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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

*Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seven Things

This morning as I went through my blogroll, I was surprised to find myself tagged for the Seven Things meme. :points: JenWriter did it.

Before I get to the meme, though, there are a few things of note on the blogosphere this morning:
- An agent told me I'm not a great writer! How do I survive? posted by Moonrat over at Editiorial Ass.

- Characters are People, Too by Allison Brennan at Murder She Writes

- Past Perfection by PaperbackWriter

And on to the meme... So here's the deal. I have to write seven facts about myself. I'm guessing it's seven things that aren't generally known, or that I haven't already meme'd about.

1) I pick up other people's accents. If I'm around anyone with an accent for more than a few minutes, I start talking with their accent. It's totally unconscious and I have to force myself to not do it (if I catch myself, which I rarely do). I think it's genetic. My father had the same problem, and once got accused of making fun of someone with an accent (something he would never do) because he started talking like them halfway through the conversation. I think I accidentally offended some Mennonites during my garage sale because of this, but I swear I couldn't help it. Heaven help me if I get a NY agent with a Bronx accent - it could get sticky.

2) I have a complete set of 1957 encyclopedias - purchased by my parents when my mother was pregnant with my oldest brother. Inside are all the four leaf clovers we found as children, along with various other sundry items kept inside their pages as memories. They're the same encyclopedias I had to use as reference material when I was in high school, even though according to them, man never landed on the moon.

3) I have a penchant for naming animals. I called the dog that lived next my office in Michigan Fidget. The cat that lives behind this house is now called Simone (or Simon if I find out she's a he). At our last house our feeder attracted a house finch that was orange (don't ask), and I named him Syracuse. Heck, the last time we were at PetsMart they had a cat up for adoption whose name tag read 'Princess'. I told the cashier they needed to change her name to Pun'kin. She didn't look like a princess. She looked like a Pun'kin because the orange in her fur was the exact color of pumpkin pie filling.

4) When I was in college, I spent hours wandering through the Seventh Street Park Cemetary and often sat on the steps of the Kaufman mausoleum to write letters and papers. It's not that I have any affinity for cemetaries, it was just that it was the quietest place I could find to get away from school and people and just be alone.

5) All of my best friends in high school were Catholic. This wouldn't be strange, except I've never been Catholic. They called me their token heathen.

6) My father died of Wegener's Disease. (Well, technically he died of kidney failure, but the kidneys failed because of Wegener's Disease - better known as Wegener's Granulamatosis.) It's an incredibly rare auto-immune disease that makes your body not see any of its organs as its own - and therefore attacks them as foreign bodies. It got Dad's kidneys first and then went after his lungs before they got it into remission. There is no cure, and no one knows what causes it. They only know it's not contagious, it's not genetic, and they can't find any outside agent that would make it happen. It's is often misdiagnosed, especially at the early stages, and goes untreated until the patient is too far gone for any of the stop-gap treatments to do any good. Dad was misgdiagosed three times before he found a doctor who knew what the hell was wrong with him. Once, they mentioned it as a possible diagnosis on the show House.

7) On a happier note, I once saved a nest of bunnies who were exposed after the lawn mowing crew removed the cardboard box they were living under. None of them were injured, btw. When they were old enough, I took them out to the country to live next to the house where I grew up. I imagine the ghost of my dog is chasing them through the weeds even as I type this.

The bunnies once I put their nest back together.

The bunnies just before I released them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

This is definitely a strange business, and if I knew when I started what I know now, I would've approached this thing differently. What's done is done, but I can't help wondering if there aren't people wandering around in the same haze who could use a little wisdom. I know I could've.

For instance, there are several places where the advice seems logical enough to the neophyte, but in practice just hurts your chances. Like the advice to compare your work to other writers in your query letter. Supposedly this is to show that you know the market and you know where your books ought to be placed on a shelf. What they neglect to tell you, though, is that comparing your work to the big names (i.e. King, Grisham, Hemingway, etc.) is almost an auto-NO. It comes off as pretentious (or so I've heard), and since no one writes exactly the same as anyone else, telling an agent you write like Stephen King is just wrong. I guess there's a way to balance who you think you write like without coming off like a pompous ass, but I haven't figured it out yet. So I just leave it off.

Or the advice to write your query letters in a business-like manner, which is at odds with the advice to not write your query letters like a business letter. I think what they're going for here is a level of professionalism in a query letter. Make sure you're not coming off too casual, and also not too stiff. Work on sounding like a professional writer without sounding like a secretary (which was difficult for me, since I was a secretary).

But beyond those pieces of advice (and others like them), there are things they just don't tell you. Or things you just don't want to see right now. Just to give you a few things I've learned:

- Writing the books is not the hard part. I know it may seem like the hard part, especially when it's your first and you're wondering if you'll ever be able to finish it, but it's not. The hard parts begin after you write THE END.

- Learn everything you can learn about the industry BEFORE you send your first query letter. Don't think just because you looked at few sample letters and read a couple of what seemed like spot-on directions for writing query letters that your letter is good. I thought I'd done everything right, and looking back now, I see my first query letters were horrific.

