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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Size Matters

For books, that is.

From what I understand, the general rule is 80-100K as the length for a novel. Of course, as with everything, it's the writing that matters most. If your novel needs to be longer, and the writing is tight, they'll probably cut you some slack. Of course, I've heard that some genres will give you wiggle room to be shorter, too - but again, it's a matter of the writing.

If you look over at my word meters, you'll notice that AWJ has a projected length of 60K. That is only for the first draft. I don't intend for it to be that short when it's all said and done. Final draft will probably be at least 75K, and more probably 80K. I'm not too worried, because it's a mystery and mystery is one of those genres where I've heard they cut you some slack on shortness.

I know, I know. Most people's first drafts end up way longer and they end up having to trim. I don't seem to work this way. I write the first draft without worrying about anything but getting the meat of the story onto the page. So, when I'm flying over a particular scene - escpecially one with a lot of tension - I tend to forget the little things like character development and setting the scene and dialogue tags (at all, of any kind). I leave whole chunks with just a note about what I want to put in there - particularly when the scene isn't coming together as well as I'd like on the first go round.

My writing is more like a sculptor who works in clay instead of marble. With marble, it's all there and you have to chip away to get the complete picture. With clay it's a process of adding and subtracting until you have the finished product.

During the next few edits... That's when my hunks of clay get molded into something cohesive. I add a lot, I trim here and there, and then the work comes together and looks like something. (And if you've been reading this blog all along, you'll know I don't do abstract - art should look like something concrete when the artist is finished.)

When I finished Spectacle, I worried like hell that it would be too short. I obsessed over it. Turns out I was so wrong. For a first novel, it was a monster. So I got out the putty knife and started removing bits of clay, shaping as I went along until I arrived once more at a smaller but recognizable whole.

When I finished the first draft of Caldera, I worried about it being too short. During the subsequent edits, I filled in the gaps and it came out at a nice 91K.

Prior to writing Blink, I never worried about a project length, I never set a goal for number of words. I just wrote the book and figured it would be what it was when it was done. That was actually a whole lot easier on me as a writer. Projecting the size of my work when it was finished actually got me stuck. Call it performance anxiety - I've never done well with those types of goals. (Which is why, even though I was one hell of a salesman, I completely sucked at commission only sales jobs.)

In the end, size does matter, though. I just needed to find a way to write to a certain length without constantly sweating whether I was going to make that length. It all boiled down to realizing whatever book I write will be sufficiently full of ideas to make it to book-length, and just go from there. I haven't let myself down yet.

So, what do you think about the whole 80-100K range? Are your books in the range? Longer? Shorter? Do you even care about the length before you get ready to finish writing it?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Behind Schedule

I started the weekend fully intending to finish editing Blink. As my father always said, though, "Intentions are for shit." Basically meaning, intending to do something is nothing. It's the actual doing of something that's important. It's follow-through. It's action. The thinking and the intending don't mean doodle.

This said, my intentions on Friday ended up being for shit over the weekend. I took yesterday off - mostly, considering I did edit one chapter. I worked pretty good today, but with the majority of a book to edit, I didn't make it very far. I'm a third of the way through right now, and even if I work until I'm too tired to go on, I'll still be short of the whole 27 chapters. So, I'm admitting my error right now, and letting myself off the hook.

If I don't, that damn hook will hang over me for the rest of the night and I won't get squat done. This means that AWJ will be set aside until I get Blink done. It shouldn't take me more than a night or two past my self-imposed deadline, so I'm not going to immolate myself over the whole thing.

Here's hoping y'all did a better job keeping your nose to the grindstone than I did.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I don't usually blog about TV shows. Sometimes, though, something strikes me about one and I can't help myself.

I like House. I don't watch it very often because it's usually scheduled opposite one of my favorite shows and I don't watch TV that much otherwise. Last night, however, I was kicking back and surfing the channels and happened to catch an older episode I'd never seen, so I watched.

The particular episode isn't important. The reason I'm writing about this today is the character House himself. As I was watching this man, who people love to hate (or hate to love), I was struck by the idea that the reason he is so attractive to viewers is he is the man who says all the things people wish they could get away with saying. And he doesn't care what people think of him. He tells is like it is, not like people would wish it would be.

I've spent a lot of time around doctors. If I had a nickel for every time one of them tried to dance around an issue, rather than telling me something point blank, I could afford to buy that lake in Texas I've been dreaming about. I wish I'd had a House back then. Like the doctor who assured my mother I didn't have brain damage, despite evidence to the contrary. To this day, it upsets her when I joke about my damaged brain, because Dr. Whatshisnose said I didn't. (But I digress.)

The purpose of this post - as it relates to writing - is the idea that certain brusque characters can't or won't be sympathetic to the readers. The popularity of House proves that wrong. Personally, I find my in common with House than with the simpering chick who works under him. If it were a matter of life or death, I'd sure as hell want House working on my case instead of her. And in any book, I gravitate toward the stronger, the more competent, the knowledgeable - rather than the weak, the lame and the ignorant.

As a reader, I don't want to see the weakness of the MC. If he has them, fine, but don't make his weaknesses the most important thing about him. If he needs to grow, have him outgrow the weaknesses by the end of the book, instead of focusing on how those flaws drag him down. House has weaknesses - they pop up every now and again - but it isn't the main focus of who he is as a person. And I think that's part of why the show is popular.

Despite what some may think, people don't want to escape into a world of the weak. Give them strength and they gravitate toward it every time. That's what I try to do in my writing. I have kick-ass women, and no-nonsense men.

The only exception to this, so far, is Mary in Blink. She starts out pretty-much a human marshmallow, a pushover, a pansy. A "yes, sir" "anything you say sir" kind of woman. By the end of the book, though, she has reached the kick-ass stage.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have Myke in Caldera. She's a female House, for the most part. I know in the first few chapters she comes off harsh, and about as warm & fuzzy as a porcupine. With her, I weave the warmth into her character in later scenes. It's there, no doubt about it, but it isn't necessary in the first few chapters. She's still kick-ass, but kick-ass with genuine emotion.

