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

Friday, February 27, 2009

What To Read

Over at the Fictionistas today, they posted a list of books put out by the BBC. The BBC's guess is that most people won't have read more than six books out of the 100. My total was 24.

Now I already have a list of what I would consider books everyone should read at least once in their life. (And yes, there are a slew of those books I've never read myself. Just because I should doesn't mean I have.) Please note that I said 'should read' not 'must like' - because some of the books are on there for learning purposes, not enjoying purposes. There are a myriad of books I really don't like, but I read them anyway so I could learn from them - like The Good Earth, for instance, which has a crappy sense of life, but good writing. (The same can be said for Steinbeck, or Hemingway, or Irving.)

You may notice there are books I didn't put on my list that are on so many other lists of this type. Like, for instance, Catcher in the Rye (which is on the curriculum for most public high-school English students). I really don't see any purpose to suggesting anyone read that book. The only thing I got out of it was a feeling that life was hopeless. And is that really what we want any teenager to experience from reading. (Yes, I know. Teenagers already feel that way - so why compound the problem.) I'm sorry my teacher made me read it, and I wish I could scrub the memory out of my head. Same goes for Lord of the Flies.

You'll also notice that I have books on my list you won't see on some of the others. One glaring example is Ayn Rand. I have my own thoughts on why she's left off the lists of important books (even though Atlas Shrugged is second only to the Bible as 'most influential' to its readers), but I won't rant about them now. Love her work or hate it - your choice - but don't deny its place in literary history. (And if you can't fathom reading 1168 pages, read Anthem instead of Atlas Shrugged.)

I've also placed some more commercial works on my list, because they are important, too. The Mummy, for instance, is a wonderful story - very well written with a positive sense of life. Or take Ken Follett - with his excellent writing and interesting storylines. Or Michael Crichton - who created techo-thrillers, and proved that science can be thrilling here on Earth.

I guess what I'm saying is: People find different things valuable in books. Books that I loathe and make me want to scrub my brain with steel wool, others may hold dear to their hearts. The important thing is that people read. Preferably something of value to them in some way. (And yes, even the trashiest of commercial novels can have value - hell, people find value in James Joyce, don't they? Personally I can find more value in a bodice-ripper than anything he wrote.)

So regardless of what I or anyone else tells you to read, just read something. And if you're short on time, read a kid's book.

Are you reading anything right now (I mean other than this blog, smart aleck)? What's on your nightstand, or what's next up for you? I'm between books right now, but I think I'm going to read some Roald Dahl next.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Axing Cliches

Yesterday, I was reading Janet Reid's Query Shark and in #100 she brought up a point I know I know, but forgot. Avoid cliches - especially in your query letters. And the instance she pointed to was exactly the one in my own letter. "Discovering the truth..." Ack.

So, that's been chopped. Along with several other unnecessary words and phrases. What I now have is a tighter, cleaner, and more hook-like paragraph (I hope).

In a world where the Union rules everything, Mary Jones was raised to believe she’s nothing. When an underground society known as The Order chooses her for a mission to escape the city, she’s suddenly more important than she’s ever been allowed to know. On the run from the Union Guard, it’s either chancy survival beyond the boundaries of home, or certain death within. Protected by a man she’s not even sure she can trust, she travels through land ravaged by a long-forgotten war, discovering a history the Union wants everyone to forget and an idea worth risking her life for. Mary never promised the Order she’d return, but she can’t be free while the others in her city remain trapped. She just never dreamed they wouldn’t want her help.

I implemented some of the suggestions given in previous comments, but in the end, I just couldn't make some of them work. (btw, I don't have your email addy, Kristen.) With the third limited POV and the voice, giving the hero his own paragraph seemed odd. Everything is from Mary's perspective, and he's more like a 'best supporting actor' than a star.

Anyway, my beta reader is working on Blink (Thank you!), so I won't be sending this out until that's finished. Which gives me time to let this simmer. Meanwhile, I did chop those chapters out of Nano last night, and this morning I resurrected my word meter. (I actually snipped more words, but then added some into the new Chapter One.)

Okay, off to start the day. Can't sit around forever in my jammies. (Well, I could but I won't.) Have a great one, everyone.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Missed Again

By now I'm betting you're wondering why I'm so stressed about this damn query copy thing. I mean, geez, that's all I've talked about lately. That's all I've been thinking about lately, too. When I wake up in the morning, I sit down and work on the damn thing.

Well, I was thinking about it yesterday. The reason I stress so much over the query letter copy is simple. I spent untold hours writing a book, and all that work either stands or falls based on one little letter. I know I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. 94K words lives or dies based on whether 250 words can entice an agent enough to read more.

Pressure anyone?

