Thursday, April 30, 2009

RT Recap 3

What I'm reading: Tears of the Moon, by Nora Roberts

First: Yesterday I mentioned hearing Michael Connelly speak at the Adult Literacy League Fundraiser. A local bookstore, Urban Think! recorded his talk and has shared it here.

Friday. Another free food breakfast mixer. I'd decided to play that one by ear, but since I was awake, I wandered down, got in line, and was even early enough for a bag of goodies from The Shadowdwellers. I had my stint in the "Club RT" room after breakfast, where authors get a table to sit at and hand out promo items and chat with anyone who comes by. Most of the traffic is people entering drawings for all the big raffle baskets donated by attendees. I think I chatted more with the cover models than readers, but heck – that wasn't exactly a hardship.

The next session I attended was, "Kill Me!" with Debra Webb, who I 'knew' from her Murder She Writes blog; CJ Lyons, Karen Rose, Andrew Peterson & Tom Lowe. Very interesting discussion when someone asked the men how they dealt with 'romance.' We segued off into 'romance' vs 'sex scenes'.
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Not surprisingly, when someone asked the male panelists (who wrote thrillers) how they worked romance into their stories, since this was a 'romance' convention, both spoke that they included sex scenes. How XY of them. One thing I enjoyed about the panels I attended was the opening the discussion to input from the audience rather than sticking to a formal Q&A pattern.

After that, I'd planned to hide in my room for a bit and grab some of my food stash (lesson learned long ago; I always travel with some kind of sustenance), but I bumped into Nancy Cohen who said Harlequin was hosting a "potato martini" luncheon in celebration of its 60th anniversary. Free food. I joined the line. She'd been expecting a sit-down lunch based on the menu description, but in reality it was a bunch of food stations. Having done many conference meal events from the other side, I would definitely have done this one differently, but eventually we got to one of the buffet setups. Too late for the book giveaway, though.

The deal: you get a martini glass. There is a huge vat of mashed potatoes. Scoop the desired amount into your glass. Then there were 3 'toppings' – bbq chicken, some sort of beef (I don't know what 'flavor': I don't eat dead cows), and a faux Creole shrimp dish. Also, for purists, the basic bacon, chives, cheese toppers.

Note: next time, go very light on the potatoes and fill the glass with mostly the bbq chicken, which was very good. After lunch, they drew 10 names for special commemorative tote bags (and I won one!),

and then two or three people won Sony readers. After the event, I got together with Sandra McDonald, my first writing mentor, who had driven down from Jacksonville just to scope things out and attend the Saturday book fair. We had a nice visit. Hubby joined us at the hotel for dinner—the Vampire Ball included a full meal, but that wasn't going to be until nine, and I needed something more, given that lunch had been a martini glass of mashed potatoes with a little bbq chicken – oh, and a special commemorative cookie (or two).

I changed for the ball and went back to --- yep, stand in line. But the company was interesting.

I'm not a costume person. I thought I might be out of place, but from the looks of things, I'd say about 30% of the folks showed up in "costumes". Most of the rest just wore some variation on black. We were treated to a theatrical production of a murder. The audience was supposed to figure out who did it and why. Well, the sets and costumes were great, but the skit seemed typically corny for this kind of an event. Until the music started and Heather Graham belted out "House of the Rising Sun" which brought the house down. Shades of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. And do you think it's fair that Heather can write AND sing?

Music and dancing commenced after the show. I lasted about another half-hour. I didn't recognize the music, being totally out of touch, and the noise made conversation impossible. As usual, I'm happy curling up with a book.

Saturday was yet another breakfast event. This time I did get another bag o' books and Barry Eisler was signing a copy of Fault Line for everyone as they entered. Note to self: learn how to do a scribbly signature instead of having to be careful with all those loops in the cursive version of Odell – go ahead: write it yourself. It's nothing but tall, short, fat and skinny loops.

After the breakfast, it was time to set up for the book signing. All three of my allotted books were there. Once again, I sat beside Jana Oliver and her stuffed ferret. The person on the other side of me was a no-show, so I kind of encroached on her allotted space and spread out a bit more. I've learned that sitting and waiting for people when you're a relative unknown doesn't do anything for meeting people or making sales, so I tried to talk to passersby. A lot of them did stop when I said my books were mystery-romance, because that's a genre they enjoy. I had chapter books, postcards, magnets and chocolate—more when I started than when it was time to pack up. I met readers and booksellers and figure making contact was well worth the time spent in that huge, crowded, noisy room.

When the signing was over, I packed up and decided I was too drained to hang around long enough for the Cover Model competition. Maybe if I'd been 20 years younger, I'd have had the strength and the inclination – but these guys were almost all younger than my kids. Not that they were hard to look at, mind you, but definitely not the kind of guys I'd fantasize over.

So … that's my first RT. If you want more details, leave a question in the comments.

This was a long post, but I wanted to get the blow-by-blow done to give Homicide - Hussey center stage tomorrow. I'll try to get the PMS (Phony Male Syndrome) notes up on Monday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

RT Recap 2

What I'm reading: Hidden Prey, by John Sandford

Thanks to Jenyfer Matthews for sharing her slice of life yesterday. Now, back to my RT recaps.

Thursday morning, I joined a group of mystery writers in hosting a breakfast mixer. I was also part of a panel with CJ Lyons, Carole Nelson Douglas, Jana Oliver and Lori Avocato as we discussed writing a mystery. My contribution – how to balance the romance and mystery in romantic suspense. I didn't do a formal handout type presentation, because these were informal panels, but I'm always happy to answer questions. And being the only author on the panel whose books are actually shelved in the romance aisle, my comments were very different from the others.
Lunch was an opportunistic meeting of someone from Desert Breeze Publishing, a new e-press that was hosting a meet-and-greet in the hotel restaurant. I'm not proud. If there's food, I was there. And they did sound like they understand what it takes to break into the world of e-books. They gave us a CD with excerpts and submission guidelines, which I'll explore when life gets back to normal.

I attended an afternoon session given by Barry Eisler, Rita Herron and Jennifer St. Giles on "Creating the Ultimate Page Turner."
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Eisler (in addition to being very easy on the eyes) knows how to work a group. He realized women were reading his books after their husbands finished them, and set out to reach female readers from the get go. I've been to a lot of conference workshops in my short writing career, and this is the first time the presenter stopped to introduce himself (and give a business card) to each person in the room before the workshop got underway. I doubt anyone in the room didn't know who he was, but it's a good lesson for us lesser-knowns. And for authors, conventions like these, in addition to being fun (Eisler's comment: Where else can you say, "Will I see you at the Faery Ball?") are definitely places to network, and RT is reader-oriented as well, which is another great way to get your books known. When you write for relatively obscure presses, it's vital.

