Friday, February 29, 2008

Welcome to the Future!

I would never have gotten a novel published if it wasn’t for computers. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. I’m a fast typist, but I make a lot of mistakes. If I had to type a manuscript on a typewriter, it would take forever. At this point I can’t even imagine doing that. I have a friend who did, though. And she got to keep her heroine’s name because of it—it would be too hard to retype the entire manuscript. Clearly, my friend is a much more accurate typist than I am.

I’ve been around the writing game a long time. Not publishing much—but that’s a story for another day. What I want to focus on today are the differences between BC and AC (Before Computer and After Computer). Yes, personal computers have been around for a while. The problem was that they were expensive. Not to mention, a good-quality printer could cost more than the computer. At one point, we had a Commodore 64. That’s a dinosaur, if you’re too young to remember. The printer was dot-matrix (translation: all but impossible to read), and I couldn’t afford a better one. I could finally input my work onto a computer screen. I didn’t worry about mistakes; they could easily be fixed before printing. The only problem was the printout was so bad most publishers wouldn’t take it.

I finally came into the twentieth century when I used a tax refund to buy a Brother word processor. Pretty much a glorified typewriter, it did allow me to type to a screen, save my work, and print out a clean copy. A typewritten copy—"printing" was the computer actually typing the file (faster than any human typist). And boy was it loud! Not to mention, it took about three ribbons (ink) to type one novel-sized manuscript. Still, I got my first published credit using that thing.

Today I’m typing on a laptop. Welcome to the twenty-first century! Now my problem is resisting spider solitaire and staying off the Internet long enough to write.

Ah, the Internet. The most amazing thing in the history of mankind. Again, I was a late bloomer. My husband and I got our introduction to the World Wide Web by using the Net at libraries and later with Webtv. Amazing that Webtv thing. It’s a little box that hooks to your telephone wires and to your television. Your TV then becomes a computer screen and you can surf the Web. It’s slow, cranky, and the wireless keyboard and remote (yep, remote) weren’t the easiest things in the world to use (not that we realized that at the time). On the other hand, it was simple. You hook it up, turn it on, and you’re surfing. It gave Internet access to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it—or couldn’t understand computers enough to use the Net. It was great. And I can’t imagine going back to it.

The Internet has certainly changed the face of publishing. Before the Net, if you wanted to submit a short story to a magazine or a book to a publisher, you got the address from a Writers Market or other source. Then you wrote a letter and sent a self addressed stamped envelope to them asking for their guidelines. And then you waited, and hoped you hadn’t just wasted your time and postage. Now, I can do the same thing in a matter of minutes. Groovy, huh?

The Internet links people together. Personally, I think this is the biggest impact computer technology has had on the writing profession. At its heart, writing is a lonely undertaking. When a writer is working, it’s just them and a computer (or typewriter, or paper and pen). Try interrupting a writer sometime and you’ll find out pretty quickly how important being alone is to the craft. (I must take a moment here to apologize to my husband for growling at him earlier.) Still, there comes a time when a writer needs to talk to the only people in the world who can truly understand them. Because of the Internet, a writer doesn’t have to search out fellow wordsmiths in his or her neighborhood to talk to someone who understands (not that in-person writing friends aren’t still important, they are!). Writers have taken to the Web as if it is the lifeline it can be. Need to brainstorm? At any hour of the day or night, there are others out there to assist you. Feeling lonely? There are millions out there in cyberspace just waiting to make your acquaintance. Feel nobody understands your need to write the story of the voices in your head? There are others out there just like you. Need to promote your latest book? The Internet has made that cheaper and easier. Websites, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, book videos, banners, links, and many other opportunities exist out there on the Web. And there are readers out there, hungry to hear about your latest.

And we’ve come full circle. Writers are also readers. Want a specific type of book? You can easily find it. Just discovered a new writer and want to know what other books he or she has written? It’s out there. Want to know in which order the books in a series should be read? There are websites for that. Want to ask your favorite writer a question? There’s probably an email address or a guestbook where you can do that. The Internet is a magical place of fun, adventure, and companionship—for both writers and readers.

Happy surfing!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Paranormal State

We love things that scare us or make us believe in something supernatural. The pervasiveness of shows like Supernatural, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Whisperer, Paranormal State and Medium should tell us a bit about where we are in the world. People want to believe in magic and ghosts and things beyond themselves, beyond what they can see, so they can have hope or at least closure when things go bump in the night or something they can't explain happens to them.

There are a host of websites for people who believe in the paranormal or supernatural. There are witchy websites, ghostly websites, monster websites and a multitude of other sites linking us to things beyond the normal.

Some of these sites can be useful, others frightening, but the bottom line is, your computer and the Internet can open up worlds you've never seen or even thought about, and it broadens your limitations as a writer, giving you information about just about everything you would need to know.

The important thing is to take this information and sort through it to find the things you need. Useful things to make your writing more believable, more scary, more supernatural. There are so many editors who are tired of seeing the same things - werewolves, vampires, etc - and they want to see something new. You have the ability to find that something new and write something they've never seen before. The Internet is simply a tool; the real decision-making and the writing come down to you - your beliefs, your experiences and your knowledge make your book different from anyone else's.

So look off the beaten path for a new twist on the paranormal. You'll find it... and then you can run with it, and the next thing you know, an editor will be saying "I've never seen this - how soon can you get it to me?"

Get writing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Grammar Gap

This post is about what your word processor can do for you, and what you can be doing to make it work for you. Whether you write with Word or special writing software that can help you organize (there are many good ones but that is another post), two of the most important basic tools are spelling and grammar check. Sometimes these are options we don't use when we write something simple, but they could make the difference between the editor who finds your query letter well written and insightful, or puts it into the circular file because of simple corrections that could have been made easily.

As writers our writing is on constant display in emails, queries, synopsis, blog posts and comments, and on any site we write for. We always want to make a good impression since we are never aware who may be reading that particular day. The solution starts with doing everything we can to be certain what we let others see is the best we can produce. It is our signature, and we have to guard it's reputation closely.

Small mistakes can add up, and they are often easy to miss. Another help I've found is an online dictionary and thesaurus to keep our vocabularies strong and varied. Sometimes that thesaurus will be your best friend. By broadening your word usage, you make your writing more interesting and enjoyable. Words texture our writing the way a fine fabric brings texture to a dress, they make it more beautiful to the eye.

The final step, after you have used spelling and grammar check and found the best ways to express your thoughts, is to proof read very carefully. Nothing on the computer can be as exacting as you are about your writing. Often having a second set of eyes can be helpful, whether it's a family member or a critique partner. Always do your own steps before you give your writing to these helpers. When a critique partner gets bogged down in your small errors, it is hard for them to give adequate feedback, and it's discouraging and time consuming. We all make mistakes, but it is our job to minimize them and improve our writing any way we can.

If you feel you have problems, I have seen many online resources for grammar, and there are often workshops sponsored by RWA chapters that deal with these issues. I can recommend one given by Rhonda Stapleton, who is a fellow member at Romance Divas. This online workshop is simple, well organized, and done in an encouraging and uplifting way that makes you feel empowered as a writer. The more empowered we are, the better our writing will be. It's almost as good as the Diner's pie! Now we are one step closer to the magic words "We are going to publish your story!"

Always the Best!
Debralee

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Evolution of a Computer Junkie

Years ago, when I first felt that tug of my muse, I didn't have a computer to sit down at or even a typewriter. I picked up a pen, snatched one of my kids marble notebooks (hey, I replaced it eventually) sat at my dining room table and started writing The Chase is On. Two weeks and three marble notebooks later, it was done. I was an honest-to-God writer! So, now what?

When my darling husband suggested we get a computer, I balked at the idea. What do we need a computer for? We'd never use one and they're too expensive (keep in mind, this was back when my hubby said to his mom, "Oh, you'll never fill up a whole gigabyte of hard drive space.")

Then, one day, my in-laws bought a new computer and they gave us their old one. The second I saw what Microsoft Works could do I was hooked. The computer that I swore I'd never use, held me in its grasp to the point where hubby had to beg just to play a game of chess.

I never knew what a horrible speller I was until Works showed me, judging me with those wavy red lines, mocking my high school education.

The internet was a huge help in finding publishing houses and their guidelines, although, back then, not every house had a website. Research was only a Yahoo! search away (yes, I know, I'm a rebel, I don't use Google) I read tons of websites, learned so much about writing and the publishing business. Even the chat rooms were helpful.

Chat rooms you say? Maggie, surely you jest.

Not at all! Everything I ever learned about the differences between men and women, I learned in an internet chat room. If you've ever been in a chat room, you know what I mean.

Now, I can't imagine living without a computer. From word processing programs, to the internet and those addictive games of solitaire, it's amazing I ever leave the house.

