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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Book Buying Frenzy

I went into the city today, and reveled in the glory of a Barnes and Noble. I know for most of you, B&N is not a big deal, but since I have to drive at least two hours to get to one, it's a jamboree for me.

I got:
Tapped Out by Natalie M. Roberts (aka Natalie R. Collins)
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Thanks to Rachel Vincent for suggesting it.)
The next three Darkyn novels by Lynn Viehl (so I'll be caught up). Raunchy or not, the storyline is excellent and they're my guilty pleasure this year. So there. =op
Tall, Dark and Filthy Rich by Jill Monroe

I actually managed to get books either by authors on my blogroll, or in the case of Frost, recommended on one of my daily blogreads. Yay.

Add to those, the 5 books my daughter got that I'm slavering to read, and we should be very ashamed of ourselves. (We're not, but we probably should be.)

In honor of this momentus occasion, I'm taking the night off of writing. What's new in your TBR pile?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halfway!

If you could see me now, I'm dancing around singing the happy halfway finished song. (Okay, maybe only in my mind, but if I really was, it would be quite a sight.)

Of course, it's only halfway through my projected word count, but still, it's a hell of an accomplishment. 16 days and 40,000 words. I don't think I've ever averaged 2500 words a day, so this is pretty damn cool for me.

I'm not done for the night. In fact, I'm right in the middle of a scene. Which means back to work for me. But I thought I should stop for a little celebration.

Yay me!

This puts me on track for having this sucker turned out by the middle of November (if I stick to writing this much, that is.) If I push I might be able to get it edited by the end of the year, but I'm not promising anything. I still haven't finished editing Blink or ARJ, and poor Redemption is sitting in the deep freeze until I'm through with R2L.

Okay, enough about me. I have to get back to work. I hope everyone else's writing goals are working out this week. =oD

Monday, October 29, 2007

Goings-on in the Industry Blogs

I don't know if any of you are aware of the neat things going on around the writing blogosphere lately, but I'd thought I'd share a few of what I've come across lately.

First on everyone's lists should be the Pitch Critiques going on over at BookEnds, LLC. Last week these ladies asked for writers to post their pitches (I noticed too late) and today they started going down the list of 180 pitches, giving crits on each one. Some very useful information in those critiques, so don't miss it.

On a similar note, Kristen Nelson is giving what she calls her Blog Pitch Workshop. Again, any time you can get this kind of information from an agent, inhale it. Every little bit helps, and this will help a lot.

I'm a bit late blogging about this one, but Nathan Bransford ran The Most Largely Indispensable Paragraph Contest - wherein he looked for the best opening paragraph. The winner is now posted, but it's worth the time to scroll through the rest of the contest to see what kinds of opening paragraphs an agent is looking for.

I think there may have been another one or two of these, but I can't find them now. If you know about any, please leave it in the comments.

And lastly, I'd like to give a little link-love to the Manuscript Mavens, who've been hosting a Choose Your Own Adventure® story. Remember those? The writer gives you part of a story and then options to choose from that take the story in different directions. It's been great fun, and I've been remiss in not mentioning it sooner. There are two days left of the fun, though. (And there are prizes to be won, so get thee over there and join in the game.)

Okay, really lastly... Recently, I joined a writing forum. Kristen Painter--that diva of the writing world, bless her--is one of the founding members of Romance Divas and this forum seems to be one devoted to the function of writing. If you've been around for a while, you might know that at the beginning of the year, I left another writing forum because there was too much non-writing crap going on. I think with this new forum, I'm not going to have to worry about that. These gals seem to have a hold on the reins. Give them a look. I haven't participated yet, but if you're into a group experience, this would be the place.

If you've found any interesting links this week, or any pertinent writing information, please drop a line in the comments.

(And in case you hadn't noticed, Karin Tabke is running a first line contest. The contest is closed to new entries now, but she's also providing a critique on some of the lines, so it's not only entertaining, it's educational.)

Round 3! Woohoo!

I made it to Round 3!! My third line is now posted (at comment #4).

I learned about this earlier this afternoon, but after seeing the competition, I wasn't thrilled with my third line, so I deleted it and tweaked my original fourth line to become my new third line. Here's hoping I make it to the next round.

Thanks, Karin! This is awesome!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Forging Ahead

Okay. Yesterday's post was annoying, even to me. Blech. Maybe that's what I needed to kick myself in the ass - a little pesky whining.

Anyhoo, I can't promise I won't do it again, but it's over for now. I'm back to work - for real this time - and I won't accept any excuses. So there.

Now, get back to work (I says to myself). :whipcrack:

ETA: Figured it out, folks. Yesterday morning I told myself I was going to write 5000 words, and I think I freaked myself out. If I know I've got a goal, that's not a problem, but putting a number of words on any given day must give me the equivalence of mental constipation. Who'da thunk it? Definitely something I'll work on correcting, now that I know the hang-up is there.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bleh

I've been writing on R2L like a madwoman. I was hoping to keep up the pace, and turn the first draft within a month. Wouldn't you know it - I hit a wall? Or maybe the energy fizzled. Anyway, after topping two-thousand words a day, and hitting thirty-five hundred last night, I flopped today. I know twelve hundred is nothing to sneeze at, but I had to pull teeth to remember what I wanted to write about just to get that.

