Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ignorance and Darkness

"The ignorance and darkness that is in us, no more hinders nor confines the knowledge that is in others, than the blindness of a mole is an argument against the quicksightedness of an eagle." - John Locke.

Unfortunately, he was not entirely right. Maybe at the time he wrote this, he hit his mark. Today? Well, things change, often for the worse.

The problem with ignorance today is that it not only hinders and confines knowledge, it obscures the truth. It spreads like hot tar, and darkens everything it touches. Or to paraphrase my husband, it spreads like a venereal disease. (If you've been to Cobwebs of the Mind, no Teddy is not my husband. He just liked the phrase and used it because it fits so perfectly.)

Just a few instances where ignorance has spread:
  • librarians are now talking about banning that awful middle-grade novel... you know the one that mentions a "scrotum". Apparently knowing the proper term for a body part is wicked.
  • people still think the use of a swastika or something closely resembling a swastika is cool (or rad or whatever), and other people think that's just hunky-dory because it's only a symbol. Umm... Yeah. Sure it was only a harmless symbol once upon a time, but that time has long passed. It means something really really REALLY nasty now. Stop using it.
  • DDT is still banned because of one stupid book. See here. Millions have died of malaria/west nile/etc. because some wacko-chick decided decades ago to fudge her data. (Ignorance really had a field day because of this, and it spread like wildfire across not only this nation but most of the world.)

See? Ignorance is being used to obscure the truth. Now, I don't have a problem with ignorance in general. Not everyone can know everything all the time. If we did, we'd all be friggin' geniuses. But when ignorance passes itself off as knowledge, then it stops people from actually seeking out the real knowledge. You have a question, you get the answer, and you stop looking asking the question. Right?

And the darkness of stupidity reigns.

(Anybody seen Diogenes lately? I could use his lantern.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Taking the Night Off

I admit it. I have to get back to AWJ. I had a great plan to write new stuff (AWJ) on the weeknights and edit on the weekends, but I got so caught up in editing Blink, and now editing Caldera, I've let AWJ sit dormant.

Now I have to go back and re-read through it to catch my stride. But I'm thinking I need a bit of a break. Finishing the major writing of Blink has my creativity gauge showing less than a quarter tank. Or, to put it less figuratively, I'm pooped.

Of course, Dennis and Kimmy and Jillian are stomping around my brain impatiently waiting to get their stories out on paper, so I don't expect this break to take too long. Besides, I still have people left to kill.

Bwa haha.

Sex in Writing

Jumping on the bandwagon of a couple other blogs, I've decided to give my two-cents on the topic of sex in writing.

With regard to sex scenes in my writing. I don't have any, and I probably never will. Having said that, however, let me also say that I don't believe there's anything wrong with sex in a novel. Not if it's tasteful. Some of you may be shaking your heads. Tasteful is such a subjective word. Some people out there in the world would think the phrase 'tasteful sex scene' is an oxymoron. I'm not one of those people.

However, I do believe sex is a private thing. Not because it's dirty or shameful or wicked. To me, it's private because it is so very special. To me, it's so special, it's not something to share with the rest of the world. Sex is the most profound way one person can show their highest values being mirrored in another person.

I write my characters with that philosophy in mind. I'll hint at sex in my books. Heck, in Blink, a man and a woman spend an extended period of time alone together. The two main characters admire each other, and they have similar values. They're bound to sleep together. It would be strange for them not to have sex. But I only hint at it.

The only problem I have with reading sex scenes in novels is if the sex is degrading in some manner. Which seems pretty obvious given my stated view on what sex means in a relationship. People who care for one another shouldn't want to cause pain - whether it be mental or physical. JMO, to be sure. But pretty rational when you think about it.

The only time I'll even hint about sex in that manner is when I'm trying to make a point. In Spectacle, one of the villians gets interrupted having a sex with another one of the villians. He uses sex as a tool to get what he wants, and he's not above doing whatever whenever with whoever if it moves him up the power ladder. It's key to his personality.

So once again, I come to the point I've been talking about all along. If it works for the story, write it in. But keep it in character, keep it as part of the story, and make sure it flows.

As with anything you're writing.

Now, to illustrate my view on sex, here's a brief excerpt from Spectacle:
Without warning a pair of small, sure hands slid over his shoulders and down his arms. He stood perfectly still and allowed himself a moment to revel in their touch. As the hands slid forward and he felt her arms wrap themselves around his chest, the scent of her shampoo wafted on a slight morning breeze. She laid her head against his back and sighed. Lifting his hands, he covered hers and hugged them close to him. It had been a long time since he had thought about the joy of having a good woman in his life and a long time since he had given up the thought of ever finding the right one.

Slowly he turned to face her. Her smile was hidden in the darkness, but he knew it reflected his own. Without speaking, he urged her to stand beside him and he rested his arm across her shoulders, pulling her firmly against his ribs. Together they watched in silent companionship as the sun rose.

When the day had fully begun, she shyly said, “Good morning, Michael.” Her head nestled in the crook where his shoulder met his chest, she wondered at how perfectly she fit there and how wonderful it felt.

He traced the curve of her cheek and then combed her silken hair between his long slender fingers. “Good morning, Alex,” he replied.

Stretching herself onto the balls of her feet, she moved forward to press her lips against his the way she had longed to do for so many days now. Sensing her intent, Michael shifted slightly and her lips met softly with his rough cheek. She smiled and said playfully, “You need a shave.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. “Yes,” he whispered into her hair. “I need a lot of things, Alex, but some of those things will have to wait for another time.” Releasing her, he playfully ruffled her hair and then turned to walk back inside.

Laying her hand gently on his arm, she said huskily, “There is plenty of time, and one small kiss won’t take too long.”

She could see the temptation rising in his eyes, and he swayed slightly toward her as if he were fighting a battle. The smile in Michael’s eyes turned slowly to a smoldering gaze, and his hand reached toward hers. Gently he took her fingers from their grasp on his shirtsleeve and raised her hand to his lips. He kissed the back of her wrist softly and looked into her eyes. “There is time for one small kiss, my dearest one,” he said, “but there isn’t time for the things that must come before that one small kiss. A kiss is a promise, Alex; a promise you will be the only woman who will ever feel the touch of my lips again. I don’t make promises lightly, and when I make this promise, we will both know it is the right one to make.” A look in her eyes made him stop, and in an instant his resolve nearly crumbled, but the same force of will that had put Los Verdad on that mountain was more than enough to shore up his resolve once more. “It is not a popular way of looking at romance, Alex, but I don’t do things the popular way; I do things my own way. When I kiss you, you will know you have been kissed and that you will never kiss another man for the rest of your life.”

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blink is Done

I know I said I was going to write another chapter, but I had a brainstorm. I wrote the best friggin' scene to end the damn novel. So good, I've almost got myself crying.

Adding any more would just kill the feeling of the end, so no more for this book.

I'll probably do another edit or two to tighten or to better expand on certain areas throughout the rest of the book. But the end is the end is the end.


I love it when a plan comes together.

Of course, IMO, it's a bit short now. I was shooting for a 90K word novel, and I'm just under 80K, but thems the breaks. You write the story that needs to be written as concise as is possible to convey the idea. Voila.

A few more tweaks and it'll be ready to send to beta readers. Yay.

Hating Your Own Writing

Looking through my growing list of daily blog-reads this morning, I noticed a comment someone made about how they hated their book too much to read it again. I've seen comments like this before and they always confuse me. I mean, I can almost see hating the editing process. When I was slogging through the zillionth edit of Spectacle, it was like pulling teeth to get my brain to see a way to improve the writing - even in spots where I knew it wasn't coming together the way I wanted. Editing is hard work. But I can't see ever hating the book itself.

Maybe I'm lost in semantics here. Maybe all the writers I've seen, who say they're at a point where they hate their work, are actually saying they're having trouble with the editing process. When I got to that point with Spectacle, I set the book aside. If my own irritation gets in the way, it becomes a circular process. I can't see the problems, so I get frustrated, which makes the problems harder to see... And so on and so forth.

But to hate my babies? Ack. I hope it's just semantics. I can't imagine sitting down at my computer, spending untold hours of time on a project I hated. I mean, even those projects I'm not in love with anymore, haven't drifted into the category of hate. (They're patiently waiting for me to love them again, btw. And maybe someday I will.)

So, what say you? Am I taking the whole hate thing the wrong way, or do you really get to a point where you can't bear to read your work one more time? And if you do get this way, how do you overcome it enough to finish what you started?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ummm... yeah

I lied. I didn't put my head down and work much today. At least not on writing. My blanket, however, looks to be about half done. Yay. Umm... yeah.

However, having admitted to sluggishness in the writing department, let me add...

I finished the 2nd edit of my current pages of Blink. I say it this way because I still want to add one more chapter, and then I have to go back and re-re-edit everything. So, I'm not close to being completely done. I'm just a hell of a lot closer than I was before.

I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing, though. I shouldn't have too much more to do once I get this last impromptu chapter written. I mean, I could just leave it as is. But I hate leaving things hanging. So, I'll do my final wrap up, and be happy I didn't screw my readers out of their money's worth of novel. =o)

Working Day

I've made a promise to myself to work today. So, there won't be much of a blog today.

