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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rheas and Writing

I picked up a very old copy of Progressive Farmer at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago. I read it, not for the (then) latest farming techniques for small farmers, but for the cover story on ratites.

Years ago, Greg and I raised emu and rheas. Like many US growers, we had high hopes for a health-conscious meat market because the meat from these birds is very low in fat, and it looks and tastes like beef.

It never happened, or if it did, we never found out. When I made the move to Dallas we had to give up all our farm animals because we traveled too much. It was impossible for one person to keep the ranch running and still keep a full time job.

Still, we remember those days fondly. It was a great experience, but hard work.

Anyway, the thing I found interesting about that article was that they started running down the growers, saying that (we) were not to be believed if we stated phenomenal hatch rates. They claimed the average was little better than 50%.

Maybe it was the average. But OUR average was closer to 97% live hatches. We took our job very seriously and kept meticulous records. The hatchery was specially built by Greg and it was so clean you could eat off the floor. As a matter of fact, it was nicknamed the clean room because it was so germ-free.

I remember checking on the incubators several times a day, as one or more chicks pecked out of their shells and into the world. Mine was usually the first face they saw. I let them dry off and placed them in a temperature controlled pen for a few days until I was sure they were eating well.

We were pretty well known locally for our success, having appeared on television and newspaper, but after a single article in Countryside Magazine (that I wrote), we received hundreds of letters asking for more information.

For two people who literally fell into this business, we ended up as local experts in the field. Maybe our story isn't average, but it's true.

Like any business (including the writing business) you have to do the grunt work, and that includes getting as much education as you need to do your job, as well as good notes and a reliable roster of mentors.

Even our success with the birds didn't come from dumb luck. We worked very hard and didn't give up when things got tough. It was a steady progression of trial and error, practice, perseverance, and study.

Just like writing.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Looky-Lous

We looked at property today. This time we went south, about an hour out of Dallas.

There were some good prospects. What we'd like is something a little rural, but close enough to a major city in case we needed an excellent hospital ---or an excellent margarita.

One piece of property already had the perfect house, but not enough land. We both agreed that since people were building so close to one another that we'd try to buy more land than we needed in order to create a natural buffer. This way too, it becomes investment property if (or when) we become too feeble to take care of it and we need to be imprisoned in an old folks home.

We're still very much in the early browsing period, but it's more commitment than I've ever gotten from Greg so I am taking advantage of it while he's game.

Going back to the land may very well limit my writing time, but I have to admit, it's one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had and I'd look forward to going back to that lifestyle. I love growing food and animals. There's a humbling connection that makes you really grateful for this thing we call life.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Outlines, a la Maria

Stephanie brought up outlines in her blog last week, and since I am now in the throes of outlining a new book, it seems appropriate that I should post on my mired attempts at outlining.

My outlines are so rudimentary no self-respecting grade school English teacher would call my summary a proper outline. But it works for me. And I think that's the bottom line. Some people swear to be organic writers. Others crow that their outlines are so detailed you might as well call them mini-novels.

I'm not that detailed. Details come out while I'm writing---and truthfully, more often when I'm rewriting, but that's a post for another day. My outlines barely take more than two sentences. All I want is the general thrust of that chapter. What is going to happen, and why?

Also embedded in this tiny nutshell of a summary is the pov character. I find this helps me enormously when I get down to writing. If I know whose pov I'm in, I can stand back and decide whose pov is coming next. This gives me a kind of ballpark view of where I'm going and tells me who has the most at risk at any point in the story.

You know how most people struggle with writing a blurb AFTER they've written the novel? I don't do that. I write the blurb first. It might not be the final blurb, but it's the logline I'll work from to create an outline. This gives me a soft base to build upon.

So if my blurb reads something like: When a pickpocket steals the watch of a self-absorbed history professor, it lands them both in a world of mystics and mages. In order to escape, they will have to depend on a troubled child who is slowly going insane as her mind fights off the burgeoning magic that is her curse.

Not great, but it's something. It gives me all the elements I need to weave the story. From here, I'll expand on it by listing all the key players. Since the story is still rolling around in my brain pan, everything is subject to change.

During the story's incubation, my antagonist changed a couple of times. Each time, the antagonist grew more menacing and I realized I needed to create a new character, one who could encompass the necessary malevolence in order to give my protagonists a run for their money.

This is the way it developed:
The first antagonist was the protagonist's friend. He later morphed into a minor opponent, more dull-witted than vengeful. Then I shifted to someone who held a great deal of power and wanted more. Believable, but too conventional, I thought. Finally, I ended up with someone who defied the concept of the archetypal antagonist. She'll be gentle, attractive, even kind, with an underlying core of ruthless ambition that drives her every move. This was an antagonist I could sink my teeth into.

