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Monday, July 30, 2007

Markets

Agh! I can't believe I sent out a query last week without an SASE. Right now, it's sitting on my desk all by its lonesome.

I realize that if the concept intrigues, chances are the agent will contact you regardless, but it was unprofessional even if it was an accident. I sent a short email of apology to the agent, hoping she won't think me a total dweeb.

*****
Went to see Harry Potter yesterday. It was pretty good. At the very least it answered more questions and it wasn't nearly as disjointed as the last movie.

*****
Let's do markets today.

Paper Blossoms, Sharpened Steel: Tales of Fantasy from the Far East is an anthology that "will feature roughly twenty-five short stories between 3,000 and 9,000 words. We are looking for stories of fantasy in East Asian-based settings. The mid-to-late 1800's is as late as you should venture. Submissions need not be set in our world, but can be set in created world that are influenced by the culture listed above.

Payment: 5 cents per word on acceptance of final draft, as an advance on pro rata share of 35% of net revenue, for first world rights in English.

Deadline: December 15, 2007.

*****

Notorious Press is now accepting submissions of shortfiction for an upcoming mystery/crime anthology, tentatively titled How'd They Do That. "General theme is that all stories will center on quirky methods of committing or solving a crime. That's right, the 'quirky' part can be acts by either the criminals orthe investigators, or both."

Payment: $50
Word Count: 2,000 to 8,000 word range
Deadline: October 21, 2007.

(And there's an interesting twist here:"Let's face it, the current temporary title for this anthology is a little soft....So if you submit a story with a title we adopt (with your permission) for the overall book we'll gladly pay you double. Even if you don't submit a story, send us the winning title idea and get $25, credit in the book and 2 free copies if we choose and use your suggestion").

*****

Science Fiction Poetry Association Poetry Contest

Deadline: August 24, 2007
Fee: None
First prize: $80, publication on the SFPA Web site,and a year's membership (or extension) to the SFPA
Second prize: $40 and publication on the SFPA Website
Third prize: $20 and publication on SFPA Website.

*****

Resource

Query Tracker

I don't know much about this site yet, but I joined yesterday just to check it out. I really like what it offers so far. Agent information, who reps who, and article links.

Check it out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Decompressing for the weekend

I am decompressing. More on RWA workshops next week.

I feel like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. Finished editing "Fire". I could pitch it as a novella, but I'm hoping my critters will tell me where I can flesh it out so that it can fit comfortably as novel length. It could use another 8K. Yes, brevity is my middle name.

Most people are long winded writers. Not me. You have to pry the words out of me with a crowbar.

WOW bought one of my articles as did Mother Earth News. I wish I had more time to write. This could be habit forming.

I promised Writers Finders an article too. It's coming, Cheri.

Elsewhere:
We had a little excitement in Dallas the other day. An acetylene plant blew up in downtown Dallas. What an acetylene plant was doing in downtown Dallas, I'll never know. Amazingly, no one got killed, but three men were injured. They closed down some of the most congested interstate highways in the city because the plant was smack dab in the center. Cylinders were exploding and shooting off like rockets.

And did you hear about Oscar, the death cat? From the AP: Oscar the cat has an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, curling up with them during their final hours.

His accuracy, seen in 25 cases, has led staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. They usually have less than four hours to live.

Is that creepy, or what? I mean, it's nice that he gives family members time to visit their dying loved ones, but it's gotta make you a little paranoid. The staff says, fortunately, those dying are rarely aware of the feline visit.

It makes me wonder why Oscar does it. An animal behaviorist claims it could be as simple as the cat wanting to lie on the heating blanket that's placed on the patient.

Personally, I think it goes back to patterns. Animals are masters at detecting patterns. Oscar could very well be smelling a particular odor that precedes death and simply acts on it. Dogs have been trained to spot cancers, some can recognize the onset of a seizure. I think this probably falls in the same category. He's a cute cat. I just hope I never see him on my bed.

This weekend will involve a movie and some serious sleep. (Hopefully, not at the same time.) Princess, my dog guest will go back to her mom today. Life is good.

I'll post this weekend if anything new turns up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RWA, Honing Your Pitch

This was a lively panel with Winnie Griggs, Michelle Grajkowski and Cori Deyoe. I have to admit, delivering a pitch is still running hand in hand with root canal for me.