I guess what I'm saying is characters can be multi-layered without being wussies. A woman can be strong without being a bitch. A man can be tough without being an asshole. And on the other hand, a woman can be soft and feminine without losing her strength, while a man can show emotion without losing his toughness.

And last night, when I saw House holding back his tears, it made him all that much more of a man.

(Great acting on the part of Hugh Laurie, BTW. My heart was aching right there with him.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Well, I've done it again. I'm halfway through writing the first draft of AWJ. Big sigh of accomplishment there, lemme tell ya.

And now it's way past my bedtime. Not that it wasn't worth it, though. I hit my stride and the scene was coming together really well, so I drove ahead. Then when I'd reached 50%, I pushed so my word count for the day was over 2000. I can now sleep the sleep of the productive. (Or of the dead. I'm bushed.)

Next goal... 40K words. And if I keep this up, I'll be able to meet my goal of having the first draft done by the end of May. (I know, I know. I said mid-May previously, but that was before I decided to devote some quality time to completely finishing Blink by the end of April.)

Hurray for productive days!

Now, where's my blankie?

The Good Girls Kill for the Money Club

I stumbled across this blog today (my apologies, I don't remember where I found it) and I wanted to pass it along.

The Good Girls Kill for the Money Club

Looks to be fun and informative. I'll be making it part of my daily blogroll. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Snail Mail or Equery?

While reading through my morning blogs (Yes, I know it's not morning, but I was out of town for the day), I came across a link to an article at Algonkian Workshops called "Mail or Snail an Agent?: Vital Choices in the Lit Biz" that I though was worth sharing.

Lonely Writing Life

Over at 'Romance Worth Killing For' Joan Swan has a written a post called Lonely Writing Life. As I was reading it this morning, I kept thinking that it was almost as if she was inside my head. Definitely worth a read.

And if you're stuck in the lonely writing life, searching for a connection - some other writer who understands - feel free to leave a comment here. Sometimes all it takes is one person who 'gets it' to make the loneliness go away.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Today's quote was: "High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Heck, I'd even delete Kettering's use of the word 'high'. It's superfluous. Let's leave it at: Achievement takes place in a framework of expectations.

Expectations are the birthing ground of achievement. Let's think about that for a second as it relates to writing. If a writer expects to write a book - not just thinks about it, or wants it, or dreams about it, but expects it - chances are pretty good the writer is going to get it done. If a writer expects to secure an agent, it's going to happen. And if a writer expects to be published, it WILL happen.

None of this is just going to happen because he expects it will, but the expectation comes from somewhere, doesn't it? Behind that expectation is the drive to make it happen. This isn't like expecting a package from your grandma, or expecting that it's going to rain. This is an expectation whose fruition is entirely up to the achiever.

If the expectation falters, the achiever adjusts to make it happen. The achiever doesn't watch twenty-five rejections come in, and just keep sending out the same old query. The achiever doesn't sit idly by and wait. The achiever acts. Maybe he re-writes his query. Perhaps he polished his manuscript. Whatever it is, it is action of some sort. Achievement demands action. Definitely, whatever else he does, he writes more and more, getting better with each word laid down in his manuscript.

This goes back to what I've begun to refer to as Brennan's Rule: "We continue writing even in the face of rejection. We continue growing even when we’re told we write garbage. We write because that is who we are. We have the WILL." (From Allison Brennan's post - I WILL)

Why do we have the WILL? Because no matter how hard this road is and no matter how discouraged we may get, we all fully expect to achieve our goal of being published. And we WILL.

Now, stop reading blogs and get back to work. I expect it... Don't you?

Monday, April 23, 2007


Sorry I'm so late with today's post. Let's just say I wasn't up to posting and leave it at that.

All in all today was productive on the writing side. I got up bright and early this morning and wrote 700+ words. I sat down to write tonight and I'm up to almost 1700 for the day so far. Damn good day, IMO. And I'm not done. I just wanted to let y'all know I'm not dead and the daily blogging has not been forgotten.

AWJ is going exceedingly well lately. I'm beginning to fall in love with the characters, and I can see where the story is going. I know I keep saying that, but with this book, seeing the road ahead hasn't been nearly as easy as with my first three books. So it's an exciting time for me.

How are things in your world? The writing coming out okay? Anything really jazzing you up about your stories?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recipe Contest

Totally off-topic post.

I entered some recipes in The Great Cake Recipe Contest over at Help! I Have a Fire in My Kitchen. Voting is open until May 15th, so please take the time to try out some recipes and vote for your favorite.

I won't tell you which ones are mine, because I'd rather let the recipes speak for themselves than shamelessly beg for votes.

They're all good recipes, created by awesome cooks. I hope you enjoy them and the contest. May the best cake win.

Change of Plans

I've decided to let Blink percolate - at least until next weekend - so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I know I said last night I was going to jump right back into it, but in the light of morning, I realized that probably wasn't the best way to do this.

Time to switch gears and work on AWJ again.

If you're really bored, check back later to see if my meter has moved. (Which is only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.) Or if you'd like something way more interesting, browse down the list of links over on the left. =o)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

I just finished this round of edits for Blink - ahead of schedule, which means I can give it a thorough read through tomorrow, and perhaps it will be ready for public consumption sooner than I had hoped. Yay!

And then I can focus on AWJ. Double Yay!

I hope everyone else had productive days - if not in writing, then at least personally. Not only did I get my editing done, but I got the lawn mowed, too. Now I'm totally bushed. Have a wonderful night everyone, and if you're sleeping when I write this, have a beautiful morning.


Weekend Update

I'm planning on this being a working weekend, and I have too much to do for it not to be.

The good news is: I'm finally finished with the tweaks to AWJ and have begun adding new words. Managed to crank out over 1300 last night. Another 500 and some words and I'll be over 40% completed on the first draft. I'll be back to work on AWJ on Monday, so I should be able to reach that no problem.

This weekend will be devoted to finishing this round of edits on Blink. With only seven more chapters to tweak, I don't anticipate that goal will be unrealistic. And unless something drastic happens, I should be finished with the final draft by the end of the month - even if I have to push back the expected first draft completion of AWJ. I can smell the finish line for Blink, so it's worth it.

