Monday, March 31, 2008

Back from Jax

What I'm reading: Walking Money by James O. Born

What I'm working on - new scene for Unexpected Danger (and maybe a new title--that one was a rush job because my agent insists that book titles go into the subject lines of emails when we send manuscripts to her--the book is still called "Book 6" in my computer files. I hate coming up with titles.

After a weekend surrounded by writers and other professionals in the field, the energy level to get on with the writing side of my life is high. Four of us carpooled in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way up. Thanks to some good brainstorming, I've now got a better handle on the final scenes I'm adding and revising, and can see a way to work in a little of the 'what happened' reveal for the reader without spoiling the effect when hero and heroine are reunited. Thanks, Catherine!

Featured guest/keynote speaker, Suzanne Brockmann provided great insights in Q&A sessions along with the luncheon speech.

I did ask her if she heard any 'new' questions after three presentations. She thought for a moment, and said, "No." But to listen, one would think each question was new and different for her. Helpful, witty, charming through it all. A best selling author of a kazillion books who can write an 80 page outline for her next book in a matter of DAYS. And she can sing, too.

I chatted with my publisher, who assured me that there was nothing wrong with my baby reference in Hidden Fire.

My workshop went off without a hitch -- if you don't count the 'will there or won't there be a projector' issues which flip-flopped several times on Saturday afternoon. However, the final flip was 'yes', and there was even a helpful hotel tech wizard to show me how to get the program from my laptop to the screen (function F7, which I will endeavor to remember in case I ever have to do anything like that again).

For me, the best workshop was the one explaining the differences in male/female speech patterns. Not only did it help with my writing, but it explained a LOT about why my husband's the way he is. He's a guy. Period. Thanks to Tracy Montoya for a great workshop and a valuable handout.

Kudos to the Southern Lights Conference Committee for putting together a great meeting.

Of course, there's also the catch-up factor of the real-life tasks that don't get done when you're gone.

Wading through 250 emails. Unpacking. Laundry (thanks to dh for getting much of it done on his own) and grocery shopping, both Sunday chores that didn't happen. So, much as I'd like to dig right into writing, I'm going to get all these mundane tasks out of the way first. Writing shall be my reward, which is as it should be.

Friday, March 28, 2008


What I'm Reading: Texas Baby by Kathleen O'Brien

What I'm working on: Revisions, Unexpected Danger.

I leave in a few hours for the Southern Lights Conference. The Powerpoint is loaded on my flash drive and my laptop; I have the handouts packed. I even have a good idea of what I'm going to say. I have my eBookwise loaded with some new books. I'm looking forward to seeing Suzanne Brockmann again, and one of my publishers will be there as well.

I sent "Redshirted" off. As I put the SASE in the packet, deja vu washed over me. I don't miss the turmoil of waiting for the mail each day -- will I get one of my SASE's? Do I want one, because it might be a rejection? No response means things are still out there. If I do get one, there's the heart-pounding anticipation when I open it. Good news? Bad news? Since I signed with an agent, submissions became her worry. But because this is a short story, I'm on my own. According to the publisher's website, response time is 3 months, so I'll do my best to forget I even mailed the story.

I wrote the scene my agent wanted to see for Dalton. It's off to my critique partners for comments, and to my army contact for corrections on the combat stuff.

I'm looking forward to a weekend spent with writers. I always come home invigorated, ready to tackle a new project. And now that I'm on the home stretch with my current manuscript, I'm ready to start the next one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Read and Help a Cause

What I'm reading: Dirty Harriet Rides Again by Miriam Auerbach

My idea of exercise is thirty minutes on a recumbent bike with iTunes in my ears and a book in my hands. My daughter is involved with Team in Training, a fundraising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I applaud her efforts, especially since she participates in half-ironman triathlons. I was impressed last year when she completed the race, but what amazes me is that she's going to do it AGAIN, and as a trainer as well.

In support, I (of course) donate to the cause. This year, in addition to my normal donation, I'm going to kick in additional funds for every one of my books and short stories sold between now and May 1st, and I'm inviting you to help. If you email me copies of your order confirmations from any source—the publisher, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise – doesn't matter. I'll add $1.00 for every novel and fifty cents for every short story sold during this timeframe. This is your chance to enjoy a good read and help a good cause.

Note: This is a personal donation and in no way represents an endorsement from my publishers.

More on my website

Here's some information from my daughter:

For the last two years I trained with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and try new things - first the 5430 Sprint race in 2006 and then the 5430 Long Course half ironman in 2007. This year I have the wonderful opportunity to be back with Team in Training, except this year I have the role of a coach! I am so excited to help others achieve personal goals and support such a great cause. Because I believe in the mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I have also decided to fundraise. I will also be training to participate in the Olympic distance race - the Loveland Lake to Lake triathlon on June 28th.