- Don't assume this business is like any other business you've ever experienced before. It's not. The writing industry isn't like anything I've ever encountered, and I've worked in a lot of different professions.

- Don't assume because you heard about some writer who got their book contract bing-bang-boom, and had their book on the shelves lickedy-split, that it's going to happen for you. For the most part, this is a long, slow process. The book you finished today - even if you get an agent tomorrow - won't get a contract for a few months and won't be published for about a year after that.

- Rejections suck, but they are all a part of this process. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who never got a single rejection. The first agent is probably not going to snatch you up, and the first publisher is probably not going to squeal with glee over your masterpiece. If you're lucky the rejection numbers will be low before you get your YES, but don't hold your breath.

- Not everyone is going to like your writing. Get over it. I remember the day when one of my friends first told me she didn't like one of my books. Everyone else liked it, but something about it didn't sit right with her. Stuff happens. She's still my friend and appreciated her honesty. Not that it didn't sting to hear it, but as a writer you need to hear the bad stuff along with the good.

- Most writers and agents and other advice-givers are good people, but there are a few snerts out there. Do your best to avoid them, and if you do run across one, try to ignore them. Of course, they may be disguised as someone who is genuinely trying to help, but if you don't like their advice and go your own way, they'll show themselves for who they are. If it gets to that, try to weather through, and go find yourself some nicer people to talk to.

- As I've said before, most rules can be bent, but you have to know what the rule is before you can bend it, and you have to have a logical reason for bending it even then.

- And as I've also said before, take any advice you receive with a grain of salt (including mine). Use it only as it pertains to your writing and your idea of what your book ought to be. Not everything works for every writer, and none of our processes are exactly the same. No matter what happens, you have to be true to yourself.

Any advice my fellow old-timers have for the neophytes who might be reading along today? What are some things you've learned that you wish you knew back when you started?


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That Ain't It Kid

Hello. Yes, I've been absent for a few days. No, I wasn't sick, hurt, maimed or dead. I was just tired (or at least I think that's what's been my problem). Not sleepy-tired, just wore-out. Or maybe the tired that usually has 'sick and' in front of it. Most likely a combination of both.

You see, the writing lately just hasn't been coming out. I've started several scenes and a couple of new stories, but I get a few paragraphs in and am overwhelmed by the urge to set fire to it all. I even thought about getting a day job (which is impossible since I homeschool, but the thought was there). I didn't even want to blog.

Sounds like my usual semi-annual thing, right? Kinda, but this felt much worse.

Have you ever seen the movie version of A Chorus Line? There's a song in there called 'Dance Ten, Looks Three' that seemed to sum it all up for me over the weekend. (My subconscious even got it stuck in my head, so I could review the lyrics all day Saturday.) The especially poignant part goes something like this: "Dance 10, Looks 3, and I'm still on unemployment, dancing for my own enjoyment. That ain't it, kid. That ain't it, kid." Rewrite it so it's this business instead of dancing, and you get the gist.

About the same time the song popped into my head, it occurred to me that it's now been four years since I started querying for my first book. Four f'ing years. Still unpublished and, in essence, dancing for my own enjoyment. That really ain't it, kid. I didn't start doing this to end up doing what amounts to little more than mental masturbation. I started writing to be published. And sure, I had the same ol' newbie belief that I would write a book, and selling it would be the easy part. Silly me. Or maybe naive would be more correct. My own naivete astounds even me sometimes, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, the whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Four years and five books (five totally finished, six if you count the one I never edited). Three books sent through the query machine wherein my confidence was folded, spindled and mutilated. And I'm just now starting to send the fifth book through. (The third book never went through - not sure why at the moment, but I just never queried for it. But that's a post for another time.) Sure, I'm getting some positive attention on Manhunter, but I'm also getting some negative, and for some reason the negative seems to overshadow the positive. Which is what hit me, knocked me down and kicked sand in my face.

So, what did I do?

I quit. Or rather, I took a mini-vacation. I stepped away from the computer and the notebooks and the pens. I took out my crochet hook, and my skeins of yarn. Friday I just sat on the couch and crocheted until my hands cramped. I didn't think about anything writing related. I watched television and let myself get lost in the repetitive motion of a single chain stitch. By Saturday, I decided I was making another blanket and had a good start - and had that song stuck in my head. Now I did start thinking about writing, and the thoughts weren't good. This is when I thought about chucking the idea of ever getting published, and therefore chucking the idea of ever writing another damn book. Instead, I considered what I would have to do to sell my handiwork, how much each piece would be worth, and whether anyone would want to buy this other product of my creativity (because if I was honest with myself, no one was buying the other products, if you know what I mean). I thought about finding myself a good eight to five job with a real paycheck and forgetting this writing thing.