For me, and possibly for a lot of other people, we know our stories so well that we say too much. To counteract this, I memorize my pitch as opposed to delivering it off the cuff. I hate that! Several of my friends can tell you their stories as naturally as someone telling you a juicy secret. It's wonderful to hear them talk. But so much is swirling in my head that I am much safer playing the actor reciting his lines.

Here are the things every good pitch should contain.

• know your genre or sub-genre
• list the word count. (the novel should be complete before pitching)
• tell the agent the setting of the novel
• what is the high concept. I think we could have gone into an entire panel on what high concept is, but the way it was explained to me, high concept is the over arching idea of the story. For example: The story is about a marriage of convenience. Or: The story is Indiana Jones meets Bridgette Jones Diary. Basically, you are presenting a visual of the concept.
• concisely describe the heroine and hero
• concisely describe the conflict

Practice your pitch until it is ingrained into your memory banks. As I mentioned earlier, some people can roll it off their tongues like sugar. The rest of us have to memorize until it sounds natural.

Be prepared to answer questions from the agent after the pitch is over. They may ask you more about this particular novel or about other projects you have. They may ask you what your writing credentials are and whether you've submitted this to others. Don't lie if asked about who's asked for fulls and partials. People talk.

The other thing the panel brought up is to be careful in what you blog about. I preach this all the time. Be polite. Be professional. Or don't be surprised when it comes back and bites you in the keester.

Aside from looking professional, you have to emote a positive attitude. It's important to show your enthusiasm for your work. If you don't think it's a great project, why should the agent? Let your voice show through.

The panel also brought up a few cautions, such as:
• don't ramble
• don't overstay your welcome
• don't offer the agent ANY manuscript, synopsis or outline at the meeting
• know exactly what's being requested and only send those things

The average pitch shouldn't last more than a couple of minutes. After it's over, don't be afraid the ask the agent something about himself or agency. Sample questions might be:
• does he have a client list you can contact for references
• how many years does he have in the business
• are there any fees
• what is the agent's philosophy on guiding an author's career

I think the biggest thing we came away with is that you have to believe in your story and it has to reflect in your appearance, voice and attitude.

Go get 'em, Tiger!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Apple iPhone

I am the least techie person you'll ever meet. I had to be dragged into the 21st century and I didn't go quietly.

I've never understood why I put up such a fuss. It's not that I don't assimilate techy stuff once someone sits down to show me the steps. It's just an innate desire to keep the machine from owning mankind. (I think I was scared by a toaster as a child.)

-sigh- Once again, the machine has won and I'm not even going to put up a fight. One of my employees bought himself an Apple iPhone. That is one SWEET piece of technology. I will admit that I thought all the ads on the iPhone were full of hooey and CGI.

In all my days, (and I've been privileged to play with a lot of technology) I have never come across anything so intuitive or so brilliantly navigable. The more I saw, the more I drooled.

Alas, it is way beyond my comfort range for spending. But if it ever comes down in price, I would buy one in a heartbeat. It is that cool.

You name it, this thing could do it. But what is even more important is the ease of moving from one screen to the next.

The ads don't lie, folks. I was the first to denigrate them, but I am now eating crow. I've heard tell that Apple gave each of its employees an iPhone. ---very sweet!

Other Stuff: I must be a magnet for long lost friends. I've reconnected with two people I hadn't spoken to in years. That's kind of cool. I hope to meet with one of them next Monday. We have a lot to catch up on.

I am babysitting Melina's dog, while Mel is visiting her mom in Brazil. Princess is beginning to see my place as her second home. She's a good kid. More importantly, she's learned how to be a QUIET dog. Me likes.

Daw is back from her Taos Writing Workshop. If you want to read up on her experience, go here. I so wanted to go to that workshop, but I suffer from altitude sickness past 8,000 feet.

Monday, July 23, 2007

RWA, Networking

Well, let's see. By now all the Potter fans have had their Potter fix. I'll get the full plot scoop later today from one of my friends, but I have to admit, I did sneak a peak at the last few pages when I was at Walmart yesterday. Obviously, the rumors I saw on the internet were false. I'm kind of glad. ---and no, I won't tell you.

I finished my novel, Touch of Fire and am working feverishly on the edit before the editor decides she doesn't want it anymore. I'm still a little unsure of the title. It sounds a little plebian to me.

This novel took me to so many places for research. If Google is cataloging my search history, it won't surprise me if the DEA shows up at my door. My main character is an apothecary 1200 years in the future and she uses a lot of herbs and other botanicals to create medicines and poisons. I made some stuff up and the rest I laced with research.