When Blink is finished, I'll put out a post asking for beta readers. Blink is unlike my other novels to this point, and I'll be going into that more in the post. Heck, I can't even pigeon-hole it into a genre yet. But if you've enjoyed my writing so far - either from this blog or from the things I've shared with you personally, you'll love Blink as much as I do.

Now, I have the whole house to myself, so I'd best put it to good use... :whipcrack:

(Which reminds me of a song I heard in the animated version of Tolkien's Return of the King... "Where there's a whip, there's a way..." Heh.)

ETA: Oh, and the bad news is... There is no bad news. =oD

Friday, April 20, 2007

Someone Else's Must Read List

I blogged my own top 100 books a while back, but recently I've been hearing about this: "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die".

Today I sat down and went through the list. I've read 38 of them. I'd feel pretty bad about my obvious slacking in this part of being a writer (Writers Write, but also Writers Read), but most of the books on the list I'd never heard of, and quite a few other books I have heard of and wouldn't read if someone put a gun to my head. (James Joyce immediately comes to mind here.)

I've said before that I've read tons of books, though, so to have such a paltry sum seems to almost make a liar out of me. Unless you notice that Ken Follett and Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton are missing, or you see that CS Lewis has been left off, Terry Brooks is nowhere to be seen, Janet Dailey is absent... Maybe I've just been reading 'the wrong books' all those years.

Ack. I just noticed in this supposedly all encompassing list of Must Read books, not a single Ayn Rand made it. Funny since Atlas Shrugged has been listed as the second most influential book EVER. It's curious absence is just sad.

The list has every book Salman Rushdie's ever written, though. Why? *shrug* And Toni Morrison's books are all there. Who's opinions are these? Feh. Since I started at the bottom and worked my way up, the list lost it's meaning after the 1800s.

Going down the list from the other end, I had to get to #301 before I'd read anything. I saw approximately three in the first 300 I actually wanted to read. They listed 'The Shining' by Stephen King, but that was it, and while I haven't read many of his books, I have read a couple. They listed a Nevil Shute I haven't read, but I've read several others of his. I've only read one Victor Hugo so far, but it wasn't on the list either (and if you haven't read Ninety-Three, please find a copy).

What did we learn from this? Listmakers are intensely subjective. So if you didn't do well on the list, don't sweat it. It doesn't make you less of a person, and it sure as hell doesn't make you less of a writer. If you're worried, go read some more of the list - it has value at least in the capacity of giving you some titles you may not have known about before. Or go read my list and call it good.

I'm subjective sometimes too, but in the most objective way possible. ;o)

PS. My daughter just went down the list and hit 31. She hadn't read much from the past 200 years, but she really was on a roll in the 1700s. =o)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Inspiration and Shoring Up

Allison Brennan is quickly becoming my favorite living writer - not just for the awesome books she writes but for the informative and inspirational posts she gives the world at Murder She Writes. Today's post went a long way toward shoring me up for the long battle to publication, and for that she deserves a huge thanks. Her post is called I WILL.

By the way, if you haven't run out and purchased Fear No Evil - what's keeping you? I loved 'See No Evil', but I think Fear is even better. (Now I just have to hunt down a copy of 'Speak No Evil' locally - which is hard considering the nearest bookstore is an hour away. But I'll do it. It's worth the trouble. And if I'm looking for a brick and mortar purchase, you know it's got to be special. But my quirks are a subject for another time.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This is a Hoot

Miss Snark got some amusing e-mail: Yea, This Works - in which the writer gives 40 simples steps to writing a query letter.

I just wish I had some gin around the house...

A Celebration of Life

I was going to wait and post this essay on my birthday, but with the world being the way it is - and the security problems that come with bandying your birthdate around the world - I thought I would post it today. I wrote this essay originally on my thirtieth birthday, so it's been a few years (and it's been through a few revisions since then). Still, this is pretty much the essay as I wrote it--warts and all.

A Celebration of Life

“Oh no, not another birthday!” is a phrase that can be heard around the world. In fact, there are greeting cards are devoted to joking about the impending doom of another birthday. Birthdays are not the horror that many make it out to be – they are a reminder of life. They are not, as I have heard people say, ‘another day closer to being dead’, but another day to look forward to being alive and a day to look back at our accomplishments.

Life is a celebration, and what is a more poignant reminder of our lives than the day we first took a breath? Most people dread their birthdays as if they were looking forward to a root canal -- I know this because there have been times in my life when I dreaded this date. The most important thing is not that we dread this day of all days, but why we dread it.

Do we fear our own mortality and therefore shun any reminder that we have aged another year? Is our sense of life so shallow that we cannot see that the day of our individual births is a day to rejoice? Or do we merely join in with the rest of the mob in decreeing that we are forever 29 in hopes that 30, or 40, or 50 will never come? As I look backward at those times I have dreaded the date of my birth, I can easily cite all of the above among my reasons. I would rather look instead to the days of my life when I reveled in my birthdate.

When I was a child, I looked at my birthday as my one special day -- just for me. Happy Me Day! This comes from being the youngest of five children in a lower income family. There was little that was specifically mine. As I grew to young adulthood, I celebrated the day because it was another year I had survived -- sad but true. Now I see that the date is worthy of celebration, not only for me, but for each one of us on the anniversary of our births. It is worthy because it is the date marking our entry into civilization -- it signals the beginning of our chance to rise toward becoming a rational animal. Each successive date marks the passing of another year toward becoming all that we have the potential to be -- realized or unrealized.

This is precisely why so many dread the day, because they are looking at the unrealized in their lives, and not the goals they have realized or the goals they are working toward realizing. As humans we must always move forward toward the goals and to dwell on the unrealized without progressing to make it a reality is one of the most unproductive pursuits a man can undertake. To shun the date of your birth in attempt to evade the memory of missed goals is to evade the goals themselves. So you didn’t become a doctor (or a lawyer or a writer) by the time you were 25. If that is still your goal then your birthday shows you that you are embarking on another year in which you can either accomplish it or work harder toward accomplishing it. If it is no longer a goal, then the passing of it makes no difference and your birthday shows that you have time to establish new goals.