On Sunday, I figure I was halfway through crocheting the blanket, which was now going to be a gift for someone. (Because setting up an online store to sell crocheted things would mean I would have to crochet some stock ahead of time, and these blankets usually take me weeks to finish.) As I continued to crochet, I started thinking about the actual work again - not all the peripheral stuff, but the actual putting word on paper part. I just let my mind wander over the stories. I thought about all the problems I'm having with Nano, and I saw some ways to fix what's wrong. I wondered where I was going with the story and what to write next, and some key things fell into place. Between strips of color, I picked up the notepad and pen - jotted notes to myself on these issues.

As of yesterday, the blanket is about 80% complete. I have three pages of notes on Nano. The worst of the crap is over (for now) and I think I'm almost ready to get back to work. Hey, I'm blogging, and that's gotta stand for something positive, right?

It may still be Dance Ten, Looks Three, and I'm dancing for my own enjoyment, but for right now, that'll have to do. Quit writing? That ain't it, kid.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Frustration and Irritation

Okay, I flew off the handle yesterday. Almost deleted the post, but then decided to leave it there - if only to show others in this position that they aren't alone. (I did change the subject to remove the f word. It wasn't necessary.)

You see, I get frustrated when I hear about some of the dumb, thoughtless and often mean things people who call themselves writers say to other, often newer, writers. Early on, I was on the receiving end of some of this bilge, and it really knocked me off kilter. I was naive enough to believe that everyone in a writing community was there to give and receive a little empathy. All the unpubs are going through about the same things, and all the pubs have been here themselves, so it stands to reason all the people in a writing community want to help one another.

Silly me.

Which is I left that community, and part of the reason why I subsequently left another. Too much backbiting, in-fighting, dirty-little-digs and out & out misinformation passed off as wisdom. *shrug*

I'm the first to admit I don't know everything about this business. (If I did, I'd be published already, right?) One thing I do know, though, is that no matter what anyone says, you have to be true to yourself. Hence yesterday's unscheduled rant.

I get irritated when a supposed authority on the subject of writing says stupid things - for instance any sentence in which the idea of not being a real writer comes up. I've heard people say you aren't a real writer unless you write x-number of words a day. I've heard about people who've said silly things like 'only hacks write...' pick a style, any style and it'll fall under someone's idea of being a hack. First person? Hack. Omniscient? Hack. Start with dialogue? Hack. Romance??? Hack. Get the idea?

Anyway, I usually ignore the little irritations. What's the point of confronting any of them? When you're in a discussion with someone who's obviously irrational, the best thing to do is stop talking - you'll never get through to them, and they won't stop trying to get through to you. The only problem with that for me, though, is that all the little irritations have a tendency to build up and fester until I blow a gasket. Like yesterday.

Add that to the stress of the past month, and Voila! Exploding writer.

Anyway, what it all boils down to is that I really want to help newer writers avoid the crap I went through, and if just one of them can look at a bad piece of advice and say 'bite me', then my work is done.

Have a nice weekend everyone. In the words of Rufus, "Be excellent to each other."


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bend the Rules...

In the words of the immortal Thomas Edison (you know... the guy with 1093 patents): "Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something."

Of course, strictly speaking, he did follow rules - like the laws of physics, etc. - but he didn't let some other person's arbitrary rules stand in the way of getting things done. And he sure as hell didn't let anyone else tell him he was doin' it wrong. Heh, part of the reason he got so much done was that he WAS doing it wrong. As long as the outcome was what he wanted, though, he didn't much care what anyone else thought.

As writers we do have to follow some rules - like the rules of the English language - but beyond those, the rest is what we make up as we go along. (And even those are really subject to interpretation depending on what you're trying to do.)

Since I started this writing thing four and a half years ago, I've encountered too many rules that other people assumed were set in stone. If you've been around the block a few times, you know what I'm talking about. In their minds, breaking those rules was Verboten. You know what? Maybe all the rules work for them. What they don't understand, though, is their rules don't work for everyone.

This morning, Toni McGee Causey talks about the whole writing schedule rule over at Murder She Writes. To paraphrase this unwritten rule as I heard it: "In order to be considered a 'real writer' one must adhere to a schedule, creating x-number of words in x-hours every day." Feh. Some even go so far as to give you a timetable - like working from 10-2 or 5-9 every day means you get to have a plaque on your desk that says 'professional writer'. *shrug*

Don't get me wrong. I like rules. I'm a rule following kind of person. And that's what got me in so much trouble early on in this writing business. I was so busy trying to follow every little damn rule, I was crushing my creativity like a bug, not to mention allowing myself to get pulled apart trying to follow conflicting rules. That's just crazy.

I guess what I'm trying to say this morning is: Bend the rules, and ignore anyone who says you have to follow each and every one of them in order to be considered a real writer. Rules were meant to be broken (or at least bent to fit) - especially when they're being applied to something as fluid as writing.

And no, I'm not advocating that you totally turn into Yoda. "Write books I do. Good they are." But see, even that craptacular bit of English worked for its intended purpose.

In short, use the rules that work for you. Bend them to fit. Man was meant to shape the word around him, not be shaped by it. Shape the rules until you have the best story you can write. And the next person who tells you you'll never be a real writer because you didn't follow his rules? Tell him to go pound sand.

