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Friday, January 28, 2011

Contest Grab Bag

There were a lot of entries for the critique prize! I wish I could have chosen additional winners, but crits are pretty labor intensive and I still have to write.

It came as no surprise that no one wanted the t-shirt. LOL. But I felt I had to offer something for those who didn't need or want the crit.

As promised, we have two winners.

The winner of the full manuscript critique is Ellie Garratt.
The winner of the 3 chapter critique is Sarah Ahiers.

Congratulations, ladies!  

We didn't reach 200 followers before the deadline to offer the query critique but I think I have an idea where a lot of people can benefit at once.

Would you be interested in doing a Query Blogfest? Everyone who signs up would post their query on the same week and we'd visit each blog and leave comments with suggestions or feedback.

What do you think? Leave me a comment either for or against the idea. If we get enough interest, I'll host it and list all the blogs that are participating. I promise to visit EVERY blog and give feedback to each query.

And now to other contests circulating in the blogosphere.

Speaking of Sarah Ahiers, she's giving away writing books. Go and visit her blog for this very nice prize package.

Help an author out. Kimberly Nee is running a contest to find a title for her next book. Hop over to her blog and email your suggestions no later than the end of the month.

I thought it was a great idea for a contest. And it's a good way to stretch your creative muscles.

Vampire lovers, Patricia Altner of Patricia's Vampire Notes has guest author, Derek Gunn on her blog. Leave a comment for a chance to win his Vampire Apocalypse series. Contest ends February 8, 2011.

NR Williams is holding a contest during her blog tour for her book, The Treasures of Carmelidrium. She's giving away 3 e-books when you leave a comment with your email address. The drawing will take place Feb. 1, 2011 on Nancy's blog.

The enchanting Victoria Dixon is also holding a Follower Contest. Assorted prizes, including critiques. Contest ends February 13, 2011.

UPDATE: Angela Felsted is giving away some awesome books in honor of her following. She's also holding a poetry competition. Go. Visit. Sign up. I'll still be here.

UPDATE: Krista Ball wants you to ask her questions. So far she is getting some very good questions--unlike the embarrassing ones you guys asked me. Why is that, I wonder? 

Writers, if you'd like to try your hand for a shot at the Backspace Writers Conference in New York, agent Janet Reid has all the deets on how to enter. Entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2011.

Costs being what they are, it's too rich for my blood even if someone paid for my conference fee. I'd have to sleep in the vestibule of Dru's building. Considering their recent weather, I think I'm safer here. I'm sure New York would be safer with me here too. :grin:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things I Wish I Had Known

Now that I've had a few years behind me, I wish someone had explained some of the mysteries of publishing rather than learning them the hard way. It might have saved me some time. It definitely would've saved my hair from turning gray prematurely.

Here's my top ten list of things I wish I had known sooner.

1.  Your first draft is always crap. Chances are good so is your second and third.

2.  Never swallow whole any glowing critiques. Unless you are one of those rare prodigies, people are most likely being kind rather than truthful.

3.  Try to find a totally unbiased reader to critique your manuscript BEFORE you query. I could have saved myself a lot of time and embarrassment had I known this universal truth.

4.  Always let a third party who's not read your manuscript review your query so that it makes sense to a total stranger. 

5.  READ. I did not read enough in the beginning. And more importantly, I did not read widely enough among other genres. I am making up for it every chance I get.

6.  Blog earlier. Blogging isn't for everyone, but had I known I had a talent for it, I would've done it sooner. If Facebook or Twitter is your poison of choice, it's never too soon to start using them, even if you don't have a book out yet.

7.  Share information. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone. It could be your personal experience, your expertise, or your connections. Don't be shy.

8.  It's not a competition. We all succeed at different rates.

9.  Don't write what you think people want to read. Write what they've never dreamed of.

10. The day you stop enjoying what you're doing is the day you need to do something else. Writing isn't everything. Life is.

Are there any universal truths you wish someone had told you before you started writing? 

Today is the last day of the Follower Contest. I'll announce the winner on my regular blogging day, Friday.