~Maggie

Monday, February 25, 2008

Technology Killed the Writer

OK, so maybe ‘killed’ is too strong a word, but it got your attention, didn’t it? For the past week, we’ve been talking about computers, technology and the internet and how it’s affected our writing. For most, it’s been a godsend. Computers have sped up the writing process, allowing words to fly off the keyboard at the speed of light. (Well, on a good day and if your muse is cooperating, they do.) Microsoft Word and other programs with their find and replace, cut and paste, and track changes have made editing easier. (Okay, so mechanically it’s easier, not mentally and emotionally--that will never be a painless process for most of us.) For the environmentally conscious, computers have also saved untold numbers of trees, thanks to the fact that we aren’t balling up wads of paper and tossing them into the trashcan every time we write a page of crapola. We just hit the delete button instead. And because of the internet, the expertise of scholars is instantly at our fingertips. We don’t even have to get dressed and leave the house to go to the library for our research anymore. So you might be surprised when I say sometimes I believe technology has actually hurt my writing.

Many writers could not imagine going back to the days of the electric typewriter or even further back, to when all writing was done longhand with pen and paper. While I’m not ancient, I’m old enough to remember the days before there was a computer in every home. In fact, I didn’t boot up my first Mac until I joined the workforce after college. But going back, I remember writing my first book in high school, about a school bus of kids caught in an avalanche and how they survived long enough to be rescued. I worked on it every night before going to bed, writing longhand in a spiral-bound notebook. Then my mom dug out an old typewriter from the basement and I spent days pounding out my masterpiece of young adult fiction. The typewriter was a big manual clunker, the kind you have to listen for the “ding” to do a hard page return. There was no built-in correction tape, so a bottle of White Out was constantly by my side. At this stage, because making changes or corrections was such a pain in the bahookie, I had to make sure the words where perfect in my mind before I pressed my finger down on a single key.

My, how things have changed. Computers have made the writer’s life a lot easier, I can’t argue that. But while my children may believe mommy is physically attached to her laptop, the truth is sometimes I have to run away from all that technology. Some of the culprits are the time-sucking lures of the internet, e-mail and spider solitaire. But even when I’m being good and working on my writing, I find I can spend hours tweaking and editing and never get off the same page. Having the ability to cut and paste or rearrange sentences with a single drag and click are just as much a problem for me, eating away at my precious writing time. Sometimes I’m like a hamster on a wheel, running and running (re: tweaking and polishing) but getting nowhere. That’s when I have to go old school. I flee the 21st century and grab a notebook and pen and go hide out someplace, be it the library or the bookstore or a coffee house, and write the old fashioned way, one barely legible word at a time. Away from the computer, I don’t have the synonym finder to spend five minutes searching for a better word. I don’t have access to the internet to waste thirty minutes checking on a research fact. I just make a note to do it later and keep going. When I do this, I often find I’ve been more productive in my writing in a few hours than I would have been spending all day on the laptop. I’ve discovered that writing longhand, I don’t self-edit as much as I do on the computer. I don’t tweak. I don't polish. Sometimes, I don’t even think. I just write. And most often, that’s when the magic happens.

You may think I’m crazy, but I’m not the only one. There are many current best-selling writers out there who still prefer to write longhand, at least for the first draft--Tracy Chevalier, Jill Barnett, Stephen King, and Susan Wiggs to name a few. Some of them even have a preferred type of paper, a special pen and a particular color of ink that they must use every time or their muse will throw a hissy fit. And remember, this whole romance genre started when one of the greatest novelists of all time, Jane Austen, wrote her masterpiece, Sense and Sensibility, using a goose quill and lampblack ink. She didn’t have the internet. She didn’t have Microsoft Word. She didn’t have spell check. She didn’t have a laser printer. She didn’t have White Out. Instead, she spent hour after hour, dipping and re-dipping that poor dead bird’s feather into the inkpot to give life to her words on paper.

Do I mean we should go back to the days of plucking the barnyard bird bald and sporting black, ink-stained fingers? No. But sometimes the simple act of putting pen to paper beats all the techno-gadgets hands down and every now and then, if you’re lucky, it has the power to set your creative muse free.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Internet and Writing

The pie special today is cherry, with a side of vanilla bean ice cream. Let me know when you're ready to order!

In the meantime, let's talk about the Internet and writing.
There are so many things the Internet is good for when you're a write. We've talked about the research possibilities and all the other uses, so I want to talk to you about marketing via the Internet. I've learned a lot about marketing from helping friends learn how to set up webpages, open a MySpace page, learn about Facebook or Google or any of the ten million other networking possibilities out there. The Internet is a perfect place to network not only with other writers, but the readers you want to be selling your writing to.

So you figure, hey, I'm not published yet, so I don't really need a webpage, right? Wrong! Agent Kristen Nelson says, "If you are a published author (or about to be), you need a website." http://pubrants.blogspot.com/search/label/websites Read her blog here.

And a website is only the beginning. You need to be where the readers are, and part of making that happen is doing things like blogging (hello, that's why we're here), having a presence on social sites like MySpace (www.myspace.com), where you can set up a page about your writing, post blogs, excerpts from your current work, pretty much anything you want the world (hence, the readers) to know about you. One caveat: Take care what you say - this is not the place to whine about agents and editors (they have LONG memories) or other inappropriate things. Remember, what's on the web STAYS on the web pretty much forever, so once it's out there, it's really hard to take it back.

When you're on a social website like MySpace (there's several others, I'm just that as an example), you can search for other authors to friend, you can find readers, writing groups, readers groups, reviewers, agents, editors and lots of other interesting people (movie people, music groups). There are a lot of ways to connect and network with people who can help you build buzz for your writing projects. You can show them how well you write, how interesting you are and why they would want to know you.

So while the Internet is a wonderful research tool and has many innovative uses, the most important thing you can do as a writer is get your name out there for the readers to find, whether you're already published, almost published or in the process. You'll be amazed what good buzz can do for you.

And by the way, if you read farther in Pub Rants by Kristen Nelson, she's talking about the paranormal and what she's learning from the editors in New York about what they do and don't want to see right now. I think it's especially pertinent to us and our readers, so go check it out!

And just holler when you're ready for that pie.

Jeannie

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Never Assume...Internet Research and Authority.


What’s the first thing most of us do when we need to fact check our research? Google it. Quick. Yes. Convenient. Absolutely. Accurate… Maybe and maybe not. Never assume.

Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. By the same token, just because it’s published in a book doesn’t mean it’s right. Never assume. Always cross reference your research if you want it to be accurate.

Why am I so adamant? When I’m not writing, I’m a librarian. I have to try to explain to students researching homework, people researching medical conditions, and yes, writers who fact check that just because it’s on an internet page does NOT mean the information is correct.

I can hear you ask, well how do you tell if you can trust the research? If something comes from a government or educational Web page, it will probably be trustworthy. That’s assuming you trust your government and educational institutions. Other than that…double check.

I know people that go to www.wikipedia.org and stop right there. Wikis are a great place to start your research, but again…never assume. Wikipedia® allows anyone to make edits to all entries. Now the wiki community usually does a great job of policing its information but it can be incorrect or biased. Check to see if the entry lists multiple reference links OFF the site. Are those sites authoritative? I’ve used Wikipedia to research the U.S. Navy Seals. The entry was concise and informative. In addition, it referenced public Navy sites. I followed the Navy links and yup, the information was distilled accurately. Wikipedia® is an excellent starting point, but keep going.

I’ll give you an example. I was doing some research for my historical romance (yes, it has a paranormal twist). The story is set in the Middle Ages and I wanted to be accurate – well as accurate as fiction can be anyway. So I went looking for reliable Web sites for information and I’ll share a few with you.



http://www.the-orb.net/index.html How do I know this is a “good” site? Well, I checked out the “About section” of the site (which right now is listed as “under construction” – I hate that). But I did read the home page. The ORB is housed at a college. So far, so good. ORB has an OCLC number. Okay, we’re good. What’s an OCLC number? It is a number assigned by the catalog librarians for the Online Catalog of the Library of Congress. If you can’t trust them – who can you trust? Not only that, but The ORB has a disclaimer which warns you not to accept everything at face value. I appreciate their warning.

What if I run across an individual’s Web site? How do I know if I can trust it? Just because it falls near the top of Google’s rankings does NOT make it authoritative. It just means a LOT of sites link to it. You can fudge Google. Really. Another thing to know about Google is that those sites at the top of the page on all of your search pages or on the right have paid money for positioning. That doesn’t mean they are bad or untrustworthy, but it means you are seeing advertisements. Time for many, many grains of salt. Or in the words of Robbie the Robot, “Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!”

Am I saying a site has to be a government or educational site to be accurate? Nope. Individuals can create wonderful sites. Let me share a couple of really great sites created by individuals with you.

