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Friday, June 29, 2007

Flawed Perfection

I am no good at being flighty. Lord knows, I've tried.

For the last couple of weeks I've been working on the fantasy, tentatively titled, "Touch of Fire". With great determination, I've tried to follow Candy Havens' Fast Draft program which creates a novel in two weeks. I can't do it.

It's not that I can't write the novel. It's that I can't turn off my internal editor. I'll grant you this is a faster novel than any I've previously attempted and I've managed to turn a blind eye to anything more than base description, knowing I can add more later. But I simply have to agonize over sentence structure, rhythm and grammar. My grade school nuns would turn over in their graves if I ignored the things they worked so hard to hammer into me.

Part of my downfall is due to my anal-retentive perfectionism. It has to be right the first time. Plus the fact that I'm afraid of what my critique partners will do to me should I turn in a sub par manuscript. Have I mentioned how mean they are? They delight in bloodying my narrative with red ink and scathing remarks. God love'm.

The outline is completely fleshed out and a sub thread has developed as the story is growing. It is racing along even if it's not happening within two weeks. I can't write that many words without stopping to weed out the bad narrative.

I thought about tricking myself and having a glass of wine before I sit down to write in order to relax me, but alas, I am a rotten drunk. Liquor just puts me to sleep. Which is probably the reason I don't get invited to many parties. One drink and I am ready for bed---er, sleep.

So I am trudging along at a snail's pace. In two weeks, I've put seven chapters under my belt. But I dare not call it the first draft. As far as I'm concerned it's not good enough to get that honor yet. My usual routine is to revise three times. The first round tweaks the language, the second time beefs up the setting and the third time comes after my crit partners skewer it until it's unrecognizable.

I've learned a lot about revising from Daw. She is a phenomenal editor.--the best I've ever seen. I'm not sure if that kind of editing can be taught. (But if she gives a class, I'll be the first to sign up. LOL) For now, I simply analyze her before and after, and try to figure out what she did to make the story fuller.

If I didn't have a full time job, it might be fun to be a slush editor for a while. I'm an excellent observer and a good analyst, but regrettably, I have all the compassion of a piranha. If you think agents turn you down fast, boy-howdy, wait until it gets in front of me. But slush reading is a good training ground for developing a keen eye and strengthening your intuition. It's why I get so much benefit from critiquing others. It's an excellent way to find my writing flaws.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How to be beautiful

Beautiful people suck. Oh, all right, you don’t suck, but you do make my life miserable. Feel better?

Having been in advertising for so long I’m well aware of the power of attractive people inside an ad. I remember doing an ad for a director of a big company once. Why he wanted his picture in the ad I’ll never know. I tried to steer him into using a picture of his building instead. Nope. He wanted his mug in the ad. In the end, I Photoshopped the heck out of his picture so he looked marginally less unattractive.

The sad part was, he was a really nice guy. He just took rotten pictures. I can commiserate. I take awful pictures. Always have. I’m about as photogenic as the ass-end of a shaved cat. For that reason, I have few pictures of myself.

The weird thing about this is that in person, I’m not that hideous. It’s the camera that brings it out. Hmm…there’s a story in there somewhere.

A good photo speaks volumes, especially on the inside flap of a book cover, or a magazine interview. If you’re like me and just plain normal with shades of shaved cat in the viewfinder, here are some tips to make you more approachable.

• When photographed, stand at least 5-6 feet from the wall. If you stand too close you’ll pick up a lot of garish shadows.

• Pay attention to the background. Really dark people shouldn’t stand against a bright white wall. Pale people too will wash away in that same background.

• Ultra dark skin? Make sure your photographer is giving you plenty of ambient light so none of your features melt into black splotches.

• What’s your season? Most of us know what our best colors are. Olive skinned like me? You’re probably a winter. You’ll look best in jewel tones like emerald, cobalt and burgundy. We look good in black too. Springs are naturals for pastels. Summers: clear bright colors like lime, bright blue and white. Autumns: The rust colors, burnt orange, browns and golds.

• Avoid big patterns in your dress. You want the camera to focus on you, not your polka dots and stripes.

• ¾ view is best for a head shot. Learn which is your best side.

• Double chin? Keep your chin up and camouflage with a darker makeup underneath.

• Take a power nap before your photo shoot. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll look better.

• Things Photoshop can cure: whiten your teeth and eyes; remove blemishes and even out your skin tone. Please don’t ask the retoucher to make you thinner or give you more hair. It never looks natural.