Even if you didn't enter the contest, I hope you added yourself to the follower list anyway and will stop in from time to time. I'd love to talk with you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Shout-Outs

Lots of different kinds of books to try out.

Cat, Kassie, Sian and Loi are anything but damsels in distress. Fed up with a lack of decent male specimens they cast a love spell in the hopes of finding their soul-mates. And inadvertently land themselves on another planet. Oops.

Trouble. That’s what wolf-shifter Mick Guidry thinks when a beautiful woman appears in his New Orleans bar with a hurricane at her back. His first impression is confirmed when Sophie starts asking questions about his missing waitress, Liza. Mick will do anything to rescue a member of the pack he’s made for himself, including forming an unlikely alliance with a woman with a badge.

Dance On Fire by James Garcia
Two Kingsburg police officers have been butchered in an attack as ferocious as it is mystifying. Now two detectives and their families are being drawn into a battle that threatens to destroy them and those around them. In a marriage of horror and Christian themes of good conquering evil and redemption, Dance on Fire is the fictional account of characters drawn into the fire by supernatural forces.

 Perfect Score by Susan Roebuck
Feckless, exasperating Alex Finch is a rich, handsome and talented singer/songwriter who longs for two things: a career as a professional rock singer, and to have his love for Sam Barrowdale reciprocated. But drifter Sam's two aims are simply to earn enough money to pay his sister's medical bills and to hide from the world his reading/writing and speech disability.

Cage Stone and Keeper Sabelline Shelton begin the dangerous journey to reset the seals and halt the demon invasion of Futhark. But nothing is as it should be. Cage’s keen senses guide them to a place previously unknown to mankind. Here Cage will discover some bitter truths about his past, and he and Sabelline will learn how truly desperate is the future for mankind.

Virile, golden-haired Kerrick performed his manly duties like a champion, bedding virgin after virgin with the restraint expected from a Harvester. But when his leaders decide to change the rules, the tables are turned. Kerrick becomes the sexual servant of his destined mate, the beautiful and fiery Ariss.


Coming February 9
A menage anthology. Angelina's story is called “The Problem with Love Spells”.

Coming February 21
The dead have no respect for anyone trying to have a life. Portia Mahaffey always liked that she was the only woman in her family without a psychic 'gift'. But a concussion awakens her latent ability to see ghosts. And one of those ghosts is prepared to haunt her until Portia agrees to convince the police her death was no accident. 

Good pickings! If you get the time, stop by and visit these authors. 

Although I read widely, I have a speshul crush on the paranormal, particularly ghosts or ghost hunters. 

Is there one particular literary device or theme that always draws you in?

The Follower Contest is still going strong. Lots of new entries recently popped in. I've had fun discovering some new people. Contest ends January 26, 2010. If I reach 200 Followers, I will add a query critique.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Turning The Tables On You

The Follower Contest is still going on and I've decided to modify the prize. Not only will I do a full manuscript critique for one winner, but I will also do a three chapter (or 20K words) critique for a runner up.

If by some fluke I reach 200 followers by next Wednesday, I will add a third prize. 

And behold there was a third prize and Maria saw that it was good. 3rd prize will be a crit of your query IF I reach 200 followers by 1-26-11. (I was a copywriter in my early days. Queries are like honey to me.)

FAQs, the Author Page
The questions you guys lobbed at me on my last post should be mandatory on all bios. Especially the sex questions from Marguerite Butler and Meghan Schuessler

Meghan asked which celebrity I'd let my husband spend one night with and which celebrity I'd choose for myself.

Are you kidding? ROTFL! I'm a jealous creature by nature. And Greg wants to keep all his body parts so of course he will decline. As for me, can my celebrity put up fences for me? Cuz that's what I really need.

Marguerite was even bolder and asked which celebrity I would marry, boink and kill. All I can say is I do not want to get drunk with Marguerite. I'm liable to get arrested and end up in a Brazilian brothel. 

The answer to Marguerite's questions are:
1. Who would I marry?
Oh, hell no. Once is enough.