This was a short piece for me and it probably could stand to be a bit longer. My crit partners will help in telling me where to flesh it out more. For now the story itself is done –in record time, mind you. There is a long, comical story related to this journey that I'll tell at a later date. Only in my strange, ironic life do such things happen.

Once the editing is done I am going straight to a short story that's been swirling in my head since the conference. And after that it is back to nonfiction, interspersed with that SF thriller I'm still working on.

Nice Surprise: Heather from Writing on the Wall, passed on the Thoughtful Blogger Award to me. How sweet is that? I'm going to have to think hard about who to pass it onto next. I read a lot of great blogs. I guess I can give it to more than one person.

Do yourself a favor and stop by Writing on the Wall. They have some terrific posts on editing and writing. I was just swimming in that place and soaking up all that great knowledge. Five different editors take turns posting on the blog and you'll find some real gems from their experience. If you go to their website, they also offer a FREE critique for your first ten pages.

*****
Okay, I promised an RWA workshop post today. One of the first panels I attended was called Networking without Trauma. Gotta love the title!

Networking can be an overwhelming endeavor, but only if you make it that way. I personally feel networking is as easy or as hard as you want to make it.

Nearly everything the speaker said was something I learned from personal experience. But I think what made this particular workshop interesting was when she opened it up for questions.

One young woman brought up the ugly side of networking, those all encompassing cliques, those bastions of the self-righteous and anointed.

You all know who they are. No matter where you go, whether it's a live group or an internet list group, there are always those people who make one little bitty remark and the whole group apes over them as if they delivered some messianic epistle. When the person who posed the question got up and gave an example of the drama that develops on her list group the entire roomful of people started nodding their heads in acknowledgment. We've all been there.

So how do you break down the walls of clique-dom? The best way, I think, is to pose a question or offer a (free) resource. Never try to sell yourself (or your book) on a list group. And don't expect people to come out of the woodworks to embrace you. Most won't. If you're normally a lurker, learn to post more regularly so that you're not seen as an opportunistic leech. (sorry, there's just no better word than that)

Most groups are generally reserved until they know you. If you come on too strong it paints you a bit bombastically. Let them get to know you slowly. Let them see you at their meetings, or your name on regular posts. This way you come off as the genuine article and not someone out to promote his book.

I don't post on list groups much unless I found some neat new website or heard about a contest that will interest my genre specific groups. I should post more, and probably will as my writing projects wind down during the year. Right now I have four groups I follow religiously. I post maybe once every couple of months. Not enough to call it networking, but enough that the regulars know my name.

And what are the other tips for networking? Glad you asked.

• Recognize your limitations. If you know you're an introvert, (like me), know that your networking is not going to reach thousands of people. But it might reach a hundred people who will be there for you when you need them.

• Volunteer. For me, this is the easiest way to network. I volunteer ALL the time. My friends often wonder where I have the time, let alone the energy, but you know, volunteering is one of those things I really enjoy. I'm never asked to do anything difficult and I meet the nicest people.

• Break out of your comfort zone. Amen, sister! This is the one thing I am always telling people to do. So many folks cling to their little cliques afraid to take one step away from friends or cohorts. You don't grow if you stay put. Spread your wings and see what else is out there.

• Invite people to sit with you if you're at an event (like a con or lecture). If I'm by myself and I see someone wandering around lost, I always invite them to sit with me.

• Email people and compliment them. If someone says something profound or helpful, I like to email them off list and extend my kudos. It's just a nice thing to do and people appreciate the validation.

• Don't suck up. There's a fine line between being gracious and sucking up so much you could deflate a tire. Don't suck up. It's noticeable and really tacky.

• Join professional organizations, like Toastmasters or Linked In.

• Always be helpful.

• Stay in touch. That's the whole point of networking.

• Expect nothing. Accept everything. (Don't you just love that saying?)

I think the best thing Katy Cooper said that day was this:
Networking is a well. If you put into it, you can draw from it.
If you don't put in, you might still draw from the well, but it will dry up on you when you need it most.

Wednesday: Honing Your Pitch

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just Tell Me

Obviously, I am a heathen. I've always suspected as much, but now I know for sure. The buzz is everywhere about Harry Potter spoilers. I mentioned to several of my friends if they'd heard about the alleged ending for the last Potter book and they looked at me like I was death incarnate.