Once I molded a worthy antagonist, I discovered one of my protagonists started to look a little soft by comparison, so I'll have to bolster her up during the writing process.

I like dual, male/female protagonists, which is probably why there is usually a romance in my stories. I like the idea of a couple working out their problems and rising to the occasion. And being a feminist, I want to see an even distribution of heroism from each person. No wilting violets in my stories.

Once I have the blurb and the character map I can start outlining. I usually have a good idea for the beginning and I know the resolution. I also jot down the black moment of the story. This gives me three potential chapters right off the bat. From here I start filling in between them. Since I know what the end result is, my job is to lead the story so that I have several try/fail scenarios, a subplot with a romance and a main plot that pits one force against the other.

What develops are 30-40 chapter summaries tersely written in two to three sentences. At this point, all I need to know is what's going to happen in that chapter, and what needs to happen in order to feed the next chapter.

I generally segue my chapters one into the other, so it's very important that each action predicates what will happen next.

And that's it. I don't over think my outlines. I don't write long summaries or character studies. I write just enough to give me a direction. This way, I know that if I stop writing on Wednesday, I can pick up where I left off the following Sunday because I know exactly where I need to be next.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mike Keyton

Today, I'm having lunch with a man I haven't seen in ten years. He stopped by my office yesterday because he was in town and he says: Maria, you haven't changed a bit.

Of course, my reply was: Buddy, you need glasses. LOL

It's hard to believe it's been ten years. Time goes by so quickly. In a couple of weeks, it'll also be my 32nd wedding anniversary. Stay tuned for another crazy story from my youth which I'll post on 10-10-07.

*****

Speaking of stories from our youth, check out Mike Keyton's blog. He has tons of stories about his ancestors and himself. Mike has a wonderful narrative voice with that legendary British humor. I read him religiously. He makes my life look tame by comparison. :o)

Monday, September 24, 2007

What I Learned from JK Rowling

I was browsing YouTube yesterday and came across a 5-part interview with J.K. Rowling.

There are so many things I admire about this woman, not least of which is her indomitable spirit. She had pearls of wisdom in each of the five parts, but part four especially caught my attention.

In reference to a letter from a mother who told her that the end of Book 2 was too dark and that she'll check back to see if Rowling does better in future books, Rowling said: "I'm not taking dictation here." She wrote the mother back and told her not to read any more of the books.

(Wouldn't you have liked to have been a fly on the wall in that woman's house when she read that letter?) Rowling goes on to say that she cares profoundly for her readers but that doesn't mean she will allow them to dictate a single word of what she writes.

Strong stance. One I'm especially proud that she's taken.

I see a lot of writing by committee in critique groups. Not with my CPs though. The people I deal with are professionals. We might make a suggestion on how to word a sentence or what to delete or add, but we don’t dictate to each other, nor do we ask each other what should go into our stories. Those decisions are ours alone.

I've personally witnessed authors furiously taking notes and rewriting their stories to suit the tastes of their current focus groups. I don’t want to read something six other people told you they wanted to see. I want to read your vision.

This does not apply to new writers learning the ropes. We all have to learn by example and instruction when we start. But once you have the mechanics down, once you know the proper way to plot a story and layer character, you also need to rely on your instincts and have confidence that you've told a good story.

Rowling was so adamant, so confident about her story, despite its length and despite that it defied convention of what made "good" children's writing. I like too, that she wrote it for herself first.

EVERY major publisher in the UK turned her down, yet she didn't lose her belief in her story. In the end, it was the reading public who vindicated her.

An agent, a publisher, an editor have no ability to read the future. They're paid to make good guesses. And that's about all you can count on. In the end, it’s the reading public that decides whether to embrace a story. It's up to the author to write something he is passionate about, then you can let the chips fall where they may.

While I rarely get philosophical, (see my caveat in the upper right of this blog) I have come to the conclusion that you can't write by the whim of your audience, a potential agent, or publisher, or your well-meaning critique group. You must write something you love; something you feel good about.

You can only control your writing. The rest is out of your hands. Write well. Write from your heart. Then move on. Don't dwell on past mistakes or poor novels. Learn from your mistakes and write the next one better.

*****

And to put your feet back on terra firma, I want to steer you towards a blog I found by accident. Eleanor Arnason wrote a post in Wyrdsmith and also on her blog about the money the average author makes. (dated: September 20) Go over and take a look.