We can’t all be beautiful, but we can sure fool a big portion of the population.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Writing SFF Romance

I've been working on a fantasy novel lately. Much as I admire high fantasy, my obsessive-compulsive personality won't let me write it. I'm unable to suspend my disbelief in elves, wizards and monsters long enough to write such a book, but I can build a world where such creatures "seem" to exist.

My current wip happens 1200 years in a future Earth, one we no longer recognize. A new race of humans have evolved, people who wield magic. But is it magic, or science disguised as magic? This is a theme I explore often. I'm fascinated by what people are willing to believe even if common sense tells them it's impossible.

I plan to write this as a romance, but once again the world building and politics are taking over and I have a complex relationship growing between two people from different "worlds", fey and plainfolk. Like the SF thriller I'm writing in tandem, this one also has roots from an early short story though only the theme is the same. The characters have taken on new personalities and goals.

My only concern? The romance. I never know if I have enough romance in a book. I tend to write SFF with romantic 'elements' rather than full blown romance. Am I shooting myself in the marketing foot by not going all the way? (Seems to me I had this dilemma at sixteen too.) LOL

Markets: I've been lax in posting markets, but they'll be back next week. I've had numerous internet problems and I've had to lay low for a while. To my usual email and blogger buddies: I'm not MIA, just bogged down. I should be back to my usual routine next week.

Conferences: RWA hosts its mega conference on July 11. Even though I can call myself a conference veteran now, I find this one rather intimidating. It's the mother of all writing conferences. I'm told it's well organized, but we'll see. Several of my live and online buddies will be there so I hope we'll be able to touch base at some point during the con. With any luck, I'll have some new panel discussion notes to post on this blog in a couple of weeks.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Fortuneteller

Are you superstitious? Do you throw salt over your left shoulder when you knock down the shaker or wear your lucky underwear when you play cards?

I was talking to one of my online buddies and he made me laugh when he said he didn't want to jinx himself by asking about a particular agency where I had good luck. Much like actors, I think we all get a little spooked since getting published seems to rely on an inordinate amount of luck.

Lately, I've had nothing but bad luck on the home front. I tend not to take it personally. Bad things just happen on occasion. Heck, I've lived through hurricanes, fires and tragic death. I can handle anything--preferably not all at once though.

But I have to admit even I don't blow raspberries at fate, on the off chance it might get vindictive and throw monkey wrenches in return.

About five years ago, before I got interested in writing, I had won an award at work and the prize was a three-day weekend stay at a luxury resort. After the big banquet, they opened the hall to a parade of entertainers, including a palm reader. I had never had my palm read so I thought it would be fun to do.

She examined both my hands and told me I was going to be published. I remember laughing at her. I had just finished writing a technical manual for my company and told the lady that my fifteen minutes of fame had already happened and she needed to come up with something else. But she said no, what she saw hadn't occurred yet. She pointed to dozens of striations on the fleshy part of my palm (below my thumb) and said, "You have a lot of stories to tell and it's a novel that I see published."

Ha! How does that saying go? From your lips to God's ear.

So help me, if that fortuneteller is right, I'm going to go out and get my palm read again. I need to find out if I have an exotic vacation in my future.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Negotiating Book Contracts

This was a meaty forum, handled by several agents. They recommended that if you've been offered a publishing contract and you don't get an agent, at least consult an entertainment lawyer.

When you do get that call from a publisher, say thank you and tell them you'll get back to them. Even an oral agreement can be binding. Don't agree to anything until you've seen the contract.

The agents did mention that Author's Guild will look at your book contract for free. What they didn't mention is that you have to be a member of Author's Guild. Nonetheless, the website did have some useful information, so I recommend checking them out.

One of the things they cautioned authors was the clause called "time is of the essence" whereby you are given a deadline. Unless it is a time-sensitive book, like a non-fiction book dealing with current events, that clause should fall in favor of the author, not the publishing house.

Rights your agent should try to gain for you:
• Translation rights
• Audio
• Movie
• Comic Book
• Theme Park (yeah, no kidding)
• Fair Payment

Things you should ask when obtaining an agent:
• Where have you sold?
• Can you talk to his clients?
• What is his experience?
• Does he have any ties to Film?
• What is his commission?
• Who does he plan to sub your book to?
• Are foreign rights handled in house or does it have to be handled elsewhere?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Internet Marketing

This is the forum that I mentioned earlier had given me fits. I felt Tom Britt really knew his stuff and I was anxious to go to this forum. Perhaps if he had held questions until the end we could have gotten more out of this workshop. He does have a blog specifically geared to internet marketing and he has some interesting posts.

