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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Association Update

Well, over the past couple days I've learned some things. First, BookEnds had a quite timely post IMO, wherein they state unequivocally that RWA isn't just for romance anymore, followed by a post in which they say it again and underscore it by talking about a RWA writer who SO isn't romance that no one could have any doubts about it. Additionally the gals at BookEnds mentioned a couple things that really got my attention:

- There are online chapters of the RWA.

- There just happens to be an online chapter devoted to writers of mystery and suspense (with romantic elements of course) called Kiss of Death.

So now my only quandry is how to squeeze $135 ($100 for RWA and $35 for KOD) out of my budget. If my used book sales weren't tragically off this year, I'd have the money. Maybe I could have a yard sale, or a bake sale... Panhandling, anyone?

But seriously, I know KOD has a program to help writers who financially can't swing the $35 but there are people in more serious need than me. I'm not destitute; I'm just a tightwad who's sticking to a very tight budget. That's why I sell used books, for petesakes.

*sigh* I suppose I could cut back on the book purchases for a while... and stop buying beverages at the Conoco every morning. (FUZE: Vitalize is awesome, btw.) If I could do that, I'd have the membership fees in no time. I guess it's all a matter of priorities.

Give me a month, and we'll see. If I take the leap into membership, I'll let y'all know.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Round and Round and Round We Go

I feel like a friggin' hamster this morning. I'm running in circles inside my head, and while I know I'm not getting anywhere, I can't really make it stop.

You see... I'm blurbing again.

In the past couple days, I've written seven different versions of a possible blurb for Manhunter. Seven versions and none of them feel right. After six books, you'd think I'd have this down by now.

Heh. I wish. I wonder if any writer has this process down. Do the big name published authors even have to do their own blurbs? Does Nora Roberts write the backcover copy for her novels any more? Did she ever? What about Stephen King? James Patterson?

Not that I'm those people, but I'm just wondering if there'll ever be a day when I won't have to obsess over blurbs and synopses.

Don't worry about me. I'm just a wee bit frustrated. There's so much information I want to convey about the book, and I really only have two paragraphs in which to do it. I find myself wondering if I should stick with blurbing about the heroine and the villain, or whether I should focus on the heroine and her relationship with the hero - mentioning the villain only as she relates to them. Or whether all three characters should have their own spotlight. Decisions, decisions. The merry-go-round of indecisiveness. Weeeeee.

Ummm... Not.

Do I mention the heroine's fear of fire - because it's integral to her character - or do I leave it behind because it's not overly integral to the plot?

Oh, and another thing... If I try to sell this to suspense agents and also to romance agents, I'm going to need two different blurbs. :sets own hair on fire and runs naked through the streets screaming:

Any hints on what you would do in a similar situation would be greatly appreciated. Or even a little sympathy would be nice.

Anyway, enough of my daily neuroses. How's things in your world?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Link Love and First Line Advice

First off, I have to point you in the direction of an awesome post by Lynn Viehl: Eff the Editing - in which she talks about the Editing Macarena. Stay tuned to her blog - she's doing a series of workshops this week for people who aren't attending RWA National.

Second, you have to read the interview Melissa Marr did over at The Fictionistas.

And on to the subject of today's post: First Lines.

It's a big subject around the blogosphere today, and I'm jumping on the bandwagon - not because everyone else is doing it, but because it's such a hot-button topic in the writing world.

What started this whole post was a series of posts Nephele Tempest is doing over at The Knight Agency's blog. Both posts in this series so far have been brilliant. Friday's post was how to write a killer first sentence. Today's was was not only about the importance of a first line, but some advice on the actual beginning of a novel. Great stuff.

Then I read Diana Peterfreund's post today (whose new blog is exceptional, btw) wherein she talks about first lines and points us in the direction of Scott Westerfield's blog and his take on the whole first line issue.

When I first started writing, I didn't think about my first line - whether it was grabby or zippy or told the reader X about the story. I just wrote it. I mean, after years of reading, I had a pretty good idea of how a book should start, and I went from there. Spectacle has now been through so many edits, I can't even remember what the original first line was. I thought it was good at the time, but I know I've changed it. (I think, actually, I moved it farther down the page and added some new detail above it.)

Then I started looking around the internet and gleaning advice from the various online sources. This, of course, sent me into paroxysms of terror about whether my first line was good enough. I learned to obsess about the first line of each book. I wrote and re-wrote and re-re-re wrote all my first lines until I was driving myself insane looking for the perfect opening to my stories. I've calmed down considerably since then, but I still understand the importance of the first line.

And the first few lines after that, and the first few pages after that.

The whole idea is to hook the reader. You have to hook him hard and keep him hooked. It starts with the cover blurb, of course, and we all know how important blurbs are. That's what gets the reader to pick up the book in the first place (or gets the agent to request pages, so eventually your book will get to the reader). Once he's got the book in his hot little hands, though, you need to hook him into the story with the first line. And then keep him hooked with every subsequent line after line.