2. Who would I boink?
Ahem... a lady doesn't kiss and tell. But considering it's me, I guess it's safe. Let's see, I like strong, confident men, so I'll choose Russell Crowe. He looks like he could keep up with me.

3. Who would I kill?
Can't I just pick someone else to boink? Killing is so messy. I never know what to do with the bodies. And I feel bad I left out Gerard Butler for question #2. He looks healthy too.

All right gutter-minds, now I'm turning the tables on you. You can answer one or all the questions. Who wouldn't you toss out of your bed if s/he happened to show up one night?

PS: Greg, I was only kidding about Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler--unless they're handy with a shovel. We do need to build a road to the back forty. :o)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ask Me Anything

I thought it'd be fun to have a FAQs page under my bio. 

Here's where you come in. Leave a comment or email me and ask me a question--something readers or writers might like to know. I'll pick a handful of those I liked the best (or those that made me laugh).

Not only will I add your question to my FAQs page, but I'll also give you credit for the question and include a link back to your blog or web site. 

Links are golden! Any time you can get your link on another blog or web site for gratis, you increase your chances of being noticed on a search. Believe me, it works!

I'll probably change out the questions every few months so people won't get bored with the same FAQs. If you don't get picked this time, don't worry. We'll probably do this again soon.

So what do you want to know about my crazy life? Ask me anything about me, my dogs, my homestead, or my writing. Extra credit for quirky. Unless you're Sherri Meyers or Krista Ball. You guys are already too quirky.

By the way, Krista did a hilarious guest post the other day on how to know if you're a no-name author over at Ginger Simpson's blog. I could relate to nearly every one of them.

And speaking of guest blogs, if you don't already know Mason Canyon, you must put her blog on your must-reads. She has so many diverse authors at her place. You're bound to find some new favorites.

If you're in the market for a new blog from a fellow writing soldier, check out Linda Leszczuk or Sarah Ahiers. Looking for someone who's been around the block a few times? I can recommend Cate Masters.

I wouldn't steer you wrong. You know I keep track of hundreds of bloggers. These guys are the real deal.

Oh and if you want to know who put me on this slippery path of reading so many blogs, that would be KS Augustin. Yeah, it's her fault I now know so many of you.

But back to you. What should I answer on my FAQs page? The funner, the better.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No-Work Weekend

Greg has returned and we opted for a No-Work Weekend. The weather was cold and I'm still recovering so we spent the whole weekend vegging and watching movies.

Two new-to-me movies was 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. I freely admit, we had these films for ages but I refused to watch them unless it was daylight and Greg planned to be around for a while. 

I'm chicken, okay. I don't like scary movies, unlike my best friend who watches them one after another. (I have very weird friends.) It turns out neither was that scary, so I feel safe being able to sleep at night.

28 Days Later was actually pretty good. The 'rage' virus escapes in Great Britain and infects people within 20 seconds of ingesting saliva or blood, turning them into raging, fast moving zombies. 

Like the TV series, The Walking Dead, the hero wakes up after an accident and finds himself alone in a hospital. Eventually, he finds allies and they explain that the entire country has been infected. They are alone and on their own.

It was a gripping movie that kept me invested the entire time, despite zombie attacks. My only major quibble was towards the middle of the movie when the survivors locate a group of soldiers who offer them sanctuary, only to discover the soldiers were horny for the only two women.

Come on! It's only been 28 days. Do you really expect us to believe that sex is the only thing on their minds when their country is nearly decimated of its population?

But I am willing to forgive this major hiccup because the rest of the movie was well done. As Greg and I were watching the movie, we were awestruck that the survivors were defending themselves with clubs, since Britain bans guns. Think what you like about the gun laws in the US, but I would never want to be so vulnerable.

Around here, if the zombies don't get you, the coyotes and feral hogs will. 

As good as 28 Days Later was, I can't recommend 28 Weeks Later. It was full of plot holes. I got bored and left the movies several times to make snacks. 