Anyway, if I can't pick up the thread tomorrow, I'm taking a friggin' break. I love this story, and I'd hate to lose that love just because I want the thrill of finishing.

Actually, truth be told, I'm rushing because I want to know what happens. Oh sure, I know where I'm going with the whole story. I just don't know the exact words I'm going to use to get there, and that's damn exciting.

I hope I wake up with a new sense of purpose, and chock full of words for the next scenes. If not, maybe I'll jump back into editing ARJ. We'll have to wait and see. Now, I'm just going to sleep and hope that while I'm trying to fall asleep, something comes to me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where Ideas Come From

For today's blog, I have to thank Wendy Roberts. She recently attended a writers' conference and did some workshops, after which she decided to post some of the questions she received on her own blog. One in particular struck me as something I needed to talk about - Where do writers get their ideas?

I've heard people ask this question before (although no one has ever asked me personally - I'm not famous yet), and it always boggles my mind. I've always had ideas for books shooting through my head, even when I wasn't writing. Sometimes I've wondered how to turn them off so I can get things done. Thinking about it now, though, I realize since everyone's brain is different, people approach this idea thing differently. For instance, right now I have four pages in Word of ideas for stories, and I've gotten them in a variety of ways.

Many of my ideas come at me when I'm trying to fall asleep. At the end of the day, my brain races through an endless stream of possibilities for any situation. One prime example of this was the night I came up with the idea for Spectacle. I had just finished watching the movie Armageddon for the umpteenth time, and although this is the best of the comet disaster movies, I still wasn't 100% happy with it. I didn't go to bed with the idea of fixing the problem, but within ten minutes of laying down I had to get back up again to scribble the idea down on some scrap paper. Somewhere in the science of the movie, a contradiction jumped out at me, and with that contradiction came the idea of a story. I woke up the next morning and looked over the idea. It was still just as exciting as when I'd written it down. (Which doesn't always happen. Sometimes my sleepytime ideas are junk.) Thus Spectacle (now known as Fear Itself) was born. Tada!

Oddly enough, the very next day - after I started typing Spectacle into my computer, and was trying to sleep again - Caldera was born. Caldera wasn't born from a germ of an idea on how to fix something in a flawed movie, though. About six months before, I visited Yellowstone National Park. When going through one of the many visitor areas, I stumbled on the map showing Yellowstone's previous eruptions. Looking at the huge blob which comprised its last path of destruction, I wondered what would happen if Yellowstone erupted and whether anyone could do anything to stop it. (Do you see a pattern here? I have a save-the-world complex.)

I don't know why the idea for Caldera didn't pop into my head for another six months. Maybe writing Spectacle was the catalyst. Since then, my ideas have been sporadic. Most of the ideas between those and when I finished writing those are still sitting in a file on my computer. I don't do them in order, you see. When I'm ready to start a new book, I just open the file and scroll down to see which idea strikes my fancy. (And yes, I always write them all down. I'm afraid I might lose one that could've been a bestseller.)

My third book, Blink, started out as several similar but different story ideas that ended up merged into one. It wasn't a sleepytime idea. I think it was one of my smoking break ideas. You see, there's another time when I let my mind wander - when I'm sitting outside (or in my new smoking room) feeding my nicotine addiction.

My fourth, ARJ, was hatched from anger and frustration. That's my mystery, and started out as a big HUGE catharthis. I just started picturing people I didn't like and killing them off in my story. This, of course, made the initial attempt at the novel suck big time. Don't get me wrong, it felt great writing it, but it didn't make for good prose. Once I got all the venom out of my system, though, I saw how I could improve the plot and make it an actual story instead of just a splattering of murder scenes. (I'm in the process of doing this now.)

I actually got the idea last spring for the book I'm working on now. It just jumped almost fully-plotted into my head a couple weeks ago and wouldn't be denied. Rather than lose the momentum, I put a book on hold.

Ideas come from everywhere. For me, it's just a matter of letting my mind wander, of being open to different thoughts, and of not being judgemental if some ideas seem a little too weird for prime time. I write them all down and sort them out later. I never force an idea. I don't sit here at my desk, tapping my forehead with the top of my pen, trying to think of ideas. Ack. I think that would dry them right up. Nope. I just let the ideas flow and fall where they may.

If you're short of ideas, though, I want you to try something. I want you to pick one instance of a problem you've seen or heard about or experienced. Now turn the tables around. If you could do it completely different, what would happen? Play the 'what if' game. What if I had done this instead of that? What if he had turned out to be a prince instead of a jerk (or vice versa)? Take something and follow it out to its logical conclusion.

