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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Contests

OWW (Online Writers Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror) and Joshua Palmatier are joining forces to sponsor the Commendable Crit Contest on OWW.

The contest starts February 1st. You must be a member of OWW, but you can get a FREE trial membership. Woo hoo! The best crits win a year's workshop membership and/or books from Joshua Palmatier. And that is tres cool.

Go to Joshua's blog for more information.

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Nathan Bransford is holding a First Page contest. The deadline is up, but you should be seeing entries for a looooong time to come. He says he received 674 entries. Wow!

I did not enter, but many of my friends did. I'll look forward to reading the entries.

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Yesterday I waded through more than 300 emails and browsed through an equal number of blog posts and news stories. This one caught my eye.

It looks like someone accidentally found a way to revive forgotten memories. Not only did I find this interesting on a personal level, I couldn't help but think of several nifty SF story ideas stemming from the concept of deep brain stimulation. See what you think.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eau de Promotion

I was racking my brain, trying to figure out what to write today when I got bombarded with emails from one of my workshop classes on promotional flyers.

Why am I taking a class on promotional flyers when I'm already a graphic designer?

Because there is more to good promotion than a nice layout. You have to know (through experience) what the market will bear and what constitutes important information to the reader and the book seller.

The marketing director (Samhain is so cool to have a marketing director) said something that surprised me. Not because I didn't know this, but because I didn't think anyone else did.

Promotional collateral does not a sale make.

I've discussed this on OWW in the past and on this blog as well. The last big conference I went to was RWA. The event was an education in itself. I was absolutely bowled over by the hugely professional staff and the format of the workshops. Of all the cons I've been to so far, RWA was the best run operation.

Most cons have a few tables where authors can drop off their promotional material for people to browse and pick up. RWA had TWO rooms packed solid with tables of promo giveaways, including books.

I stocked up on everything, more for research than anything else. I studied each flyer, bookmark and trinket for aesthetics, readability, and success as a promotional tool.

I went back into these rooms several times a day, not to pick up any more products but to gauge how well certain promo materials fared.

Everyone loves candy. That went fast. Useful objects like calendars, pens, and bookmarks also did well.

But let me burst some bubbles here. Not a single item induced me to buy a book. Not one.

Why?

I'm not the target audience. I don’t buy because someone has a cool looking postcard. I buy because I like the writing, or the premise, or the author.

But there are readers who do buy when they read the blurb on a postcard. Good advertising is the swing vote on whether they buy or not. And those are the people you want to attract.

What should you put out on that promo table? Perhaps the better question is not what, but how much.

Choose one thing. Make it the most spectacular promotional item you can come up with. Hire a designer if you really feel you can't produce something professional. For once, shiny does matter. You want to present the slickest most professional image you can.

We could go into all sorts of discussions on how to design a nice postcard or business card, but I'm going to hold off and save that for a live workshop or a free ebook in the future. If you're interested, drop me a line. (My email is under the profile page.) If there's enough interest, I'll make it happen later this year.

I promise you'll be delighted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't fall in love with your children

I'm what you would call a very tight writer. You won't find a lot of dreamy narrative or long winded introspection in my stories. No one has ever accused me of being verbose.

My penchant for brevity has come in useful too. I have absolutely no qualms about ripping out thousands of words if I think for one minute they're not pulling their weight.

Some of that is due to my training. I've been in advertising a very long time and I've learned to pack a lot of meaning in very few words. When you have less than seven seconds to make your point, you learn to describe things in the most direct way possible.

I've actually known writers who write so beautifully their words are like poetry. I remember one CP whose work I could never read in one sitting because I was mesmerized by the lyricism of his prose. Unfortunately, that killed all pacing, tension and character building.

It was purty, but it stopped that poor novel dead in its tracks.

On the other side of the coin, there is also the writer who loves his words so much he can't bear to part with them. It's personal for him. These words are his children.

While the first author may find an audience that reads for the pure joy of rich languid description, the second kind of writer will wallow in slush piles the rest of his career.

I've lost count of the number of manuscripts I've reviewed, but it's given me a keen eye for knowing what will make it and what won't. I'm rather proud of the fact that I've gotten pretty good at picking out the winners (ie, the ones that got published).

Here are the things I've noticed about work that got published.

• The writing gets to the point. There is no waffle or long painful narrative about the mc's angst or a convoluted plot.

• Every chapter has a goal, motivation and conflict. I have a wonderful CP who will summarize each chapter and point out the goal, motivation and conflict. This has been tremendously helpful to me when I'm being too thick-headed to pick it out myself. If the GMCs are not there, the story's not moving forward.

• It has a very clear voice. This is tricky because I think voice is a highly subjective area. Readers look for a certain voice. I know I do. If you can manifest that voice from page one, a reader feels comfortable in your care. He knows what to expect from that writer.

• The narrative is confident. I don't know about you, but I cannot stand a manuscript that isn't sure of its direction. Again, it takes us back to making the reader feel comfortable (and safe) in your care. If your manuscript meanders for too long it's a sure bet your readers are going to feel insecure of your ability to deliver, giving them a reason to put the novel down.

• And finally…those published stories have phenomenal editors. I've seen the before and after of several published pieces. A good editor is subtle, and edits with the skill of a surgeon. It makes a good story, a great one.

I realize we're all a little protective of our words. But never love those kiddos so much that you can't slice their little throats and dump them in the alley. If they don't move your story forward, kill them off. You can always make more.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Markets

I hear from people regularly that my Monday Markets column has been useful to them. I am so glad to hear that. I try to pick out only those that pay professional rates. It's been my personal mission to encourage people not to give away their writing without good reason.

I am all for supporting groups and markets that give back to the writing community, but I draw the line at 4theLUV markets. If you have any respect for your own writing, never give your work away. If it's worth publishing, it's worth getting paid.



Our Mothers Who Art in Heaven

We are still accepting essays and poems to complete the Our Mothers Who Art In Heaven book. Please submit your stories and poems today. Our target date is May of 2008.

Guidelines: Did your Mother teach you an important lesson about leadership or life that you still use today? What advice did your Mother give you that you still treasure? If your Mother’s values have strengthened your life, then now is your chance to have your story or poem of the most important lesson she taught you and allowing her love and wisdom to teach others. Our Mothers Who Art in Heaven needs well-written motivational essays and poems that describe leadership and life lessons learned from Mothers who are now deceased, but whose messages are still very much needed in today’s world.

