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Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Goals

I have a rough idea of what I need to do next year when it comes to writing. The problem is time. My full time job takes a big bite out of my day, so by the time I get home I'm rushing around answering emails, phone calls, doing assignments, critting, reading, and most importantly, writing.

I'm a regular list maker; been that way since I was a kid, but I don't wait until the first of the year to create my benchmarks. I make goals all year long.

For example: As soon as my goal for completing my last manuscript was reached, I immediately made two additional goals.
#1 I outlined the sequel while the first book was still fresh in my mind.
#2 I started a new book in a different world, but similar genre.

This accomplishes a couple of things. If the first book sells well, I can promise a sequel in short order. If the book gets a lukewarm reception, I can offer a different book and see how that's received. Either way I am keeping my options open. I'll be able to prospect with more than one project to a publisher or an agent.

Some people call that multitasking. --grin--

2008 has some formidable challenges in store for me. Not only will I need to continue writing and submitting, but I'll also need to concentrate on marketing and developing my brand. These are uncharted waters for me and for that reason I'm excited to see what develops.

What's on my plate for 2008?

• I'd like to complete three novels and one novella in 2008. (not so hard since one is nearly finished and the other two have been outlined.)
• Present a workshop at a conference
• Submit at least one article a month for publication.
• Continue my education by attending 3-4 classes in '08.

And my biggest challenge for 2008…
I am terribly shy. (Don't laugh! It's true.) So for 2008 I would like to be braver and comment more on people's blogs and writers' forums. If you'd like to help me out, keep commenting here and I will always answer you--and visit your blog. :o)

Now it's your turn. Tell me what your goals are for 2008. You can list them here or post your blog address in the comments area so I (and others) can go over and take a look.

What's on your plate for 2008?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Made my Friend Cry

I seem to be making a habit of making my friends cry lately.

I was finally able to deliver a Christmas present to one of my closest friends and she bawled like a baby.

Below is Princess, the little dog I babysit once in a while. I painted the little dog's picture for my friend as a Christmas present because Princess is the joy of her life.

It's a pretty good likeness of the little monster. But I have to admit, my deteriorating eyesight made it hard to get the details right. I'm still saving my pennies for that eye surgery. Maybe I can get my eyes fixed in 2008.


Monday: What's on your plate for 2008?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Editing Matters

My editor mentioned to me that she was very picky. I laughed out loud!

On many of the writing boards that I belong to there is always someone who will pipe up and announce that polishing his/her novel sucks all the passion out of the story. Their battle plan (spoken and/or implied) is to leave the picky stuff to their "future" editor.

I never comment on those posts because that kind of sideways planning signifies that the person isn't ready for publication. You have to get the mechanics perfect--or as perfect as you can get them, or it will never see an editor.

Oh I know what these people are thinking. "My story is so original, riveting, brilliant, yadda yadda, that the editor will want it and fix my bo-bos. Puleeeeeeeese! It doesn't work that way.

You want to get published? Here are the steps.

1. Write a great story.
2. Edit that story until it stops yanking readers out of the story.

I know excellent writers who are still not published. They do everything right, but for some reason they haven't gotten the call yet. What chance do you think a sloppy writer has?

Do the work. If your grammar sucks, take a class. If your story meanders, find some brutal crit partners and leave the cheerleaders at home.

TOUCH OF FIRE never lost its appeal to me, even when I slaved over the details at a sentence by sentence level. It's a great story and I think my love for it showed all the way through.

Grunt work matters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mini Movie Reviews

I wrote this a few days ago, but forgot to save it. And, well…you know the rest of that story. Let's try this again.

National Treasure 2: This was good as escapist fare goes. Our intrepid heroes spanned the globe tracking down clues that will vindicate Ben Gates' (Nicolas Cage) great-great-grandfather of masterminding Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

In this movie we went to London, Paris, Washington DC, Mount Vernon and Mount Rushmore. There wasn't a lot of original content, but it was fast paced and it was fun trying to figure out what their next moves would be.

I wasn't crazy about Ed Harris as the bad guy. Not that he did a bad job, but his role was bland and nonproductive. He was cast as a device to set the plot in motion. But I thought it was a little too contrived and weak as a catalyst.

The best scenes were with Jon Voight and Helen Mirren as Ben's parents. They were hilarious! And it was nice to see older people cast in a positive and meaningful way.

See this at the theater so you can get the full cinematic experience of the vistas, but this is fine as a rental.

PS: Page 42 in the Presidents' Book of Secrets sets the stage for the sequel. They do nothing more than mention it, which was a bummer. It would have been more delicious if they could have at least teased us a little more with some hints.


The Golden Compass: After all the hullabaloo about this movie, I expected some grand scheme in the works for subverting our minds and making us all atheists. I haven't read the book so I can't say how true the movie was to the book, but it felt as if the story was compressed in order to make it fit within the allotted time.

Did it cast the Catholic Church as the bad guy? I think it tried, but it was hardly worth the press it received. It was a tad preachy and manipulative, but no more than most commercial ventures. I went for the CGI, myself.

Ian McKellen was the voice of the polar bear, Iorek, and he did a very fine job. Loved the polar bear sequences and the short but memorable witches' scenes. Dakota Blue Richards as the little girl, Lyra was wonderful. A very tough little girl who takes matters into her own hands. I love protagonists that take charge.

Nicole Kidman oozed with wickedness and manipulation, but Daniel Craig was lukewarm. I expected more out of him. Sam Elliott was a hoot! I also loved his daemon, a jack rabbit. As a matter of fact, it was the daemons that gave each character so much color. They were just as important in the makeup of each character.

I liked The Golden Compass. It was a little predictable. (I am hoping the book wasn't quite so obvious.) The preaching was tolerable, offset by the killer special effects and the very colorful daemons, polar bears and witches.

It's fine as a rental, but you'll get more out of it on the big screen.

For fun, The Golden Compass movie site has a quiz that will pair you up with your daemon. Be honest with your answers. That's the whole point of having a daemon.

My profile says that I am modest, shy, assertive, responsible and solitary; therefore my daemon is the tiger. And his name is Araphon. (cool name!)

Go here to find out what your daemon is. (Click on Daemons)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shrimp and Spinach Quiche

There's a bumper sticker that reads: Real men don't eat quiche. Evidently they do.

Greg doesn't turn down any food if it rates to his standards--and I won't pass up any dish if I find out it's easy to make.

I was at a party the other night and someone made quiche. I thought I would turn my nose at it because I always thought it was nothing but a fancy omelet. But this was delicious. The hostess gave me her recipe. Now I'm passing it on to you.

Pie shell (make your own or do it my way and buy the pre-made deep dish pie shells.
16 oz. frozen Spinach
½ lb. Shrimp, get the good-sized kind, not the scrawny cocktail shrimp
3 eggs
8 oz. can Corn, drained
8 oz. Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Milk
1 Tbl. Corn starch

Salt to taste

Blend corn, milk, eggs, spinach, salt and corn starch. Add Spinach and cheese, mix with spoon. Pour entire mixture into a deep dish pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until batter is firm and baked throughout. Cover the fluted pie crust edge to prevent burning.

This is a delicious dish. Very filling and great for any meal. You can substitute ham or chicken for the shrimp. --Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!
May you be with the ones you love most.



Update on Bony, the dog

Everywhere we tried to call was closed for the holidays, so we've spent the last couple of days socializing Tank with Bony. It looks very promising. Everyone has gotten along famously.

There seems to be very little hope of finding his owners. Bony is old, deaf, arthritic and malnourished, but he has the sweetest disposition. He's like a favorite grandfather, kind and amiable.

If no one claims him before I have to go back to work, I guess he will stay with us. If we turned him over to a no-kill shelter or a rescue organization, they would be forced to keep him in a cage for lack of room. We really can't keep him, but you know…love finds a way. We'll do what we can to make room.

My special thanks to Andy in Canada who graciously offered money to help with vet bills. What a kind man, a virtual stranger to us, who happened to see our plea to find a home for Bony. Money isn't an issue, but I was so overwhelmed by his offer, I just wanted to say, thanks and God bless.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Fun

Happy birthday to my buddy, Mike. And a milestone too! I'd get snarky now and tell an age joke, but I was taught to respect my elders. ~grin~

*****

How about some holiday games?

I'm not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed, but I scored a perfect 100%. I am such a GEEK.

Test your SF movie knowledge.

*****
Sadder still is that I missed only one answer on the 70s song recollection. Sheesh! I can't remember where I left my keys, yet I can remember the words to music from nearly 40 years ago.

Test your 70's music knowledge.

*****
And in honor of the season--and since I couldn't make jokes at Mike's expense....Slingshot Santa Help the elves throw Santa over the crevasse.