If I put my head down, and bust my butt, I think I can finish this edit of Blink. I only have a couple chapters left to edit, and a new chapter at the end because I think it needs a new ending.

If you need anything, shoot me an e-mail and I'll respond when I get time.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

POV pains

Third person limited POV is a pain in the butt. I keep catching myself slipping into third omniscient, and since I'm editing, I have to revise those gaffs to keep the POV consistent.

:bangs head on wall:

Maybe I'll have better luck with the first draft of AWJ - which is also third limited.

If nothing else, it's interesting to try out different POVs.

Editing and Other Fun Stuff

Today's is going to be a mishmash post. I have several things I'd like to talk about, and I'm too lazy to devote a separate post to each. So here goes:

I'm up to my ass in alligators, and the water is rising. I brought it on myself, so I'm not complaining. (Not really.) It's not just writing, but I'll try to stick to the writing portion of it.

I'm currently editing Blink (my third novel). It's what I lovingly refer to as a second edit - the first being my reinking stage where I print out the whole damn thing and stab it to death with a red pen. At this point, I'm fixing some major errors. Rewriting whole sections of text, expanding scenes, deleting others. My manuscript is growing right now, and I figure I'll have about 90K words by the time I get done. But enough about that. Last night I spent an hour going over chapter 21, only to discover as I was trying to fall asleep, that I hadn't done a damn thing. I knew going into the chapter, that one scene was key to the whole manuscript and it needed a complete rewrite. Did I do that? Noooo. All I did was fiddle with a few words. So, I took it out of the 'Done' pile this morning. I'll be pulling it apart today.

Additionally, I think I finally figured out what was bugging me about the beginning of Blink. Too much telling, not enough showing. I like a nice balance of the two, so I'm going to have to re-re-edit that whole thing.

I'm reworking Caldera, with the help of a crit partner. (Who, thank goodness, isn't finding any major flaws.) I have some work to do, but not too much. Dialogue tags and adverbs. How I love my lovely adverbs. The bonus side of critting is I get to read her stuff, too - which serves two purposes. As I'm finding ways to help her improve her stuff, I'm finding ways to improve my own. And I get to read someone else's work before the rest of the populous. After it gets published, I can point to her book and say "Nyah Nyah. I read that first." ;o)

I'm writing book #4. Which is coming along slowly, what with everything else I'm doing right now. I'd be farther along though, if I'd get off my tiny hiney and write instead of watching TV, crocheting, playing poker, etc. So, again, no one to blame but myself.

Now, believe it or not, this post isn't meant as complaining. You see, I'm the kind of person who thrives in a high stress environment. When I had a day job, I always worked better when my desk was covered with stuff. It was during those times when I didn't have very many projects that I was bored out of my skull.

So, as I venture out to work on all my writing projects, the blanket I'm crocheting for my husband, the recipe I'm trying to create for Teddy's contest, or to teach homeschool (which is always present in the background of everything I do), don't worry about me. I'm in my element.

How are you all handling your projects these days?

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Page Challenge

Okay. Fellow Novel Racer, Liz Fenwick, has offered a challenge. Post the first page of your racing novel. I'm game. Here it is:
“What time do you have to leave?"

Dennis looked up from his mounds of paperwork to see his partner standing beside him. “I don’t have to be there until six. Why?”

“Unless you’re planning on being late, you’d better hit the road. It’s three already, and if you catch any traffic there’s no way you’ll make it to Serenity in time.”

He cursed softly under his breath. Wrapped in the paperwork from his last case, he hadn’t thought to keep an eye on the time. He should’ve left an hour ago. The damn traffic on I-25 was a nightmare on the best of days, and Friday afternoon it made a nightmare look pleasant. “Finish this up for me,” he spat.

“Thanks,” his partner said, the sarcasm in his voice so thick Dennis could have spread it on a bagel.

“Trade you,” he offered.

“Not on your life, buddy. Go on. Get out of here. All of this,” his arms spread to indicate the entirety of a room packed with detectives and criminals, “will be waiting when you get back.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Dennis Haggerty tried to match his partner’s dry tone, but he failed. He actually liked being at the station most days, and even on its worst days it was better than Serenity on a good day.

“You could always tell your sister you had a big case you couldn’t get away from.”

For an instant, the suggestion almost seemed valid, but Dennis shook his head. “Can’t. Kimmy needs me.”

“You mean she’d kill you if you didn’t show up.”

That was the first page of the first chapter of AWJ. I have a prologue, but I'm not sure if I'm keeping it yet, so for all intents and purposes, this will have to do. Keep in mind, this is first draft material. Most likely it will change by the time I get to final draft.

Be gentle. ;o)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Day Off

I'm taking the day off of blogging. I didn't realize I was until just now, or I would've let you know sooner. Sorry to anyone who stopped by today.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spelling Bee Update

Out of 117 kids who took the written portion of the regional spelling bee, my daughter was in a three-way tie for first. Out of the 30 kids who competed in the oral portion, she tied for 6th.

Onwards to the state spelling bee! Look out Nationals!

Miss Snark does it again

In Miss Snark, the literary agent: When to give up, she gives some excellent advice to a writer who asks about giving up. (Read the comments, too.)

You're awesome, Miss Snark. Thank you.

And if you're interested, after reading her advice, come back and read: Reflections From One Writer.

PS. Maya Reynolds (whose comment at Miss Snark's above post was awesome) wrote her own post on this subject: Snarkling Seeks Answers. Another awesome read, folks.

PPS. I'm off for the rest of the day. My daughter is in the regional spelling bee, and I'll be AFK (Away From Keyboard) until tonight. Enjoy your days everyone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


While I was over at Maya Reynolds blog this morning (today she has an excellent post on censorship), it brought to mind the use of profanity. And while her post deals specifically with someone else's hissy about the use of the word 'scrotum' in a middle-grade book, which isn't profane by any stretch of the imagination, I'd like to talk about the use of profanity in adult-level novels.

First off, let me say that in my younger days, I swore like a dock-worker. I didn't think anything about it, and it certainly wasn't done for effect like some young people, but looking back it certainly didn't do much to make me appear intelligent. Still, my way of thinking about it has always been they are just words, and whether they have any affect on your sensibilities depends entirely on you. (Remember, once upon a time Dick was just short for Richard and Bitch was just a female dog.) As I've grown older, I've found better and more appropriate words to replace most of the profane, but my opinion hasn't changed all that much.

A prime example of how not to use profanity would be those comedians (especially since Eddie Murphy's 'Raw' - although he was by no means the first) who feel the word 'fuck' adds to the punchline. Sometimes it does; most times it doesn't. And most of the time it's used purely for 'shock value'.

So what do I, as a writer, do with profanity in my novels? As with anything, I use it where it would be appropriate both to the story and to the characters pattern of speech. Inner city youth? Swears often. Highly educated astrophysicist hero? Very little, and never the worst of the words. Smarmy pseudo-scientist? In private, very often; in public, very little - depending on what word suits his purposes at the time. (Truth be told, when he's with his lackeys, he's a potty-mouth. He thinks it makes him look tough when in reality it just makes him more of an ass.)

Purposefully peppering your prose with profanity until it is purple works about as well as too-much alliteration. On the other hand, purposefully steering clear of all profanity - if your work is set in this day and age - would make your work sound unnatural. (Unless you're writing a book about the Amish or the Mennonites... Hell, even Mormons swear every now and then.)

As with anything, please remember the cardinal rule, of writing and life: With all things, moderation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Word Meter Tweaking

The Zokutou word meter is down, so some of the other racers pointed me to a new place: Evolution :: Progress Meter. It's pretty good, but it didn't have any color schemes I fell in love with. Thankfully, it's easily tweaked if you know the right codes to plug in and where to put them into the HTML. I used the code chart over at HTML-Color-Codes.com to grab the right alpha-numeric designations.

Now, for putting them into the right spots: Look through the code and where you see the first place it says 'bgcolor=' replace the old 6-character code after the # with your new one, for the words completed. And the next place it says 'bgcolor=' replace the old code with your next code after the #, for the words total. (Careful not to accidentally delete the quotation marks or anything else.)

If you have any questions, leave me a comment.

Avoiding the Tag

There's an internet thing going around. You 'tag' someone and they have to tell ten little-known things about themselves. I'm pre-empting the tag by giving you these things here. (And Liz Fenwick can add me to her list of 'tagged' people if she wants to.)