Payment: All authors whose essays are chosen for inclusion in the Our Mothers Who Art in Heaven book will receive $100 upon initial publication. Contributing author’s copies of the finished book will be available at a fifty percent discount, which the contributor is free to resell at the cover price through her or his own efforts.

How to Submit your essay: Send your best original work (please limit your word count to 2000 words or less) about your deceased Mother to:
Email an attached Word file to - submissions@WAIHpublishing.com

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The Writer

Our mission is to inspire, instruct and inform writers at all levels." Welcomes new writers. Circ. 40K. Monthly. Pays on acceptance. Period between acceptance and publication varies. Buys FNASR. Accepts reprints. Generally responds 1-2 months.

Current Needs: "How-to 'Step by Step' articles and Writer at Work columns onspecific aspects of fiction writing by published fiction writers. Articles about the craft and business of freelancing. Articles on the craft and business of writing.

Payment varies depending on length and complexity of the material covered. In general, our rates for articles range from $50 for book reviews to $100-$400 for columns and $300-$500 for features for 2-4 pages. We are also looking for writing-related cartoons ($50)

Submit query, including brief description of your writing background. "When querying, don't keep us in suspense - if you propose, e.g., to provide 7 tips on some topic, tell us what all or most of your tips are."

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Samhain Publishing

Call for submissions.

Two men focused on her pleasure. One night of indulgence with her best friend and her man. Three men…one love. What’s your fantasy? More than any other, we hear from our readers that the ménage and more is the fantasy they most love reading in erotic romance. In Fall 2008, Samhain Publishing will present three red hot ménage and more stories to our readers…your book could be one of them.

This anthology will consist of three novellas to be released individually as ebooks in September 2008 and combined into one print title for 2009 release.

I am open to any romance genre (historical, paranormal, contemporary, etc.) but the stories must involve a ménage (or more). Though the ménage does not need to be the central relationship in the story or end in a HEA for all three, I am looking for romances so there must be a happily ever after for at least two of the characters.

Submissions are open to all authors previously published with Samhain as well as authors aspiring to publish with Samhain. Submissions must be new material—previously published material will not be considered.

Additionally, we will not consider manuscripts previously submitted whether individually or for past anthologies. Please be aware that manuscripts submitted to this anthology cannot be resubmitted at a later date unless by invitation from an editor.

To submit, please include the full manuscript of 24,00–30,000 words with a 2–5 page synopsis. Also include a letter of introduction/query letter if you are an author not previously contracted with Samhain.

Submissions are open until May 17th, 2008, and the final decision will be made by June 1, 2008. Submissions should be sent to editor@samhainpublishing.com . Please put *Ménage Anthology Submission* in the subject line. If you receive an auto response, your submission has been received. Anthologies are special projects exempt to the general closing of submissions.

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The Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest

Three prizes will be given for the best original short stories reflecting the spirit, ideas, and philosophies of Robert Anson Heinlein.

$5,000 first prize
$2,000 second prize
$1,000 third prize
Deadline: All entries must be received before 12:01 AM Pacific Daylight Time on June 1, 2008.

1. Entries must be submitted as an attachment to an email sent to the email address HeinleinContest@heinleinsociety.org The entry so attached must be in .txt, .rtf, .pdf, or .doc format.

2. Entries shall be acknowledged by return email.

3. Each entry file must begin with the following header. Header information must only appear one time, and at the beginning of the file. Do not repeat on each "page".

· Title
· Author's name
· Email address
· Mailing address
· Telephone number
· Word count

Sunday, January 27, 2008

B&Bs and Bordellos

Fate has a way of sucker punching us every time Greg and I make fun of stuff.

We've always loved visiting the zoo and once (many years ago) we came across a funny looking bird called the lesser rhea. To this day, I remember poking fun at that poor bird and making bad jokes at its expense. Such as: If this is a lesser rhea, where's the greater one? (I did say they were bad jokes.)

Unfortunately, the entire rhea population had the last laugh when more than 20 years later we ended up raising those tall flightless birds.

I learned more about rheas than any normal person had a right to know. I didn't want to be an expert, but I had to become one when we realized NOBODY seemed to know anything about their physiological needs at the time.

I stopped making fun of them after the first week of mucking pens of unspeakable horror. I was now catering to their every single avian need. Who's the lesser being now, Sparky? LOL!

Then later, on a vacation in Wyoming, we watched two little specs climb Devil's Tower. You know Devil's Tower. That was the rock Richard Dreyfus and friends climbed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (And no, they really didn't climb it. You'd need gear.)

Again, we made the unfortunate decision of making fun of those crazy people doing something so stupid as climbing up a vertical rock face and risking certain death and dismemberment.

Yeah, you guessed it. Less than a year later, we took up rock climbing. Holy moley! What were we thinking?

So you can imagine our hesitation when we came across an unusual house during our hunt for that perfect last house.

This place is unique. I call it early bordello in red velvet. The house is PINK, The interior is a throwback to 19th century San Francisco bordellos. In the right hands, it would make an awesome B&B.

I said the right hands, not OUR hands.

But the reason we keep coming back to it in our searches is because, gosh darn it, that house has a lot of character---plus it's on 87 acres of land.

I hate to say it, but we're going to look at that place in a couple of weeks when Greg comes back. We do not plan to make any jokes about B&Bs…or bordellos. I can't afford either occupation. And I've already had too many requests from Greg's friends asking when they can come up and visit.

Mum's the word.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Promotion: Necessary Evil

I came upon a blog a couple of weeks ago where the blogger condemned the authors who were currently promoting their novels with contests, blog posts and reviews.

At first, I could sympathize with this blogger who felt overwhelmed when faced with peers who were constantly bombarding her with requests to vote for them on this contest or that one. The blogger groused that authors worked harder at promoting their novels than writing them.

Uhh…yeah. That's kinda the way of things. Few novelists have the luxury of a publisher who will put out the big bucks to advertise for them. That might have been the case back in the 80s, but today you are pretty much on your own, so you have to rely on your network to get the word out.

Maybe this blogger really felt put upon. But my guess, after I did a little research on her, is that she doesn't yet understand an author's obligations. The only publication credits I could find for her were in a couple of small magazine markets, so it's possible she has no clue what is expected of her should her book ever reach publication.