There's a story in there somewhere. Trust me. All you have to do is look for it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Now Hiring Hamburgers

I admit it. I'm not always the poster-child for clarity in writing, but it still hangs me up when I read something that's so unclear I have to read it several times to get the actual meaning. I see this a lot in the books I read, but beyond that even, in the correspondence I receive, on the news tickers at the major news channels and sites, and on signs everywhere.

Ever see the marquee on the front of a fast food chain that says: Now Hiring Hamburgers 99. I don't know if they're hiring 99 hamburgers, or if they want to pay people 99 cents to be a hamburger.

Yesterday on one of the channels following the horrific fires in CA, the headline read: 209 vehicles in Iraq instead of CA. Well, if the state is burning down, I would think the vehicles would be safer elsewhere, wouldn't you? I commented on this to my husband, and as if the gods of clarity heard me, the headline changed to 209 National Guard vehicles in Iraq instead of CA. Well, that's a little more pertinent to the situation.

These are just the incidents I can think of off the top of my head, but it's going on all the time. We've all been reading along in a novel and said "whoa, what did that just say?". Sometimes they're little things, but they should've been caught during an edit somewhere along the way.

I guess my point is that with so many confusing things in the world today, sometimes we need a little clarity in our writing, as well as in our speaking. Since the common joe doesn't seem to be willing or able to clarify their thoughts, it's up to the writers to pick up the slack. Ya know what I mean?

Share an instance in the comments of some unclear writing you've seen - a funny sign, a strange turn of phrase, a mixed-up news story. I think we all could use a laugh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Bit of Fun

If you're not familiar with the poet, Berton Braley, please take a moment to enjoy his poem "Learning to Write". It's a hoot. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce here because his heirs have requested that anyone wanting to use his work request permission. I don't mind, because it is their right after all, but I don't want to wait the 72 hours, so please visit the site and enjoy his collected works. It's well worth the time.

On the homefront, I'm back to writing again - and feeling 99% back to my usual state of abnormal. (Which is why I don't have time tonight for a real post. I have miles to go before I sleep.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Made Round 2

I made it to the second round of Karin Tabke's First Line Contest. Yay! My second line is up at #13 in the comment chain.

Killing Your Darlings

No, I don't mean the figurative saying so many writers adhere to (which means, basically, ripping out your favorite scenes). I mean killing off one of your MCs at the end of the book. (And I'm not talking about when the author follows the MC's life to its natural conclusion either.)

As a reader, I hate this. I spent x-number of pages becoming vested in the characters and I almost always feel cheated when the author kills someone off for no apparent reason. I hate this as a writer, too. I'm all about finding solutions. I love putting my characters in sticky situations and then writing a way out of them.

I'm not saying no one ever dies in my books. That would be silly. I'm writing thrillers and mysteries here, folks. Someone has to die to make the books what they are. And therein lies the key to the characters I kill off. People only die if it's absolutely necessary to the story. I'm willing to offer up a few minor characters to the writing gods. They can't have my heroes, though.

And since I am the writer, I can find a way for my heroes to get out of whatever impossible fix I've written them into. I don't understand why some writers feel like there is no other possible answer than death for their heroes. Kinda sad, really. Death to killers? Definitely. Death to villians? Perhaps. But death to heroes is something I will never understand.

Usually if I read a book where the hero dies at the end, I always find a way the hero could have survived without damaging the storyline. I could give you an example, but I don't want to spoil any plots if I can help it. (To that end, understand there will be probably be plot-spoilers in the comment chain, so read at your own risk.)

So tell me, have you ever read a book where the hero died at the end, and you thought it was necessary?* Give me an example of why someone had to be thrown into the volcano of a plot to appease the writing gods. Or better yet, pick out an example of a book where the hero dies at the end, and then give me a solution for how it could have been written with the hero surviving.

*special points to anyone who mentions the one book I can think of where the MC (and title character) dies and it is absolutely necessary to the storyline.

ETA. I was discussing this subject with my daughter and she brought up a MC death that was very necessary to the story. I didn't like it, and I wished she could have been saved, but after studying the book at length, I see why the author had to kill her off. (It's probably not a well-known book, but if you're dying of curiosity, let me know in the comments here and I'll out it tomorrow, too.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Explanation of Non-working Weekend

It's been a weird few days, most of which have been spent on the couch recovering from some nasty crap. No biggie. I'm still not 100%, but I'm on my way. (Maybe 75% and rising.) So, everything should be back to normal (or as close as I'm ever gonna get) sometime tomorrow. I can't go too much longer without writing or my brain will explode.

On the upside to all this, I've been getting a boatload of reading done. Read two of Laura Bradford's mysteries (which are awesome, btw), a book by M.J. Rose, and the first of the Darkyn series by Lynn Viehl. Interesting and well-written books all. (But a word of caution to those of you with teens drawn to vampire novels - the Darkyn series is definitely for the over-18 crowd. Lots of sex and violence, and sexual violence. I'm going to go out and buy them all, read them and then closet them away from my kid until she's old enough.)

If you're looking for some nice mysteries, with twists and turns but nothing in the sex or gore area, Laura's Jenkins and Burns mysteries are the way to go. I'm going to recommend them to my mother - who is a voracious but very selective reader, but will love these.

