Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Writer's Gift List

It's the gift-giving time of the year and I believe you should include yourself on the shopping list especially if you live with people who don't quite "get" the whole writing thing. Being good to yourself during this stressful season is important! Up there with frequently washing your hands, drinking plenty of fluids and giving yourself permission to actually enjoy the season.

So, here are some of my favorite sites for stuff (in no particular order) to indulge the writer in you:
1. http://www.waterman.com/ - What can I say? I'm a sucker for a well-crafted crafting instrument and these pens fit the bill. Art meets function. You can check out the website for the high-end models or visit your local Staples for a more affordable glide. On days when I am feeling particularly blocked, I whip out my green Phileas Waterman and start scribbling away. It works!
2. http://www.ninthmoon.com/ - A site devoted to the writer in you. I love visiting here. My favorites include the "Literary Slut" nightshirt (goes to bed with any book), the writer's Permission Slip (it's okay to pen the first draft strictly for yourself), and an amazing tool if you're a plotter like me: big block scene cards! Tracks aspects of your plot like POV characters, emotional charge, beats and action/reaction. Totally awesome for focus. These cards rock!
3. http://www.writeruniv.com/ - Thinking about brushing up your prose by taking an online course? Writer U. offers great courses with some of the best authors in the business, from Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors to master classes with Katie MacAlister, WriterU. has something for every writer.
4. http://www.basbleu.com/ - A great site for the reader and writer in you. Offering and eclectic selection of books as well as gifts, games and stationery, bas bleu (french for bluestocking) there's something for every writer on your list. Among my favorites are Thumb Things (for holding those paperbacks open without straining your fingers), Training People: How to Bring Out the Best in Your Human, and Common Errors in English Usage book and calendar.
5. http://www.shakespearesden.com/ - Fun for the poet and the playwrite. Don't miss the Mixed Up Romance Novel Magnetic Poetry Kit.
6. http://www.amazon.com/ - Need I say more? I thought not.
Happy holidays everyone! And blessings of health and happiness to all in the new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Joyous Yule or Happy Midwinter

Today, December 21 is Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. This day opens the winter season...officially because it is the first day of winter. The earth is actually closer to the sun now than at any time in its orbit but the sun is also (in the Northern Hemisphere) at it's southernmost point in relation to the earth. Because of this, it make a brief trip above the horizon and then dips down again, giving us our long winter night.

Visit the U.S. Naval Observatory's Web site here to find out a more complete scientific explanation.

This is the night our northern ancestors would bundle up, and light the Yule log to ward off the coming dark days of winter. Yule celebrations lasted as long as the Yule log burned - anywhere from three to twelve days - a definite incentive for a BIG log. The Germanic peoples celebrated Yule with feasting and gift giving. In pagan traditions this holiday is celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. Of course this tied in nicely to Christian traditions for December 25 in order to convert the pagan peoples to Christianity in the Middle Ages.

In fact, most cultures throughout history have some traditions in honor of this day. So tonight as the sun dips below the horizon, burn a Yule log to stave off the darkness. Light candles to welcome the sun's rebirth, for from this day forward the days grow longer again.

Joyous Yule and Happy Midwinter to one and all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December: Month of Holidays

Are you looking forward to winter break? I am.
And what better month than December?

In anticipation of my own vacation from the diner, I’m going to list a sampling of the holidays that take place in December and some tidbits I've learned about them.

December: Month of Holidays

1. Rosa Park’s Day, December 1. You may have missed it, but it’s a significant date. Despite the tradition at the time, Rosa Louise Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery (Ala.) bus. It happened Dec. 1, 1955, and her bold move jump-started the long overdue civil rights movement in America.

2. St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Did you and your family observe it? Saint Nicholas actually was a real person who lived in Myra in what is now Turkey. He loved giving secret gifts. December 6 is the day of his death. There are many different traditions for celebrating St. Nicholas, but I’m most familiar with filling children’s stockings with candy and small gifts.

3. Eid’ul Adha, December 8. Also called “The Festival of Sacrifice,” it commemorates Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son, Isaac. (Remember the Biblical story?)

4. Poinsettia Day, December 12. This is the date of Joel Roberts Poinsett’s death. He’s the person credited with introducing the poinsettia to the United States, from Mexico.

5. Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also December 12.
It’s one of the most important holidays in Mexico and it celebrates Mother Mary’s (the Virgin of Guadalupe) visitation to a man named Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin asked to have a church built on the nearby hill so she could be closer to her people.

6. St. Lucia’s Day, December 13. St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in many parts of Scandinavia to remember an Italian woman who became the patron saint of light. Usually a daughter in the celebrating household dresses in white robes and wears a crown of candles on her head. She serves her family either breakfast or sweets. Bet you didn’t know about this holiday.

7. Beethoven’s Birthday, December 16. This great German composer was born in Bonn in 1770.

8. Hanukkah, December 21st to December 29th.
Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah recalls the miracle God granted in keeping the temple candles burning after the Maccabees freed and re-dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. (The Maccabees had only enough oil to keep the candles lit for a day, yet the candles burned for eight long days.)

9. Winter Solstice, Dec. 21. Well, it isn’t exactly a holiday, but it gets plenty of attention. The solstice takes place on the shortest day of the year, when there’s more night than day in the Northern Hemisphere. There are many different ways of observing the solstice, but most involve a bit of time spent in reflection.

10. Christmas, December 25. As we all know, this is the world’s celebration of the birth of Jesus -- by non-orthodox Christians. (Orthodox Christians believe Jesus’ birthday falls on a different date.) Christmas, of course, also is the long-awaited day that children await a visit from Santa Claus.

11. Boxing Day, December 16. This is a holiday where people visit friends and give gifts to those who work with and or for them.

12. Kwanzaa, December 26 to Jan. 1.This holiday honors African heritage and is marked by participants lighting a Kinara (candle holder) every day. Ron Karenga started Kwanzaa in 1966.

13. New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31. Are you ready to celebrate? With the economy is such tough shape, maybe we ought to resist kicking up our heels! As you’re well aware, New Year’s Eve celebrates both the ending of the old year and the start of the new one. Who knows what’s ahead in 2009. …

I’m just learning about many of these December events. Have I missed any key holidays or special occasions? And have I overlooked an important element of any of these celebrations? Feel free to enlighten me. I’m eager to learn.
Thanks – and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Writer as Crafter

I’ve been crafting like mad for the holidays this year, crocheting and sewing and gluing and embroidering. It’s not particularly a money-saving venture, since the supplies to craft the desired items cost as much as, if not more, than purchasing the item in question ready-made. Most of my projects this season are not as easy as crocheting gnomes, and every time I finish one project, another one springs to mind.

Why do I do it? Yes, the recipient gets the gift of my (hygienic) blood, sweat and tears, which is special, but my time is limited. Every moment I put hook to yarn is another moment I’m neither writing nor reading nor conversing with the family. I can’t really talk when I’m crafting, and I certainly can’t catch up on our backlog of Heroes episodes. The children bug me incessantly (captive audience), which makes me lose count of my stitches. My husband is feeling ignored in general. Like being the husband of a writer wasn’t bad enough; now he’s the husband of an obsessive seasonal crafter.

However, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if crafting is a natural outgrowth of the writer personality. The fact is, crafting and writing are related. An individual conceives of an item that doesn’t exist -- a pink and orange princess gown with yellow spots, a novel about evil gnomes -- and realizes there is a demand for that item. Sure, you can get a princess gown or a fantasy novel at the store, but it’s not the exact one the artist has dreamed up. So he or she decides the demand is great enough that it’s worth it to commit the time, energy and even money to make this dream a reality.

It might be that the desired item is beyond the artist’s current capability and research must be done, classes must be taken, books must be purchased. The artist might find herself wandering around the craft store...or the Barnes & Noble...fondling similar items to the one she’s in the process of creating or items she can use in its creation. The artist mind find herself cranky when the creation process is interrupted, skipping meals or family time in order to vanquish the next phase. There may be snags en route to completion, where rows of crocheting have to be taken out and redone or chapters have to be cut and rewritten. A pattern or outline for the project is invaluable at many points, but at others, the artist may find herself forging a new path and veering from what has gone before.

And once the project is complete, once the finishing touches have been added, the artist may find that the end result is...simply unsalvageable!

But the knowledge gained is invaluable, because the artist will know to never, ever work with certain ravel-happy fabrics or subgenres again, for that way lies madness. And the next project she picks up will be completed in half the time with twice the skill.
Or so I'm hoping!

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--In Paper, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing

PS: One of the things I have learned to craft are handmade, reusable gifts bags, and you can win one of these for your very own over at the Samhain Paranormal Authors blog during our Cool Yule Giveaway...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let It Go

"Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know the hardest part is over
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels..."
I suspect Rob Thomas did NOT have me in mind when he wrote those particular lyrics but as we bulldoze through the holidays and barrel into a new year, I find myself reflecting. A lot. I'm not one of those "go with the flow" kinda gals who can take things in stride and never break a sweat. I worry (sometimes to the point of nuttiness) about many things so far beyond my control that they fall into the realm of the divine. I'm not God, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried walking on water a few times this past year.

BTW, I sank. Again.
2008 has been the year of learning to let go. A tough lesson for a control freak like me. I've had to watch my child get behind the wheel of real motor vehicle (not a big wheel) and drive off into the night without me. I've had to let go of the feelings of disappointment and anger when a great job disappeared from under me. I've said goodbye to my father, knowing I will never again hear his voice in this life.

Bigger things were definitely sending me a message this year: Learn to let go.

So I finally got the memo. I entered the GH to let go of my story as much as to see how it stacks up against competitors. I performed first reader duty for a vampire book in order to overcome my prejudice against vampire novels as much as to help a wonderful author and friend (and okay, I admit, get my name in the acknowledgements.)

Now, I'm finishing up the last (and I do mean the last) read through of my story before sending it back to an agent and I refuse to count the days, weeeks or months until at least six have passed. Why? Because I have to let go and by letting go I can hold other moments closer.

Like when my child comes home safe after her first fender bender...

Or when I get the email telling me RWA has received my contest submission...

Or remembering my Dad's smile when told me how he reffed games when Vince Lombardi coached back in Jersey...

"Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain."
Rob got it absolutely right.

Learn to let go...and embrace the small hours.
That's where they real stories of your life are written.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hat of the Day

Most of us wear many hats. At any given time I wear the Writer Hat, the Web Designer Hat, the Artist Hat, the Wife Hat…the list goes on. After paying my dues wearing the Mommy Hat for 9 years as a stay-at-home mom, I feel like I’ve earned the right to don the Writer Hat from 9-4, Monday thru Friday. Not today. Today I’m wearing the Mommy Hat. I should be wearing the Writer Hat (picture a sparkly rhinestone tiara ala Miss America) because this has been a good week for the author side of me. I just learned my latest manuscript finaled in another contest and it’s on its way to a Berkley editor and I received a request from a top notch agent. Woo hoo! Things like that get my writer juices flowing and I’d love nothing more that to dive into the rough draft of book 2 in the series and knock out a good chuck of pages. But I can’t. I’m wearing the Mommy Hat today. Child #2 is home sick with a nasty stomach bug. He was couch-bound on Saturday, perked up yesterday, but today—Monday, which should be a full writing day for me—he’s relapsed. I can’t really get into anything because at any moment I’ll hear “Mommmie” and have to hold his poor little head over the puke bucket. I’m not frustrated though. It’s just one of those life moments that happen and ya gotta roll with it. So the tiara has to go back on the hat rack for the day and out comes the Mommie Hat (today it’s a baseball cap because my hair looks like a family of squirrels are living in it and I can’t take a shower for fear I’ll miss the pitiful cry for help from my sickly 7 year old). Maybe tomorrow I can be a writer again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Putting Your Best Face Forward...

Hello all,

Well, I bit the bullet and hired a photographer and had a sitting for an official author portrait. How did I make this ultra-important decision? A co-worker recommended someone. Her son is a senior in high school and one of his classmates used a photographer for her senior shots that my co-worker thought were really interesting and unique.
I went to Kelly's Web site to review her online portfolio and I really liked it. She did really cool things with color and light so I decided I'd contact her to do my photos. I'm really glad I did, so if you're in the Des Moines Iowa area, check out Kesling Photography!
As I drove to her place, I thought back to the last time I had a formal portrait taken. Except for the time I had shots taken with my mom in 2002 or 2003, the last time was when I was a senior in high school, which was a VERY long time ago.
I admit to being kind of nervous, but Kelly put me at ease and offered suggestions for which shirts and jewelry I should wear (I brought a bunch of stuff). The really cool thing was that she had worked at Glamour Shots® in the past, so she knew exactly what I needed. We did some moody shots with interesting lighting and everything. Ya know, I might actually look pretty good in these pictures. I'm no Tyra Banks, but I think these will turn out all right.
Speaking of Tyra, I kept hearing her in my head. You know...the "smile with your eyes" comments she always makes no matter what cycle of America's Next Top Model is on. LOL It was great. So thanks Tyra! It helped.
I'll let you all know the outcome when I get the proofs. Keep you fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Body Speaks. And You Can Learn Its Language!

Every writer has heard the adage “Show don’t tell.” But how do you do that? Ever wonder how to describe a villain’s glower? The heroine’s anguish?

Some helpful tips come in “What Every Body Is Saying,” written by: Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent who specialized in non-verbal intelligence. Joe offers some answers for your next writing projects.

His book will have you “speed-reading” people with just a bit of practice. Sentences in your manuscript such as, “He was angry,” will be transformed to “He squinted. His forehead furrowed, his jaw tightened and lips drew together, almost vanishing.”

Joe tells writers what to look for when studying the person’s feet, legs, torso, arms, hands and face. He offers insights into what that behavior means and shares anecdotes of how he has used non-verbal clues to negotiate situations in his personal and professional life.

OK, to whet your appetite, here are 13 tips on non-verbal communication from this intriguing book.

1. You’ve heard about the “flight or fight” response when people are confronted with danger, but did you know that before they make their choice, they freeze?

2. The freeze reaction, the author says, helps people to “hide” from predators and take a moment to process the situation and its options.

3. They sometimes signal discomfort by rubbing their foreheads.

4. When people are nervous, they often engage in pacifying or comforting behaviors. Such as hair twirling, face touching or even gum chewing and cigarette smoking.