Instructions: Click Start
Hit left mouse button to roll the catapult. Hit button again to pull the lever to the catapult back for the swing. Release the button when you're ready to fling Santa. Caution: Hold the button too long and you'll pull the lever too far. Fling Santa too late and you all fall into the crevasse.

Yes, more ways to waste your time. This is my job. LOL!

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bony Needs a Home

I think I'm being tested.

Yesterday, sitting on my front step was an old male rottweiler. He was thin as a bone and when he got up he staggered. I truly believe he was a few days from death.

The weather had turned for the worst that day. Winter had finally arrived in Texas and it was bitterly cold and windy. We brought the poor dog in and fed him. In the meantime I made flyers and visited the nearest vet to see if anyone was looking for him.

Here's my dilemma. I have a male rottie, Tank. And while the Tankster is a big sweetie, he's never been particularly fond of other male dogs. There haven't been any altercations because "Bony" as I call him now is too frail.

We will keep him over the holidays because there will always be someone here watching them, but if there is ANYONE who can take pity on a really sweet older dog, email me. I will gladly pay for his shots and a vet visit if someone would be willing to care for this grandfather in his last years.

Bony is a very nice dog. I think he is deaf and he has a limp. He's probably about 9-10 years old which means he still has 2-4 years left in him with the right people. All he wants is a little TLC. He's been a sweetheart since he's been here and doesn't ask for anything. His appetite is good and he appears to be housebroken because he waits to go out.

Bony is not aggressive at all. As a matter of fact, he's remarkably good tempered. He seems to like everyone, including pets. Here's a picture of him.

If you have any room for an older dog with a good heart, email me.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Samhain & MySpace

I'm over at Samhain's weblog at 9am CST. Be a pal and leave me a message over there --or here --or both. I'd love to hear from you!

And despite my better judgment, I signed up at MySpace. Slaps head. What was I thinking?

Oh yeah, networking, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (know any?) and rampant frustration.

The frustration part always happens when I come upon an alien interactive website. MySpace is amazingly complex and simple at the same time. If you know html, you are in like Flynn. Otherwise, you are dependent on the kindness of friends.

My biggest gripe comes from all the ads. But the site is free, so I have no right to complain. I probably won't notice them in a few weeks, but right now it's aggravation on top of frustration.

So I am shedding my introvert's skin and going out there to press the virtual flesh. If you read this blog and belong to MySpace, we probably have the same interests. Please go over and add me to your Friend's list---cuz God knows I don't know what I'm doing. I was lucky to get the background picture in, anything more was sheer dumb luck.

I am not fully absorbed into the friend pyramid yet, but I took some time to study places like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I'd even add Live Journal to that study, even though it's only a blog community. MySpace seems to have the largest community by far, with an estimated 289 million. That's a lot of people. The authors I read tend to congregate at MySpace, so it seemed like the logical choice and it finally tipped the scales in their favor.

So here I am, at Samhain and MySpace. If you see me, say hi. I'm alone...so alone! LOL And I'm pretty much lost.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Say Something Nice Today

The most incredible thing happened yesterday and I'm not quite sure I can put it into words. I'll try.

I usually give small gifts to the custodian and the security guard at the building where I work. This year, I added the lady at the cafeteria. She's always been very kind and tries to make conversation with me despite her difficulty with English.

People who speak English as a second language have my utmost respect. In return I usually ask her to teach me a couple of words in Vietnamese.

When I gave her the Christmas present she hugged me as if she didn't want to let go, and there were tears in her eyes. I'd never seen her that way before. She regained her composure then thanked me and gave a little bow. I surprised myself because I bowed back. ~grin~

I walked away feeling good that I made her so happy. But here's where the incredible part comes in.

Yesterday, two of my friends found this lady sobbing in the women's bathroom and tried to comfort her. This poor soul had been in the pit of despair. She felt alone and friendless.

It brought back visions of Peter Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. We never know how we affect each other or what we mean to one another until that person is gone from our lives.

She thought no one cared about her when in actuality she's well liked in our workplace community. It was kismet that I happened to bring her a gift just when she needed it most. I'm sorry I wasn't there for her when she broke down, but I'm glad I was there for her on her way back up.

So today, I'd like to beseech you to call or write someone who's made a difference in your life. That difference doesn't have to be earth shattering. Sometimes the people who make the biggest difference in our lives are the ones who stay within our periphery.

Buy some gloves for the mailman. Write a letter to your sister. Call a friend who's listened to you whine without complaint. A kindness is never unappreciated and it doesn't need to be reciprocated. Tell someone they made a difference in your life. It could mean much more than you will ever know.

I've been giving and receiving gifts for the last two weeks. But that last gift---the hug from a lady overwhelmed with emotion was the best present of all.

Christmas is about sharing. And although this lady and I are from vastly different cultures, we shared the most precious thing of all. Human contact.

Life is so brief. Go out and tell someone you appreciate them today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cover Letters

Cover letters are different from query letters in that you use them mostly for short stories or requested manuscripts. It's more of an introduction letter; something to tell the editor/agent a little about yourself and your credentials.

My cover letters are very short and to the point. And I'm cautious with the information I impart. I don't load up on superlatives, academic credentials, contest wins or publishing jobs.

The last cover letter I wrote was for a short story. I did not mention the contest wins, education or the two newsletters I edit. I did bring up the novel because it was in the same general genre as the short story. I also brought up that I had been published many times before to let them know I've got professional credentials, but only listed the magazines that were relevent.

A cover letter is not a brag vehicle. It's a business tool. Don't burn your bridges by citing things that won't make a lick of difference to the publisher. It might be tempting to list every single accolade and publication, but if it doesn't relate to the publisher you could possibly shoot yourself in the foot by trying too hard.

The cover letters I've used for requested manuscripts usually included a little reminder that the manuscript was requested as well as the original pitch. Be sure to include all your contact information and use standard query protocols: white paper, black ink, readable size text, and traditional fonts. It's a business letter. Leave the perfume, the sparkles and the gushy notes for your spouse.

Getting personal: I think some people make the mistake of getting too chummy with agents when they've had a request for a full, and address the person by their first name. As a rule I don't use first names until the agent addresses me by my first name. Some call me Maria by the second email they send me. But one didn't call me by my first name until we were almost at the negotiating table. A lot depends on their age, your age and a lot of variables in between.

Use your instincts to guide you, but when in doubt, use common courtesy. Until you've been properly introduced it's always polite to use traditional titles and standard greetings.

Out of the Closet

It's been a week and a half of surprises and heartfelt displays of affection. My cup runneth over.

My staff got together and gave me a beautiful basket full of goodies, including a very generous gift card to Barnes & Nobles. (How did they know?) During our Christmas lunch, I finally told them I had a book coming out next year. You could have heard their jaws drop. LOL!

"You're a writer? OMG, a real writer!" Which is funny because most of us are artists and we usually get: "You're an artist? OMG, a real artist!"

I make it a point not to discuss my other life with people "not of the blood". I really didn't want to go through the twenty questions on what I'm writing and when it will be in print. But now that TOUCH OF FIRE is coming out, I don't have to feel so guilty. Plus, they promised to buy the book. ~grin~

It felt good to come out of the closet.

*****

It's a short week for me at work and then a well deserved vacation. Friday, I'll also be posting at Samhain's weblog. Yes, I'll remind you. :o)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Markets

Lantern Books Essay Contest

Fee: None

The aim of our essay competition is to allow new thinking to emerge on the key subjects of Lantern's publishing program and to encourage new voices to step forward to shape the debate of the future.

Three topics to choose from:
How far does personal responsibility extend when it comes to the environment or other issues affecting the planet? Where do you find peace, and how can that space be extended? What "bad" experience has turned out to be "good" for you?

Deadline: December 31, 2007. Limit 1,500 words.
$1,000 first prize $500 second prize $250 third prize

*****

SF Reader Short Story Contest

The contest opens to submissions on November 1st, 2007, and will remain open until December 31st, 2007 (last submission must be received no later than midnight, December 31st). Entries received before November 1st or after December 31st will not be considered!

Rules and Regs - READ AND HEED!

No submission fee
Story length is 1,000 to 5,000 words firm
No reprints
We will be purchasing first electronic rights only
No simultaneous submissions
Multiple submissions under separate covers are welcome, but please do not send multiple submissions in a single mailing
Email submission ONLY! Send all stories to contest2007@sfreader.com
Email all stories as attachments in Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Include a cover letter with the title of your story and your name
NO NAME ON THE STORY ITSELF

Fiction guidelines:
We are interested in works that feature well developed characters along with colorful settings and fast-moving plots. There are no restrictions on sub-genres, though all stories must be firmly within the realm of Speculative Fiction. Our interests include, but are not limited to: Hard Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Slipstream, and Alternate History, just to name a few. The speculative element must be integral to the story.