Have a great day, everyone. I'll be back soon to move those progress meters and get some more profound blogging accomplised.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pre-Empt

I've been working on my post for Friday at The Novel Racers, and trying to put together something for this blog. The NR post is ready, but I'm not happy with what I had planned for today. (Frankly, I think it's coming off as too rant-y and despite my post earlier this week, I really don't like to rant.)

So, instead, I offer you a short essay, which I've posted over at Tabula Rasa. Just something interesting and light for the morning. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Day Away

Just a quick note today to tell you all that I'm going to be offline tomorrow. Most likely, I won't be by the computer much either. (Taking a well needed break.) I'll probably be checking my e-mail tomorrow night, so if you comment, never fear. It'll get up sometime tomorrow.

On another note, my first line entry ended up as #20. There are lots of great entries, so the competition will be fierce. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I like my first line, but I already see others that are much better. May the best line win. Also, my CP made the competition, too. Hers is #68. She's a talented writer, and if I have to lose, I'd like to lose to her. I'll be crossing every available appendage for both of us.

If you did enter the contest, drop a note in the comments and let me know which one is yours. If you didn't make a try for the contest, here's hoping your writing is going well right now, and you reach your goals. Have a great day, everyone!

=oD

P.S. I'm writing the Friday blog at The Novel Racers - both this week and next. If you're surfing the net, stop by and say Hi.

Monday, October 15, 2007

First Line Contest

Karin Tabke's First Line Contest has begun. My entry is the first line from Blink (entry #22). She's only taking the first 75 this time around, so if you've managed to make it in, good luck. The first 40 or so were posted within fifteen minutes of the opening, so you kinda have to jump on it.

Sorry I didn't mention this sooner, but I almost forgot about it myself. Good thing I decided on a quick blog break between scenes, or I would've been screwed.

Wish me luck, and to those of you who make it in, good luck to you, too. May the best lines win. =oD

Update: As of this morning, it looks like she still doesn't have 75 entries. (Yeah, she's got 80-some posts, but there were comments in there along with entries.) She's promised to post a closing blog to let us all know when she's stopped taking entries, so you still could make it.

7:16am EST - By my count, there are 9 spots left.

Nobel Prizes and Other Useless Junk

I love Ray Bradbury. I know it's up there as my quote of the day, but it bears repeating: "The human race likes to give itself airs. One good volcano can produce more greenhouse gases in a year than the human race has in its entire history."

If you've been reading along, you probably know I don't talk much about current events. I try very hard not to get involved in the debates that are being waged across the net. (In fact, I refuse to debate, so I don't bother to offer my opinions here.) This place is for writing, not politics.

But something happened this weekend that made me so incredibly nauseous, and so unbelievably pissed, it was hard to not say anything. I was so good. I didn't say a word. But then this morning, I read a blog about how today is the day all good bloggers are supposed to talk about things they're doing to improve the environment, and well... I lost it.

Al Gore won a Nobel Prize. Want to improve the environment? Use Al's book as fertilizer. That's about all it's good for. The Brits know it, so why are so many Americans gullible enough to believe his crap is anything more than propaganda (and not even believable propaganda at that).
All I can say is thank goodness for the guys at Junk Science - all the junk that's fit to debunk - who've been against this BS from the beginning.

So, you'll forgive me if I don't jump on the environmentalist bandwagon today. Today, do what I do on Earth Day (another hippy-dippy day designed solely to make humans feel guilty for being human) and waste some paper. The paper forests of Northern Michigan will thank you for it. (I've been through them, and they are things of infinite beauty. Millions of trees growing quickly to give me something to write on. To be harvested and replanted in a glorious cycle of productive achievement... But I digress.)

I'll just leave you with one final thought:




 *Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*
http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000321.html


(And as always, my opinions are strictly my own. I don't apologize for them and I don't debate them. If you have a dissenting opinion, please take it elsewhere. Nasty comments won't be posted. Thank you for your time.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Still Crankin Away

I know this doesn't make for the most interesting blog posts, but when you're on a roll, you're on a roll. Blogging be damned, there're stories to be written!

So, tell me about what you're up to these days. Lots of productive work out there, I hope. If not, no sweat. Everyone gets to have a break every now and then. Hell, I've had more than my fair share of breaks, so I have no room to criticize.

(Update: As of this post, I am almost at 13K words. Keep watching that word meter rise folks, and feel free to pinch me if you don't see at least one of them move every day.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spankin n Crankin

Around here, that's what we call working hard and fast - Spankin'-n-Crankin'. Well, that's what I've been doing today. It's been a long time since I got almost four thousand words out in one day. (I'm at 3867 words today, as of this post.) Yesterday I did over two thousand, and I went to bed wanting to write more, but too tired to keep typing. I woke up with it itching in my head.

