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.