Prizes:
This year I've up the prizes!

1st Place: $300.00, publication, and an author's interview
2nd Place: $150.00 and publication
3nd Place: $75.00 and publication

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I AM LEGEND

Went to see "I Am Legend" with Will Smith. While I took issue with some of the plot logic and the "too incredible to be believed" mutants, I liked the movie.

This says a lot because I walked in with a prejudiced view. I did NOT want to see this movie because of what happens to the dog. Yes, I cried. But the scene I was dreading was probably the best one in the film.

You'll probably hear mixed reactions to this movie, but I thought it was the best of the three that've been made from the book. Will Smith was excellent. He really shows what he's made of.

This was part horror, part SF. The CGI monsters were a little rough, but the cinematography was well done and Smith's acting wrenched every shred of emotion to the forefront.

Go for the dog. Bring Kleenex.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Writer Montage

This was fun. Writers unite! We're all the same under the skin.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pitch and Polish

This past week I've had the chance to examine three pitches from friends and peers and it gave me a chance to solidify in my mind what a good pitch does.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds has been hosting an excellent (ongoing) pitch session where she analyzes a lot of different query pitches. What I like about the BookEnds pitch sessions is that she tells you why something did or didn't work. Really valuable feedback.

I think it would be a mistake to think of a query as formulaic, but it is to a point. You have to wow an agent within a few seconds. The sentences should be tight, powerful and set the stage for what should be an intriguing story. That's really not as hard as it seems.

You see it all the time in tv show blurbs and movie trailers. The pitch is rarely more than two or three sentences. You can get a lot of mileage out of three sentences if you use the right words.

Word choice is critical. Given the choice, always pick the word that delivers an emotional response. Dash rather than run. Harvest rather than gather. Bitter rather than harsh. Notice that you can see the first word of each pair more clearly than the second. A visceral word is more specific and tangible.

The second aspect of a pitch is the content. The conflict has to be established quickly. Save the back story for the synopsis if it's that important.

A query pitch (for a novel) shouldn't take more than one paragraph for best results. If you find yourself going on too long, you've not condensed the story to its key components yet.

Having read the pitches at BookEnds and other writing blogs, I can tell within the first two sentences whether the pitch sounds interesting enough. No doubt, agents probably have radar even keener than mine. I'm willing to bet they toss queries aside faster than I would.

So how do you pinpoint your conflict? My rule of thumb is to identify the catalyst and the result. For example, in TOUCH OF FIRE, the catalyst is: A dangerous book has been stolen. The result: Two alpha personalities are forced to work together to recover it. The conflict: Everyone wants this book, certain it will grant them unlimited power.

So the conflict would read something like: Grayhawke Tams would sooner stay in jail than help a fire mage. But when he discovers the thief who stole the grimoire might also control his future, he's forced into a prickly alliance with Leda that leads them to the truth about the Earth that was, and a thousand year old book that could reintroduce technology to a world that knows only magic.

In the actual query, I added a couple more sentences to set the story up and introduce the characters, but basically, this is the core of the conflict.

Don't give up if the conflict doesn't distinguish itself right away. What happens is that our heads are filled with every nuance, thread, and sub-conflict and it's hard to dig right down to the real point of the story.

Keep whittling at it until you get to the chewy middle. And don't worry about not being able to give more information to the agent. If the story has legs, you'll get your chance to tell more of it.

Next week: cover letters

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coming in for a Landing

Holy moley, the world is finally spinning at a normal speed. I've barely had time to check my mail, let alone offer a suitable blog post.

I had a mountain of things that needed to get done before December 20. I've whittled it down to two little items on the to-do list. Piece of cake.

For the life of me, I'm not sure how I got it all done. But I'm a very stable pony. There's not a lot that flusters me if left to my own devices.

*****

I am gearing up for another newsletter run. My counterpart for the OWW newsletter has been stupendous in forwarding me announcements. She's been a huge help and I have a little shrine set up with flowers and wine in her honor.

The other newsletter is entirely my own effort, but I do have a few trusty people I can rely on for articles and information. My network works surprisingly well and everyone plays nice. --Big sigh of relief.

*****

That WOW! article has brought me a lot of new visitors. Welcome! Hope you'll keep coming back.

WOW! was such a good experience, I might query them with something else. I like everything about that ezine. They are really very polished and professional.

*****

I've spent a considerable amount of time in the last couple of weeks working up a marketing plan for TOUCH OF FIRE, as well as future books too. I promise to do a few in depth posts on marketing and business plans in the future. I know several readers of this blog do have published books so maybe we can brainstorm some ideas.

Tomorrow, I will talk about query letters.

See you then!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Markets

I've been hesitant to post this one for the Writer's Eye. It pays well for spec fiction, .05 cents per word, but they insist that you also provide a piece of artwork to accompany your writing. This is an ezine that seeks writer-artists.

When I went over there I found a photograph, digital art, paintings and 3-dimensional art, so their expectation of artwork is broad. My concern is that you're only getting paid for the writing. To the author's benefit, The Writer's Eye only asks for first rights. Please read the guidelines carefully.


The Writer's Eye

FICTION: We are seeking high-quality literary fiction, including flash fiction, in all genres. You do not need to query prior to submitting.

Submit one story and one visual art attachment, using the following text format (no html please):

Subject Line: SUBMISSION - FICTION - Title

Body Heading: Author's Name, email address, mailing address, phone number, approximate word count of story, type of accompanying artwork submission (i.e., painting, photo, etc.)

Body: Story

Footer: Author's Bio (50 words or fewer)

Pay Rate: Varies. We use a general guideline of $.05 per word

Length: up to 1,000 words for flash fiction and up to 3,000 words for other stories.

*****

For Poets

Euphoria's Annual Poetry Contest

$100 for the Winning Entry.

No entry fee, and nothing that must be purchased if contest is won.

Poems may be of any genre, with no more than poems being entered, and with a 50 line maximum for each poem.

Send all entries in the body of an email (no html.) Include name, bio and a working email address. If you send more than one poem in the email, be sure that you separate each poem and be sure to add a copyright date for it also, to protect your rights.

The winner will retain all rights to their poem,with the exception of "Euphoria" printing and displaying the poem on the Web Page as the winning poem.

Winner announced Feb 1, 2008.

Email entries to: mailto:bowmanj8@aol.com,and type "Poetry Contest Submission"in the subject line of the email.

Deadline: Dec. 31, 1007

*****

Sniplets

At Sniplits, we're simply crazy about short stories. We think more of them should be published, and we've decided to do something about it. So, we're working furiously toward launching as a new short story publisher. Our goal is to make Sniplits the single best place to find wonderful, short tales for downloading to your MP3 player, cellphone or whatever. We're accepting and reviewing manuscripts now, and we welcome the work of new as well as established authors.
We're looking for: Stories between 50 and 10,000 words

Literary
Mainstream
Mystery/suspense/thriller
Humor
Romance
Science fiction/fantasy
Action/adventure
Historical
Horror
Western
Young adult
Some poetry

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guest Blogging

Wow! Stuff is happening so fast and the book hasn't even gone through edits yet.

I am scheduled to be a regular guest blogger at Samhain's weblog. My first appearance will be December 21. I guess I'll have to think of something clever to say. ~grin~

I've also been scheduled for a chat. My first! That should be just before TOUCH OF FIRE debuts this summer. Darn. That means I'll have to be clever at least twice.

One of my goals for 2008 is to expand my internet presence. I'm glad now that I've had time developing my blog voice. My first 'blog' was really a regular journal that I kept along with my website. When I redesigned the website, I wiped out all the journal entries except for the few that I thought were still interesting or helpful to writers. I haven't given them anchor links so you'll have to scroll through the whole list, but it's still over there under the archives if you're interested.

What I think is neat is that I reread some of them and remembered where I was at that point in my career and what I was trying to achieve. It's like a mini time capsule for me.

The website and blog have been an extraordinary training ground for me, and I've met a lot of new people through them. I was slow to get on the blog bandwagon, but I'm glad I took the plunge.

It taught me a lot about voice, business demeanor, appropriate topics and time management. Treating the blog as a responsibility made me aware and sensitive to the writing community as a whole.

Before I started blogging, I visited a lot of sites. It helped me decide what I wanted from my blog and also how to go about achieving it. I wasn't interested in sharing my daily life because…well, it's boring. So it left me with the quandary of pulling together a blog that served a useful purpose yet still be warm and inviting.

As I surfed the web, I noticed which blogs I visited the most. I liked bloggers who were informative, positive, yet folksy; people I'd like to chat with at the local coffeehouse. These are the blogs I used as my models.