So, let's look at some first lines - then and now.

First some great first lines from the classics:

- Howard Roark laughed. (The Fountainhead)
- It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984)
- It was a pleasure to burn. (Fahrenheit 451)
- Mr. Utterson, the lawyer, was a man of rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable. (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Not the most famous three lines in literature, but no doubt you've already seen Pride and Prejudice's first line discussed at length, and of course, the most famous first line from Tale of Two Cities (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.) has been done to death. No. I picked the above three lines because each one does exactly what it's supposed to do. It hooks me and makes me want to read more.

Scanning through numerous classics as I was writing this post, I came to the realization that in the times those books were published, no one was paying much attention to grabby first lines. Alexandre Dumas' readers certainly didn't care; neither did Charles Dickens'. Each book of theirs I picked up had dry as dust opening lines, and they're still selling like hotcakes. Then I picked up Tom Sawyer, and discovered Twain didn't bother with the first line - he used the first several lines to paint the picture. Of course, the first several paragraphs are only a few words long, but you get the general idea of where the book is headed in those short lines. (Which goes back to the idea that you have more than the first line to hook a reader, but you better make it quick.)

Back then, however, there wasn't as much competition for publication, and readers didn't have a plethora of stories to choose from. It was read those few, or not read at all. Today is a different story. Which leads me to some more recent first lines:

- Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own. (Angels & Demons)
- Every night death came, slowly, painfully, and every morning Maddox awoke in bed, knowing he'd have to die again later. (The Darkest Night)
- Ryan was nearly killed twice in half an hour. (Patriot Games)
- My decision to become a lawyer was irrevocably sealed when I realized my father hated the legal profession. (The Rainmaker)

True, I picked only first lines that grabbed me, and the whole reason a book grabs an individual is purely subjective, but each of the above had something in it that made me want to read more (or makes me want to read more, which is why my TBR list now has a couple additions.)

And now, here are my current first lines (subject to change as the obsession strikes me):

Spectacle: "We're on in two."
Caldera: "This is ludicrous."
Blink: Sitting in the half-light shivering, the futility of her life assaulted her.
AWJ: On the plains of eastern Colorado, the town of Serenity was anything but serene.
RTL: “Congratulations, Miss Lind, you’re going to be a mother.”
Manhunter: As she approached the twisted Mercedes’ wreckage, its cracked side mirror winked at her like they shared some unspeakable secret.
And a preview of the previously unshared Nano: “I know you haven’t noticed lately, Edgar, but I am not a poodle."

As you can see, I'm not the Queen of First Lines, but I'm working on it. So, now I leave it to you. Do you obsess over your own first lines? What's a favorite first line from a book you've read, or if you want to post it here, what's a favorite first line you've written?


Monday, July 28, 2008

To Join or Not to Join

Lately I've been thinking about joining a writers' association. There are several lovely ones I could shell out money to become one with, but a couple of issues present themselves every time I think about joining.

The reason I've been thinking about becoming a member of some association somewhere is strictly because it looks good. Sure, I'll be able to use some (yes, only some... see below) of the bennys associated with whatever one I pick, but for the most part, it's the opportunity to put "I'm a member of X" on my query letters.

As for the issues...

I live in the middle of nowhere. The RWA chapters in my state are all at least a two-hour drive away, and driving two hours to attend a one hour meeting seems a little much. Then if they have a bigger event, it will mean a hotel stay and all the junk that goes with traveling out of town. Not my cup of tea. I know a lot of the networking can be done via e-mail, but the whole point of joining an organization is to participate, and the distance constraints really don't allow for that part of the experience.

Which leads me to another issue. I'm not a joiner. Never have been. I don't do well with the whole group participation thingie. I do better as an individual. So, I'm not sure how being a member of an organization is going to be a good thing for either me or the organization. Yeah, I'd love to have some fellow writers to hang out with - in person for a change - but every time I gotten together with a large group of writers online it hasn't gone well. Sooner or later, I piss someone off, or they piss me off, and it all falls apart. (This is one of the reasons I like the blogging community. We're all out there being individuals, and if one person doesn't get along with another, no one is going to shun you from the blogosphere.)

Lastly, the issue of which organization to actually join comes into play. You wouldn't think so, but this is a big one. You see, I don't think I fit into a group like RWA, because what I write isn't strictly romance. The same goes for ITW (International Thriller Writers). I write books - all of which have some kind of romantic element so far, and all of which have some kind of suspense element. None of them are strictly one or the other. I could shell out $200 and join both, but that just leads me back to the other two issues. And I'd still wonder whether being a member of either was just plain fraud. You know, being a non-romance writer and a member of RWA would just make me feel like I was taking up space a real romance writer could use. I'm sure they don't care, but that's not the point. I care.

Anyway, enough about me and my issues. Are you a member of a writing organization? How's that working out for you? Any suggestions on what I could do to get over this set of issues?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lesson #5178

Don't stop writing once you start a project.