  1. I used to do pointillism. (Art composed entirely of tiny dots of ink.)
  2. I stopped pointillism after my car accident because my hands have a tendency to shake when I'm doing fine precision work.
  3. I stopped plucking my eyebrows for the same reason. Something about holding sharp metal pointy-things near my eyes when my hands are shaking makes the necessity of shaped brows seem pointless.
  4. I got my first gray hair two weeks after I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I still have it. It's taped inside my wallet.
  5. I'm the youngest of five kids.
  6. I was once tricked into eating dogfood. My siblings all pretended to eat a piece and then stood laughing while I ate mine.
  7. I once raised three baby starlings that I saved after they'd fallen out of their nests. That was when I learned wild things can't be kept. I thought I had given them everything they needed to survive. I forgot they needed their freedom. They all died.
  8. My nickname in High School was Bruno, but only amongst my closest friends. (I only remember two of their nicknames: Mags and Gonzo.)
  9. I threw my last band challenge in high school. (A band challenge was when someone wanted to move up a chair. They challenged the person above them to a sort of musical duel. If they won, they moved up and the loser moved down.) Anyway, I was first chair flute, and the guy next to me challenged me. I threw the match because I was graduating soon anyway, and he was such a nice guy. Besides, after he won, I got to play piccolo and since the piccolos always sat at the head of the flutes, I didn't lose my seat after all. =o)
  10. My first huge crush was on the manager of the first horse farm I worked at. He was an Israeli--drop dead gorgeous with an accent to melt your garters--twelve years my senior. I followed him around like a puppy and every word he spoke was golden. I was crushed when the feeling wasn't mutual. Last I heard, he was married and living in East Lansing.

There. Now you know some of the rest of the story. ;o)

CP Found

Well, that seemed simple enough. I've gotten offers from two potentially wonderful CPs, which should be plenty of reading for me to do. Hopefully, it'll be enough eyes looking over my work to tweak it to a Chrysler Building shine. And hopefully, I'll be able to help them in return.

Now we'll just have to see how the relationships work out.


For all my trepidation, I'm pretty jazzed about the prospect.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Morning Musings

I woke up too early for a Sunday morning. There is, however, an advantage to waking up so early. Quiet contemplation. When the only sounds in the house, besides my tapping fingers on the keyboard, are the whir of my hard drive and the gentle burble of my coffee maker, my brain can float through various events and memories and introspection.

Even the world outside is quiet. Oh sure, the grain elevator is humming, keeping all of that corn dry. But the rest of the world is in bed. They haven't even gotten up to get ready for church yet. No rumbling mufflers; no pumped up bass with a backbeat to rattle your nerves. Only one tiny bird somewhere making a noise quite similar to a dog's squeeky toy. (I think it's a junco, but I can't be sure without seeing it.)

I was just thinking to myself how much I like the quiet. I like to let my mind wander, and expand on possibilities, and take paths I wouldn't normally think to traverse. I can't do these things when the world is so full of noise. Noise blocks out thought. (Maybe that's why so many people turn the volume up on their stereos... But that's a thought for another time.) Even in my rowdy younger days, I was never one for too much loudness... Unless I was trying to drown something out. Barking dogs and gunshots (I grew up in an area where the fall was riddled with the sounds of hunting) have always set my nerves on edge. I've only ever been to a half-dozen concerts in my life, and all of them were too noisy. How can you enjoy the music if you can't really hear it because it's too loud?

Take some time today for quiet contemplation. Allow your senses to take in everything without the distraction of noise. It truly is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Great CP Search

Diana Peterfreund, although she doesn't realize it, talked me into looking for a Crit Partner. Hell, she doesn't even know me, and she talked me into it. And that's saying something.

So, according to Diana, looking for a CP is kinda like looking for a mate. I spent a really really really long time looking for my husband, so I don't anticipate this to be a short process. I was very picky then, and I'll probably be just as picky now. If you're looking for a CP, picky is the best way to go. You don't want someone who isn't compatible giving you suggestions about your work. Seriously. I put a long time into writing a book... I'm sure as hell not going to rush the CP thing.

To that end, if you're looking for a CP, please take the time to read through my blog posts. If I sound like someone you'd want to read and someone you'd like reading your work, me a line. I'm opinionated, but I'm not bitchy. (Well, most of the time... It depends on the person.) I'm honest, sometimes brutally so, but I'm not honest to be cruel. If I think your work truly sucks, I'll tell you in the nicest way possible. I expect the same in a CP. Otherwise, be prepared to have me point out flaws, suggest wording, and ask questions. Probably lots of questions.

I write in spurts, but I'm not looking for someone who'll read as I go. That would be too cruel. I change a lot along the way. I have a completed manuscript that probably needs a fresh set of eyes (namely Caldera) and I'm pretty much hoping that whoever I find has about the same. It's a thriller. Here's the blurb from my query letter (ya, ya it needs work, I know I know):

Beneath Yellowstone National Park simmers a volcano 2400 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens. Dr. Mykaela “Myke" Hughes knows it will erupt before the year is over, and she has a plan to avert the destruction—if she can secure the government's blessing, if she can enlist the aid of one taciturn park ranger, and if she can foil an eco-terrorist's plot to protect nature at any cost. With all the 'ifs' confronting her, one thing is certain—the volcano will erupt. The matter at hand is how devastating that eruption is allowed to be. Time is running out, not only for Myke Hughes, but for us all.

If it sounds interesting to you and you're ready to swap chapters, email me at the above address. (ETA: I guess I'm the only one who sees my e-mail addy at the top of my blog. D'OH! Leave a comment and I'll get back to you. Sorry about that.)

Negative people who write books with a crappy sense of life need not apply. We wouldn't work well together. Also, if you seriously disagree with anything you read in this blog, think hard before offering to beta. I weave a lot of thought and philosophy into my books. Additionally, if you're a capital E environmentalist... Umm... Your time would be better spent elsewhere. As the blurb states, the villian is an eco-terrorist (aka rabid environmentalist with a capital E).

Now, if I haven't completely scared everyone away... I'm game if you are.

(And to the one person who offered to beta for me, if you've read this and are still interested, email me and we'll talk.)

Word Count Meters

Just so ya know. The site I get my word meters from is down indefinitely. So, I won't have any pretty graphics until I find a replacement program. Until then, all I can give you is text. Sorry.

Endings, Etc.

I'll admit, I'm not great whiz at writing endings. I don't really know what should go there. I have a tendency to what to write an epilogue, or wrap everything up in a neat little bow. After all I like reading books where everything is wrapped up. I hate not knowing what happens to everyone after the whole shebang has ended. I blame John Irving. I read "The World According to Garp" when I was a teenager and I've been hooked on having everything wrapped up since then.

So, while I'm not really sure how a story should end, I do know how one shouldn't end.

Please, for the sake of everything that's human within you... Don't end your story by killing off one of the main characters.

Unless you have a very very very good reason, you're going to piss off the end user of your product (i.e. your readers, your viewers... you know... the people who ultimately fund your work).

Going back to Garp. If you haven't read it, the following is a major plot spoiler...

Everyone dies in the end. Okay so maybe not a plot spoiler. We're all going to die someday, right? What Irving does is take each character's life to its logical end, and he had a very good reason for doing so. It was necessary for the story. (Please understand, Irving had a horrible sense of life and a very negative view of the world. Maybe he still does... I don't know. So I'm not saying Irving is the best guy to take life lessons from. He was/is however an excellent writer.)

The other night while I was sitting on the couch crocheting, my husband was flipping through the channels looking for something intelligent on TV. What he found was a movie called "Pay It Forward". If you haven't seen this movie, I'm going to ruin it for you, so stop reading now.

The premise was pretty good. A kid gets an assignment to figure out something he can do to change the world. So he decides he's going to start a chain of good deeds. His idea is to help out 3 people, and then each of those three people helps three people and so on. In the end, he helps some people and his own life is better because of it. Everything is going great. His Mom quit drinking, found herself a good man, and everyone is happy... Until he tries to help out one more person, and he gets stabbed in the process. And he dies. Bingo bango bongo. Dead.

So much for happy. So much for good. Umm... Hurray for futility? Yippee for martyrdom??

Don't do this to people. Don't perpetuate the myth life is futile. Don't perpetuate the idea that death without purpose is somehow noble. The only noble martyrs in history didn't set out to be martyrs. They didn't want to die. And in fiction, you don't have to kill your characters unless you are trying to make a point.

And going back to my posts on philosophy, think about what you're saying and why you're saying it. Think:

"Is this the point I really want to make?"

Friday, February 16, 2007


One more thought...

I write thrillers - literary thrillers, but thrillers nonetheless. If I were writing in a different genre, the minutaie may be more important to the storyline. If it were romance, the childhood tension between Alex's mother and father would be pertinent to how she deals with relationships. If it were mainstream, then the book may very well have been about Alex's past and how it's shaped her. I don't think it's as crucial to the development of a thriller, though. Ken Follett, for instance, didn't delve into why 'The Needle' was a bloodthirsty killer in "The Eye of the Needle". He delved into the hero's background just enough, but it moved the story forward; it didn't remove focus from it. And, Leon Uris did it to a certain degree in "QBVII", but again, it was necessary to the story.

Now, for Blink, I've gone deeper into the characters. Blink isn't a thriller. Actually, I'm not quite certain what genre it fits into, but while it does have some thriller elements, it's not strictly a thriller. It'll probably fall into SF, they way Fahrenheit 451 fell into SF. And AWJ is a mystery, so there's more characterisation in it.

IMO, how deep you delve into your characters depends on the genre. As always, write the story how it needs to be written.

Just thinking out loud.


I think I figured it out. You know... Why my main characters may be hard for some people to connect with.

1) They aren't damaged.

I mean, look at the trend in movies/TV. (It's easier to see there.) Every hero is damaged in some way - either physically or psychologically or emotionally. "Forrest Gump" is a prime example. Hell, even Batman has some deep mental issues these days. Or Superman. I've heard it makes heroes more human. I just think it puts forth the idea that to be human is to be damaged. I don't happen to think humans are inherently damaged. I want to see and read about heroes who inspire me to reach greater heights myself - not remind me of how lowly man can be. Make 'em soar... Not crawl.