Important writing lesson from the workshop: We are afraid of what hasn't happened yet. As writers, it's important to keep the tension escalating. Although I don't write thrillers, I think this premise translates to my mystery-based stories as well.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay for the last session, as I'd promised to help out at a fund-raiser for the Adult Literacy League. Michael Connelly and Bob Morris were speakers, so I was still getting some great information. In addition to a last workshop, I had to miss the "Faery Ball" but I'll bet it won't take too much blog-hopping to get the scoop on that one.

Please come back - I'm breaking up these recap posts rather than throw everything out all at once. Plus, there's Friday for the next Homicide - Hussey story, so RT Recaps might stretch out into next week. I'm still working up my notes from Raz Steel's "Phony Male Syndrome" workshop.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tennis Anyone? Being a Mom is Universal

Today my guest is Jennyfer Matthews, an American living in Cairo, Egypt. She shares glimpses into her life on her blog, and I'm happy to have her at Terry's Place today. When raising kids, some things are the same no matter where you live.

(I'll continue my RT recap tomorrow)

Ever since my daughter was old enough to walk, she wanted to kick a ball. Beach ball, cheapo rubber ball, soccer ball, it didn’t matter - like a puppy, if it was a ball she would chase it. She was not just enthusiastic, she was good. I have pictures of her at age two running behind a soccer ball, hair flying.

About a year ago, I signed her up for tennis lessons. It seemed like a good idea at the time – she is well coordinated, loves to run and play sports, and tennis is a sport you can play for life, right? My son decided he wanted to join in as well, so I signed him up too. Monkey see, monkey do. One more way to get them off the couch and tire them out is never a bad thing.

The logic was sound, but little did I know how tennis lessons would creep up and take over my life.

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During a water break at my daughter’s first lesson, the coach came over and asked me if this was her first lesson. I said yes. First ever? Yes, I replied. She’s never had lessons before, anywhere else? No, I answered. He nodded his head and looked thoughtful.

It’s just shy of a year since then and my daughter has zoomed up through the various tennis groups available. She’s now with an advanced group that meets 7 hours a week, in which she is the youngest member and the only girl. She’s been in there for a couple of months and she’s rapidly gaining on them.

She’s a gifted athlete – I’m both astonished and proud of her progress. But it’s a tough job being a tennis mom. Aside from being at the lessons for 10 hours a week between both children, there’s the competition. I’m not talking about junior tournaments or the other tennis moms (though some of them are crazy!) I’m talking about within myself.

I’d be hard pressed to name one professional tennis player from this decade – I haven’t watched a match since the late 1970s. The point system makes no sense to me – what’s up with “love” anyway? A zero is a zero! I used to chase balls for my mother but have never swung a racket myself. I could use the time they are lessons to read, write, or socialize but instead I am at the fence watching them play. But I’m not just watching, I’m studying them. I love to watch them play and appreciate the beauty of a well played point. Even some of the shots that don’t succeed are amazing. But can I help it if I also notice the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, er the other children, who they play? I’m not blind, after all.

The fact that I sometimes slip tips into post-practice walks home is just me holding up my end of the conversation.

One of the other tennis moms showed me a book she has on raising tennis kids. It never occurred to me there would be such books available. I have since read that book and have now started on sports psychology. But I read them in private – I don’t want to be labeled one of “those” moms. If I absolutely have to take one out in public, I borrow a dust cover from a hard back mystery on my shelf. I would much prefer people should think I’m just a really slow reader! Would you think badly of me if I admit that I occasionally dream about tennis?

Honestly, keeping it all in perspective is a lot of work. The coach is enthusiastic and often talks of tournaments and scholarships. That is all very attractive – particularly in light of the investment of time and money we are putting into tennis lessons. However, I am trying hard to keep in mind that my daughter is still young. She’s got a lot of time to develop other interests and go in another direction. She also loves soccer – and her soccer coaches are equally enthusiastic about her talent.

Did I mention that she’s only 8 ½?

Today the coach told me that after the summer he wants to start working with my son one on one because he has such talent.

Here we go again!

Jenyfer Matthews is an American currently living in Cairo, Egypt. In addition to being a slightly unbalanced sports mom, Jenyfer Matthews is the author of three contemporary romance novels available digitally from Cerridwen Press . Her first novel, HERE TO STAY, is now available in print from Amazon. T learn more about Jenyfer, visit her website.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RT Recap 1

What I'm reading: Naked Prey, by John Sandford

Back from my first Romantic Times conference, and I have to say it was memorable. I'll recap today, and try to share some panel notes over the rest of the week.

Tuesday night, Cerridwen Press had a welcome party for authors (they always call themselves Ellora's Cave, but since I write for their Cerridwen imprint, I will use that terminology). We played a get-acquainted Bingo game where we had to identify authors based on little-known facts we'd provided – tidbits such as who can drive a 64 seater bus, who rode a wagon train across North Dakota, whos' an expert marksman with an M16, etc. (My contributions: I climbed Ayers Rock, and my mantel holds a skull collection.) I found enough answers early enough to get a prize, which include a tomato stress-reducer. I gave it to hubby, and it kept him well amused as he threw it against the wall and watched it flatten and re-forms. Then again, why should that be surprising from a man who likes fish-shaped squirt guns?

The Ellora's Cave cover models were at the party, and those who wanted could have their pictures taken with them. I opted out, but snapped a few pictures. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone, and they're a bit blurry.

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The next morning, I checked into the hotel, and was pleasantly surprised to find my room was ready well before check-in time. I had enough time to unpack and get ready for the Cerridwen author's luncheon.
Although I live very nearby, I opted to get a room for 3 nights so that I could escape if I needed to, and also have a place to drop off all the "stuff" one accumulates at conferences—and when they're a writing conference, that "stuff" includes books.

And, thankfully, a nifty tote to carry "stuff" in.

The conference hotel is a resort hotel with more than a dozen sprawling buildings. Mine, of course, was just about as far away from the center of activity as it could possible be, so I ended up having to schlep "stuff" anyway. Plus, the paths meandered, so you ended up walking much farther than the map distance. We were lucky that the humidity was low enough so walking back and forth was bearable. Normally, a walk down my driveway to the mailbox is enough outside time.

