And I finished Hostile Makeover by Wendy Wax, and Demolition Angel by Robert Crais.

What I'm writing: Nothing new yet—Book 5 is still waiting until I finish edits on Rescued Hearts because I had requests for fulls in Atlanta.

After nearly a full week of jam-packed days surrounded by writers in all career stages, it's time to decompress. Highlights -- meeting Suzanne Brockmann. Putting faces with names from writing loops. Staying motivated.

Not being able to write for a week, though, makes me edgy. I got home to a rejection on my 3rd manuscript, not totally unexpected. Comments are starting to line up -- I have to learn more about pacing.

Both the agent and editor I met with requested the full manuscript for my 4th novel, tentatively titled "Rescued Hearts" because I had to write something on the line for Title on the contest entry forms two months ago. I found out I'm one of the Jasmine finalists in the Romantic Suspense category, and my pages are going to an editor at Berkley / Jove. I got the first round comments back today and am cringing at some of the things I missed--like Ryan sits down three times without standing up in between, not to mention a scene that drags, plus all those typos that appear when you shut off the computer. Doesn't bode well for a high finish.

At least I can fix them before I send the full manuscripts off. And maybe do the laundry.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On my first RWA Conference

What I'm reading: "Reader's Guide to the Troubleshooter Series" by Suzanne Brockmann

What I'm writing: not much -- afraid if I'm writing new stuff, I'll forget all the pitch stuff for the book I'm supposed to be trying to get represented/sold.

Greetings from Atlanta. I arrived late Monday afternoon, pleasantly surprised at the totally uneventful trip (and I even got an upgrade to 1st class, although why I get those only on 1 hour trips is one of those life questions.)

Room is nice, tucked into a quiet corner (as long as nobody visits the ice machine at 2 am) on the 32nd floor. The welcome tote included 18 books and I was afraid I'd pull my back again. I'll have to find our chapter president who drove up in a big van and said she'd transport our surplus baggage.

Tuesday was the Kiss of Death chapter's all day workshop on firearms. Morning was lectures -- I guess it's kind of important to teach a little safety before turning 100 women loose with live ammunition. We had a chance to shoot a variety of handguns, including one of those big "Clint Eastwood" revolvers. There were also a couple of long guns. I tried one, and was suprised that there was so little "kick" -- I expected a bruised shoulder. My biggest problem with the handguns was that after the instructor carefully and rather forcefully told me where to place my hands, I couldn't reach the trigger. After making the necessary adjustments (and without 'muzzling' anyone) I was ok, and hit the target every time. We shot 9mm, .22 calibers, and that .38 revolver. And just so I don't feel so 'gun stupid' -- our instructor is a firearms instructor for the GA PD, and she had no clue how to load or fire the Ruger .22 they had for us.

We also got to do some laser simulations -- shoot/don't shoot kinds of stuff. Amazing how the heart rate escalates even though the guy pointing a gun at you is simply a video on the wall.

Suzanne Brockmann was the dinner keynote speaker, and entertained the group with her "this sucks" remarks. I suppose it's nice to know that everyone, no matter how successful still deals with the disappointments. Of course, they're getting respectable advances and royalty checks, so that has to take some of the sting out of it.

Things get busy starting tonight. A glance at the program shows that like all conferences, the sessions either have nothing of vital importance/interest, or 4 things I want to see, or I'm scheduled to be elsewhere. I might have to break down and buy the proceedings.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

On Editing and more

What I'm reading: Crime Beat by Michael Connelly

What I'm writing: Final run-through of the novel I'll pitch at Nationals -- Working Title (I hate coming up with titles) Rescued Hearts. Kind of a Pollyanna meets Delta Force romance.

For the past two weeks, I've been editing from 5 hard copies of my manuscript. Thanks to the Pregnant Pigs for all the time they spent reading. The amazing thing is how each of them caught such different things. Darlyn's eagle eye for my missing question marks, Renee's grammar and word flow catches, the way Kay knows what my characters should do or say even better than I do, and all of Katherine's plot clunks. I also learned that we were both "right" on some of her usage and spelling flags, although I gave up on the boloney-baloney-bologna and made it peanut butter.