It is this we must remember on the anniversary of our birth -- birthdays serve not as a reminder of all that we have left unaccomplished, but all that we may yet accomplish. Your birthday is not a day to remind you that you are closer to the end of your lives, but a day to remember that you still have life left to live.

When my birthday finally arrives, I'll be thinking of this and hoping it's helped someone else reclaim the day of their birth as a happy time. =oD

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tonight's Work

Well, I didn't get a whole lot written into the story of AWJ tonight, but I did hammer out a twist in the mystery that is going to make this whole book so much better. =oD

I also started a file to keep all my characters straight. I've got a ton of named characters in this one, and I need a scorecard to keep them all straight, or I'll end up calling Betty Betsy and mixing up last names. I don't know if I'll keep all the characters or not, but right now they're necessary for the first draft - just to keep all the events grounded in my head.

I'm very excited about the story for this one. It took me a while to get excited, but I'm there. This book is going to be killer. (Pardon the pun.)

Now, I'm off to watch Deadliest Catch.

The "Wait a Minute" Moment

Over the years I've read tons of books - literally. Every genre - both F and NF. And while it isn't often, I do occasionally run across books that give me a 'wait a minute' moment (WAMM).

The WAMM comes when you're reading along and suddenly something isn't right. Like a Buick in front of the Colliseum in a gladiator flick. Which is, of course, an anachronism, but while anachronism isn't the only case of WAMM, it is the best example.

Or say you're right in the middle of an intense scene where the killer is stalking the heroine, and all the description at this point shows her inside the house. Then suddenly, the wind is blowing through her hair.

As a writer, I do my damnest to make sure my readers aren't going to get WAMM'd. But that means throwing myself on the grenade for them. I got WAMM'd last night for my readers.

While editing Blink last night, I got WAMM'd not once, but twice. (Thank goodness for editing.) I was reading along and after escaping the bad guys, the heroes show up at the super secret good-guy base of operations (SSGGBOO). Unfortunately, the heroes had never been there before. WAMM. Then as I'm fixing that particular problem, I realize that the heroes' new allies are former bad guys - so why would anyone trust them enough to show them where the SSGGBOO is located? WAMM

I fixed them both by rewriting the entire scene. (No band-aids please. Stuff like this requires surgery.)

The grenade blast wasn't as bad as I thought, and if I've done my job correctly, my readers will never know the horrors of a WAMM that was avoided. =oD

Tell me. Have you ever been WAMM'd?

Monday, April 16, 2007


It's been a while since I did a formal update, so here goes...

Glimmertrain finally rejected the last piece I sent to them. I don't know if the long time span meant they liked it and they were having a tough time making a decision, or they just forgot.

Additionally, I received a rejection from Ploughshares on my poem - again not knowing if the slowness was caused by a tough decision or not.

So, I officially don't have any open submissions for any of my poetry or short pieces. Of course, it was only 4 stories and one poem, sent to 4 different journals, anyway. I'll probably start another round of submissions to another set of lit journals once I get done with Blink.

Speaking of Blink, I'm feeling good about the edits. I finally got over that snag and am cruising along. If you'll note the meter on the side, I've got over 70% of the chapters edited and I'm just under 83K words. Not bad. I don't think I'll be adding many more words after I get done with fixing the snag.

AWJ is also coming along nicely. I know where I'm going and what I'm going to do with it... I think. I'm hoping to finish the first draft by my birthday. =oD

On the downside, I got a couple more rejections for Caldera. I'm trying not to let them get me down. After all, from all indications, it seems like the ratio is 10 queries to 1 partial request, and 10 partial requests to one full. Or something like that. I've hit the right ratio for partials and I'm nowhere near the number of partials to make the ratio for fulls an issue yet. I'll just keep plugging along and hope someone somewhere likes my writing, because with the positive feedback I've gotten from people who've read the book, it seems like it's really coming down to a case of liking rather than craft.

I think it's Miss Snark who advises sending a hundred queries before giving up. I'm nowhere close to that, so I'm nowhere near giving up.

So, how are things going for you?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reverting to Pen & Paper

I didn't work on editing Blink yet today - at least not here at the computer. With the snag, I was jammed against it. All I could do was look at my words and know there was something wrong without being able to see how to fix it. When I get like this, I know there's only one recourse...

Pen and Paper.

Or specifically, a red pen and a spiral notebook. I did my question and answer thingy - "What are you trying to accomplish with this scene? Why? What's the best way to go about it?". I'd write a question down and do my best to answer it, then I'd leave it alone for a while. Then I'd write another question and repeat the process. I think I finally worked out all the kinks, now I just have to implement them. Whether I can do that tonight or not remains to be seen.

But even if I don't get back to work tonight, I can see the path ahead of me and it's clear for miles. =oD


I've hit a snag. A scene I thought was fine on the last couple of run throughs is sounding weak - like it was throw together at the last minute. The problem is...

I don't know if it's actually the writing or it's just a funk again. Do you ever get that way - when even if the writing is good, you think something is wrong with it because you're in a funk?

I think I'm going to leave it alone for a while and see how it sounds later. If I come back and it's still funky, I'll take it apart and rebuild it. Heck, even if it's just a funk, it could probably use a little rebuilding.


Over the past few days I've been trying to find more quotes to add to my database, so I can continue to provide a daily quote without getting too repetitive. I use Barlett's Familiar Quotations for the most part, and it's always done well for me in the past. Typically what I do is type a word into the site's search engine and then go through it reading all the quotes that come up.

Yesterday I was looking for something inspirational, so I plugged in the word 'beauty'. Boy, was I disappointed. How depressing to be looking for beauty and find people trashing the concept. Feh. Today, I plugged in the word 'joy' - much better but still a few negative comments.

But what is wrong with the world when a simple concept like beauty draws so many negative comments? I won't quote any of them here, but geez, guys, give it a rest. There is beauty in the world, and there's nothing wrong with that. Beauty is not a negative concept. One person's beauty is not an insult to those who aren't beautiful. (And anyone who would say so has got some major self-esteem issues, IMO.)

Of course, there are certain specific people whose quotes I don't bother reading - because they are never positive, and frequently trash things like beauty, honor, integrity, truth... Those values should never be trashed by anyone, and yet some twisted thing inside these people make them want to spit on the good.