I knew this. I thought I'd learned it well. But apparently I didn't. I took the other night to get reacquainted with Nano after a month away from it. Guess what?

I can't remember where I was headed, and I don't have the notes I thought I made of the plots points I already figured out. Oh sure, I know the general direction, but the path between here and there has been obliterated by the passage of time. Wiped out. Kaput.


I might just see if I can rekindle Cut & Dried while Nano simmers for a while.

Meanwhile, I'm working on my submission materials for Manhunter. Once my CP and betas get me their notes, and I fix whatever needs fixing, this sucker is going out into the world. I'm looking at the end of the summer - which should coincide with responses on the full and on the partial for RTL. If either of the lovely ladies want RTL, they both represent suspense as well, so they'll love Manhunter. (Especially when I tell them it's in the bag and ready to go. Agents love prolific clients... Right?)

Anyway, I'm off to re-read C&D. Wish me luck. Something in this head of mine has to break free soon. I'm going nuts not writing.

(okay, so maybe the lesson isn't #5178, but it feels like it. :wink:)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Gangly, Awkward, Unpopular Kid Strikes Again

Twenty years ago I was the gangly, awkward, unpopular kid. (Okay, twenty-five years through twenty years ago... Or maybe more. Think of it as the entirety of the teen years.) I didn't have many friends, and looking back, even those people I called friends I wasn't as close to as I thought. I lived in my own world, did things pretty much my own way, and suffered the consequences of being different. It's not a story you haven't heard before, so I won't delve into it too deeply. The teen years were unkind to many of us. If we're lucky, we've grown and left it all behind to become the confident and stable adults we are today.

But here's the problem. Every once in a while that gangly, awkward, unpopular kid seeps into the present day me. There's a long explanation, and after typing it - then deleting it - I realize it's too pathetic to post. Suffice it to say, I'm not feeling like the confident and stable adult I ought to feel like.

It's days like these that make me want to curl up under my rock and let the world go on without me. These are also the times when I want to take all my manuscripts, start a bonfire in the backyard, and roast weinies*. Then find something productive to do with my life. Something that has me behind a desk working on someone else's projects and nets me a biweekly paycheck. When I long for the days of typing the boss's correspondence and answering phone calls from irate customers, I know I've hit a bad place. When I'm looking through the local want-ads and 'Administrative Assistant' at the local pig farm sounds good... Well, you get the idea.

As I've said before, part of the key to solving the problem is figuring out what the problem is in the first place. So, I guess knowing that I'm pert-near the bottom means I can begin to climb back out again.

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you suck, everything you do sucks, and the world sucks in general? Any tips for climbing out of that place? Were you ever the gangly, awkward, unpopular kid?

(*Don't worry. There won't be any bonfires and I'm not quitting any time soon. Besides, there's a city ordinance against bonfires in backyards, and my landlord would object anyway.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another One in the Bag

Last night, after a marathon editing session, I finished the edits for Manhunter. It's only weighing in at 77K words, but that'll have to be enough. (Unless my beta readers and crit partner find some spots that need more detail or explanation.) I think it's tight, though, so I'm not sure where anything could be added without jeopardizing the story. But then again, I'm too close to the work to see clearly at this point.

If you write, I'm sure you know how it goes.

Anyway, as always, the offer if open to those of you who would like to beta read for me. If you're interested and have the time, please leave a comment (if you have a clickable email link on your own blog - do not leave your email addy in the comments, please) or email me by using the email link in my blogger profile.

Manhunter (working title only) is a romantic suspense - heavier on the suspense than the romance. The short blurb for it is:

After infidelity drives a trophy wife to take ‘carrying a torch’ one step too far, Agent J.C. Douglas must follow a string of fiery murders across country to catch a killer before the past engulfs them both.

And the one-liner is:

Dwelling on the past can be murder.

I haven't worked on any of the query materials yet, so the longer blurb and synopsis aren't available, but you get the gist.

Now, onward to the next project. The question in my mind is whether to get back to writing Nano, to get back to writing Cut & Dried, or to finally get back to editing AWJ. I've promised myself not to start anything new until I get some of the older projects wrapped up. (Unless, of course, a new idea hits me so hard I have to write it or drive myself nuts thinking about it.)

What are you up to these days?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Snippets at Tabula Rasa

I just posted a couple of snipped bits over at Tabula Rasa. They're basically background on one of my secondary characters from Fear Itself (aka Spectacle).

Actually, Tom Sheldon is probably my favorite character from that book. Not that I don't love them all, but Tom's got a special place in my heart.

Do you have a favorite character you've written? Come on, spill. Your other characters won't mind. Okay, how about a favorite from something you've read?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pardon me while I whine

I've been lax. Call it mid-summer doldrums. Call it the blehs. Call it anything you want as long as you mean the same thing. (Because calling it, for instance, 'peanut butter' would just be silly.)

I haven't blogged much - for which I apologize to any of my faithful readers (few though they may be). I haven't written anything new. I have gotten back into the swing of editing, but my heart's not in it. Maybe I need a vacation. (Or maybe I just need a pitcher of mai tai's and a white sandy beach.)