The story is flowing like a waterfall right now. Of course, I know it's not perfect yet. When I get going, I tend to write dialogue without description, or anything else in between to give the eyes and brain a break from the tension. Reading it right now would be like watching a movie with your eyes closed. You know the basics of what's going on, but you're not getting the full sensory experience. I'll go back over it later and flesh it out.

Needless to say, I'm fairly excited. And I'm not done tonight. I just hit a new chapter and decided to give myself a break. I know just where I'm going and I know how to get there. Huzzah! I love it when a story comes together. ;o)

Okay. Break time is over. Back to work. :whipcrack:

(Update: I finished up with 5081 for the day. Yay, me!)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Rant

WTF is wrong with the world?

Seriously. I mean think about it. Supposedly we're all supposed to be evolving to a better version of ourselves, but things seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

Example: The first game of the NLCS. Rockies at Diamondbacks. If you haven't already heard about it, one of the Diamondbacks players was sliding into second and on his way past the second baseman, he threw out an elbow to purposeless knock the guy over. (Ostensibly to break up a potential double-play, but it was moot since the guy was already too off-balance from the slide to complete the play anyway, but that's neither here nor there.) That's just dirty baseball, and completely unnecessary to the game. But folks, that wasn't the worst of it. The ref saw the guy do it, and since it's against the rules, the ref had the power to give the Rockies the double-play anyway. Them's the rules. What happened next was disgusting. Not only did the stadium fill with a loud booing from the fans (which is understandable, but IMO, crass), but then fans started throwing shit out on the field - beer bottles, water bottles, garbage. The Rockies coach had to pull his team off the field because he didn't want anyone to get injured. It was stupid, vindictive and petty. I've seen children act better. (And there were a lot of kids in the stands who got to watch the adults around them behaving like utter morons. Way to set an example! Feh.) Oh, and btw, I'm not a Rockies fan. I'm a Yankees fan, and I would be just as indignant if A-Rod pulled that crap, and the fans at Yankee Stadium acted like assholes.

Example: The rash of news reports about women killing their own children. Ummm... WTF doesn't begin to describe this one. Come on people. It's not rocket science. Don't have kids if you don't want them, and if you want them, don't treat them like shit. For cryin' out loud. And it's not 'not guilty by insanity'. It's murder. Plain and simple. Stop giving these whack-jobs an excuse and when they see they can't get away with it, it'll make some of these loons think about what they're doing.

And what about the rash of kids killing other kids??? Don't even get me started on that crap. Oh, and I caught a newsflash today about a woman who's been arrested for supplying her son with the weapons, with which he was planning his own little version of Columbine.

We've got politicians with personal and/or hidden agendas. We've got people who want to take away our constitutional rights. (Hell, we've got people who want to re-interpret the constitution to fit their need d'jour.) This is America people. It was built on the idea of inalienable rights. And it's not up to someone dork to decide which rights we get to have and which ones we don't need. Now I'm not talking about things people think they're entitled to. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness does not mean everyone gets taken care of all the time by the government (which really means the people who pay taxes take care of the ones who don't).

If I hear about one more woman whose one welfare and squirting out babies like they were tadpoles so she can get more money every month, I'm going to scream. (Again, they're babies, not incoming producers. Actually, if you think about it, it's little more than slavery - spooting kids out so they can make you money. Ya know?)

Dog-fighting is viewed as a sport? Cock-fighting?? What kind of sick bastard do you have to be to enjoy watching two animals rip each other to shreds???

I could keep going but I've just about ranted myself out.

Ya know, sometimes I'd just like to drop out of the human race. Can I just declare myself and my family as a new species? Would you buy the species 'homo rational'? Works for me. Wanna join us?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Inspiration Struck Me

Last night I got smacked in the back of the head by inspiration. You see, I've been mulling over this story idea in the back of my head. I keep pushing it behind my WIP, but it keeps nudging my WIP out of the way and demanding attention. Last night, I let it have its own way. (Which is why Redemption is temporarily paused.)

Now that I've decided to let it get its way (spoiled brat that it is), I'm just going to let it run wild. If it keeps my fingers flying over the keys, I'll keep at it. If it suddenly dries up, it's getting shuffled back behind my cerebral cortex until I get Redemption done. I don't see any other way right now. Every time I started to work on plotting for Redemption, R2L would interrupt, and I wasn't getting anything done. (I told you it was a brat.)

I don't really want to share the premise yet - it's a little bit shy - but it's a whopper. If it starts to sing, maybe I'll talk about it, but until then my lips (and my digits) are sealed.

Have you ever had a brat story like this? What did you do about it - make your other 'kids' wait while you coddled the brat or tell the brat to wait its turn?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day Off Kinda

I won't be around tomorrow. I have some errands to run in the city, and since it's over 2 hours one way, the majority of the day will be spent on the road. (Yuck.) The only good thing about going to the city is maybe I'll get lunch at a real restaurant.

And since I'm probably going to make it an early night, today will probably be a day-off of sorts, too.

Tell me what's up in your lives these days. Anything keeping you from the writing work?

