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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reading Reading Reading

These past few days, I've been reading. Lots of books. Heh.

Ain't life grand?

Just before x-mas I finally finished Exodus by Leon Uris. I'd been meaning to read that book for years, but I just never got around to it. Now I know why it was my father's favorite book (well, actually, it was the only novel he ever read). What a book. Wow. It really gives some major insights into the whole Middle East crisis - and how the things that happened during the birth of Israel are still affecting us today. Uris truly was a master, and even though I'm not always thrilled with the choices he made to put his stories together, I have profound respect for his writing.

Last Monday, I made my shopping trip to Borders, during which I bought presents for myself, my hubby, and our daughter. I can't even think of the exact number of books purchased. It was over a hundred dollars worth. Anyway, x-mas morning we opened our presents (yes, I wrapped most of the books I bought for myself) and the reading extravaganza began.

First I read Master of Torment by Karin Tabke. This is the second in her Blood Swords series, and once again, she nailed it. I'm not much of a historical romance reader, but these books appeal to me. There is plenty of action, for one. For another, Karin doesn't write historicals like anyone else I've read. Most other historicals I've tried to read spend too much time patting themselves on the back for the amount of research they do (i.e. they overwhelm the reader with details of the time period and lose the story). Karin isn't like that. She gives just enough detail to show what the characters of that time would be experiencing but she doesn't drown her readers with it. Way to go, Karin.

The next book on the pile was the most recent Fablehaven. Now these are, I think, middle grade novels. The MCs are a brother and sister. I can't remember his age, but he can't be more than nine and I think the sister is 14. That's MG, right? Anyway, I love these books. Smart writing for any age, but if I had these when I was in the MG age range, I would've been bowled over by them. Definitely something I would recommend buying- even if you don't have kids, aren't a kid, or your kids are too old for them any more.

Then there was The Hunger Games. It's a dystopic novel and I think it's YA. Good book overall. Not perfect, IMO, but worth the purchase price. The main reason I bought this book, and the main thing I got from it, is I am trying to reignite my muse. I'm trying to get excited about working on Blink again - which is also a dystopic novel, just not YA. Mission accomplished. And I'm even thinking about tweaking Blink so it could fall under YA. Time will tell.

After this, I picked up Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa by Karin Tabke. This is a complete change from her historical series. It's a pretty good book, but I wouldn't recommend reading it so close to the Blood Sword novels. The writing style is different, and the genre is different, so it might be a shock to the brain - like it was for me. After some thought, I realized if I separated this book from the others, it was perfectly good and well written for its purpose - which was as an erotic romance w/ suspense elements.

The only purchase I made for myself that I haven't read yet is Omega Games by Lynn Viehl. In four days, I wiped out my stack. It's a little depressing, which was probably the reason why I couldn't bring myself to start Lynn's novel yet. I might read the book I bought for hubby next, or maybe a few of the books daughter got. We'll see what happens.

What did Santa bring for you (even if you had to be Santa and buy it yourself)? Read anything good lately? (Come on, I need new materials to read in the coming year.)

(Note: Links to the above, and all the books I read this year, are available HERE.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

*Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*

Here's hoping Santa didn't notice any of your slight indiscretions this year, and you got what you wanted.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Twelve Days...

Okay. It's Christmas Eve, and by now everyone is sick of listening to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I mean, seriously, how many times can you say 'and a partridge in a pear tree' without wanting to beat yourself with a rolling pin?

So, to break up the monotony of hearing the same repetitive song a bazillion times, I offer you the following (and sorry, I couldn't get the youtube videos to embed):

The McKenzie Brothers doing their version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. If you're not familiar with the brothers, it's a Canadian thing. After living in the Upper Peninsula for some many years (it's like Canada-lite), this song is one of those goofy things that makes me happy. Oh, and somebody took the time to animate this version, which is a hoot.

If that's not your thing, and you are really up to your neck in the tribulations of the season, maybe The Twelve Pains of Christmas will give you a little solace. (Or at least a little empathy.)

If you're too traumatized to listen to even a spoof of the Twelve Days, try out Adam Sandler's Christmas Song. Or if Christmas isn't your thing, you can listen to his Chanukah Song.

Or for those of you who've been really bad (not me, of course, I've been extra super good) there's always the idea that You Ain't Gettin' Diddly Squat. ;o)

And for the infidel, Achmed the Dead Terrorist sings Jingle Bombs.

Heard any funny Christmas songs lately? Share them in the comments.

Merry Christmas Everyone.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation

I didn't realize it until just now, but I've been taking a long vacation this holiday season. With the unexpected trip to Michigan, it started on December 6th, and there really isn't much I'm going to do until after the start of 2009.