After lunch, I went to my first workshop, which was "Heroes with PMS: Phony Male Syndrome," given by Raz Steel. I hope to post my notes from this one—it was fascinating.

Next, "Create the Character and the Plot will Follow" given by Denise Swanson. Since I write character driven novels, it's nice to see that I'm not the only one who does a lot of character development before starting the book.

After that, it was time for the e-book Expo where authors of e-books and small-press books met readers and sold their books. Cerridwen authors had gorgeous cover flats made up by the publisher, and people could buy these and get a download code.

After the signing, there was just enough time to change for the Jungle Ball and party. The publisher arranged for their cover models to escort each of their authors across the stage to be introduced. By luck of the draw, my escort was Jason Santiago, who just happens to be on the cover of my book, What's in a Name? He was very kind and made sure I didn't trip and fall.

And, as a memento, we were given personalized paw prints.

That's enough for today. Tomorrow, I'll be hosting my normal guest day, and Jenyfer Matthews, and American who's living in Cairo, Egypt will be my guest. Please stop by. More RT recaps starting Wednesday. And Friday, it'll be Homicide – Hussey's turn again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Homicide - Hussey - Human Bomb, Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, I suggest you scroll down and do so before reading this.

We had been broken into two man teams and placed at strategic locations around the shopping center area. The purse-snatcher’s activities had been greatly curtailed during our one week of steady surveillance. He had still managed to hit us three times, always in an area where we weren’t. It seemed he knew our every move and when we were on one end of the complex, watching someone who fit the description, he would hit on the other end and disappear. We were into our second week. I had missed two episodes of my favorite show, “Cheers.” The boys in the bar were my new heroes.

It had gotten incredibly frustrating. We were under pressure from the Captain who was hearing it from the City Manager and the news media. People were refusing to shop at Searstown, and this guy was making us look ridiculous.

It was nearly a hundred degrees every day, and our cars were overheating in the parking lot. The dark blue uniforms were scrapped after three days for the more comfortable blue jeans and t-shirts. All in all, we were at wits' end. We all talked about when we would finally catch this guy and beat the living shit out of him for causing us all this grief. He would certainly be “hospitalized,” we all agreed.

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I don’t know who came up with the idea, but everybody shrieked with joy when the plan was laid out. One of the unmarked cars, an old Buick station wagon that had been confiscated in a drug seizure, would be placed in front of the hardware store, where a number of the robberies had taken place. The window would be rolled down and a women’s purse placed on the front seat of the car. Inside the purse would be a “Mighty Midget" flash bang device, with its detonation pin wired to the steering wheel. Anyone removing the purse would pull the pin, and in 3-5 seconds, the purse would explode, startling the would-be thief and pinpointing his exact location, facilitating his certain arrest.

For those of you who are not familiar with some of the tactical tools, the “flash bang” was developed and is commonly used as a diversionary device. For instance, in a hostage situation, a SWAT team member tosses a flash bang in the vicinity of an armed suspect. The device contains an explosive charge as well as flash powder.

There is a huge “concussion” type explosion, accompanied by a flash of bright light. This tactic will usually confuse a suspect long enough for a team member to move in and disarm or otherwise neutralize the suspect.

The literature that is packed with the device, warns that "Detonation in close proximity to humans may cause “great bodily harm” or “death.” The detonation produces overpressures. That is, pressure greater than atmospheric pressure. These pressures can maim or kill depending on their magnitude. An independent study conducted by a prominent university said that the standard 188 lb. Output Distraction Device, which was the one we used, although the most consistent in producing “like” overpressures, was at the threshold of safety. The report goes on to say that when tossing the device into a room, the possibility is that the device would land within 3.75 inches of the occupant. If this happens, the suspect would be subjected to 115 pound per square inch of overpressure. If the occupant is lying on the floor and the device lands near his head this would give disastrous results.

The problem was nobody read the warnings or the study. At least nobody brought it up when our little plan was formulated. So we went through with it. The car and the booby-trapped purse were set up and we waited.

The decoy was placed on Tuesday morning. It was Wednesday afternoon and getting late. The air conditioner in the unmarked Chevy was starting to blow hot air. That meant that we would have to shut off the car’s motor until it cooled. The heat was making us cross and crazy. If the bad guy didn’t take the bait again, we’d have to carefully break down the car and purse until the next day. Another day in this sweltering hell.

“Do you have to do that?” I asked my partner as he drummed on the car dash.

“Boy you’re sure touchy.” He made a face.

“It’s just so goddamn hot” I said. “I’m—" I never got to finish. Somewhere to the west and in the direction of the decoy car, there was an explosion.

“What the fuck?” My partner looked at me. We both yelled “He’s in.” We couldn’t start the Impala sedan fast enough. We raced to the area of the blast, and when we arrived, found a crowd gathered.

I made my way to the center of the group of uniformed and undercover officers as well as civilians. Lying on the ground in a large pool of bright red blood was the motionless suspect. A good portion of his right arm had been blown off, and a large area of flesh on his right side was missing. Two charred purse straps were all that remained of the pocketbook.

“Guess the stakeout’s over,” one of the STAT guys said.

“Yeah, this guy’s boosted his last purse,” my partner added.

“Anybody see this?” a uniformed officer asked.

“We’ll be taking this investigation, officer,” the STAT commander said ominously.

“Yes sir,” the officer said, rolling his eyes. “It’s all yours and I’m outa’ here.”

The ambulance arrived, and after being told how the victim’s injuries were sustained and talking to the Lieutenant, just wrote, “Industrial Accident.” The injured purse-snatcher was transported to Lakeland General Hospital, where he eventually recovered, sued the city and was compensated in an out-of-court settlement.

The STAT team had numerous high level meetings, which were no more that rehearsals of “The Official Story” in case somebody from outside the agency asked. The paper printed an account that left out “some” of the details. Their headlines read, “Searstown Robber Finally Caught” and “Police Chief Credits SWAT Team With 'Innovative' Arrest Techniques."

One of the Tampa television stations recorded an interview with an eyewitness, but it never aired. They were used to having some “whacko” come out of nowhere and swear he had seen everything.