Looking for medieval food? Look no further than http://www.godecookery.com/godeboke/godeboke.htm . I love this Web Site. On the front page of the site, you can see the site has been operating since 1997. In Internet years – that’s before dirt. There is also a nice bio of the author of the site. Again never assume, but this helps. The site was last modified in May of 2007 though. Be wary of sites that don’t get updated often. However, the site has been featured on the Food Network. Next do some browsing. If you like what you find, you may have found a treasure. I sure did.

Doing research on the Vikings? Visit the Viking Lady’s Answer page at http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/. She has won awards for her Web site. This is a good thing. If someone other than you thinks your site has merit, then just maybe it does. The other thing I like to see is a section on bibliographies. Granted, just because it’s in a book doesn’t make it so – but the Viking Answer Lady has done research and she explains where she got her answers so you can check up on her. That’s solid. Also, as I checked the page it was last updated on 2/22/2008. She’s on top of her stuff.

Long winded, aren’t I? What have we learned class?

1. Never assume.
2. You can start with Wikipedia®, just don’t end there.
3. When looking at a Web site, check the “about” information to see if the author sounds reliable.
4. Has the site won awards or been recommended by reputable agencies?
5. When was the last time the site was updated?
6. Is it in the “special” (read favored) position on a Google search page?
7. Do other reputable groups or individuals link to the site?
8. Does the site author provide a bibliography (or webography) of where they located their information? And is there more than one book or location indicated?
9. Has the Library of Congress cataloged the Web site?
10. Check more than one resource – cross reference your data.

That’s my top ten. Have I missed something? Know any great Web sites? Please post a comment so we can improve each other’s research skills.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Salt Peter and Nanotubes

Hi! Coffee refill? Regular or unleaded? I guess you’ve been listening to the kids at the counter, huh? I suppose everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are young yet. They’ll learn.
If I recall correctly, the original statement was on how writing has changed since the Age of Microprocessors and Computers began. Well, when you become as jaded as I am, kid, you’ll know that writing hasn’t changed since Ogetta the cave woman in a flash of inspiration, drew her handprint on the wall in Lascaux France. As soon as her husband Og saw it, he moved in on her creativity and decided to paint his hand up there …and well…you know how it went from there.
The point is that Ogetta took up a tool and put a thought in a place that lasted centuries. In her case the tool was a smushed up bunch of raspberries or a burnt piece of Og’s old britches. In Nefertiti’s time it was the boiled down husk of beans, in Jane Austin’s time, it was salt peter and copper dust. These days it is carbon from nanotubes that produce electrically conductive patterns. The optimal word here is tools. I can write a Pulitzer Prize winning book using iron gall or an IBM Selectric. I still have to do the sitting down and the slitting of vein to write readable copy.
The stuff of great novels is stored in one place, and one place only, our imaginations. It is the intuition of thought, the quantum leap of logic, the song of the muse, what ever you want to call it, it is the creative thought process in the mind that matters in writing, and the tools matter not one whit.
True, computers make containing the paper work easier, as long as the hard drive does not fail, the electricity bill is paid, your font does not change, MSWord does not update…so, better keep a paper copy as well, just for back up…
There is a lot to be said for the archaic writing tools of pen and paper. The most idyllic times for me to write are in the warming sun of the early morning, when the tea pot is full, and the only thing that breaks the silence is the light scratch of my pen across the paper, undisturbed by the hum crunch of electronics.
I’ll put your lunch order in, but as you contemplate your grill cheese, remember what the great literary writer Peter De Vries said. “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

13 Interesting Statistics about the Internet and E-mail


I was happy when the diner staff suggested we talk about computers, the Internet and similar technologies. I almost dropped my tub of dishes. I love using the manager’s computer during my breaks to research all kinds of things and, of course, with the current topic, well, I had an excuse. I went into her office.

First, I checked my e-mail. Then I began searching with Google, never mind that the tables needed clearing and the spills needed mopping.




Here are 13 Statistics about the Internet and e-mail



1. "75 percent of Americans use the Internet and spend an average three hours a day online." Source: Brad Stone, "Hi-Tech's New Day", Newsweek, April 11, 2005, p. 62 as compiled by Brad A. Myers at the Computer Almanac.

2. I’m not the only worker who web-surfs on the job. "Workers spend an average of 8.3 hours a week -- more than one entire workday -- peeking at non-work-related sites.” Brad Stone, "Is the Boss Watching?" Newsweek, Sept. 30, 2002, p. 38 L62 as compiled by Brad A. Myers at the Computer Almanac.
I hope my boss doesn’t see this, but you can waste a lot time at the Computer Almanac because there’s so much “Ah-ha, I guessed that,” information. If you like trivia and learning new things, give the site a look.
3. You may wonder what most people do on the Internet. They send e-mail, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project tracking surveys (March 2000–September 2005).

4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines e-mail as “E-mail, short for electronic mail and often abbreviated to e-mail, email or simply mail, is a store-and-forward method of composing, sending, storing and receiving messages over electronic communication systems.”
5. According to Email Marketing Software, Solutions and Services, the most popular day for sending e-mails is Tuesday.
6. The next most popular day is Wednesday.
7. The least popular day for sending e-mail is Saturday.
8. Sunday isn’t a popular day for sending e-mails, either, so that leads me to believe I might not be alone in my sending e-mails during the week from work. (The day-frequency research again comes from Email Marketing Software, Solutions and Services.)
9. In 2007, Ferris Research estimated the number of business e-mail users was about 780 million people. That comes from Email Marketing Software, Solutions and Services.

10. “A growing number of Internet-literate workers are forwarding their office e-mail to free Web-accessible personal accounts offered by Google, Yahoo and other companies.” Brad Stone, “Firms Fret as Office E-Mail Jumps Security Walls. New York Times”, Jan. 11, 2007, Web searched by: Brenda
11. The Pew Internet & American Life Project tracking surveys (March 2000–September 2005), say that 92% of those 18-29 are on the Internet. That means only 8% aren’t.
12. The next most popular use of the Internet is “using a search engine to find information.” From The Pew Internet & American Life Project tracking surveys (March 2000–September 2005). I used a search engine to get this information.

13. People also like to use the Internet to get driving directions or search for a map. From The Pew Internet & American Life Project tracking surveys (March 2000–September 2005)
What’s your favorite activity on the Internet? Do you fit these statistics or are you a maverick? Write back and tell me about it.


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone
who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow
Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your
Thirteen in others comments. It's easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings,
comment links accepted!






Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Net: A Writing Resource Buffet


The net is the greatest communication resource ever created. In a single day you can access information on a huge range of topics, read your email, post on your blog, and chat with a friend or two halfway across the world. The following piggybacks on Talia'a list of resources, with an emphasis on places for critiques, reviews, and lists of editors and publishers. You can't have too much helpful information.

While chat can be a distraction, the opportunities for resourcing are almost unlimited. A huge number of writer's resources and communities exist in almost every genre you could imagine. Within these communities are thousands of people who are willing and eager to share with other writers. You can get information from folks in almost every country if you need cultural input. You can get every kind of writing advice, find, ask for, or write reviews (you get to read for free that way), find critique partners, receive sympathy and encouragement, ask for feedback, and take classes. You are able to join organizations (many free) that provide forums and sponsor events to help improve your writing or jumpstart your career by meeting editors and agents.

I have had critiques from writers in England, India, Australia, and all over the states, a mentor I chatted with regularly was clear across the country. These experiences gave me perceptions I would not have found in any other way. I joined the Romance Writers of America online, then took classes and attended the national convention in Dallas. I met other writers, found new friends, and took some great classes. I even tried pitching my work to actual agents and editors.

Oh yes, I used the net to help start a group blog! :)

The net provides so much for the writer. I've compiled a further list of communities, information sites, and other resource sources that I hope you will find useful, but on the internet buffet, these are only an appetizer.


http://www.sfwa.org/writing/murder.htm

When time comes to make that final revision, however, you must harden your heart, sharpen the ax and murder your darlings.


www.cherryh.com/www/advice.htm

Writerisms and other Sins:A Writer's Shortcut to Stronger Writing


www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/GramPunct.html

Grammar and Punctuation

www.wordsmyth.net/
Free Dictionary and Thesaurus and other resources


www.google.com/Top/Arts/Writers_Resources/

Google directory of writers resources-tons of them!

www.charlottedillon.com/WritingRomance.html
"Author Charlotte Dillon's excellent set of information and resources, includes things like how to do a query letter, enter contests, lists of writing books and more!"

http://writereadromance.com/
"A place for authors to critique, workshop, discuss and share info about the Romance industry."


www.ebookcrossroads.com/romance-writing.html

"The Romance Writing site is packed with resources for the beginner as well as the published writer."


www.passionatepen.com/

"A resource for Romance Writers who are pursuing their dream of publication."

paranormalromance.org/
A place for paranormal romance writers to get reviews, write reviews for others, get info on contests and other goodies.

www.hipiers.com/publishing.html
Straight info on publishers from Piers Anthony.

anotherealm.com/prededitors/
A huge listing of agents and publishing industry advice.

www.erecsite.com/
"A website constructed to help writers, and readers, understand what is going on in the world of erotic romance e-publishing."


www.rwanational.org/

And the mother ship-The Romance Writers of America
Here you can find an incredible amount of forums on every genre, critiques from others in your genres, tons of contests, and information on local chapters where you can meet a group of romance writers in your area. They also sponsor a huge yearly convention with classes, chances to meet with editors and agents, and tons of in- person networking opportunities.