And I refuse to feel guilty about it.*

This past weekend, I watched football and read. Yesterday I went out of town for a shopping spree. Today I might wrap presents and I'm definitely going to the grocery store (because in all my brilliance, I forgot to buy that duck I wanted, and now it's too late to defrost one... ham it is).

The rest is left to chance and necessity. My present shopping is done. The cards have been mailed. The house is decorated. The cookies are made and distributed throughout the town. All that's left is some wrapping and the holiday itself. Yay. Now I can rest.

I can watch silly movies all day. I can play poker. I can read. Lots and lots of reading going on. I could even take a nap or two if I want. My daughter and I might play Scrabble, or have one of our incredibly long and protracted conversations. The possibilities are endless.

So, what's on tap for this time of year for you?

*Okay, so I still feel guilty about not working. I want to not feel guilty, but I can't help it. If it gets overwhelming enough, I could be back to writing before January 5th. We'll see.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Persistence or Lack Thereof

Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying: "You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." Easy for him to say. Right?

I mean, Asimov was not only one of the greatest writers of the past hundred years or so, but he also wrote during a time when not just anybody could whip out a manuscript and send it out to a hundred potential buyers via email. (I've also heard he never edited, but that may be an urban legend - and it's a moot point anyway.) He also wrote when people genuinely wanted to read.

But that's not the point of today's post.

I read that quote again yesterday and was struck by the idea of it. Persistence. You have to have it in order to succeed in anything. (And yes, I am aware of the rare instances where success falls into someone's lap, but those are the exceptions to prove the rule.) The problem is, I'm just not that persistent. Not only that, but I do have a manuscript just eating it's head off in a metaphorical drawer. (Several, if you look at the lack of success for my other books.) I never really submitted Blink. I sent off five queries, to which I only got one reply. I sent out those queries and got distracted by RTL.

But was distraction really a good enough reason to let Blink lounge? Looking back now, the answer is: not really. I could've easily been querying while I was concentrating on writing. They're two completely different skills, after all. Instead of pushing to see Blink get its day in the sun, I shoved it into the shadowy recesses of my hard drive. A severe injustice if there ever was one, let me tell you.

The funny thing is, I still love Blink. And maybe that's part of the problem. I love it so much, I'm terrified of sending it out. I'm so afraid of people saying mean things about it, I'm unable to run the risk she'll be hated and rejected - which, of course, means I'll never know if she might actually be liked and published. (And yes, I have started thinking of that particular book in terms of 'she'.)

But let's forget about Blink for a second. When I really think about it, I haven't been all that persistent with my other books either. I send each one through the gambit of agents and then shove each one into its folder - never to be heard from again. I still think about them. Sometimes I lay in bed at night reminiscing over a particularly well-written scene or wondering how a book would've sounded from a different perspective. I never act on these thoughts, though. Oh sure, every once in a while, I'll get a wild hair and send Spectacle or Caldera out, but it's more a matter of desperation than of persistence.

You see, I still believe in every one of my books*. Not a single one of them can be classified as a 'practice book'. I don't think any of them should be left to rot in a trunk or under my bed or at the back of the closet. Each of them deserves to see the inside of a bookstore. (Yes, I am biased, but just because I am doesn't mean I'm wrong.)

So, if they are as publishable as I think they are, the problem then comes down to a lack of persistence. They aren't published because I haven't really tried hard enough. Instead I've allowed them to eat their heads off in a drawer while I play at writing another one to sell - which will most likely end up joining them because I'm not persistent enough.

Starting after the second week in January - because now is the beginning of the holiday season and the first two weeks of the year are catch-up time for most people - I'll start sending out manuscripts again. I'll beat the bushes looking for an agent. I'll revamp all my query materials in order to write the letters that will get my books noticed. I'll go directly to the publishers if I have to. I will be persistent.

I'm not a resolution maker, but that seems like the best one I could make for the coming year.

I know it's early yet, but have you given any thought to your plans and goals for 2009? Any resolutions you'd like to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Surreal Life

Lately I've been feeling like I've taken a trip to the Twilight Zone. One week away has shifted everything into the surreal. I'm left looking at my life and my writing as though I'm getting a glimpse into the life of some other woman. She writes books. She teaches homeschool. She crochets. She's me...

And she's not me.