The journal, and later the blog have been a work in progress. It's been a wonderful vehicle for me and I hope for others who stop by. My modus operandi is to post topics of interest to writers, links to good resources and markets. Occasionally, I'll tell a story from my wicked, wicked past just to mix it up.

Thank you to everyone who visits--even if you're like me and lurk most of the time. Feel free to comment or shoot me an email. If the latest is any indication, it should be an interesting 2008. I hope you'll stick with me. You never know. There might be cake involved.

Tomorrow: Markets have been few and far between, but I'll see what I can find for you.

See you then!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How 2 Shake Off the Heebie Jeebies

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My article, Networking: How 2 Shake Off the Heebee Jeebies is now up at WOW!

Go over and check it out.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Book Promotion on a Budget

It's a Hollywood fallacy that your publisher handles all the promotion for you. Unless you're Nora, Rowling or Clancy, you're pretty much on your own.

With that in mind, I have been mulling over several ideas to promote my upcoming book, TOUCH OF FIRE. With the help of my friends, I've come up with a few notions.

My mission has been to find unique and cost effective outlets to promote my book --outlets that will not suck the marrow out of my bones. It's not easy.

I know a couple of people who have hired professional PR people. I won't be going that route. Instead, I will depend on my inherent skills, be they what they may.

It helps that I'm a designer, so I have a good grasp of what constitutes a snappy looking layout. But I won't be shelling out big bucks for promo cards and bookmarks.

Samhain is supposed to be good about lining up reviewers, but I'll also be keeping an eye out for people who aren't on their radar.

Contests are another option. I had a nifty idea for a treasure hunt (thank you, Mike) since part of the story deals with a man who is a scavenger for ancient treasure. I'm on the fence about this one because it will require people to read the book. I'm not sure this will work, unless I can generate enough buzz for the prize. But it's on my list.

So what's on my list of possibilities?

• wrangle as many reviews as I can.
• stop lurking and participate more in writer/reader loops
• offer writer workshops in my particular field of expertise (design)
• create a contest with a very unique prize.
• blog tours
• excerpts
• a quarterly newsletter
• chats
• guest blogger on other blogs
~if you have a writing blog, invite me, please!
• attend one or two conferences if money and time allow

You'll notice I did not list bookmarks, pens, promo cards, candy, key fobs, calendars, seed packets or dog food lids.

I will have a few business cards printed if I'm at a conference, but for the most part my promotional efforts will take up my time rather than my wallet.

On a private writers' loop, I asked the group what they thought compelled them to buy a book. Reviews and excerpts seemed to head the list.

Hand-selling motivates me to buy. If the author takes the time to talk to me, I almost always buy the book. I was at a conference a year ago where a "name" author took me by the arm and shoved her promo card in my hand. She pitched the premise of her book by touting the things she thought I was interested in. I am sure she had watched me for a moment as I was browsing the advertising paraphenalia for the paranormal titles, so she pitched the paranormal angle of her book. I bought the book.

Another author also stopped to talk to me. (Evidently, I must be very easy to talk to.) I would have bought his books, but he gave me both of them as a gift. He felt that as long as his books were being read, he didn't care to make that immediate sale. His thinking is that if his first book appealed to the reader, she'll come back and read subsequent books. Makes sense, though I think if it were me, I might have offered the first book and encouraged the reader to buy the other one. Interesting note: I liked the writing of the free books better than the one I paid for. And he was right. I did buy his next book.

That's my strategy so far. I have a couple of other ideas that require big business sponsorship. The story has slim but important tethers to major commercial connections. I didn't write it that way. That's just the way it turned out. I didn't even notice it until one of my crit partners pointed out the commercial possibilities.


**Anybody out there know Robert Iger of Disney? Have I got a project unlike anything Disney has ever done before!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Elizabethan Fact Bites

I've been doing a lot of research for my current wip which is set in the early 1600s and I found this link about life in Elizabethan England called the Compendium of Common Knowledge. Maggie Pierce Secara has done an extraordinary job cobbling little fact bites that are easy to digest and fun to learn.

Go on other there and take a look for yourself. It's an addictive site that will have you clicking to its many links. Below are a few things that surprised and tickled me.

*****
The metric system has not been invented yet, so:
Land is measured in acres.
Beer is measured in gallons and pints.
Distance is measured in miles, feet, and inches.


I never realized the Brits used "miles" at one point in their history.

*****
Some servant wages for 1550, Ingatestone Hall, Essex, (the country manor of Privy Secretary Sir William Petre): By the quarter:

The laundress, cook, butler, and the children's nurse were paid 10s each. The youngest housemaid got 5s, as did a part-time brewer.


*****

Beer can be flavored with just about anything, including pepper, ivy, rosemary, and lupins. Beer in England is mostly made without hops, and is usually flat.

So is it still flat? Doesn't sound very appetizing. But what do I know of beer?

*****

The Pope published a writ (1570) absolving English Catholics from allegiance to the Queen, since she is (he says) a heretic. Anyone who kills her is pre-absolved from the sin of murder.

LOL! How terribly logical of the Pope.

*****

Children are the property of their parents, and give them the respect a servant gives his master. Or else.

Wives are the property of their husbands. See previous admonition.

You just know I would've been an insolent wench back then.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

E-book Futures

I am not the most tech-savvy person you'll ever meet. Heck, I've barely evolved from troglodyte. But I try to stay abreast of the latest innovations.

I've discovered that despite throwing temper tantrums every time technology took a leap forward, I have never been able to stop progress. I've learned to embrace the horror.

You should have seen me when cell phones entered the realm of man. Greg had to force me to buy a cell phone. But I still resist texting. That just seems dumb. If I have a phone, why should I type?

The thing I've learned about technology is that if you don't keep up, it pulls away from you so fast that you are utterly lost when the next gen tool takes its place. So I keep pace even when I don't want to.

Those of you who know me, know that I have a knack for spotting trends and patterns. And I hate to say it because I don't want to encourage any more progress than necessary, but I think these e-readers might become a way of life in the future.

I've been on the fence for a long time on how this was going to pan out, but the Writers' Strike is what convinced me the ebook was here to stay.

A major sticking point in talks was negotiating the royalties for mediums that weren't an issue the last time contracts were bargained. The written word was being digitized at an alarming rate, and writers weren't being compensated for it. Sure, they got their checks when shows went on tv, but what about podcasts, website content, and YouTube?

The writers' strike touched the tip of the iceberg. Digitized formats of their work were no longer isolated cases. Now when you write for a tv show, a newspaper, a magazine---and even a book, you must reconcile yourself to the fact that the publisher of these works might very well want it in digital format too.

The reason the writers' union has been so steadfast for protecting these rights and demanding royalties for digital media is because they believe it is the natural evolution for mass communication. I agree. Given what technology has done so far for music, communication, and the information highway, it is the only logical step. I'm not prescient; I'm merely extrapolating what must happen with book publishing in order to compete with other forms of communication.

I have reason to believe all the major players know that as well. Giant publishers, like Harlequin have announced that their complete catalog will now be available in ebook format. Kensington has teamed up with Samhain to foster its e-connection. The Kindle, Amazon's e-reader is gearing up to offer thousands of titles for download.

They know what's coming. And they are gearing up for it.

My prediction, for what it's worth, is that traditional publishing will have to share a bed with what it once considered its poorer cousin, the ebook. How that will manifest in terms of royalties and advances has yet to be seen. But it should be a pretty interesting turn of events. And it's something that all of us as authors should consider as a critical next step.

The world is changing once again. Get ready for another explosion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Russians Are Coming

Live Journal was sold to the Russians! Weird. I have an LJ account I use to get into private group discussions, but I don't post at that blog. It's just a placeholder.

Earlier this year when I decided to start a blog I tested several models. It was a case of Goldilocks and the three blogs. The first one, WordPress, was too hard to get used to. The second, Live Journal, was too soft. (read: not business-y enough for my needs). But Blogger was just right. It had just the right amount of functionality and it was easy to learn.

I don't know which came first, but Live Journal follows the business model of outfits like MySpace and Facebook, which is great for networking if you want to go through all the trouble of friending. I had to ask one of my LJ friends to explain friending to me. Even after she friended me, I'm still not sure I understand its value. All I know is that I'm on some list.

Friending is a unique concept of the 21st century. I just finished reading an article in the RWA newsletter touting the benefits of MySpace. It too, uses the friending model. But I can't help thinking it feels like some benign pyramid scheme.

Vehicles like LJ and MySpace hit a goldmine with this concept. Membership grows by getting members to bring in their friends. Their friends bring other friends, and on and on. It's brilliant from a marketing standpoint.

When I was researching blogs, I once got stuck going from one LJ friend's blog to another. With the exception of a few, which I link to and love, most didn't talk about writing much. But then Live Journal specifically calls itself a "social" network, not a business one.