Right about now everyone seems to be getting geared up for the RWA National in San Francisco. I admit to being jealous as hell. All those wonderful people I've talked to online, or whose blogs I frequent, will be there. And I'll be here in BFC (like BFE only not Egypt) sweating myself into a puddle and wondering whether they'll have fudgicles on sale this week at the local grocery store. I'll be debating on whether to stand over a hot stove making something magnificent for dinner or slap together sandwiches - while the conference attendees are eating real food they didn't make to make themselves. I'll be sitting here wondering if any of my lost queries are going to get a response (because even a rejection letter is something - at least it means my query didn't fall into a black hole) while all those people will be out there schmoozing with industry professionals.

It's enough to make a gal want to eat a gallon of Choco Malt Chip ice cream. (Which is my favorite even if they don't make it anymore.) It's enough to make me long for the weekend I spent lounging by the pool at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, drinking fruity drinks and soaking up the sun.

It's even enough to make me wonder if I'm ever going to get published... and WHEN damn it... so I have a reason to go to a big conference and schmooze myself. *pout*

I guess it's just one of those days. We all go through them. A little sliver of time when I don't wanna be grown-up about anything. I just want to pout and whine.

But I can't. I'm 38 years old, which means too old to think pouting and whining is in any way productive, or that it's going to get me what I want. (I learned that lesson early. Pouting an whining in my house was the quickest way to NOT get what you wanted - and frequently got you things you didn't.) I'll be back at work again tonight. Slogging away on Manhunter to get it prepared for critting and beta reading (and submitting).

Right now, though, I think I'm going to go flop on the couch and sulk.

Tell me. Are you going to National? Are you even a member of RWA? Do you even care?


Saturday, July 19, 2008


I'm stuck in the middle of a case of the blehs. (Blehs are worse than blahs. Blahs are when everything is just boring. Blehs are when everything is unpalatable.)

It hit me last night. I finished reading The Darkest Pleasure, and I knew I should've gotten to work editing. Except I didn't want to. So, I thought about which book to read next, and everything just sounded yucky. I flipped through the channels. Sixty-some channels of pure crap. I put it back on baseball (Rockies vs Pirates... bleh) and laid on the couch thinking about Manhunter. Eventually I picked up a Patricia Cornwell, but only because I've never read her, and I'm trying to read all the different suspense/thriller authors I can. I'm not really liking it yet, but that might just be the blehs talking.

Maybe the blehs are there because I hit a wrinkle in Manhunter. Two actually. Within a couple pages I found two instances were something I wrote directly contradicts something else I wrote later in the book. I need to fix both, but I haven't the faintest idea how to fix the scenes. If it was just one, I'd probably be over it by now, but both of them at once have me a little squirrelly.

Which is stupid.

It's not like this hasn't happened before. It's all part of the plantstering. Since I don't plot everything out in advance, I'm bound to trip over myself from time to time. Not a big deal; that's what editing is for. So why any of this is presenting a problem is beyond me.

Of course, the blehs could be caused by the personal issues of earlier this week. I could tell you about them, but then I'd have to kill... those parties involved. It's all been wrapped up and taken care of, but the high tension of a shit storm passing has a tendency to leave a vacuum in its wake. *shrug* Life intrudes yet again?

It could be that I haven't been doing well in poker. That usually sucks the energy right out of me.

Well, whatever the cause, I need to get over this. I need to push the blehs out of the way and get productive. I have editing to do and writing to do. I have places to go and people to see. (Not really, but it sounds good.)

What do you do when the blehs have got ahold of you?


Thursday, July 17, 2008


Don't you just hate when you have two Chapter 13's?

That changes Manhunter from 29 chapters to thirty. Sorry about the confusion. Proceed with your regularly scheduled lives. ;o)

The Simple Things

Sometimes when life gets a little too weird, or too hectic, or too shitty, it helps to think about the simple things in life. Life's little pleasures.

Like the joy of a new tube of toothpaste. I know it sounds silly, but I love a tube of toothpaste that's still new enough to have all the stripes. My mouth feels cleaner after the first squeeze than any other squeeze of the tube.

Or the smell of puppy fur. Something about puppy fur reminds me of the very first puppy I ever had, and since he grew up to become the best dog I ever had, the smell brings back so many joyful memories, I can't help but smile.

The simple pleasure of sitting at my desk and looking at the flower garden beneath my window. I don't know what's planted there, but the pink blooms of one plant and the purple blooms of another just make me happy.

Another example is the smell wafting out of my kitchen right now. My daughter's making apple bread. We're not going to eat even a single slice of any of it (all three loaves are promised to other people), but the smell makes me happy.

I was talking to my mother just now--which is almost always a happy place for me--and she was telling me how the stuffed elephant I sent her for Mother's Day had made her best friend happy. Her best friend has Alzheimer's Disease, and she's in the late stages. She doesn't remember much of anything and at this particular instance, she was very upset and worried about her babies (now all grown children with grown children of their own). My mother handed her the elephant and it's soft fur calmed the woman down. For a brief instant, she was happy.