In the Wyrdsmith blog, it also posted comments from two other midlist authors who graciously listed dollar amounts for what they currently make on their books.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Review

Got my name and story, Thongs for the Memories, mentioned in NY Stringer Magazine by Gert Innsry, 8/20/07.

An excerpt from NY Stringer

Several of the stories are laugh-out-loud funny, though none had me snorting milk from my nose. "Thongs for the Memories", by Maria Zannini, explores the pain of inappropriate underwear, "Thar She Blows", by Janna Cawrse, describes the finer points of boat sanitation, and "Dear Diary", by Ellen Degeneres, muses about a performer's life on the road.

I'm glad Ms. Innsry found my story funny. I'm not sure if I'd like to be responsible for milk snorting, but laugh-out-loud funny is good---darn good.

For the whole article, go here.

*****

I did not go to FenCon yesterday. But I tried. After waiting for quite a while, I finally left when they couldn't get their computer to spit out a badge. This was the first year I didn't pre-register. Had I pre-registered I probably wouldn't have had any trouble getting in.

Call it a feeling, but FenCon also had a sparse look about it this year, as if it were thrown together. There were far fewer panels than last year and the atmosphere seemed cold and unwelcoming, not at all like past cons.

This hotel was a lot nicer than where they normally held the con, but it didn't make up for the sparseness of the con itself. Also, the volunteers seemed disgruntled or irate. Couldn't tell which. But probably the most telling of all was that there were very few con-goers. For the first day of an event that seemed odd.

I don't even know if I'll try to go later today. We'll see.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Markets

My redesigned website is up. I'm still missing a few archived links but the rest should work. Dreamweaver gives me such a headache, but I'm too much of a mule-head not to want to do it on my own.

Any-hoo, it's up. Go and take a look. www.mariazannini.com

What do you think of the new color scheme?

*****

I've been lax in putting up markets with all the irons I've had in the fire lately, so let's do some today.


Only one UK Market this time.

BBC Wildlife Magazine

Pay: varies

If you've got a story that our readers simply can't miss, that is new, topical, relevant, innovative and never previously covered in BBC Wildlife Magazine, please submit a brief outline of the story (no more than 100 words), preferably by e-mail.

*****

US Markets

The Bible Advocate

Pay: $20 - $55One of the oldest religious magazines in America, founded in 1863. Now What? (formerly Bible Advocate Online) has been on the Internet since late 1996. Both are published by the Bible Advocate Press, the publication agency of the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Now What? is monthly; the print version is published ten times a year.


2007 Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest

Deadline: October 1st, 2007Prizes: The first-place prize is $1,000, second-place prize is $500, and third-place prize is $250.

Literary Agencies: The winner and seven finalists will be considered for representation by the William Morris Agency, ICM, Regal Literary, the Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Inkwell Management, Sterling Lord Literistic, and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

Deadline: All entries must be postmarked by October 1, 2007.

The winners and finalists will be announced at the website December 1, 2007, and in the Spring 2008 issue of Zoetrope



The Elders Tribune Contest

Fee: None

Author of winning article must be 65 years of age or older to win. Anyone else can participate for fun. The article must be original and 500 words or more. Any topic acceptable.

Deadline: September 30, 2007.
Prize: $100 Amazon.com gift certificate.



The MuseItUp Annual Writing Contest

The MuseItUp Club is hosting its annual fiction writing contest.
Registration Deadline: October 6, 2007.

Deadline for contest submissions: November 15, 2007.

Winners will be announced and published in the MuseItUp website and other affiliated sites on January 8, 2008. Winners will be notified beforehand. Prizes given via Paypal.

No more than 2,000 word count.

All entrants will receive the PDF guidelines along with the theme of the contest once their registration has been made. The catch: your ending NEEDS to throw us for a loop, something we weren’t expecting. Give us that WOW factor, pull us into the story thinking it’s going one way then surprise us at the end.

First Prize: $100
Second Prize: $50
Third Prize: $25



Nossa Morte

Horror, thriller stories of 500-5,000 words. Especially looking for darker stories. New writers welcome. Pays $20 minimum and $40 maximum.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coming Up

Getting ready for FenCon coming up this Friday. I thought about canceling because Greg is coming up this weekend, but he said, no, I should keep my schedule. FenCon is only once a year and he'll be waiting for me when I get home.

I like FenCon. It is cheap! Cheaper than any other con I've ever seen. And while there are a lot of local celebrity authors, they do host big names too. Connie Willis is this year's guest of honor. My friend, Daw took a workshop with Connie Willis and she raved about her, so I'm looking forward to hearing her speak.

As usual, I will post a full report on the panels I attend.

The Muse Online Conference is coming up too---and I can stay in my jammies for that one.