They backed up, one of them shoving a bulb of garlic in my face, another with a silver crucifix. "Don't tell us!"

I wouldn't, of course. I was just curious if they had read the spoiler. Who's to say the spoiler is real or a hoax? But what continues to intrigue me is the response from so many loyal fans. They do NOT want to know the ending. The joy is in the anticipation, the moment.

I, on the other hand, must be a spawn of the devil. Knowing the endings to stories, whether they are billion dollar enterprises or a newbie's first manuscript makes no difference to me. I want to know the end. I deliberately read the last few pages of published books before I get too far into it just to see who’s left at the end.

Why? I dunno. I guess because the ending isn't really important to me. It's the journey that makes or breaks a book. It's the twists and turns that keep me turning the page.

I admit my particular peeve is when a writer (looking for critiques) insists s/he doesn't want to spoil it for her critters by supplying a synopsis. Trust me. No story is that sacred. If I'm analyzing something, I need to know what they're trying to create in order to see if they were successful. When in reviewer mode, I read for analysis and not enjoyment. They can worry about not "spoiling" the enjoyment once the book gets published.

Still, there are reviewers who don't want to know the ending either, preferring to read it the way the man on the street would. Meh… I have yet to read a single novel that was ruined for me by reading the ending.

Yes, that's me, spawn of the devil, rebel for the ages, and a militant nonconformist. For encores, I've also been known to eat dinner at breakfast time.

Monday: More on RWA conference workshops

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RWA, Time Management

This was one of my favorite panels from the con. I'm always up for anything that will make me more efficient.

I almost didn't attend this one. I was at a different workshop but the speaker seemed to be covering stuff I already knew, so I slipped out to this one next door. Imagine my surprise when the speaker threw out my first rule of time management.

When faced with a lot of stuff to do, I always do the hardest first. My thinking is that I'm freshest with the first project so I might as well get rid of the nasty job right off the bat.

Not according to April Kihlstrom. She suggests doing the easy projects first, in order to give you a sense of accomplishment and success. Psychologically, it provides a cushy base so that you feel strong enough to get more things done.

I can see how this would be useful, especially for people who need that jolt of confidence to get the next job on the list done. And who among us have ever been on-the-ball, and raring to go each and every time? There are days when tying my shoes feels like a Herculean task. We all have off days, so this was excellent advice when we need that push to get on with stuff that's holding us back.

This is especially true while writing. How often have I stared at a chapter knowing what needs to go next, but not having the energy (or right frame of mind) to write that chapter like I should? Just move on to the next section and keep writing.

April said that when faced with a problem, even when we're not working on it, we're thinking about it. That's so true! What I've been doing lately if I'm stuck on a passage is putting something generic as a placeholder. I'll write something like: needs tender moment. Then I'll change the font color to let me know I have to return and flesh this scene out. I'll leave it alone for an hour or a day and discover when I do return, the scene writes itself out far more easily. While I've been working on something else, my subconscious was busy solving the problem.

The other tip she gave was to make a list of twelve things we can do in two minutes or less. Whenever you feel like you're banging your head against the wall, take out your list and do one or two of those things. All of a sudden you feel successful and strong enough to meet your next challenge.

She said the important thing is to have fun. If you look at your goals as obstacles, it grinds you to a crawl, but if those goals become something to look forward to, you feel you can accomplish anything. And that's a good thing.

Email Update: Sadly, my company has instructed us not to access our home email from work anymore. So if you write me during the day, chances are you won't hear from me until later that night.

That puts a kink in my correspondence. I get so much email I sometimes use my lunch hour to clear everything out. Now, I guess I have to actually go eat lunch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Markets

Let's do markets today. More on conference workshops later in the week.

Funny-but-True Anthology Submission Guidelines
Short, funny, true stories recounting the "misadventures" from weddings/honeymoons, pregnancy/childbirth, or the baby/toddler years for an upcoming series of anthologies to be published in book form by Meadowbrook Press.

Word Length: Up to 800 words.

Payment:
$50 for 100 words or less
$75 for 101-250 words
$100 for 251-500 words
$125 for 501-800 words.

I gotta send my honeymoon story. I can't make this stuff up.


Darker Matter
Darker Matter is an online science fiction magazine that publishes science fiction stories.
Word length: 500 to 4,000 words.
Payment: 5-10 cents per word.