The TNT team and I are raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. I'm completing this event in honor of all individuals who are battling blood cancers. Last year I raced in honor of my great aunt Margie, who succumbed to the effects of multiple myeloma. Seeing her name on the wrist band I wore throughout my race really pushed me through the tough times. (Imaging swimming for about 45 minutes, then going on a 3+ hour bike ride in the middle of summer, and then deciding, when the sun was nearing its high point, to go and run 13.1 miles on an exposed dirt road.) Sound a little tough? It was, but I don't think it is at all tougher than going through cancer treatment. The ones affected by blood cancer are the real heroes on our team, and we need your support to cross the ultimate finish line - a cure!

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

The society was founded in 1949 and works to fund blood cancer research, patient financial aid, patient services, public and professional education, and community services. Blood cancers are leukemia, lymphomas (both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin) and myeloma. An example of the successes of research into these cancers is astounding. Forty years ago, only five percent of children diagnosed with leukemia survived. Today, 89% of children diagnosed with leukemia will survive. The next step will be to find a cure!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sighs of relief

What I'm reading: Deal Me In, bt Cynthia Thomason

What I'm working on: e-publishing workshop for Southern Lights
(Trial-and-error Powerpoint - I'm co-presenting with Dara Edmondson, and she knows a lot more about the program than I do, but I'm learning.)

I think I've done it. My taxes are finished. Now, I have no trouble paying my fair share (refuse to get into it any deeper than that), but I resent that the system is so complex that doing taxes should require paying someone else. Besides, the part I don't like is keeping all the records, which you have to do anyway. From there, it's just a matter of plugging in the numbers. No math skills required. But the tax prep software I've used for years has changed, and it's no longer as user-friendly as it used to be. All the more reason to be glad I'm done.

I also finished revisions for "Redshirted". I'll be re-reading it to see if I created any new holes, and then might be brave enough to submit it.

Which leaves me free to work on revisions for Unexpected Danger. I have to give my agent credit for an amazingly sharp eye. Doing basic clean-up has cut about 1000 words from the manuscript, which leaves me room to add the scenes she's suggested once I get into the actual revisions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


What I'm reading: Strangers in Death, by Nora Roberts

Last night the Citizen's Police Academy Alumni toured the Evidence facility. I was astounded at how much stuff they have to keep. Thousands and thousands of square feet of storage. Everything from the expected rooms filled with guns and drugs (still coming down from the cannabis high in the drug room) to an area that looked more like a Home Depot aisle. Doors. Yep, doors. Back in the day, if there was evidence on the door, they brought the whole thing in. And they have to store 'found' stuff as well--the jet ski that slipped its moorings and was found floating across the lake. And bikes. You could fill a Sears store with all the bikes they find. And tires. And wire and pipe (construction theft is a biggie).

Everything is computerized. With a case number, any piece of evidence can be located in its precise position in the warehouse. Almost everything small enough is stored in boxes, in manila envelopes. They try to keep 'like' stuff together. Shelves of baseball bats and other weapons used for whacking on people are in one area. With the computerized system, it's not vital to store everything from a single case in the same place, especially when evidence gets turned in over a period of time.

Their biggest challenge? Getting stuff OUT once it's no longer needed. Evidence from homicides has to hang around just about forever. Following the law and notifying those who have to be notified if evidence is being disposed of takes longer than their manpower permits; it's easier to keep it. They have 5 employees who do nothing but get rid of the evidence they no longer need. But it still comes in faster than it goes out.

What do they do with things that won't be needed in relation to a case? Some of it can be used by the Sheriff's Office, especially weapons and ammunition (which they turn over to the range). The S.O. supports the local "Children's Safety Village" and there are policies in place for donating items so the funds get back to them. They used to auction stuff off, but the Sheriffs had to set up everything, pay the expenses, and then the money went into the general fund, and they never saw any of it, so they stopped doing that.

Some "insider" information. Practical jokes: Years back, they sent a woman employee upstairs to get a case box. Someone was hiding in the box to scare her. He did. Took a long time before she'd go up there again.

Policy changes: In the weapons room, paperwork was shredded when it was no longer needed -- until someone missed a .22 cartridge and it exploded in the shredder. Pieces hit the officer doing the shredding in the forehead -- could have been in the eye.

All in all, an interesting, informative and fun night. And if my husband reads this, maybe he'll add a comment -- our class divided into smaller groups, and he went with another guide.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Edits and Revisions - not the same animal

What I'm reading: Killing Fear, by Allison Brennan (hurry up and write more, Allison - this one catches me up)

What I'm working on: Revisions & Edits for Unexpected Danger and "Redshirted"

My Cerridwen editor emailed me last night that Hidden Fire has a release date -- May 8th.