So, I'm sorry if my posts have been a little irritating lately. I'm sure you're all sick of reading about it by now. I know I'm sick of thinking about it. In fact, I've been at this so diligently for so many days that now it seems like each subsequent draft blows chunks worse than the one before. But even the older drafts still aren't right. I thought I had it yesterday, but in retrospect, I missed again. :cue Phil Collins: Missed again, Ohh-oh-oh-oh. I think I missed again. oh-Oh-oh.

Anyway, whilst in the midst of this battle with submission materials, I am doing other things. I finally got around to working on the edits for Nano. The first bit - a sort-of prologue - still looks good, but I think the entire first chapter has to go. Snippity-snip. It's interesting and gives some important info, but it's not crucial and the info can be woven in later. Ba-bye words.

And as for C&D, I'll get back to Jordan later. Don't worry. The book is getting used to being put off, or at least it should be by now. Thank goodness it's not a time sensitive piece.

In other news, I got the first chapter of Blink back from a beta reader last night, and she likes it. Always a good thing.

But enough about me. What's new with you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hewp my bwain mewted

In a world where the Union rules everything, Mary Jones was raised to believe she’s nothing. When she stumbles across an underground society known as The Order, and they choose her for their mission to leave the city, she’s suddenly more important than she’s ever been allowed to know. On the run from the Union Guard, it’s either a chancy survival outside the city, or certain death within. With a man she’s not even sure she can trust as her protector, she travels through territory ravaged by a long-forgotten war, and discovers the truth about the Union. Returning could mean either her death or a chance at freedom for them all, but it’s worth the risk. She just never imagined she might have to force people to want to be free. And she never counted on losing her heart to someone who could betray her.

Needs work. I know. I've been at this off and on for days, though, so all I'm wondering is if I'm on the right track.

Uhh, yeah, I scrapped the other one. I know, I'm a freak. My bwain is dwaining froo my ears.

It's the writing... the writing, I say...

:trails off into maniacal laughter:

If anyone needs me, I'll be donning my 'I love me' jacket and drooling over there in the corner.

btw, if i get one more piece of spam telling me how much oprah loves acai berry, i'm going bat-shit friggin whacko

How Much Is Enough... or Too Much?

Writing a query letter is much like walking a tightrope. You have just so much space, and falling to either side of that space can be disastrous. (And part of the problem is you don't know you've fallen until after you're already smushed on the rejection concrete below.)

Yesterday Kristen asked if Blink has any romance, since I didn't hint at it in my last pass at the cover copy. It does. I mentioned it in one of my other drafts, but I eventually elected to delete that information. Why?

As I said above, there's only so much space. You have to make a decision on each story element as to whether it's crucial enough to stick into that space. In the case of the romance angle, I decided it wasn't germane to the crux of the story. It's like the suspense angle, or the betrayal angle, or the mystery. It's there, and it adds conflict for Mary, but the real story is her journey from crawling to fighting.

The urge is there to put in a snippet about the hero. I'd also like to mention the villain, but in the scheme of things, it's enough to use the Union and not mention the man who heads it. If I had the space, I'd talk about the grandfatherly Russell who introduces her to the Order.

I could delve into Mary's search for identity, because as a 'foundling' she doesn't really know her past or her family, and it's key to discovering who she really is as an individual.

See why writing a query blurb is so damn hard? It was actually harder for this book than any other so far. There's a lot woven into those 94K words.

Anyway, I think I hit the right balance. The book is broken into three parts, and each is represented in the three paragraphs - albeit not in any encompassing way. Time will tell if I got it right or it fell off the tightrope into the abyss. I just need to hook them, so they'll want to read more.

Now I have to write the synopsis (something I neglected to do last year for my aborted query pass). There's where I can let it all hang out - in five pages or less.

Heh. Is it any wonder I'm a wee bit loony?


Monday, February 23, 2009


And here we go again, with extra query verbiage added:

A foundling raised in a state home, Mary Jones should be a meek servant under the Union’s dictatorship. Instead, she has a tendency to wander where she shouldn’t be, and this time it’s straight into a forbidden store run by a member of a secret society—The Order and they need help. Before she can blink, they decide she’s perfect for a mission they’ve planned for decades. Now, she can either stay home where the Union Guard already has orders to kill her, or she can escape the city to search for traces of mankind outside.

If she survives long enough to return, that is.

Beyond the ravages of a long-forgotten war, she learns freeing her city means eradicating the Union—by herself, if necessary. The problem is: when she promised to free her people, she never dreamed they wouldn’t want her help.

Blink of an I is a 94,000 word speculative :or other pertinent genre: novel set in America’s distant future.