Sometimes I just sit here dumbfounded by the comments people make, and other times I could just cry.

Today, my mood is better, so I'll opt for dumbfounded and ignore the stupid quotes. There's good stuff out there, and I aim to find it. =oD

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Movies that make me cry

There must be something in the air today. It seems like the television execs has conspired to put some real tearjerkers on, and I'm a sucker for movies that make me cry. In honor of whatever event has caused this programming melancholy, I've decided to give you a list of movies that make me ball like a baby.

1) Big Fish (This is the #1 tearjerker of all time for me. By the end, I'm weeping uncontrollably.)
2) Steel Magnolias. (I've seen it so many times now, I start crying at the beginning.)
3) Always (This movie tears me up. It was on today and I couldn't watch it all.)
4) Showboat (This one was on today, too. I watched most of it and sat crying on the couch.)
5) Parenthood (But it's a happy crying... really.)
6) Where the Red Fern Grows (The book is better. I think having read the book makes me cry more during the movie.)
7) Gladiator (but only the end.)
8) Lady Hawke (In this case, I'm just so damn happy, I can't help but cry.)

(I'm sure there are more, but this is all I can think of right off the top of my head.)

Don't get me wrong. I like crying sometimes - it cleans out the pipes and puts me in a better frame of mind. Everyone should try it sometimes. Any movies that make you cry?

One of those Moods

I woke up this morning in a black mood. Everything sucks; everybody sucks. And I just want to crawl under a rock and hide. I don't know where it came from, and introspection isn't helping to discern its source.

Thank goodness I'm not planning on writing new words today. I'd hate to see how they'd turn out in a mood like this.

All in all, I'm a pretty happy person. I like myself. I love my family. I have the best cat in the whole world. Not really much there to be grumpy about.

And this isn't a mood where I hate my writing. (I've had those, and trust me, they're much worse than this.) Thinking about my books, I can't point to any of them today and say it's bad. Which is why I'm not going to go back and read them today. I could see myself going over those words I love in this black mood, and having them all turn into disgusting goo. Since I am planning on editing today, I have to shake myself out of this malaise or large chunks of Blink will end up being sliced away unnecessarily.

It's a pretty day here this morning. The sun is just coming up and the birds are singing. There's a strange little house-finch I named 'Syracuse' in the backyard tweeting his little brains out. (He's strange because unlike most house finches, he's got orange points instead of pink, and he's called Syracuse because the mascot for Syracuse University is the orange-men. Silly, but it works for me.)

Maybe that's the key. Find something pretty and immerse myself in it. Revel in the tulips coming up in my front yard, take in the birds singing for their mates, wonder at how soft and fluffy my cat is while she lays on my chest purring.

A few hours of that and I should be right as rain.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Writing Ideas

If you're like me, your writing synapses are firing on 16 cylinders, and you've got ideas popping into your head at the oddest times - usually when you don't have pen and paper handy. You're also getting ideas for things you've never written. Or at least, I am.

So far I've written two literary thrillers. Wonderful. I have another lit thriller - temporarily called Bloodflow - on the back burner waiting for me to work on it. I have a few thriller-ish ideas in my 'Writing Ideas' file, too. But the majority of my unwritten ideas are for books outside that genre. The only reason I wrote thrillers to start is those were the stories that were pushing the hardest to get out of my head and onto paper.

Blink is literary and it's a bit thrilling, but not so much that it's defined by it. (Unfortunately, it's also SF in that way, but that's a post for another time.)

AWJ is a mystery leaning on the suspense side.

Still neither of these are too far from the lit thriller genre, and I'm betting you're wondering where I'm going with this.

I originally started out writing SF/F... when I was 14. I have a book mostly written and sitting in the same blue folder it's been in since the 9th grade. At that age, fantasy was my favorite genre, with SF in close second. Back then I was sure I'd be a fantasy novelist - schmoozing with the likes of Terry Brooks and Patricia McKillip and maybe even Piers Anthony.

All that was forgotten as I got older. I let the fantasy part of my brain slip away. I still read it but the urge has never been there to write it. Why? The short answer is I grew up. The long answer is that I have never been able to come up with an original idea for a SF/F story.

Until now...

I just had an epiphany, and the very first fantasy story to hit my Writing Ideas file is now written out so I don't forget. It'll have to wait a while. I still have AWJ and Bloodflow to write and Blink to finish. But it'll be good and fresh. (I think... I hope.)

Anything unusual in your idea file? Any ideas that completely break from your previous genres?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rolled over 20K

I'm just happy to be back writing AWJ, but I'm even happier to have rolled over the 20K mark tonight. It all feels like it's coming together, even the brainflash I had yesterday.

Oooo, this is gonna be so good. =oD

Poetry Break

I thought I'd take a moment and post an old poem for y'all. (It's public domain, and since Robert Louis Stevenson and all of his kin are long gone, I don't think anyone will mind.)

Childish Slave of Social Rules
by Robert Louis Stevenson

HAIL! Childish slaves of social rules
You had yourselves a hand in making!
How I could shake your faith, ye fools,
If but I thought it worth the shaking.
I see, and pity you; and then
Go, casting off the idle pity,
In search of better, braver men,
My own way freely through the city.

My own way freely, and not yours;
And, careless of a town's abusing,
Seek real friendship that endures
Among the friends of my own choosing.
I'll choose my friends myself, do you hear?
And won't let Mrs. Grundy do it,
Tho' all I honour and hold dear
And all I hope should move me to it.

I take my old coat from the shelf -
I am a man of little breeding.
And only dress to please myself -
I own, a very strange proceeding.
I smoke a pipe abroad, because
To all cigars I much prefer it,
And as I scorn your social laws
My choice has nothing to deter it.

Gladly I trudge the footpath way,
While you and yours roll by in coaches
In all the pride of fine array,
Through all the city's thronged approaches.
O fine religious, decent folk,
In Virtue's flaunting gold and scarlet,
I sneer between two puffs of smoke, -
Give me the publican and harlot.