*I was mistaken. I got the bug for a new story I've been mulling over and I had to write it all down. You may notice a shift in the meters over on the right. R2L is the working name for now. =oD

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Drawing to an Inside Straight

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I play poker. Just online and just for free, but I play. I suppose you're wondering what this has to do with writing.

Sometimes I use poker as a means of distracting my brain enough to unclog it. When I open the program and sit down at a table, the only part of my brain being used is the strategy part. That's not really a part I use much when I'm writing, so the part that actually creates the story is free to gambol about. If I'm drawing to an open-ended straight, and I can see a flush building on the table, do I try a semi-blush to throw other players out of the hand, or do I bide my time hoping I make my straight and the one card that helps me isn't suited to give the other guy a better hand? When you're worrying about pushing all your money in and either winning big, or busting out, you don't really have time to worry about the squirms (or writers' block, or whatever you call it).

Another thing poker has taught me that applies to this writing life is patience. You can play for hours and never end up ahead. You win a little and you lose a little, but if you don't have patience, you see you're not getting ahead and you leave - when your next hand could've been quads. So you bide your time. Sometimes you're doing all the right things and the cards aren't going your way. Sometimes you're getting the crap bluffed out of you by better players, but if you're patient and smart, you'll rake in the big pots. As long as you're patient, the odds are for it.

Sometimes you jump into a game and even though you think you know everything you need to know about the game, you find you still have things to learn. Every new table is a new learning opportunity. Every new hand teaches you about the game, about the other players, and ultimately about yourself. If you watch poker on TV, you'll see the best players are continually learning how to improve their game. (And even the best writers are finding better ways to write.)

And sometimes, the person with the best cards still doesn't win the hand. A suck out always hurts, but you survive and you keep going. (Or you quit and find a new line of work, which many have done over the years - both in poker and in writing.)

At this point, I could be trite and quote Kenny Rogers, but I think you all have the idea. Just remember, no matter what, you're drawing to an inside straight with one card to go. What's your bet?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Strike One! You're Out!

Okay. We all know that once an agent has rejected your manuscript, it might as well be dead to them. Even if you've revamped it, and totally made it better than the first tentative newbie crap you originally sent them. Even if your first attempts at query letters, synopses, outlines, etc. were just awful, but now you're a glowing god of industry knowledge. Doesn't matter - it's deader than Rasputin. (Who, btw, took an awful long time to die, but is dead nonetheless.)

My only question is: Why?

In this world that's so forgiving of much larger blunders (Ummm... Clinton?*), why is the mistake of trying to sell your work too soon so damn unforgivable?

I'm being perfectly serious here. I don't understand it.

Sure, I get that part of the reason is usually when people say they've learned and grown, they're usually kidding themselves. I also get that some crap can be repackaged and prettied up, and still be crap. I also get that agents are inundated with queries, so when they've said no to one book, they really don't want to see it again - for the sheer fact that reading a new query on an old rejection takes up time they could be giving to the slush pile.

Maybe it's the 'everyone gets one chance' thing. You know, the old 'let's be fair'. Even the uncoordinated kids get a chance to play. That was fine when we were kids - before any of us knew where our strengths would lie without at least trying. Now that we're all adults, I don't buy it. One of my favorite lines with regards to this is from the Disney movie "Oliver & Co" (which, if you haven't seen it, is a retelling of Oliver Twist with a kitten as Oliver and a bunch of dogs as Fagan's gang). Anyway, Oliver tells the Dodger he's being unfair, and the Dodger says: "Fairs are for tourists, kid."

If a writer submits an unenlightened query, and they get rejected, that's fine (and it's fair). On an even playing field with a thousand other newbie authors, you get what you get and that's that. If the same writer spends years perfecting their craft, learning the ropes, polishing their submission materials so they're no longer crap, and they can't even send a new query without breaking some unwritten rule. Well, I don't get it.

I've been trying to find an appropiate analogy for this (because I do so love analogies). The closest I can come is to that uncoordinated kid, who tries out for the baseball team. He loves baseball. Problem is, while he understands the rudiments of the game, he doesn't have it down yet. He can't really run fast, and his throwing is worse. He can't hit to save himself. The coach, of course, tells him to go home. He didn't make the team. Instead of giving up, he goes home and practices. He runs his ass off. He tosses big rocks across the yard to improve his arm. He works on learning everything he can about the game itself. Now, he knows he can make the team, but when he goes to the tryouts, the coach looks at him and says "Sorry, kid. Didn't you read the guidelines??? You already screwed up once here. You can't try out again." Sure, the kid can go to another team and try again, but maybe when he was still ungainly, he tried out for all of them, and now they're all giving him the same answer. "Sorry, but you got your shot and you're done here." Strike One! You're Out!

Raise your hand if you knew everything there was to know about the writing business before you sent your first query letter. Well, even if you did, I didn't. Sure, I read a myriad of sites - many with conflicting information - but I didn't know a quarter of what I know now. I thought I knew enough, and found how quickly how little I really knew. I've grown a lot since I first queried for Spectacle. But it's dead to many agencies, because I screwed up the first time.