After reading :personalization:, :more personalization:. Almost four years ago, I quit the big city and my life in corporate America to write full-time in the relative solitude of tiny-town Colorado. Since then, I have five completed novels under my belt—Blink of an I being the most recent work.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(BTW, I don't really space between paragraphs - that's a no-no - I just can't get the blog to indent text without becoming a huge pain in the hiney.)



Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Take on an Old Try

This was originally called Blurb7 - out of like 15 - and was written before I rewrote the middle and revised the beginning. I revised this to meet the changes I'd made to the book, so I can maybe hit the mark a little closer.

Let's see if this is an improvement.

Raised in the strangling embrace of the Union, Mary Jones was supposed to be exactly what they wanted her to be, to think what they wanted her to think, and to live how they wanted her to live. She failed. Fired from her job and denounced as incompetent, she wanders into a curious old store, and into the arms of a secret society known as the Order. Before she knows it, these strange people have chosen her for a mission no one else has survived. Unless Mary wants her life to remain the same, she must accept their plan to escape the city and discover whether other people still exist in the world—if only to prove life can go on without Union control. What she finds beyond the ravages of a long forgotten war will force her to accept the only way her city will be free is to eradicate the Union, even if she has to do it herself. But when she made the promise to free her people, she never dreamed they wouldn’t want her help.

Seems a little wordy to me, but it says what I need it to say. I think it addresses some of the concerns Kristen raised in her comments on the previous post. (Or maybe I'm just too close to see how I'm missing the mark.) Any help anyone can provide will be appreciated. In fact, if you leave a help-related comment about this blurby thing between today's posts and the time my poll closes, I'll enter you into a drawing for a prize - just as a thanks.

Maybe 2009 will be my year.

The Latest Incarnation

Well, after all the work I did yesterday, I scrapped everything this morning and went back to a draft I did several weeks ago. Not that what I wrote yesterday was crap. It was actually pretty good as cover copy goes. I was even prepared to go ahead with it, but when I looked at it this morning, I realized it didn't have the right tone. It wasn't in keeping with the voice of the novel.

So anyway, here's the latest incarnation. There's still something off about it, but I'm so brain-fried I can't figure out what. If any of you want to comment, feel free.

Raised as a foundling, Mary Jones was taught to believe she's nothing and no one. As castes go, she’s just one step above servants and slaves, and she’s lucky the Union allowed her that. But after she wanders across a secret group known as the Order, she discovers she’s more special than she’s been allowed to know. The Order sees something in Mary, a chance for success where so many others have failed. Mary’s only task is to escape the city and find others who may still be free beyond the wastelands, but after learning she’s always been a tool for the Union, she makes plans of her own. She’ll return to see her city free from the Union’s control, whether it wants to be free or not.

*shrug* It's close, but I don't want to touch it anymore for fear I'll screw it up. Like making spaghetti sauce - sometimes you know it's missing something, but you can't figure out what, and then the next thing you know you've added too much thyme and ruined the whole pot.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hamster Wheel

Write, rewrite, edit... go back to previous draft... Edit, tweak, revise... Start over fresh... Revise, rewrite, edit, tweak...


Can you tell I'm trying to write the 'cover copy' portion of my new query for Blink? I feel like a friggin' hamster, running in his little wheel. Round and round. Never getting anywhere. I've been at it for two hours this morning already. Every time I think I've almost got the jist of it, I look at it and realize, something not right. It's driving me fruit-bat.

:sets hair on fire and runs down the street screaming:

Ok, not really. But that's what I feel like doing sometimes, ya know?

And it occurred to me this morning that I started this book over two years ago. For some reason I was sure I started this in '07, but no. First file date? August 2006. Yuck. I started it in August, finished the first draft in December, redrafted a couple times and then sat on it for a year. I re-redrafted it, and in January of '08 I sent out a couple queries. No nibbles. Then I got distracted again writing another book, and another book. Editing each of those, querying each of those... More Hamster Wheel activity... And finally, here I am with Blink re-written - yet again. And yet again, I'm rewriting the submission materials. First the query, then the synopsis.

Then submission.

Hamster Wheel. Run little furry guy, run.

Ever see a hamster get running so fast that when he falls, he just rides the wheel all the way around to the bottom again before either falling off or getting a fresh grip? Pretty funny stuff. Unless, of course, you're the hamster.

(Okay, so it's pretty funny even then.)

Of course, as frustrating and irritating as this writing business can sometimes be, I wouldn't trade it for any other job. And for all my occassional whining, I do love this endeavor. I just wish it was easier sometimes. Know what I mean?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have miles to go on before I sleep (considering it's only quarter after nine and I'm only really running in circles). ;o)

When I get it to a version I don't hate, I'll post it for y'all. Then you can tell me if you think it sucks or not. Maybe I'll make it an anonymous poll. LOL

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rewrite Complete, and Other Sundry Stuff

Last night I finished Blink's rewrite. All told, I ended up about 1000 words lighter than it was. There's no way to know for sure how much I actually snipped out because I added some along the way. One thing I do know is it's so much better now.