Probably the biggest thing I learned was the importance of meta tags. Meta tags are those incongruous, (seemingly) random keywords that alert web crawlers (spiders) what's inside your blog or website.

You might have heard about keyword bloggers who use certain keywords inside their posts to earn money. The whole purpose of keywords is to come up on search engines more often--and higher in the rankings.

My keywords are limited inside my website and nearly nonexistent on my blog. I don't play around enough on Blogger to know where to place these keywords without crashing the system around me. But it's one of those things I'm cognizant about and will work on reinforcing in the weeks to come.

Britt also spoke about bidding on keywords. Basically, every time someone keys in a particular word or name, you pay (Google or other search engine) for that hit. What it does is draw your link up in the search. One thing I didn't realize is that you can bid on a competitor's name or book, so that when people key in his name/title, it also brings yours up too. Very clever.

The other thing I thought was important was being able to collect email addresses from potential readers. He recommends adding the option of opting in, opting out and forwarding to others when you send people emails. I highly agree. I sign up for lots of newsletters and emails from experts and authors and I want the option of getting out if it turns out not to be what I expected.

The final thing he touched on was using Amazon's "Search inside the book" program or Google's book search program. For Amazon, there was 9% higher sales when using this option. This makes sense. Reviews have never swayed me to buy a book unless it was a recommendation from someone I knew. But I have bought books due in large part by viewing inside the book to see if I liked the writing and/or content.

I'd like to add more but that about covers what I got out of this panel. You can go to his blog and download the presentation, but that just covers his punch list.

Tomorrow: Agents discuss book contracts

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Editing Forum

The editing forum, ER for Writers, was led by Jerry Gross. I loved this guy. He was funny, sharp and spoke with authority.

For this post, I'm going to cover my notes primarily, so much of this will be short and sweet. Mr. Gross spoke from the experience he's had in 50 years of editing. This guy probably forgot more than I'll ever know.

• Make sure to give your hero (heroine) a certain vulnerability. For example: Indiana Jones had his snake phobia.

• Don't overdo on the plot. It should follow the formula: action = reaction. This was my major faux pas on my first stab at a novel. I'm much more aware of it now and try to simplify it to it's core problem.

Mr. Gross gave the example of a disintegrating marriage. Don't go into a lot of back story telling the reader about a crummy marriage. Show us a quarrel that reinforces the image of a failing marriage.

• Newbies often create a character like a police report. Character building should be subtle and woven within the narrative.

• Stephen King was quoted about adverbs. He said: Adverbs don't strengthen, but weaken a sentence. How true. This was one of the latest things I've learned this past year and I've noticed a big improvement when I edited out a lot of those "ly" words.

• Using Said: This is advice I hear from a lot of editors. There is nothing wrong with using "said" as a dialog tag. It is invisible. Whenever possible, use body tags as well. For example: Darren tapped on his watch. "How much longer?"

• Remember to change the rhythm of your sentences to keep it from being monotonous.

• Mr. Gross had a whole segment on sex. His best advice was to get the reader squarely into the heads of both people. (guess that would change if you had a menage a trois.)

He remarked on a story he edited where the author described her character's sex scenes almost exactly alike with two men who were two widely different ages. Sex should be appropriate (and individual) to each character.

Sex should not be perfect. (heh…when is it ever?)

Sex should evolve from the story line and tell you more about the relationship between these two people.

• Italics: Don't put extraordinarily long passages in italics. --I can relate to this. I remember critting someone who had nearly whole chapters in italics since it was a dream or some flashback. It was terribly intrusive and I ended up skimming over much of it. God bless editors. They see more garbage than I will ever put up with.

Marketing: One of the things Mr. Gross said that struck me profoundly was that the industry is no longer led by editors, but by marketing people. I had always suspected this, but somehow it sounded more chilling coming from the horse's mouth (so to speak).

Marketing is interested in the bottom line. Will it make money? Considering so many people's livelihoods may be tied to a single book, it's understandable that publishing houses will align themselves to the decisions made by the marketing department over the editorial department.