Since I have both LJ and Blogger, I've noticed that Live Journal seems to send out a lot more notices than Blogger. I don't know if that's a recent phenomenon or if they're always that chatty. It could be a sign of trouble though.

Years ago, Greg and I had some cash tied up with an investment firm. A few weeks before we pulled out our money, we started getting a lot of letters telling us what a fine job they were doing and all the perks they were adding. We never paid attention, thinking it was just PR.

Then we went in to take out our money. That agent begged us not to be hasty. Our decision wasn't subject to negotiation since we needed the money as a down payment for a new house. Within a couple of weeks after we withdrew our funds, the company went bankrupt. Many of our friends lost a bundle. It was horrible, and we were so lucky to pull out when we did.

So as long as Live Journal doesn't start showing other signs of ailing, it shouldn't be a big deal. They're just changing hands. And the Russians seem very friendly. *grin*

Just to be on the safe side....archive your posts if you use Live Journal.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Markets

Learning Through History

Fifty percent kill fee. Pays $75 for nonfiction. We are accepting submissions for the Italian Renaissance issue until December 15, 2007. Below are just a few of the many topics that would be of interest - we also encourage writers to submit manuscripts and queries on other possible topic(s) that are related to the issue theme:

Medici family
The Papacy
Papal States
Leonardo da Vinci
Sistine Chapel
Machiavelli
Botticelli
Donatello
Humanism
Lucrezia Borgia
Sack of Rome in 1527
Venice (the Doge)Florence
Italian City States

I wish I had time to query them. I'm rather well-versed in the Italian Renaissance. I hope one of my readers tries them.

*****

A new market. Launches January 2008

Serpentarius Magazine

Seeks unpublished speculative fiction. Maximum of 5,000 words, minimum of 1,500. Pays five cents/word and up. Be sure to read their guidelines FAQs page. They pay by the rule of six.


*****

Shroud Magazine

Shroud considers horror, dark mystery, dark fantasy and suspense short stories up to 5,000 words. In addition, we are interested in tightly woven flash fiction, and (in some cases) serialized novellas. Thriller and Suspense tales with a horror aspect are also welcome.

Pays two to five cents/word up to $250.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December OWW Newsletter

The December issue of the OWW newsletter is up. This month we have an interview with SC Butler, some great reviews from the OWW critique workshop and a link to the Robert Heinlein contest that's offering some very lucrative prizes. We also have many publication announcements, including from yours truly, to toast this holiday month.

If you write SF, fantasy or horror, OWW is a great place to find critique partners. That's where I found many of mine. They even offer a free one month trial so you can check it out.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Avatar-Free

I've never used an avatar---which is really ironic since I'm an artist. I've created avatars for friends and family, usually photos of pets or people Photoshopped with special effects, but I've never created an icon for myself.

On several writing forums that I belong to, I see a host of icons, from the uber cool to just plain crappy. Some appear to be straight out of movie trailers, others look like clip art or (gasp) somebody else's art property, and a few look homemade but original.

As an artist, I always worry about copyright issues. The worldwide web is a big place so maybe the avatar users aren't worried they'll get a lawsuit slapped on them. Or maybe because of the business I'm in, I'm particularly sensitive about lawsuits for copyright infringement.

The company I work for has an entire platoon of angry lawyers and they vigorously enforce copyrights. It puts the fear of God in you when your job is on the line. Even if it weren’t against the law, I still wouldn't do it because I believe art belongs to the artist (unless he sells the rights).

I imagine the movie trailer photos are fair game since I see them everywhere. The movies' websites always offer images to use as screensavers and desktop art anyway. It's free advertising for them.

But what about real artwork--the already published kind? Do people get permission to use those? Many people don't realize that art on the web belongs to someone somewhere. You can't just use it without permission or payment. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I've worked with who bring me magazines or website links and ask me to pull a piece of art from there. (Like I want to go to jail.)

Art cannot be legally reproduced unless it specifically states it is copyright free or public domain. ---or you pay for it.

Anyway back to avatars. I do like them on writing forums because I can identify people visually, especially if they chime in regularly. This can work for or against you. Because avatars are so recognizable, I cheerfully ignore the ranters, ravers, and drama queens, while quickly finding those who usually serve up pearls of wisdom.

I'm content to be avatar free. I can't think of any one image that defines me anyway and I'm too lazy to constantly change them according to my mood.

My favorite avatars are pictures of the writers themselves because I like putting a face to the writing. It makes me feel like I know them.

Too bad I look like Attilla the Hun's mother. --grin-- Another good reason for staying invisible.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

High Hopes

There's a song that Frank Sinatra once recorded called High Hopes. You might remember some of the lyrics.

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin low 'stead of lettin go
Just remember that ant

Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

Greg is fond of saying that I remind him of a little ant because I just keep going with little regard for my insignificance. --Hey, somebody's gotta move that rock. It might as well be me.

The road to publication is a terribly debilitating lifestyle. It gnaws on your self esteem constantly and the pay sucks most of the time. The only reason to put yourself through this agony is because you enjoy the process of writing.

Now admit it, the process is fun, isn't it? I have a blast creating my worlds.

I usually see blog posts on how depressing the writer's life is but I thought I would blog today on what keeps me going. Speaking as someone who is one with the ant, I feel eminently qualified. LOL

Positive Attitude: Be the ant and believe in yourself. It starts with two little words. I can.

Open mindedness: Be open to new ideas and different opinions. You don’t have to buy into all of them, but don't rule them out just because it seems foreign to you. Fresh perspectives are hard to come by. Treasure them.

Grow a support group: A support group is essential to your well being, but don't allow yourself to be so dependent on them that you can't write without constant reassurance. Friends are wonderful, but true friends know when to stop holding your hand and smack you on the back of the head.

Have fun: I am one voice among MILLIONS of other writer ants, so I don't take myself too seriously. Writing should be fun. I'm not here to preach, teach or bare my soul. This isn't therapy. It's entertainment. I want my readers to enjoy the ride.

Laugh: Misery might love company, but you'll gain more friends with laughter than moans and grumbles. We all get knocked down. It's the people who get back up that succeed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Developing Voice

At BookEnds, author Christi Craig has her say on "voice". Go over and check it out.

Christie mentioned in the comments area that voice evolves with time. I think that's true. If I go back and look at early samples of my writing, I can see glimpses of my glib and carefree voice that I've since honed. But I can also see a little darkness too.

Me, dark? I can draw it out whenever the scene demands it, but I'm such an upbeat person in real life that it takes me a while to find that dark and sulky voice. Like "other" things in life, I have to be in the mood to write dark.

Voice is probably the hardest thing to master. Part of it is due to the confidence in your writing style. Those who haven't yet found their voice sometimes waffle from one tone to another within the same scene. It gives you an uneasy feeling that the author is not in control.

When I was studying painting at university, I was fascinated with the concept of style, the painterly version of writer's voice. I don't know if teaching methods have changed since I was at school, but back then we learned by copying the masters.

My early canvasses were faithful copies, but as I grew more confident, I often took chances and changed the tone of the color palette, or the energy of the brush strokes. Eventually a style emerged that turned out to be uniquely my own. My painter's voice had developed.

I think the same concept applies to writing. You learn by reading and practicing. When you start to feel as if you understand where you're going, you're more willing to strike out in a style that is uniquely yours. Only time and practice will make it stick.

I don't know about other people, but I found in both painting and writing, my voice emerged so slowly as to be imperceptible. By absorbing the work around me, I developed recognizable traits that indicated style. Ta Da! Voice!

With any luck, you'll also develop a following of readers who also appreciate your voice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Making Time

Now that I'm with Samhain, I've been invited into several private list groups. I continue to be impressed with how well organized this publisher is. There is a cohesiveness and a logic in the way Samhain guides their authors.

It's a little overwhelming right now, but I hope to settle in after the holidays. My book, Touch of Fire won't be out until next summer, so I have plenty of time to look around. I do want to be more involved in the writing community so I'm trying to pull myself out of lurking mode and participate more.

The biggest help in forcing me to delurk has been using a blog reader. I can scan blogs quickly rather than click each link to see if anyone had anything to say. I only go directly to the blog if I want to comment or see what else the blogger has written. So if anyone notices they've not been seeing me in their stat counter, it's because I'm reading your blogs remotely. Rest assured, I am reading you though.

There have been beau coup obstacles that have hindered my writing time. My kitchen is in bits and pieces right now. Greg is installing my cabinets and I will need to do some touch ups afterwards. Then there's my day job, where I'll be covering for several managers who decided to take all of December off. I have a couple art projects to finish; one is a Christmas gift so I really need to get that done. And then there's blurb copy I need to furnish to Samhain for the upcoming novel. Oh….and I did win some ad space over at Fiction Addiction, so thank you to everyone who voted for me!! That said, now I have to design a banner for them to post.