I also read Unwind by Neal Shusterman yesterday. It's a YA speculative with an interesting - if flawed - premise. It's tight and well written overall. Good stuff. One thing about it, though, made me want to talk about the book here today.

The premise flaws.

Well, not the flaws themselves specifically, but the fact that they are there. You see, I try really hard to make sure the premises I put forth - however wild - don't have any major, glaring flaws. The thing about Mr. Shusterman's book, though, is that it's well written enough that even with those flaws, he gets his point across and the story doesn't suffer for it. In fact, one major flaw didn't even jump out at me until after I finished the book and was trying to sleep last night. It may be a plot spoiler, but here's the niggler: you can't trade body parts between people with different blood types. (And it wouldn't have been noticeable at all if he hadn't made such a big deal about one of the characters being AB neg.) Simple stuff, really, and something that would probably be overlooked, but it got me.

Anyway, like I said, the writing was good enough that the flaws fell by the wayside. They made the first few pages hard to get into, but beyond that they were negligible. All in all, that is a really tough thing to do as a writer - make your writing strong enough to get the reader to ignore the flaws. (Of course, IMO, it would be better to have good writing and no flaws, but you get the drift.)

As I sit here this morning writing this, I'm wondering though. Is 'good enough' really good enough? Shouldn't someone somewhere along the way have pointed out that either an explanation is needed for why the flaw is possible or the flaw needs to be rewritten?

Agents say good writing trumps all. Does it? I guess in this case, it did. And really, the writing was excellent. I'll give Mr. Shusterman that.

Or am I being too anal this morning?

Oh, and once again I'm asking for readers. If you'd like to beta read Blink for me, I'll be happy to exchange crits or throw in a free book from the store. I just need some extra eyes to make sure I'm not committing any unforgiveable sins (like those flaws that drive me nuts). If you're interested, shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thanks.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Achievement - Biggest Loser Style

I may have mentioned before (or maybe not) that I'm a fan of the show Biggest Loser. I got hooked a couple years ago after watching a marathon of it on Bravo. Seeing those people push themselves to lose weight, many of them after years of not being able to so much as eat smaller portions, was heartening. Seeing those people, who thought they could never do it, find the motivation to at least try is heroic. True, this time it's the lure of money, and since money is a great motivator, I say more power to them.

Now, I'm not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. (Although I am trying to lose weight, that's because the more pounds my bum leg carries the worse it feels. 140 is best; 163 was too much.) So that's not why I'm watching the show. I can't empathize with those people. I can sympathize because I've had some difficult things I had to get through myself, and because my sister's been battling her weight for 25+ years.

The main reason I watch is to see people doing difficult things and succeeding. It's the same principle behind watching Top Chef or Project Runway. Given a set of things to overcome, these people put their shoulder to the wheel and get the job done.

And what I hate about any of these shows are the whiners. With Biggest Loser this season, we had Joelle, who kept whining about how she was doing her best - but you could tell she wasn't. Even her own partner yelled at her. Even Bob the trainer (who has never flown off the handle in all the seasons of Biggest Loser) lost it and screamed at her. And still she went along her lazy way. If all the rest of the people were working out, she was sure to be seen sitting and watching - unless Bob jumped all over her. Now she's gone - voted off the ranch - and no one was sorry to see her go.

Another person I couldn't wait to see go, even though she was only back for a couple weeks, was Shanon. She and her mother were a team, and every week her mother (Helen) busted her butt to lose weight, but Shanon didn't seem like she could be bothered. In the end, she asked to be voted off because she was sure she could lose weight better at home. From the glimpse at her after she left, she was right. Unfortunately, in that mother-daughter relationship, it was clear she was going to do better without her mother around, because Helen was an enabler. Sad really. In trying to improve her daughter's self-esteem, she actually was crippling her ability to work through difficulties by herself. I didn't think Shanon was going to be able to lose weight, and I'm glad she proved me wrong.

Heh. There was a point in all this... Somewhere.

Ah yes, achievement. I like to see people achieve. I want to watch them succeed at their efforts. That's part of the reason I like sports. I need to see people taking that spark inside themselves and putting forth the tremendous effort it takes to win, and then doing winning. No whining involved.

It's also the reason I celebrate the launch of new books by people I know have busted their asses to see their books in print. I know how hard it is to write a book, and how hard it is to get something published. Seeing these hard-working people get it done, make me happy. (And conversely, seeing someone fall ass backwards into it, kinda ticks me off - but shit happens.) Sure, I'm jealous, but that just spurs me to work harder so I can achieve that success, too.