Is that right or wrong? I think the purists will cry at the inequity of it all, claiming true art is lost in pursuit of the dollar, but I don't think that's a fair assessment. Good story telling still rises to the top. The reading public isn't going to spend money on something that doesn't appeal. And if that author doesn't create a following, it’s likely he won't have a second book. It's a very unsteady tightrope, one with no gray areas. If you want to get in the game, you have to create something the public wants.

Mr. Gross was a wealth of information and had a standing room only crowd. He was also quite charming and easy to listen to. A very good forum.

Tomorrow: Internet Marketing

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plotting Systems

I came away with mixed feelings about this last conference. They had some big name agencies represented, and those agents I met were quite congenial and informative, but the panels didn't meet my expectations. Last year's panels seemed more instructive and faster paced. There was also more to choose from.

There was a definite issue with the various levels of publishing experience among attendees. I'm at a point right now where I understand more than I did last year. But there were an awful lot of new writers still grappling with the ropes and much of the panels were taken up with their questions as they tried to come to terms with an entire industry. I don't blame them at all. This is why we go to conferences. But the speakers took an inordinate amount of time trying to get their message across, losing the attention and attendance of many of the more seasoned writers.

One speaker, whose panel I was very anxious to hear, spent nearly the first half of the session explaining internet basics. He had a lot of good information judging by the points he was going to cover in his handout, but we never got to them.

My other disappointment was that the conference was so overbooked I never found any of my online or live workshop friends. And the panels were packed to capacity. If you found a seat, you were lucky.

I did make new friends though, so all was not lost.

One of my favorite speakers this year was Linda Rohrbough. I liked her no nonsense approach to writing. She spoke on the various systems available for novel development. I was familiar with each one she mentioned but it was nice to get an encapsulated explanation for all of them.

She discussed storyboarding, which I've never been comfortable using. A storyboard can be created electronically or with index cards. The basic idea is that you have to pinpoint every turning point in the plot. Storyboards are good for people who need a visual medium in order to see their story.

We also covered the Hero's Journey by Chris Vogler. I've taken a previous workshop on Vogler's work and I'm also a big fan of Joseph Campbell so I already knew the steps for the hero's journey. Basically, we have: 1. The call to adventure, 2. The hero is tested within an unfamiliar world, 3. He faces the supreme ordeal, 4. He is rewarded, 5. He returns and is reintegrated into society.

Then there is plotting using the 4-act play. I learned this one from a friend of mine and it's what I use most often in creating my plots. I find it helps my pace and focuses on the turning points within the plot. Using the 4-act play system, you divide the story into quarters, escalating the conflict as you move forward until you reach the black moment when it looks like our heroes aren't going to make it.

Since this is a system I like using the most, I'll discuss this at length in a later post. But I do recommend reading scripts and analyzing successful movies as a means of deconstructing a plot.

Another plotting system that was brought up was the snowflake method. I have to admit, I've never warmed up to this one, but Ingermanson is pretty successful with it, and it's pretty simple. Check out his website for more details.

The snowflake method starts out with a one-sentence summary of the story and then expands on it. I think what turns me off is that he gives you timelines to do everything. I may be a slow writer, but it doesn't take me a week (or more) to figure out plot. Other than that, I do follow this technique to some degree.

I start out with a blurb, build on the plot points and then on the kind of characters that need to carry this particular plot. "Pantsers" won't like this system, but if you tend to be kind of structured (like me) you might reap some benefit from Ingermanson's website.

We also discussed Character Grids. This is something I do once my outline is established. This system reinforces the goal, motivation and conflict of each of your characters. The reason I like this is because it forces me to make each character accountable for what they do (or don't do). It also shows me the end result of each of their actions.

Debra Dixon is the author that is often credited with this formula. I have yet to get her book, but I plan to.

There was a lot more that was covered but I think I hit the highlights.

Tomorrow: Editing

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hooked, by Les Edgerton

My home computer has been having a series of technical difficulties. We had to hire a registered Geek to come and fix it but even he can't find the problem. So I am posting this from work as a means of last resort.

We're closing in on the problem so hopefully it will be fixed soon. Either that, or I see a new pc on my horizon. Oh, please, lord, noooooo! I'd rather have my fingernails ripped out than load a new pc with all my old programs. It's the kind of thing that makes me stress out and birth alien kittens.

I am back from the Austin conference and I'll start a series on what I learned in the coming days. For now, I want to recommend a book I found while I was there. Normally, I don't recommend writing books. I've found most of them to be rather dull rehashes of things we should have learned in grade school. But this book captured my attention so much that I hung onto it in my sweaty little hands and waited for the person manning the booth to return. It was the only copy there.