Everything I just listed (and this was only a partial inventory) has to be done by December 20. No pressure. LOL

I've been writing in little spaces of time; reading when I can't write, and researching in between. The holidays aren't easy because so many other people need you at this time too. So I make time for them because in the end they're the only ones that matter.

I'm not one of those "writing is my life" authors. …I'll wait while the purists throw rotten tomatoes at me. (grin)

My philosophy is to make time for the important things in life. Everything else will find a way to fit in.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Markets

Not much this week.

Cutting Block Press
Butcher Shop Quartet: Volume 2

For BSQ2, we’ll be reading original, unpublished Novellas of between 15,000 and 40,000 words in length. Please Query for longer works. No simultaneous submissions. No multiple submissions. Each work must be accompanied by a separate synopsis of 250 to 1,000 words, describing the story in full. All submissions will be reviewed by at least one editor, but a senior editor will read every synopsis. Those submissions which reach our short list will be read in full by a senior editor. Only submissions e-mailed to the address below will be considered. Failure to follow the guidelines may result in a submission being rejected without being read.

Submissions deadline is January 31 2008, with publication scheduled during the first half of 2008. A provisional response to your submission should be expected from us within 120 days of receipt.

Payment to authors is 1.5 cents per word, with one contributor’s copy. Well-published authors of note whose work is accepted are encouraged to negotiate payment, as professional rates will be considered.

*****

Life in the USA Essay Contest

Entry Fee: None

Contest will end either June 30, 2008 or on the publication of 100 new articles, whichever comes later. At the close of the contest, an independent panel of judges will choose the best articles based on quality of writing and relevance to an understanding of American life.

A first prize of $500 will be awarded, plus five $100 second place prizes. Individual writers may win at most a single prize, the highest for which they are chosen by the panel. Life In The USA needs sections and articles on any area of American life that could use some explaining to someone coming from another country or culture (or to a young person just starting out). We need articles explaining the part business and civic associations, service clubs, charities, and other organizations play in American life. We could also use articles explaining American geographical regions, major cities, and industries.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mini Movie Reviews

At the Movies: Enchanted

Enchanted was great! A very cute movie touching on everything you ever remembered about fairytales. It was a wonderful feel-good movie for the whole family. So refreshing. There were several laugh out loud moments and you just breathe this sigh of contentment at the end.

This was much better than Stardust in my opinion. Stardust was clever in spots, but it tried too hard overall. Enchanted was fresh, clever and remarkably logical. Highly recommended.

Rented: Transformers and Ratatouille

Transformers: SF Fantasy best suited for pre-teen boys. You can't look at this movie too closely. The plot holes are big enough to fly an airplane through it. The special effects were fluid and convincing though.

Ratatouille: Slow, predictable--but killer animation. Those artists are gods! The subtle details were awesome. Disney really does its homework. Aside from the weak story, artists might like to have this movie in the video library for reference alone.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fun Links

Links to occupy your non-existent free time.

One is addictive---but does a good thing.
One is philosophical.
And one is just to make you annoying when the conversation turns to US politics.

Enjoy.

Free Rice

What mythological creature are you?

Political quiz

Friday, November 23, 2007

Spry Old Girls

While the rest of the US watched football yesterday, I spent a few minutes catching the national dog show. The Australian Shepherd won best in show! I love that dog!

While I've never been one to choose a pet because of his pedigree, there are certain breeds I prefer over others. I like dogs that serve a purpose. Acting the part of rugs or statuary won't do. I like dogs that are energetic, intelligent and independent.

Picking the right dog means knowing your own personality. I am an energetic person, so obviously a lethargic dog wouldn't be right for me. I expect my animals to understand me intuitively, so I want a dog that is fairly intelligent and capable of independent thought.

My Aussie is my sweetheart. She is old and frail, but fierce in her independence and stubborn as I am. I thought I was going to lose her once when she suffered a spinal cord injury but she wasn't going to give up anymore than I was. It's hard for her to negotiate stairs anymore, but she'll stoically climb those stairs just to be with me when I'm writing. She is my shadow.

In her prime, we would run like the wind, rounding up big birds, pigs and other assorted farm animals. She was a wonder to watch. I never had to teach her to herd. She knew her job instinctively.

And we were such a good team! Chelly would stare down any unruly animal and she was fearless even with the more dangerous male rheas. She wasn't about to take any guff from them.

Today, she's retired and spends most of her time sleeping, but I can still see the gleam in her eye when I take her for walks and the little sprint in her step when she spies an animal needing to be corralled.

*****
Speaking of spry old girls, we might be going to Chicago in August '08. My mother is celebrating a milestone birthday and my sisters thought it would be nice if we did something extra special.

Greg and I haven't been back to Chicago since my dad died several years ago. It'll be nice to visit for a happier occasion. Plus we get to eat at all our favorite hangouts. Chicago has the best food in the world! I'm glad I don't live there anymore; I'd never fit through a doorway.

I don't know how long we'll be up there, but it won't be nearly enough time. I am going to try to pack in as many sights and friends as I can.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

In the US we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. A time for feasting, visiting and remembering our friends and family.

I am by nature a very grateful person. My parents taught us to be grateful for the good things in our lives, but even more so for the bad things, because obstacles are what make us stronger.

So today, I am thankful for my parents and their valuable lessons, my sisters and brothers who keep the family whole, and for Greg who keeps me whole. I'm grateful for my mutant dogs who remind me that all creatures are precious.

My friends, those I see regularly and those I've never met in the flesh have a special place in my heart. I don't make friends flippantly. My friendships are cut in stone, and I treasure each person for including me in their lives because I know a true friend is a gift.

My crit partners, who are also my friends, hold an even more cherished position. They catch my writing flaws and selflessly slap the silly out of me to make me a better writer. Because of you, I have a contract this year.

Whether it's a holiday you celebrate in your country or not, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. If you read this blog, consider yourself welcome and appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Smartest Mouse in the World

Most of you know I usually blog about writing during the week, but hey, it's a holiday week so I'm going to cheat and post my mouse story.

My friend, Pamela gave me the idea when she blogged about her mouse story.

To be fair, this isn't really my story. It's Greg's. I married him for more than his muscular buttocks, you know. He's always good for a story. Here's one.

Greg works shift at a chemical plant. Many years ago while at work, several of the men became nodding acquaintances with a little gray mouse that would methodically stop by at 2am every morning to see what they had for dinner.

This went on for weeks and all the guys became fond of "Mickey". Well, Mickey made the mistake one day of running across the feet of the plant secretary.

Martha was not amused and she insisted that they murdalize that mouse.

The plant manager ordered traps to be set. Yet every night each one of those traps were tripped with nary a mouse tail. Everyone was convinced that this was the smartest mouse in the world.

Little did they know that Greg (who by now was feeding that mouse by hand) was tripping the traps so Mickey wouldn't die a squishy death.

Well…one day a new trap was set that Greg didn't know about. He was sitting in his office when he heard, SNAP! He winced and went around to where he heard the steel jaws of death smash down.

Tragically, Mickey had gone to that cheese heaven in the sky.

Greg grieved for the little guy, then did the only thing he could think of to honor a legend. He Xeroxed multiple copies of dead Mickey and put a copy in each of the traps. Mickey then received a hero's burial.


****Mickey, you are remembered.****

Monday, November 19, 2007

Markets

Enspiren Publishing

An e-publisher for short stories and novels. Query through their online system.

*****

Cat Fancy

PAY: $200 - $400

A consumer magazine dedicated to cat care for the responsible owner. Before submitting any materials, read several issues to acquaint yourself with the type of material we use. Our magazine is available at many pet stores, bookstores and other places magazines are sold. Each month, we try to provide our readers a mix of informative articles dealing with feline health, nutrition, grooming, behavior and training, as well as special interest articles on cat-related events, hobbies, entertainment or crafts. Breeders, cat-show judges and other experts write our monthly breed profiles, which we assign well in advance. We assign medical features to veterinarians or other health experts. Length: 1,200-1,500 words.

*****

WHY, USA

A new ezine for work-at-homers. Looking for a good freelance writers to cover topics that bridge work, home and wellness-related issues. Pay: $50 for features stories and $25 for department stories. Writer's guidelines are under Menu.

*****

Parabola is a quarterly journal devoted to the exploration of the quest for meaning as it is expressed in the world's myths, symbols, and religious traditions, with particular emphasis on the relationship between this store of wisdom and our modern life.Each issue of Parabola is organized around a theme. Examples of themes we have explored in the past include Rites of Passage, Sacred Space, The Child, Ceremonies, Addiction, The Sense of Humor, Hospitality, The Hunter, The Stranger, and Prayer & Meditation.