Since then, I've completed another novel - which is still pretty good, but so far Spectacle is my best work - and I'm working on finishing three others. They're all good books (or they will be once they're completed), but Spectacle deserves to be published. Problem is, I either have to wait for new agencies to open up, or I have to let it go.

And I'm not good at letting go of a good thing.

(*And if you are a fan of Slick Willy, please don't try to refute me here. It's not worth it. For me, some blunders aren't forgivable.)

Addendum to Yesterday

Just a quick note for unagented authors, like me. BookEnds' post today is an update of the types of books each agent represents and what they're actively looking for: What We Represent.

Since I was fool enough to query them before either Spectacle or Caldera was ready, I've already shut the door on these two books with BookEnds (Once you're rejected, you really shouldn't ever re-query. It's seriously frowned upon. But that's a subject for another post.) , and I neither of my other two books are ready for any submissions yet. Maybe in a few months, Blink will be good to go.

Here's hoping one of you can get in the door. Good luck out there.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Industry News

Just a quick FYI...

Caren Johnson is temporarily closed to submissions. She should be back up again after the first of the year.

The Zack Company is open to submissions again. They're back and have expanded their genre choices. Now they're also accepting Chick-Lit and Women's Fiction. Not my thing, but I believe many of you write in those areas. Additionally, I just noticed that they have their own blog. Yay.

Oh, and in case I didn't mention it before, Irene Goodman Literary Agency has changed their submission requirements, and are now only accepting e-queries. If you're like me (who sent a paper packet out before the requirements changed) and never received your SASE back, it might behoove you to try the new method. Just a thought.

If you're looking for links to the above agents, please visit my post: Agent Sites, Blogs, Etc. for more information.

As always, if you have any info you'd like to share on agents, please leave a comment - either here or at the above post. Thanks, and success to you all.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Venus FlyCat




Venus FlyCat: (venus domesticus attackus) Hunts by feigning utter innocence. Any prey unlucky enough to touch the soft, fluffy white underbelly will find itself trapped. Once lured inside, the long, sharp claws are brought to bear - holding the prey - so the short, death-dealing claws in back can be used for a high-impact kick.

Approach with extreme caution.

If caught by the Venus FlyCat, the only known defense is ice cream.

Good luck out there.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Advice Seekers

I've seen it several times - a writer gets approached by another writer who's looking for guidance through the maze of this industry. Perhaps the first writer is published while the second is not. Maybe the first writer is just more seasoned. Either way, the act of seeking guidance is initiated.

This is all well and good. Most writers I've encountered are more than happy to help. Lord knows I've had several writers help me, and I hope I've helped my share in return. For me, I like doing it. If I can teach someone some of the things I've learned about this business, I'm happy to do it. The only time I'm not happy is when I take the time to give assistance to someone who's asked, only to have that person ignore me.

Now I'm not talking about differences in style. If you're critting someone else's work, there are bound to be those, and they're natural. For that matter, I don't expect every suggestion I make to be taken on faith. I'm not a megalamoniacal twit, for pete's sake. (Well, not all the time anyway. :wink:)

No. I'm talking about things where it's clear the second writer hasn't done his homework. He's sending out queries addressed to Dear Agent, for instance. Or he's telling agents if they want to know more about him, visit his website. Or even the most basic: he has no clue about basic spelling and grammar. Any of the above, and probably dozens of other gaffs you can think of from your own experience.

You sit down and commit hours to providing useful and insightful suggestions on how his work can be improved. And he basically pretends you're out of your mind. He's going to do it his own way. Dammit.

I'm all for individuality. I'm all for doing it your own way. What I'm not for is asking someone else for help, and THEN doing it your own way. If he was going to do it his own way anyway, why did he waste writer #1's time asking for advice?

Another advice seeker that gets on my nerves is the kind who begs for assistance and then after you've given advice, rewrites everything and sends it back to you to fix again - making a myriad of changes without a single change you suggested. Like I said, I don't have a problem with stylistic differences. I don't even think every suggestion should be adopted every time. I'm even okay with one writer saying 'everything you suggest is insane, so I'm not doing any of them'. Sometimes writers can't agree. No big deal. Find someone who suits your work better. I not only recommend it, I encourage it. But for pete's sake, don't ignore me and then send me another piece of work I'm just going to mark up and send back. That's insane.

The third person is the kind who wants the magic key. (I haven't encountered any of these people personally, but I've heard about them.) They make no allusions to wanting to improve their work. They already wrote it, and now they want it published. They want the magic key to getting their work published. And they want you to give it to them.

You can tell them there is no magic key. You can tell them the only magic key is hard work. It doesn't matter what you tell them. They won't believe you. The only thing you can tell them is they are absolutely right - there is a magic key and you're happy to share. That's the only answer they'll be happy with, so once you see one of these people, don't bother trying. They want the easy way out, and since there is no easy way out, they'll never be happy. (They'll only be the ones with a big target painted on their chests for all the scammers in this business.)