Ye dainty-spoken, stiff, severe
Seed of the migrated Philistian,
One whispered question in your ear -
Pray, what was Christ, if you be Christian?
If Christ were only here just now,
Among the city's wynds and gables
Teaching the life he taught us, how
Would he be welcome to your tables?

I go and leave your logic-straws,
Your former-friends with face averted,
Your petty ways and narrow laws,
Your Grundy and your God, deserted.
From your frail ark of lies, I flee
I know not where, like Noah's raven.
Full to the broad, unsounded sea
I swim from your dishonest haven.

Alone on that unsounded deep,
Poor waif, it may be I shall perish,
Far from the course I thought to keep,
Far from the friends I hoped to cherish.
It may be that I shall sink, and yet
Hear, thro' all taunt and scornful laughter,
Through all defeat and all regret,
The stronger swimmers coming after.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Eureka! New Tack

I was all set to jump back into Blink again tonight. I'm getting so close to finishing I can smell it. However, while I was having my pre-writing cigarette, I got a great new idea for AWJ. Awesome stuff. I can't wait to implement all of it and see how it flows together.

So, while I didn't get a huge amount of words done tonight, I did get a sizeable amount of work done - plotting and brainstorming the best way to put all of this together. It's gonna be awesome, dude. Like totally.

Hope your writing went well today, or whatever else you were doing.

Slow Day

It was a slow day on the blog front today. I had this whole post about the worst books I think everyone should read, but I got to thinking... It was too negative and there's enough negativity in the world without adding to it.

On the bright side, I'm through the first two parts of Blink. Which means I made it through the ever-sticky Part Two without exploding. Yay for me. I also remembered that there was something I wanted to add to part one but forget about until just now. So, I'll go back and fix that part later. Nothing major, just some forshadowing I'd done that I never followed up on. Right now, they look like two random events and they are important, but only if I weave them in later on. No worries. I made myself a sticky-note. =oD

And now, since it's almost time for my favorite TV show, I will wander off for an hour while Blink simmers.

Hope you've all had a wonderful day out there wherever you are.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot... A bit of humor for you all to enjoy. I'm a huge fan of Steven Wright, and in order to really get him, you have to hear him - he's so deadpan and emotionless and looks a bit confused - but the lines are still a hoot. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2007


There's a few things I'd like to talk about today, so we're going to have a potpourri... Or a cornucopia, whichever you prefer.

First off, let me draw your attention to the agents over at Bookends, LLC. Today's post The Synopsis is particularly pertinent, considering I just blogged about the same thing recently. See? I'm not just talking out the other side of my... Well you know. They're basically saying the same things, with valid credentials to back them up. =oD

Second, Maya Reynolds - that awesomely bright gal - has written a sparkling post today about Tackling Writer's Block. She's spot on as usual, and I couldn't agree with her more.

Third, over at Romancing the Blog, Kimber Chin has written a poignant post about the value of romance novels called A Romance Novel Fable.

Finally, I'd like to take a moment and think about yesterday's blog post "It's a Buyer's Market". I didn't know when I wrote it, but today I received an especially disheartening rejection to my requested partial for Caldera. As always, I am not going to say who sent it, and I am not here to lambast the person in question. That would be crass.

It just reaffirms my belief in the 'buyer's market principle' (BMP - as I will call it from here on out). I read the letter and felt like my house was the ugliest one on the street... For about an hour. (Okay, maybe two.) I let the five stages of grief wash over me and I wallowed in the grief for a while. Then I got a wonderful e-mail from my CP, and she was as dumbfounded over this letter's contents as I was. In fact I think she was madder than I was about the whole thing. (She didn't go through the rest of the five stages... Why would she?) I feel much better now, and I am eternally grateful I have found such a wonderful and empathetic CP.

Now, as a last addendum to this whole mixture of info, allow me to point the way to Erika Writes and her post Feedback Gone Wrong as she details what can go wrong with a CP, and what can go right. Thanks Erika! It's a great post.

I'll be back with more tomorrow. Now it's time for a quick smoke and my nightly writing time.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

It's a Buyer's Market

Thinking just now about the whole interplay between writers and agents, I was again struck by the idea that the publishing business is a buyer's market.

I like analogies, so here's one for you. (And please keep in mind that no analogy is perfect or it wouldn't be an analogy.)

Selling a novel is like selling your house. Think about it. You want to sell your house, and it may very well be the best house out there, but if there are hundreds of other houses in your area on the market, it's going to make your house much harder to sell.

Maybe when perspective buyers look at your house, it needs a bit of cleaning. (Liken this to editing, if you will.) If the next house they walk through is spotless, they're going to look on that next house more favorably than yours, even if yours is actually the better of the two.

Maybe your house is too small or too big for the current market.

Maybe your house is laid out differently than most houses and it might not meet the needs of most people. It may be there's one particular buyer for you, but even though finding that one buyer is like looking for a needle in a haystack, they are out there somewhere.

Maybe it's the paint. Your house is white inside because you want the perspective buyers to be able to be able to imagine how the house will fit with their belongings. Or your house is splashed with color because you hope it will make a buyer feel more comfortable.

Maybe fifty people look at your house, and none of them wants to buy it. Instead they want Mr. Grisham's house down the street or Ms. Ketterman's on the next block over. It doesn't mean your house is awful. It just means maybe your house wasn't right for them.

Of course, this being a buyer's market means we have to put up with a few things we wouldn't have to if all things were equal here. It means that we have to jump through hoops. *shrug* It's the nature of the game if you want your house to sell. Maybe it means spending some extra time painting or cleaning or remodeling to fit the needs of the market. Maybe it just means putting up with the idiosyncrasies of a real estate agent who wasn't your first choice (and maybe forgiving him if he can't quite spell everything right in his correspondence with you).

And sometimes it means having your house on the market for a while until you find the right agent and the right buyer. It doesn't mean burning your house to the ground because it's crap (as I've heard some writers do with their manuscripts), and it doesn't mean striking out at the real estate agents or the buyers. It just means accepting that now is not the right time for your sale.

Who knows, maybe the next couple to walk through will be ones who say "This is the nicest house I've ever seen. How much do you want for it?"

Happy Bunny-Day!