2) I don't delve into the minutaie of my characters' lives.

Okay, so I do know every little thing about my characters, and I've written pages and pages of background for the MCs. But those are the scenes I cut when I'm editing. They don't drive the story forward. And that's supposedly the main thing for any scene. Right? Does anyone really care that Alex McKenzie was raised by a over-bearing, bible-thumping Mama and a hen-pecked bookish father? It was a great scene and it really showed factors that made her who she was, but it did absolutely nothing for the story, so I axed it.

On another site - I don't remember which one - I read one person complaining about my favorite TV show. Her problem was the early episodes don't give enough background about the characters. Umm... That's actually what I like about the show. It's a crime drama, for pete's sake. I just want to see the good guys solve the problem, save the victims and defeat the bad guy. I don't need to know the MC is having marital problems because he works too much. I don't want to know the effects being kidnapped has on the psyche of one of the other characters. I don't want to know anyone had a horrible childhood. Unless learning these things drives the story along.

Take, for instance, CSI. Giving me little details about Catherine throughout the show is cool, but I don't really want to see her whiny child being bratty about her working too much. Well, duh. You're a single mom, working the night shift to make ends meet, and you're going to bruise some kid feelings. It may make the character 'more human' but it doesn't drive the story at all. On the other hand, showing Grisham's affinity for bugs. That's key to many episodes and shows why he knows what he knows. Background to drive the story.

Surely I'm not the only one who feels this way... Or maybe I am, in which case, I'm awfully glad I like my stories. Chances are I may be one of the few people reading them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dinking Around

I can't really think of anything interesting to post about right now, so I'm dinking around, killing time and atrophying brain cells.

For instance: Have you ever clicked on the 'Next Blog' link up there at the top of the page. You see all sorts of strange, weird and interesting things. Just now, I came across a site celebrating heavy women, one on how to make crafty type thing-er-ma-bobs, and a radical blog from England. Previously, I've clicked around to sites in other languages and some so poorly written they appeared to be in another language; blogs from kids, blogs about kids; blogs about dogs and cats and birds and sheep and various other critters. So far, I've only come across one blog that was objectionable - and it was a foot-fetish blog. (Ummm... Ew.)

So, here I sit. Clicking through the blogs and losing at online free poker. And eating chocolates because my husband was so wonderful and bought me two big boxes of yummy delights. (I'll be rolling into town before summer comes, but I'll save on gasoline.)

In a minute, I have to go be teacher again. And aftewards I'll crochet. Tonight I'll see if I can coax my word count up over 12K.

But for now, I'm a spud. What are you up to today?

New Racers

Well, according to WordGirl, we have a few new Novel Racers. Welcome to the race. =oD

Your links are up at the Novel Racers post. If I missed anyone, let me know. Or if I got something horribly wrong - like your blog title or your URL - give me a e-buzz and I'll fix it.

Now, let's have a big round of applause for everyone's hard work...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Business Side

I know it's Valentine's Day, but I'm doing taxes. Ummm... Ya.

So, I thought I'd take a minute from sorting my receipts to talk about this important aspect of the business side of writing.

If you're like me - unpublished or even if you're semi-published (small things in lit journals, etc.), you probably can't afford to pay someone to do your taxes for you. For this, I recommend TurboTax Online. Takes me much less time and doesn't cost all that much. This means, however, sorting receipts and plugging them in. It means also, figuring the deduction for your workspace, your supplies, your computer and printer and fax and whatever else you need to create your work or query or network. Whatever you pay for to do your work, you should be deducting. (Please note, I'm not a tax professional, so please consult one before deducting anything. You don't want to be audited, and if you are, please don't point to me and say "Well, SHE told me it was okay!" The IRS man will just look at you funny and cheerfully tally up your bill.)

Another thing. Something I learned from working in the business sector. Keep all your receipts. If you're mailing queries, you should have receipts for postage, envelopes, stamps (from your SASEs), etc. You should also have receipts for your printer paper, cartridges, etc. If you take your agent out to lunch... Keep the receipts and claim it. If you attend a workshop or conference... Keep the receipts and claim it. Mr. TaxMan is going to want to see those suckers if the two of you ever meet.

Now, if you're also like me and your computer, etc., is also used for personal stuff or for another business' stuff (like my bookstore), you should calculate what percentage of time the space is used for your writing. (For me, it's about 80-90%.) And figure accordingly - something TurboTax does automatically.

I'm not a big fan of taxes - who is - so I claim everything I can possibly claim. But LEGALLY. If you sent a package to your Mom, don't claim it as a business expense, even if your mother lives in NYC and you can pass it off as a query. I'm sitting here looking at a USPS receipt for just such a thing - although Mom lives in Michigan - and if I really wanted to, I could claim she was a bookstore customer. It wouldn't be honest, so it's not going in the tally. If you aren't worried about the honesty part of it, though, look at it this way - Mr. TaxMan is watching, and is a $5.30 postage receipt worth getting smacked for tax evasion?

And for godsakes, don't pad. If anything, if you have to estimate any costs, round down. I figure, that way if I ever do get audited, I'll look stupid but stupid to the good side.

Okay, enough stalling. Back to my receipts. Good luck with your taxes, and I hope you get a big refund this year. Or at the very least a small tax bill.

(CYA statement: I am not a tax professional, and this post in no way should be considered expert advice. Check with an actual accountant or tax guy or whoever you use before using any of the above suggestions.)

In Defense of Love

The following essay was written in 2001, and was reprinted with my permission under my maiden name at Cobwebs of the Mind on November 29th . It seems appropriate for the day devoted to the celebration of love.

In Defense of Love

Throughout history, love has been both praised and shunned by man, but at no other time has a worse injustice been wrought against love. Love – once reserved as a response to the highest values of Man – has been perverted by philosophers to mean a kind of selfless duty; as consequence, men have come to view the simple phrase, “I love you” as meaning: “You owe me.”

Equating love with duty demands that everyone love his fellow man without cause. Under this demand, Man is supposed to love with equal fervor his wife and a thief; his child and a killer; the productive and the bum on the corner begging for change. He is never to consider each person’s value or lack thereof. In loving everyone, Man loves nothing. It is only value that makes love possible. Where value is lacking, love cannot exist. No amount of duty will make that fact any different.

Although it is often used as such, the phrase “I love you” is not a whip with which to beat a similar proclamation from a loved one nor is the phrase a salve for easing pain. Love is too valuable to be used as such. If one says to his wife that he loves her in an attempt to avoid disappointing her, one is guilty of devaluing love. If one says to her husband, “I love you” in order to force him to profess his love, one is devaluing love. The child who has never met his Aunt Mildred should not be forced to pretend that he cares because of some perverted form of familial duty – this devalues love, too. Love is not a debt owed to anyone without cause. When someone says, “I love you,” one is not duty bound to repeat it back to them like a parrot – one is duty bound to oneself to say those words only to those who have earned it.

On the other hand, expressions of sincere love have been lost to milquetoast terms uttered by people afraid to express themselves for fear that the simple act of saying “I love you” will somehow indenture them to the person they love. ‘I love you’ is simply man’s way of telling another man that he is vitally important -- that the other person represents a mirror of his own values and that he enjoys having the other person’s presence in his life. Man’s ability to proclaim or accept true emotion where it exists has become atrophied and this is as a result of the dilution and misuse of the word Love by equating it with duty.

One cannot love an unknown panhandler or some starving child in another country; one can only love that which one values. Love is the deepest emotion one man can feel for another. Love is based on value and to love everyone or everything devalues everyone and everything. Only when Man refuses to either give or receive causeless love can ‘Love’ reclaim its place as the just response to the highest of his values.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Whether you're finished writing a book or in the middle, it's always a good thing to develop a blurb. (Or a hook, if you will.) Something that encapsulates the entirety of your manuscript, or manuscript idea, so potential readers or agents or publishers can take one look and know if it's a book they'd be interested in reading.

It's usually a paragraph - the more concise the better. It touches on the MC, the antag, and the major conflict. And there are plenty of sites out there to help you with the mechanics on tweaking it to its best angle so it will net you your goal.

Now if you've followed along, I haven't sold anything, so I may not be the best person to provide advice on blurbing (or hooking, if you prefer). I'll leave that to the professionals. (With a gentle reminder, once again, to take care about who you're getting advice from.) There are even places where you can post your blurb and have other people critique it - like AWs Share Your Work forum.

What I'm going to do today is show you the progression of the blurb for Spectacle. Because I save everything, I have each blurb and you can see how it moved from crappy to pretty good - if I do say do myself.

My initial attempt at a blurb was for my foray into query letters. So this first was from September of 2004:

When the human race is told it has just four months to live, only Dr. Michael Montgomery has the knowledge that will save mankind—not from impending doom but from itself. A comet is hurdling towards Earth and the scientific community has issued a death sentence to the world. Dr. Montgomery, however, knows the truth about comets and he knows that the scientific community is wrong, but when he tries to make that truth known he is thwarted at every turn. It seems that Dr. Kingsley Hall has other ideas. If the truth were known, Dr. Hall would lose his chance for prestige, his chance for notoriety, and ultimately, his chance for control. While Dr. Montgomery and his allies work to make the truth public, Dr. Hall and his lackeys work to hide it from the world—as civilization slowly decays around them all.