The sound of the house finches singing outside my window. The feel of my husband's hand in mine. The giggle of a baby. Strawberry cheesecake. A rainbow. A butterfly. Total silence after a noisy day. A hug. My daughter.

All the simple things that can make life such a joy - even when things are tough and you feel like the world is a crappy place to be.

What are some of the simple things in life that make you happy?


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Would You Do?

Since I have a bit of a quandry, I thought I'd ask readers here what they would do if they were in my situation.

Here's the deal. I'm just about ready to start sending Manhunter out into the world. (Okay, maybe a month or so, but what can I say, I'm excited.) But I still have RTL out there in query land, with a couple of requested partials still out. Sooooo...

Should I wait until after the partials/queries all come back? Or should I start querying for Manhunter as soon as it's ready for public consumption? If I'm still sending out queries for RTL, can I even take the leap and query for other novels? (Not to the agents I'm still waiting on, but to the agents who rejected RTL, and maybe a few others who weren't on the list because of genre differences.) For that matter, I still have Caldera which deserves to see shelfspace in a big store, and poor Blink has been cooling its heels at the back of the line.

Truth be told, I really expected RTL to capture an agent by now. But it hasn't yet. I've got some positive reactions from it, but no commitments. *shrug* Manhunter is most likely what people are looking for - nothing too deep, for one thing, and it's a romantic suspense that would sell nicely alongside Allison Brennan, Roxanne St. Claire, etc. It's gripping, it's edgy, it's got a good concept and, if I say so myself, damn good writing.


I really want Janet Reid to look at Manhunter. I think she'll love it. But she didn't love RTL. (True, I screwed up in my query to her, but it was minor enough she would've asked for pages if the concept grabbed her.) She didn't love RTL, and I don't want that book to become a new location for the dust-bunny olympics.

Then again, the agents who requested partials (and the one who already loved the partial enough to request a full) might offer representation. They might get RTL published, and if I find an agent for Manhunter instead, that may never happen.

I know, I know... I obsess too much.

So, what would you do? Anyone out there in a similar boat? Do you just drop one manuscript and start pushing another, or what?


Monday, July 14, 2008

This Isn't a Hobby

At least for me, this isn't a hobby. Let me explain...

Just now I was reading Nathan Bransford's blog post from Friday. If you scroll to the end, you'll see comments a writer left on one of Mr. Bransford's other posts. Now, I realize the author of that comment was defending writing. I know we take a lot of crap for sitting here day after day plunking away at words that may never be published. But she (I assume it was a she) defended writing by comparing it to other hobbies.

Umm, sorry. This isn't a hobby.

To me a hobby is something you do to pass the time. It's something you do for your own enjoyment only. And it's something you never envision seeing a profit from. Model builders don't expect to sell their finish products. Marathon runners don't expect to ever get the big corporate sponsorships. Most fisherman don't expect to get on the big bass circuit and win money for the fish they catch. (Commercial fisherman notwithstanding.)

I may never make a dime off this writing, but it's not a hobby. I don't just write because I have nothing better to do and I think sitting in this chair typing away is an enjoyable way to pass the time. If I wanted to do that, I'd crochet or draw or look at online properties to dream about owning. I could spend countless hours reading (which I did this past weekend) if I wanted to indulge in a hobby.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant, but the whole thing just rubbed my fur the wrong way. Like last year when I got an unsolicited e-mail inviting all amateur writers to join some club-thingy. I don't bust my ass almost every day - inviting backaches and wrist cramps and flat butt - because this is a hobby. I'm not that committed to frivolous pursuits.

Don't get me wrong. I know hobbyists also bust their asses to achieve their goals. I can't imagine spending countless hours putting together a model car - all those tiny pieces would kill me. I can't imagine running even a little bit without something large and hairy chasing me. I'm not taking anything away from those people. They work hard, but they aren't looking forward to those pursuits as careers.

This is my career.

I also know it was an analogy, and like all analogies it has to break down at some point (otherwise, it wouldn't be an analogy - it would be the exact same thing). You know me, I'm all about analogies. Love 'em. But this one was off base. A better analogy would be to liken this to getting a doctorate degree.

Think about it. When a person starts out going for a doctorate, they don't have any guarantees they're ever going to make it. They don't know how much money they'll make at the end - if any. But they spend all those years and all that money working toward the goal of a Ph.D. anyway. Maybe when they get it, they'll still find themselves working at McDonald's, but that's the way things go sometimes. Maybe at the end of all this work, a writer will find themselves with a harddrive full of books and no sales. In either case, a lot of people quit before they reach their goal, but even then, the experience wasn't a hobby. True, some people only take a class here or there to amuse themselves - like some people only write parts of stories. Those people aren't going for the degree or the publication. For them, it truly is a hobby. (And I say, good for them.) But for those people who are striving to reach the goal and won't let anything get in their way, this isn't a hobby. It's not even close.