Dark Wisdom
Word Length: 5,000 words or less. We also consider "flash" fiction and short shorts.
Rights: First North American Publication Rights.
Payment: 5 cents (U.S.) per word. One contributor's copy is included as well.

Koala Books (Australia)
Koala Books publishes children’s books suitable for 0-12. Emphasis is on children’s picture books and novelty lift-the-flap books. Koala publishes over 70 new titles a year.

My friend Robyn keeps nudging me to rebuild my illustration portfolio. When I saw this, I felt like she was elbowing me again. LOL. The guilt is killin' me.

Just Labs
"Just Labs" is for owners of Labrador Retrievers. They want articles on aspects of their Labs and family life. New writers are welcome.

Pays on publication. $300-$400 for articles of 1000-1800 words.


This one's coming up fast.
Haiku Contest
Deadline: July 27, 2007
Genre: Poetry
Prize: $100

Sunday, July 15, 2007

RWA Capsule

Next week, I'll post specific articles on some of the things I learned at the conference. But today, I'd like to post a capsule of my experiences.

I met people from Japan, Russia, Holland and nearly every state in the US, including Hawaii. Perhaps my favorite encounter was with a blogger I follow regularly.

Sherry Thomas, whose blog is currently on hiatus, is an extraordinary woman. I am reading her book, Private Arrangements now. Kristin Nelson is her agent and she mentioned in one of the workshops that she negotiated a six figure deal for this first time author. As I'm reading this book, I can see why it earned such a great contract.

Read this book. You guys know I rarely recommend books unless they bowl me over. This one bowled me over. The language is lovely without being stuffy or over the top. Those of you who know me, know what a curmudgeon I am with overinflated narrative. This is nothing like that. Crisp, clean writing that's as lovely to envision as it is read. Her style is rather reminiscent of a critique partner of mine. (So I have high hopes for you, Mike! Remember me when you get your six figures.)

Books: At last count, I picked up about 45 books, not counting duplicates which I'll be donating to my friends and the office "library". It seems everywhere I went, people were handing me books. Every luncheon gifted us with books left on each of our seats. Publishers had author signings and then there was the Goody Room. I've heard old-timers remark that this was the best Goody Room they'd ever had. It was chock full of giveaways.

It will take me a few days to absorb all my experiences and commit them to blog posts, so my workshop specific posts may span the next several weeks.

I am glad Maya talked me into joining RWA for several reasons. I finally understand the power of women's fiction. While outsiders may snicker with the antiquated assumption that all romance novels are bodice rippers, they are so far behind in what this genre is all about.

Romance writing is about relationships and the human experience. And at it's core, isn't that what we write about in any other genre? Spaceships, techno thrillers and court cases may be the specific genre vehicles we enjoy, but it's the relationship between characters that makes us sympathetic to that story---and to the author.

The other reason I'm glad I joined is that I also discovered that RWA is not a bunch of girly girls writing out their frustrations. These are business women (and men) who are serious about the craft of writing. I find it amusing that while you may never see a serious review in a major newspaper for a romance novel, such novels do not suffer for the snub. The romance novel industry is abnormally healthy. And RWA is an incredibly influential organization.

Finally, the workshops were excellent. I'm sorry I couldn't go to more of them. I also got a chance to network with other writers, editors and agents.

On top of this, I spoke to another editor whose company only publishes shorter work and she asked if I might be interested to spin off the characters and world building from True Believers into short stories or a serialized novella. I hadn't considered it before, but it's whet my appetite. My critique partners know that I am currently under the gun to finish a manuscript that's already been requested, so I don't need anymore projects. Still I was intrigued.

Before I left this editor, I got brain smacked with a great short story idea that I'm hot to work on. But first the manuscript. Must get keester in gear and finish what I started.

Friday, July 13, 2007

RWA Continued

I am suffering from brain drain. There was one last panel for tonight and I just didn't have the energy to attend. Instead I chatted with Lynn and several of her friends from her local group in the evening.

Lunch was with Maya and Marie Tuhart. While I had the chance to chow down, I completely missed the speakers whom I very much wanted to hear. I had an editor appointment and because her other appointment failed to show up, I ended up getting the editor all to myself and we shot the bull.

I may need a few days rest before I can post my observations from the panels I did attend. One more day of conference and then I can collapse unto myself.