I'll also be taking a world building workshop with Eugie Foster in October, so I'll let you know how that goes too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Significant Others

I had a discussion with a few of my peers and we talked about what kind of support (if any) we get from our significant others.

Greg is good about reading short stories, or one or two chapters from a novel. He's great at picking out scientific discrepancies or discussing battle strategy. But you can hear crickets sing, waiting for him to finish one of my novels.

My peers told similar stories. Their mates were supportive in small and visible means, but it's not the kind of support we (as writing peers) give each other.

If one of my CPs told me that s/he had a sudden request for a partial/full, I will drop everything to read that manuscript as quickly as I can. Time is of the essence when you get a request and a different pair of eyes helps mightily. They've done the same for me time and time again.

We brainstorm queries, exchange information about agents and publishers, and share our disappointments and happy dances. Since very few of my CPs live close to me, we do all this entirely through email. We are the closest friends, and yet we've NEVER met.

It's painful for us when our significant others don't regard our work as importantly as we do. It makes us feel that if the person whose opinion we trust most in the whole world isn't interested in it, how can anyone else be interested? But after careful consideration I think that's mixing apples and oranges.

We, as writers are examining our work at a near molecular level. We're analyzing for character, plot and pacing. They're not. They're just reading, and it could be they’re reading something that is not their normal reading fare.

So even if they wanted to offer critical advice, they couldn't, unless they too were writers. (and how often does that happen?)

As much as I'd like Greg to gobble up every word I write, he does so much more on a very intrinsic level. He may not understand a thing about the subjective nature of the publishing industry, but he understands my subjective nature. He gives me space when I need it, and protective arms around me when I don't.

That's a good trade.


*****

Please welcome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz to my blogroll. Rochita has two blogs and she writes about writing in both. Check them out.

http://rcloenen-ruiz.livejournal.com/
http://rcloenen-ruiz.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 17, 2007

Maya Reynolds

I met Maya Reynolds last year on a writers' Yahoo list group. Every time she posted a message to the group, it was articulate, thorough and well researched. ---and you know me. I sat up and paid attention.

As I lurked in the background, I was blown away with her extraordinary understanding of the publishing industry. This was no ordinary up-and-coming author, but a woman who took the business of publishing seriously. I was grateful for the chance to interview Maya and pick her brain.

Maya also has a great blog that you'll want to bookmark too. She has a huge following and her blog boasts a Who's Who of agents and other infamous bloggers who visit there regularly.

Please welcome, Maya Reynolds

Why Erotic Suspense? What drew you to this genre?
I’ve always enjoyed suspense, both in fiction and in movies. I’m especially drawn to edgy and a bit quirky stories.

At the same time, I really like erotic romance because the genre is so wide open. It reminds me of the American Old West--anything goes. You can write a paranormal, a contemporary or a historical. The conventions that usually rule romance are not set in stone in erotic romance. That made the genre a natural for me.


Where did the idea for BAD GIRL come from?
In early 2005, I took an online class in writing erotic romance. Jan Springer, the instructor, wanted us to start our own story during the class. I was sitting there one afternoon, trying to come up with a plot when Rear Window came on the television. I immediately thought, “What would happen if a woman was spying on her high-rise neighbors? And what if she got caught? What would she do to protect her secret?


This is your first published book. Were there any surprises on your road to publication, something that came totally out of left field?
Oh, good question. That’s the first time I’ve been asked that one. Let me think.

Yes, the thing that came totally out of left field was when NAL (a division of Penguin) offered me a contract for Bad Girl--but wanted me to turn a 45K-word novella into a full-length novel. I wasn’t expecting it. Since I had no experience in doing that, making the decision to sign was a scary one.


Other than the degree of heat, is there anything else that differentiates erotic romance from regular romance?
I took a class with Angela Knight a couple of years ago, and she said something that really stuck with me. In a regular romance, the tension is based on whether or not the hero and heroine will ever make love. That sexual tension drives the novel. In erotic romance, the question of whether they’ll make love is answered early. Instead, the tension is romantic rather than sexual. Will the hero and heroine end up together? It seems so counter-intuitive that an erotic romance would be driven by romantic tension instead of sexual tension, but I believe Angela was exactly right.


Justice, the hero of Bad Girl, is very tough with a hint of vulnerability. Did he start out that way for you?
Interestingly enough, Justice was much easier for me to get a handle on than Sandy. He sprang full-blown and was consistent from the start. Sandy was more difficult for me--probably because her peeping on her neighbors was such an unusual thing for a woman to do. I needed to make sure she stayed likeable and that the reader could understand what motivated her.