So, what's the answer to the problem of people not giving writers their due? How do you react when you tell someone you're a writer, and they look at you like you dig ditches?

Ignore them. They don't get the amount of effort we put into our work, and they never will. Smile politely and shrug it off. When you see your name in print, every slight will become what it always was. Nothing.

Because people, if you look at this business like it's a hobby for you, you'll never be able to put forth the effort it takes to get where you need to be. Look at it like it's a job and sooner or later, it'll pay off. It has to.

Otherwise this whole thing is pointless.

:end rant:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Took the Weekend Off

And I don't feel the least bit guilty about it... which is weird for me. *shrug*

Anyway, I spent the weekend reading and I learned a couple things:

Thing 1: Karin Tabke is bloody brilliant. I'm not a huge fan of historical romance, but she nailed the novel. I fell for the main characters, and then I fell for the secondary characters. As I said in the comments over on her blog, I really want to know how things turn out for Thorin. He had to be my favorite secondary character and I hope she's planning a book for him, too. If you haven't bought a copy yet, get thee hence.

Thing 2: Lynn Viehl is a genius. Now, her Darkyn novels are not for everyone. They're a little harsh in places (which - sorry Lynn - I skip over), but the storyline itself is exceptional. She's taken the myth of the vampire and warped it into something completely new. Yes, they still have fangs and drink blood, but once you get beyond the obvious bits of the myth, she's nailed a whole new way of looking at the species. This last book was her sixth and she's putting more pieces together for the reader - things I never saw coming leaped out and smacked me in the back of the head. I sat there thinking "Now why didn't I think of that?" - because I can usually see where a plot is going ahead of time. Not with the Darkyn novels. I'd tell you more, but I don't do plot spoilers.

Now, don't get me wrong. All the books I've read this weekend have been awesome, but those were the two glaring points for me today. They make me want to be a better writer, and do the whole Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" thing in front of Lynn and Karin.

The only bad thing is...

I have to wait for the next books to come out! Write faster ladies. I'm dyin' here.



Friday, July 11, 2008

Renaming the World

It's human nature to want to have names for things, and for those things that have no name in our minds, we have a tendency to make one up. I do this on a regular basis. For instance, someone in the neighborhood got a new dog. I've never seen this dog. The only reason I know it exists is it has a very distinctive bark (which it likes to use either late at night or early in the morning). I have named this particularly annoying canine, 'Chinese Water Torture Dog' - because honest to god, that's what it sounds like. Each bark is like a drip between the eyes. It's horrible (especially when it wakes me up).

Sometimes even when I know the real name for something, I call it something else. This area is full of Western Kingbirds. They're striking birds with gray backs and yellow bellies, and they are true masters of aerial acrobatics as they swoop around hunting bugs. But the most distinctive thing about them is their call. So, I've renamed them Giggle Birds. (If you ever heard one, you'd know what I mean.)

Maybe this renaming of things began with my father, who intentionally gave things the wrong names because he thought it was fun. My oldest brother got the brunt of it, but I grew up hearing stories of how Bill was taught butterflies were flutter-byes and cookies were kee-coos (much to the dismay of our mother, and later, his kindergarten teacher).

In fifth grade, a friend and I were talking about the way the light was slanting through the clouds, and she said those beams were the walkways to heaven. Which reminds me of how as a child, I called cumulonimbus clouds the Palace of the Archangels. *shrug*

Humans need to have names and explanations for everything - it's the way we're built. Otherwise we'd just stumble along, pointing and grunting like a bunch of three-year olds.

Do you make up names for things when you don't know what the real name is? What are some of yours?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Huzzah Huzzah!

Just now I finished the re-edit of Fear Itself! Yay! After however long that took, it's done and it's eleven thousand words shorter.

And I even made myself cry at the end. God that feels good when I can make myself cry with my writing. (Don't worry, they're happy tears.)

Now, the real work begins again... Cover letter, synopsis, printing the packet... Ugh.

But for the moment, I'll revel in the feeling of completion. =oD


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Notes From the Battle Lines

Lesson: Always check and double-check submission guidelines before you hit send.

Lesson: AgentQuery, while awesome, isn't always the most complete source of information.

Too bad I forgot those lessons this morning.

Sure, I only did it with one query letter, but it was enough. AQ had a particular agent listed as accepting only query letters via email. As the agent in question point out in her rejection letter, her agency asks for 10 pgs and a 2-pg synopsis. D'oh!

Now, this is a big huge forehead smacking moment. Almost as bad as when I misspelled an important reference in my initial query letter for this book. (If you're an agent and reading this post, I'm not usually scatterbrained, my brain just scatters every once in a while - usually at the most inopportune times.) But that wasn't the worst of it.