The reporter pushed the microphone into the face of eighty-two year old Silas Cumbee who was from a different era and didn’t even own a television set. Mr. Cumbee had bad speech impediment and a limited vocabulary. Old Silas was coming out of the hardware store when the suspect reached into the station wagon and cradled the purse like an NFL running back cradles a football, heading for the open parking lot.

“What did you see sir?” the young female reporter asked.

“W..w..w..w…w.ell,” the old gent said, grabbing the straps of his bib overalls and spitting some tobacco juice on the sidewalk. The old man seemed to be choosing his words carefully and thoughtfully. He looked at the camera and said seriously, “That damn n..n..n..nigger jis’ blew up."

“Cut...cut...cut...!” yelled the red-faced reporter.

I'll be back next week to fill you in on everything that's happened.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homicide - Hussey - Human Bomb, Part 1

Here's Part 1 of Detective Hussey's chapter. He calls it Human Bomb. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion.

I guess there comes a time in every cop's life, when he wishes he could circumvent the system, so to speak. You know, go around the rules, regulations and laws and get the bad guy. Some cops actually think the end justifies the means. It doesn’t. It just gets really frustrating when you work day after day within the parameters of the establishment and they let these scumbags go free to terrorize other innocent people.

One such time when the feeling of helplessness had overcome our ability to think clearly, happened in the summer of 1982. We were revisiting our thoughts on Viet Nam. The memorial to the over 50,000 Americans who had lost their lives was dedicated by the President in a moving ceremony. We still weren’t sure how we felt.

A purse-snatcher had been working the Searstown Shopping Center on the Boulevard. Not only had he been working it, but over a period of three weeks had amassed over 30 of, what Florida calls, "Strong-arm robberies." Which means that the perpetrator uses either force or intimidation to separate the unsuspecting victim from his or her pocketbook.

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The news media was making a huge deal about the fact that nine of the victims had been injured—six seriously, requiring hospitalization. All the robberies were committed in broad daylight in front of witnesses. In each case the description was relatively the same.

Black male, 6 feet tall, short hair, several days' growth of beard, wearing white tee shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers.

Several said they could identify the suspect if caught, and others said they had seen the man in the area riding a bicycle. The newspaper couldn’t understand why the police were unable to make an arrest. The Chief of Police couldn’t understand it either. With all of the crack (not current meaning pertaining to cocaine) officers and special equipment the department had, the bad guy should be in jail by now.

Well, as most law enforcement officers know, shit rolls downhill. The City Manager was getting pressure from the public and the media, as well as store owners at the shopping center, who were losing business. The City Manager called the Chief of Police and put pressure on him. The Chief of Police called the Major and chewed his ass. The Major called the Captain and the Captain called the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant called a couple of Sergeants and that’s kinda where I come in.

The Los Angeles Police Department had created a SWAT team. The team was trained in the use of special urban assault weapons and anti-personnel devices not commonly used by the street officer. The idea was that these specially trained officers would be available for call out in the event of an incident requiring their special talents and training. The teams would train together regularly and attend special schools when available. Other police departments soon followed suit, as they usually did in those days.

The Lakeland STAT team was formed in the mid 1970’s as a result of several nationally publicized incidents involving hostages and terrorist activities. Police in urban areas and not so urban areas around the country found themselves ill equipped to handle these heavily armed, sometimes well-trained individuals and groups. A majority of these bad individuals were Vietnam veterans, who were not only well-trained, but heavily armed. A lot of good cops lost their lives as a result of this learning process.

The Lakeland Police Department, not wanting to fall behind, sent representatives to Quantico, Virginia to the F.B.I. Headquarters in 1974 to attend a seminar on urban terrorism. They gleaned just enough information to be dangerous. The committee returned home, a budget request was granted, and the first Lakeland Police Special Weapons Team was born.

I had just been accepted to the Lakeland police “SWAT” team or “STAT” (Special Tactical Alert Team) as it was called. The name was chosen in 1973 when the team was formed, as a result of a contest. The Officer who submitted the new team name would receive a paid day off.

Many entries were submitted, including one that I was particularly fond of: “Fast Action Response Team.” The administration really liked the way it sounded and almost used it, until someone pointed out that the acronym was FART. They then realized they’d been had.... Again. They settled on STAT, because it was different than SWAT.

It was quite an honor to be chosen for this elite group and I was feeling pretty “special” when the team was called together as part of a special “Anti-purse-snatcher” task force.

Most traditional teams consisted of five men, two riflemen, who carried automatic rifles (machine guns), one scout or forward observer, who would gather intelligence and report to the command post, one sniper whose job title is self-explanatory, and one rear guard whose duties were flexible.

If additional personnel were needed, another team, if available would be deployed or bodies would be taken from the patrol division.

If all this sounds a quite militaristic, you’re right. Most of the deployment tactics and weapons were taken from our armed forces. Everything from uniforms to insignia to call signs. When we deployed we looked like we were headed to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

The only problem in Lakeland was that the people chosen for special assignments, such as STAT, were chosen on the basis of either their looks or their popularity. Their level of education, common sense, maturity or training never entered into the decision. In many cases the guys that were assigned to these teams were irrational, almost unstable individuals. When an operation went bad because of some “Rambo” type behavior, the brass would look the other way, even cover up or praise the individuals because the STAT guys were their “boys” and could do no wrong. The purse snatching detail in July of 1982 was just such an incident.

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Romance and the Economy

What I'm reading: Untouched, by Anna Campbell

Right now, in Orlando, about 1000 romance readers, authors and booksellers are gathered for the annual Romantic Times BOOKlovers Convention. It's not a cheap event. But it shows that people despite the economy, people are still reading. Books are cheaper than movies, after all. And last longer.

For more, watch the following clip, from Nightline. And if there's a hint of 'surprise' on the part of the reporters ... well, why? Is it any wonder that when things look bleak, people will turn to avenues of hope, for pathways to escape into a world where there is a happily ever after.

Tomorrow and Friday, come back for another Homicide-Hussey chapter. I'm posting it in two installments. (And hoping the 'auto publish' feature on Blogger works!)

If I have any time at all, I might sneak in some RT highlights. If not, I'll recap next week for sure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Agent Kelly Mortimer Speaks Out

My guest today is Kelly Mortimer of the Mortimer Literary Agency. Welcome, Kelly.

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for havin’ me, Terry!

Kelly Mortimer, Literary Agent, here. Diabolically Diligent. Maniacally Moral. Defiantly Different.

