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.