Without whining. Without complaining. Accepting the obstacles life sometimes puts in our way, and succeeding in spite of them.

Now if I can just get Biggest Loser to move to Thursday night, when nothing else I want to watch is on. This coinciding with NCIS thing is the pits. ;o)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Overheard on the Street

Today's installment of Overheard on the Street is brought to you by a group of teenage boys. From the looks of it, one of them was playing something on his cell phone. As they walked past me, I heard the boy say to one of his friends:

"Dude, I tried for like ten hours. Seriously, from like 10 to 6."

Umm, yeah. Today's youth, inspiration for the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taking Advice Albeit Late

As I forge through the rewrite of Blink, I thought I'd take a break and thank those people who told me the beginning needed to start from somewhere else. Of course, that was over a year ago, and I wasn't in a place where I could SEE how right they were.

And how wrong I was to not see it.

It may take me a while, but I can admit when I'm wrong. The problem here is I was too close to Blink to see it. I loved the beginning. It said all the things I wanted to say and got the book moving. Or so I thought.

You see, I was so entrenched in making that beginning work, I couldn't see how badly it wasn't working. Hell, even after I knew it wasn't working, I had a devil of a time rewriting it. As I said before, the old words kept getting in the way of making a new start. I understand... They didn't want to die. But they had to, if the book was going to survive.

Now that they're gone, the story is so much better. A new start made a world of difference. I'm just sorry it took me a year to learn that lesson. And I'm sorry I didn't listen when people told me that truth whether I wanted to hear it at the time or not.

Don't get me wrong. I'm open to advice and suggestions - unless they seem like they're totally out of step with where I want my story to be. In this instance, that was the case, and I was wrong.

I didn't take 100% of the advice, of course. (It's the rebel in me, I guess. heh.) Back then, the idea was put forth to start the book at X point instead of Y. Instead, I threw out Y and created a totally new beginning to lead to X.

Starting at X would be too weird, IMO. And yes, I did try it. It really didn't work. Or at least it I couldn't find a way to write it so it would work. (Still can't. Starting at X seems too jarring - like throwing the reader in at a place where nothing makes sense. If that makes any sense.)

Anyway, the new beginning is finished, and I'm almost done weaving the new ideas into the original story. In deleting the old beginning, I had to snip a couple very minor characters, and now I have to get rid of the only other place they reappear. Plus, in the new beginning, I added some information that has to be worked in to later chapters. So far, it's all weaving together wonderfully well.

So, to those crit'ters who offered advice last year, thank you. I apologize for having my head up where it doesn't belong and not taking your words to heart.

Have you ever not taken someone's advice only to find out later they were right all along?

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Arch Nemesis Has Returned

Call him Old Man Winter, or maybe Jack Frost... Whatever name he goes by, he is my arch nemesis and he returned with a vengeance last night. Bastard.

I used to have a fairly amiable relationship with him. I loved him when I was a kid. The snow days he gave me were a joy. The huge mounds of powdery white stuff that I could use to build a friend or a fort or a wicked sled run, those were wonderful presents when I was a child.

As I grew older, he began to wear on me. Still, it wasn't horrible. He did his thing and I did mine. Hell, I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for four years. You can't survive up there if you spent your time seething over his effects. For one thing, you'd never get anything done. And I have to admit, the traces of his passing are always pretty to look at.

Over the years, though, the relationship has definitely soured. I mean, I moved out of Michigan to get away from his annoying games. (Florida was wonderful for the short time I lived there. Winter was a little chilly, but Jack really doesn't have more than a passing acquiantance with the area.) How I ended up back in his realm is a long story, but here I am. And I returned to find that Jack--my childhood friend turned arch nemesis--is still up to his old tricks.

After more than a week of unseasonable warmth, I awoke this morning to three inches of snow with an anticipated four more on the way. Yesterday it was in the fifties, for cripesake. It was sunny and beautiful. Which makes this just so wrong.


This isn't over Jack. You've won this time, but I will defeat you yet.

Maybe with a beach house on the Gulf. That'll show him.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bad n Good


I didn't find Monica's book yesterday.


I found Rachel Vincent's Pride instead.


They didn't get hubby's computer fixed.


Payless had really cute boots for cheap. (Really really cute and really really cheap, so I got two pair - one was marked down from $35 to $10 and I got it half off SCORE!.)


I'll have to drive back up there to pick up hubby's computer when they finally get it done.


Maybe I'll find more cute shoes and good books when I go.


My book room is overflowing.


Walmart had shelving for $15 each. I bought two units. So guess what I'll be doing today.

What's the bad n good in your life? (And yes, you must find something good to go with every bad.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wrap up

Just a quick wrap up before I cruise off to bed. I know I took my word meters down. (Had to. The pressure was killing me.*) But I got 1200 words out on C&D tonight. Yay me.