5. A person rubbing his or her neck may be saying that you or the topic you’re discussing are a pain in the neck.

6. In a tense business meeting, a man may pause to adjust his tie.

7. After a near accident, a man may exhale with puffed-out cheeks.

8. Want to know if a couple is getting along? Look at their legs and feet. Are their bodies turned toward each other? Are their feet close to each other? Generally, people position their body to lean TOWARD someone they like.

9. We lean AWAY from people we disagree with.

10. When we can move away from unpleasant situations or people, we often use our arms as barriers. We cross them over our chests.

11. We also can use our clothes as barriers. In an uncomfortable situation, we may pull a sweater closed or button a jacket.

12. Ever seen someone “steeple” their hands, placing fingertips to fingertips. That signals confidence.

13. Lowering your chin and tucking your hand between raised shoulders signals the opposite -- a lack of confidence.

To sum up, “What Every Body is Saying” is packed full of nonverbal behaviors you can interpret and use to add richness to your writing. If you want to dramatically SHOW your characters’ emotions – not just put a one-word label on them -- I highly recommend this book. You can bet it’ll be on my holiday list.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Have Yourself a Scary Christmas

We’re all paranormal writers here, so you’d think Halloween would be our big holiday. But you know what? Christmas can be pretty darn scary too.

Things that scare Lori:

Black Friday
For someone who hates shopping with a passion (I think it's a birth defect and I'm missing the shopping gene -- along with the cleaning gene, the organizing gene, and the sense of direction gene), the Friday after Thanksgiving is a living nightmare. You won’t catch me stepping foot out of the house on that day.

A Christmas Carol
Now here's some Christmas spooks for you. Talk about scary. Hearing Jacob Marley’s chains rattling as he shuffled down the hall to Scrooge’s door freaked me out as a kid. But it was the Ghost of Christmas Future that kept me awake many a night. What the heck is Death doing in a Christmas story anyway?

Tacky Light Houses
Want to know what’s scarier than witnessing the use of enough electricity in one night to light a small town for a week? How about being on a bus full of parents and their kids as it tries to turn around in a cul-de-sac packed with other voyeurs of the exterior light-bright competition. (That would be me last night.)

Tim Burton
The Nightmare Before Christmas. Just look at the faces on those characters. You just know he mutilated his sister's Barbies as a small child. Makes you wonder what goes on in that man’s head.

A Christmas Story
A timeless classic that must be watched every Christmas season in my house. While the leg lamp is enough to send anyone with even an ounce of decorative taste screaming, the pink bunny suit and the tongue stuck to the metal pole has made many a child cringe in sympathy. Poor Ralphie.

The Winter Warlock
From "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." What kind of screen writer puts something so scary into a children's holiday show? Check out the piranha teeth. He was enough to send me crawling into my mom's lap every season until I hit my tweener years.

The Abominable Snow Man
Another creature to keep kids awake at night (and not dreaming of sugarplums, I'll tell ya.) How many little tots cried when they thought he was going to bite Clarice the reindeer’s head off? I know I did.

The Grinch
Jim Carrey in pea green stage makeup and a rubber suit aside (don't even get me started on the visual image of him with no pants on), any ugly green guy who breaks into my house to steal my toys scares the bejeebers out of me. But what scared me the most was worrying that that poor little dog was going to get dragged to his death by the sleigh full of toys as it fell over the cliff. Where was PETA when Dr. Suess was around?

Fruit Cake
Okay, call me insane but I actually like the stuff so it doesn’t scare me but I know a lot of people who turn white as a sheet should they be gifted (or re-gifted) with this holiday delicacy. My family loves it and the Jane Parker fruit cake has been a long standing family tradition with all my relatives. Picture me as a college student carting 8 of those suckers home every holiday because you could no longer find them in any store in my home town. Now you can only get them from grocery stores up north. At least we can mail order them. (I just did.)

So, what scares you at Christmas? (besides the credit card bills that come in January.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Second Take on Markets

I know I'm posting twice, but I've run across enough markets, it needed two posts for ease of reading. This one is specifically for paranormal writers!

The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal—See E-mail address. Co-Editor: Kim Richards. "I'm co-editing a book on writing paranormal stories. It's going to be published by Dragon Moon Press."
"The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal is officially accepting submissions. The book will be broken down into three basic sections: background and research (elements of paranormal: vampires, ghosts, spirits, etc.), the art of writing (character creation, plotting, editing, etc.), and publishing (submitting, promoting, market resources)."
"Your proposal should include a brief outline for the chapter, and a brief bio. Multiple proposals are permitted but authors will be limited to no more than two chapters per author."
"Chapters should be between 4000 and 10,000 words."
"Deadline for chapter proposals is December 20. Acceptances will be sent by the 31st of December and final drafts of chapters are due by February 28."
"The following chapters have been assigned so please do not query about these: Paranormal mysteries, writing believable ghosts, creating vampires, angels and fairies, paranormal romance, and lesser creatures of the paranormal: Trolls, Goblins and Things That Go ‘bump’ in the Dark."
"Please send Chapter proposals to [E-mail address below]. To avoid your proposal being lost in the ocean of spam that flows through our inbox, please use ‘Paranormal Guide Proposal’ as your subject header." [E-mail: paranormalguide@yahoogroups.com]. Deadline: Chapter Proposals: December 20, 2008; First Drafts of Chapters: February 28, 2009.

Sunday musings and market news

When I run across market info that might be of interest to sci-fi/fantasy writers, I try to pass it along. I think we fall into that category, so here's something that might fit you!