A Warning to Those Who Seek Representation:

I have a wicked, sarcastic sense of humor; and I use it.
I’m blind to the color gray (in all areas).
I’m stubborn, opinionated, and a fighter; some editors don’t like that. I don’t care.
I am who I am. Love me or don’t, but I ain’t changin’.

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Back to the writing business. It’s not all doom and gloom, at least for romance writers. Readership is stable. People like to escape in tough times. A book is cheaper than a movie. Bad side of that is many people purchase copies from the Internet at a huge discount. Yuck. I know; we’ve all done it. Please stop. Pretty please? Really hurts the author. I suck it up now and pay full price. Boy, the words “full price” make my fingers numb. [Either that, or it’s my double tennis elbow acting up.]

As an agent, no doubt, it’s harder to sell in this market, especially when your product is a writer who has yet to prove herself/himself. I only sign writers who have never been published, or not published within the last three years. [“Published” meaning by a traditional house that pays at least a $1,000 advance.] Way harder to get an editor to take notice. I always use humor. If an editor likes me, they’re more likely to actually read what I send them.

So, is it harder for such a writer to snag an agent now? Sorry: yep. I used to give a writer 5 pages to interest me; now I give a writer 3 pages. And if what ya got ain’t as good, or better than what I’m already tryin’ to sell, I won’t offer to sign you. Still, there are writers out there who do have excellent stuff but no one has discovered them, or no one will give them a chance. I keep an open mind [and an open eye, but just the one.].

I now only take queries/submissions from writers I meet at conferences. No other option unless you live out of the country. I’m booked at several smaller conferences this year, and one for San Diego State University from last month, but I’m not going to the RWA conference, as it’s across the world in D.C. [I live in beautiful So. Cal.] American Christian Fiction Writers conference is in Denver, so I’ll be there in September.

And, I’m such a nut; I decided to have my own mini-conference. A one-woman show! If any of ya live near Murrieta, CA, or wanna fly here, you might think about comin’ on over. It’ll be from a Friday at 4:00 p.m., until Sunday morning. Hopin’ to schedule the last weekend in May. I’m callin’ it the “Hangin’ with a Happenin’ Agent Conference.” Yes, I’m serious. I’ll be conducting workshops, hangin’ out with attendees, and everyone will get a ten-minute appointment to pitch. I’m limiting registration to 50 fortunate people who wanna get up-close and personal with me.

I’ve chosen a sic spot! Has a mammoth swimming pool, Roman Spa that holds 80 people, 6 natural hot springs, tennis, volleyball, basketball, billiards, foos ball, ping-pong, etc. All this, meals and lodging included, for a mere $250.00. Not per night, for both nights, total. Yep, that covers everything but transportation. What a deal! Buut, it’s dorm-style. Up to six people per room, although the rooms are kewl, and I’ll be in one of them. Feel free to let your friends know. E-mail me for your spot or more info.

Also, I wanna get the word out about my Web site just for writers. Has all kinds of links to everything writer-esque. If you have a link to a Web site you can’t live without, send it to me. If you're a writer with a writing-related business, you can place a free “yellow page” ad. Come on over!

Any agent-type questions I can answer, gimme a shout.

You can reach Kelly via email at

Her Mortimer Literary Web Site:

Her Monthly Snarky Humor Column:

Her blog

Her publishing venture, Underdog Press has a new release.
And, as if that's not enough, Kelly also designs handbags.

Civilian Police Academy: Intelligence Section

What I'm reading: The Inferno Collection, by Jacqueline Seewald

The Romantic Times Conference runs all this week, so I'm going to be busy. In addition to the conference, the Adult Literacy League is having its annual fundraiser, Reading Between the Lines, with special guests Michael Connelly and Bob Morris, and I'll be working there as well.

Tomorrow, my guest will be Kelly Mortimer of the Mortimer Literary Agency, so if you have questions or want to know more about that side of the business, be sure to stop by. I might fill in with an extra "Homicide-Hussey" post this week while I'm caught up in conference activities. I have a feeling nobody will mind.

I promised to share my notes from our Civilian Police Academy Alumni meeting.

David Callin of the Intelligence Section spoke to us about the responsibilities of his unit. In a nutshell, they're responsible for public safety. The formal policy tasks them with collecting, collating, and analyzing raw information for dissemination to appropriate agency units, and in development and implementation of law enforcement strategies, priorities, policies and investigative tactics.

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In a nutshell, they gather information and determine if laws are being violated. They walk a fine line between freedom of speech, constitutional rights of the individual, and public safety. Most of their work is covert, to determine if a threat exists. The develop sources, from prison inmates to private citizens, to paid informants.

They're on the alert for political threats. It's one thing to say you disagree with a politician; it's something else to threaten to do him bodily harm.

We learned that the going rate on the street for a fake Driver's License, which is the gateway to just about anything, is $1,000. And that having any kind of blue light mounted on your vehicle is a felony. We learned what some of the gang colors are, and how to recognize gang members from bumper stickers on their vehicles.

The Intelligence Section looks into criminal allegations, murder for hire, hate crimes, threats to law enforcement officers, firearms violations, public corruption, and law enforcement impersonators. They also work with the Secret Service when dignitaries come to town – the Secret Service whisks away the individual, while the locals deal with what's happening. Callin has worked with them protecting not only US presidents and foreign dignitaries, but also celebrities like Tiger Woods. (Tough job, walking through 36 holes of golf. But someone has to do it.)

Given that theme parks make Orlando an international tourist destination, they're protecting not only the county's citizens, but millions of others. One generally thinks of one's home town as someplace safe. But Callin said his job reveals that there are central Florida connections to a vast number of 'unsavory' individuals (Osama bin Laden's brother owned a home in Orlando) and groups. These would all be turned over to the federal government for prosecution, but it's our local Sheriff's Office that keeps tabs on things.

Historically, in times of economic stress, people are looking for someone to blame, and there's a drastic increase in hate crimes and membership in these sorts of groups. Callin said he could take the Kent State template and it would be a perfect fit for what's happening at local colleges.

So, our city, best known for Mickey Mouse, is also home to white supremacy groups, to violent protestors of animal rights, to paramilitary groups, and to many other groups who feel it's their responsibility to impose their beliefs on others in a violent fashion.

Remember - come back tomorrow to see what agent Kelly Mortimer has to say about her life.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Homicide - Hussey: Guts, Italian Style

Today we follow Deputy Hussey in Hot Pursuit -- Italian Style. Enjoy!