I also sent a snail mail query off today. Just testing the waters with an agent I hadn't heard of - with a reputable agency, so no worries. We'll see if she likes RTL. If not, she might be a good one for Blink. We'll see what she has to say. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sending out others - and for other books as well.

You see, between the comments from my lovely blogpals and this book I'm reading, I got the kick I couldn't give myself. I'm going to publish. I'm going to get an agent. I will see my books in print. (And not just off my own Lexmark.)

In other news, I'll be taking the hubby's computer in for service tomorrow. Not a yay, but if it fixes the problems, it's worth the lost work time. Here's hoping Walmart has Monica McCarty's latest Hot Highlander novel. Kill two birds with one stone. ;o)

What are you up to? Any progress in what you're doing? Any good things to report? Have you read Monica's new book yet? (If you haven't read her others, they are hot hot hot - and the stories are awesome, too.)

*Kidding. I just got bored with it. They might come back later.

Monday, February 9, 2009


In my search for ways to have snacks without breaking our diet, I created a concoction last night. I call it YoDip. Super easy, nonfat, and yummy.


2 cups Nonfat Plain yogurt (220 calories)
1/2 packet onion soup mix (50 calories)

Stir thoroughly. Chill overnight for best results. Serve with lowfat crackers or chips or veggies - whatever blows your skirt up. They way I figure it, it's about 9 calories per tablespoon for the dip (check the package for calorie count on your dipable substance of choice) and none of those calories are from fat. Yay.

Next time, I'm going to try creating a sweet dip for rice cakes. I'll let you know how it goes - unless it's really nasty, in which case I'll carry the recipe to my grave. ;o)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A True Hero

You've probably heard all about the plane that crash landed in the Hudson River last month. Thanks to the skill and cool-headedness of Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger, all 155 people aboard lived to spend more time with their families.

Tonight on 60 minutes, they aired an interview Katie Couric did with the courageous captain (read an article about the interview here). Everything I've seen of the man has impressed the hell out of me - starting with the amazing landing, and continuing with every appearance he's made on TV. He's a rare human being. A hero who doesn't apologize for being heroic, and neither does he trot out a load of hubris. He's not even comfortable with being called a hero, because he knows he was just doing his job.

In my book, that makes him even more heroic.

Hell, the guy is still wracking his brain trying to figure out if he could've done the whole thing another way. Maybe he's thinking there was some way to avoid those damn birds, but I don't think there's anything else he could've done to make that landing any sweeter than it was. They showed a video caught by some security camera, and damn if he didn't set that baby down like he was sliding into home.

He gets hero of the year, if you ask me.

Of course, I could've slapped Couric, but I never liked her anyway. It was almost like she was trying to take away from man's accomplishment. Feh. I know she was going for the whole 'human interest' thing, but I think the story has all that without trying to pry weakness out of a man who had better things to do than cry or pray or shiver in fear. If he had taken the time to do those things, we'd be mourning the loss of 155 people instead of celebrating the fact that they're alive. Thank goodness a cooler head prevailed.

So, this one is for you Sully. Thank you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ta Da

Well, I finished Nano's first draft today. I don't remember how many first drafted books* that is now - I have at least one I never finished beyond that - but if I get this one through the edits, I'll be at #6. Five years, six books... not too shabby.

Let's see...

AWJ (never finished beyond first draft)
(*okay, now I remember)

Of course, there are several I never got all the way to THE END on. C&D is one of those, along with one I call Redemption, another known as Be Careful (short for Be Careful What You Wish For). Add to that several shorts: Fire, Mirror, Haudego, Pigwell, Bad Fluffy Bunny, etc. - and that's something to be proud of.

I haven't sold yet, but I am proud. I'll be even more so when I'm published, but for now I'll bask in the glow.

As for completing Nano to the point where it's ready for other people to read it, I probably should take some time before I edit, but after so much time away already, the only parts still fresh are the ones I did recently. With that in mind, I'm guessing I've already taken my gel time on this project and should just get back to work.

Which, of course, means shifting either Blink or C&D to the back burner again. Hmmm, I wonder if I can work the schedule and do all three.

Time will tell. All I know at this point is that it just feels good to get back to work.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writer Fix Thyself

Back in Utah, I bought this book - not because I thought I really needed it, but because I respect the author and I figured I could read it later. Problem with that was, I never did. As I was sorting through my store earlier this week, I noticed it again and decided to take it out of the store (can't remember why I even put it in there) so I could actually read it. At this point, I could probably use a little kick in the ass anyway, right? Lord knows kicking my own ass hasn't done me much good this time around. So between store work and school work, I started reading it again. And you know what?