Your main characters are sympathetic and genuine. Are you a good people watcher? Or does your grasp on the human condition stem from your past work as a social worker?
Oh, another great question. I was born in Queens, New York--the first girl in a huge extended family. My father was Italian, and my mother is Irish. One of my earliest memories is of sitting with my maternal grandmother at a bus stop, people watching. I couldn’t have been more than four or five at the time, but I was fascinated by all different persons we encountered. I suspect my choosing social work was a natural extension of that curiosity about people.


All the writers out there are going to want to know….are you an organic writer or an outliner? What steps do you take when you sit down to write a story?
I’m always a little embarrassed when I answer this question because it sounds so disorganized. I get an idea for a story and usually sit down immediately to write before I lose whatever it is that grabbed me. Of course, since I haven’t thought it through, I usually write pages and pages of backstory at the outset. I’ve learned not to fight it because that’s how I warm up to the story. When I actually reach the point of action, I lop off everything up to that point, put the deleted material in a Word folder and save it for later reference. I delete anywhere from one to three chapters, but find that I often add sentences from that deleted material back in at various points of the story.


What do you wish someone had told you when you started writing?
How long everything would take. I had visions of writing a story in four months, selling it and seeing it in print in a year to fourteen months. The reality is that I started Bad Girl in February 2005 and found an agent in December 2005. She sold the manuscript in July 2006 and it’s now being published in September 2007.


Do you have any tips for writers on landing an agent?
Start early, building your list. Buy a package of 3x5 cards and get in the habit of scribbling the names and contact info whenever you come across an agent who represents your genre. Be sure to Google the agents and check them out on Preditors and Editors. That way, by the time you’re ready to query, you’ll have a qualified list of agents.


You blog a great deal on the business of publishing at www.mayareynoldswriter.blogspot.com . How important is it for writers to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry? Isn't that what agents and publishers are for?
This is one of those chicken-and-egg questions. It’s vitally important that writers understand publishing is a business. Agents and publishers invest a great deal of time and money in authors. If the agent doesn’t get a contract, s/he makes NO money. It’s a form of sales except that the agent may spend months trying to make that sale. By the same token, a publisher invests a huge amount of capital in editing, printing, distributing and marketing a manuscript. Given that, if you were the agent or editor, which kind of client would you want to have? One as ignorant as an egg, or one who understood how the cow ate the cabbage?

I always cringe when I hear a newbie writer say, “I don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. That’s for my agent or editor to deal with.” Well, if an agent has to spend two months cleaning up a manuscript, that’s two months of overhead without any revenue coming in. Which manuscript do you think s/he will be most interested in: the clean ready-to-market one or the sloppy need-to-edit one? It’s simple economics.


What's next on the horizon? Any chance Bad Girl could turn into a series?
Tracy, my marvelous editor at NAL, really loved Sandy and Justice. She asked me to include a subplot or two so that there would be room for the couple to return in a subsequent novel. So who knows?


Any last words?
Just that I hope readers will find Sandy and Justice as interesting and entertaining as I did. I got caught up in their story early and hated to leave them.

Also, thank you for letting me visit your wonderful blog. I’m very happy to be here today.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hurricane Humberto

Hurricane Humberto hit the Texas Gulf Coast this morning.

It was only supposed to be a tropical storm, but it got stronger as it reached landfall. Greg says they got buckets of rain, and many of the petrochemical plants are without power. He'll have his hands full for the next few days.

Still, it was a baby hurricane. Not like monster Rita, that two years ago, wiped us out and dragged us back into the Stone Age for nearly a month. Even today, the tree-line looks like it got a bad haircut. It was a devastating hurricane, one we have yet to recover from.

I won't bore you with our tale of woe. But it was bad. Really bad.

Now that I've learned how to post videos, thought you might like to see a tiny bit of what Rita did to us two years ago. The oak that landed on the house was a little one, only 60 feet horizontal. Most of the pines on our property were no less than 100 feet tall, and ripped straight out of the ground.

And you wonder why I laugh at danger. Look what it did to my house!

video

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Signs

I tend not to discuss writing with my non-writing friends. For a long time I wouldn't even admit to being a writer. My sister-in-law ratted me out when she found one of my articles in a magazine. After that, my double-life was on display.

But the reason I keep my writing life on the low-low is because my non-writing friends have no clue how long it takes to find an agent or a publisher for a book. They don't realize how long it takes to get a response from an editor for an article or a short story.

Many times they give you a look that says: What's wrong with you? Or worse. What's wrong with your book? ---sigh.

Of course, it doesn't help that I am the world's worst when it comes to mailing out queries, so my reply rate is worse than the national writer average.