It's an overwhelming responsibility. And it's almost impossible to understand the gravity of it until you yourself have a book in the pot.

A lot of writers think that once they get a book published their worries will be over. Honey, they're just starting. Not only are you expected to market your book, you need to have another one baking in the oven, while continuing to mingle among your brethren so that you can keep up with the latest publishing news.

It's a LOT of work!

I know. I do it every day.

What I think is sad about this blogger is that she was castigating the efforts of her peers, the same people she will need to rely on when (and if) her book gets published. If someone disparages you, how anxious will you be to help that person when she has her hand out?

Instead of feeling contempt, she needs to foster compassion. Sure, some authors go overboard with their spiels and requests, but the majority of novelists are just trying to get the word out. No one is twisting your arm to buy anything.

And if their messages bother you that much, all you have to do is hit: Delete.

But consider that the single most important thing you can do to support your peers is to pass information to the public at large. For example, JA Konrath doesn't know me from Adam, but I've always appreciated his great tips and common sense advice. I would consider it a privilege to introduce new readers to his blog and books.

I mention Maya Reynolds all the time. Yes, she's a good friend and I would do anything for her, but she's also a great blogger and novelist. And if you're looking for erotic romance, I'm going to recommend her book, BAD GIRL.

My crit partner, Dawtheminstrel has a very friendly blog where she discusses all sort of topics. She doesn't have a book to promote yet, but she will. That's how much I believe in her work. So I recommend her blog to people who visit here.

We are a community. Let's treat each other like neighbors rather than pariahs.

This is why I interview people for the newsletters I edit. This is why I scan more than 200 blog posts a day. This is why I link to people on this blog. I want to promote them. I don't care if they have twenty books under their belts or no publishing credits at all. I want them to know that I am an ally and a peer who understands what they're up against.

I link to both published authors and the still unpublished. I make no distinctions between them as long as they have a message I think is valuable to my readers.

And there's value to linking. I didn't know this until very recently, but the more you link, (that is, key in the author's name with a link to his blog/website), the better their ranking becomes on a search engine. With that in mind, you'll probably be seeing more links on this blog.

The purpose of this blog is to share information. Even if I never sell another book, the principle will remain the same. As my blog's mission statement says: What is knowledge worth unless it is shared?

If it makes you angry to see someone talk about his book, find a different line of work because I guarantee you, you will be facing the very same obstacles when it's your turn.

People aren't being obnoxious. They're trying to make a living.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book of Secrets

I have a book of secrets. I have to. There is no other way to contain all the classified information I must remember day after day.

I'm talking about passwords.

If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I would have to store so much sensitive information I would've never believed them. I kid you not, I have an actual full sized notebook where I store passwords for everything from bank accounts to writing groups.

Nearly every group I belong to requires a password. At work it's even worse. There are passwords on top of passwords, on top of pass phrases. I have access to a lot of confidential material and my company is very diligent about keeping it safe.

But I can't remember it all. Many of the sites I access require very elaborate alphanumeric sequences. My monkey brain isn't wired for that many complicated strings of text.

There are programs that allow you to create one master password. Good for home use. But I'm not so sure I'd use it on the off chance that if someone found that one password they'd then have access to everything I own.

So last year I bought a very sturdy notebook with UN-perforated pages so nothing can be torn out without me knowing it. In it, I catalog passwords, pass phrases, and procedural steps for accessing my more complicated sites.

It's been the most useful tool I've ever owned. Not only does it keep me current, but I can track all my groups, banks, services, mail lists, and default information for my computer.

The only data I'm lacking are the installation codes for all my software. Something I really need to compile.

I learned all this the hard way when I had to wipe my hard drive and start from scratch last year. It took weeks to gather all this information and I vowed to keep it in one location thereafter. That was how the Book of Secrets was born.

It's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Office Chair

I don't have to fly to St. Louis after all. Big sigh of relief! My boss was kind enough to let me stay in town once she learned about my physical affliction.

For the last few months I've been suffering from sciatica, nerve damage that prevents me from sitting for long periods of time. It started innocently enough. I fidgeted in my seat at first. Not unusual since I'm naturally restless.

But later, I found myself standing in front of my pc and sometimes kneeling in front of the monitor. I would do anything to keep from sitting.

I got a break over the holidays and spent less time in front of the computer than usual. This gave my inflamed nerves a chance to heal. But as soon as I went back to work, sitting in front of a computer 8-12 hours a day, the pain returned with a vengeance.

Allow me to introduce my remedy.


Yes, I really sit on this ball. And it works great for me. Not only does it force me to control my center of gravity but there is no one pressure point compressing against my damaged nerves.

To add to my infamy at the office, I bought a second ball and brought it to work. I thought for sure I'd hear a lot of jokes, but instead I've been fielding serious questions on comfort and reliability. Apparently, a lot of other people suffer too.

At nine bucks at your local Target or Walmart, it's a bargain. If nothing else you can use it for its intended purpose of exercise.

It's not for everyone, but at least I can continue working. And it's fun too!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More ABNA

No post today. Just an update.

Heather stopped by here yesterday and I realized that she too has an entry at Amazon. I don't know how I could've forgotten; I read it on her blog. Oh yeah, the good brain was at the dry cleaners. (grin)

Anyway, let me recommend two good semi-finalists worthy of your support.

DreamSpider by Mike Keyton. YA Fantasy

Queen by Heather Moore. Thriller

Monday, January 21, 2008

Markets

Ripped from the headlines of Carol Burge's blog.

Red Sage Publishing is holding their first writing contest.There will be two prizes awarded for the best stories. First prize will be publication in the Secrets anthology! Second prize will be publication as an e-book!Here are the basic rules:

1. All entries must be original, unpublished erotic romance novellas of 25,000 to 35,000 words in English featuring an alpha male hero.

2. To enter, send a completed manuscript as an rtf file to Submissions@eredsage.com with “Alpha Male Contest” in the subject line. Only rtf formats will be accepted. All other formats will be automatically disqualified and deleted unopened. Include your full name, contact information, and credentials (if any) in your cover e-mail.

3. Entries must be received by March 31, 2008, at midnight eastern time. You may enter as many times as you wish. By entering, you are certifying that your entry is your original unplagiarized work, that you own all rights in this work, that this work has never been published, and that you are willing and able to publish it with Red Sage. Any entry not meeting these requirements will be automatically disqualified.