Hope these are useful, and Happy Net-working!

Debralee

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Virtual Visits

I got away easy this week at the diner. And since I've been stressed up the wazoo, easy is fine with me since some...er, most days I need to get inspired, get advice or get happy with regards to my writing.



Below are some internet sites that I have found invaluable to my sanity. (And they are in no particular order other than my fingers finding those particular keys.;) )



1. The Duirwaigh Gallery - http://www.duirwaighgallery.com/

I love this site because looking at extraordinarily gorgeous art usually kicks my creativity into high gear. If you write paranormal, you'll find food for your soul as you wander among some of the best fantasy art out there. And if you need an additional pick-me-up, click on "A Knock at the Door"movie. Don't be surprised if you find yourself crying and rededicating yourself to your chosen muse.



2. Author MBA Blog -- http://authormba.blogspot.com/ These ladies are chock full of advice on the business of writing and the bane of an author's existence: promotion. Broken down into advice on craft, marketing, branding, etc. I am constantly learning more about the biz of writing from these professionals. They also give workshops if you need more in-depth information.



3. A Newbie's Guide to Publishing -- http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ J.A. Konrath writes mysteries but his insights into publishing and promotion apply across writing genres. He's wicked funny and gives his take on publishing sans the starry-eyed sentimentality you get on some (especially romance writing) blogs. And as a perk, some of the best names in the mystery genre drop by on a regular basis.



4. Romance Divas -- http://www.romancedivas.com/ If romance is your gig, you should definitely check this site out. The forums are stuffed with all kinds of information on writing in any sub-genre. It also boasts a great internet community where you can take workshops, get critiques or find a writing partner. And really, what girl doesn't want to be a Diva? ;)



5. The Motivated Writer -- http://www.themotivatedwriter.com/ With a monthly e-magazine that spotlights writer's journeys, MW is a must-visit for me. It's a smaller community than the Divas and doesn't limit itself to romance-only writers. Get on their mailing list and be prepared to receive email "nudges" to "Reconnect to your Code" or have "Coffee with your Characters." Fridays are usually check-ins for writing goals. No smack-downs allowed, even if you miss your goal. :)



6. Write Attitude -- http://www.writeattitude.net/ So you're having a rough time dealing with your 164th rejection letter. Go here. Now. Filled with inspirational quotes and nuggets from other writers about their journeys, you won't feel quite so depressed about the long and winding road to publication after visiting here. You are not alone.



7. 101 Reasons to Stop Writing-- http://101reasonstostopwriting.com/ This is pretty much the opposite of the site #6. If you like Demotivators from Despair, Inc. this site is for you. Hysterically funny if reverse psychology works for you. To give you an example, "This blog is dedicated to the thousands of writers out there, labouring in deserved obscurity, murdering forests and supporting the postal system, wondering what the hell they’re doing wrong.
I’ll tell you. And God help me, I’ll make you stop."
See? Funny. Just not after you've opened that 165th rejection letter.



Any other sites that support your writing habit? Let's see them!



Talia

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ebook Sharing

This next bi-week the Diner staff is going to be talking about computers, the Internet and similar technologies and how they have affected the writing process. Since I noticed several discussions of P2P (peer to peer) sharing networks and ebook pirating recently, I thought I'd tackle that topic to start out.

Is ebook pirating only a concern for ebook authors? Well, technically a lot of authors who think of themselves as conventional or print authors are ebook authors as well. Many publishing houses, mainstream or otherwise, release electronic editions for readers who like 'em that way. Some mainstream houses have begun releasing exclusive ebooks and some small presses release only ebooks. Especially in small press, a book sold as an ebook typically nets its author a higher royalty percentage but also increases the ease with which that book can be pirated.

Granted, ebook pirating is a larger concern for authors whose primary income is from ebooks, as a few hundred pirated downloads can really affect them, but as readers move more and more into Star Trek land (a slow and insidious process!), it will eventually be a huge concern for anyone who wants to make money from writing. Technology has changed and we need to keep up! No use hiding your head in the sand because then you can't see what's about to bite you on the ass.

While your opinion of what is and isn't ethical, legal or "grey" might seem clear, this blog entry is about my opinions :). It surprised me while skimming various discussions about ebook copying that different people see different shades of grey on a topic that for me is pretty clear-cut. For some, it is almost as if because it's easy to share ebooks, that makes it okay to do so, while similar behavior with print books is clearly wrong (eg creating copies). Some individuals were very defensive about the positive aspects certain types of sharing, while others were very aggressive about the negative aspects of any types of sharing. Some had the attitude of how the criminals who pirate ebooks aren't going to buy them legally anyway, so why should it matter? Others feel that the pirated ebooks will eventually result in an increased number of real sales as the pirates in question decide the books are worth real money.

But for me, it's just not that murky. Here's my vll (very long list) of Not-Grey and Grey areas re: ebook or anybook copying:

Not grey area:

Buying any book in any form legally and keeping it.

Getting any book from the library (that said library legally purchased or received via legal donation), reading it, and returning it, to the extent that any electronic file borrowed is no longer in your possession.

Buying a hardcopy book legally and donating/trading/selling online, with a used bookstore, a friend, a thrift store, a garage sale, to the extent that the book or copy of the book (should you have been so insane as to make a copy either physically or electronically) is no longer in your possession.

Buying an ebook legally and letting someone other than you read it while it is on your ebook reader or computer or your personal print-out.

For me, buying an ebook legally and giving it to a single entity and then deleting all copies of said file from your possession is not a grey area, but since you can't guarantee the next in line to own said ebook won't do illegal things with it, for many it is a grey area. Plus, according to the copyright notices in most ebooks, you cannot do this with said ebook.


Grey area:

Buying an ebook and sharing it with a few friends (people who do not live in your household) while keeping a copy of said ebook in your possession. This involves installing a duplicate copy of the ebook on someone else's computer or ebook reader. If you're crazy enough to create print-outs for people and give them away, as opposed to sharing your own print-out and getting it back, that is also included in this grey area.

Getting a free ebook or reader copy from a publishing entity for promotional purposes and sharing said copy with friends, unless the publishing entity encouraged you to do this.

Receiving an ebook from a friend (who either purchased it legally or received it for promotional purposes) that your friend retains in his or her possession.


Darker grey area:

Obtaining an ebook from a p2p network that you own legally in a different format (say you have the hardcopy and you're dying to read the ecopy on your computer but don't want to buy the book 2x).

Obtaining an ebook from a p2p network but then purchasing it legally at some point thereafter.


Not grey area:

Creating a copy of a hardcopy book (whether said copy is paper or electronic) and sharing it with anyone.

Owning an ebook and sharing a copy of it via whatever p2p network you have chosen, whether or not said ebook remains in your possession. This is not the same as deliberately sharing with a few friends, even if your p2p network is a closed circle.

Obtaining an ebook from a p2p network, whether or not you choose to re-share said ebook. (Exception: if you are the author or author's agent and the download is part of the process of shutting down the p2p network)

Creating a p2p network for the purpose of sharing ebooks with people and getting ebooks from people.


Really not grey area:

Obtaining an ebook via whatever means and selling it for personal profit again, and again, and again

Accepting "donations" at your p2p file sharing site


DUDE. This is not advanced ethics class. If you want to read a book and have minimal cash, you can try to get it free in a promotional giveaway, borrow it from a library, or purchase it cheaply from a legit source selling used books. If it's a hardcopy you can try to borrow it from a friend and if it's ecopy you can try to convince your friend to give it to you and erase it from their computer or read it on their computer. Otherwise, you don't get to read it until you can afford it. That's how consumer products work.

What are your grey and not so grey areas about ebook sharing?

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://meankittybox.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Hole In My Pocket

That's where my writing time seems to go. There's a hole in my pocket and every time I reach in there to grab some writing time, life happens. There's the hubby, the kids, the dog ... everybody seems to need me. Not to mention my clients. I am a freelance editor, and I have to tell you, some days I just don't have any words left in me, even when I do manage to snag a little bit of that time before it slips through that hole.

So I got out a needle and some thread to fix this problem, and here's what I've come up with.