One of the neatest things about this con is all the freebies you get. My book booty is enormous! I don't know when I'll have time to read all these books. At last count I had about 30 books. I see a vacation on a deserted beach in my future. :o)

My mouth probably hangs open most of the time while I'm there. I am in so much awe of these authors, speakers, editors and agents. What a wealth of information.

I am taking notes as fast as I can because my memory is as tight as a sieve. What's worse is my memory for names. I have been jotting notes on the backs of business cards for some of the people I meet because I just know our paths will cross again and I don't want to forget them.

If only human memory could be modified as easily as a computer's. I need an upgrade. --there's a story idea waiting to happen.

An RWA conference is an overwhelming experience, especially for a first timer. I've been on sensory overload since the first day. And while the majority of attendees are women, there were several male romance writers. I thought that was neat. I would love to find out the names they write under and examine their writing styles.

One more day...then I can pass out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

RWA, Here I Come

I registered for the conference Tuesday and am bowled over with how organized everything is. Holy, moley! These people know how to plan an event.

The very efficient (and friendly) volunteer asked me if this was my first time and I said, yes. Virgin, as charged. So she gave me an added label to attach to my name tag that said: First Timer. LOL! Supposedly, the status will cut me some slack from the veterans. Hey, I'll take any fluffie that's offered.

Upon registration, I received a hefty canvas bag chock full of free novels, pen, pin, notebook, and a humongous book filled with speaker notes on each of the upcoming panels. --I told you they were organized.

I probably will get home too late to blog about each day's events, but I promise a full report on every panel and lecture after the conference.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Art Slush

I spent a good hunk of this morning scoring potential new hires for artist positions. I couldn't help but see the similarities between my job and an editor's.

We test on a variety of proficiencies, but the two things we pay particular attention to is creativity and follow-through. We can always teach an artist technical skills, but you really can't teach creativity and tenacity. You either have it or you don't.

There are some people (and I know quite a few) who don't have the creative instinct. And as we're grading art, layout, technique and efficiency, I can tell you in less than two seconds whether that person is going to work out or not.

So, it doesn’t surprise me in the least when editors/agents say they can pick through slush just by reading the first few sentences. You just know. There's a quality in the writing that tells you whether it's something that's going to engage you or not.

In the course of my writing development, I've learned to use this to my advantage and punch up each piece of the novel one bit at a time. The first draft always has the most outrageous narrative. Clichés, clumsy tense use, and simplistic plotting. But at least, it's a base. It's something I can pound on like so much bread dough.

I start with the first couple of paragraphs. Is it hooky? Does it lay a foundation quickly? Then I expand it to the first three chapters. I use the 4-act play as my usual model for building plot so those first three chapters are crucial to creating the inciting episode.

The next bite will tighten each "act" to make sure I've completed the goals of the outline. I spend a considerable amount of time building the black moment as well as the resolution. I want to see a very definite spike in emotion.

After I've tweaked each section, I read for continuity. How well does one section transition to the next? If I did my job right, the reader shouldn't notice any hiccups.

I really feel the first two drafts are where your creativity kicks in, but the last draft is where true grit shows up. You'll either make it or you won't. It's an overwhelming task when you look at the big picture, but just like that old joke...

Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

RWA & Broad Universe

RWA is next week! I am wracked with apprehension because I've never been to a venue this big.

A few years ago, I had to pick up my teenage niece at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Dallas. Her high school was competing in some academic contest and Becky was mad to escape her hotel room and see the sights of Dallas. Kindly, old aunt to the rescue.

Now, I had never been to the Adams Mark Hotel, but when I finally found it I was just as anxious to get away. It was jam-packed with women, all of them impeccably dressed and lugging an assortment of bags and notebooks. As I was waiting for my niece, I asked one of the desk clerks who all these people were. He said they were with RWA.

RW…who? I had just started on my writing life and was a stone-cold, wide-eyed, fiction-writing virgin. I didn't have a clue what those ladies were doing, but they sure looked like they were having fun. When I overheard someone talking about weaving back story, my evil overlord mind instantly plotted on how I could dump dear sweet Becky on a museum bus so I could tag along and listen to these women chat.

Now I'm actually going!

I have to admit, I probably wouldn't have gone if it weren't for the fact that I live so close to Dallas. It was a no-brainer. How could I pass up an opportunity like this in my backyard?

My only real concern is where I'm going to park. I'm sure I'll have to hoof it, which means it'll be sneakers for me.