4. In the event that none of the contest entries are deemed publishable, no winners will be declared. All entries will be reviewed by Red Sage editorial staff. All decisions are final. Non-winning manuscripts will be deleted at the conclusion of the contest.

5. For further tips on what Red Sage looks for in a manuscript, check our submissions guidelines at http://www.eredsage.com/Writers_Guidelines-sp8.html and our blog at http://redsagerevealed.blogspot.com/

6. There is no fee for entering. Winners will receive a standard Red Sage publishing contract offer with standard Red Sage advance, royalties, and other terms.

7. This contest is void where prohibited by law.

I've read some of the Secrets books. There're some good stories in there. If you think can hang with those authors, give Red Sage a try.

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This week sees the launch of Charnwood Arts' clickIT! And miniWORDS 2008competitions. If you fancy turning your hand to photography or creativewriting and being in with a chance of winning a cash prize then we have achallenge for you!This year clickIT! has three image categories: Landscape, Decisive Momentand Photo Essay and there are three first prize awards of £500, £500 and£1,000 respectively.miniWORDS asks you to create a small but perfectly formed piece of writingin one of the following three categories: Haiku, miniVERSE and miniSTORIES.Each category will offer a £250 first prize for those most skilled atbrevity!Both competitions run from December until May 2008 and entry is free! Forfull details and to enter online please visit our websites: http://miniwords2008.sharedspace.org/ and http://clickit2008.sharedspace.org/

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Cracked

Fiction and nonfiction satire and humor. Needs interviews of comedians, essays on comedy and creative writing. Will consider comics. Pays 50 cents/word for all rights.

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5th Annual Ultra-Short Contest

Prizes To $150
Fee: None
150 Words Max. Poetry, 16 Lines Max. Deadline 2-15-2008.

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Update on doing Amazon Reviews

I just realized why I couldn't leave a review for my buddy Mike, and earlier for Maya. You have to buy something from Amazon first. Strangely enough, I've never had to buy anything online, so it automatically ignores me now that I want to review.

I feel terrible about this because I want to support my friends. But I do understand Amazon's reasoning. They want to get something out of this too. Plus the fact that it probably weeds out a few (but not all) slash and burn reviewers.

One of the loops I belong to had a post from an author who received a scathing (and worthless) review from a drive-by reviewer on Amazon. I couldn't believe the contemptuousness of the review. It was blatantly abusive and unsubstantiated.

Such atrocities are worthy of a longer post. Look for it in the future.

Meanwhile if you buy from Amazon, I hope you'll read Mike's excerpt and opt to leave a review in my stead.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Land Ho!

We spent all day Saturday prospecting for land. For the last few months we've been picking a direction from Dallas and driving out 100-200 miles to check out the landscape and the community.

Saturday, I think we found the area where we might retire. It's about 70 miles east of Dallas, a few miles from Lake Tawakoni (tewa-ka-ni).

We looked at several pieces of land, some with houses; some without. The first one (land-wise) was perfect! 38 acres, huge fish-stocked pond, an absolutely gorgeous topography, and only a few neighbors on that street. But the house was built "inside" a metal-skinned workshop. Mind you, the shop was amazing, but it was still a shop. We'd have to build another house in front of it. And that's what made the price prohibitive.

The last place we looked at stayed in our conversation the entire trip home. 40 acres, some of it virgin, with oaks we estimated to be around 200 years old judging by their size. The topography has a gentle slope, and the plot was an almost perfect square. Impressive.

Drawbacks? It was getting late so we didn't get a chance to explore the community more. Power and propane would need to be put in, and a well needs to be dug. In short, we'd be starting from scratch. But the price is reasonable and it has huge potential.

I've asked the realtor to send me info on any other land like this. We're going to think more on this one. The only real problem I foresee is not being able to get internet service, which I will check on next.

An exhaustive trip, but a productive one. We may have found our last home site.

*****

Oh, lord! Maya tagged me for a meme.

I don't think I'm any good at these things…but here goes.

Six random things about me.

1. I dream in gray with only one important item inside the dream in color. Sometimes I don't understand what makes it important, but I've learned to rely on those hints and usually discover something I wouldn't have known had I not checked. My mind is a very weird place.

2. I have an uncanny sixth sense with animals. I know if they are sick before they show symptoms.

3. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an archeologist. Still do.

4. My first job was at ten years old, working for my neighbors, stuffing flyers into envelopes. They owned a statuary business. I have never stopped working since then.

5. My favorite vacation place of all time was in the middle of nowhere on a deserted Wyoming highway. The night sky was so unspeakably beautiful, I cried. God does good work.

6. Once I set my mind on something, I cannot be stopped. Scary, huh?

Okay, let's see. Who's next?

In alphabetical order, how about Carol, Daw, Jaye, Kaz, Maggie, and Suzanne? Tell us six random things about you.

Edited: Rules? There were rules? Agh! Okay. Here they are:

Link to the person that tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website

Friday, January 18, 2008

No Room at the Inn

My company is sending me on the road in a couple of weeks. Plane trips are always good for catching up on reading, so I don't mind.

But it got me to thinking about all the books I have. I have two residences, and both of them have entire libraries filled with BOOKS!

I have a bad habit of hanging on to my books. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and less attached to objects or if I'm looking to simplify my life, but I dread having to buy any more books unless they're in e-format. I just don't have the room and I don't want to donate any more space to books I'll only read once.

I am sorely tempted to viciously cull my stacks. If I found any locals that would give my books a good home I'd be glad to donate them. I just don't want them to turn around and sell them---cuz I could've done that.

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Over on OWW, members have been showing interest in developing a synopsis focus group. Even if you don't belong to the workshop, at least join the Yahoo group. It usually has some good writing info and now that we have a fulltime moderator (thank you, Leah) it's quite a pleasant place.

More news on the synopsis focus group as it develops.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

News To Use

I have no big message today. But here are some tidbits of news.

There's a new agent who's opened shop in Denver. Kate Schafer, formerly of the Janklow & Nesbit Agency has formed KT Literary. Her official opening is February 1st. She handles YA, Women's Fiction and Narrative Nonfiction. This agency prefers e-queries.

*****

Sandra McDonald received a Nebula nomination for OUTBACK STARS. I'm interviewing Sandra in March when her new novel, THE STARS DOWN UNDER comes out.