Or better yet, ignore him and do your own thing.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Touched by Murder

The other night my husband and I were talking, and I was relaying the story of the murderer I knew. Sure, I didn't know him well. He was closer to my brother's age, and in my sister's grade (having been left back a couple times). I was twelve when it happened, and one of his step-sisters was in my grade. If I remember right, he was eighteen or nineteen.

It was Christmas day when he finally snapped and killed his father. It came as a shock to those who didn't know the guy. To those who knew him, no one was surprised. You see, his father had been abusing him for years. This guy - I'll call him Fred - was a handsome boy but withdrawn and a little creepy (from what I remember). I'm guessing that most people thought he was just born shy. In reality, he was shy because of the abuse he endured. In the end, everyone knew the truth.

Fred took his father's shotgun and within seconds, the abuse stopped. Unfortunately for Fred, when he snapped, he really snapped. He turned the gun on his step-mother, who had only been married to his father for a short time. (Thank goodness he left his step-siblings alone. They were in the basement when this all happened.) After he killed his step-mother, he left the house. I can only assume he was looking for solace when he went to his ex-girlfriend's house. He didn't find any. She was the next to die. When her screams brought the neighbor over to investigate, that poor man took a blast from the shotgun, too.

When they finally caught Fred, he was charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder - the neighbor lived. He got serving three consecutive life sentences in a prison in Michigan, plus twenty-five years tacked on for the attempted. Last I heard from my mother, he was still alive and still in the same place. (An internet search of his name revealed nothing, but this happened almost 26 years ago.)

So, anyway, the following morning, I couldn't get poor Fred out of my head. What his life must've been like to make him snap so hard, what the kids in the basement must've thought or felt when they heard the shots and what they must've gone through when they came upstairs, where they all are now. And a story idea was born.

Seems a little opportunistic when I say it now, but the plan is to take the reality and mesh it with the fiction - changing names and those events I wasn't privy to. Even so, I'm still a little torn about doing it. I would really have to change it and also change the way I think about Fred as it relates to the fictionalization.

You see, I feel sorry for Fred. I always have. I also feel sorry for his second through fourth victims. The only person who doesn't deserve an iota of pity in this story is his father. But whatever his father did, there should've been another way. Fred just couldn't see it. In the end, I think Fred's father got what he deserved, and afterwards, Fred got what he deserved for killing those innocent people. That doesn't mean it didn't all suck, but finding the right way to write it - hitting the balance between sympathy for Fred and anger for his father without excusing the awful things Fred did.

All those lives ruined...

Anyway, has anything like this ever touched your life? Would you write about it if it did?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Morning

Nothing like getting a partial request first thing in the morning. What a wonderful way to start the day. =o)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Subconscious is Illiterate

Illiterate or, at the very least, ignorant.

I know the difference between too, to and two. I also know all about they're, there and their. Know and No? Got it down. Blue, bleu and blew? Like the back of my hand.

But my subconscious hasn't a clue. It takes over my fingers when I'm not paying attention and throws the wrong homonym in the mix. It's also been known to jump in and substitute one small word for another. Like 'on' for 'of' or the unprecedented 'who' for 'now' (which happened just the other day). I know what I want to type, but then I look up and a completely different word is sitting in its place.

On the other hand, my subconscious could just be a dirty bastard. For all I know it substitutes a wrong word, and then sits back and giggles at me.

Thank goodness for editing. For the most part I catch these tricks it plays (or to be kind, its stupidity) in my stories - either through my own editing or my lovely CPs and BRs. The problem is, I don't edit the blog. If I don't catch the mistakes the first time through, or if they don't jump out at me after I post, they're there for all to see. (Including potential agents... Ack!)

The other day, Janet Reid mentioned something about the blogs she visits out of her 'followers' widget. She said to make sure everything on the blog is correct so she, and agents like her, don't get the wrong idea. I about fell over in paroxysms of terror. I know my blog isn't perfect, and I know the things my subconscious sometimes throws out there behind my back (or behind my cerebral cortex, as the case may be). All I can hope is that any agent stumbling across my blog will realize what I say on here isn't indicative of my finished product.

As always I try my best to thwart my subconscious's need to take over my fingers, but sometimes its work gets onto the page. I'd tie it up and lock it in a closet, but unfortunately, it's the source of some of my best flashes of inspiration. I guess I'll just have to live with its occasional slips and/or games.

What does your subconscious do for/to you?


Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Fine Line

Okay, we writers all know that we have to make our characters sympathetic. We have to write in such a way to make the reader feel like they know the characters and that they want to know more about them. But there's a fine line between giving the reader enough information to fall for the people in our stories, and overloading them with too much.

As a reader, I like to know a little something about the people I'm investing my time in. Give me a little something to make the characters human and I'm happy. Make them seem real through their actions and their backgrounds and their habits. But really, I don't want the writer to belabor the point. Mention something once - unless it's integral to the plot - and then let it go. Say, for instance, a character is trying to quit smoking. Having her wrestle with it throughout the book, when she's trying to catch a murderer is too much. Having her partner shoot her dirty looks every time she lights up is irritating to say the least. (The reader - namely me - got it the first time.) Or for instance, delving into the character's home life. If it's not part of the plot, leave it out. So the kids are royal snots, and the ex-husband's a dork. Mention it and then let it go. Unless that's the crux of the story, fine. Otherwise, it's just flotsam. Get your little pool scooper and fling it out.