It's called HOOKED, by Les Edgerton. It's a brand new book, published this year. At first glance you might think it was just about hooks, but it's far more than that. Edgerton goes into back story, description, character, economy of language, red flags to avoid and even agents' feedback. I'm only halfway through it and I can't wait to start reading it again. I am finding real gems of advice all throughout the book.

I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I actually took out my highlighter and sticky notes and have been writing inside the book. I NEVER mark up books. This is how useful I found this particular little bible.

The information is plainspeak common sense and easy to absorb. It gave me that hit-in-the-head: "Duh! Why didn't I see that?" reaction.

So from a hard-to-impress writing pupil, this is a book I intend to refer to a lot.

*****
We were serenaded with tornado sirens the other night. My area came out of it unscathed, but folks north of us got hit with flash floods. Sadly, quite a few people died in those storms. We were lucky this time.

*****
News Tidbits: I pitched to a couple of agents at the conference and was asked for partials both times.

Melissa O'Neal, one of my peers from my local group won the League's contest for narrative nonfiction, a humorous narrative about a Victorian home. I sat with Melissa during our luncheon and found her to be just as engaging and funny in person.

Nutshell observation: The weather was rotten, the traffic was oppressive and even the conference itself was too big for the hotel. They really need a bigger place. There seemed to be fewer panels this year, but the agent list was larger and more prestigious than what most conferences offer.

At my stage of the game I may not go to next year's conference. It will depend on what forums they offer and whether I have an agent by then or not.

Tomorrow (if my pc is fixed): Conference Notes

Friday, June 15, 2007

Samhain Contest

I am off to Austin for a few days to commingle with my kindred spirits. I don't know if I'll be able to post while I'm there. It all depends on whether they have free internet service at the hotel. Rest assured, I'll have a lot to post when I get back though.

In the meantime, check out Samhain's First Line contest. Week 2

This is a five-week contest, currently on week two. No new entries can enter. You can go to the home page to check out the rest.

One thing that I thought was interesting was individual perception. Some of those first lines didn't go the way I thought they would inside the second line. A few had such startling beginnings that I imagined all sorts of wondrous things, yet the second line brought it down a notch. --or maybe I was expecting something supernatural to happen.

There are other second lines that still hold my interest, making me pant for next week's results.

And then there were those my internal editor would like to tweak just a bit to make them flow smoother. My interest was still there, but I stumbled on one or more words. Sometimes too, the line made me pause to figure out if I read it correctly. Neither of these speed bumps are good things, especially in the beginning when I'm supposed to be hooked.

I am learning quite a bit from this contest, though. Of all the contests I've read, this one is the most fascinating. And it's short! No meandering through long-winded narrative. No cutting remarks from passersby. And the judging is by acquiring editors, rather than peers.

I was surprised a couple of the first lines I liked didn’t make it to the second round. While others that I didn't think were as successful made the cut. It all depends on what the editors are looking for. There are seven editors at Samhain. Seven chances for a different opinion.

The moderator of this contest promised to share her insights after the contest is over. I'm looking forward to reading what she's discovered and compare it to what I've noticed.

*****

Banned in Canada: Don't ask me why. These are stupid but still kind of funny. Trunk Monkeys

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cheap Trick Ergonomics

I have a terrible time with carpal tunnel. I limit my computer time when I can and do all those crazy therapy exercises to keep my arm from seizing up on me.

For a while I shopped for just the right pad to cushion my arm as I surf the net. Nothing worked --which aggravates me all the more because I spent a lot of money on that stuff. Then one day I had a brainstorm. I noticed how cushy those Beanie Babies were and thought they would make a nice arm rest.

The next time I went to a garage sale I found a good sized stuffed animal filled with those beanie beads and bought it for 50 cents. I've been using it ever since and it's been fairly comfortable. The only problem I have with it is the material is a nylon and it can get kind of warm if your arm rests on it too long. But so far it hasn't been that much of an inconvenience. If I ever get industrious (yeah, right) I can cover it with a cotton fiber.

Hope this idea helps someone else.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Writing Markets

Short week for me this week. I head out for the big Writers League of Texas conference in Austin this Friday. They always have some killer forums so I'll be sure to bring back a full report on the things I learned there.

Greg is babysitting the dog-kids while I go off and act all writer-like with my peers.