Maybe it was the trip back to Michigan. I left almost eight years ago, and I hadn't been back. So many things have changed, and yet jammed in between all the changed things was something so familiar it was like a blow to the chest. For instance, I went to see the house where I grew up. It's still there. It looks pretty much the same, but it's not the same. The new owners put a white picket rail around the front porch. They sided our old chicken coop with bright red plastic. The tiny Jack pine my sister and I planted is now the tallest tree in the yard. The house sits at the top of a hill, and the valley across from it has always been a wide open space. It used to be a horse pasture. Now, it's working on becoming a forest. Tall, fast-growing pine trees have taken over. You can't even see the pond in the middle any more. But the tree we buried my dog under looks the same.

The nearby town of Goodrich has exploded with people. All the fields that used to lay around it now have big beautiful housing developments. They moved the post office. They closed the old IGA store that my mother once worked at, and that I spent a great deal of time in when I was younger. The old 'stop-n-rob' convenience store was torn down and a modern brick gas station took its place. But the mill pond where my father took me ice fishing looks the same.

Grand Blanc - where my mother now lives - now has a Walmart where the deer park used to sit. The Halo Burger was torn down and a Starbucks is in its place. But the old high-school hangout - Hotdog Heaven - is still serving customers out of its ramshackle little building. (I'm guessing the hotdogs are still the same, too.)

I think it all started at the airport. When I lived in Michigan I was at Detroit Metro frequently - if not to fly myself, then to pick up visiting sales managers for work. I knew DTW like the back of my hand. Now it's all changed around. (Of course, I left before 9/11, so it was pretty much a given.) But the trip down I-94 toward Ann Arbor looked the same. Hell, since the last time I was at DTW it was snowing, it really looked the same.

Is it any wonder I came home to this unreal feeling?

At this point, I'm guessing I just need some time to be home and get back into my old routine. I need to wrap myself in normalcy to feel like myself again. At least I hope that'll work, because right now, I should be writing and I don't feel like a writer. I feel like the kid who left Michigan in 2001.

And she wasn't a writer. She was just a gal who thought maybe someday she would try to write a book.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy Beaver

Last week's departure put me behind on all the things I have to do this time of year. Thank goodness I got the decorations up the day before it happened. But I still had a bunch of cookies to bake, packages to mail, cards to sign and get out, and shopping to get done.

Over the past two days, I've been cramming and jamming like a mad woman. After this morning, the only thing I'll have left to finish is my shopping. The cards are stacked beside me, the packages are on the floor beside the desk, and the cookies are in tins all over the kitchen. The remainder of shopping is scheduled for Monday, so I can finally kick back and... Well, I was going to say rest, but I haven't written in over a week and I'm this close to getting Nano done.

Anyway, the cookies were the big job. I love baking, so usually this cookie-gift thing is a breeze. Every year I bake a ton of goodies for passing out to my friends and my hubby's co-workers. I like doing it, and they like eating the fruits of my labors. It's all good. This year it wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

This year we made*:

Spice cookies with walnuts and raisins
Chocolate cookies with pecans and chocolate chips
Strawberry cookies with white chocolate chips
Chocolate cookies with mini-chocolate chips and white chocolate chips
7-layer bars
Peanut butter fudge
Chocolate fudge
Creamy mint patties
Cream Cheese cookies
Coconut Rum cookies
Butterscotch Chewies
Mint-Patty cookies

Today I'll be packing them into tubs and delivering them around town. Plus slogging through the lines at the USPS to mail stuff. Ho-dee, ho-dee, ho. Then I can sit down and catch myself back up with Nano.

How are your holiday plans going this year? Have you gotten your shopping done? Baking anything yummy?

* Most of my recipes are available upon request. The first four cookies on the list can be found here.

(Note: If I ever secure an agent, he or she will, of course, be added to the cookie-receiver list. Not a bribe, necessarily, but I'm just sayin'. :wink:)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Week's Adventure

Last Saturday I was halfway through a very yummy breakfast sandwich when the phone rang. It was my niece and she was crying so hard I could barely understand her. By the time I got her settled down, I was hit with the knowledge that my mother had a heart attack. After learning that my oldest sister was unavailable to give me the rest of the details (because she was calling all my other siblings), I got the name of the hospital and began trying to find out the reality of this whole thing.

After being bounced to a couple different departments, I landed a nurse who just happened to be standing next to my mom. She told me that Mom was fine and she was just headed to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I could hear Mom talking in the background, so I was pretty sure she was fine. In fact, the nurse told me Mom was on the phone with my oldest sister, otherwise I would've been able to talk to her, too.

So, Mom was okay. The disaster was averted. (And believe me, losing my mother would've been a major disaster.) Now that my own heart was beginning to return to normal, I talked about my feelings with my hubby. I told him that while I was on hold with the hospital, I was mentally clicking through all the things I would need to do to get out there if the worst had been true. He told me not to wait for the worst.

And like usual, he was right.