Clarksworld Magazine—PO Box 172, Stirling NJ 07980. Editor: Neil Clarke. "Clarkesworld Magazine is an online venue and chapbook series for short works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Each month, Clarkesworld will publish two pieces of fiction, one solicited from an author with one or more books published, and one chosen from the rolling open call for submissions below."
"There have been some changes in our submissions process, so please read our guidelines carefully before submitting something a story to us."
"Clarkesworld is also accepting queries for nonfiction and art."
Fiction Guidelines: 1000–4000 words; pays 10¢/word. "We have a firm word limit of 4000 words. Please do not query about word lengths. We will not consider stories longer than 4000 words or shorter than 1000 words. We claim first world electronic rights, first print rights for the production of signed/numbered limited edition chapbooks (author must be willing to sign 100+ chapbooks), and non-exclusive anthology rights."
"Stories must be:"
1. "Well-written. Language is important. If your story is only a story because you didn't have the funds to produce and direct a short film or a sufficiently large live audience for the telling of a fanciful anecdote, then I don't want to see it. There is no distinction between ‘style’ and ‘substance’ or ‘story’ and ‘writing’—stories are made out of words. If your story isn't worth reading as a collection of words, sentences, and paragraphs, it isn't worth experiencing in story form."
2. "Convenient for on-screen reading. Very long paragraphs or typographical trickery may work against you."
"Science fiction need not be ‘hard’ SF, but rigor is appreciated. Fantasy can be folkloric, medieval, contemporary, surreal, etc. Horror can be supernatural or psychological, so long as it is frightening. There are no barriers as to levels of profanity, gore, or sexuality allowed, but high amounts of profanity, gore, and sexuality are generally used poorly. Be sure to use them well if you do use them."
"Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:"
a. "stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory"
b. "stories in which the words ‘thou’ or ‘thine’ appear"
c. "talking cats"
d. "talking swords"
e. "stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines"
f. "stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies"
g. "time travel too"
h. "stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a' comin', Communion wine turns to Christ's literal blood and it's HIV positive, Satan's gonna getcha, etc.)"
i. "stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals"
j. "stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING)."
k. "stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago"
l. "stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it"
m. "your AD&D game"
n. "‘funny’ stories that depend on, or even include, puns"
o. "sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates"
p. "stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange"
q. "stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one"
r. "your trunk stories"
Fiction Submissions Process Guidelines - NEW: "Clarkesworld has adopted an online submissions system to help streamline our process and improve communication with authors. As a result, we will no longer accept E-mail submissions. Go [to the Web site] to submit your stories."
"Our online submissions form is designed to be simple. All fields (author, E-mail, title, cover letter, and story) are mandatory. Your cover letter should contain your publishing history and any other relevant information (e.g., if you send us a lusty pirate story and happen to BE a lusty pirate, mention that). Stories must be in standard manuscript format and can be submitted in either .RTF or .DOC format. No simultaneous submissions. If you have questions, concerns or technical issues, please contact Neil Clarke [at E-mail address below]."
"After completing the online submission form, you will receive an E-mail confirmation with a tracking number. This number can be used at any time to check the status of your submission. If you do not receive this E-mail, please contact Neil."
"Our goal is to respond to submissions within two weeks. We do ask that you:"
a. "Please do not send queries until after a three-week period has passed. Please check our forum or Neil's blog or our forum for any important announcements first."
b. "Do not send revisions to a submission at any time."
c. "Writers may not submit another story for a period of seven days after receiving a rejection."
d. "Please do not re-submit stories that have been rejected. Do not query for permission."
e. "Writers whose work is accepted may not submit again until six months after their story is published."
f. "Please do not argue with rejection slips."
"If you are uncertain about anything above, we recommend following the most conservative interpretation."
[E-mail: Questions: clarkesfiction@gmail.com; http://www.clarkesworldmagazine.com].

The Edge of Propinquity—See Web site. Editor: Jennifer Brozek. "NOTE: These stories are intended for a mature audience."
"The Edge of Propinquity is a series of short stories exploring the world around us that lurks just beneath the surface. It is the world of the unexplained, supernatural, magic, horror, duty, responsibility, black humor, conspiracy, unknown heritage, and power."
Theme for 2009: "The theme for the 2009 year of TEoP is ‘Compromise.’ The theme for the first year of The Edge of Propinquity was ‘Revelations.’ The theme for the second year was ‘Consequences.’ The theme for the third year was ‘Retaliation.’ Your story may encompass and expand on the previous themes."
"In order to be accepted for publication, stories must fit the Webzine's theme and setting. The setting is a modern day story focusing on a character deep within the hidden world that surrounds mundane society. All guest author stories must include an active compromise from one character to another (i.e., The giving up of one thing to get something else). This can be mundane to supernatural (i.e., man allows monster to live in return for treasure), supernatural to mundane (i.e., werewolf allows kid to live after promised secrecy), supernatural to supernatural (i.e., mage versus mage compromising over a stolen artifact) or mundane versus mundane via supernatural means (i.e., murder covered up if allowed on the cheerleading squad)."
"The hidden world does not have to be supernatural. It could be conspiracy based. No far future, medieval, Heaven/Hell, or alternate dimension stories, please."
2000–6000 words; pays $50/story. "This flat rate fee is payable through PayPal within seven days of the story's publication."
Submission Guidelines:
1. "Your story must be an original, unpublished, stand-alone short story not based in any of the other Edge of Propinquity story worlds."
2. "Send submissions to [E-mail address below] with the subject line ‘TEoP SUBMISSION: [Title Name].’"
3. "All submissions must be sent in plain text in the body of the E-mail. E-mails with attachments will be deleted without being read. If your story requires specific formatting, use standard plain text formatting techniques."
4. "If your story is selected, you will need to provide a 100x100 pixel black and white headshot as well as a 100–150 word biography to be published with your story. Please see the Guest Quarters section of the site for examples."
5. "No simultaneous submissions."
6. "Note: You should recent a confirmation of receipt of your story within 48 hours of submission. If you do not receive acknowledgment, please query. After that, you should receive an answer within eight weeks of submission. If you do not receive an answer as to whether or not The Edge of Propinquity will retain your story after eight weeks, please query."
Usage & Terms: "By submitting your short fiction to The Edge of Propinquity, you are agreeing to the following usage and terms for your story."
1. "Exclusive first digital publication rights for a period of one month, and non-exclusive digital publication rights through the end of 2010. The story will be linked from The Edge of Propinquity front page for one month. After that month, you may submit your story to any other market so long as you inform the editor/publisher of the story's prior publication in The Edge of Propinquity."
a. "During and after the month your story appears on the front page, it will be located in the Guest Quarters section of The Edge of Propinquity Web site until January 1, 2010."
b. "After January 1, 2010, all guest author stories will be archived in The Edge of Propinquity: Compromise archive for one year (2009)."
2. "Non-exclusive print publication rights. Our goal is to publish a hard copy anthology of The Edge of Propinquity. As such, authors must agree to give non-exclusive print publication rights to The Edge of Propinquity. If, on submitting your story to another publisher you enter into an agreement that requires exclusive print publication rights, it is your responsibility to contact the editor of The Edge of Propinquity immediately. If The Edge of Propinquity becomes a hard-copy anthology, all guest author stories will be included and the author will receive one complimentary contributor copy of the anthology."
3. "You retain copyright to the work."
[E-mail: gaaneden@gmail.com; http://www.edgeofpropinquity.net/].


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thirteen Winter Musings

What do you think of winter? Do you relish the cold? Are you the first one out the door to catch snowflakes on your tongue? Are you a skier?

Or do you hate the chilly weather? Do you flee from frosty air and console yourself with hot chocolate by the fire?

It’s December and I’ve already had to shovel the driveway three times. In celebration or to psych ourselves up for winter’s arrival, I’d like to share some seasonal quotes.

Thirteen Winter Musings

1. In a drear-nighted December, Too happy, happy brook, Thy bubblings ne'er remember Apollo's summer look; But with a sweet forgetting, They stay their crystal fretting, Never, never petting About the frozen time. John Keats

2. In cold December fragrant chaplets blow, And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow. Alexander Pope

3. Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

4. December fog – among the yellow leaves a dead frog.
Michael P. Garofalo

5. Winter dies into the spring, to be born again in the autumn.

Marche Blumenberg

6. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together.
Verna M. Kelly

7. Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
Victor Hugo

8. In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.

Christina Rossetti

9. You can’t get too much winter in the winter.
Robert Frost

10. Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.

Sinclair Lewis

11. God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.
James Matthew Barrie

12. In the depth of winter I finally learned that there within me lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

13. Before the end of December, generally, they experience their first thawing. Those which a month ago were sour, crabbed, and quite unpalatable to the civilized taste, such at least as were frozen while sound, let a warmer sun come to thaw them, for they are extremely sensitive to its rays, are found to be filled with a rich, sweet cider, better than any bottled cider that I know of, and with which I am better acquainted than with wine. All apples are good in this state, and your jaws are the cider-press.