We'll see when and what I get in the way of their final line edits. Normally, I don't get to see the entire manuscript again; if there are any changes other than typos or grammatical problems, my editor will send only those sections. I'll be curious to see if the baby line at the end survives.

My agent likes to do a complete edit job on a manuscript before she sends it out. The edits are the 'easy' part--dealing with technical fixes. I'm also getting used to her style preferences, and it becomes an issue of deciding whether accepting her suggestions will change my voice. With crit partners, it's easier to reject suggestions although (honest!) I consider them all. But an agent who should know what editor are looking for means her comments have more weight, at least in my mind. It's harder to disagree, but she's made it clear I'm not obligated to change things.

The tough part is dealing with revisions. These are the places where she says, "You dropped this thread too soon," or, "You need to show more of such and so." The fact that she hit on some things I wondered about when I submitted the manuscript tells me my instincts were right, and I need to fix them. But it's kind of like trying to add the chocolate chips AFTER you've baked the cookies. Adding something to chapter 1 can have an impact on things all the way through 'the end.' Is it better to throw out the imperfect batch of cookies and bake new ones, or melt the chips and use them to frost the original batch? Writing an entire scene from scratch seems easier for me than trying to weave new information into what's already there. Either way, it means making sure the continuity remains intact.

And, I had the pleasure of speaking with a multi-published mystery author who had expressed interest in my mystery short (tentatively called "Redshirted") and then spent an hour on the phone with me pointing out places where she'd stumbled. Those were edits. Easy fixes -- change a character's name, hair color, a bit of history. But some of her suggestions also require revisions -- "he solved the case too easily", "you wrote Charlie off the page too soon," etc. Those mean revisions. Rewriting.

More fun than taxes, though.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Second Chance Rose

I realized yesterday that I'd postponed announcing the release of Second Chance Rose while I worked on website issues and all of a sudden, a week has gone by.

Rose first appeared as part of a very small anthology, but is now on her own as a "Last Rose of Summer" short story from The Wild Rose Press. She's even more of a bargain, because due to changes with the publisher's word count criteria, the story which was a "Miniature Rose" when I wrote it is now classified as a "Rosette." Same story, same word count, but you now save 50% on the purchase.

I still haven't resolved all the website issues, but Rose deserves her day in the sunshine. Tired of young, perky heroines? The Last Rose of Summer imprint lets us deal with a more mature set of characters, ones who have had a chance to live life and learn from its myriad experiences.

Rose has had her chance at her one true love. Widowed, her home destroyed by a hurricane, she relocates across the country and discovers the special garden of the bedtime stories her mother told her as a child. When she meets Richard there, friendship blooms. But can there be second chances for true love?

I hope you'll give Rose her second chance. You can read more at my website, with a peek behind the scenes here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Time to regroup

What I'm reading: The "Evil" Trilogy by Allison Brennan.

What I'm working on: FINISHED (maybe!) copy edits for When Danger Calls and am taking a short break (after working on the e-publishing workshop presentation for the Southern Lights Conference at the end of the month) before digging in to revisions for Unexpected Danger.

Now that the Gayle Wilson Finalists have been posted to the web, I think it's okay to brag briefly about who I'm competing with, just in case you didn't click the link in the last post. I still get goosebumps.

Dead Giveaway by Brenda Novak
Dead Right by Brenda Novak
What’s in a Name? by Terry Odell
Count to Ten by Karen Rose
Die for Me by Karen Rose
Take Me Tonight by Roxanne St. Claire

Having spent the last 10 days editing, I've learned that there are two totally different processes. One manuscript, Hidden Fire, was in first round edits. To do it justice, I had to go back and immerse myself in the characters and the plot, reading not only for what my editor picked out as needing to be fixed (and I'm still not sure she understands, or agrees, that 'fit right in' is an American idiom and has no real bearing on the grammatically correct "fitted" as the past tense of "fit." But I can NOT write, "You fitted right in," Randy said. Just can't. And I also learned that in Australia, one does not eat potato chips (crisps) or any other kind of chip with a sandwich. My editor was appalled, but she let it ride. I'm sure she's muttering thing about crazy Americans.

Before I even started on those edits, I got the manuscript back from the copy editor for When Danger Calls. I set it aside until I finished Hidden Fire. Copy edits is almost the reverse process. By now, one hopes all the plot issues and continuity problems have been addressed and it's down to catching things that slipped by. It's where the house style changes show up -- percent instead of percent. For this read, I'm trying to ignore the story and concentrate on whether the quotation marks are in the right place, or if any of those sneaky little typos have reappeared. All it takes is finding ONE error the copy editor missed, and panic sets in. I've discovered that just because she caught and changed per cent to percent in one case, that doesn't mean she got them all. Eyestrain. Headaches. Stress. I've been through the manuscript two more times, and HOPE I got them all. We'll see what the ARCs look like.