(Slight SPOILER ahead)

In this film, an American-led NATO force goes in and tries to help Great Britain back on its feet, transporting the survivors to a safe zone. Only two kids idiots defy their father and the rules because they want to retrieve some things from their old house. They reach their home and find their mother they thought was dead. It turns out she has immunity from the virus, but is still a carrier. 

Well, all hell breaks loose as soon as she infects her husband and in turn thousands of other people. There were so many things that were improbable or ludicrous that I just gave up on the movie.

Did you watch any good movies this weekend? And a show of hands--am I the only chicken in the house, or do you like scary movies?

Please be sure to tell your friends about the Follower Contest. I know most people are following for the manuscript critique, but there's also a very cool t-shirt involved if you're not interested in a critique or don't need one. My whole goal is to meet new people.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sprucing Up The Blog

Everybody seems to be sprucing up their blogs lately and I thought it was time I updated my Pages too. I concentrated on my Links Page first.

If you're a regular here and I didn't post the link to your blog, drop me a comment or an email and I'll add you. It was a little hard finding everyone because I have more than 700 blogs in various folders on my Reader. It would've been easy to miss someone.

Later on, I'll go back and divide the list between Authors, Readers/Reviewers, and Industry. I seem to get a fair amount of traffic going to the Links Page so it's not a bad place to live on my blog. On the flip side, I don't ask to be put on anyone's blog list, but if you want to give my link a home on your blog I'd love you forever.

My next job is to add info to my Books Page. Stuff like reviews and such. And then on to the Author Bio Page.

What kind of info and/or pages do you have on your blog? Do you ever click on the links or pages on the blogs you visit?

I'd love some suggestions if you have any.

The Follower Contest has just started. You can earn extra chances if you tweet or post the link on Facebook or your blog. Remember: You MUST fill out the form (and follow) if you want to be in the running for the contest.

Contest ends 1-26-11.  --By the way, even if you don't enter, I'd appreciate the occasional tweet or FB mention.

**Just a note about the critique prize. I try to be very objective and straightforward. If you feel you need someone less Godzilla-like, you won't want to enter this contest. Ask any of my CPs. I do not pull my punches. My poor CPs are always black and blue. :grin:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Follower Contest!

Today is 1-11-11. Does that sound lucky or what? 

Last fall when I was plotting the release of True Believers I asked what sort of prizes people would like to see in contests. An overwhelming number of you asked for a manuscript critique from yours truly. 

Still interested?

From now until January 26, I am running a Follower Contest. Follow me on this blog or Facebook and be entered for a chance to win either a cool t-shirt or a manuscript critique (your choice of prize).

To enter: 
Add yourself to my friend or follower list, then fill out this form telling me so. You can enter multiple times if you tweet or mention this contest (with this link) on Facebook or your blog. 

The form is also on the Contest page at the top of this blog.

Already following me? You will earn double points when you enter--just because I think you're special. :o)

Chosen by random drawing. But the more you enter, the better your chances.

Your choice of t-shirt or critique. 

If you choose the critique, your manuscript must be as polished as you can get it. I will not correct grammar, but I will review the story for character, plot, conflict, and world building.

Manuscript should be no more than 90k, but I'll cut you some slack if it goes over. I will read partials if you insist, but that will be in lieu of a full manuscript review.

Am I qualified to critique your manuscript? 
Yup. I've done so much reviewing there's a price on my head in seven solar systems. They'll never catch me alive. 

Caveat: I will not color my review in rainbows. I will not feed your ego with platitudes and pom poms. But I will give you an honest assessment as a reader and an editor.

This contest will run for two weeks. The winner will be announced Thursday, 1-27-11. Now, go tell your friends. I want to meet new people!

Any questions?

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Love Editing

I should make that my bumper sticker. I know it's not a favorite pastime of a lot of writers, but it's one I personally adore because it teaches me so much.

There's editing the draft, that version your CPs carve into little pieces for you to cobble back together with spit and shoelaces. And then there's the polished draft where you wait like a death row inmate while your editor decides how much trouble you're going to be.

I won't kid you. I've been very lucky when it comes to editors. The first ones were absolute sweethearts for being so patient with me, and even more gracious when they took the time to answer my syntax questions. (I always have to understand why a sentence is parsed a certain way.) But the fun stuff is when we discuss story.