Henry David Thoreau

What do you think of winter? Perhaps you share one of these famous individuals’ opinions. Or maybe you have another insight. Please share.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Don't Be A Turkey!

The Turkey City Lexicon is a collection of tips, tricks, terms and writing pratfalls that has little to do with our fine and tasty feathered friends. It got its name from an Austin, Texas, science fiction writers’ workshop. Developed by and for science fiction writers, there is much to admire in the TCL, no matter your favored genre. Additionally, writing groups like Critters.org and the Otherworlds Writer’s Workshop added their own items to the uncopyrighted mix.

As far as romance authors are concerned, the Lexicon can be of great use, whether you use it in your critique group to streamline explanations or in your personal editing to recognize naughty writing habits that don’t involve whipped cream or shape-changing heroes. The Lexicon makes no attempt to be “nice” about amateur writing, and you might find yourself flinching if you recognize some of the things you might have done in your own stories. Several entries in the Lexicon jumped out at me as issues I hear discussed in the romance industry, and I have elaborated on them below. Please note that my selections from the TCL have been edited for content, and if you want to see the whole shebang, visit one of the many websites that features it.

1) “Said” Bookism — An artificial verb used to avoid the word “said.” The term “said-book” comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purpleprose synonyms for the word “said,” which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era.

Ex: “Derek, what are you doing rifling through my lingerie drawer?” Shana ejaculated. [I don't know about you but if the female character in my story is the one ejaculating, I'm not writing in the genre I thought I was!]

2) Tom Swifty — An unseemly compulsion to follow the word “said” with a colorful adverb, as in “‘We’d better hurry,’ Tom said swiftly.” This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props.

Ex: “Shana, what are you doing home so soon?” Derek said angrily. [I thought about having Derek say this startledly, but that was too much even for an example of bad prose!]

3) Fuzz — An element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. The word “somehow” is a useful tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story.

Ex: Derek had meant to hide his pilfering from Shana, but somehow he had forgotten what time she came home from work and somehow he had forgotten to lock the front door of the house. [Somehow, I think Derek is probably a tool, don't you?]

4) Show, Not Tell — A cardinal principle of effective writing. The reader should be allowed to react naturally to the evidence presented in the story, not instructed in how to react by the author. Specific incidents and carefully observed details will render authorial lectures unnecessary.

Ex: Shana’s very painful childhood and broken marriage with Derek’s kleptomaniac twin brother left her unable to trust Derek and suspicious when she found him in her lingerie drawer. [You'd think Shana would have learned her lesson with the first twin...]

5) Idiot Plot — A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author’s convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own.

Ex: Derek grew angry with Shana when she forbid him from her lingerie drawer because he knew she had bras to spare. In turn, she accused him of going through her lingerie to fantasize about his ex-girlfriend who had happened to call three days ago. They had a passionate battle which prevented them from admitting their true feelings. [Considering the ex-girlfriend called to invite Derek for a "repeat of last Friday", perhaps Shana wasn't such an idiot.]

6) Infodump — Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. Infodumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or “Encyclopedia Galactica” articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures.

Ex: When they went out to dinner after make-up sex, Derek secretly wore her scarlet bra and panties under his Armani suit. Derek had made a habit of wearing his girlfriends’ undergarments for years, ever since his mother used to dress him in girl’s clothing and make him tap dance upon the kitchen counter to the delight of the rest of the family. Derek had been a very attractive boy with long black curls and luxurious eyelashes. [The black of his curls matched the black of the blade of the knife with which he... Ok, no, he's the hero of this 'romance'!]

7) “As You Know Bob” — A pernicious form of infodump through dialogue, in which characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very common technique is also known as “maid and butler dialogue.”

Ex: “As you know, Derek, I caught you in my lingerie drawer just yesterday,” said Shana. “So this makes the tenth time in a month you have gotten in my panties.” [Derek laughed inwardly because she didn't know about the other times.]

8) Frontloading — Piling too much exposition into the beginning of the story, so that it becomes so dense and dry that it is almost impossible to read.

Ex: Shana takes pity on the readers of the OtherWorld Diner and does not give a frontloading example.

9) “I’ve suffered for my Art” (and now it’s your turn) — A form of infodump in which the author inflicts upon the reader hard-won but irrelevant bits of data acquired while researching the story.

Ex: The next day, Derek resisted the urge to wear panties under his Armani suit. Cross-dressing is a growing but furtive American phenomenon that affects both males and females. It had been scientifically proven that not just homosexual men wear female undergarments but also heterosexual men. [And all sorts of women wear trousers. What is this world coming to??]

10) Used Furniture — Use of a background out of Central Casting. Rather than invent a background and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheel, let’s just steal one. We’ll set it in the Star Trek Universe, only we’ll call it the Empire instead of the Federation.

Ex: Derek could stand it no longer, so he drove home at lunch to put on a bra. Their nosy next-door neighbor Mrs. Busybottoms walked around to peer in the bedroom window with her yappy lap dog when no one answered the doorbell. “Well, I never!” she exclaimed when she saw Derek in Shana’s underwear. “Wait until the ladies at church hear about this!” [They'll be lining up at the window for their own sneak peek!]

11) Viewpoint glitch -- The author loses track of point of view, switches point of view for no good reason, or relates something that the viewpoint character could not possibly know.

Ex: “Derek!” cried Shana. She was broken-hearted to notice the wisp of lace poking out of the back of his pants. He had figured his Armani suit coat would cover it. “You’re wearing my red underwear and my favorite black bra!” [Once again, Derek cursed Shana's X-ray vision for spoiling all his fun.]

12) “Burly Detective” Syndrome — This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detectivepulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.”

Ex: Tears streamed down Shana’s face as she padlocked her underwear drawer. The voluptuous blonde felt her world would never be the same. It would take her longer to get dressed, longer to put the laundry away, and she shuddered to think what would happen if she lost the key. Would the voluptuous blonde ever feel free and easy about her panties again? [And then it occurred to her if she switched to thongs, Derek would quit wearing them because they were so blasted uncomfortable]

13) The Grubby Apartment Story — Writing too much about what you know. The kind of story where the starving writer living in the grubby apartment writes a story about a starving writer in a grubby apartment. Stars all his [or her] friends. Also known as "chick" or "women's" lit (kidding!).

Ex: Shana went to the lingerie store. The voluptuous blonde bought some 36C bras. She paid with her only moderately overdrawn credit card. She walked through the mall and out the entryway. She scratched her nose. [She couldn't think of a blog post. She remembered how funny the Turkey City Lexicon was. She...]

From the Critters.org additions:

14) Infohiding — Withholding crucial information from the reader that the POV knows. Used to create cheap tension without having a necessarily tense plot. If you need to keep something hidden, present it from a POV who can’t find out [the information] either (though the hidden thing itself should still be interesting and worthy of being hidden).