Pretty stinky, so I can understand why the agent didn't even bother to reject me. He just ignored me entirely. Who can blame him?

Now, this was after I'd thought I'd read damn near everything on the subject of writing query letters, and it was still stinkersville. So after numerous rejections, and a few like that first one who didn't even bother, I decided to rework the letter and this is my second attempt at a blurb - from February 2005.

What if mankind were given only four months to live? What if that death sentence were a lie? My first novel, entitled ‘Spectacle’, looks at a world gone mad with the knowledge of its own end as it follows a handful of men in a battle for the truth and for their own lives.
'Spectacle' (approximately 126,000 words), can best be described as a literary thriller. Superficially, the book’s premise is akin to the movie 'Armageddon'—chiefly, a comet on a collision course with Earth. However, the similarity ends there. Dr. Michael Montgomery has proof that the comet is harmless, but unable to make that proof public, he becomes embroiled in a fight against men who want mankind kept ignorant and fearful—and thus controllable.

New tack. Still just as putrid. I still didn't know what I was doing. Finally, discouraged and downhearted, I sent the following blurb off in a query to a small publisher (December 2005):

The basic premise is that a comet is headed for earth, and one scientist has information that the comet itself will do no harm, but while this man tries to bring the truth to light, others are working to keep mankind in the dark. As the date of impending doom draws near, the world is thrown into chaos, blinded by their helpless ignorance of the facts.

Shoot me now. Looking back, I can't believe I sent that off the anyone. Why not just hang a big sign around my neck: "PATHETIC". And so, in the deep hole of patheticness, I gave up.

But being who I am, I can never just let things lie. So, back around the time of the last Crapometer, I tried one more time. I read about hooks and blurbs - from some serious people in the industry this time. I joined a writing forum - Absolute Write. I partipated in a thread where we all got together and tweaked our hooks while providing insight and assistance to others who were doing the same. And I came up with this:

After news breaks of a comet’s collision course with Earth, Dr. Michael Montgomery has proof the comet is harmless, but when his data threatens to interfere with Dr. Kingsley Hall’s plans to manipulate a nation drowning in fear, Michael’s attempts to divulge the truth are blocked. Discredited by his peers and disgraced by the media, his last chance is Alexandra McKenzie, a reporter with the integrity to risk her job and the courage to risk her life. In a fight for the truth, Michael and Alex find themselves battling men who would rather see civilization destroyed than lose their control over it. In a Spectacle of this magnitude, the real danger lies not in a comet’s path but in mankind’s ignorance of the facts.

Not bad. It netted me a partial request from a publisher. The jury's still out otherwise. But the publisher wanted something even more concise... A logline. One sentence. The final draft of which is:

When a renowned scientist’s deceit ignites a worldwide panic, a substitute anchorwoman and an obscure astrophysicist risk everything to fight for the truth and to save mankind—not from a devastating comet but from itself.

We'll see how this grabs them. If it's still not quite the thing, I may be back to the drawing board.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Critique Partners

Yes. I'm jumping on the bandwagon for this particular topic. I really can't say it better than Diana Peterfreund did this morning, so I'm not going to try. (Heck, even Miss Snark had a few words about CPs in her blog yesterday.)

Nope. This post is about taking care about who you ask to read and critique your work. Diana hit the nail on the head at the end of her post, when she admonished those people who think critiquing is all about putting the screws to other writers or about 'helping the competition'. Feh.

When I first started this business of writing, I wandered the internet looking for knowledgeable people to provide assistance and encouragement--people for whom I could provide the same service. I was naive. I figured if a group of people got together and called themselves writers, they were and they would know what they were talking about. And I got what I deserved for being so damn gullible. I don't even remember the site anymore. (I'm repressing it.) But let's just say it looked innocuous and helpful. And maybe some of the members there were. I, however, didn't find them. What I found were people who were happy to flay any other writer stupid enough to fall into their midst.

I found one writer who gleefully told me she was going to use my words--verbatim--in a story of her own. I found a group of Stygian witches who ripped into my work as if it were human flesh to cannibalize. It was a bloodbath. Needless to say, I left shortly thereafter with a nasty note to the site owner reminding them what they could do with their writing site.

That was two years ago. I haven't tried to find a critique partner since then. Instead I do what Snark says NOT to do. I have a small group of friends who read my work. They aren't writers. They're just intelligent people who like to read. They're people I trust to tell me the truth - and if my work needs work, they tell me so. I cherish every one of them. But they aren't writers. They can tell me what works or doesn't from a reader's standpoint, but they can't tell me those things from the standpoint of someone who's also trying to get published, or who has been published and is passing along the wisdom they've gleaned from experience.

So, I'm finally getting to the point where I'm thinking about considering trying to find another writer (or writers) to crit my stuff. It's a big step for me. You know what they say: "Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me." I don't relish the thought of being burned again.

So, I'll be waiting on the edge of my seat to see what Diana has to say in her next post on CPs... Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Necessity of Self-Assurance

One thing about writing that may seem pretty obvious, but which really isn't:

You need self-assurance to pull this off.

I think self-doubt is the biggest reason why so many people have half-finished manuscripts lying round their house--untouched but not forgotten. Oh, I'm sure some think it's pure laziness - or at least that's as good an excuse as any. But when you dig deeper and see what that supposed laziness is based on, you'll find a person who has no confidence in their ability to write a book.

Sometimes it's a lack of confidence based on a lack of knowledge. Sometimes, it's a lack of confidence based on a lack of drive. Both are rectifiable. I know for me, it was a bit of both. I started writing my first book (well, co-writing anyway) when I was 14. I never finished it. I started writing no less than four separate romance novels over the course of 10 years and never finished them. I knew I wanted to write, but for one reason or another, I lacked the self-assurance necessary to actually do it.

At 14, I didn't think anyone would want a book written by a kid. (Eragon proved me wrong twenty years later, but by then it was too late.)

At 25, I was laughed at and told no one would want to read a book I wrote. (This was the worst blow to my self-assurance, and it killed my books in their infancy - for over a decade.)

When I started Spectacle, I was told early on my premise wouldn't work, and I shouldn't bother writing it. Fortunately for me, the story was so strong inside me, I wrote it anyway.

Even now, the old self-doubt niggles at me. It's the old self-doubt in a different costume, but it's my nemesis nonetheless. Now instead of saying I'll never finish a book, it tells me I'll never sell a book. It tells me I'll never sell because I don't write well enough, or my premises are faulty, or my POV is passe, or I'm not trendy/exciting/important (insert adjective of choice here) enough for people to want to read my work.

It's eating at me right now, as a matter of fact - like a fly at a Sunday picnic. But as my father always used to joke - "They don't eat much." I just need to wave it away, and get back to work.

Because no matter what the self-doubt says. I can write this, I am good at this, and I won't let anyone - not even my subconscience - tell me differently.

Self-assurance, you see, doesn't mean never doubting yourself. It's the courage to keep going despite the doubts, and knowing you'll win in the end.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Editing Update

I've been editing off and on all day - with a break to watch some football and make a homemade pizza. As you can see from the ticker, Blink is up to over 72K words now. The middle is filling out nicely, and I should have one more chapter to add beyond this one I've just finished. All told, I did 1894 new words today. (Which, of course, will have to be edited later, but thems the breaks.) Funny thing I discovered while I was editing... I had three Chapter Elevens. (The words were different, I just screwed up the numbering while I was typing it.) Whoops. And there's another reason why everything you write should be checked and rechecked and then checked again. If you're like me, you tend to get typing and little things like chapter numbers become screwy.

All in all, quite a productive day. So, how was yours?

Awesome Advice

I finally took the time to start really looking at the rest of the blogs I frequent. Every morning, I read their posts and move on, but this morning, I thought I'd take a look at the other things these wonderful people provide. (Yes... I'm procrastinating, but that's not always a bad thing.)

Thank goodness I did. I'd noticed previously that Diana Peterfreund has some links along the left side of her blog - specifically her "When Good Advice Goes Bad" Series. I read the whole series this morning. WOW! Awesome stuff. If you're a writer and you haven't read this stuff, jump over there now and get reading. It's witty, insightful and spot-on. I liked the lady before - because of her blog - but she's rapidly moving up to my list of favorite people with advice like this.

Additionally, she provides a link to an article by Julie Elizabeth Leto's Advice for Writers which also has some wonderful wisdom.

I'd like to thank both ladies for taking the time to write this information. I feel energized.

Off to edit! Yahoo.

Bit of Sleep

A bit of sleep usually does the trick. I'm up and I'm feeling less like a hack this morning. After all the rejection letter was really very nice, and just because one person didn't get my characters doesn't mean they suck. Nor does it reflect on this or any agent. Stuff happens. Different people, different tastes.