The improvements my editor asks me to make drives me giddy with expectation. Things like: Tell me what's in the room. Give me more tension here. Or my perennial favorite: Shut off the waterworks (for when the heroine brims with tears for the nth time). Oy!

Some editors can be brusque with their instructions. But I never take it personally. This is their job. They must look at hundreds of stories and they're not there to hold your hand. When my editor says add tension *here*, I snap to it like it was an imperial mandate.

I trust my editor and I trust her instincts. She makes me look better. But the icing on the cake is that every time I work with an editor I learn something new about writing a better story. I love that!

There are many things I dislike about publishing. But editing isn't one of them. It's like getting a second chance to score in the big game.

Why am I talking about editing today? Because I just finished edits for Apocalypse Rising. Huzzah! It won't be long now.

I'm feeling more human today. Greg came up to check on me over the weekend and I'm glad he did. Canada decided to pay us a visit and dropped an arctic blast on us. We have snow! I know--it's not a big deal to most of you, but snow is kind of a novelty down here. 

Greg blew out all the water lines (to prevent them from freezing) then went out and loaded the chicken feeder to the brim so I wouldn't have to go out there so much. He took good care of me while he was here. But now he's gone again.

I've been lax visiting some of you because of this flu, but I should be back on my game this week.

What's new? What are you writing or reading?

I started the new Tracy Anne Warren books and I'm enjoying them very much. I will definitely read more of her work.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Negotiator

The one thing you can say about the holidays is that retailers really go out of their way to sell you stuff. With a little moxey you can make some fantastic deals.

A week before Christmas, Greg and I went window shopping for furniture. We weren't in a hurry but we wanted to get a feel for current market prices since we hadn't bought anything in a while, and you know how sticker shock can put you into a coma.

Click on the picture to make it bigger.

On our last stop, we hit a high-end store that carries the style of furniture we like. It was no surprise they were running a sale. After sitting on several different sofas, I parted ways with Greg and we explored separately.

This does a couple of things. #1 Shopping separately, we can narrow down our choices to pieces we like as individuals. And #2, we're not influenced by the other person.

But it also brings about a third bonus. The salesman is forced to choose one of us to tail. Unfortunately for him, he chose Greg. Greg proceeds to tell this young man that I am a godless terror and will not be easily satisfied. (Spoken like a man with experience. LOL.)

By the time that poor salesman sees me again, he is convinced I am capable of cannibalism. 

Remarkably, Greg and I both picked the same sofas and we were ready to buy. Our intrepid salesman approaches me, since he now realizes I'm the one who has the final say and offers me a second discount.

I look over at Greg and give him a wink. With my sweetest smile, I tell the salesman that we'll buy two sofas, but he's going to have to give me his best price on both. He visits with his manager and returns with a fairly good offer, but I shook my head.

I'm sorry, says I. But xxxx is as high as I want to go. He chops a little more off--including delivery. I walk over to the furniture and inspect it again. That's when he throws in the five year warranty.

Needless to say--we shook hands.

The point of this story is that I was willing to close the deal a long time ago. But my hesitation and scrutiny made him squirm enough that he kept offering more and more.

My second great buy was a Kitchenaid mixer. Generally around 200 bucks.  But then Amazon emailed me with an even better price on the mixer. I went to the web site to read the stats and put it into my shopping cart just to keep an eye on it. 

Well, as soon as I did that, an American Express discount showed up on my page. I didn't ask why it offered such a big discount, and I didn't care. But it made the deal sweet enough to buy right then and there. Unfortunately, I had to go out that day (on that memorable furniture run) so I left the screen up, intending to come back later.

When I got back, the discount was pulled. I was angry, but Greg said, buy it. It's still a great price. I don't know about you, but even a 'great' price pales in comparison when I know there was once something better.

I emailed Amazon and asked them why they pulled the discount. The customer service rep replied within three minutes and told me if I went ahead with the order, he'd refund the difference. Not being one to trust giant conglomerates I sucked it up and took a leap of faith.