*****

On the Premises

Stories published in On The Premises are winning entries in contests that are held every four months. Each contest challenges writers to produce a great story based on a broad premise that our editors supply as part of the contest.

On The Premises aims to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write what we feel are creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. Entrants pay no fees, and winners receive cash prizes in addition to exposure through publication.

First prize for 2008 onward is US $140.

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Anthologies
These do not pay well, but if you're looking for clips and exposure, check them out.

Warrior Wise Woman

Simian Publishing

DarkHart Press

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ready for a Break

I'm taking a break from my newsletter duties while waiting for the last bits of information to reach me. With any luck we should get it out early so people have something to peruse over the upcoming holidays.

I am so ready for a break. Generally, I time my vacations so that most of it can be taken toward the end of the year, but this year too many unforeseen incidents ate up a good hunk of my time off.

There were major expenses this year; like the ceiling, the air conditioner, the fence and of course my surgery. But all that's behind us. I am really looking forward to 2008. I turned the corner in my writing career earlier than I anticipated so I'm raring to see what I can accomplish for next year.

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Thanksgiving is coming up in the US. Greg won't be here until very late on Thursday, so I offered to help one of my friends throw her Thanksgiving spread. She has more than a dozen people showing up so she can use an extra pair of hands. My friend is one of "those" people. It's like walking into a Martha Stewart dinner party.

I'm not that fussy when I entertain, but I marvel at people who can throw an elegant spread. It's like entering a fairy tale. My friend transforms her home into something you see in those fancy magazines and her dinner table would make Martha Stewart flush with pride. I may have to take a picture of her table just to prove it.

Anyway, I'll be the help for that night and feast with her family and friends. Greg's feast will come the next day after he's rested. This year we will do rib roast and asparagus and save the turkey for Christmas.

The best part though, is that I will be home with those I love. That's the perfect Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Around the Blogosphere

WOW! Women on Writing is publishing my article on networking. It should appear in next month's issue. I'll let you know when it's out.

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Also, let me introduce a new blog on my blogroll, Writing on the Wall. This is a great blog where five editors answer your editing questions and discuss process. Heather Moore, who I've mentioned before with her Out of Jerusalem series is one of the editors on this forum. Go over and check it out. Heather also has her own author blog here.

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I am busy putting together next month's newsletter for OWW. I'm thrilled that we have tons of publication announcements this go round. There's nothing like seeing your peers succeed. And for once I can add something too. We also have a new author interview, but you'll have to tune in to find out who it is.

If you haven't already done so, check out this month's OWW newsletter and read the interview I did with Joshua Palmatier, author of The Cracked Throne and The Skewed Throne.

As an added bonus, go to Joshua's blog and enter his contest. If you blog about the three items listed you'll be in the running for a free copy of The Vacant Throne, coming out in January 2008. There's no easier way to win. What are you waiting for? Go!! Win a book! Read the excerpts here.

I'm taking myself out of the running, so go on over there and play in my stead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Writing News!

I've been holding this in for so long I thought I would burst, but now that I've signed on the dotted line I can announce that Samhain Publishing will be publishing my fantasy novel, Touch Of Fire.

I am so excited, and…umm…shocked! LOL.

When I decided to take up fiction writing, I gave myself seven years to be properly published. What with a full time job and traveling I couldn't see it happening any sooner than that. But the day I was offered the contract, I looked at the calendar and realized it was three years almost to the day from when I started this journey. How's that for planning?

Nonetheless, my road took the scenic route because I had so MUCH to learn about fiction. I absorbed every bit of information, critique and workshop training until it was fused with my DNA.

None of this would have been possible without the help of some very patient and tough critique partners. I love you guys. You've been that pointy stick in my back that kept me going when all I could write was crap. Thank you.

So for at least one moment, I'll bask in that soft cerulean glow of accomplishment.

…okay, that was long enough. Back to work.

More news as it develops.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Markets

Samhain Publishing

Call for Submissions: Psychic powers anthology

From Anne Scott:
I’d like to announce an open call for submissions for a new anthology. This psychic powers anthology will consist of three to four novellas to be released individually as ebooks for release November 2008 and combined into one print title for release November 2009.

I am open to any genre, setting and heat level. But the central premise MUST involve psychic powers. These psychic powers can be underlain by magic or science or both. A few examples would be: telepathy, telekinesis, precognition and mind control. The anthology is certainly not limited to these.

Submissions should be 20,000 to 30,000 words in length.To submit, please include the full manuscript (of 20,000 to 30,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-3 page synopsis. Also include a letter of introduction/query letter and tell me a little about yourself.

Submissions are open until January 13, 2008, and final decision will be made by February 3. Submissions should be sent to editor@samhainpublishing.com and please put Psychic Powers Anthology Submission in the subject line.

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Heroes Anthology

Literary Cottage is compiling a new anthology series for Adams Media featuring uplifting, original, true stories about the experiences and relationships that inspired and enriched our lives, namely those with our mothers, our fathers, and our teachers (also mother figures, father figures, and mentors). These true, original slice-of-life stories will be written by people from all walks of life and will provide unique personal insights into powerful universal truths, as well as honor the "everyday hero" in their lives. Each anthology in the series will be divided to highlight the variety of ways real life mothers, teachers, and fathers go beyond the call of duty to heroism.

Each Hero anthology will include a balanced mix of true stories of varied themes, such as:

• Extraordinary achievements and experiences of real life, ordinary teachers, mothers, and fathers.
• True life-changing, life-affirming, or life-defining experiences and relationships.
• Epiphany, synchronicity, serendipity.
• Finding/giving comfort in difficult times.
• Triumph over tragedy; overcoming adversity or challenges.
• Life's blessings and miracles, big and small.
• Finding the silver lining in a dark cloud; turning lemons into lemonade.
• Relationships and experiences that bring hope, understanding, healing.
• Catalysts for and examples of positive change; acts of kindness and compassion.

Word Limit: 850 - 1400 words.
Stories must be original, true, uplifting, poignant, heartwarming, and/or humorous, and in English. The intended audience is mainstream adult readers.

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Something Wicked

We are always open to submissions of new science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories. Stories should be over 2,000 words and up to about 10,000 words in length. We like intelligent, original stories with a supernatural or fantastical flavour. We pay 5 cents/word for published stories between 2,000 - 5,000 words and R300 for stories over 5,000 words.

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Wet Ink

We publish fiction (including genre fiction), creative non-fiction, poetry, memoir, essays and opinion pieces. The one thing we look for is high quality.

Pays $50 for poetry, $50 for prose under 1,500 words and $100 for prose over 1,500 words.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Creature Catalog

The other day on Fang, Fur & Fey they had a post on paranormal creatures you don't see much in books. I was pleased to see I had a couple of them in mine.

In the first book, Touch of Fire, we have the Elemental mages with a cameo by a banshee. In my current wip, I do have werewolves, but there are also werehyenas, a couple of ghosts, some man-bats and the walking dead. I'm covering all my bases. lol

Someone on FFF mentioned hellhounds. Smacks self on forehead. I have my very own hellhound sleeping on the couch right now! I need to write a story about him. Maybe a short story. Ooh…maybe a funny story. …After I finish this one.

Poor Tank is looking up at me right now and praying. Lord, don't let that crazy woman write about me.

Zombies: That word always struck me as being rather modern in tone. 1871 seems to be its first mention of reference. Since my wip is a historical, I need to get this right. The word they used back in the 16th century for the walking dead was ghoul. So no zombies in my book. They are ghouls. Fetid, flesh rotting ghouls. Mmm…yummy.

By the way, on FFF, they are having prize giveaways in honor of their first birthday. Click on the link on the left hand side of the page to enter.

Addendum: I've been mulling over the man-bat creatures. I need them capable of flight, but I've thus far refused to call them bats or vampires because really, I've had my fill of that trope.

I had decided (after more research) that I was going to make up a name for these creatures. But just now I looked up and saw one of my gargoyle statuettes, and I said, YES. That's it. They'll be gargoyles, which also fits in perfectly with the story.

Sanity saved for one more day.

Sheesh...sometimes the answer is right in front of you. Like today.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just my Luck

I am incredibly lucky sometimes, even in the most unlucky situations.

First thing yesterday morning I got a rejection from an agent. Not so lucky, say you? Well, not only did she take the time to send me a personal email, she said I had a good book on my hands and called my writing great. Her only concern was that she didn't think she could sell that particular story to NY. The ironic thing is that one of my CPs foresaw this before I pitched the story.