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My friend, Heather Moore is a finalist in two categories (Best Novel & Historical) for the Whitney Awards for her book, LAND OF INHERITANCE.

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My crit partner and friend, Mike Keyton is a semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for his fantasy novel, DreamSpider. It's a very cool book. I've read it! Go over and download the excerpt and leave a review. I'll be leaving my review later this week.

And just to bribe you, Amazon is giving away prizes for thoughtful and well written reviews.

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Finally, I had to steal this from the comment section of Jaye's Blahg. I nearly sprayed fizzy pop all over my keyboard when I read this. I'm thinking about having it tattooed on my chest.

"Writing is a lot like sex. At first you do it because you like it. Then you find yourself doing it for a few close friends and people you like. But if you're any good at all ... you end up doing it for money."

--Unknown

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mining Mary Sue

There's a familiar 'ouch' moment when someone hints subtly --or not so subtly, that your story reads more like a fanciful autobiography than fiction.

There might be a lot of reasons for your story to fall into the Mary Sue pit. I want to believe it's rarely intentional, though I've come across a few writers who believe they're writing to a theme when in fact it's a lightly disguised memoir or a Walter Mitty fantasy. You can tell because each successive story has a familiar ring to it, insisting on rehashing the conflict, character or angst of the previous novel.

It's like watching someone go through public therapy. I feel sorry for them because I would be humiliated to have so much of my life story on display, even if it is window dressed with elves, wizards or giant spaceships. For whatever reason, these writers seem oblivious to the fact that they've just walked out on stage naked.

But let me play devil's advocate with all those Mary Sue bunnies begging to come out of the closet. It's important to write what we know and what better place to find those descriptions than in our own warehouse. We need our Mary Sue-isms! They are an endless crop of emotion, ripe for the picking.

Things like regret, loss, love, joy and jealousy can be very Mary Sue-ish if you feel compelled to write yourself into the title character. But if you take pieces of those experiences rather than a broad portrayal of your life, you'll find yourself painting a deeply human and touching character without outing yourself as a train wreck personality in need of a shrink's couch.

Mine your Mary Sue's for details. Just don't wear it like a second skin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recommended Blogs

I'd like to introduce you to four blogs I visit regularly. You know if I link you, I like you.

I try to divide blogs up between here and my resource page over at my website. As long as your blog is not one big grumble session, I will be glad to trade links with you on one of my two sites, depending on your blog content. At this site, I try to list blogs that have been useful, thoughtful or inspirational to me on the writing front.

Yes, even I need inspiration.

So with that in mind…try these.

Tia Nevitt actually has two great blogs. One is her writing blog and the other is a review blog called Fantasy Debut. Both worthy of your support. Tia has a down to earth review style that inspires trust and honest assessment. I feel like she talks to the reader and not down to him. I don't read a lot of review sites. But I read this one.

Sherrill Quinn writes sexy, sexy stories that will keep you up at night. (Please note I put a warning label on Sherrill's blog on the blogroll.) It is not work safe, guys. I am serious! Now that I've got your curiosity up, you have all the more reason to visit!

And Jaye Wells. I've mentioned Jaye's Blahg recently and she hasn't stopped writing good stuff. We luvs her confident voice and her cut-to-the-chase posts. I only started reading Jaye's Blahg a short while ago but I liked it immediately. I don't know how I found her, but I'm glad I did.

Go over and visit each of these bloggers when you get the chance. Tell them Maria sent you. ~grin~

Monday, January 14, 2008

Markets

Parsec Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story Contest

NO ENTRY FEE

The contest is open to non-professional writers (those who have not met eligibility requirements for SFWA or equivalent). The best story which relates to and features the contest theme will be published in the Confluence 2008 program book, and the author awarded the first prize of $200.

At the discretion of the judges a second and third prize in the amounts of $100 and $50 may be awarded, with possible publication in a PARSEC INK publication. Submission to the contest implies consent for publication, but all rights revert immediately to the authors upon publication.

Theme: "Metallic Feathers."
Deadline: April 15, 2008.
Stories must be Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror in genre. Stories must be original, unpublished, unsold and no more than 3,500 words in length.

*****

Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine

Our mission is to help mystery/suspense writers publish and promote their work in a quality publication and to quench the mystery lover's thirst for the sinister. What makes us different from some of the very few other mystery magazines is the word wholesome.

We prefer 1,500-2,500 words but also accept short shorts of about 750-1000. We buy First Serial Rights and Electronic Rights and some reprint rights. We pay $25-50 ($5 for poetry) and one copy on acceptance.

*****

Sensorotika

Sensorotika is now accepting submissions for publication, from both established and aspiring authors. Currently, we are looking for short stories or manuscripts, primarily for publication in printed form.

Many books are also published in e-book format. Royalties are paid on any published work, except in cases where usage is purchased outright. Before submitting a manuscript or proposal, please read the guidelines as listed below.

Submission Guidelines: We are primarily looking for quality erotic fiction - meaning story driven, focused on strong writing and description. While a story must be sexy - and explicitness is fine - the story must also be well crafted.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bony Goes Home

Do you remember the story I told you about Bony, the dog? He was an old, frail rottweiler we found on our doorstep two days before Christmas.

We contacted vets, put out FOUND flyers, called shelters, but it seemed like the poor dog was a cast-off.

Well, no more.

Since we couldn't find Bony's owners we decided to keep him for whatever time he had left. Greg took the dog with him when he went back to SE Texas last week. A few days ago I got a phone call from someone who had seen the flyer. This makes it doubly ironic because we thought we had pulled down all the flyers we put up.

Somehow we missed one, and that's the one Bony's parents found. They called us immediately and described him to a T. Then I had to break the news to them that Bony was now 300 miles away and wouldn't return for several days.

Yesterday, Bony was reunited with his mama. The young woman broke down in tears as her poor old dog hobbled over to greet her. Bony's little stub never stopped wagging. It was a beautiful reunion.

It was a bittersweet event for us because we had really grown attached to Bony. He is such a loving dog and we'll miss him.

We found out his real name is Rocky and he is 13 years old. Personally, I think they should rename him Lucky.

I'm glad he's with his family and I'm glad we were there for him when he needed a foster home.

A happy ending.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Virgin Erotica

I was supposed to work on my pirate story. But I got sucked into writing a short story.