Sunday nights on the midnight shift were either really crazy or totally dead. You would either run from call to call or spend the entire shift trying to stay awake. Usually the latter prevailed. The first cell phones had been introduced and crack cocaine was created in a lab by mistake. Yeah, what a mistake.

It was the mid 1980’s and the winds of change were blowing through the law enforcement community. Due to several recent automobile fatalities resulting from high-speed police pursuits, several of which occurred in the State of Florida, and pressure from the media and the public, a number of departments had rewritten their vehicle pursuit policies.

It was the feeling of most police administrators that the liability issues far outweighed the danger to the public of just allowing a fleeing driver to go free. Some departments allowed the pursuit of persons suspected of forcible felonies (murder, rape, armed robbery), others just didn’t allow it at all. It was pretty heartbreaking to aggressive cops who enjoyed the old “always get your man" philosophy. The news media didn’t help the situation. They would publicize the policy changes, and lawbreakers would drive around just to squeal their tires and drive recklessly, taunting police, knowing they would not be chased. The media has traditionally made the job of the police much more difficult.

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The bars closed at two AM in Lakeland. If you wanted to, you could drive a couple of miles into Hillsborough county and buy alcohol until three. Most people were content to quit at two.

One shift, it was approaching three thirty. The radio had gone dead and I was thinking about coffee. All Night Long”, by Lionel Ritchie, was playing on my boom-box as I patrolled my zone. I was amazed at how quiet it was. With the exception of an occasional dog barking, there was no noise at all. It was sometimes eerie out there driving around, seemingly alone. You weren’t really alone of course, a simple request would send the cavalry to your rescue. The guys in Lakeland were the best backup anywhere. It was a good feeling.

I was northbound on Lincoln Avenue and had just pulled up to the red light at Memorial Boulevard, stopping as the light turned to green. I was nodding off at the light and didn’t see right away that it had turned green. My fatigue probably saved my life.

Zoom.....I was immediately wide awake. A silver vehicle flew past me westbound on memorial, running the red traffic signal. “My God,” I thought, “he must’ve been doing a hundred.” I reached forward and flipped the toggle switch. The overhead blue lights flashed to life. “One-zero-six, I’m in pursuit,” I said into the Motorola microphone. “Westbound on the Boulevard from Lincoln. Late seventies model silver T-bird, dark tinted windows, I can’t read the tag,” I continued.

“Ten four one-oh-six.”

I turned up the radio so I could hear the additional units signing on and heading my way. I turned on the “Federal” siren box and fastened my seat belt and shoulder harness. The officially calibrated speedometer said the 1984 Dodge Diplomat I was driving was traveling 80 mph. The other guy was obviously going much faster and pulling away.

Now the great thing about a pursuits is that it takes every ounce of your skill and experience. You have to drive like a NASCAR driver, keeping your adversary in sight. You have to watch for other traffic, pedestrians and road hazards, not that easy at a hundred-plus miles an hour. You have to operate the radio and be aware of your surroundings and relay that information back to headquarters. Contact with the station is imperative. You don’t want to get caught out in some remote area, with no backup. There’s no telling why your driver is running. He may be a traffic violator. He may have just committed murder and have nothing to lose. If he can get you into an area that he knows and you don’t, he can gain the advantage. It's a contest of wits, and cops who tell you that vehicle pursuits aren’t personal are just lying.

There was no other traffic on the four-lane divided highway. So far we had hit the lights in our favor, and not come in contact with any other vehicles. The Ford Thunderbird was still pulling away from me as we passed chestnut road, the siren screaming. The speedometer said 105 miles per hour. I continued the travelogue. “Passing Kathleen High School still westbound.”

Memorial Boulevard at its west-most end, makes a sweeping curve to the right, then left, takes a slight uphill turn in that curve and empties onto Interstate four headed for Tampa. I knew this guy would have to slow up to make that turn. He showed no evidence of doing that.

I was probably a quarter of a mile back from this car and he was pulling away. The windows were tinted several shades too dark to be legal. Yet, later in a defense deposition, I would be asked later in court if it wasn’t true that the only reason I was chasing the driver was that he was black. Sign of the times. Unbelievable. I couldn’t even tell if a human was driving.

As we approached the on ramp for I-4, I got a bad feeling. In the right hand lane, I saw for the first time a slow moving, dark colored, full sized, Cadillac, four-door sedan. As long as he stayed in his lane, we’d be okay.

If you believe in Murphy’s law as most cops do, you’d know that something bad was about to happen. Happen it did and trust me, things happen fast at a hundred and ten.

The T-bird moved left to the passing lane and from the quick flash I got of the brake lights, slowed down slightly.

The driver of the Cadillac must have seen the rapidly approaching vehicle in his rear view mirror. Being in his normal speed mode he tried to avoid being struck in the rear, and he too moved his vehicle to the left. What happened next has been diagramed by investigators and shows an incredible chain of events. What I saw was this: The T-bird, which was moving at over a hundred miles per hour, struck the Cadillac, which was moving about 40 miles per hour, squarely in the rear. The Ford deflected to the left, and slid off the roadway, traveling into the wide grass median in the center of the interchange. The Cadillac moved right, the impact blowing the right front tire. The wheel dug into the pavement, causing the front end of the car to dip down. There was a large flash, caused possibly by metal scraping the pavement. The Cadillac looked much like a toy, as it vaulted end over end, across a ditch and up a hill, landing on its top.

I looked toward the last place I’d seen the suspect vehicle and saw just a small pillar of smoke rising from the nearly six foot high grass. The hell with him; my responsibility was to the innocent victims in the Cadillac. I turned my attention to them.

I turned off the siren and jumped out of my patrol unit, running up the hill, and across the ditch, not even noticing the foot of cold water I'd stuck my shoe and leg into as I crossed the darkness. Any veteran cop will tell you that after any “hot” incident the quiet that follows is almost ear-shattering. There was absolute quiet. The only sound I heard was the wail of police sirens way off in the distance. As I made my way to the steaming wreckage, I realized I had walked approximately 30 yards from the place I had parked the police car. I turned on my flashlight and for the first time saw the carnage that the dark sedan held.

I had never seen anything like it there were bodies everywhere. I couldn’t even tell how many people were inside the car, but my initial reaction was that there were “guts” everywhere. Bloody, stringy, entrails were hanging from the people’s ears, they were on the dashboard, they were on the windows and on the roof. I grabbed my lapel mike and called the station.