You see, the agent in question somehow must've completely misunderstood** the intent of my book. This person either didn't bother to read past the subject line, or she skimmed the contents, and without the additional information, mistook what the book was about. I know agents don't have a great deal of time to read each query letter, so I don't blame anyone for skimming. The solution to that would've been in the materials, if I had been smart enough to include them. With a misconception like this person must've been laboring under, I would've sent a rejection, too.

What this person said was: "I've read too many novels that are similar and just come across as preachy."

First off, since I researched Amazon looking for similar books, and came up empty on any with this angle, I was stymied about the response. (If you know of any pro-choice speculative fiction set in America after abortion has been made a capital crime, let me know.)

Second, it's hard to be preachy when there's nothing to preach. The other side of the debate usually gets sole use of preachy. I'm just telling a story about one woman trying to make her own choices in a world that wants either her pregnant or dead, the man who falls in love with her, and their fight to make everything right again. Sure, there are ideas woven into the story, but the story is the main thing. There's action, there's romance, there's suspense, and like all my stories, a happy ending* (or if not exuberantly happy, at least positive).


Maybe I'll just resubmit with the appropriate materials and try to remedy the misconceptions. The worst that can happen is she rejects me again.

Your turn to chime in. Do you think any books with deeper ideas are preachy? Can books be both an entertaining read and thought provoking?

*As I've said before, books with a negative, depressing, unresolved or just plain unhappy ending irritate me to no end, so I don't write them.

**Of course, it's entirely possible that she didn't misunderstand, but instead wasn't in-line with the pro-choice philosophy. In which case, it's just as well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


That's right. My train of thought has derailed. I can't seem to muster the urge to write, to edit, or to work on my query materials. I got some reading done... but that doesn't count.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be better.

Tell me something good. Maybe your good news will get me back on track.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Books Books Books

Sorry for the late post, but I was out of town for most of the day, and spent most of the evening recovering from the long drive. Of course, there was shopping involved, which is tiring in itself - even when it is satisfying. You see, I took the big trip into Loveland/Greeley and bought books.

It's quite a haul for me to reach a big bookstore, but it is so worth it. Of course, that long a drive means I don't go there often which also means I load up when I get there. Recession be damned!

Let's see... I got:

Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven Book II) by Brandon Mull
Then You Hide by Roxanne St. Claire
Master of Surrender by Karin Tabke
Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl
Rites of Spring (Break) by Diana Peterfreund
The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter

My daughter picked up four for herself, too. Including Ink Enchange as an early birthday present.

(Okay, so the recession wasn't so damned. There were several books I had to leave behind because my budget couldn't stretch to fit them.)

I'm halfway through the Brandon Mull. I really needed a good middle grade fantasy to escape into. (If you haven't read the Fablehaven books, you really should - even if you think you're too old for them. They transcend age.)

Just an FYI: If you're thinking about buying Twilight Fall, you better check with your local store before you go. The Borders was sold out, and I bought the last copy at this Barnes & Noble. Like hotcakes, I tell ya... Hotcakes.

So, what's on your to-buy book list?


Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Cart / The Horse

Just now, I was thinking about what I would say on my Acknowledgements page. (Hence the subject of today's post... you know, about putting the cart before the horse.)

Every once in a while, I allow myself to wonder about things that can only happen after I get a contract. Like Acknowledgements... and seeing myself on BookTV... and signings... *sigh* Some day.

I also sometimes worry about negative reviews, and snerty people sending me nasty-grams because they didn't like what I had to say. (But not all that much.) I wonder whether I'll make the NY Times Bestseller List. I dream about what my cover photo will look like. (I'm thinking of wearing a hat and sunglasses, with my face in profile like I'm staring off into the distance.) And then I laugh at myself. First I need an agent, and then a publishing contract, and then... Yada yada yada. There's a boatload of steps to go through before any of those musings come to be.

Mind you, I don't spend too much time thinking of those future events. I just let them filter in on occasion. I revel in the dream of seeing a big display of my novels when I go to Barnes & Noble, or even just seeing them of the shelves where I will, of course, turn them cover out as I pass by. Spine space is fine, but the covers are so much prettier.

Maybe someday soon the horse will be in front of the cart where it belongs. Until then, I can dream. Can't I?

Tell me you do this, too, so I won't feel like such a rube.


Friday, July 4, 2008

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

For a full transcript go to: The National Archives Experience


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why Write What People Might Not Want to Read

Skipping down my blogroll this morning, I came across a bizarre thought. According to my blog buddy, JenWriter, someone somewhere made a strange statement about only querying ideas - not written manuscripts - because it's irrational to spend all that time writing a book people might not want to read. I guess the theory is to only write a book interest in it is guaranteed.

Ummm, yeah.

I'm not going to rant about it here. I think Jen did an awesome job addressing the fine points of that, and I already added my own ranterly comment to support her. But I did want to talk about the mindset here.

Why do we write books we aren't certain someone will want to read?

I guess I could go with the old standby for any endeavor that seems outlandish to those who don't do it. Like the answer to the age-old question of why anyone would climb Mt. Everest - because it's there. I could say the same thing for writing, but it doesn't nearly cover the drive. (As I suspect the 'because it's there' answer doesn't really cover the drive behind climbing Mt. Everest.)