Now, for those few of you who've read my books, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail and tell me if you ever catch me doing this. I don't want things that aren't integral to the plot muddying up the works.

And yes, I know I mention Jace's fear of fire throughout Manhunter. I do that because it's integral to the plot, but if you think I've laid it on too thick, shoot me now before I get one point-blank between the eyes from an agent.

I think it was Aristotle who said something to the effect of 'In all things, moderation." With my writing, I try to strike a balance, and while it is a fine line sometimes, it's usually wide enough to see.

Without mentioning any titles or names, have you run across any obvious instances where the author laid it on too thick?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Pondering and Mental Wandering

Last night as I lay on the couch semi-watching the Rays beat the BoSox*, I let my mind wander. The new house blues have me, and writing seems so far away. Sometimes if I just let myself drift, I can catch the current and get back to work. I was hoping for that last night.

Instead I started to ponder over the books I've already completed. Things I could still tweak to make them better. Things I may be able to do to improve their chances of getting published. I also went back over books I started a while ago and never finished. The cute mystery series still deserves to be written. The book with SF undercurrents is still waiting for me to find the right path. And then there's the new books I have waiting for me. The Untitled Somethin-Somethin, for instance.

I thought about Blink, and wondered if it might be better served if I warped it into a YA. (For the record, this is the book I finished but never really submitted because I was hot to write RTL.) I thought about the submission materials for everything that went before and wondered if those were the cause of my unpublishedness.

And I doubted myself. In fact, the longer I pondered, the more I doubted my ability to write.

So I went to bed.

Feeling better this morning. Of course, this post by Diana Peterfreund helped. Nothing gets me fired up faster than hearing about some idiot who has decided to make itself the authority on the ONLY right way to write books. (Not Diana - she's awesome.)

I don't know what I'm going to do next. Probably revisit all my query materials to see if they're as lame as I was thinking last night or if that was just caused by a case of the squirms. Then I'll decide whether to jump backwards into an old story or forward into something new. I did decide to leave Blink alone. Turning it into a YA would undercut the plot, and wouldn't serve any purpose except to jump on the 'hot YA' bandwagon.

So, what's on your plate? Ever get to pondering and wandering? Does yours lead to self-doubt or self-realization?

*found out later that the BoSox came back after I went to bed and beat the Rays... dang it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's Up Here

Okay, I'm officially out of the other house now. Yesterday I got the last of the stuff out, cleaned like a madwoman and handed in the keys. Yay. Loads of fun. Especially since I sprained my ankle on Monday. Nothing like carrying a box of books and missing a step. Shot-put the books several feet, turned my ankle and landed on my ass. If anyone was watching, I'm sure it looked hilarious. I swore up a storm, and probably shocked the crap out of the old lady who lives next door. I spent all day Tuesday on the couch (with occasional limps to the computer for mail checking and blog stuff).

Got a lot of reading done lying on the couch. I started Grisham's The Firm the night before and finished it by bedtime. I also took a nap, watched TV and ate junkfood.

Which left yesterday to get the hell out of the other house before they expected more rent. With my daughter's help, we got it done. (She's a great kid, if I haven't already said so.) So now I'm here, and unless something bizarre happens - again - we'll be here for a while.

Now I can get to querying again. I can sit my butt down and write again. Life can slip back into a groove of some sort once more.

So, today's question is: Are you the kind of person who needs to be in a groove of some sort, or can you roll without one? If you need a groove, how long does it take you to get back into the groove after you've been derailed?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Character Interviews... The Guys

Since my gals are a little too busy to give me an interview, I thought I'd try the guys today. The reactions were a little... Well, they're guys.

Michael (from Spectacle): "If you'd like, Alex could interview me."

Tom (also from Spectacle): "Schedule something with my assistant."

Gray (from Caldera): "Do you want to interview me about my job as a park ranger or my involvement with the charitable trust? If it's another interview about the volcano business, I'm not at liberty to talk about that right now."

Daniel (from Blink): "If I was still the Captain of the Union's special guard, I'd have to kill you just for asking. As it is, though, I have to protect Mary and talking to you publicly would probably be a bad idea."

Finn (from RTL): Whereabouts unknown.

Ben (from Manhunter): "I'm guessing you'd have to talk to someone at the Special Crimes Unit."

Jack (from Nano): "Randi would kill me if I talked to you about what's happening. If you want to talk about my company, though, I'll have some time at the end of the month. If I'm still alive, that is."

Dennis (from AWJ): "I can't talk during an ongoing investigation, but despite what Jillian has to say, she is not a suspect. At least not in my mind... Well, not anymore."

Tomorrow, we'll see if the villians are more forthcoming. ;o)


Monday, October 13, 2008

Character Interviews...

The good news is I'm feeling better this morning. The bad news is I have to go pack up all the leftover stuff and finish cleaning the old house. Ugh.