Amazon was good to its word and gave me my discount. After I added a $15 gift certificate someone had given me, it brought the price down to 99 bucks. Not bad for one of these babies.

I've always been a good negotiator. Not because I like to haggle, (I never haggle) but because I always leave the ball in the other guy's court. I don't have any qualms about walking away from a deal, and that is my ace in the hole.

Have you scored any good deals recently? Do you have any negotiating tips that have worked well for you?

By the way, it's been three weeks and Iko has been good, only getting up on the sofa once. He chose the cloth sofa for napping--which is why I chose it too. (Very comfy.) The leather sofa has that theater seating with reclining seats. Neither dog has figured out how to work the levers.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Before You Get Sick...

I had another post scheduled for today but I decided to push it to Friday and post a Must Have list for when you're sick and alone.

I pride myself in being prepared for most emergencies, but I forgot one very important rule. When you're sick, it's not enough to have Nyquil, echinacea, and hydrogen peroxide. You need your comfort things too. It makes life bearable.

This go round I'm fending off the plague all by myself, so comfy things have become especially important. Speaking from experience, these are the things every sick person should have on hand

The regular stuff

• tissues
• thermometer
• cold medicine
• hydrogen peroxide (to clean your toothbrush and gargle)
• warm, fluffy blanket. (especially nice if it just came out of the dryer)
• a supply of books or dvds depending on your alertness level

The comfy stuff
 • soup--not just any old soup. Splurge. Buy soup you really, really like. It's even better if it's homemade or fresh from your favorite restaurant.
• hot chocolate
• oatmeal
• jammies (pajamas) and soft fuzzy slippers
• somebody to put you to bed and kiss you on the forehead. Moms usually do this, as do spouses. Right now I have neither.  :o(

If you're like me and have responsibility to kids or animals, sometimes you have to suck it up and follow through, but I only go out long enough to feed them and come right back in. The dogs, bless their hearts have been content to sleep with me all day. Such good boys.

I live too far away for take-out but I really wish I could get some Pappadeaux's crawfish bisque.

Do you have a favorite comfort food when you're sick? Did I leave out anything important?

My brain feels like slush but I think I turned the corner. It's just a plain old head cold now.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How To Scare An Author

I remember Sandra McDonald saying once that she never reads her reviews, good, bad or indifferent. I wish I could do that, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to see what it is people understood, and what they didn't.

True Believers, that redheaded stepchild that I thought no one would 'get' received some wonderful reviews and even fan mail in 2010. As a rule, I don't like to crow about such things because it feels self-serving. On the other hand, I'd like to show some gratitude to those who took the time to read or listen to True Believers and review it.

Just before the year ended, two posts popped up on my Reader from Bitten By Paranormal Romance and ParaJunkies, listing True Believers in their "Best Of" lists. Never in my wildest dreams did I think such a thing could happen. 

Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express included it in her recent post on 'sexually enhanced' aliens. Yes, you have to read it to appreciate it. :grin:

And last week, I received an email out of the blue from a complete stranger. Her name is Kathryn Sommer and she was a development executive who developed scripts for movies like "Total Recall", "12 Monkeys", "Terminator 2 (T2)" and "Stargate".

She listened to True Believers on and loved it, calling it extraordinary and original. Coming from someone with that background, I was justifiably bowled over. That she took the time to write me and tell me so was a profound kindness.

It's a gift when a reader (or listener) writes you about your work. Think about it. Someone took time out of their busy day to share their thoughts with you. It''s nothing short of magnanimous. I save those emails (they always come in emails now) in a special file.

2010 was a good year for me on several levels. There were no 'big' deals, no author parties, or scads of fan mail, but it was nice--good. The kind of year that makes you feel you made a difference.

Reviews are scary, but they're also an impetus to give your all.

Authors, do you dread reading your reviews?
Readers, do you regularly review the books you read, or only the ones that moved you in some way?

In other news, I caught the plague on January 1. And no one has been here to make me soup. Wah! Don't you have days where you just want someone to take care of you?