“One----ze--ro---six,” I said breathlessly.

“Go ahead one-oh-six,” the dispatcher said.

“Roll—me—backup, an—amb—ulance—and---rescue,” I panted.

“On their way,” the radio crackled.

I got down on one knee, to see if I could render some aid. It was then I heard a moan, then another, then the mass of flesh began to move. All the windows in the car had been open at the time of the accident, and they afforded all who were able, easy access to the outside. They were crawling on their hands and knees out windows in all directions. As I watched speechless, six huge people, moaned and groaned their way out of the car. I was absolutely shocked that anyone could have survived the crash, especially with the bloody parts that seemed to be everywhere.

After several minutes, all six people were standing outside the car and were excitedly discussing their ordeal. There wasn’t one of the six who weighed less than three hundred pounds. All were well dressed middle aged black people, three men and three women. They appeared to be relatively uninjured.

“Who else is in the car?” I asked.

“We it” one man said. “We was coming from church. From a spaghetti supper. We all had a plate of spaghetti in our laps, sure made a mess in the car.”

"You mean that’s what I saw in the car, spaghetti?” I asked in disbelief.

“Sure is."

Well the backup got there and everybody had a hell of a good laugh, one of those relieved laughs you have when nobody gets hurt. It feels good.

The driver of the T-bird was so drunk he didn’t even know what had happened. He was arrested and eventually convicted. The driver of the Cadillac watched a lot of television and had some friends who were lawyers. He eventually sued the police department for continuing an “obviously dangerous” pursuit. The city settled out of court for an “undisclosed” amount. I wonder how much six plates of spaghetti is worth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Not the Package, it's the Contents

What I'm reading: Mortal Prey, by John Sandford

On Monday, I mentioned I wasn't thrilled with the cover for the Cerridwen Press Free Reads. I didn't think it represented the kind of stories (not only mine; I've read the others as well), but the authors have little say in covers, and for this program, we were totally out of the game.

But, one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. And this was truly brought home with Monday's night's episode of "Britain's Got Talent."

Now, I don't watch much television, and what little I watch has never included these talent shows. Never. (OK, maybe I admit to watching The Gong Show a few times way back when.) I rarely watch YouTube clips. As a matter of fact, if I do click on one and the timer thingie is more than 2 minutes, I usually pass. However, I got a link from several different sources, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I was very glad I did. And as much as I was impressed with the talent, it was the judges' reactions that struck the deeper chord. Yes, the looks on their faces were priceless, and that made me feel good. But it also made me feel bad, because they were obviously expecting a rousing round of ridicule. Sad that they couldn't be open-minded from the beginning. I wonder if this gave them an attitude adjustment. I definitely hope so (although I still won't be watching these shows.)

The clip is here: It's worth your time.

Tomorrow -- Yep. Another spin with Homicide-Hussey. He's got a great Hot Pursuit story to tell. Be sure to come back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beginnings and Endings

What I'm reading: Presumed Guilty, by Tess Gerritsen

Thanks to Mary Louise for her post yesterday. There seems to be so much more to writing than … writing.

The latest uproar is Amazon's "glitch" with regard to their ranking system and how it affected searching for books on their site. Whether it was a mistake or not, others are following Amazon's responses, and providing commentary, so you can read about it on their blogs. They've been updating, so you might want to browse a bit.
Dear Author
Smart Bitches

On the home front, I'm dealing with more house stuff/moving prep. Routine service for the air-conditioner (who was supposed to show up this afternoon, but called at 7:30 to say he would be there in half an hour). Two estimates on handyman type repairs scheduled over the next two days. Plus there's a Civilian Police Academy meeting tonight (I'll share my notes). And the RT convention is next week, so I'm busy getting ready for that. I've never been to that particular conference before, and I understand things get wild and crazy. Fairy wings? Fangs?

A while ago, I posted the beginning paragraphs of a new manuscript. Today's writing began by deleting it. I'd reached about 13,000 words, and don't need it anymore. I've used that same basic opening at least two or three times, and it always gets cut. But you have to start somewhere, and as has been said over and over: "You can't fix a blank page."

It's kind of like revving the engine. The race doesn't begin until you cross the starting line, but sometimes you need that running start. Helps burn out some of the impurities. There's more to beginning a story than starting with a paragraph that hooks a reader. It has to hang together with the rest of the book, and since I really didn't know where I was going, it was more like messing around with a bit of clay, seeing if there was a shape inside.

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I know if I'd plotting things out from the start, I might not have written that first scene—but I've not had much success starting with much structure. And I often think I can write faster than I can outline, or list plot points, or turning points, or anything else that could be translated directly into the words on the page. It took a few chapters to figure out who my hero and heroine were, and what they wanted. Once I knew more about them, I could go back and see that there were too many gaping holes in that opening scene. Things that didn't really make sense when I started asking "Why?"

Now for endings. We're advised that a reader is likely to want to read "one more scene, one more chapter" before putting down a book. They make logical stopping points. So, writers are told to make sure that scene ends with something that will keep the reader reading. I discovered this long before I started writing. I knew I had to get enough sleep to make it to work the next day, and I realized that the end of a chapter all too often had me needing to keep going. So I started arbitrarily stopping mid page when the hour got late.

But what about that last page? The one where you can't turn any more pages.

It's been said that your first page sells the book. Your last page sells the next book. If you're writing a romance, that ending will include a happy resolution to the relationship. If it's part of a series of connected books, the author will have introduced some secondary characters and laid a foundation for an upcoming book that will the their story—their turn for that Happily Ever After. Very few romances actually pick up with the same hero and heroine as the first book. JD Robb does this well in her In Death series, although she's expanded the cast of characters exponentially as the books continue. Would Eve and Roarke be enough to carry 20 or 30 books alone? Maybe not.

Mystery series are another animal. Detectives come back, book after book, solving case after case. Is it 'fair' to the reader to end the entire book on a cliffhanger? I've noticed it in several series I've read recently. In one, the protagonist is thinking about three women he's dealt with during the course of the book. The phone rings. A woman's voice. And … 'the end."