Anyway, it's obvious my brain has been on other - less interesting - things lately. My books are still sitting, waiting for me to write them. My blog posts are bleh. So, I decided to ask my heroines to help with today's blog post by granting me interviews... Needless to say, the responses were... ummm... interesting.

The heroines -

Alex (from Spectacle): "Shouldn't I be the one interviewing you?"

Myke (from Caldera): "I don't have time for this."

Mary (from Blink): "I'd let you interview me, but then the Union would find me, and I'm not a big fan of disappearing."

Rachel (from RTL): "Giving you an interview could get me killed."

Jace (from Manhunter): "I'll be happy to give an interview but I have to catch this bitch first, and even then you have to clear it with my boss."

Miranda (from Nano): "No comment"

Jillian (from AWJ): "You've got to be kidding me. An interview? What, so you can help them pin these deaths on me? No way in hell."

Ummm... In the interest of keeping the girls safe and happy, I think I'll just wait until tomorrow and find something else to blog about. Maybe I'll see what the guys have to say...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not Dead. Wish I Were.

Okay, not really. I'm just super sore, and even typing these few words hurts.

Yesterday was the last day of the massive moving sale, and during slow spots, I cleaned the old house. Ever try to get carpeted stairs clean? Ugh. Even if you can manage to get the attachments on the vacuum to do the job, they only work for the top few and bottom few stairs. And the dustbuster thingie never does carpet very well. I don't know whether it was the brightest idea, but I brushed the stairs by hand. They look lovely, but my hands are paying for it now.

Anyway, you didn't come here to listen to me bitch. (Unless you like that sort of thing.) It wasn't all bad yesterday. I closed up the sale after having sold the majority of my stuff, and hit the grocery store for dinner. (No way was I cooking after all that work.) I bought frozen pizzas, and two bags of chocolate goodies. Something about chocolate-covered peanuts just makes everything better, and chocolate stars? Fuggetaboutit.

The rest of the day was spent watching football, eating, and reading. Since Wednesday, I finished two of the books I bought, and I'm most of the way through another. I expect that third book will be finished this morning. No writing is getting done yet. But reading counts. Right?

Speaking of reading, here are my thoughts on the books I just bought:

Night Caller - Not what I expected, and I'm not sure if I had it to do over again, I'd still buy it, but overall it was a good book. I was afraid the author would screw up the story at the end, and I'd be tempted to throw the book against the wall, but he pulled it out.

Where There's Fire - Pretty good. Worth the $5.97 I paid at Walmart. Problem is, I finished it yesterday and without getting up to look at the cover, I can't remember what it was about. I remember liking it, but the story didn't stick inside my head.

Last Known Victim - This book could be why I can't remember the other one. Nice build up of tension, good characters, zippy story. I could do without all the references to hurricane Katrina - since the hurricane only plays a factor in the beginning of the book - but the author is from New Orleans, so I guess it's more important to her than to a chick stuck in dustbowl CO. It's distracting me from the story, though, and since the story is pretty good, I don't want to be distracted.

What's all this mean to me as a writer? It shows me things I don't want to do in my own books, as well as things I want to make sure I do. Keeping the reader's interest is a definite must, but I also want my work to make enough of an impression that even a brain like mine will remember it the next day. I have to make sure I get my point across without it being a distraction for the reader - and if it's sticking out so much it's pulling the reader out of the story, I either have to weave it in better or leave it out. Finally, I have to write my stories in such a way that the reader never gets the temptation to chuck my work against a wall - even if I do manage to pull it out in the end. If the temptation is great enough, the reader won't get to see how I save the story, because the book will be on the floor.

See? Reading is work. ;o)

Have you learned any lessons from novels you've read that you have applied to your own writing? Or if you don't write, are there any particularly annoying things writers do that irritate the crap out of you? Feel free to dish.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Trying New Authors

I was just sitting here thinking about what makes a person try a new author. You see, yesterday I went out of town and hit the nearest indie bookstore. Since book buying wasn't the main reason for going, I didn't bother to make a list of books I might be interested in. I just picked up whatever looked good. So, other than a used copy of The Firm, I bought four books by writers I never heard of.

The Deadliest Strain by Jan Coffey
Where There's Fire by Maureen McKade
Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler
Night Caller by John Lutz

There were other books I wanted, but my purchases last week were mainly for enjoyment, so I picked this week's books as market research. (I mean, seriously, The Dresden Files are not a genre I ever plan on writing, although I try to look at every book as research on the craft of writing.) Thus, all of the above are either suspense, thriller or romantic suspense.

Anyway, they got me to thinking about what makes me try a new author. Obviously, the above were picked because they are new (or newer than old) books in the genre I'm currently working in. But what other thing drew me to these books when there were hundreds of others to choose from?

Since the indie only has books shelved with the spine out (to save space), the first thing that had to grab me was the title. Okay, the first thing that drew me to most books was the author's name, but this indie didn't have a lot of names from blogs I hang around, so the title would have to do. (And she didn't have a single Allison Brennan on the shelves this time. Must have sold out, and hasn't restocked.)