As lovely and sophisticated as those women from that past conference looked, RWA will have to settle for a comfy and therefore, less cranky Maria. At my age, comfort comes first. Stilettos and black stockings are for the bedroom, and only because I can be assured I won't be wearing them long. LOL

I'm really looking forward to the workshop panels. The list is phenomenal. It'll be hard to choose from all the options.

Maya and Lynn will be there and I hope to hook up with them at some point during the con. I hope to snag an ARC from Sherry Thomas for her new book, Private Arrangements. And while I would love the chance to pitch to agents, I think I'll settle for being the newbie this go round and keep my eyes and ears open.

After reading so many fantastic blogs from other writers attending this conference, I really do feel like I'm surrounded by professionals way above my league. But maybe I can walk out of this with a few friends too.

That's the plan.

*****
And more news from one of my favorite writing boards. Check out their newsletter.

Broad Universe has posted their latest newsletter, BroadSheet, with articles by Lettie Prell, Sue Lange, Ginny McMorrow, and an interview with Joanna Russ by Samuel Delany.

Books reviewed are A Dream of Drowned Hollow by Lee Barwood, Touched by Venom by Janine Cross, Always by Nicola Griffith, Tall, Dark & Dead by Tate Hallaway, The Z Radiant by Jessica Reisman, and The Tale of the Miller's Daughter by JoSelle Vanderhooft.

This is a free newsletter and can be accessed here.

Broad Universe is an organization that promotes the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Design a Logo, part 2

This is a tall order since I am trying to teach something that will be different for everyone. But I can give you "rules" and a template to follow in order to create your own logo.

What follows below are guidelines in designing a logo for a Writer. If you have other interests, some of these steps will help you, but I am slanting this primarily for the novelist.

Think about color. What do you envision when you think of cozy mysteries or YA? Mysteries may lean toward black or shadowy colors while YA will be lighter and more vibrant. The color should speak to your audience and not to your particular likes.

Design elements should be simple, yet dynamic. I know. It sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not. Take for example the ever-present illustration of a plumed writing instrument as the logo for a writer. For the love of all that's holy, don't do it! LOL

I don't know how many of those I've seen on letterhead and business cards. It's clip art and it's everywhere. It also screams amateur. Want to liven that up?

Take that plume art and blow it up until it takes up a good hunk of your page. Now change the color to a 20% of whatever color is closest your color palette of choice. Use it as the background for your page. It's delicate, unobtrusive and it gives you color and design without hitting you over the head. It's actually a very nice effect for Romance writers.
Repetition is another design element you can utilize. Do you have a YA novel set in an art contest? Pull out one aspect of the setting, (ex: crayon) and duplicate it across your header. It makes a neat border and reinforces your world building.


Remember when I asked you to make the logo dynamic? The way to make a static picture look energized can be achieved with several easy tricks.

• the western world reads left to right. Which direction does your current graphic move? If it's a picture of an object looking straight at you, that might be static. Find one where it's moving from left to right.
--but here's an added caveat. If the art is placed on the right hand side of your page you want that movement going to the left. This way, the eye stays on the page. You want to move the reader to the next important aspect of your page.

• put your text or art in a box. Now make it punch through so part of it is now outside the box. Instant movement.


• does you logo consist of nothing but text? Give it some life (and depth) by using drop shadows underneath the text.

Finally, you can also use any generic photo as a canvas where only a small part of it can be seen. Have a favorite woodland scene in your photo album? Try this effect.



I hope I've given you some ideas on how to create your own design elements with very little effort. There are a lot of things to try. I hope these few tricks will springboard you to new ideas. Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Design a Logo, part 1

My friend, Lynn prompted my post for this week. Do you need a logo for your website? Think about this carefully. We are a people driven to categorizing ourselves under some illustrative umbrella, but it's often not necessary.

Sometimes judicious use of color and a strong font is enough to bring our ideas across. My website uses planets as a background. Cool, because I like space art and I write primarily SF. But as I develop my writing chops it is becoming limited. I don't just write SF anymore. I write fantasy, humor and creative nonfiction. While I still like the dark blue and white color scheme, the planets may disappear in lieu of something more generic and less tied to science fiction.

For this blog, I did just that. I used a foam green background and a dark rust header. Text is black and the side links are dark blue. Simple. Refined. Professional. I'm not trying to put on airs here. All I want to do is produce a clean looking blog that is easy to navigate.