Around noon Saturday I booked tickets for my daughter and I to fly home. For those of you who don't know, I live in Colorado. My mother lives in Michigan. This makes quick visits and emergencies problematic. It also makes them expensive. But we did it. Sunday morning we were on a plane headed for Detroit.

By the time I reached the hospital, Mom had been transferred out of CICU, and she was set to be released on the following day. She was looking pretty damn good for a woman approaching 70 who had just had a coronary. She was also looking pretty damn bored and sick of being incarcerated in a hospital. (She shares my hatred of most things medical.)

Needless to say, I sprung her the next day and we spent the week with her recuperating. We watched a lot of TV. I cooked a lot of heart healthy meals. We talked and talked and talked. It was a good visit, and my honey was so very right. I needed to be there, and she needed me there. It was expensive, but it was more than worth it.

The holiday season this year almost sucked in a major way. I don't even want to revisit all those images I had before I learned my mother was going to be okay. Instead of sucking, though, it turned out to be a Merry Christmas.

May all your loved ones be happy and healthy. The rest is just glitz and sugar.

I'm Back

I made it back last night, and I'll share more a little later. I just wanted to let y'all know I'm home safe and sound.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Life comes at ya sometimes

I'm not really going to give you all the details, but let's just say I have a family emergency that's going to hamper my online time (i.e. ability to blog, answer emails or post comments). Starting once I shut down tonight and continuing for the next week or so. Don't worry it's not me, my daughter or my hubby. Just someone else I love who needs me, and so off I go.

If I can find time to find a computer, I'll be around on Monday, and probably once a day through Friday. Weekend days are flat out.

Anyhoo, take care of yourselves while I'm away. If I don't see you before then, see you after the 14th.

PS. Write lots of words. Lord knows I won't be.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Annual Cookie-Stravaganza

Yessir, it's that time again. Time for the Sanderson women to bake cookies until we can't stand ourselves or the smell of vanilla. Of course, not everything we make are cookies. We have two kinds of fudge to do, too. Plus, the kidlet is planning on two kinds of candy this year.

In honor of this event, I'd like share a little quickie recipe I found this year.

Cake Cookies

1 box cake mix (whichever one turns you on)
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, candy bits... whatever works with whichever mix you pick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until firm and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cool.

Now, yesterday we used a Spice cake mix then added walnuts (1/2 cup chopped) and raisins (1/2 cup). It was so easy, we also made a batch using Devils Food cake mix with pecans and milk chocolate chips. Both were so yummy that today we're trying Strawberry cake with white chocolate chips and Triple Chocolate cake with the rest of the white chocolate chips.

Ummm, the diet? Well, that sucker is on hold indefinitely. We'll try again after the new year.

Have fun!

*Update: The count for today was two batches of cookies, peanut butter fudge and creamy mint candies. Not the most we've done in one day, but a good start. OTOH, I did finish the blankets so I can ship them in time for x-mas. Tomorrow, coconut rum cookies and cream cheese cookies, plus chocolate fudge and maybe a couple other new cookies depending on my stamina (and how much my kitchen assistant can take). ;o)

Nano is Huge

That's right... My WIP is huge... and I have the t-shirt to prove it.

 *Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*

(Or I will have one in 7-9 business days.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fighting the Economy Blahs

I'm trying really hard not to think about what happened yesterday in the publishing industry (and right now, I'm trying to be happy I'm not published and worrying about whether an editor is getting laid-off). I'm also trying to build some Christmas spirit while the economy slowly swirls its way down the drain.

In honor of this 'thinking positive' attitude, I'd like to share some shopping ideas with you. (Because no matter how bad it gets, shopping - even window shopping - helps me feel better.)

First, I'd like to introduce you all to O&H Danish Bakery. I subscribe to their newsletter, and every so often I get a scrumptious surprise in my inbox. Every newsletter is full of pictures of pastries. If you've never had a Kringle, you're really missing out. Buttery, sweet, gooey and flaky. I'm getting drooly just thinking about them.

Next, we have a little gem I heard about on CNBC yesterday. Shoebuy.com seems to be just about the only place not feeling the crunch right now. I mean, let's face it. Women and shoes - they just go together. And when you've got designer shoes cheap, plus free shipping, you can't go wrong. (Personally, I've got my eye on these boots. I don't know where I'd wear them, but yow.)

For those of you who like online auctions, and who are bargain hunters, try PropertyRoom.com. Over 1500 law enforcement agencies use the site to offload seized merchandise. Want a laptop for under $500? How about some nice jewelry? And if nothing else, I thought just looking at all the strange things the police have seized was a hoot.