If the title was at all grabby, I pulled the book out and looked it over. If the cover wasn't lame, I flipped it over and skimmed the back copy. With the Spindler book, the phrase - The perpetrator, known only as "The Handyman" remains at large. - jumped out at me. Ooo, a serial killer with a nickname. Perfect. With the McKade, what got me was the arson case - which has a vague connection with my book Manhunter. For the Coffey, it was the medical/terrorist plot thing, and how Nano is similar (not much beyond something medical and something terrorist, but close enough to buy the book).

I don't know what drew me to Night Caller by John Lutz. Perhaps it was the cover with its ominous black outline of a man who's obviously getting ready to garrot someone. Maybe it was the backcover hook: Young, Beautiful... and Dead. Could be the whole package got me. *shrug* Whatever way you look at it, it ended up coming home with me.

Different things for different books, but whatever those things were, they got the book into my car and here in my TBR pile.

I know one of the books I picked up last week (Dragon Actually) was an impulse buy based on the title, hot guy on the cover and tasty blurb about a gal having to choose between her lust for a guy and her love for a dragon. I know it's always a crap shoot buying a book that way, and I've been burned before, but I lucked out. That is one HOT book. Actually it's two hot stories in one book, but the stories are about the same world with some of the same characters.

Well, I think I've rambled enough this morning. Your turn: What made you pick up the last few books you bought?


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Poll Results

Well, my thoroughly unscientific poll lived up to its name. In an overwhelming landslide, McCain took 75% of the votes, with a second place tie between Obama and 'None of the Above'.

I didn't plan it this way, but my poll closed just before last night's presidential debate - which I semi-watched with the sound off while I was on the computer. It seemed like every time I looked up, Obama was talking and he had his 'sincere face' on while McCain stood in the background wearing his 'bemused look'. Every time I see either of them, I watch their body language and they both appear to have put on their faces for the occasion. Just once I'd like to look up and see something real. *shrug*

Needless to say, these were not the results I was expecting, especially since the writing community seems to lean toward the Democrat side. (And just so you know, I was the one who voted 'None'.) They certainly don't reflect the national polls in any way, shape or form.

And I know about polls. You see, since I'm home most of the time, I get a lot of poll calls - and unless dinner is going to burn, I'm happy to answer them. Other than the actual vote, it's about the only way to get your voice heard, and I'll take the opportunity while I have it. But the odd thing about most polls is that the polling organization (or the pollster herself) has the answers they want in mind before you ever pick up the phone.

One night while my husband was working, I spent twenty minutes taking a poll. That was an interesting one, and by the end, both the pollster and I were laughing. She was a bright gal, and I was in rare form. Why were we laughing? Because every question she read to me was slanted so badly, I couldn't help but make comments about it. I wish I could remember some of them, but the memory fails this morning. They were pretty bad, and since she was doing her job, she had to ask them in the way that they were written. She knew they sucked, and so did I, so we had fun with the poll.

Then again, the other afternoon I answered two questions before the pollster hung up on me. I guess I wasn't answering the questions the way she wanted me to. The first question was something like who's opinion do I listen to most when making voting decisions, and then she proceeded to give me options. I told her I don't listen to people's opinions to make decisions. (I'm a fact kind of gal.) The next question was which organizations influence my voting decisions, and another list was read. I told her 'none of the above' - which I admit wasn't one of the offered options, but I really don't listen to unions or corporations or churches or anyone else. I might take others' thoughts into consideration, but each organization has it's own agenda for who they're backing, and more often than not, their agenda isn't mine. In the end, no one influences my vote to any real degree.

What I want, and what I think most people want, is a candidate who is genuine. No plastic interchangeable faces they can put on and take off to fit the situation. No shaking hands and kissing babies. I want a candidate who means what he says, and says what he means - without changing his stance to meet whatever the stance is of who he's talking to. I want some friggin' integrity in a politician*.

Is that really too much to ask?

*and yes, that does sound like an oxymoron, but politicians with integrity did exist once upon a time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New House, New Book

As many times as I've moved in the past few years, you'd think I'd have a handle on this 'writing in a new place' thing.

Let's just say, I'm working on it.

Every time I move, I have a devil of a time getting back into whatever project I was working on before the move. This didn't seem like it was going to be any different. Trust me, I had every intention of getting back to work on Nano, but every time I thought about it, the taciturn beast would stick her tongue out at me and refuse to work. So, today I decided to do an end-around on my muse.

She doesn't want to work on what needs to be worked on? Well, tough titties. I'm not going to let that stop me. Nope. Instead of sitting down and staring at Nano for countless hours, with nothing to show for it, I started work on another story that's been playing at the edges of my mind for a while now.

So, you'll notice an as-yet-untitled work meter going up soon. I got just over 900 words out tonight. (I would've done more, but we were still wrestling over how to restart Nano when this idea hit me.) This idea started out as the next book in the series that may possibly start with Manhunter. And if the series doesn't fly, a few tweaks should make it into a stand alone.

We'll see how it goes.