Too many photos and cutesy illustrations clog up the works in my opinion. They may be fun to first time visitors but return guests will simply ignore them and get on to the meat of your post. You do have meat, don't you? Not much point in keeping a writing blog if you're not posting something people want to read.

You'll make more of an impact when art is introduced occasionally. It tells people there is something special about that day's post. Remember too, there are no absolutes. Post pictures if you find them appealing, but make them memorable pictures that have something to do with your post.

The first order of business is to pinpoint your genre. Much like honing in on the nut of your story when creating your blurb, a logo follows the same formula. You have to break down your writing style to its smallest denominator.

I check out every new author link I see, just to scope out the design elements on their website. I've found the very best art and design elements are on erotic romance sites. No kidding. The art is almost always very polished, very sophisticated and professional. Nothing sleazy or pornographic, but definitely titillating and always fun to browse.

Many of them use professional designers and it shows. In a subgenre like erotic romance, you don't want to send out the wrong message.

Websites and blogs should try to stick to one genre at a time unless they're compatible, like mystery and romance or SF and fantasy. You never want to mix disparate genres, like YA and erotic thrillers. If you write both, build a separate site for each.

Tomorrow: Design elements with examples

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This blog's for you

No blog tomorrow. It's a holiday and I will use it to work on my wip. On Thursday and Friday, I'll have a two-part post on tips for creating a logo for your website header.

Today, I'll chime in on a post from Pub Rants dated June 27 and titled Mum's the Word.

A lot of writers post how many words they wrote that day, what rejections they received, and of course, their acceptances. I think only the last one is important for newsworthiness, and something that should be shared. As for word counts, let's face it, who really cares how many words you wrote that day? (other than you) But what about rejections? Do you really want to advertise those to people who could potentially hire you?

Some time ago on Forward Motion, a newby asked about what kind of content to put on his writing blog. Many people came up with suggestions, but the best advice is to put only what won't embarrass you five years down the road.

If an editor or agent decides to Google me and lights upon this blog, I want to put forth the best possible foot, and I don't want that foot in my mouth. I want publishers to know I am a professional who won't say anything to make them sorry for our association.

And this site is only for writers. There's nothing here that would be of interest to people who aren't part of our business. Eventually, I'll restructure the sister website so that it will be geared more for readers, but this blog is strictly for my peers and business associates.

Yup, this blog's for you.

Thursday & Friday: Create a web header

Monday, July 2, 2007

Markets

Independence Day is coming up this Wednesday in the US. Lots of fun and family get togethers. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. The heavens have opened up over north and central Texas and we've seen record rains. Locals have been griping long and hard. --Obviously, they've never lived on the Texas coast. They have regular monsoons there and a healthy mosquito population. Heck, we named the mosquito the state bird of east Texas.

The bad part of having torrential rains here is that the infrastructure is not designed for that much water. The lakes and waterways have crested and there's no where else for the water to go. Forecasts predict we will dry out soon and we can go back to normal sweltering conditions. At least my garden hasn't complained.

*****

I have lots of contests to pass along in today's market bin.

Past Loves Contest
Write a true story of a past love, in 500 words or less.
Entry Fee: None
Prize: $100
Deadline: September 1, 2007

Bad Seafood Story Contest
There are other contest forums too, so scroll down when you reach this site and take a look.
Entry Fee: None
Prize: $400
Deadline: July 13, 2007

Here's Looking At You
Word Limit: 700 words
Entry Fee: None
Prize: $100
Deadline: October 1, 2007

Fencon Short Story Contest
Word Limit: 5000
Entry Fee: Free for member, $10 for nonmembers
Prize: $50
Deadline: July 14, 2007
SFF and Horror
PS....Even if you don't sub to the contest, try to make the con. It's always a good one and you can meet authors up close and personal. And it's CHEAP!!

Underwired
Essays on topics of interest to women
Word limit: 800-1200 words
Deadline is the 15th of every month

Conceive
Conceive Magazine is for any woman contemplating or actively trying to start or expand a family: by natural conception, fertility treatments and assisted reproductive technologies, or adoption.
Payment: up to $1,000 for columns
Word Limit: 750 to 1,500 words.
Check out the themes
Payment: $100

Lady Jaided
Nonfiction. Well-written, well-researched articles about women's sexuality and related issues." Pays $0.10-$0.25/word, "depending on the complexity of the article and the amount of research required." Articles average 250-1000 words. Submit "query with story ideas plus work samples by email."