An erotic short story.

My first.

Geez. I feel like such a virgin.

Erotica is a lot harder to write than I thought it would be. The sex isn't difficult to write, at least not for me, but the melding of conflict with the sexual escapades of my characters is what separates a compelling story from a mediocre one.

The first version was getting too complicated and dark. And it was conflicting with the voice of one of my main characters who was turning out intriguingly funny in an understated kind of way. So I went back and tossed out the dark story line and replaced it with something more fun.

I like it better. Now I need to finish it.

Before I lose my nerve. :o)

But if this story becomes good enough to publish…will it warrant a pseudonym?

I've been back and forth on pen names. Many of my friends write under a pseudonym and I wonder if I shouldn't have done that too. I can still do it for the occasional erotica spree.

It’s something I should probably discuss with my husband to see how he feels about it. I don't think I have any qualms about seeing my name on erotica. I'll probably never go that raunchy anyway. I don't write outrageously lurid. But since it's his name too, I should take his feelings into consideration.

We'll see. For all I know I could be a rotten erotica writer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wind Me Up, Scotty

I had to take a break yesterday. I've had so much news streaming in about my upcoming book, I needed time to process it.

In the big picture, it's good news, but man, I felt like it shot me naked from a cannon. TOUCH OF FIRE will release several months early! I can't give you an exact date yet, but it will be three months earlier than expected.

Be still my shaky fingers.

I filled out a questionnaire on my thoughts for a cover. Generally, publishers don't give you that option so I was grateful that I was asked for input.

As an artist, I am also wary about stepping on anyone else's artistic vision. I wrote the novel, but that doesn't necessarily make me the best judge on what should be on the cover. There's always the danger of getting too close to be objective.

So I offered three suggestions on potential backdrops, the colors I think should be used and a description of the two protagonists.

In addition to the description, I also sent along photos of celebrities that were similar in appearance to my characters. This was hard because while I'm a loyal movie fan, I don't have a good memory for names and faces.

This forced me to scour the internet for a place that had lots of celebrity photos, and I scanned through the pages looking for faces that could pass as my characters. There were no perfect matches, but I sent them a few names to see what they could come up with.

The rest is in their hands.

In every aspect of my life, I like to be able to give direction and walk away, confident that whoever received my suggestions could run with it. I am the same way when someone gives me direction.

I don't like to be micro-managed. I'm a big girl and have made some pretty savvy decisions entirely on my own. But I do appreciate a discerning eye or an objective opinion. I value those immensely.

The other day at Jaye's Blahg, she had a post on whether we were confident in our story vision when posting our wip to CPs and if we knew which suggestions to embrace and which to discard.

For TOUCH OF FIRE, I was in a mad scramble to get it to an editor quickly and I did something that was unthinkable in our group. I submitted a first draft. With crossed fingers, I hoped it was clean enough so my CPs wouldn't be pulling their hair or cussing me out.

ToF was terribly short, but I was stuck. I didn't know where I needed to flesh it out. So my CPs gave me suggestions for fleshing and strengthening subplots and I took it from there.

There are at least 15,000 new words they never saw, but thanks to their input, I think they'll be pleased to where I took the story.

I am like a wind-up toy. Turn me on and set me loose.

No, wait! That didn't come out right. LOL!

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Old Woman Wisdom

I've come to the conclusion that the human body starts to deteriorate at fifty. I know scientists say our physical prowess ebbs after twenty-one and the brain starts breaking down at thirty, but I think the point of no return is fifty.

Since I entered the fifth decade of my life, I've encountered a parade of painful reminders that my body has betrayed me. You'd think the groans I make when getting out of bed would have been a dead giveaway, but I guess I'm harder to convince than most people.

I don't discuss my aches and pains on this blog as a general rule, but bear with me; this does have to do with writing.

Since I have a day job at an office, I spend a good eight hours in front of a computer at work. Then I spend another four to five hours at my computer at home. That's a minimum of twelve hours EVERY day, including weekends.

My sight was the first to decay. I don't even complain about it anymore. It's bad, and only one surgery will correct it. The trouble is my lovely HMO won't cover it.

The second thing to go was my mouse hand. It's handy (pardon the pun) that I'm ambidextrous. Other than being a minor inconvenience until the inflammation settles, it's a problem with a workable solution.

Now it's the nerves running down the backs of my thighs drumming in painful exasperation from sitting too long in an uncomfortable position. I'm short. There's no getting around that. At home I bought a state of the art desk with adjustable legs and a Posturepedic chair. But I run into red tape at work. In order for me to get special furniture I have to prove need. Evidently, walking like Quasimodo doesn't count.

I hate to go through all this trouble. Not that the company won't pony up when pushed against the wall, but because I have to prove (through a doctor) that I'm in pain before they'll listen. The burden of proof is entirely on my shoulders. (Ahh, so that's where that stress comes from…)

I feel silly too because my body has worked fine for more than fifty years. Now all of a sudden it demands special attention. I don't deal well with whining. Even if it's my own.

Writers have to spend a lot of time in front of a computer monitor. If you're like me and have a hard time walking away from one project or another, you are more likely to suffer muscle, nerve or joint damage. Yeah, you young forty-years-olds laugh now, but wait for it. Fifty is just waiting for you to turn that corner. Once you join our old folks' club, there's no going back. (Rubs hands and laughs maniacally.)

So what can you do to offset the inevitable corrosion of the human body?

Here's a start.

• Walk. A good stretch of the legs never hurt anyone.

• Climb stairs. I and many others in my department take the stairs everyday. Only smokers and the handicapped seem to use the elevators.

• Which leads to: don't smoke. I've never smoked and I can't imagine having to deal with addiction, but having known so many ex-smokers, they all tell me quitting was the best thing they ever did. Was it easy? Hell, no. They hated every agonizing moment. But now that they're free of that monkey, they don't regret it.

• Exercise. I was big into exercise in my 30s. (back when I didn't need it) But now work and writing sucks every spare moment. The other day, I found a yoga studio and a workout gym on my way home that looks promising. If I can hit one of them before going home I can return to some regular exercise. It's getting home that thwarts me. Once I get into my comfy clothes, I'm not going out again, so I have to hit a gym that's directly in my line of sight.

• Rest. That includes your eyes, muscles, ligaments and bones. I am terrible about not resting enough. I sleep very little, made worse that I rest even less. This is where I tell you to do what I say and not what I do. I know full well how important it is to rest your body parts, if not your whole.