I've finished a 2 page synopsis to internalize so I can sound more or less coherent when I talk about the book at the RWA National Conference. I made a batch of new business cards. I have an empty suitcase in the spare bedroom.

Packing -- ugh. One of my least favorite things. And this conference seems to require an abundance of 'professional' and 'fancy-dress' attire. I haven't owned anything remotely resembling busines casual in 15 years. And the shoes. My feet hurt already.

Wild Rose Press received my signed contract for my short story,
Relationships so we should be working on the edits, although probably not until I get back.

And now, I suppose, it's time to get back to work on Book 5 (I did mention how I hate coming up with titles, right?).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

In the name of research

Today, in the interest of research and authenticity, I schlepped to the gun range and thanks to the untiring patience of Ray, tried a variety of handguns. This was my second trip. The first, I thought I was taking a basic 'get acquainted with weapons' class, which turned out to consist almost entirely of watching videos -- rather out of date ones, for that matter. At then end, to my amazement, I found that if I paid a fee and got fingerprinted, I would most likely (assuming a background check came out clean, which it would, since I'm such a proper good citizen) be issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which in this state, includes guns, knives and chains. Scary. Trust me, NOBODY wants me to have a weapon. At the end of that class, I fired a .22 and did 'very well' for a first timer. At least, all the shots hit the target.

But, the odds of one of my heros using a .22 are pretty slim, so I went down there today to try something more apt to be found tucked into his waistband as he and a heroine either stalk or evade the bad guys (haven't written that part yet). So, in turn, I shot a Glock 19 9mm, a Colt 45 ACP 1911, and a ruger 38 special. I set the targest at 10 and 20 feet, but should have put new ones up for each distance, because I can't really tell which hits were at which distance.

What I learned:

I could aim and shoot. Any bad guys, however, had better stop and wait to give me plenty of time to get ready. The recoil wasn't as powerful as I thought, but a heck of a lot more kick than the .22. My ears are still ringing. I still smell and smell like gunpowder. And, unless I've got a bunch of loaded magazines at the ready, one set of bullets is all that's going to happen -- loading the magazines turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process. Again, thanks to Ray for his patience (and for helping out when I simply didn't have the coordination, finger strength, or whatever, to get a round bullet not to slip and slide all over the one already in the magazine). The revolver was easy to load, but it had a really hard trigger pull. Between my tiny hands and lack of finger/thumb strength, pulling back the hammer for double action was tough. Bad guys really have nothing to worry about.

At least I'll know what my character will feel if she's got to fire a gun.

Monday, July 10, 2006

On Starting to Write

Get a blog. Everyone's got a blog. OK, so I now have a blog, too, although I'm not feeling any more "in" than I did before I started this.

What started me writing -- the short answer: I ran out of wall space for needlepoint and needed a creative outlet.

The longer answer:

Not all THAT many years ago, my son was visiting, and as he flipped through the channels, he stopped at "Highlander: The Series" and told me it was a cool show. Being a nice Mom, always looking for common ground, I watched it -- and when the star turned out to be drop-dead gorgeous, I kept watching.

From there, I discovered Internet groups (back then, it was almost all CompuServe) and had some fun discussing the 'what ifs' with others. That led me to FanFiction, which led me to Sandra McDonald, who got me started in beta reading.

One weekend while I was home alone, I decided to see if I could write a story that had been playing in my 'what if' world for a long time, and so I did. I sent it to Sandra, who gently pointed out just a few of its flaws. I had a new challenge, and I worked on it, and posted it on a fanfic site, and people said they liked it. Had I known then how easy it was to please those folks, I might not have felt so good. But, I kept writing, until one day I wondered if I could write my own characters instead of borrowing them from someone else.

I found another writing group, this one at iVillage, and they also were free with their praise. Nine months later, I finished a novel. Then I did what Sandra told me to do first -- I read Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by Browne & King. I cringed at my mistakes, but went back and rewrote.

By chance, I spoke with my son, and asked him a question about a Highlander episode. He said, "Oh, I've never WATCHED it, I just thought it was a cool concept."

So, here I am, still writing. I have two short stories published by Wild Rose Press, and a contract offer on that first book from Cerridwen Press.

Thanks, Jason -- I guess.