I made some space just for me (in this house, it's not always easy). I have my computer and printer set up in a separate part of my workspace, and a filing cabinet drawer just for my projects. Then my DH bought me my own whiteboard for Christmas upon which I can post both my current editing projects AND my current writing projects. It has a little corkboard side where I can pin up pictures or notes to keep me motivated and on track with my own writing.

Then I realized when I do actually make time to write and be creative, lots of other ideas that have nothing to do with my current WIP keep bothering me - but they're too good to throw away. So I grab a piece of paper, write down whatever it is, and put it in a file in my handy little filing drawer. Then, if I need some inspiration, it's right there waiting for me.

I've found this is actually working for me, so I can recommend it. I like to cast my characters by cutting out a picture of someone who looks like I expect them to look and post it above my writing space. I've got my hero and heroine up there right now, and they look good. As I find my other characters (one looks like Emeril, so that one wasn't hard), I add to my white board and wall space, and it keeps me on task and focused.

Hopefully, if this exact thing doesn't work for you, you can find something to help you keep moving forward with your writing. I've discovered more time to write since I fixed that pesky hole, plus I've even been able to share some of what I've learned with an online workshop I'm teaching about fixing your own fiction. I feel much more creative, relaxed and in control of my writing time than I did just a few months ago.

Jeannie

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Writer OCD

Since my friend Natale Stenzel filled in for me on my usual Monday shift as our guest blogger, I’m working at the diner this weekend (gotta make up those lost tips, you know).

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about the perils and pitfalls of being a writer. I’m afraid to say I’ve experienced a little of everything that’s been discussed so far (professional jealousy, life interruptions, fear of public speaking, to name a few). My biggest pitfall is deadlinitis, which I talked about in an earlier blog, so I won’t bore you with it again. But coming in a close 2nd is Writer OCD.

Contrary to what you might think, Writer Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not the overwhelming need to have all my paperclips lined up in an orderly row or the mouse pad absolutely perpendicular with the keyboard (if you saw my house, you’d know right away I’m no neat freak). No, I’m talking about a neurosis many a writer suffers from but may have gone undiagnosed for years. It’s the need to make what you’ve written absolutely perfect before you can move onto the next chapter, or scene, or page, or paragraph, or sometimes just the next sentence or word. This affliction can slow the writing process down to the pace of a sloth on Valium. I should know, I’ve been a closet sufferer for years.

Writer OCD can show up in many different forms. For some, it may be OCCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Contest Disorder). Editors and agents complain they see a great deal of this. You know who you are – you enter contest after contest, taking the judges’ feedback and constantly revising and polishing those 1st three chapters until you could eat off them. Unfortunately, the rest of the manuscript reads like the room we toss all the junk in when company is coming over and close the door so they won’t see. The foyer and formal rooms (the 1st three chapters) would do Martha Stewart proud, but go beyond there to the family room and kid’s rooms (the rest of the manuscript) and the façade quickly falls apart.

Then there are those who suffer from OCRD (Obsessive-Compulsive Revision Disorder). These are writers who can’t move on with the rest of the novel because they keep changing and revising the beginning of the book. Typically, these people go full steam until they get to about chapter 6 or 7, then they come to a screeching halt, go back to the beginning and start revising those first 100-150 pages. When they get through revising those 7 chapters, they change their minds about something, go back to the beginning and revise again. This creates a yoyo effect where they go through this same routine over and over again, never progressing past chapter 7 to finish the book.

Then there’s me. I suffer from OCBD (Obsessive-Compulsive Backtrack Disorder). I get through the 1st draft pretty fast. The story is fresh and the momentum is high and my fingers fly on the keyboard. It’s down and dirty – mostly dialogue and action. Since I’m a plotter, I have a tendency to jump around in the manuscript, writing whatever scene/chapter my muse is interested in working on that day. If I come to a spot I have trouble with or I’m not sure what’s going to happen in a particular scene, I skip over it and keep on going. It’s the 2nd draft that gets me every time. That’s when I have to go back and clean up the hodge-podge mess I’ve made. This is where I tweak and polish until my eyes cross. I can spend all day on the computer and never get off the same page. My problem is that to get into writing mode, I have to back up (backtrack) a page or a scene or two and reread what I’ve done to get back into the story and the mood. Inevitably, I find something in there that needs ‘fixin’ and I can waste hours tweaking what should already be done and polished, and never get to what REALLY needs major editing and polishing. It’s a viscous, never-ending cycle for me. Someday, hopefully medical science will find a cure.

So, what type of Writer OCD do you suffer from?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Art Interrupted

Other than my own insecurities, my biggest writing pitfall is [excuse me for a moment, the phone is ringing]. I’m back, sorry about that. Now, my biggest writing problem on a day to day basis [I’m sorry, my husband is asking a question]. Okay, now where were we? Oh, yeah, my biggest pitfall. Well, that’s my own fears and worries. Besides that, there is [Yikes! It’s amazing how loud and two little dachshunds can be. All because somebody is walking down the road in front of our house.] Okay, now that my heart is back to a more or less normal rhythm, let’s get back to the topic. My biggest writing roadblock: interruptions!

Okay, I’ll admit that not all the interruptions are external. I frequently feel the need to get a snack, or realize I need to double-check when that movie I want to see is airing. [Oh, darn! It’s on in an hour. I have to hurry! No, wait. This is important. The movie will be on again. Right?] Then there is that overwhelming need to play spider solitaire [No, not now. Don’t touch that!]
The point is, interruptions are a big roadblock to any writer’s work. Unfortunately, we can’t just climb into our fantasy worlds and lock the door behind us. Life happens while we’re creating art. And, while writing is art (don’t let your great aunt Sally tell you otherwise), if a writer wants to sell, it’s also a business. And we have to treat it as one. Even though that can seem impossible at times.

Nora Roberts talks about teaching her kids not to disturb her writing time unless there was fire or blood. Apparently, it’s not possible to train your husband in this fashion. "I just have one question, then I’ll leave you alone." Or the dogs. "Woof, woof." And don’t get me started on that untrainable telephone. "Ring!" I read about a writer who refused to answer his phone while he worked, even if it was his editor of agent. He said that’s what the answering machine was for. I just don’t think I could do that. But maybe I need to learn.

Okay, I don’t have a lot of suggestions for limiting interruptions, but here are a few things I’ve found that seem to work. At least to an extent.

First, set limits on yourself. Use a timer and write for a certain time (ten minutes, twenty, whatever works). Then reward yourself with one or two games of spider solitaire (or whatever you like). Then get back to work!

Second, if you can find a fellow writer or two who’d like to get more done, set up a sprint. Work for twenty minutes, then stop and email or call each other and report your word count. Take a five-ten minute break, then GET BACK TO WORK. My local RWA chapter is doing this type thing on a regular basis, and it’s really helped several of us to get our work done.

Third, try talking to your husband/children/friends/dog/cat (good luck with those last two), and see if you can come to some understanding. And don’t be afraid to close the door to your workspace. You are entitled to your time and space, even if you’re not yet published (how the heck do you expect to get published if you don’t have good work to send out?)

I think the bottom line is to value yourself and your work. You’re worth it!

No excuses!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

13 Experts Weigh in on Love




13 Experts Weigh in on Love:

Are their words profound truths, poetic hogwash or somewhere in between? You decide.

Love: What is it? Goethe says, "Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing." Oliver Wendell Holmes declares, "Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness. " Two unknown writers look at it this way: “"Love is friendship set on fire," and, "Love is like war: Easy to begin but hard to end."

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines love as: “1 a (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2): attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests b: an assurance of love 2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion 3 a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration b (1): a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address for a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God . . .”

(Note: I’m only listing the top definitions. For more information, check out M-W’s Website.)

Last week I presented 13 quotes about love. That prompted me to embark in a research project. I found that there are hundreds, maybe even millions of comments about love on the Internet. Some are profound. Some are silly and some made me laugh. Others I read and thought, “That makes sense,” and nodded my head.

13 Experts Weigh in on Love


I’m presenting these 13 for you to ponder:

1. “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” ~Mother Teresa

2. “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” ~Albert Einstein

3. “The art of love ... is largely the art of persistence.” ~Albert Ellis

4. “Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that.” ~Michael Leunig

5. “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” ~Eric Fromm

6. “Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” ~Kahlil Gibran

7. “Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.” ~Leo Buscaglia

8. “If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don't have it, no matter what else there is, it's not enough.” ~Ann Landers

9. “Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.” ~ C. S. Lewis

10. “When love is not madness, it is not love.” ~Pedro Calderon de la Barca

11. “There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God's finger on man's shoulder.” ~Charles Morgan

12. “Love must be as much a light, as it is a flame.” ~Henry David Thoreau13. “We can only learn to love by loving.” ~ Iris Murdock

Do any of these statements hit home? Which ones seem true to you? Which ones ring false? Write back and tell me what you think.