I'm not going to mention my struggles with a tax preparation software and its customer service department. I've used the Basic edition for the past 4 years with no trouble. Now, it seems, it won't do the job I need it to do, so I had to upgrade. Took 3 days of emails and an hour on the phone. Made the US Postal System look like pussycats. Bottom line, I'm out another $58 and am starting my return from scratch. Ooops -- looks like I mentioned it after all. Sorry.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gayle Wilson Contest Finalist

What I'm reading - Redemption by Karen Tabke in What You Can't See

What I'm working on: edits, edits, edits. Finished Hidden Fire last night.

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call informing me What's in a Name? is a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest. This is especially exciting, because there are some Really Big Names in the competition. I've been dealing with the 'second class citizenship' because I chose to sign with a publisher that puts its books out digitally before they go to print.

Although What's in a Name? is in print, the words on the paper are the same words that are in the digital edition. The Four Star review from RT and now the contest final gives me a great feeling of validation, that my work can hold its own, and generalizing that e-books are inherently inferior is an unfair judgment call.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Edits, Edits, Edits and crutch words

What I'm reading - Reason to Believe by Roxanne St. Claire in What You Can't See

What I'm working on: edits, edits, and more edits. Hoping to get to revisions.

I went through my editor's comments for Hidden Fire and then started re-reading the manuscript, thinking I could move through it quickly and get back to Unexpected Danger for my agent--after all, that's the manuscript that represents my next book, and it needs to be out there making the rounds. Hidden Fire and When Danger Calls are already in the system. As I was reading, I noticed a couple of my crutch words--the typewritten equivalents of 'um' as my fingers apparently needed to take a breath. After six manuscripts, I thought I was sensitized to them and avoided overuse. However, I decided to check. Thanks to Word's "highlight all items found in" feature, I plugged in my invisible friends. What a shock! Hundreds of unnecessary words. Even the one I think I've learned to avoid--"just"--showed up 130 times.

My 'starting' tally:
Just --- 130
Sure -- 121
Only -- 95
Really -- 56
Very -- 38

So, five trips through the manuscript on culling missions before I could even begin to read for better flow. What is it about these words that seem to flow off the fingertips without passing through the brain first? And why are they so invisible? The fact that they didn't seem to bother my editor doesn't matter--they bother me. And of course, as I read, I see instances where a word is repeated in back to back sentences or paragraphs. I think some of this is a by-product of cutting and pasting, and not seeing enough on the screen -- that 'perfect' word seemed perfect because I'd used it already and now it's on the page again. Or I hear the hero say it, and the heroine must hear him too, because she uses the same word or phrase. Or gesture--I discovered an awful lot of hand squeezing in the manuscript. Had to fix that, too.

Then, taking a brief break after dinner, I checked my email. Of course, I find copy edits for When Danger Calls. This manuscript has already been through the first (and second) round edits, but it's the last chance to catch typos, so even though there aren't too many markups on the manuscript, I still have to read it again. And it's for a different publisher, so there are different considerations.

Maybe I'll be able to get back to Unexpected Danger in a week or so. And my agent has a totally different editing style from the other two. Plus, these will be revisions, not just edits. Means a lot more 'writing' effort. I admire anyone who can immerse themselves in one set of characters and plot points to work on one project, and then shift gears to tackle another.

I'm so glad I didn't get any of this until I was already at SleuthFest so I was free to enjoy sessions. I was going to recap some highlights, but that'll have to wait until my next post. Right now, it's back to Hidden Fire.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A question about babies

What are your thoughts about romance heroines and heroes having babies? Lately, I've been reading romances where the end or epilogue shows the heroine pregnant, or moves even more forward to showing the babies. To me, it's a natural part of the HEA, which is The Rule of Romance, yet I've been told that 'romance readers don't want any mention of babies.' This really blew me away. It's all over the place. Suzanne Brockmann's characters have babies. Catherine Coulter's FBI series heroines have babies. The book I just finished by Karen Rose ends with a pregnant heroine. I don't see a problem.

What's your take? Do you like it? Does it turn you off to the story or the characters?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Checking in from SleuthFest

What I'm reading: Deliver us from Evil by Allison Brennan (part of What You Can't See)

What I'm working on: got edits for Hidden Fire from my CP editor, plus edits for Unexpected Danger from my agent.

From the above, plus the fact that I've been at SleuthFest (and won't be back home until much later today), I'll be busy. I'll try to post highlights from SleuthFest over the next few days. Right now, it's time to go downstairs for the final session; breakfast and an interview/Q&A with Lee Child.