Ex: What Shana had not realized by Chapter 17 was that Derek was actually a male stripper, who would take off his Armani suit for bachelorette parties all over the city, and the jaded society women tipped better if he wore women’s undergarments. Though half the book was in his POV, he never mentioned his job or why he was really wearing the panties. [But he did have an unidentified source of one dollar bills...]

www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html (original version)

www.critters.org/turkeycity.html (Critters.org version with extra entries)

www.otherworlds.net/turkey.htm (annotated version)


Jody W.

http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/

Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Tool for Agent Hunting

OK, so now that my monster manuscript has been trimmed down to a more marketable 403 pages, every chapter edited to the best of my grammatical ability, and the synopsis polished ‘til it shines, it’s time to send my baby out into the world. First step, the great agent hunt.

Typically when I’m querying agents, I keep track of who I’ve submitted to, their contact info, when I submitted and with what (e-query, snail mail query, partial, full), what their response was, etc. in an Excel spreadsheet. Well, while updating my list of potential agents I stumbled across a site anyone on the agent hunt might be interested in. It’s called LitMatch.net.

Disclaimer: this is not an endorsement, I just thought it was a cool site for writers

LitMatch is a free, on-line database of literary agents. You can select the criteria you want to sort by--if they’re an AAR member or not, if they’re currently accepting queries, if they’re based in New York or somewhere else, what genres they represent, if they have a blog--you name it. Or you can just browse through the listings of all 800 agencies and 1722 agents. See an agent you like? Click on their name and it gives you the genres they represent, submission guidelines, professional history, email and mailing address. In addition to that, you also get the number of the offers, requests, and rejections made by that agent (this part can only be so accurate because I’m sure not every member of LitMatch enters their submission info or keeps it up-to-date, but it gives you a basic idea). Some agents have rejected everything that came their way from LitMatch members while others have made requests. Haven’t run across any that made actual offers, but I’m sure there are a few. It also lists their response times and how they responded. You can also click on a tab that lists some of their clients while another tab contains comments from LitMatch users on their interactions with the agent.

Another neat thing about the site is if you register (it’s free) you can log in your manuscript (title only) and keep track of who you’ve submitted to, when, how, and what their response is/was (this is where the above mentioned data of requests/rejections and response times comes from).

I think this site is pretty cool but it isn’t the end-all, be-all of agent hunting. As any good author knows, you need to do your research. While each agent/agency page has a notation of the last time it was updated (and noted if the agent herself reviewed and updated the info), it’s not 100% reliable. I noticed one agent listed who I know is no longer in the business and another I have doubts about (she’s no longer listed on the agency’s website). Always double check the agent’s contact info and their submission guidelines on their agency website if they have one (and if they do, there will be a handy-dandy link from LitMatch to it).

So that’s it in a nutshell. Now that I’m armed with a list of some 40 prospective agents, I’m off on the great agent hunt once again.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adventures in Advertising

Greetings everyone,

I've started to float downward since receiving my cover art...then I kind of plopped to the ground. I realized that now that I have cover art and a release date, I'd better promote this story of mine or it will be pretty but won't sell any copies. Panic!!!!

This past week I've been looking for ways to promote my work. In some cases with success, in others-not so much. Here's what I've learned so far. 100 4x6 prints at your local Walgreens only costs about $15.00-20.00 and then (if you're published in e-format) you have little covers to hand out in order to promote your book. I handed my first one out to the girl who printed the photos for me. She reads books from EC and thought it looked interesting. Cha-ching!

You can even sign the lovely prints - but be sure to get some of those paint marker thingies. I had a meeting last night with the program committee of my local RWA group (we were planning the group programming for upcoming year). They all knew I had my cover and someone had asked, we'll if it's an e-book how can we get you to sign it for us. Soooooo, I brought my 4x6 prints and signed copies for everyone. My first ever "book signing". It was VERY fun.

So I stopped to think about what else I could do to promote myself and my book. I already have a Web page I adore designed by Stonecreek Media. Another good promotion location is MySpace, so I asked someone I know at PI, Emma Petersen, to redesign my MySpace page. I'll probably get a redesign of my personal blog page too in the near future, but for now it works okay.

Another great promotional tool is a bookmark. Now that I have cover art, I can move forward with a bookmark and a fresh design for a business card. Friends at PI highly recommended Croco Designs and so I went to Frauke's site to look over her design work. Tip: ALWAYS review the design portfolio of whoever you intend to hire in order to confirm they know what they're doing and you like their style. I really liked the designs so I'm having both a bookmark and business card created.

Frauke recommended an online printing company called GotPrint and I'll be using them. I've used VistaPrint for business cards in the past, but they don't offer bookmarks right now. VistaPrint is a good place to start out though and I was satisfied with my business cards from them. When I went to the RWA National conference two years ago, I needed a few hundred business cards in a hurry. They put them together and they looked good. Now, I want something more personalized.

I've also started buying advertising on a couple of high traffic Web sites: The Raven Happy Hour, Erotic Romance Writers, and I'm trying to get a spot with Romancing the Blog. However RtB sent back a response that they won't be taking any new advertising until January. I will have to check back though.

So what else can I do? I'm trying to decipher how to run a virtual book tour. I have no idea how to conduct one of these things. If anyone has suggestions, please (and I mean PLEASE) post in the comments area. Any and all suggestions, comments, and commiserations are highly welcome!

So that's where I am. A solid thump in the bottom after the floaty phase. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Prompting Fun

Over the last few weeks (and beyond?) the employees of the Otherworld Diner have had fun writing fiction that began with a writing prompt. Writing prompts are popular writer’s helpers. And why is that? Possibly because give a writer something to "chew on" (as my daughter puts it), and the writer’s muse will likely keep on until she comes up with a story to go along with the concept.

Personally, I’ve had two published short stories that were developed due to writing prompts. One, "Alev Ha-Shalom" was the result of a first line writing prompt given to me by my older daughter. The story formed almost immediately in my mind, and was published in Lost in the Dark (online) magazine. The other was "Nightfall in G-Flat" (which I posted here). This story was the result of a contest, and the prompt was the title.

It’s not only formal prompts that result in stories. One "prompt" that I made use of came to me in a dream. Honest. The dream was about a cat I used to have, and the first line was in my head when I woke up, "Randi was never a good witch, at least not in the sense of a good card player or a good dancer." The story, "Misha" found its way into an anthology. Southern Comfort: A Charitable Anthology.

Because I’ve had so much fun with writing prompts, I think I’ll try my hand at writing prompts:

1. Someone finds a monkey wearing pajamas, but all is not what it seems.

2. A brand new silk blouse is delivered to someone. There is no return address or indication of where it came from.

3. A television commercial leads to a brand new life for someone.

Feel free to play with these. Or maybe you’ll have a very strange dream tonight. Either way, enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you from us to you

Happy Thanksgiving!

The diner’s closed today so we, employees, can be home with family and friends, but thank you for visiting. We wouldn’t be in business without you. Please stop by tomorrow for our Black Friday specials, including our stellar cheesecake. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Healthy Pie Sacrilege??

I don't know if it is sacrilege or not, but here's a "healthy" pumpkin pie recipe we're trying this year. NOT at the Diner -- don't be ridiculous! Diner pies are all sugar and lard, all the time! Okay, not lard, or at least not all the time. But writing is a solitary and often sedentary occupation and it behooves writers to watch our sugar/fat/etc. intake. Anyway, here's the recipe.