Lately, even my writer friends (who know better) have been asking me for news on my latest two novels, even though I only sent the last one out a week ago. I've gotten some favorable feedback, but I still don't know anything concrete.

I sent out two queries for the fantasy and immediately got a request from one agent, who also happens to be on my 'A' list. That's been my most exciting news to date.

As one of my friends said: That's a good sign. It means you're going in the right direction. Hallelujah! I was so tired of going in the wrong direction. ;o)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Winning and Other Goals

Thank you, Heather!

I won one of Heather Moore's books from her Out of Jerusalem series. I'm taking it to work with me for my lunch hour reading.

I'll admit to reading a little of it as soon as I got the book. I think I'm going to like it. The imagery is lush and genuine. It was easy to get comfortable with the story.

For more information on her series, check out her website. Heather also has a blog here.

*****

Sigh...always a bridesmaid.

I got a letter from Writers of the Future telling me I made Honorable Mention (again!) Agh! I wasn't so sure about this story. It was politically risqué so I was surprised it got as far as the finals.

I've known two people win the WoTF contest. Fabulous writers both. Maybe the third time will be the charm for me. They keep waggling that carrot in front of me and I wanna bite. LOL

Heh...maybe I should make WoTF a goal.

*****

Speaking of goals

One of my list groups brought up goals as a topic. Goals are good.

I like to update my goals as I go along. So if I accomplish A, it automatically disappears and is replaced with B. This keeps me moving and not dwelling on old accomplishments.

There are also maintenance goals too. Like the newsletter or the blog, something I have to keep up with regularly. Maintenance goals are usually small benchmarks, but they serve to bolster your confidence for the bigger things on the list.

It also give me a sense of responsibility. It makes me feel needed.

*****
It's 9-11 once again. I honor the fallen.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Virtual Social

Lately, on several sites, I've seen mentioned how writers use the internet as a form of socializing with other writers.

That's fine. Thank goodness for the internet. In the past, writers had to indulge in alcohol and opium to take them to that ether collective. But I wonder if writers expect too much from internet relationships.

I've never done online dating. (Greg would frown on that.) But I imagine maintaining an internet relationship with other writers is a little like that. You really don't know what that person is like in real life.

Let's face it, most of us don't show the side of ourselves that our family and significant others know (and groan about) so well. Greg could tell you stories about me. But I have a restraining order on him, and a death threat on his motorcycle. He so much as breathes about my dark side, and that rocket on wheels is toast. ...but I digress. :o)

I've met several of my online friends in person. And while I've always appreciated the online relationship we've had, it's funny how much warmer and more intimate that relationship becomes after we get to know each other live.

I joke with my online critters all the time, but there's a little part of me that always has to be careful with how I phrase things because email isn't perfect. It doesn't reflect my smile, my warmth, that lilt in my voice that says I'm joking, or the hugs that come afterward.

It is just as easy to destroy a relationship online as it is to build one. I had a critter once who needed a lot of stroking. I imagine we probably could have been great friends had we met live, but we were on different wavelengths.

And then there was another person I met online who was extraordinarily fascinating in his emails, but we discovered we had no chemistry in the flesh. These things happen.

I'm one of these people who likes most everyone. Unless my spidey sense tells me you're creepy on the inside, I am an eager listener and will ask you questions until you're tired of me.

The virtual world has brought socializing to a whole new level where you never have to meet another live human being. Amazing…and scary.

*****
Look at me--I'm a source. One of my friends is writing a column on commuter marriages and asked to use me as a source.

In the beginning, Greg and I thought we were all alone in this lifestyle, but it's amazing how many couples live like this. I'm looking forward to reading her article.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

This and That

I think I've met most of my obligations for the week. Sadly, I must domesticate myself today and clean house. Said house isn't exactly dirty, just highly cluttered. I have a huge box (filled to the brim) of books I haven't read yet. Right now, those books are the most organized objects in my house.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a wicker bench with queen Ann legs at a garage sale. It was a well made bench that had seen better days. I cleaned it off and painted it; a soft wheat color for the wicker and a brilliant Chinese red for the legs. Now I don't know what to do with it.

I must be like one of those people who take in strays. I can't stand to see a tattered piece of furniture go unrepaired. I'm told I'm the same way with husbands. (grin)

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Madeline L'Engle died yesterday at the age of 88. This wonderful author was the first person to introduce me to science fiction. When I first read A Wrinkle In Time, I had barely mastered English and I must have kept a dictionary by my side the whole time I was reading the story.

She will be missed.

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Monday Mania: Writing on the Wall is hosting an online critique forum. Send in your first page (up to 350 words) or your query letter for feedback. It starts this Monday, 9-10-07.