Other favorites are:

ThinkGeek for all the brainy people on your x-mas list.
Morley Candy and Guylian for the chocoholics.
The Swiss Colony for other yummy treats.
For the mystery lover who also likes cheesecake: Cheesecake and Crime.
And for the fashionable gal on your list, try Blondissimo Gems and Jewelry

Share some of your online shopping hotspots. Are you doing anything to combat the economy's effect on your Christmas spirit?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Santa Esploded

Heh. That's just my way of saying I decorated the house today. I... well, I have a lot of decorations, and once I get started doing x-mas decorations, I just can't seem to stop until I've put everything out.

Strange thing is, I have a small tree. Well, two small trees of my own. The house came with a huge tree, and two tiny ones. I left the huge tree in the basement. (Don't really have space for it anyway.) I used one of the tiny 'Charlie Brown' ones, though. So, we have three decorated trees. And for some reason - I'm not exactly sure why - we have a profusion of stockings. Ummm... Seven big ones, and three or four small ones. For the three of us. (Four if you count the cat, and yes, she does have her own stocking.)

I also started x-mas shopping today. I know, I know. Some of you are already finished, and some are most of the way done. By now, I'm usually in that group. This year, time got away from me. I still have to put the finishing touches on my homemade blankets and get those suckers in the mail so they arrive in time. I still have tons of cookies, and fudges, to make so I can give those away. And it's already the end of the third.


Well, at least I got my writing done in November. I even got some writing done today. Tomorrow? Well, we'll see if I get started on making foodie-gifts. I'd like to at least get both blankets ready for shipping by this time.

How are your holiday plans coming along? Got any shopping or baking to do?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Other News

57% Geek

Not that the news should come as any surprise. LOL Actually, I thought it would be higher. I guess I'm not as geeky as I used to be.

Update: While my daughter was taking the quiz, I realized I answered the 'competition' question wrong. I have won an academic competition... I was captain of the Quiz Bowl team, and we made it to semi-finals. So, I'm not 52% geek. I'm actually 57%. Heh. Maybe I should wear my glasses more often and get some tape for the bridge of my nose.

Good Rejections

*yawn* :blink: :blink:

I feel like Rip Van Winkle this morning. Not that I spent yesterday sleeping or anything, I just feel like I did. In fact, I probably should've, but that's a whole nother story. After the weekend writing marathon, I was just bleh. To combat the blehs, I sat on the couch and watched TV, and I read most of a book. I also played some poker, but that went badly so I'm trying not to think about it.

Now about that oxymoron of a subject...

In the midst of my bleh-defeating day, I received a rejection letter from a partial of RTL I sent back in May. And yay, it found me, since it was sent before I knew I would have to move and therefore the SASE had the old address. On the rejection scale it was a really nice letter. She said she really liked my writing, but... 1) with the economy sucking like it does, she has to be extra super selective, 2) the synopsis didn't wow her, 3) from said synopsis, the bad guys all seemed one-dimensional, and 4) she was concerned the politics of the plot would overwhelm the suspense.

I'm hanging on to the 'really liked my writing' part. I'm also cursing the economy and the people who got us in this mess. As for the synopsis thing, I'm going to have to take a look at it and see where it fell apart, because it obviously wasn't doing its job.

For instance, I really don't think my villains are one-dimensional. Sure, they're all evil (because I don't do diet evil) but each of them has many layers to their personality. Perhaps that's not quite apparent in the first few chapters, and obviously not in the synopsis, but the layers are there.

There's nothing I can do about the politics. They're integral to the plot, but IMO they don't overwhelm the suspense of the book. I purposefully wrote the novel in such a way that the politics are an undercurrent, but not the main thrust of the plot. *shrug* I guess my synopsis didn't tell that tale very well.

So anyway, I'm taking that one as a positive letter. Have to take the positives where you can. I'm also calling another RTL rejection positive (I got this one back in November from a partial sent in September). In that one, the agent said she liked the premise but she thought it was more suited to the SF market, with which she wasn't familiar. *shrug* Miss Snark always said : Query Widely. Since RTL is one of those stories that crosses genre, I was trying everyone who represented any of the three genres it touches.

Anyway, as I approach the end of the year, and the end of another novel, I'm starting to think about the query process again. I'm taking the lessons learned, and working to apply them to the next round.

Oh, and speaking of rounds... Karin Tabke is getting ready to host another First Line Contest. I think I'm entering RTL this year. Here's hoping my first lines make the cut. I could really use some good news this month.

Your turn: Any thoughts on my rejections? I'm trying to stay positive about it, but I don't want to turn into Pollyanna. Have you ever gotten a good rejection, or is the oxymoron just too much?