It seems to be working.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what the book is. It's Grow Up America! by Dr. Michael Hurd. If you're not familiar with Dr. Hurd (and you're probably not), he's a psychotherapist with some decidedly new ideas on how to help people the rational way. I used to visit his site on a regular basis, read his 'Daily Dose of Reason', and soak up his knowledge like a sponge.

Anyway, one thing I got just from reading the first couple chapters is a reminder that A is A. Or basically what is, is - and that's all that there is, so make the best of it. Control the things you can control, and get over the rest of it. Sitting around wishing I had an agent isn't going to get me one. I can't control any of them or their reactions to my work. All I can do is write the best stories I can write, and sooner or later the rest will follow. I can't make it happen any sooner by sitting on my ass, whining about the unfairness of it all - or how hard it all is, or how unfair. Neither will pouting over how much I suck. If I think I suck, the only thing to do is to try harder not to suck.

Another thing Dr. Hurd points out is to look at life with optimistic realism. Start every situation with a positive outlook, and adjust to reality as necessary. Negative thoughts only perpetuate themselves. (I'm going from memory here, not quoting - so if I missed the point, correct me, please.) Which means if I think I suck, I will suck. If I hold the thought that I am a good writer, until reality proves otherwise, then I will continue to write well and continue to improve as I receive more information.

Well, duh. I knew that, but I forgot about it. I was spending so much time wallowing in my rejections that I couldn't see what was staring me in the face. I'm a good writer. I know that. I also know there is room for improvement - there's always room for improvement - but those things I need to improve on don't make me a horrible writer or a horrible person.

:grin: Sometimes all it takes is a nudge.

Dr. Hurd doesn't fix people. He shows people how to fix themselves. And I need to work on that just as hard as I work on everything else - harder even because sometimes I can be a slacker.

And on that note, I have to say I wrote 1600 words last night - 1000 on C&D and :drumroll: another 600 on Nano! I might actually finish this book now that I don't think I suck.

Here's hoping all of you have a productive and successful weekend.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Five Years

So, it's been a half a decade now since I started writing seriously. As you might have noticed from my post a couple days ago, sometimes this fact hits me like a sack of wet cement. (Almost like my 30th birthday and my upcoming 40th in another 16 months.) Sometimes it just gives me pause, and I look back at the things I've learned over those years. Today is one of those look back and ponder days.

Yesterday, Jessica Faust over at BookEnds wrote an excellent post called Rolling with the Punches in which she says: "Give It Five Years... In my opinion, five years is the time you need to really be able to judge whether or not your business is working.". At first this statement about derailed me. Since it's been that exact amount of time for me, I wondered whether this particular tip was going to indicate I should probably chuck this business of writing and take a job at the local grocery store. (How hard can scanning food into a cash register be?) Lucky for me, that isn't what she was trying to say at all. In the second paragraph of that, she goes on to say that at five years look back and evaluate your progress.

Have you learned anything or are you still in the same place you were when you started? I've learned a bunch. I've learned that this isn't anywhere near as easy as I assumed when I started (not the writing part, but the publishing part). I've learned that not everything I want to write is going to mesh with the market - and that sometimes that's okay because writing with the market in mind may mean not being true to myself. (Tried to write for the market - failed miserably.)

True, in some ways I'm still in the same place. After all, I'm not published, I'm not agented, and I'm still adding to my rejection collection. But for the most part, I've grown as a writer. My work now is much tighter and cleaner than it was five years ago.

Additionally, I've grown as writer as it pertains to the business side of this enterprise. My query letters and other submission materials are much better than they were when I started trying to get someone interested in Spectacle. I'm receiving partial requests and full requests. So I must be doing something right. Right? Another thing Ms. Faust mentions is a change in my publishing network, which has certainly happened. (Many times over, as a matter of fact.) I still don't belong to any writerly groups - well, I used to, but that didn't work out - but I have people I can connect with in this business. I have this blog, for instance, and I have a wide range of blogs I read and comment on, which is sort of like a big amorphous writerly group.

So all in all, I'm moving ahead. Not at the rate I originally assumed I'd be moving at, but forward motion shouldn't be discounted even when it's baby steps.

As for the accomplishments of the past five years, I've:

- Written five books (Spectacle, Caldera, Blink, RTL, Manhunter) to THE END.
- Revised and revised and revised all of the above.
- Gotten book six to almost THE END, and I've restarted a series I've been meaning to write for the past three years.
- Written umpteen query letters, synopses, outlines, bios, etc. With each pass getting stronger.
- Had a great CP
- Lost a great CP (has anyone seen my missing CP?)
- Made some awesome new friends (some of whom have also become beta readers - thank you)
- Started and maintained this blog. I've even had some notable people stop by.
- Guest blogged for another blog.
- Wrote and entered a few shorts to competitions and lit journals.
- Started two other blogs (although posting has been sporadic at best)

During all this, I also started homeschooling my daughter, and we've been at that going on four years now. Who knew I could re-learn Algebra, and teach myself enough Chemistry to point her in the right direction?