It may be too late to submit for this Monday, but it sounds like they may be doing this for a while so you can get in for a future Monday.

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Found this at Broad Universe: Book Tour.com
For those of you who have a book to promote, you can sign up and list your upcoming appearances. For those of you not touring, you can enter your zip code and see who is appearing in your area.

This sounds like it's a pretty good tool, and it's free! Free is always good.

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Finally, don't forget the Muse Conference. Deadline to register is September 15. So sign up now!

The conference itself is October 8-14. It is chock full of FREE workshops, downloads, handouts and ebooks. They're also going to give out random prizes.

This year, one of my critique partners is also teaching a workshop. Margaret is a topnotch editor, (and crit partner) so I know you'll get a lot out of her class.

Here is Margaret's workshop: How to Think Like an Editor Without Giving Up Your Day Job

Join Sara Reinke and Margaret McGaffey Fisk to explore ways to take your not so perfect first draft on the road to publication. We'll look at methods to strengthen the plot, tighten the prose, confine or grow the word count, and many more. These techniques will assist both novel and short story writers in polishing their works until they reach submission standards. Each day of the conference, we will address a different aspect of editing and there will be an open question and answer discussion on the final day.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Markets

Public Service Announcement

Please check out Writer Beware. Bouncin' Bobby is on the loose again.

Ann Crispin has written a post (dated: August 28) on the latest scam with Writers' Literary Agency & Marketing Company.

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For your monetary pleasure…check out these markets.

Common Ties
So many topics to choose from. And they pay well.
Check out their editorial calendar and plan accordingly.
Pay: $100-$200


RedJack Books
Anthology: Anathema
Anathema is an online anthology whose intent is to challenge the writer and reader to view the world from a perspective that is contrary to his or her own, with the hope of leading to a greater understanding of those who actually hold that contrary viewpoint. Therefore, all stories submitted to Anathema should be written sympathetically from this contrary viewpoint. For example, a member of the LDS church might write a story from the view of an atheist; a peacenik might write from the perspective of the Spartans; a human might write from the perspective of an Orc (or a Flemergjmazik– whatever that might be), and so on.

Payment: Contributors will be paid a flat fee of $25.00 per story, plus a choice of book(s) of up to $20.00 in total value, from the RedJack catalog.


Lost Treasure
A monthly publication, accepts lost treasure, folklore, personal adventure stories; legends; and how-to articles for treasure hunters and metal detector users; personal adventure stories when accompanied by a sidebar consisting of a how-to lesson or tips (hunting, research, technique, etc., related to the story); who’s who features (by query only) and miscellaneous how-to tips.

Pay: .04 per word

Low paying but I thought their editorial calendar looked interesting. Check it out.


Calliope
Following are writers' guidelines for Calliope®, a publication covering world history (East / West). We are looking for lively, original approaches to the subject. Keep in mind that our magazine is aimed at youths from ages 8 to 14.

Fiction: up to 800 words
Includes: authentic historical and biographical fiction, adventure, retold legends, relating to the theme.
Pay: 20 to 25 cents per printed word.


Greeting Cards

Wishing Well
Verse & joke writers
We buy a wide selection of wording for our cards including jokes, complimentary or cheeky humorous verse, sentimental and inspirational verses. Jokes ideally are hilariously funny with great sendability, covering the regular old favourite subjects to more topical matters.

Verses can be rhyme or prose but need to flow well and be easily readable first time. They can be anything from 4-24 lines but the majority we use are 8, 12 or 16 lines. Try not to be too specific, it needs to sound personal but in reality must have a wide appeal.

A UK Market. I didn't see a specific pay rate, but they do seem to pay according to the guidelines.


Comstock
Specializing in adult humor
$50-$100


Blue Mountain Arts is interested in reviewing writings for publication on greeting cards. We are looking for highly original and creative submissions on friendship, family, special occasions, positive living, and other topics one person might want to share with another person. Submissions may also be considered for inclusion in book anthologies.

We pay $300 per poem for all rights to publish it on a greeting card and $50 if your poem is used only in an anthology. To request a copy of our writer’s guidelines (which include contact/submission information), please send a blank e-mail to writings@sps.com with “Send Me Guidelines” in the subject line, or write us at: Blue Mountain Arts, Inc. Editorial Department P.O. Box 1007 Boulder, CO 80306.


Other

Country Woman Fruit Recipe Contest
Send recipes that squeeze every drop of goodness from peaches, plums and nectarines.
Fee: None
Deadline: December 1, 2007
Prizes: The Grand Prize is $500 cash. The second-prize winner will receive $300, and third prize is $200. Each of the five runners-up will receive a $30 free merchandise certificate from Country Store.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blaupunkt

Holy moley! Posting videos are like eating potato chips. You just can't stop.