For instance, the other day I was at the grocery store chatting with my favorite old guy as he was stocking the dairy case. I asked him if he watched the SuperBowl, and he said he had and that he was rooting for the Bears. Well, I'm anti-Chicago - not just football... it's a long story - and I'm pro-Peyton Manning, so I said I was rooting for the Colts. At that point, my little old buddy went ballistic (or as ballistic as a little old dairy guy can get in the middle of the store). Apparently, he hates Peyton Manning with a real passion. And from the sounds of it, he hates Manning for all the reasons I love Manning. *shrug* I let it go. On the scheme of things, it really didn't matter.

So, I'm back at it today. In the words of Thomas Paine, "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Man am I gonna have one glorious triumph someday. =o)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Sympathetic Characters

You ever get one of those rejections that just sticks in your mind, twisting it into a tight little wad of self-doubt?

Here's the deal. I got a rejection letter today. No biggie. I've had dozens of the little buggers and after the first round of them back in '04, I've done a pretty good job of letting them roll off my back. But this rejection letter... Well, she told me the characters never came to life for her.

The whole thing is rolling around in my head and fugging things up. But that's beside the point. I'll get over it. I always do. The point is... I can't see where she's coming from. My characters seem very alive to me. (Well, of course they do, you nimrod, you wrote them.) And I think I do a pretty good job of making them come alive outside of my own head. I mean, Myke - the MC of Caldera - is one hell of a gal and although she's probably not the most sympathetic of characters, she's very alive.

So, the answer I've come up with is that Myke, and probably most of my MCs, just aren't regular people. I admit it. Myke comes off a little strong until you get to know her. She doesn't take shit from anyone, she's brash, and she's pushy. But she knows what she's doing, and when there's a job to be done, she'll do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals. My kinda gal. (Umm... Duh.) She's also a softy when it comes to kids, and sometimes she gets discouraged, and she's maybe a bit afraid of love. This all comes out once you get to know her. Which is, of course, in later chapters. Myke doesn't worry that no one will like her; she just worries about her work - and this is how I wrote the first few chapters. Now I'm wondering if her attitude toward her being likeable (or not, as the case may be) is going to torpedo my chances at representation.


Anyway. What I'd like to ask you is: What makes a character come alive for you? Or what makes you sympathize with a character? (Or do you think I'm way off base, and maybe I'm just not writing my characters well enough to make all that they are inside my head come out on the page?)

(Or am I just obsessing again?)

The Embellishers

This isn't about writing. If we weren't good at embellishing, we wouldn't be writing now would we?

Nope. I'm talking about people in the world who feel the need to embellish upon themselves, their lives, and reality in general. You know the kind. They're the ones who drove to New York in half the time it takes a normal human being. They're the ones who say they make $60K a year when they really make $57K. (Or if they're talking to someone who frowns on a higher salary, then they round down.) They're the ones who insist they're 6' tall when they're really only 5'10".

They're the kind of people who fudge the basic statistics of their life to suit themselves. Don't get me wrong, they don't always fudge to the positive. If it works for them to seem worse off than they are, they're happy to do that, too.

And they'll happily fudge data to encompass the rest of the world, too. If they hear on the radio that the NY State Lottery is up to 100 million, they'll fudge it up to 120. Why? Because it makes the story more interesting, and because the things they fudge about really don't matter in the whole scheme of things, no one ever calls them on it. It doesn't hurt anyone, right?

Think about it though. If a little white lie here or there doesn't matter, then why do people do it so often? What is the point? I'm not going to like a person less because they're two inches shorter, make $3K less per year, or drive like a normal human being. Would you?

Maybe I'm just anal. I like reality. I like who I am. Why would I want to lie about it? I'm pretty much a WYSIWYG person. (For the non-geek, that means What You See Is What You Get.)

Okay. I've about ranted myself out. I just like things to be the way they are.

So what about you? Do you prefer the world as it is, or would you rather things be embellished a bit?


I just got the mail. My requested partial for Caldera was rejected. She was very nice about it, but... well... you know.


Let's have ten seconds of silence for my dead partial...

Okay. All better now. Onward and Upward. Did I mention how my friends have been slavering over AWJ, just based on my description of the plot?

(Sometimes you have to think positive or this profession will chew you into a bloody pulp and spit you into the street... Reminds me of an old Japanese monster flick where the big huge ugly thing picked people up off the streets, chew them up and spit out their clothes. I only ever saw it once, but that image has stuck with me for twenty-or-so years.)

Making Money

I haven't sold anything yet. I wish. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who works very hard and keeps me in the style to which I've always been accustomed. (You know, Food-Shelter-Heat-Clothing... The basics.) But querying and submitting costs money. Money that just isn't in the household budget for the most part.

So, how does a writer manage to stay afloat? Well, this writer does something for which many in the writing community would gladly shoot me. (Or at least beat me raw with a hickory switch.)

I sell used books. Online. Through Amazon.

There. I said it. I am Books by BES. The link has been hiding way way way down there on the bottom left, under "Other Sites Worth Seeing". Of course, it's not going to make me rich by any stretch of the imagination, but it keeps me in printer cartridges and postage and paper.

Now, having outed myself, let me give you my take on the whole issue of used books. I'll admit, it does hamper new book sales, which can cut into a writer's pocket. But, my thinking on this (call it rationalization if you will) is that there are tons of people in the world who can't afford to buy the new books. So if one of these frugal people happens to want to read your stuff, they're screwed. I'm also of the opinion that once a book has sold, it's the property of the person who bought it. So while it's still your intellectual property, the physical book itself is the owners to do with as they please. If they want to sell your book for twice the cover price, more power to them. Provided the market will bear that kind of mark-up.

Some people have suggested used books should fall under some kind of cut for the author, or the publisher, etc. I don't think this ought to happen. (Whether it will happen remains to be seen.) Look at it this way. If you were a carpenter, you would spend hours crafting a table. You would pour your heart and soul and blood into creating the best, most beautiful table you could. Then you would sell it. If the buyer wants to turn around and sell it, it's out of your hands, and you don't get a piece of his profit.

I know, someday I'll be published and I'll get to watch my books being sold by used book vendors, without a single penny dropping into my pocket. I've thought about this. It doesn't change my stance.

Now, for a little bit of sales promotion. I have over a thousand books - of all makes, models and genres. I have rare books, old books, first editions, and not. (I don't have anything signed, though.) I have many books I truly love and several I really hate, but that's part of the business. Please stop by the online store, and if you have any questions, drop me a line.

(And as always, if you have anything negative to say, I'll read it but don't expect it to make the comment chain.)

How about

"The Smell of Intent"?

I've been thinking about this since I wrote the last post. 'Intent' is a more accurate word, since the MC isn't really certain it is murder, but it doesn't take him long to start thinking the deaths are intentional. *shrug*

On the downside, my online buddy, Alex, posted a link to something called Lulu Titlescorer and it tells me that either way I write it only has a 26.3% chance of being a bestseller. Although, I plugged in some actual bestseller titles, and none of them did very good. For instance, The Great Gatsby was only a 69%, Jurassic Park was only 41.4%, and The Hunt for Red October only netted a 10.2%. So needless to say, I'm a little suspect of the validity of their numbers. (If nothing else, the titlescorer is fun.)

From what I understand, though, the title you give your work doesn't really make a difference anyway. If it makes it to publication, the publisher is likely to change it to something else anyway. So, I think I'll just keep my working title as AWJ and then I won't have to worry about renaming all my files. =o)

ETA: I just scrolled down the the bottom of the Lulu Titlescorer page and read their caveats. I suggest you do the same... Especially before you junk what may prove to be a very good title. (Maybe even one the publisher will let you keep.)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Smell of Murder

After a blinding flash of insight while I was outside having a smoke, I came up with the blurb for my WIP, and what sounds like one hell of a title.

"When a Denver detective has to drive into the high plains for his brother-in-law’s funeral, he never envisions he’ll discover a dead body outside the mortuary, or a string of seemingly accidental deaths all having the distinct smell of murder."

Unfortunately, I found a book that has that title. Fortunately, it was published under another title and The Smell of Murder is only an aka. Also fortunately, it was published in 1938 and I think it was published in the UK. So it's all good.

Still needs some tweaking, but you get the gist.

Another semi-regular update

I probably should make more of a habit of updating on my progress and other events, but life intrudes. You know how it goes.

The latest news:

The First Line rejected Pigwell. Which kinda bums me out because I thought for sure they'd love it. On the other hand, I can easily recycle it - change a few words here and there - and send it out to other lit journals. Onward and upward.

I've haven't heard anything on my partial submission to that publisher (who shall remain nameless because I don't want to jinx it). I have, however, gotten a few more rejections on the queries for Spectacle. One of them was really very nice - even for a pre-printed card. The agent took the time to cross off where it said 'Dear Author' and actually wrote in my first name. She also crossed off where it said 'manuscript' and put 'materials'. Hey, you take the little positives where you can.

I'm zooming right along with my writing, regardless of the rejection notices. As you can see from the little thingies over there on the left, the WIP is approaching 10K words, and Blink has passed the 70K mark in the edit process. Oh, and for those of you who don't know, the 60K goal for my WIP is for the first draft. I fully expect it to get to it's 80-90K final draft word count. It's just that when I get rolling, especially writing dialogue, I forget to fill in the descriptions. So in places I have pages and pages of the actual conversation without any background. I'll fill those places in later.