Let's do a market report.

Angels on Earth
Publishes first-person true stories about people who have been positively affected in some dramatic way.
Payment: $100-$400 for full length narratives, between $25-$100 for shorter pieces.

Apologies for the short notice on this one below.
Sumach Press invites submissions for a new YA story collection about mothers and daughters and body image (to be published in 2008). Working title: Cleavage. Seeking stories of 2000-3500 words about eating disorders, cosmetic surgery, implants, clothing choices, hair, waxing, makeup, piercing, tattoos etc. Point of view should be from 13+ but the issues can be hers, her mother's, or both. Especially interested in quirky, humorous stories that capture the bizarreness of body image along with defining mother-daughter moments. Open to new, emerging and established writers.
Payment: $75 plus one free copy of the book, and 40% discount on additional copies.
Deadline: June 15, 2007.

Northwest Baby & Child
We accept manuscripts for these topics: monthly themes, parenting, healthy living, and family activities.

Learning Through History
Learning Through History magazine is a bi-monthly publication that is filled with articles and activities that correspond to historical themes or time periods.

*****
SFF contest
You guys know how I feel about markets that pay peanuts. And SFF especially is not known for its deep pockets. If you have a story you can't sell anywhere else, here's a contest you can sub to. At least they don’t retain the rights so you can sell it again in the future.

Electric Dragon Café
http://www.electricdragoncafe.com/submit/contest.php

Caveat: As much as I belittle poor-paying markets, bear in mind that most markets pay whatever their advertising dollars will allow. SFF is not a big market. Our readership is kind of small which translates into smaller pay for writers. But if this is what you write...

Long gone are the days of OMNI magazine. Probably the BEST science & science fiction magazine I've ever read. We were very faithful readers and devoured that magazine from cover to cover. It's a shame they closed shop. The writing, editing and art were slick and powerful.

And from what I remember, they paid darn well. They folded because they felt the readership wasn't large enough to sustain their very expensive magazine. I can understand their perspective. This was a business decision. But that magazine was worth every penny. The writing was far more polished and innovative than a lot of the stuff I read today. Different times. Different expectations.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Da Writing Life

Garage sale went smoothly yesterday. We got rid of a lot of big things that were just taking up space and going unused. My house looks tidy again!

Oddly enough, we didn't have many book browsers this go round. We only stayed open for a few hours because it got pretty hot by midday. The rest of the day we crashed and watched videos. We keep saying we're going to go out to see Pirates 3 but neither of us wants to sit through that long a movie. Johnny Depp isn't that entertaining.

On writing: One of my buddies got asked for a partial! I get so pumped when someone I know passes that hurdle. But as I've learned even when you're faithfully published, there are always obstacles and uncertainties that haunt you.

Another friend wrote the outline to her second book. The agent liked it. The editor…not so much. Even when you're in, you're not. Publication has too many variables to ever make you feel like you're home-free.

And to add insult to injury, you even get attacked by peers. I recently read about one writer who received some ugly reviews from anonymous sources. That's just not nice. Moreover, it's cowardly, which in my book makes you as honorable as a piranha.

It sounded to me like they were grudge reviews. Some people are too petty for words. I should feel sorry for these anonymous vultures for being so small-minded and insecure but I believe in karmic justice. Should they, themselves ever get published I predict a very short career. God don't like ugly.

Today: more chillin'

Friday, June 8, 2007

Broad Universe

The nicest thing happened to me yesterday. I got an invitation to join Broad Universe. I was just floored by their generosity and kindess.

I am a huge supporter of women's work, be they in the arts, sciences or business. I well remember a world where women were "girls" and the glass ceiling had yet to be shattered. We've come a long way since then but it's important for young women --and men to know that women are equal partners to men on this crazy little rock we call Earth.

My profound thanks to Broad Universe. May they touch the lives of many more women and men.

This weekend: It's our turn to have a garage sale. Oy vey!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

New Novel(s)

Last week I had lunch with a friend of mind and she mentioned she was looking for a paranormal device for one of her main characters. I suggested one I had used in a short story once. Later, I sent her a link where I get a lot of my paranormal ideas. I've posted it on my website before, but here it is again.

Well, our conversation led me back to my short story in a unique way. This piece was a short-short and very dark. While I liked the writing, I was never happy with the ending. I don't particularly care for women in peril stories. But a few minutes of conversation had seeped into my subconscious and it bubbled over into a wealth of ideas hours later. Without even trying, I think I solved my own problem on how to develop that story without all that oppressive helplessness.