Lite Pumpkin Pie

1.5 cups frozen fat-free vanilla yogurt, softened
1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (9 inch)
1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sucralose-based sugar substitute
8 oz carton fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Smooth the softened frozen yogurt into the crust, which explains why it needs to be softened, eh? Now, because we're geniuses, let's refreeze it for 30 minutes! While it's in the freezer, get a bowl and add pumpkin, fake sugar, and spices (everything left but the crust and the whipped topping). Mix all that up and then "fold in" the whipped topping, which basically means stir it in slowly. Remove pie crust from freezer (if it's been 30 min) and spoon the pumpkin mixture on top of it. Freeze again for 6 hours up to overnight. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before you try to cut it.

Oh, and...we have a regular pumpkin pie in the fridge already so it's not like we're denying ourselves.

What's the most non-traditional thing your family eats during the holiday season?

Jody W.

A brief promotional plug: My not-for-Disney fairy tale, A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH, was released in print form from Samhain today (November 26) if you like paper books instead of ebooks! http://samhainpublishing.com/print/a-spell-for-susannah-print

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Golden Heart

Okay, I am really sorry about posting so late. Blame it on the Golden Heart Contest. (BTW, I have no idea why the picture on the left looks silver instead of gold...but it should be gold...at least that would make sense, right?)

Today, I sent my baby--my manuscript--off to Texas to RWA's Golden Heart Contest. If you're a romance writer, chances are you already know all about the GH. If you're not, well...it's the biggest contest around for unpubs. And it ain't for the faint-hearted.

You see, as much as we writers may complain about the process of creating like wrestling with writers block, nailing deep POV, or landing in rewrite hell, to me the most difficult part of the process is letting go. I know. I worked (notice the past tense, did you?) on this MS about 4 years. Finally, after having some very valid and true weaknesses exposed, I edited (again) and sent it out into the big, bad world. Today. All of this "letting go" stuff stands in direct opposition to my Italian mom nature. Big time.

Now, there's just the waiting.

Relatively speaking, the GH doesn't get you much bang for your buck. Priced at $50.00, this contest is hefty for my purse (especially these days). However, I needed incentive and desperate times call for desperate measures. Losing that much money because I couldn't hit a deadline works for me. Gone was the dawdling, the procrastination, the excuses. Oh yeah, I needed the GH because I needed to move on.

I hate to moving on, btw. (see note about Italian mom instinct above.)

Gratefully, my MS is out there and out of my hands. Pass. Fail. Win. Lose. I hit the deadline. I did it. And that accomplishment has lifted me out of a handful of dark days here in Jersey. The time has come.

It's a new day.

A new story.

And a new deadline.



Monday, November 24, 2008

The Paranoid Writer

Say the word ‘writer’ and the first words that come to mind are creative, solitary, and maybe even eccentric. But how about paranoid? Ask any writer and most will admit to experiencing paranoia concerning their writing at some point in their career. Sometimes it never goes away. Most cases of writer paranoia are related to either someone stealing their work or their ideas. While written work is automatically copyrighted the moment it’s put down on paper, ideas can’t be copyrighted. They’re out there for the taking and a writer can’t do a thing about it. In our creative paranoid minds, how does this happen? I’ve made a list of several types of writer-related paranoia we all might be familiar with:

Web Site Paranoia - the fear of putting first chapters on your web site and someone steals your idea from there.

Critique Partner Paranoia - the fear that one of your critique partners will trash your idea, then turn around and write a book using the very same idea.

Contest Paranoia - the fear that a judge reading your entry will steal your idea and write a similar story.

Submission Paranoia - the fear that an editor will read your submission, like your idea, but want one of her established authors to write the book instead and she gives the idea to them. (I doubt this happens but I’ve talked to several authors who genuinely have this fear. Some have it so bad, it keeps them from submitting their work.)

Synchronicity Paranoia - the fear that another writer will come up with the same idea at the same time out of pure coincidence.

Synchronicity is the paranoia I deal with at least once a month. I must confess that as I peruse the paranormal romance reviews in the latest issue of Romantic Times Magazine, I’m not looking for more books to add to my TBR pile (found a few anyway, not that the pile needed to get any higher). No, I’m looking to see if any books coming out are similar to the one I’m working on now. Each time the new releases are listed, I panic that some other author will have come up with the same idea. I worry that the book I have slaved over for two years will be worthless because some one else has beat me to the publishing punch. Are my fears justified? By the laws (or is it rules?) of synchronicity, they might very well be.

My current story has a dragon shapeshifter in it. “But that idea has been done before,” you say. Yes, but not quite the way I’ve done it (and no, I’m not going to tell you the twist). As far as I can tell, my take on the dragon shapeshifter story idea is different and unique. But it’s only going to be unique until somebody else thinks of it. So what’s a writer to do? The only thing I can do--finish polishing the book and get it out to editors and agents as fast as I can. I can’t control whether it gets published or not but if I don’t put it out there, it most certainly won’t be and someone--maybe next month, maybe next year-- will come up with the same brilliant idea and beat me to it. I don’t want that to happen. In the game of synchronicity, I want to be the one who beats somebody else to the idea first.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Release Date and Cover Art News!

I'm floating on clouds...
on pillows on clouds...
on feathers on pillows on clouds....

Why? Because I've received the cover art and release date for my book, Protect and Defend. My editor emailed me to tell me the book will be released by Ellora's Cave on January 7, 2009 and the cover department emailed me with a graphic of the cover art. The news and the graphic completely knocked me over.

I've kind of experienced this excitement before. It was a thrill when I saw the cover and received my author's copy of the anthology, Paranaughty, in the mail. To know that my short story, Alpha v Alpha was in print and I held it in my hands was awesome. But this one means even more, and I think I know why.

Because this book is ALL mine. My name is on the cover and my hero, Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf is depicted there. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing a creation which is entirely yours readied for publication. Not only that, but I absolutely LOVE my cover. And let me say, Diar is seriously hot!

As soon as I saw the cover, I felt like singing and I've been grinning like a fool for the last couple of days. I even took the graphic to a local drugstore to have 4x6 prints made! I had an 8x10 made, but I put it into the frame right after I cleaned the glass and messed up the print, so I'll have to redo it. Even so, my heart is ready to hang the image on the wall where I can see it daily. For inspiration, you know. It's not just the hot guy...oh, no. ;-)

This cover is perfect because it fits the story. After all Diar takes his clothes off several times and he has his badge and gun on as he gets started. Like my heroine, Mikaela, I really like the way Diarmid looks as he removes his...gun and badge. Hey, what did you think I was going to say?

Receiving my release date and the cover art makes everything real. I know my book will become available and readers can download it to enjoy. That makes everything worthwhile for me. I'm thrilled that my readers will have the opportunity to fall in love with my shapeshifting crime scene investigator the way I did. And you know what, I'm even willing to share. The one problem is, I don't think Mikaela will. Oh well, that's what happy endings are all about! The heroine gets her hero and they live happily ever after...with hot sex.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meanwhile Back at the Diner Part II

continued from http://otherworlddiner.blogspot.com/2008/11/meanwhile-back-at-diner.html

"She bit me!"