As an aside, do you have any idea how hard it is to NOT smoke while writing when you've been doing it for over a year? This new house is a non-smoking one, so now I have to go outside to grab a cigarette. It's killer. Like I need another speed-bump to my writing right now. Even as I type this post, I'm longing to light up. But the landlady will kill me where I stand if I smoke in here. You should've seen me trying to play poker earlier. Ugh. Chewing gum and twiddling with a pen do not work. They didn't work when I actually tried to quit back in '01, they aren't working now. *shrug* I wrote Blink without smoking, and I did it in six weeks. I can do this, too.

Oh, and if you didn't read the post from earlier today, I started querying for Manhunter today. Scroll down and wish me luck. =o)

Wading Into the Ocean Again

Okay, I've only ever waded into the actual ocean once, but I'm trying to be literary here. ;o)

To put it a more straightforward way, I'm querying again. I sent out the first small batch this afternoon for Dying Embers (aka Manhunter). Keep your fingers crossed that I did everything right this time, and the agents getting it are in the right frame of mind, and they're also looking for this particular genre right now, and... Well, you probably know the drill. So many things are out of my hands that sometimes the query business drives me batty.

Like, how much to you divulge about your affinity for a particular agent before it comes off as insincere gushing? On the other hand, how little is too little? Here's hoping I hit just the right balance, and that if I didn't the blurb about the story is enough to make them forget I missed the mark on personalization. *shrug*

Truth be told, I've been querying so long, my personalized paragraphs are all beginning to sound the same. I mean, if I've queried the same agent for each of my previous books, plus this one, she's definitely heard the sentiment before. Chances are there really isn't much I can say in the presonalization that a hundred other writers haven't said before. And they always say, it's the story that counts. Right?

If that's so, then why does the personalization even matter? *shrug* I dunno why, it just does.

Some people advise that one should mention the agent's authors and how your book compares or contrasts. Other say not to do that because they probably know their authors' work better than you could anyway, and saying it's like Patterson - because you think it is - could just piss them off because they don't think you're anything like Patterson. (Or Brennan or St. Claire or Follett or... pick a name.)

Personally, I think Manhunter is a little like Patterson (but happier) and Brennan / St. Claire (with less romance) and Follett (but less harsh). Hell, I can even say I'm like Crichton, but less technical, with more suspense and less thrill. When it all boils down to it, I am myself. I think readers of suspense and romantic suspense will enjoy Manhunter.

But I'll just have to wait and see.

If you could compare your writing to any author (or authors), who would it be?


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Not Dead, Just Tired

Well, the move is 90% over. We're in the new digs, and the majority of our stuff is moved out of the old place. Had the moving sale, and did better than I expected, but there's still a ton of tidbits left to get rid of. All that's left now is one last sale to try and ditch the rest of the stuff, and then cleaning it. Yay.

Needless to say, I'm tuckered out. I'm also covered in bruises, and scrapes, and scratches, and sore muscles. :shrug: Actually it feels pretty good to get out and so something physically draining every now and again. With all my work in my head, the only part of me that gets a workout is my fingers. (And even those are sore.)

The problem is, I haven't written anything in a while and when I go for too long without writing, it's kinda of like push-starting a car. Uphill. So, I sat down and worked on my query letter for a while. It looks pretty good. After all the work I did on it before I finished the book itself, it better be. And really after all that, the only parts of the letter left to work on are the personalized parts. Since those have to be tailored to each agent, I'm can't really do much tonight. (I have a system, and it involves using my printer which isn't hooked up yet.) I should have that taken care of by tomorrow. I'll try and write tomorrow night, too - when I'm not still so bushed.

Anything interesting going on in your worlds?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Buy it. Now.

I just finished Playing Dead by Allison Brennan. If you haven't read this series, you're doing yourself a great injustice. She nails it. Every time. If you have read it, then get thee hence and buy the third of the trilogy now. (And if you haven't read any of her books, you're really missing something great.)

Just make sure you leave yourself a large time block. I can't put her books down. Even in the midst of moving, I've been reading it every chance I get.

Since I'm the weird kind of person who doesn't like to know a lot about the plot before I read a book, I'm not going to give details about Playing Dead. If you want those, the link will lead you to them. I'm just going to say Allison pulls you into the story, and keeps you enthralled until the final page, where she leaves you satisfied with a story well-told. I never come away from one of her books feeling dissatisfied. (Although, she certainly leaves me wanting more... and waiting impatiently for her next book - Sudden Death.)

If you're out there reading this, Allison, write quicker. ;o)


Moving Daze

Sorry I was silent yesterday, but I signed the lease on our new digs, and started moving. Most of what we already moved was boxes of books. Needless to say, I can hardly move my limbs this morning. I need an Aleve the size of one of those freakish pumpkins.

Anyhoo, no rest for the wicked. Still a lot to do since I want to have all of our personal belongings out of here by tomorrow night.

Ugh. Looking at it all now, maybe I was a little overconfident in making the shift in three days. *shrug* I'll get it done, and worry about the aches next week.

What's up in your world?