Brenda

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Path of Resistance

So, you think being a romance writer is, well, romantic? Being any type of novelist is akin to living the life of luxury, endless hours spent sipping tea at the local café or days spent cruising the Riviera?

My family and friends believe this myth.

I, on the other hand, have discovered the untold truth of being a novelist – or at least the truth according to me.

If you have even the slightest tendency to become agoraphobic, this professional will quickly push you over the edge.

If you hate exercise and are looking for ways to avoid it at all cost, this is the profession for you.

Think you’ve got what it takes to win at spider solitaire in 2 minutes flat? Become a novelist and try your hand.

Since I was never a big fan of running errands or exercising and my middle name is procrastination – I’ve finally stumbled into a career that can satisfy every urge I’ve got!

Being a control freak, I finally command people and they obey (okay, so those people might only be alive in my imagination, but still it’s a heady feeling!)

Writing anything is a lonely endeavor. Sending out queries, partials and fulls, is a one-person job and a job that finds the writer glued to their computer screen most days before dawn – and still there long after everyone else has gone to bed.

But to see my name in print? On the cover a book? It’s worth it to me. While the family might think it’s a bit bizarre that I prefer to have my groceries delivered and don’t agree that my daily stroll to the mailbox is more than enough exercise – I finally found a place where my pink fuzzy slippers are acceptable footwear at work and I’m allowed to eat brownies all day.

Have a myth you’ve busted lately?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Puca Inside PANDORA'S BOX

Natale: I must have a really dirty mind, because that just sounds bad, doesn't it? I don't mean it to be, but it is true that you really can't take me anywhere.

Lori: She’s right, Natale should not be allowed in public. You ought to see how she behaves at chapter meetings. It can get downright embarrassing. Seriously, I’d like to introduce everyone here at the diner to my good friend and uber-talented (if slightly unbalanced) writer, Natale Stenzel. I just bought her latest release this weekend and can’t wait to read it. But until then, she’s got a little ‘splainin to do . . .

Natale: So, the setup: My new release, PANDORA'S BOX, is a funny paranormal romance about a puca cursed by an angry Druid daddy and forced to live inside a tiny cornerstone for two thousand years. This is what I tell people when they ask what my book is about. Generally, the first follow-up question to that description is, "What's a puca?"

The puca (which can be spelled a zillion different ways) is a shape-shifter from Welsh and Irish mythology. No, not a werewolf. Something more along the lines of a faery or sprite -- one who often preys on travelers. He can shape-shift into a black stallion with freaky yellow eyes and -- depending on his whim and whether you recently ticked him off in any way -- he can toss you onto his back and take you on a wild ride. From what I understand, you would return from this ride a radically different person in some way. So what exactly happens on this ride and what kind of change would the ride inspire? Beats me. Every description I found left the details to the reader's imagination, which suited me perfectly. It meant I could make everything up myself*g*.

Also interesting, if you've read or seen Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you might remember the trickster Puck. He's supposed to be the bard's vision of a puca. In some cases, the puca also answers to the name of Robin Goodfellow, which, coincidentally (or not) is also an alias for the devil. Some say the legend of Robin Hood is rooted in the puca myth, as well. Perhaps the most well-known puca -- but way different from my vision of one*g* -- was the six-foot-tall invisible rabbit in the movie Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart.

My puca, Riordan, is the son of a human woman and Oberon, the King of all Faery. In spite of the "sprite" classification and the puca's traditional preference for the horse form (a bit unsexy, you know?), I decided Riordan's base form would be human in appearance and manner, if a bit larger than life. Okay, so not just a bit*g*. We're talking one sexy, nearly irresistible and utterly incorrigible human form. (I really like Riordan.) He has a bawdy sense of humor and mischievous bent that hide an unexpected streak of gallantry and a will of steel. Hey, two thousand years of imprisonment would have broken a lesser man, you know? To survive his punishment, Riordan learned to deal with his lot and bide his time until he met Mina Avery, the one woman who, according to ancient prophecy, could free him from the Druid's punishment.

So was it the puca who inspired this story? Actually, no. The craziness began when I was surfing around on the internet and came across something about the Stone Circle of Avebury. (Don't ask. I have no idea how I came across this. Extensive procrastination, no doubt.) What intrigued me was that a lot of these huge Sarsen stones that comprised the circle had been busted up and used -- here it is! -- as building materials for cottages and the like. Can you imagine? It would be like having part of Stonehenge in the foundation of your house. Surely there would be some spooky effect. And so the wheels, they started turning . . .

As for the rest -- wistful sigh -- I really, really loved the character Puck. I always thought there must be some Puck-type creature (i.e., the puca) running around and mucking up our lives. It would explain so much*g*. So I thought . . . who better to release from a Sarsen cornerstone than my favorite trickster?

What about you? Where do you get your ideas? And, hey, we're all paranormal fans, so what's your favorite magical creature?

Thanks to the Otherworld Diner staff for having/humoring me today!

Natale

Lori: Thanks for stopping by Natale. Hope you enjoyed the pie. Everybody be sure to check out Natale's website at www.natalestenzel.com. She's got the cutest little dancing frog you've ever seen. *G*

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Demons and Witches and Faeries, Oh, My...

Someone asked me the other day where I thought the writing trends were heading. She'd heard vampires were still hot - they are - but wondered what else was coming. I often get asked this question because I see more prepubbed writing than I'd care to submit (yes, I edit), and I'm learning to find the trends in what I'm seeing. So here goes ...

The supernatural is still hot. You only have to look as far as television (Supernatural, Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, etc) and movies (The Eye, 1408, the Golden Compass) to see paranormal is in. I think it's because people need to believe in magic. Magic has sustained man - and woman - throughout the centuries and given them hope of something beyond themselves.

What does that mean to us, the writers and lovers of all things paranormal?

It means you'd better be sitting at your computer writing your little fingers off. There is very much still a market for these books - and they need new blood, new ideas and new talent. There are so many opportunities out there to get yourselves and your work noticed. This diner was one such idea. There is Myspace and Facebook and Live Journal and so many more, but sometimes you find yourselves doing this instead of actually writing.

I'm giving a writing class this month on Fixing Your Fiction, and I'm seeing some real talent among the students of my class. I'm teaching them to focus on hooking their reader with a good hook AND a good story. And that's what we need to focus on, is telling those stories we have locked in our heads.

Next month, as I've mentioned in an earlier blog, I'm going to have an opportunity to spend time with several agents and editors who are looking for the supernatural. I hope to bring back news and information to share with all of you to motivate you to get that writing done! Let me know if you have specific questions you'd like me to ask. My email is mdntvoices@yahoo.com.

Jeannie

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dealing with discouragement.


One of the pitfalls I've encountered lately is discouragement. It's tied to the professional jealousy thing, but it's not jealousy exactly. Oh there's a touch of envy, but it's more a combination of frustration and depression.

Writers all around you are doing a happy dance as they announce the sale of their first, third or millionth book but you just received another rejection. You enter contests for feedback and the responses (in terms of scores and comments) are a bit tough to swallow. I feel your pain, cause I've been there. Recently.

I was ready to throw my manuscript under the bed (metaphorically - cause it's a computer file), and move on but then...miracle of miracles...I received a request for a full. It's not a sale, but it happened at EXACTLY the right time. And why? Because I kept going. I felt like crap. Like I wanted to just give in... Then I got a tiny bit of validation. I pray someone will offer me a contract as a result, but now I'm not quite so depressed.

So, how do you keep going when you feel like you're in a very deep hole and the sides are caving in on you? I don't know. No, really. It varies for each of us. I need my friends to tell me my stuff isn't crap and encourage me to keep going. I'm fortunate that my friends usually pony up and do exactly that. Sometimes, I just need one person to say, "Hey, this is pretty good." Once I hear those words, I'm ready to rumble.

If you don't receive a bit of validation, think about things that give you joy. Then do them. It's not a sin to take a break from your writing if you need to take a deep breath. Go ahead and take a break. Read a book. Go for a drive in the country. Play with your kids or your pets. Make love with your lover. Whatever inspires you...do it.

I'm trying hard to follow my own advice because I haven't spent a lot of time writing lately. Unfortunately, I've been feeling guilty about it. However, this month I have a darn good excuse. I bought a house and I'm moving. Hey, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm moving, not writing - unless I feel like it. Keep your fingers crossed that I accomplish both!

So, when you start feeling discouraged, how do you fight the writing blahs? Please post a comment. I need all the help I can get. :-)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chinameli Joins the Diner

Bell-Green

Hi there! Surprised to see me? I’m a little surprised to be here myself. Usually, I’m on the other end of this coffee pot, but I dumped my newspaper job last week, due to an overly friendly boss, and after taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, I’ve decided to pitch the “conventional life” and stake a claim of my own, (dead center in the vampire’s heart.)