I ain't twenty anymore. That old woman in the mirror told me so.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Markets

Monday Markets, back by popular demand.

Here's a new place. Normally, I wouldn't list them because they don't pay for stories or articles--and you know how I feel about that, but they are running a contest with prizes. There was no contest fee that I could find. Fast deadline. Sorry.

Fantasy Gazetteer Novellette Contest

Deadline: January 19, 2008
Genre: Fantasy Short Stories
Length: The story must be between 10,000 and 30,000 words in length. We are a fantasy e-zine please do not submit sci-fi stories.
Prize: $250, $200 and publication

*****

CatsCurious Press

CatsCurious Press will open to submissions starting January 1, 2008 for all well-written, humorous fairy-tale re-tellings. But there's a catch--these stories must be written from ONE POV only...the protagonist's.

Click here to find out why, and to read about the submission requirements.
Deadline: March 31, 2008.
Pays:$.05/word (up to $500 maximum).

*****

Special thanks to Sherrill Quinn for posting this on her blog. Amber Heat happens to be one of Sherrill Quinn's publishers---so there's your benchmark if you want to know how good you have to be to get your foot in the door. :o)

Amber Heat is having open submissions. This is a once a year opportunity! So if you have a short story that qualifies, send it in now.

Dates Of Entry: January 1st through January 15th 2008.
Entry Fee: None!
Author Eligibility: Both published and non-published authors may submit. (Authors already under contract with Amber Quill Press or its imprints need not enter.)
Genre: Erotic Romance—all sub-genres are eligible...Hetero (Amber Heat) or GLBT (Amber Allure), Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy or Dark Fantasy (ie. Vampire, Werewolf, etc.), Historical (including Western), Science Fiction/Futuristic, Suspense/Thriller, Ménage, BDSM, Interracial, etc. (Basically, any category, genre, or sub-genre you see listed on the left-hand menu is eligible.)
Word Count: Stories should be between 11,000 and 18,000 words (our "Extended Amber Kiss" length).

*****

FREE EDITING WORKSHOP!

This workshop is an expansion of Margaret McGaffey Fisk's Muse Online 2007 presentation with a whole month to complete the work. The program is a hands-on exploration of how an outline can help in the edit phase whether you're an outliner or a pure organic.

This is the first in a series of workshops designed not only to teach the techniques but give participants experience with them both through completing the exercises and through commenting on others' offerings.

Anyone who is interested is welcome. To take the course you must join Forward Motion, but membership is free. We have to do that to protect first electronic publication rights as we will be sharing portions of our work to get help.

Join Forward Motion using the "Join" link.
Here's the link to the class board once you're logged in.

Margaret edits several publications, so she really knows her stuff. Go for it! The workshop has already started but you can still catch up.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I know I rarely post twice in one day, but I couldn't resist. The Tankster in sleep mode.


This is what they mean when they say: Let sleeping dogs lie. This is not something you want to trip over when you break into my house. Tinky doesn't like his beauty sleep disturbed.

Romance is in the Details

Yesterday, I took care of all my commitments (the ones I could remember). I sent out invitations, manuscripts, critiques, invoices, and 'what's up' emails to friends I hadn't heard from in a while.

TOUCH OF FIRE is with my editor and I've got back-to-back articles out on the web right now. I might let February go fallow so I can concentrate on the work in front of me.

I am trying to hold back my confidence because things are going TOO well. Never spit in the wind, I say. And I'm old enough to know that fortune, good and bad fortune, runs in cycles. One of my friends told me the other day that he thought this was my year. Heh! From his lips to God's ear. I hope so.

Anyway, I have been trying to tie up all my obligations so I can finish up my latest wip, that paranormal pirate story with no name. To muster my inspiration, I decided to watch Kate & Leopold.

Okay, confession time. This movie is a guilty pleasure. I love the romance, the actors, the subtle push and pull of the story line. Greg won't watch it with me, (he said once was enough) so I tend to watch it alone. That's okay. It gives me time to analyze all the things that worked for it. You don't think I watch it just for Hugh Jackman, do you? --Don’t answer that.

Kate & Leopold is a time travel fantasy where an English duke from the late 1800s is transported to 21st century NYC. Kate is cute as a go-getting modern woman who's pretty much given up on love because it's disappointed her so much.

Leopold, slowly and deliciously does all the things women wish men would do for them. He handpicks flowers not only for their beauty, but for their meaning. He makes dinner and ASKS her to dance to a rooftop violin serenade. He shapes the quill of a long feather into a writing pen and pours out the ink from a regular pen so he can write her a letter. And the pièce de résistance is when he comes to her rescue from horseback!

Everything is in the details--details women never ask for but always appreciate because we know it took actual thought on the man's part. And those details do double duty by intermingling the world building and the romance aspect of the story. I love too that the sexual tension keeps going throughout the movie. That's the way I want my books to read.

This is a movie I go back to watch just to pick up the nuances on turning points. I wish study hall was like this when I was in school.

Tomorrow: Back to our regular programming

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Same Old Lang Syne

Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer in December 2007. I've always loved his music, but this is one of my favorites.

It's still the first week of the new year and this particular song is apropos.

***
Guys, do your loved ones a favor and go to the doctor this year. Prostate cancer is a silent killer that all too often isn't caught unless you've had regular exams.

Friday, January 4, 2008

SFF, Romance & CPs

There were two blog posts yesterday that touched upon subjects that are near and dear to my heart. Ironically, even though they are on diverse topics they are somewhat related too.

Maya Reynolds had a blog post the other day on how to find critique partners. It's a good post and I urge you to check it out.

Critique partners are not cheerleaders—or they shouldn't be if you're smart. Good CPs are supportive, but their main job function is to catch what you miss. They serve as a microcosm of the reading (buying) public.

As I mentioned on Maya's blog, I have been burned too many times by people looking for validation. I hate to sound harsh, but grow up! Publishing is a business. If you need to be stroked and loved, go into the dog-sitting business.

This falls into the second post I read on the same day at BookEnds, where Jessica Faust fielded a question from an email she received from someone who was looking for 'quality' writing in the romance genre. The email was from someone IN a romance writing group, so I'm wondering if she was basing her opinion on the work of unpublished writers in her circle, or if she never read beyond a thin subcategory of romance.