Looking back, I guess I really don't have anything to bitch about. I'm sure I could've done more to get my career off the runway. I could've sent more queries. I could've learned about the business more before I sent Spectacle out into the world, so maybe it wouldn't have failed so miserably. But what's past is passed, and as much as we might like to, we can't change what's gone before. We can only learn and move forward.

Thanks to Jessica Faust for reminding me about that part. She really is an awesome person - whether she knows how much she's helped me over the years or not.

Your turn. How long have you been writing? What are some of the lessons you've learned over your time in the business? Do you feel like you've grown or are you in the same place you were when you started?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


:imagine this in whispers: I don't want to jinx anything, but I wrote some new words last night. Not a lot of words, mind you, but enough to get C&D rolling again. yay. :end whisper:

And on the subject of being quiet, can anyone explain to me why the level of noise seems to be rising? Is it just that I'm creeping up on 40, or is a large portion of our populous really looking forward to being deaf some day?

Years ago, I read a really great article on this noise thing, but right now I'm at a loss as to the name of the writer or the article. He theorized that it had something to do with people wanting to shut out reality and/or their own thoughts by turning their stereos up. (You know, it's really hard to think with the bass booming and some person/band shrieking in your ears.) Made a lot of sense to me then, and it still does.

Not that it's just stereos, iPods, CD players, MP3 players, etc. (You'd be surprised how many kids in this little town blare their iPods - like loud enough to hear across the street.) People seem to be talking louder, too, but maybe that's just a function of the self-induced hearing loss. :shrug:


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Working in the Store

While I pull my head out of whatever orifice it's jammed into at the moment, I'm reading and working on my bookstore. (If you weren't already aware, I sell used books through Amazon. I'm not going to get rich, but it feeds my book-buying addiction, and I hope gives some people who can't afford new books a chance to read.)

Anyway, that's what I've been hip-deep in for the past few days. After we moved in October, I never took the time to reorganize my stock. Around 1500 books in no particular order, spread through three rooms. Ever try to alphabetize that many books? It ain't pretty. Still, considering what a pain it was to find anything, in the long run it'll be worth it.

Oh, and the unhappy circumstance that while I was moving about a third of my stock dropped out of my listings... Well, now that I have them organized and sorted, I'm in the process of relisting those 500 or so books. Weeee.

On the upside, it's keeping my mind off my recent slump. Here's hoping all that physical labor shakes something in my head loose. (Not that there aren't already a lot of things loose up there. They're just the wrong things.)

As for the reading front, I just finished book #13 for the year so far. (If you haven't read G.A. Aiken's dragon books yet, get thee out and buy both. You won't regret it - they're hot.) That's way ahead of last year, and if I read at this pace, I'll be looking at around twice the number read this year than last. I'm hoping I don't have this much time to read all year, but I'm trying to look on the bright side.

How's your life going? Read any good books lately?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sick of Myself

A couple days ago, Karin Tabke asked what challenges her blog readers face for the coming year, and my answer is - as usual - getting an agent (and all the stuff that comes after that). Karin's reply was simply: "Are you sending stuff out?"

Umm... :hangs head in shame:

Not at the moment.

You see, everything I have ready to send out has already been rejected by damn near everyone on the planet (or at least it feels that way). :cough:loser:cough: Which is why I'm reworking Blink - which hasn't been rejected because it was never queried - and trying to write that cute mystery series I've always wanted to write.

Still doesn't make me any less of a loser. I mean, seriously, five years? (Officially, five years last week was when I typed the first words of Spectacle.) And not five years of working on one book, either. It wasn't even five years where I had to compete with a day job for writing time.

Of course, some days are better than others. Some days I hit the world with a bright outlook and cheerful optimism (no, really... I do). Other days are like today when all I can think of goes kinda like this quote from Shelley:

I could lie down like a tired child,
And weep away the life of care
Which I have borne, and yet must bear.

And then I get totally pissed and sick of myself. (I can only wonder whether you're sick of me yet, too. Wanda Whiner that I am. Boo fucking hoo.)

So, coming back around to the question of the day: Am I sending stuff out? In truth the answer is: No, I'm too much of a big baby to send anything out lately. "What if they don't like it?" "What if they stomp all over it (and by it, I mean the story and therefore my chest) again?" Wah.

I know I can't sell anything if I don't send it out. I know if I never try I'll always fail. I've heard all the maxims. I know all the rah-rah'isms. I've tried all the tricks to get myself out of this slump. Unfortunately, it all comes back to this.

And I'm totally sick of myself.