Other than that, nothing really major to announce. This blog's stats have been steadily growing, and I've hit every continent but Antarctica (do they blog there?). The little map of the US looks like it has a case of the pox--it's so covered with little yellow dots. Thanks everyone for stopping by and I hope I provide enough interesting information so that you come back again and again. Even my other blog is starting to see some traffic, so I'm pretty happy.

I'll update as things happen. So keep your eyes peeled. Who knows when Glimmertrain will finally accept something. =o)

At a Loss

Yesterday was devoted to the local spelling bee. (She came in third overall.) And I must admit it tuckered me out. I didn't write or edit anything yesterday. I helped her study all morning and I vegetated all evening. It seemed to suck the energy right out of me. As a result, I think, this morning I am at a loss for words. I can't think of what to blog about, and the words don't seem to be flowing well this morning. *shrug* Stuff happens.

So, I'll just leave you with the above quote and the following link:


I hope you enjoy them both.

I'll be back later.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Weird

Last night I started to write a post about POV, but I decided against it. It was just railing at the world anyway, and no one needs to hear it. (And I certainly don't need to do it.)

So I thought I'd post a little bit about the bits of advice we writers get via the internet. It seems like every Tom, Dick or Mary has a tips for being a successful writer. Some of this information is very good (like Miss Snark, or Lit Agent X, or Agent Kristin at PubRants). And some of this information is crap. (See Bad Advice.) Sometimes the information we find, however, is just so damn weird you can't help but sit there slack-jawed staring at the screen with a blank look in your eyes.

I ran across this very thing this morning. While reading my daily Snark, I saw a mention of another site where an author I've never heard of talks about how to write a query letter. (I'm not linking to it and I won't mention any names--the chick isn't getting any free advertising here.) A statement this person makes completely cornfuzzled my brain. She said that writing a query letter in standard business letter format makes a writer appear to be illiterate.

Umm... Okay.

Did we miss the meaning of illiterate somewhere along the way? She can't seriously believe any agent/editor/publisher receives a query letter in business format and thinks to themselves "My god, this person can't read!" Puleeze. And even if she misspoke and didn't really mean illiterate, the whole idea that a business letter format on a query letter means you've killed any chance at representation/publication is just plain silly. I know the industry is a bit different sometimes, but come on...

Thank you, Miss Snark for putting the kybosh on that crap before it spread.

This person has done one wonderful thing though. (I mean aside from giving people fodder for their blogs this morning.) She has proved a point I've made repeatedly here at Musings. Before you accept any advice about anything... Consider the source. Think for yourself. And for godsakes, don't believe everyone on the internet knows what they're talking about.

That includes me. ;o)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Just a quick note to the last post.

Imagination is a wondrous thing, but you have to have some little bit of reality to build from. So, if you haven't done anything or been anywhere...

Step away from the computer right now, and go experience something. Even if it's just your neighborhood. If you can, hop in your car and go for a drive. Don't drive anywhere in particular, just meander like an old person on Sunday. (Cuz if you drive fast, you'll only experience the driving and not the scenery.)

Everyone has to start somewhere. What are you waiting for?

Diversifying Your Brain Portfolio

You've probably heard it over and over - Write what you know. So, if you're living in small town USA (or Norway or China or Argentina), how are you ever going to write about bigger places and bigger issues than you'd find at home?

By 'diversifying your brain portfolio' - to coin a phrase.

There's a couple ways to be successful at this. One way is to travel extensively. Go out and see the world around you, even if your world is only the country you live in. While you're out there, look at everything, talk to everyone you can, drink in your surroundings. Keep notes, if your memory isn't all that great. Take pictures. When you go on vacation, keep a journal and write down things in the most exact, colorful way you can manage.

Not everyone has the wherewithal to travel. I don't any more. I'm pretty much stuck in the tiny town where I've chosen to live for now. (It's great for shutting myself away to write. Not so great for experiencing anything outside of small town life, though.) When I was in sales, I had the opportunity to see a lot of places around the US. I've also done a fair share of moving around, so it gives me some seasoning to add, but it wasn't absolutely necessary.

In this case, my suggestion is to research. With the internet, there are very few places you can't learn about online. Plus, even if you live in BFE, chances are you still have a library--with it's selection of materials and also inter-library loan. Either way, you're going to be able to spread out and diversify. Want to look at a place? Use Google Earth. Study the topography, look at the buildings, get a birdseye view. Want some specifics on a city? Try City-Data.com - use it to learn about a specific place or to get a general idea of what certain cities are like so you can create your own.

My point is to use every available resource. Even the TV can help, if you recognize--don't laugh, you'd be surprised--most of it isn't real. Try the History Channel, Discovery, Travel... Even PBS.

The main argument I've seen for this type of research is, of course, you can't really get a true sense of how things are in a particular place just by researching it. You can't really know how bad Atlantic City smells in the heat of late summer unless you've been there. (It's fairly disgusting, if you ask me. Nothing like walking out of a hotel to get smacked in the face with a fish that's been dead for a week. Boy Howdy.) You can't know how Beale Street sounds, or how breathtaking it is looking out over Lake Superior. The only thing I can say to refute this argument is: Use your imagination. Read the accounts of people who've been there, and expand on their experiences. I just gave you my impression of Atlantic City's smell - work with it, use it. Not verbatim of course, because that's dishonest. But take the descriptions you find, imagine yourself in the same place, and write your own imagined sensations. If you're in a city, what would you hear? If you're in the country, what does a whipporwill sound like? (You can get most bird sounds online, BTW.) What does a campfire smell like? What does it feel like to look out over the Grand Canyon? (Well, the sensation was pretty similar to looking out from the top of the Empire State Building, but that's just me.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is "Don't give up" and don't lose heart. If you're a writer, then write it. Jules Verne never went to the center of the earth or the bottom of the sea, but he wrote timeless classics about them. He used his imagination. And that's pretty much what this whole writing business is about. Right?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Still Editing

I was going to work on AWJ tonight (the WIP) but I'm still hammering away at Blink. As I predicted it's pretty slow going from here on out. Lots of revising and deleting and creating.

And the work just got crimped a bit more since my daughter made it to the local spelling bee on Wednesday and I'm helping her prep. So...

It's a good thing I thrive under pressure.

I'll post a final update for the day in a while. I'm still working, but I didn't want you to think I'd forgotten the blog.

In the infamous words of the Terminator: "I'll be back."


The Novel Racers

Below is a complete set of links to the other people in this novel race. Unlike the rest of my links, I haven't read these carefully, so please understand I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the things they put on their blogs. As with anything, read them at your own risk.

A Shepherd's Tale
A Writer's Blog
Being Lucy Diamond
Bernardine Kennedy
Confessions of a Lazy Perfectionist
Dark Cafe Days
Home Thoughts Weekly
In Search of Adam
It Only Looks Random
It Won't Write Itself
It's a Mystery
Jasfoup's Tongue
Leslie Cookman (site) / Blog
Liz Fenwick
Maniac Mum
Murder, I Write
Not Afraid of the F Word
Novice Novelist
Quilling Time
Real E Fun
Redders' Ramblings
Rowan Coleman's Writing Blog
Spiral Skies
Tea Stains
The Dead Beats
The Girl w/ The Golden Mind
The Hellcat Chronicles
The Hesitant Scribe
The Moon Topples
The Novel and Me
The Novel-less Novelist
The Soup is Getting Cold
The Writing Coach
West Pier Words
WordGirl's WIP
Write that Romance!
Writing about Writing
Writing Monkey

On my Way

Well, yesterday was a productive day overall. I finished the second-edits on Part One of Blink and ended up adding another 800 and some words, finishing at 69500 for the day. Plus, the Colts won the SuperBowl. (Which wasn't productive for me per se, but I was rooting for them, so it's all good.)

Now I have to wade into Part Two, which is the middle-part that needed so much work. I'm dreading it and yet also looking forward to it. The first part is shaping up so well, I can't wait to flesh out the middle and make the book zing. Ya know?

Of course, this weekend, I also jumped into something called "The Great Novel Race", for which I've committed to racing against other authors to finish my next book. Since I'm already committed to finishing it, it wasn't a big stretch for me, but it'll be fun to see how I stack up against other writers (both published and aspiring). So, with this in mind, I'll be putting up a new link list to the other competitors shortly. (And by the time you read this it may already be there. Who knows how fast I'll get my butt in gear today.) The only problem I see here is I'm trying to write #4 while trying to finish #3, and trying to query for #s 1 & 2. Can you say multi-tasking? I knew ya could.

Wish me luck. In a couple weeks, I could be completely batty or I could be well on my way to greatness. Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Are You Ready...

...for some football?

The game is about to start, and I am stopping the work until afterwards. If the Colts win, I will be a happy camper. If not... Well, then it might be a perfect time to kill off some people in my next book.

We'll have to wait and see. ;o)

Midday Break

Well, I've been hitting it pretty hard this morning. I know from the tally on the left, it doesn't look like much, but adding over 600 words is pretty amazing when you figure I've been deleting and revising as well. I'm now through the end of Chapter 7 or page 101, if you're keeping track.