I've probably read more SFF than romance, and to date I've read more mediocre SFF than mediocre romance, and from seasoned writers, no less. Sure, there are formulaic stories out there---in every genre, but the romance market of today isn't the same one that your mother experienced.

There are as many different types of romance as there are readers, from sweet romances to hot, from formula to one-of-a-kind. I've read some excellent stories that kept me turning the pages, whereas books from veteran SFF authors who spit out the same old stuff year after year ended up in the garage sale box.

Regurgitating old tropes is part of the problem (I think) on why the SFF market is dwindling. Thanks to the digital age, people have heard it all, seen it all. If you want to grab a reader, give him something bold and innovative.

Romance, particularly paranormal romance has been booming. People can't seem to get enough. Eventually, I think that market will become saturated, but for now I've been fascinated with all the new angles I've been reading, not to mention writing.

Tying both Maya's and BookEnds' posts together, the bottom line is business acumen. Finding crit partners that will help you hone your skills will get you in the door. Treating your audience with respect and giving them a good product regardless of the genre will keep you in demand.

I cut my teeth in the SFF environs, which I still love, but it was the romance venues that strengthened my resolve and taught me more about writing than I ever learned on any SFF forum.

RWA in particular has been a huge help and I haven't even joined any of their subgroups yet. These people (both men and women, mind you) are so focused and serious about publication that I immediately felt comfortable there.

I want to be around people (CPs) who take writing seriously and who aren't there for ego stroking, or need a platform so they can share their hobby. That isn't why I went into this line of work. I enjoy writing. I love the journey, the discovery and the growth. It's the reason I went through all the trouble of learning how to write. This wasn't part of my original repertoire. I earned this puppy from the ground up, and it took three HARD years to make it happen.

Seeing my name on a cover or a byline is nice, but not a big wuffie for me. By the time I see my name in print, the actual writing was so long ago it no longer holds the same excitement. For me, it's old news.

I do get excited when I see my name on a check though. :o) Every time.

I had a seven year plan for publication and got my first contract at year three. You bet I have more goals in store. I have four more years to prove that first contract wasn't a fluke.

The more you accomplish, the more pressure there is to do better. But never forget that it's the public that keeps you in play.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Motivation Triggers

I am raring to go for 2008. I have a novel crit to finish and the last 15K of my pirate novel and then I can attack the year with gusto. I was telling Greg I needed two more days in 2007, but I'll have to make do.

We have decided to keep Bony, the dog that came to our front door two days before Christmas. He is such a sweetie and doing much better. His ribs no longer stick out and he can walk without stumbling.

Greg took him to the vet yesterday for shots and a complete physical. He'll need some surgery to remove some bad lumps and a steady dose of meds for his weak joints, but the old guy is a trooper. He never complains and is always so happy to see us.

The poor beastie is profoundly deaf, so when we got an ID tag engraved for him, I added: DEAF DOG. Should anyone find him, they won't wonder why the old fella doesn't respond.

It makes me sad that we haven't found his owners. I would've been sick with grief scouring the city if one of my guys wandered off. No matter. Bony is ours now and we'll take care of him to the end of his days.

*****

On the writing front, I started 2008 out on good note. This month in Vision: a Resource for Writers, I have a new article out titled: Motivation Triggers: Carrot or Stick.

This article touches on how to identify the triggers that motivate us. We all have goals and some of us are better at reaching them than others. You could chalk that up to luck, or you might notice that those who reach their benchmarks regularly, seem to instinctively know how to keep themselves motivated.

I happen to know that guilt works wonders for me. ~grin~ The stick is always in my periphery, knowing it could come down and bash me over the head at any time. I don't like to let myself or other people down so when I promise a crit, an article or a completed novel, I go out of my way to reach my deadlines—and avoid the stick of shame.

My husband, Greg is the opposite. He works off the reward system (the carrot). He keeps his motivation up by knowing there is a reward at the end of the job. Most people I know are like this or a combination of carrot and stick.

Knowing what will keep you motivated is helpful in fulfilling your goals. Go over and read the short article and see if you are a carrot or a stick person.

Hope it's helpful.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Carol Burge

I will be back to writing regular blog posts on our crazy profession next week, but in the meantime, I'd like to address your attention to a new author I've found -- Carol Burge.

Carol stopped by my blog the other day and posted a comment, and I am so glad she did. Her blog was chock full of information and resources and I pored over it for hours reading some of her past posts and checking out the other sites on her list.

I am adding Carol to my blogroll. Please take some time to go over and visit her site. It's a good one.

Welcome, Carol. I'm so glad we met!

Tomorrow: Potluck

The Water Horse

Happy New Year! Hope everyone is safe at home.

This is my last day as a free woman. Tomorrow, I go back to work. So let me start the year with a mini movie review.

***
The Water Horse is what I would call charming. It moved slowly almost throughout the entire movie, lolling around the gorgeous WWII era Scottish countryside.

It has plenty of ahh moments, but I did take issue with some story logic flaws. Unfortunately, I can't elaborate because they could create spoilers. Let's just say that I thought some threads felt incomplete. I can't tell if some aspects were left out deliberately, but it raised my radar and that's not a good thing.

The Water Horse is about Angus, a boy who finds the egg of the mythical water horse; a creature whereby only one of its kind exists at one time. 'Caruso' grows rapidly and eventually has to be released into the loch.

Set during WWII, the Brits come in and billet at a Scottish estate tended by a pragmatic head housekeeper who's lost her husband in the war and her two children who are doing the best they can under the conditions of war. Angus is described (but never fully explained) as confused. This part needed more background. The kid didn't seem confused to me, but the mother seemed overly protective of him.

The war doesn't touch this part of Scotland and it's brought up in the movie. Basically they're there to keep a rich kid captain safe from the front. But when they think Caruso is a German submarine, it gives the Brits a reason to shoot their big guns.

Caruso, the water horse is impressive. At times you forget he's cgi. But the movie itself moves slowly, plodding along and leaving some important details out. All the real effort is placed at the end where the do or die scenario culminates. You cry, you cheer and you walk away feeling good…and hopeful that somewhere out there is another water horse.

The scenery is worth seeing this in the theater but this is fine as a rental. It's not a movie I'd like to pay full price only because the plot was so slow and open to plot holes. But it's a good family or date movie.