I know not all of you celebrate Easter, so I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Bunny-Day instead.

Bunny-Day is a non-religious celebration of life and spring. On this day, you can eat as much candy as you want, pig out on a wonderful dinner of all your favorite foods, and hang out with friends and family. (And it is, of course, my creation. But feel free to spread it around.)

Lucky for me, Easter falls on the same day, so there are plenty of cards I can use, decorations, holiday candy, etc. Plus I get to partake in the holiday sales! Yay!

With this in mind, enjoy the following:


(PS. In real life, I still call it Easter, though. )

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Editing Wins

I made it to the editing today. The first five chapters have survived the current round of edits unscathed, and better for the experience. I added about 250 words while trimming and snipping others. I'm quite pleased, and I'm even more excited about the story than I was when I first wrote it. I love Blink more than ever.

Now I have to see if anyone else loves it as much as I do, but that will have to wait until I have this edit-round completed.

Oh, and just in case you're on the east coast, or east of there, Happy Easter.

(Pardon to pun, btw. It was, I assure you, unintentional.)


Editing... Errr... Brainstorming?

Yep. I've made a promise to myself to sit down and put Blink through it's next round of edits this weekend. It still has a couple sticking points I need to work through - things in the plot that would bother me if I was a reader. For instance, if the new city is so technologically advanced, why haven't they kicked the crap out of the old city yet? (You'd have to know what the hell is going on to even get that, but as a reader, by the time the MC got to the new city, you'd understand.)

If you've read my old blog posts, you know about a bit about Blink (and if you have ignore this bit - it's for the new readers). Blink is set in the distant future. Think Fahrenheit 451 meets Anthem and then wonder what would happen if the MCs fought back. Wonder what would happen if after leaving his home and finding the human 'books', Montag went back and fought for his home. Or rather imagine if it were Montag's progeny, fighting for a world slowly slipping toward the world in Anthem.

Actually the original title for this book was Prologue, because I got the idea that it would be written as a sort of pre-Anthem. What would have to happen to the world for it to slip to the state of Anthem, and then what would happen if the people of the world decided to fight against its decay? Tada.

But I still have problems. I knew this one wasn't going to be as easy as Caldera (which wasn't easy, except by comparison to Blink). Trying to create a world of the future isn't just taking some people and slapping them down in some city hundreds of years from now. Things change over time.

And I didn't want the futuristic elements of the story to take over the story. They are a backdrop, not a crucial plot element. I didn't want Blink leaning more heavily toward SF, when it's so obviously not. I mean they do have some interesting gadgets, but since the city is in decline, not many gadgets still work.

So, when I send my MC out from this union-controlled city into the rest of the world, she eventually finds another city out beyond the wastelands and the mountains. This new city has all sorts of nifty gadgets, and they're fairly free. And herein lies the rub. If they're so damned spiffy, why haven't they kicked the crap out of the union? They have the technology, they have motive, but so far the only reason I've given them is fear the union will wipe them out. Something the union is no longer capable of, but they don't know that. I think I have to take their technological advances away from them. Maybe make them a pre-industrial society - which means I have to change a lot of things in the second part of the book. I've always had problems with that middle part, and I thought I fixed them during the last edit, but I can see now I haven't... Arrgghh.

So anyway, I just realized that I've turned this post into what I usually do with my notebook and pen - a brainstorming session written down. Hope you liked seeing the process. Now, back to my morning blog reading, and then... TO WORK!

(Or maybe to more brainstorming. We'll see how it goes.)

Friday, April 6, 2007


Today is April the 6th. It's Good Friday. And it's SNOWING. WTF?

Al Gore needs to come out here and stand in the April snow and talk about global warming. I'd love to pelt him with snowballs. Feh. "An Inconvenient Truth"? The only inconvenient truth for him is that he is a big fat liar. His book ought to be called "A Convenient Lie". Even the environmentalists are backing away from this one. Gore makes James Frey look like the poster-boy for honesty. (Oh wait. That's right. Cold temperatures are caused by global warming, too. Double-Feh.)

:end rant:

On a happier note, I have a really fluffy baby-squirrel gorging himself at my seed pile. (Not really a baby - probably from the last litter of last year.) About the only good thing about cold weather is it makes the squirrels look really cute. On the other hand, there's a tree in my alley with about a half-dozen really pissed robins in it. I bet when they headed north for the spring, they didn't sign up for sitting in the snow.

On the agenda for today... Nada. I'm having my in-home baking assistant (aka my daughter) make Cream Cheese Cookies, and sometime before Sunday I have to make Pistachio Parfait, but other than that, I don't have much planned. Between the snow, and the lack of projects, it sounds like a perfect weekend for hammering out words on AWJ, and editing Blink.

Speaking of a lack of projects, I finally finished crocheting the blanket for my husband. It looks pretty damned good, especially considering this is the first thing I've tried to crochet since I was a kid. It's got to be about six feet long and four feet wide. It was a monster, and it took me forever to finish, but it's done. Yay.

What's on the agenda for you this weekend?

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Two nights in a row. I know I shouldn't be this excited about it, but with my track record over the past month, I'm going to let myself be. Maybe that's a function of being in a slump. When you finally pull yourself out of it, get happy about even the smallest amount of progress. Otherwise, it doesn't seem like the work was worth it in the short-term.

Of course, we can all see the progress in the long-term. Especially when we're sitting with a completed book in our hands. (I'm the kind of person who has to print out a copy. Besides the fact that I like to edit with my red pen, I love to feel the weight of the pages in my hands. It's like taking an abstract achievement and turning into a concrete. The only other way to do this is to see it in print, and I'm still working on that.)

Progress in the short-term is harder to measure. Think about writing for an hour. If your story is coming hard and fast at you, you may make 2500 words (or about ten pages) - and that's if you're a good typist. On average, I can get about a thousand in an hour, if I'm on a roll. Four pages roughly. Four pages held up in the scheme of a 350-page book is nothing. Like I said, hard to see the short-term progress. Maybe that's why I keep my word meters and my spreadsheet. I like to see actual achievement, no matter how small it may seem.