Luckily, I'm reading back list books here, so the next one is readily available. Would I like having to wait months, maybe a year to find out who was on the phone? Not at all. It's clear the author is setting up the next book in the series, but I find endings like that less satisfying. Yes, I like to care about the characters, and yes, I like it when I wish the book would keep going, but leaving a totally unanswered question like that leaves me dissatisfied rather than feeling that a story has been told to completion. Will I read the next book. Of course. But I have this feeling that I've been coerced into it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Today I welcome Mary Louise Wells to Terry's Place. Do you have the chops to succeed in the writing business? Let's see what she has to say:

As a writer still camped on the canyon rim across from PublishedLand, I’m very lucky to have landed a fabulous agent. A combination of research, timing, and luck managed to part the clouds and let the angels sing for me, and I assume that any writer still looking for an agent would be serious about making the right match. That means researching what they represent, reading their contracted authors, following their blogs, meeting them in person (if at all possible), and then sending in a query, crossing your fingers, and praying for the heavens to open for you, too. Then I heard about #queryfail.

In case you’re unaware, last month two brave literary agents, Colleen Lindsay and Lauren MacLeod, hosted #queryfail on Twitter. All day long they, and several agents who tweeted separately, posted snippets from queries they’d received that pretty much guaranteed their authors a “no” response. The stated aim of #queryfail was education. Learn what not to do and improve your chances of success.

The agents conducting #queryfail waxed a bit silly during the discussion. Who wouldn’t? When authors inform you the Almighty ordered them to submit, or that their work amalgamates every trend currently burning up the NYT list into a ghastly literary train wreck, or that Oprah would love it if she ever got off her high horse to read it, or it’s so good I couldn’t stop writing and now it’s 700,000+ words, you’ve gone on beyond passion. It’s a simple business fact that publishers cannot buy your work, no matter how unique or transcendent or whatever you believe it to be, if that publisher does not sell that kind of book. Period. This appears to be simple logic to me, but then again, when creative passion and logic collide, logic is often left bleeding by the side of the road.

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Writers, no surprise, were hurt and angry from hearing the truth. They wanted to hurt back the way they’d been hurt. So when Jessica Faust offered to host an #agentfail day on her Bookends blog, hundreds of authors took her up on it.

Let me just say, my tent on the canyon rim got much more comfortable after reading some of those posts. Although I’d agree with some of the more reasonable advice—the “no response means no” policy could use a look, if for no other reason than courtesy—I also learned that some writers, frankly, don’t have what it takes to become published. I’m not talking about the quality of the storytelling; I’m talking about the modicum of professional behavior necessary to swim, or even float, in the shark tank of publishing.

An agent’s job is to glean the wheat from the chaff, measure the wheat properly, then find exactly the right bakery to turn that wheat into wholesome, or nourishing, or guilty-but-sinfully-tasty bread. That’s it. They don’t owe authors anything except that they live up to their stated policies regarding submission times. Whether the “I’ll pass” comes on a postcard, a note scribbled in the margins of your query (I’ve gotten one of these), a form rejection, or something personalized, that’s the answer—even if it’s not the answer you want to hear. Agents don’t have to explain why. Have you ever read the back cover copy of a book in a genre you like and decided immediately that it wasn’t going to be your cup of tea? Agents do the same whenever they tackle the next towering batch of unsolicited queries. Unlike we readers and writers, however, they have to do this several hundred times a week on occasion—not including the work they have to do to market their current client list. You think response times are ridiculous now? Imagine how long they would take if every single query, no matter how nutso, required a personal “It’s not you, it’s me” response carefully crafted to let the author down easily, without any bruising of tender egos.

I have a pretty keen imagination, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around that concept. If you’re a writer who is serious about a career in publishing, you will get criticized. If an agent doesn’t do it, an editor will (assuming your work makes it that far). If your book is published, trust me, some reader will hate it. And probably explain why in dripping, sarcastic detail on Amazon. To paraphrase egregiously from Dennis Miller, the publishing world is tough. Wear a cup.

Unfortunately, it seems many writers just don’t understand that concept. If you read some of the anonymous #agentfail comments, you could convince yourself that agents were bloodthirsty, amoral prima donnas who wake up every morning determined to develop new recipes for fricasseed baby author. If you’re in that camp, my question to you is, Why would you want one of those evil harpies repping your work? Yegods.

After reading pretty extensively on agent blogs and writer blogs and publishing blogs (I told you I did my research) on the #queryfail/#agentfail dynamic, I’ve come to this conclusion. Some writers will never be published simply because they just don’t get it.

Hurt by a rejection, so you badmouth the rejector, her taste, her agency, and every author she ever bought? #writerfail

Posting vicious personal comments on an agent because you didn’t like the form of the rejection she sent? #writerfail

Publicly questioning in blogs and on email loops the professionalism of an agent or editor because she lacks the vision to understand your unique gift to the world in the form of your current WIP? #writerfail

Criticizing an agent for revealing a personal life beyond the work day in which she keeps up a blog, tweets on Twitter, spends time with her family on vacation, or takes pictures of her dog instead of chaining herself in her office cave to mine for your gem of a manuscript? #writerfail

The point of writing, folks, is to write. You don’t instantly become more of a writer because someone publishes your work. Your knowledge base won’t suddenly increase when you get the call. Your talents won’t blossom into something different. You’ll be the same you, working in the same pajamas, nibbling on the same chocolate. Your outer circumstances change if you get an agent, or the call, but your inner writing life will be just as fraught with doubt and anxiousness and soaring days of wonderfulness as they are now.

If your whole writer identity centers on getting published, you can make that happen. There’s fanfiction and internet posting—one site called Publetariat looked interesting—and POD and self-publishing that will guarantee you exposure and maybe some readers outside your circle of trusted friends and family. If you’re focused on selling to a professional publishing house, whether electronic or print, get in line. Do your research, submit to the right people, cross your fingers, and pray. The right project needs the right time and the right place, folks. If you’re not doing the work to pinpoint what those are, you can’t rail at the publishing world for thwarting your dreams. At that point, you’re the biggest roadblock you have. #writerfail

Mark Twain said, “We can secure other people’s approval if we do right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found of securing that.” And he’s exactly right. Your opinion, your love for what you do, is the thing that should bring you joy in this, your chosen art. You are a writer because you write. If nothing else, remember that.

Are you still here? The post’s over! Wasting all your writing time infosnacking on the Internet? Classic #writerfail! Get back to your manuscript!

At various times, Mary Louise Wells has called herself a teacher, an editor, a server, a sales clerk, and a soda jerk. But she’s always been a writer. Find out more about her humorous Southern women’s fiction at her blog.