In Writing a Woman’s Life (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) Carolyn G. Heilbrun states: “with highly gifted women, as with men, the failure to lead the conventional life, to find the conventional way early, may signify more than having been dealt a poor hand of cards. It may well be the forming of a life in the service of a talent felt, but unrecognized and unnamed. This condition is marked by a profound sense of vocation, with no idea of what that vocation is….”

I have no idea what that vocation will be either, except I will get there riding the nib of my pen, and not through being a female impersonator. So, while one of the regulars here is out of town a few weeks, I’m filling in, just to keep me in Oxford bond and Schaeffer’s ink. Besides I like the uniform. Powder pink and gravy stain are my colors don’t ya think?

A lot of women authors didn’t dress conventionally in the past either. George Sands dressed as a man, Emily Dickenson always dressed in pure white, and Dorothy Sayers was described by Mary Ellen Chase as wearing glasses which “quivered.” I like to imagine Madam Sands in all her multifarious trousers, walking the promenade pipe in hand, deep in contemplation of her characters. Maybe like Emily Dickenson, looking like a blank sheet of paper, waiting for the omnipotent author to take up pen in one hand and quivering glasses in the other to do battle amongst the gentlemen authors of the day.

Talk about perils and pitfalls! These women either did not recognize their life’s calling, were ill prepared for the life, unrecognized for their work by the community in which they lived, or had to dress and act to outrageously to attract the attention of scandal-needy society to gain their rightful credit. Only a small few of the “highly gifted women” were able to go beyond themselves, their families, and their place in society, to answer their “profound sense of vocation”

So what’s changed? How many times have people asked you “when are you going to get a real job?” Try explaining to a three-hundred-dollar-silk-suite clad woman how your novel is going and watch her eyes slowly glaze over as she sips her $5.00 non-fat latté while sneaking glances at her rolodex. Even the stay-at-home-mom next door snubs you with a sly “she-isn’t-raising-her-kids-right” smile when you mention that you write.

Writing is the only career that requires success before profession. A teacher never encounters “Oh, really, who have you taught?” before being allowed to claim the title of teacher. A politician is not asked “What war have you ended?” A hair dresser is not asked “whose hair have you done?” A doctor is not required to provide proof of patient healing before being allowed her M.D. Why is proof of publication demanded of a writer - “What have you written?” – before being allowed the title.

Even with the title “Published Author” the writing must be of a respectable genre and publicly renown before being allowed, albeit reluctantly, a career. I have deep suspicions my mother would rather I became a singing telegram stripper than a writer. At least she could say I sang for my supper….

I like the book Carolyn G. Heilbrun wrote – stumbled across it in a college library while researching Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night. It’s a trim, little book that will give you an amazing new look on women as authors. When I read across the above quoted lines, I snapped to attention as if I were suddenly caught with my hand in a cookie jar. I was literally (natch) rattled to my boots, and rushed out at the end of class, down to the commons and skipped my next class so I could read and re-read what had shaken me so much. I discovered not only dismay, but a conniving feeling creeping around within.

“Those coward symptoms have some latent spring that lies concealed within that treacherous heart…” - Walter Scott… I think. Little did my little High School English teacher suspect she would have any claim in the future of my vocation. Most likely she thought I’d be stamping license plates in the state pen, instead of standing here letting the coffee cool.

So, wha’cha want Kid? Pie? Coffee? Cook makes up a mean plate of eggs, and for you, I’ll even slide it onto clean crockery and call it the Blue Plate Special!

Chinameli

Thursday, February 7, 2008

13 Writers Speak Out on Love




Hi. We’re supposed to be blogging about the Perils and Pitfalls for Writers, but it’s February and my mind is elsewhere. My kids and I just returned from the store with bags stuffed with Valentines and chocolates. I’m sitting in the pink glow of the neon heart I’ve stuck to my living-room window, thinking about love.
I hate to admit it, but I’m distracted. It’s OK, though, because both distractions and love can be pitfalls for writers. Before I take on some serious writing, I feel like searching the Internet for the contemplations of other creative minds on love.
Here goes:






13 Writers Speak Out on Love


1.) “When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out.” ~Elizabeth Bowen
2.) “A baby is born with a need to be loved -- and never outgrows it.” ~Frank A. Clark

3. “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939, translated from French by Lewis Galantière
4. “Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ~Robert Heinlein
5. “Life is the flower for which love is the honey.” ~Victor Hugo
6. “Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.” ~W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook, 1949
7. “Love is much like a wild rose, beautiful and calm, but willing to draw blood in its defense.” ~Mark Overby
8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” ~I Corinthians 13:4-8, Paul of New Testament fame
9. “True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” ~Erich Segal

10. “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” ~ William Shakespeare, Mid-Summer Night's Dream
11. “Love is the strange bewilderment which overtakes one person on account of another person.” ~James Thurber and E.B. White

12. “Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” ~Peter Ustinov
13. “Who, being loved, is poor?” ~Oscar Wilde


As you well realize, although love can be a distraction, it can also be a great topic for writing. There is much you can say about love and being in love. My search has just scratched the surface. Do you have a favorite quote or a bit of advice? Please share.



The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone
who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow
Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your
Thirteen in others comments. It's easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings,
comment links accepted!









Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Taking Care of the Writer



This post actually works well with Jeannie's,

Most of us are working on something along with our writing, we are students, mothers, wives, or have jobs outside our homes. We are constantly juggling our lives so we have time to do it all, but the fact is we can't always accomplish everything.

Our physical and mental well being make a huge difference in our quality of life, and what we create when we get the chance to sit down and write. Without feeling guilty or neglectful, we have to admit there are times when our own needs have to come first. We all know how hard it can be to get the rest we need, eat the right foods, and exercise, but we need to try. I'm not sermonizing here, I'm speaking from experience.

I was 26 when I first got chronically ill. I didn't want to admit the reality that my life was going to be deeply changed. I didn't want limits, I wanted to do it all. I didn't listen to my body when it said to slow down. The results were not fun, and for a time I couldn't do much of anything without feeling totally exhausted. I learned that lesson the hard way. If you push your body too far, it will push back. And when you feel miserable physically, you feel depressed mentally.

I've observed the detrimental effects of the mentality that says a mother, spouse, worker, or even a writer must push through no matter what. That life is full of deadlines we have to meet or suffer the consequences. The truth is if we don't take time to take care of ourselves, we have less to give anyone else. So don't be afraid to accept and deal with your needs, you will be helping all of those who depend on you in the long run. Even those characters fighting to be recognized inside your head can wait while you eat, jog, or take a nap if you need it.

All the folks at this Diner are my friends, and most other writers I've met on my journey have added wonderful things to my life. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of working yourselves sick. I still have all your future publications on my "to be read" list!

Take good care, Live long, and prosper!

Debralee

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Professional Jealousy

"Professional jealousy makes other people crazy,
When they think you've got something that they dont have.
What they don't understand is it's just not easy,
To cover it all and, stand where you stand.
Professional jealousy makes no exception ,
It can happen to anyone, at any time.
The only requirement is knowing whats needed,
And then delivering, whats needed on time."

~~ lyrics by Van Morrison

As Jody explained yesterday, the road to publication is filled with detours,wrong turns and dead ends. If you want to make it to the finish line in one piece, you'll need to watch out for potholes. Today's pothole is (drumroll please!) professional jealousy.

Now if you're foolish enough to believe that PJ will never apply to you, I beg to disagree. Be serious. In the publishing biz, the odds are overwhelming stacked against you, add the fact that writers are a rather solitary bunch equipped with overactive imaginations and you can see why many of us find our wheels thrown out of alignment due to PJ.

So, do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

~ You grind your teeth every time you read in Publisher's Lunch about a debut author who has landed a "very good" deal.

~ You've just recieved your 157th, 158th, and/or 159th rejection letter from an editor agent about your latest MS.

~ You open up your latest copy of RWR, turn to the "First Sale" column and scratch out each author's names with an economy-sized black Sharpie marker.

~ Your writing friend (who joined RWA the same time as you) rings you up to tell you about how she got "the call" and what you really want to do is ring her neck rather than congratulate her.

~ You investigate the legalities of changing your name to Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, or (insert name of author here.)

~ The Rita awards make you cry (and not in a good way.)

If you answered yes or even maybe to any of the above, you've most got professional jealousy.

Please don't argue that you're a nice person. I'm sure you are--most of time. You probably have a family, friends, maybe even a pet or two that love and adore you. You probably teach Sunday school, run a girl scout troop or volunteer at a soup kitchen when you aren't writing, collecting those pesky rejection letters or throwing darts at the New York Times bestseller's list.