Have you ever been reading something you wrote and given yourself chills? I love it when that happens. Well, it happened during Chapter 7 when the hero gives the heroine a good talking to because she's about ready to chuck it all and run away. Good stuff there. The only thing more satisfying is when I can make myself cry. The end of Spectacle gets me every time, but in a good way. I have this secondary character I just adore, and when he drives through New York at the end of the book... Well... *sniff, sniff, sob* It just gets me... Right here. Ya know?

Anyway. I'm riding the ragged edge of danger, editing so much in so short a period of time. I'm on the verge of total nutburgerness. (Nutburgerness?) What fun.

Back later. =oD

Back At It

True to my word, I'm about to hit the pages again and I've decided to stick with Blink for now. We'll see if that lasts all day, or if I get so sick of looking at it I have to switch over to something else. (Not really likely, since I don't recall ever being sick of my writing, but I might need a change later.)

I'll check back later.

Right now, it's off the the races...

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Today's Update, Etc.

Well, it's 9pm here and I'm calling it a day on the editing. I've been at it on and off since early this morning and my eyes are pooped. (Yes, I took a break mid-afternoon, but if I hadn't I would have been burned out hours ago.)

So, in case you weren't glued to my little tally thing over there, I am taking Blink through its second phase of editing. Which, for me, means taking all the pages I bloodied up with red ink and sitting here at my computer, trying to make sense of all my notes, slashes, circles, and question marks. I'm currently through the end of Chapter 5 (or page 69), have added a total of 773 words for the day - in combination with deleting at least twice that number. (Delete, Expand, Revise, Delete, Expand... You know the drill.)

Just a minute ago, I checked my e-mail and was pleasantly surprised to see my first copy of The Nelson Agency's newsletter. All I can say is: WOW. (I told you I was pooped.) Of course, I wouldn't even say WOW if it wasn't jam packed with interesting information. Thanks to the whole crew over at the Nelson Agency for taking time out of their busy schedules to put together a newsletter. Truly. Thank you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go veg. It was a productive day, but it was a long day. I'm up for a repeat tomorrow, though. How about you?

Working Weekend

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I made a promise to myself. I have too much to do, and I've been slacking off, so I am going to devote this weekend to working.

On the agenda is: editing for Blink, writing for the AWJ (#4), and I have been playing with the idea of tweaking Caldera, so I may add that in there, too.

Time to fish or cut bait, gentlemen. Which'll it be?

Having said this, please understand if the blog is less than lively this weekend. If you haven't read some of my older posts, feel free to amuse yourselves by wandering through the archives. Check my new WIP / Edit counters to see how I'm progressing, and feel free to slap me silly if you don't see them move over the next couple of days. If you're pining away for scintillating witticisms, try out the links on my left - they're usually wittier than I am anyway.

Don't worry, though, I'll be here off and on throughout the day, just to take a break. Leave a comment, say hi, tell me to get off my butt and back to work. ;o) I'll try and post an update tonight.


(ETA: I just remembered tomorrow is SuperBowl Sunday. So, amend this to mean I'll work all weekend, except for a few hours of football tomorrow.)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Forgive My Fat Fingers

Or in my case, long nails and fingers that are working faster than my brain. The nails I'm going to have to axe before too long. They're making typing difficult. The fast fingers/slow brain you're all going to have to forgive me for.

Please excuse any errors you may find here. You see, for the most part, I don't edit this thing. I'll fix errors if I catch them along the way, or if I see them after I publish, but I'm not out looking for them. If they make it past me, they're on their own.

I admit it. I have something of a sickness. I proofread. Seriously. I proofread everything I read (which doesn't always translate to everything I type, unfortunately). I proofread signs, newspapers, books, magazines... If it's written, my brain is unconsciously looking for errors. Like the fast food sign that said "Help Wanted Hamburgers .99". My first thought was "Where are they going to find a hamburger who wants to work for that?" I've had to stop reading the local paper because I can't make it past the first page without getting disgusted. I mean, we pay 75 cents for typos, bad grammar and spelling errors? Feh. Or the news tickers at the bottom of some channels... Wide Reciever? Thrusday? Does anybody proofread those things?

Now, as to it not translating to what I type. It's not too bad with my novels. I write them, and I go back and read them, and then re-read them. The only time I end up missing typos in my work is when the scene is so entralling I forget my reason for reading it. (Yes. Sometimes I'm reading my own work and get caught up in the scene to such an extent I forget I was the one who wrote it.) This blog, however, I write it and then publish it. I only catch the errors if my proofreading eyes fall upon an offending typo. So, I beg your forgiveness here. And I ask that you understand my work isn't like this. Truly it isn't.

Thank you for reading my blog, and hopefully the mistakes you may find here aren't too irritating.

(Shhh. Be vewwy vewwy qwiet. I'm hunting typos.)

How Long?

I mean how long does your book usually end up after the first draft? I'm not talking total word count here, because that depends on the book and the genre. But in comparison to your final draft, how long is your first draft?

You see, with me, it wavers. Spectacle was HUGE after the first draft, and still it ended up larger in the supposed-final, and then after some major trimming, I cut it down to a nice pre-firstdraft weight. Then Caldera came along and barely tipped the scales with the first draft being around 60K words. Working it's way (weigh?) up to 86K (depending on your method for counting words. )

Blink is sitting at about 67K right now, and I expect it to get around 90K when it's all said and done. Poor thing is a tad undernourished right now.

So, it seems that after the first monsterly hugenormous novel, I'm falling into my first draft being around 75% of the finished product.

Where do think your work sits at? Are you someone who writes a ton and then trims, or someone who writes the skeleton and then fattens it up?

Inquiring mind wants to know. =oD

World Book Day - Top Ten

March 1, 2007 is the tenth anniversary of World Book Day, and in honor of this momentous occasion they're giving the world an opportunity to vote on the top ten books you can't live without (or that most enhanced your life). http://www.worldbookday10.com/vote

If you're outside the UK, click the down arrow next to the box for 'vote region' and scroll to 'Outside the UK'.

So, this is how I filled it out (in no particular order):

Atlas Shrugged
The Fountainhead
To Kill a Mockingbird
Jane Eyre
We the Living
The Count of Monte Cristo
Ninety-Three (Victor Hugo)
Fahrenheit 451
Calumet K

There are probably others, and I know there are many many more, but that's where my brain is at today. How'd you fill yours out?

Happy Birthday, Ms. Rand

Today would have been Ayn Rand's 102nd birthday. I never met her - she died when I was twelve - but she had a very profound effect on my life. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 14 and something about it struck a chord, even though I was too young and too screwed up to know what that thing was. In that book, I saw man as a heroic being; I saw a dream of how life ought to be.

Over the years, I gobbled up her other novels - Anthem, The Fountainhead, We The Living - over and over again; never comprehending the scope of her philosophy. It has only been during this millenium I discovered her non-fiction works, and the works of her intellectual heirs. My life has been better because of it.

Thank you, Ms. Rand, and even though you're gone... Happy Birthday.

(And if you're interested in learning more: A Brief Biography of Ayn Rand)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Moods and Blog Posts and Other Sundry Stuff

Sorry I didn't get back here sooner. I spent the whole day pretty much grumped-out and feeling crappy. So I figured the less said the better, which is good because I saw a lot of things I could have commented on rather nastily. It was one big mass of 'don't get me started' - from the blog surfing I did (although most of my regular blogs were fine) to the television to the radio. I only had one nerve and everyone was on it. Even poker was pissing me off today, so I quit it all and sat on the couch with my crocheting. It's an afghan in the making, I decided. I got a lot done over there on the couch and not a whole heck of a lot done over here at the computer. Sorry about that.

Some days are like that. Acknowledge it, move on, and hope you have the presence of mind to not say anything or do anything you'll regret once the mood passes. Lucky for me, I've matured enough to stay away from people when I get in one of these funks.

I actually wrote four separate blog posts today (not including this one). I post one early, I deleted two of them as being too negative for prime time, and the other one was written specifically for tomorrow, so y'all will have to wait for that one.

Which brings me around to a favorite piece of advice I have, that I touched on briefly here once before. Before you send anything to anyone, let it simmer and then re-read it. This is particularly important if you're in a mood. And I don't just mean a bad mood, either. Any rush of emotion can transmit to your writing, and may be better worded when you've had a chance to think about it.

That's what kept me from blogging today. Excess emotion of a negative nature. I'm much better now, thank you very much. The bug I felt like I was getting has been squashed, and I'm once again my fairly happy well-adjusted self.

Now I need to go kill a few people...

(Did I mention this latest WIP is a murder-mystery? ;o) )


I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so this morning's post is going to be about nothing.

I'm teaching myself how to crochet. So far, I'm finding it very relaxing, and I must need to relax because in two days I've managed to get what could be a passable scarf, or could be the beginnings of an afghan. We'll see how it goes from there.

We watched a really interesting show on the US Supreme Court last night. I think it was one of Ken Burns' American Experience series. Last night was part one, I think, so if you get a chance to catch part of it, I highly recommend it. (Hubby turned it on while I was crocheting and I completely forgot Criminal Minds was on, so it must have been interesting.)

Sorry I'm not more witty this morning. We'll see what tonight brings. Now, if you'll excuse me I've got some germs to carpetbomb. ;o)