Anyway, my friend called me on the phone and immediately made me feel better. (Despite the fact that she had enough on her shoulders.) She reminded me that I got the validation I wanted from this agent. And now I also know my work has reached that next critical tier. My job now is not to lose momentum and try NY with something else.

By the way, the agent wrote again and said she'd love to see something else from me. Wowsa!

My next unlucky venture is when I tried to pitch an idea to a HUGE writing organization for their next conference. I got back a perfunctory email telling me I missed the deadline. I thanked the lady politely, and closed by telling her what my idea was.

She immediately wrote me back. If I can send her a proposal by today she'll put my request before the board. Who knows if they'll go for it, but it was worth a shot and I am so grateful that nice lady offered to give me a second chance.

My last lucky break was that I got paid for a couple of writing gigs yesterday and today I will send out invoices for two more.

Life is not bad. Not bad at all.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Animation Computation

Because artists are not well people, and now I have the proof to show you.

Go here. It took the artist, Alan Becker, three long months to build this. If you know anything about animation, you'll appreciate all the subtle details. You da man, Alan. Great job!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Go Here

After much (friendly) arm twisting, my friend daw has acquiesced to writing a short summary on how she edits. This is good stuff, people. I've personally read the before and after of her novels and I can tell you honestly that this lady knows how to make a revision sing.

Go check out her blog.

Thank you, Daw!

The Proverbial Dead Horse

Have you ever been accused of beating a dead horse inside a narrative?

Most of us have at some point in our careers.

It happens most often when we're not sure we got our point across the first time. I imagine we are rarely aware of our transgressions or we wouldn't have repeated our points, but good critters usually pick it up.

How do you recognize regurgitation?

This is where your editing skills come to the forefront. I think it's better to be an excellent editor with a decent base story than a good writer with poor editing skills because someone with exceptional rewriting skills can transform a novel, while a fair writer who is in love with his/her words will always run in place.

I've talked about how I edit in past posts, and I might revisit that again in the future. One of my CPs is a heck of a rewriter. I would love it if she discussed how she edits her novels on her blog. (Hint, hint, Daw.)

Anyway, the first step to identifying reruns is reading your work with fresh eyes. My favorite trick is to read isolated scenes out of order.

If I isolate the scenes, I can distinguish (even with my pathetic memory) whether it's a topic that's been brought up before--or after. Sometimes the description is better in a later scene--no doubt, my brain had come up with better ways to say the same thing. But sometimes it's just a hammer blow on pudding, throwing up the same dialog/narrative with no impact on strengthening the story.

If I said it better later, I expunge that scene from where it was and transfer some of the juicier bits to where I first introduced the topic.

Case in point:
In my current wip, I have a scene where we learn a nineteen year old pirate is a virgin (unwilling to remain so, though she is). It's important I don't nag on that. I want to make it a point in the story, but not THE point. Since it's a historical, virginity is highly valued in that era, enforced by fathers and brothers and religion, but not always successfully--human nature being what it is.

I realized walking into this project that the subject of her chastity will come up from several pov characters so I have to pay particular attention that I'm not dredging up an equine corpse with my teeth.

When her virginity comes up, I have to make sure I'm saying something new about it each time. The reader learns she's a virgin in the first chapter. Move on. In a subsequent chapter, we learn she's remained a virgin not through force (like a chastity belt) but for other reasons. Again, I move on. In another chapter, I might mention that she's just as sexually needy as any other average teenager, though still mired in the mores of the day.

Tell the reader only what he needs to know. Tell him only once. You can reinforce the concept with corroborating information, but there's no need to retread that tire if it's already got some rubber on the ground.

Your horses will thank you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Markets

Markets today...You thought I forgot, didn't ya?

Hope you guys are still voting for my blog over at Fiction Addiction. The contest ends November 12. Here's the link: http://fictionaddiction.net/vote.html

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Ziplock Contest

Do you have a creative way that you use Ziploc® Brand Bags and Containers? Tell us about your unique everyday solution in 100 words or less and you could win the $25,000 Kitchen Makeover Grand Prize! It's easy to enter. Simply enter online and you could be the Grand Prize winner!

So it's not really a writing contest---but it has a great prize!

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The Cynic Online Magazine Not So Cynical Christmas Contest

Entry fee: None Prizes:
Long Works- First Place $100, Second Place $50, Third Place $25
Short Works- First Place $50, Second Place (2 winners) $25

Open to those living in the United States, Canada, or Europe who are 16 years of age or older and possess a valid email address.
Deadline: November 15, 2007.

Entries will be judged on the talent of the writer who created the work and on the ability of the work to portray an optimistic holiday message. The opinion of what an "optimistic holiday message" is up to each judge's discretion. (Extra kudos to those that can make the judges misty-eyed).

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This one doesn't pay much, but you have to love the title.

Necrotic Tissue

Payment: Between $10-$25 and a free Necrotic Tissue T-Shirt for all accepted works.

For now, open in the month of November and January for submissions. Any cross over genres with a horror element will be considered. Dark humor that is done well is always appreciated.

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Another anthology with a great title!

Bad-A$$ Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad

Premise: Urban Fantasy stories about tough faeries. Basically in professions or with interests that you would least likely expect faeries to be in. For this volume a faerie must be the antagonist. In other words, both bad-a$$ and bad. This is not to say there can't be good faeries in the story as well. (for those that aren't sure what constitutes urban fantasy, it is a story in a modern setting with fantasy elements).

Word Count: approximately 5000 to 7000 words
Payment: One comp copy per author and a pro rata portion of $1.25 each book sold
Deadline: November 30, 2007

Ideas to Avoid: (Used in first volume) Biker Faeries, mob faeries, detective faeries, ghetto faeries, assassin faeries, ossuary faeries, cowboy faeries, indian faeries, street urchin faeries, gang faeries.

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Cry Havoc - Stories of Conflict Between Men, Monsters, and Machines

Premise: collection is broken into section: Pure Fantasy (Men vs. Monsters, no tech), Historic Fantasy (any combination of the three, primitive tech (like Da Vinci or such), Urban Fantasy (any combination of the three, modern-day tech), Soft Sci Fi (any combination of the three, future projection tech based on current design or theory), and Hard Sci Fi (Men vs. Machines, anything you can imagine, even if the science doesn't yet support it)

Word Count: approximately 5000 to 7000 words
Payment: One comp copy per author and a pro rata portion of $1.00 each book sold
Deadline: November 30, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Focus & Research

Holy, moley! I feel like I've had a big weight lifted off me. I finally re-completed the outline for my current wip (to my satisfaction). It was really bugging me. I had the first seven chapters going well, and had a fair idea how it was going to end, but it was starting to unravel. Not good. I think the worst thing a writer can do is lose her focus. If you can't steer the reader confidently through your story, the reader loses faith in you...and eventually puts the book down.

As a reader I want to believe the author knows what he's doing. Don't dazzle me with long winded narrative and fluffy clouds. Instead, show me there's a purpose to your story.

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I've mentioned before that I am a research whore. It's a terrible affliction and easily transmitted through the ether.

One reason my current wip is taking longer is because it's been necessary to do more research than usual. I have doomed myself by writing a paranormal historical. What was I thinking?

My friend, Mike has been helping me with some of the historical details. I've discovered that my 16th century European history is sorely lacking. Mike has been good enough to give me some of the more subtle details of that particular era, things my normal American education didn't cover.

Herein lies the great disappointment with research. I've acquired all this neat information about the era, knowing full well only a smidgen of it will appear within the narrative.

Nonetheless, understanding the background is essential to writing with confidence, even if the bulk of that information remains in your mental warehouse. Sadly, my mental warehouse requires that I archive this information in computer files. My warehouse doors are hanging by one hinge and all the windows have had rocks thrown through them. In other words, I can't remember squat.

In my last novel, I had a brief mention of ale and asked one of my other CPs for confirmation that the small reference was correct. I knew I was asking the right person because she had done a TON of research on the subject. I was thrilled for the chance to pick her brain.

Never underestimate your network of peers. They can be a treasure trove of information who can also supply you with beaucoup resources.

Since my wip involves pirates, (argh!) I also bought a YA picture book on the buccaneers called appropriately, "Pirates". YA books are great for research because they assume you don't know anything about the subject and spoon feed you a lot of complex information in easy to digest bites. This book also has a short but neat glossary in the back, a list of other resources, and beautiful illustrations. I liked it for the art alone. (nice job!)

Another aspect of research, particularly when you're writing fantasy is knowing when to stray from accepted standards.

For example, the paranormal element in this book is the werewolf. I've read a smattering of different werewolf stories and studied the various legends. While I'll be using some elements recognizable in werewolf lore, I will definitely create new aspects to their mythos as well. If I've done my homework well, I think this will produce a rich tapestry for the background of this world.

That's the plan, anyway.