So how does one fight that nasty green-eyed monster that lurks in all of us? Here's my roadmap to sanity:

1. Recognize PJ for what it really is: frustration. Yours, to be precise. Maybe instead of fuming and choking down anger, you should be reassessing your goals. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself trying to keep up with Nora? ;) Worse, are your writing frustrations turning you into a person that your kids run away from, your hubby avoids and your cat hisses at? Maybe you need to adjust your 5 year plan into a 7 year plan...and save your sanity while you're at it.

2. Everybody's road is different. Really. Even if you started writing at the same time, there are an infinite number of variables that differentiate your creative process, responsibilities from everyone else. Maybe you need sleep. I know I do.

3. TMI can be a bad thing...sometimes. If you know that you're frustrated and prone to PJ, maybe hearing every wonderful detail from your newly pubbed writer friend is not the best idea. Do you really want to spoil your friend's moment in the spotlight? If you're on the phone, make an excuse to get off. Better to tell a white lie than destroy a friendship. Consider sending a congratulatory card if you just can't keep your eyes from going green. Nice matters.

4. Look on the bright side. And yes, there is a bright side. Publishing is not a zero sum game, so every time a buddy breaks into publishing YOU'VE just made a networking coup! Her experiences and contacts may help you somewhere down the line. Especially since you were so darn nice when she got the call. Publishing karma is a force to be reckoned with and most authors believe in paying it forward.

Next time someone announces their big writing news, do yourself a favor--drop the jealousy and keep the professional part.

Got any more helpful hints for PJ? Add 'em on ladies and gents!

;)

Write on!

Talia

Monday, February 4, 2008

Perils and Pitfalls and Pie

This biweek at the Diner, we're serving up leftover chili from Superbowl parties--Frito pie, anybody?--along with articles about the perils and pitfall of a writing career. Many of us are at the start of our journeys while many have trekked forward a bit. We're all plotting our courses very carefully, maybe even using a map or two as we decide what the next leg of our journey is going to be. And we're all keeping a sharp-eyed lookout for potholes and traffic jams, herds of cows in the road or icy patches--all the perils and pitfalls of being writers.

The peril I'm going to discuss briefly is a natural hazard for most of us, since we all love words and sharing them. Once you start to get out and about--as a published author, an active unpublished author or some mishmash between the two--one of the perils you may discover is the peril of public speaking. I'm not talking about getting up in front of groups and running your yap while everyone eats a turkey sandwich and drinks weak iced tea. I'm talking about the mighty time sink that is the Internet and all the opportunities it offers for us to be "heard".

Especially in this day and age where everybody and their cat has a blog (my cat's blog entries are MUCH better than mine), many of us feel compelled to make a cyber mark in order to attract editors, agents, readers, fans, friends and support personnel. It can be so slow and difficult to get your work published that there's a great satisfaction to be found in sharing our words with other people--as we start discussions, participate in them or attempt to have the final say in them. Online exchanges, fraught with misinterpretations and typos, can become quite passionate. The give and take of ideas can be heady, even upsetting. Online imbroglios can even boil over into your everyday life, and you end up wishing you could quit the Internet. Some do. Some remain deeply involved no matter what.

There are several schools of thought regarding author behavior online. At what point can authors stop being professionals, out to make a good impression on potential readers and colleagues, and start being people? Should they keep it non-controversial at all times, just in case? Do authors have to bite their tongues or just on certain topics? Can they push things this far without it being too far? How about this far? Is being colorful or shocking a fabulous approach to "public" speaking because at least you'll be interesting? And how much impact does the small and volatile circle of online readers and writers have in the outside world? Beyond websites, how active does an author truly need to be online in order to hop the next train of her career?

There's no right or wrong answer. You have to decide for yourself, based on observation, instinct and knowledge of your own communication needs. Where you choose to fall on the spectrum (and do make it a choice, instead of an accident) between uninvolved and obsessive is up to you as long as you remember there's one constant: what you share online in emails, blogs, comments, loops and chats can and will be flung back at you when it's most inconvenient.

So have fun out there, however much you choose to be out there, but when it boomerangs back at you, be ready to catch it--like a pro, not like a pie in the face. There are much better places for pie.

Jody W.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Who Wants To Date A Superhero?

Some of our Diner guests may recall that back in 2007, we did a biweek on superheroes, comic books and other influences on the paranormal romances we write. We had guest authors who were writing in the field of superhero romances, and since then I've located another adventuresome author of the hotties-in-tights ilk, RG Alexander, who kindly answered the following interview questions for us in exchange for a free blue plate special.

1) First, can you tell us what you've got coming out in the subgenre of paranormal romance? Is it humorous? If so, what kind of humor?

Who Wants to Date a Superhero? coming out February 15th from Ellora's Cave for their Jewels of the Nile series, is definitely humorous...well, I laughed a lot while I was writing it. :) I got to poke a little harmless fun at reality television and superheroes/villains who take themselves a bit too seriously.

2) What draws you to write in this particular subgenre?

I have always been fascinated by folklore, mythology and urban legends. Superhero was actually a bit of a diversion for me-a different kind of hero tale. I got to play a lot more in that universe, really use my imagination.

3) Any other publications you'd like to mention?

I have a crazy year ahead. From EC I have Lifting the Veil coming out in April, and Piercing the Veil (though that doesnt have an actual release date yet). I'm also planning to have a few more Superhero books out this year *cross your fingers*.

Samhain Publishing will be releasing Regina in the Sun (also April) and Lux in Shadow (August), two books from my Children of the Goddess series. I'm really looking forward to that.

4) What are some of your favorite books in this subgenre that you didn't write yourself?

My favorite paranormal?! That is so hard. I love so many. There are tons of amazing authors, in print and ebook right now. Gena Showalter's Atlantis books, Crystal Jordan's Wereplanets-which are coming out from Kensington this year in Sexy Beast V and Carnal Desires. Lora Leigh, Emma Holly, Kenyon...see? Told ya.

5) How much influence do you think other media and pop culture, such as movies, tv and comics, have on genre fiction or vice versa? How do you perceive the relationships amidst our various forms of pop culture?

Oh I think media influences our culture and fiction probably more than any other time in history. We are a generation grown up on cable and home videos/dvds, the internet and music videos etc. We are saturated with pop culture references. I am not saying thats a bad thing-haha. Unless the author lives in a bubble, its going to have an affect on their fiction. They have taken the place of the fireside stories, strongly reinforcing our beliefs and knowledge about the paranormal. From Buffy to Underworld.

6) Your book is inspired by the comics. Can you recommend any comic books to readers who love paranormal romances? How does romance fare in the comics world? Are comics as empowering for women as many feel paranormal romance can be?

Well, interestingly-my book was inspired by a Sci Fi Channel show that my husband was watching...a reality show where people pretended to be superheroes in the hopes that Stan Lee would immortalize them in comic infamy. It struck me as fascinating and funny-and made me think.

I think the two-romance and comic, are coming closer and closer together. I know for a fact that Christine Feehan's and Sherrilyn Kenyon's series' are both being transformed and re-releasing as comics.

I don't know if mainstream comics are as empowering to women as paranormal romance yet-though strides have been made-each have been and are still to a large extent gender typecast.
Recently inroads have been made for male-centric romance and female-centric comics. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

7) So, if the moneybags were going to make a movie of your book but give you creative control of a sorts....who might you cast and what tweaks might you have to make so it could be Hollywood Blockbusterized? (Or not!)

Hmmm. Who would play Theta Wave? That is a hard one. I want to say Hugh Jackman...I want to, please. But I dont know if he would be the right choice. Maybe Scott Elrod (Cash from Men in Trees). I would probably leave it to the producer and casting director and ogle whatever eye candy they felt was best.

And for Hollywood? Well I'd have to get rid of a few of the more erotically graphic scenes obviously.

8) Where can we find out more about you and your books? Any links you want to share?

All my release dates and blurbs are on my site at http://www.rgalexander.com/

9) Is there anything else you want to tell us about your release?

Only that I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed its creation. BTW here is a little blurb.


Gaia City.


A place where technology is advanced, superheroes commonplace, and the masses are addicted to Who Wants to Date a Superhero? A show that lets women compete for the chance to win a date with one of Gaia’s Guardians.


Cassie Tidwell never thought she’d be humiliating herself on live vid for dinner with a man in spandex. But the secret she’s keeping will have her jumping through hoops for a chance to have this season’s hunky bachelor, Theta Wave, all to herself.


Will her choice ensure that Graham, the man she’s lusted after for months, never wants to see her again?


When her friend gives her an amethyst anklet engraved with strange symbols, telling her it has the ability to shield her thoughts from the probing powers of Theta Wave, she’s dubious. But she needs all the luck she can get if she’s to fight for one man’s help…and another’s heart.


****


Thank you so much for having me here! Fascinating questions.


****

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://meankittybox.blogspot.com/
 
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