So, be careful when you ask for advice - you just might get it. Be careful when you offer advice - they may just take you up on it. Don't get me wrong. For the most part, writers helping other writers is a good thing. I'm just saying to be careful. Know what your expectations are going in, and don't be afraid to politely cancel the relationship if it gets too hairy, scary or just plain frustrating.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Postseason

...is not the season to post at night. Nights are for baseball.

Sorry. I'll try and get something more intelligent out tomorrow morning.

If you're a baseball fan, who's your team? (And I won't allow in-fighting. We're just talkin' favorite teams, not whose team is the best.) If your team didn't make the playoffs, do you even care to watch anymore? If so, who are you rooting for now?

If not baseball, how about football?

Personally, I'm a huge Yankees fan. (I know, they're not doing well at the moment.) And for football - since I lean more toward college than pro - my favorite team is the University of Michigan Wolverines. Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ummm... Ya

I spent yesterday reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential", and working on my new synopsis. I think it's almost ready for public consumption. If any of you want to see it, let me know. I'll be happy to share, if you don't mind giving me your thoughts afterwards. =o)

And now, today:

This morning, my CP shared a thoroughly depressing piece of news with me. I don't blame her, she needed to get it off her chest, and after we talked she felt better. Personally I didn't get depressed so much as pissed off. You see, a certain unpublished writer we both have had contact with has not only found an agent, but their book is in front of a publisher now.

You know me, I'm the first person rooting and cheering when I hear someone has achieved a writing goal. Sounds like it ought to be happy news, right? This should be an occasion to break out the pompoms, shouldn't it?

It would be except this person's writing is horrible. Seriously horrible. Not only is this person's writing horrible, but they seem to be unable to take constructive criticism to heart - even when it concerns spelling and grammatical errors. To top it off, this person begs for people to critique their work, so if you're kind enough to put effort into looking over their work, they just ignore you. (Which is frustrating to say the least.)

So, anyway, the sheer stinkiness of this person's work, and the fact that they got an agent when neither of us have, is a little bit disheartening. I cheered my CP up, and we both will get over it, but it doesn't bode well when two people who are serious and conscientious about writing can't get an agent, but this person can. Feh.

Maybe it's all just a case of RPRT (Right Place, Right Time). If you've got RPRT, it trumps everything.

Tell me... Have you ever picked up a book and wondered how the hell it ever made it into print? (And I'm not talking self-pubbed either.) Dish the dirt here. Go on. Get it off your chest. (You don't have to give names/titles if you don't want to.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh Spammy Boy

I don't get tons of junk mail, so I really shouldn't be complaining, but then again, since I don't get tons, each piece really stands out.

Thanks to Google and their wonderful invention - gmail - I don't even have to look at it if I don't want to. Unfortunately, sometimes gmail puts real mail in that folder, so I still look. Yesterday I received a particularly annoying piece, and thought I would share a little about it here.

First off, the subject was 'amateur writing' (just like that with no caps). I immediately assumed it was someone who took issue with one of my blogs. Nothing like a little hate-mail to get the blood pumpin'.

Next, the salutation says 'Bes'. First off, that's not my real name. The only people who would think that's my real name, also think my last name is Anderson. Which it ain't.

Then he goes on to say how much he likes my blog. (Ummm, if you were reading my blog, you'd know enough to not call me Bes. I know I just use initials, but I respond to B.E. without getting testy.) The letter further goes on to tell me about some writing project he and others are getting started where they give the first and last chapters and the other participants fill in the rest.

Okay, if I haven't said it before, let me say it now: I don't collaborate. Maybe someday in the future when I find one person I know and trust - someone whose writing style is similar and whose committment matches my own, someone whose philosophy of life mirrors my own - they maybe, just maybe, I'll consider collaborating on a project. Maybe someday I'll consent to work on a project where several writers contribute short stories in the same world (like Witchy Business, which I spoke about a couple weeks ago). But collaborate with a stew of other people just winging it? Umm... NO.

Lastly, the guy gives me a link to his website (which I won't post here). I don't follow links unless I know and trust the sender implicitly. This guy? Yeah right. If you're inclined to follow links from strangers, you're likely to get something nasty on your computer. (Nothing like a little Internet VD.)

Anyway, just to make sure I wasn't getting my undies in a bunch about something legit, I googled the guy. The only sites where his name shows up look shady - with company names very similar to his, making him look like a great guy. (I also didn't click the links there, because even google links can lead to IVD, or at the very least some disgusting pictures. Ack.)

Needless to say, I shot the email off to Victoria Strauss of WriterBeware.

I was just going to forget about the whole thing, but this morning, the subject line started to piss me off. 'amateur'??? WTF? You talkin' to me? Are YOU talkin' to me? I didn't spend all day yesterday sitting here writing a professional synopsis and I don't spend countless hours working on perfecting my writing to be called an 'amateur'. You want a piece a me?

Anyway, I'm sure Victoria and Ann will sniff this guy out, and if he's a predator, they'll post something about him so everyone else can be cautious about him.

Damn spam.