I've been in a comical mood lately. As you might guess, I have a weird sense of humor.

Here's another video that's been in my library for a while. A commerical for car speakers. (I've never been able to look at another stuff animal the same way since.)

Back to writing topics tomorrow. Maybe markets.


video

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

BAD GIRL

BAD GIRL debuts today!


Maya Reynolds' hot new erotic suspense novel, BAD GIRL is now at your favorite bookstore. Buy your copy here.

I got a chance to read an advanced copy of this novel and let me tell you, it is nonstop, heart pounding suspense, with sex so hot it would make a longshoreman blush.

Here's the promo:

Being bad can be so good. All it takes is the right man. By day, Sandy Davis is a dedicated social worker. By night, she's found an unlikely pastime: spying on her neighbors' erotic encounters. She tells herself that it's harmless, until one night she finds herself on the receiving end of such a fantasy-and an anonymous phone call from a peeping stranger who calls himself Justice, and whispers, "You've been a bad girl." The arousing predicament turns into a sensual dance between the adventurous pair. But when a third player enters their sexy game, the fun turns to something darker and more dangerous.

Sandy Davis is an everyday woman, in a not-so-everyday predicament. She's indulges in what she thinks is a harmless pastime and she's been caught red-handed by a devilishly hot stranger.

The writing is sharp and snappy. The pace is so brisk you'll miss your bedtime. No wilting heroines here. And the hero makes you melt just thinking about him. I LOVED this book!

Even if you've never considered erotic suspense, this is the kind of book you'll want to read with your significant other nearby. (I'm not kidding.)

Great job, Maya! This is a winner!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Spiders on Drugs

Today is Labor Day in the U.S.
A day off for me. None for hubby. Sorry, hon.

The other day, Maya posted a creepy video on the freakishly large webs taking over a Texas state park, baffling the scientific community.

In response, I am compelled to post this video, which is neither scientific--nor politically correct.

Ironically, I found this video while I was doing some research on spiders for one of my novels. This video has been a favorite of mine ever since.

video

Saturday, September 1, 2007

House Hunting

It's a long holiday weekend. Most of it will be spent working on final edits. But during my breaks I've been window shopping on the net for houses.

For those of you new to this blog, my husband and I live 300 miles apart. Greg retires in about 3 years and we plan on living together again (like normal people).

We've had an ongoing battle on where we'll retire, and how much land to get. I could go back to SE Texas, but it is so humid down there, and the town itself is changing. It's not the country lifestyle it once was, but more the typical suburban bedroom community that young families clamor for. I'm looking for more trees and less teenagers.

North Texas (where I live) is less humid, has colder winters, and is much more expensive, but there's lots more to do here and the hospitals are better--something older people think about. Greg likes it here too, but you'll remember I mentioned it's expensive. A house with any appreciable acreage is way beyond our means. Our only choice is to house hunt further in the boonies.

That's not so bad.

The hard part is getting Greg to commit. My husband has commitment issues. His argument is that we may change our minds between now and when he retires.

And he's absolutely right. There's always going to be something better, cheaper, grander or more perfect, but there comes a time when you just have to say, okay, we'll put roots down HERE. Then it's a matter of living with that choice.

We both like Texas immensely. The weather is good nearly year round. The people are fiercely independent with a colorful attitude.

I love a lot of the states we've traveled to, but Texas by far has been my favorite.

32 years ago when Greg told me he'd been offered a transfer to Texas, I was aghast. Tumbleweeds and cowboys, I thought. But three decades later, I realize Texas is as vast and multicultural as entire countries.

Cities like Dallas and Houston are nearly indistinguishable from Chicago--except for the fact we don't put up barricades in the parking spaces in front of our homes. (Chicago has a serious parking shortage. Try taking someone's parking spot and you risk life and limb. LOL.)

Rural Texas is as wild and raw as any time during the 19th century. I think that aspect more than anything else endeared me to this state.

I grew up an inner city kid from Chicago. Back alleys and empty stairwells were our playgrounds. I only knew crowds and long lines. But Texas, my first glimpse of Texas, was of wide open spaces and houses so far apart I never had to see my neighbors. I could run naked in the back woods if I wanted to. For a kid who had lived in a cramped apartment building her whole life, this was heaven.

So for our retirement home, I want to recapture that original feel of heaven. I want enough space for a few farm animals and a large garden. And should I decide to go Woodstock on everyone, no one will have to suffer permanent brain damage if they see me naked. :o)

Back to edits!