I could fall back on the answer that I write because I have to. This is, in part, true. If I don't write for a long period of time, I tend to get a little batty. The stories pile up in my head. The characters whine and scream and babble enough to drive me to distraction. I talk to myself. (Okay, I talk to myself MORE.) I'm sure it's really quite a sight to watch me wander through the world going through writing DTs. I mean, sure, I could hold it all in and let the stories play themselves out internally, but we really don't want to be fitted for an I-love-me jacket.

So, why really do I write books before I have an offer in hand?

Because I'm not writing books just to see them in print. Yes, I want all my books to be published. Yes, I want other people to read and enjoy them as much as I do. But that's not the primary goal. If all I wanted was to publish, I would write anything. I'd be cranking out whatever I thought the market wanted, as quickly as I could get them out, to get as much moolah as my books could net me. I wouldn't care if any part of me was in the books; I wouldn't care if my own beliefs were pushed aside if that's what the market called for. I'd sell myself to the highest bidder and be done with it. (And in my darkest times, believe me, I've thought about it.)

But I'd sooner cut off my left hand and call myself Stumpy.

Right now, I have four books ready for the market. If none of them sell, so be it. I just look at it as 'they were ready for the market, but the market wasn't ready for them'. And then I write the next one. And the next one... Ad infinitum. Maybe five years and five more books from now, the market will be ready for the first four. Maybe those books will only be published after I'm long dead. It doesn't matter. I wrote them. I'm proud I wrote them. They're MINE, and they always will be.

Now, aside from that, each book was also experience in writing. The more you write, the more experience you have, and the better each subsequent book will be. (Unless you're a moron, and you don't learn from experience.) I wouldn't trade a minute of the untold hours spent writing any of my books, short stories, poems, essays, unfinished novels, etc. Those hours are only wasted if you let them be. Could I have used those hours to do something else? Sure. I could've read every book in the house, caught up on all the television shows I missed over the past few years, gotten a degree, learned how to paint, designed my dream home... There's always something else I could be doing, but for me, those things would be wasted time - because... :drumroll:

They aren't writing time.

And no matter what else I find myself doing, I'm thinking about writing anyway, so what's the point? There's writing, and everything else. And everything else is either distracting me from writing or it's experience I can use to make my writing better.

What do you think about the whole thing? Why do you write? What would you say to this misguided pseudo-writer if you could?


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stormy Night

Since the storms should be rolling in any minute now, I won't be working tonight. Thank goodness I got a couple chapters edited this afternoon. Must've been thinking ahead for a change.

Oooo. That was a close lightning strike.

I'm gone. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Breaking Free of the Comfort Zone

As you may or may not know, I play poker online. It helps me relax and it uses a different part of my brain than writing (leaving the writing part to work out plot niggles or to just rest, as need be). Anyway, I play the low stakes tournaments. I'm comfortable there. If I lose, I don't lose much, so there're no worries about going broke and having to reload. On the other hand, if I win, I don't win much. A piffle. My bankroll never really goes down, but it never really goes up either.

Now, looking at the play money bankrolls I have at various places around the online poker world, I know I'm good at this. One site has me at over two million in play money. Another site was closer to three million before I stopped playing there. But I still don't play bigger tournaments. (And yes, it took me a long time to reach those stacks playing for beans.)

The problem is fear, of course. I'm a chicken. A big chicken, as a matter of fact. I can't seem to bring myself to take the risk. Which also means I can't reap the rewards. I was thinking about this yesterday and came to the realization that this big-chicken-ness drifts into other parts of my life--namely writing--and it has the same consequences.

I'm working on polishing (re-re-re polishing) Spectacle to make it presentable for a publisher. But I'm not working very hard. I'm dragging my feet. I'm inventing excuses to not work on the book. In short, I'm being a big HUGE chicken. You see, the idea of submitting to a publisher is outside my comfort zone. Sure, I've done it before. Twice before. Four years and four ready-for-publication manuscripts and I've only submitted to publishers twice.

Big chicken.

I believe in my writing ability, like I believe in my poker skills, but making that jump to the bigger risk is freaking me out. And if you've ever played poker, you know that fear is the quickest way to lose. If you're afraid your pocket Jacks will get beat, you'll never push all-in with them, and you'll end up getting beat by some moron with 8-7 offsuit who gets lucky flopping a straight. If you're afraid your manuscript will get rejected, and don't send it in, someone else's book will get published while yours gathers dust in a corner. In either case, someone else wins.

And you lose.

So, last night I decided... To hell with my comfort zones. No more excuses. I will finish polishing Spectacle and get it out to the publisher before their submission window closes and I'm left standing in the snow like The Little Matchgirl (read at your own risk - it's not one of Hans Christian Anderson's happier tales).

And who knows, I might just play for higher stakes today. I might lose some big money, but I could win bigger money, too.