And it turned out even better than I imagined. Rather than rewrite the short story, I started outlining it as a new novel. The more I wrote, the more I liked it. It's different, much different than what I've seen out lately, so maybe I'm on to something.

No title yet. There will be sex. And more black ops espionage. I've even created the logline for it. Because it is so unique, I am holding my cards close to my chest a little while longer until I have more of the story cemented in stone. But I haven't gotten this excited since I wrote the sequel to True Believers. I like this idea.

What's ironic is that here I was trying to offer some suggestions to a friend and I ended up touching on a fleeting memory of something I had read in a newspaper about 20 years ago. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm writing a vampire story. Nobody faint on me! I guarantee you it is unlike any vampire story you've ever seen. No blood, no pointy teeth. A very different kind of vampire.

Those of you who know me, know I really hate vampire stories. Greg has to drag me to see vampire movies, and I play the suffering hostage throughout the whole movie. So I find it karmic justice that I am now bound to this "vampire" story after I've bad-mouthed them for so many years.

If I'm lucky, I'll finish the outline by next week and start the actual writing. It's not like me to make an announcement on something so nebulous, but my instincts tell me I'm onto something and I always listen to that little voice. It's never been wrong.

And get this...this is one of two projects that I'm working on. The other one is a fantasy based on an apocalyptic Earth.

Busy, busy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Candace Havens Workshop

My bad. It's been tough to keep up with this blog recently. I have been doing actual writing and mailing packages off so there's been little time for updates. I have several blog topics coming up but I wanted to mention Candy Havens' latest free workshop.

Right now she is interviewing several editors and agents on her email forum. So far, she has Hilary Sares (Editor, Kensington), Kathryn Lye (Editor, Blaze, Red Dress Ink), Anne Sowards (Editor,Ace/Berkley/Roc), Krista (Editor, Delacorte), Sha-Shana Crichton (Agent) and Elaine Spencer (Agent.)

I just received the first email containing the interview with Elaine Spencer from the Knight Agency. Ms. Spencer packs a lot of good information on pitching to agents, so I strongly urge you to join Candy's loop. She continually brings on guest speakers as well as conducts workshops on topics such as: Fast Drafts and Revision Hell.

Candace Havens is the author of Charmed & Dangerous, out in print right now. Check out her website for more news and information.

If you want to sign up directly, go here: Write_Workshop-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Monday, June 4, 2007

Public Speaking

I have a full agenda for the next couple of months. I've got the Writers League of Texas conference in June and the Romance Writers of America conference in July. The nice thing about conferences is that you can get a LOT of information in a very short amount of time. It is overwhelming, but very profitable in the big scheme of things.

I trade information with a friend of mine who is carving out a career in illustration. The business side of art and writing sometimes intersect and we share whatever tidbits we learn from our respective enterprises.

Recently, we discussed the importance of knowing how to verbally represent ourselves to potential clients, editors and agents. We agreed that a confident speaking voice is vital for promoting our work. She invited me to her group's next meeting on Public Speaking. Unfortunately, it's not until late July, (after my conferences) but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless.

Public speaking has never been my favorite vehicle for expression. I'm all right with it if it's a group of people I know, but it's not so comfortable when the crowd is full of strangers. I muddle through despite my reservations and I force myself to speak whenever the occasion calls for it.

One of my goals is something I've kept pretty much to myself. I want to join a local Toastmasters group sometime by next year. It's been on my mind a lot. I've heard good things about this organization and I think it will help me get over my apprehension of speaking to large groups of strangers. Toastmaster groups are scattered all over the world and a few are within driving distance from me. But I need something that meets on the weekends and during daylight. I have a terrible time driving at night.

While my speaking skills are adequate and I don't suffer from freezes, I'd like to go beyond okay to something more memorable. So this workshop on public speaking should be a nice way to get my feet wet. Besides, my buddy is coming with me, so I'm sure there will be liquor involved (after the event).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Coolness!

Much coolness prevails.

My humor story Thongs for the Memories is out in the anthology "More Sand In My Bra". Buy it at your handy dandy Barnes & Nobles or Amazon.

Surprisingly, the book was printed with two different covers. The one on the left is the one they sent me. To the right is the one that's advertised at B&N and Amazon.

I think the neatest thing about all this is the company I keep inside these pages. Come on! Ellen Degeneres is in the book!