And I like to celebrate the little achievements when I can. Tonight put me over 19K words - not a milestone number, but so damned close I can taste it. Tomorrow, maybe I'll hit 20K.

Depends on whether I go with writing new words, or getting back to editing Blink. I'm not sure yet. I'll let y'all know which direction the day takes. =oD

Now, to all of you who accomplished anything today... WAY TO GO!. Give yourself a pat on the back, and if you have any lying around, I think this calls for chocolate.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Bit of Geek-ness

The well has finally begun to refill and I'm back at it again.

I pounded out over a thousand words tonight, which for this story is pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. At any rate, it's productive.

Now, I've become a bit anal about my word counts, and I know some of you have been keeping track of your word counts in one way or another. If you're truly a geek like me, you may even already be doing what I'm doing. If not, and if you'd like to watch your progress, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet and a couple formulas. (Yes, Virginia, I am a geek.)

Each project I'm working on has its own set of columns. One for the date, one for the total word count, one for the words themselves each day and one to get the percentage complete. For instance, AWJ has a projected first draft count of 60K. I get the percentage by dividing the word total for the day by 60000, and Voila! Percentage. Once I set the sucker up, it's almost addictive to watch my word counts and percentages rise. For the daily words, I simply subtract each day's total word count from the day before. So, today I made 1058 words (if you're going by MS Word's count - IMO the easiest way), which put me at 17910 total for the WIP and at 29.85% of my goal.

Geeky, I know, but I like to use the phrase "The Geek shall inherit the Earth" and when you look at Bill Gates, you can almost believe that phrase is right.

(If you have any questions about how to make a spreadsheet like that of your own, and you have an Excel program, drop me a comment. I'll be more than happy to share my geek-ness with you.)

Believe it or not, I find the whole progress watching thing to be very motivating. How are things progressing at your end?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Excuses Excuses

I apologize to anyone who read the post "Anticipation". It occurred to me just now, it was just one of many excuses I could use for why I haven't been writing. And lame excuses at that.

Okay, the back thing wasn't a lame excuse, unless you count that I was kinda lame for a few days. It really did keep me from sitting here, but since my hands are fine, it was just an excuse, too. I could've picked up a pen and a notepad and written anyway.

Years ago, I stumbled across a website that was a large list of excuses one could use instead of writing. (At that time I wasn't writing, so it just seemed cute.) There are a million excuses to use when we aren't writing. There's only one excuse to write...

Because I am a writer.

Now (I say to myself), get off your butt and write. Damn it.

So there. =op

Monday, April 2, 2007

Synopsis Again

Last week, I was having a brief discussion about that most hated thing... The Synopsis. Or "How in the hell to boil 100K words into 2-pages?"

There's been a lot of discussion around the web about this issue, since it seems to be the bane of a writer's existence. With this discussion there seems to be many conflicting opinions on how in-depth one should be, how snazzy one should make it, what should-could-can be left out of one.

My understanding after boiling all this down is that a synopsis should generally be no more than two pages. Hit the high points. Who is your main character? What is the problem he faces? Who is the antagonist? How does the problem get resolved? In other words, a blurb with more detail. (And please understand, I haven't sold a page yet, so my understanding could be way off the mark.)

When I first started working on a synopsis, I took my outline (and we'll talk about that another time) and I put each bullet point into a sentence, creating a paragraph for each scene. I ended up with a 5 page synopsis that read like a litany of separate incidents. In other words, it blew chunks. But since I didn't know any better, that was the synopsis that got sent out whenever an agent asked for a synopsis to be included in a query packet.

I think that synopsis did more to torpedo my work than it ever helped. Looking back on that thing, I wouldn't have asked for pages if I was faced with a massive boring thing like that.

So I did some more research. I found a couple sites that gave very good information (See Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis - Condensing Your Novel for one of the best, IMO.) And I took that information to re-write the synopsis for Caldera. My first stab at the synopsis wasn't anywhere near as horrible as the very first one I wrote for Spectacle, but it was still fairly rancid. My last stab was much better. (I think... I hope.)

I read an agent's blog recently (Sorry, I forget who) where they said they hate reading synopses as much as we hate writing them, but they are a necessary evil. It's the only way for an agent to see that you can, in fact, write all the necessary components of a story (i.e. beginning, middle, end) without having to read the whole story. Think about it from their standpoint: When your time is split between your myriad of clients plus the work necessary to sell their books, AND the 100-200 queries you get every week, AND the partials you request and the fulls you request, AND keeping up with the industry news, etc., you really don't have time to get halfway through a book only to find out the writer wrote well at the beginning, but he didn't have a clue about how to wrap the story up and everything fell flat. All that time wasted. Synopses cut that time considerably. So, hated or not, they're vital to the job.

I don't have all the answers. Like you, I am doing the best I can to create the best query packet possible. After all the time I spent writing my books, it seems silly not to spend a large amount of time perfectly my queries for them.

Any thoughts? How is your synopsis writing coming along? And if you've got any hints for those people who are still floundering, comment away. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Off Weekend

Sorry about the lack of activity here over the weekend, but I took a forced weekend off. I say forced because my stupid back is giving me fits and I can't sit in this chair for more than a few minutes before my legs start freaking out. So, I'm almost to the point where I can sit upright again, and here I am testing out the theory that my back is on the mend.

Now, on to more important things.

First off, today was April Fools Day. Frankly, I don't see the point in this holiday, but that's me. I'm the kind of person who very rarely thinks practical jokes are either practical or funny. It's like some people were sitting around having a beer or twelve and got the bright idea to dedicate an entire day to being cruel. Maybe when it was first invented the jokes were cute, but I've seen too many nasty things done in the name of April Fools Day to really get into the spirit of it.

However, having said that, I do celebrate today. Today marks the three-year anniversary of the day my husband and I met for the first time. Thereby taking this sadistic little holiday and making something good out of. True, it was unintentional at the time, but we're both quite happy with the result.

Thanks to everyone who may have stopped by over the weekend. I hope you'll come back and see me again when I'm a little more interesting.

Have a great week everyone. (Now, it's back to the couch for me. On the upside, I sat here longer than I have all day.)

I'll be back tomorrow with something a bit more pertinent to writing. =oD