Cheryel and Jody took off toward table seven.

"Who bit you?" Jody asked the customer.

"She did." He pointed straight toward Veronica.

"Blood drinker," a deep, ominous voice came from somewhere near the opening to the kitchen.

Cheryel looked toward the accused. Veronica certainly didn’t look like a vampire you’d see in a movie. Though beautiful, hers was a casual beauty. Cheryel had the feeling this woman was more nerd than vamp—pun, sort of, intended.
"It wasn’t me," Veronica whispered. "I’d never hurt a human."

"She did, though," the customer at table seven insisted. "She bit my hand and tried to drink my blood."

Cheryel and Jody exchanged a look. "Hand?" Jody asked.

"That’s weird," Cheryel said.

Table Seven glared. "Weird or not, that’s what happened."

"I saw it too," The shapeshifter at table four said.

Cheryel looked around. The only other customers were a couple at the corner table, and they were so totally involved with each other, it was unlikely they noticed anything.

"What are you going to do with that blood drinker?" Table Seven’s face was burgundy.

"Shouldn’t have blood drinkers among humans," came from the general direction of the kitchen.

"Like you’re human, Igor." Cheryel marched over to the door to the kitchen and pushed it open.

The regular cook was out sick, and Igor had come to help out at the diner.

Jody put her hands on her hips and glared at the substitute cook. "I was very clear that anyone who works here has to be accepting of whatever form our customers take."

"As long as they aren’t a danger to the other customers. I clearly remember you saying that. Blood drinkers are a danger to the rest of us."

"No," Veronica stood glaring toward Igor. "We’re not!"

"You bit me," Table Seven insisted.

"If someone bit you, it wasn’t me." Veronica crossed her arms in front of her.

"I saw you!" Table Seven insisted.

"I saw her too," Shapeshifter said.

"You said I’d be safe here." Veronica turned her glare on Cheryel, whose heart dropped to her bellybutton with the weight of the guilt heaped onto it.

"She’s telling the truth."

They all turned to look at the couple in the back of the diner. "You did see what happened," Cheryel said.

"Of course we did." The woman smiled lovingly at the man. "Just because we come here for some time together—and the best pie in several dimensions—doesn’t mean we’re totally unaware of what’s going on around us."

The man, Cheryel could see now that he was a leprechaun, nodded. "I love my sweet fairy, but it’d be madness to ignore potential danger."

"Like blood drinkers," Igor said.

"No," the leprechaun said. "Like devious shapeshifters."

"A male to female shifter." Jody turned to the man and did some serious glaring. "I should have known."

He shrugged, then abruptly "he" became "she." At first "she" was a short blonde, but then she became tall and shapely, with long light brown hair. It wasn’t an exact likeness of Veronica, but close enough to pass if you weren’t looking too closely. And apparently nobody had—except the couple in the back.

"I suppose I owe you an apology," Table Seven said, his head down, eyes studying the floor.

"It was an honest mistake," Veronica said, then turned to the shapeshifter, who was a short blonde woman again. "You, on the other hand did what you did with evil in your heart."

The shifter smiled. "It was such a fun game."

"It was hardly a game," Jody told him. "And you are no longer welcome in my diner."


"Go." Then she turned to Igor. "And you’re fired."

"Figures." He pulled off his apron and tossed it on the counter, then stalked out the door.
"Thank you," Veronica said, to all of them.

"Everyone’s welcome here," Jody said. "Of course we don’t have a cook at the moment."

"Maybe I can help."

They turned to the fairy. "I make a decent meal," she said.

"She’s an excellent cook," the leprechaun told them. She’s even studied in Paris."
The fairy’s face went ruby red.

"Welcome to the diner," Jody told her.

The staff went back to work, and before long new customers came in and the place became business as usual. As she worked though, Cheryel couldn’t keep from thinking about another leprechaun, one she was very familiar with. As soon as the next shift came in, she took off in that horrid Celerian ship, for once not noticing the sound much. All she could think of was getting home to show her husband how much she appreciated him.

The End (at least for now)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Look at Alliteration A Cure for the Coming Winter Blues

Winter’s on her way in Wisconsin. The nights start sooner. Viruses cause throats to ache and noses to sniffle. The north wind blows a chill through my windows.

I feel a touch of sadness when I trudge across the cold, gray ground to pack straw around my roses and put them to bed for their seasonal sleep. I need something to lift my spirits.
Sometimes writing is fun in its own sake. Other times, you need something more. A technique in writing, alliteration, is fun and sometimes quite whimsical. It’s an almost guaranteed mood lightener.

My son, home today with the flu, and I have been playing with alliteration, the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of the words in the same sentence or phrase. Alliteration is often sprinkled into the writings of great poets such as:

Henry W. Longfellow in his "The Wreck of Hesperus"
“Then up and spake an old sailor, Had sailed to the Spanish Main,I pray thee, put into yonder port, For I fear a hurricane."

And Robert Frost in “Acquainted With the Night”

"I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry came over houses from another street "

And Shel Silverstein in “Eight Balloons”
"Eight balloons no one was buyin' -They broke loose and away they flew,
Free to float and free to fly
And free to pop where they wanted to. "

But the Alliteration that tickles my son and I is the kind that ties your tongue in knots.

Here are 13 tongue twisters he and I have chosen to share.

1. Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought better butter to make the bitter butter better.

2. The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick.

3. I saw Susie sitting in a shoe-shine shop.Where she sits she shines, and where she shines she sits.

4. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
5. A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies

6. Six thick thistle sticks. Six thick thistles stick.

7. A sailor went to sea
To see, what he could see.
And all he could see
Was sea, sea, sea.

8. Sister Suzie sewing shirts for soldiersSuch skill at sewing shirtsOur shy young sister Suzie showsSome soldiers send epistlesAnd say they'd rather sleep in thistlesThan the saucy, soft short-shirts for soldiers Sister Suzie sews

9. Never trouble about trouble until trouble troubles you!
10. Knapsack straps (say this several times)

11. Friendly Frank flips fine flapjacks

12. Moose noshing much mush (say this several times)

13. I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish,
But if you wish the wish the witch wishes,
I won't wish the wish you wish to wish.
We invite you to try some of these. I bet they’ll make you smile. Do you know some tongue twisters you’d like to share?

For more tongue twisters check out: http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/en.htm, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8136/tonguetwisters.html,
http://www.esl4kids.net/tongue.html (where my son and I found our favorites)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Club 100 for Writers

Since about January 2003, I've been a member of a secret club of successful writers.

Ok, so it's not that secret, it's just not that well known. I'm talking about Club 100 for Writers.

The brainchild of Avis Hester, a writer from Georgia, it’s based on the idea that it’s easy to write 100 words. Author Beth Pattillo (www.bethpattillo.com) runs the email group where you can keep track of your progress. Heck, you probably write thousands of words every day in emails, notes or memos without even thinking about it. So 100 words is nothing, is it? Ten minutes of your time. It will take more time for your computer to boot up than it will to write 100 words. In fact, I’ve already written more than 100 words just telling you about the program.

The way it works is you pledge to write 100 words a day for 100 consecutive days on your manuscript. If at any point, even on day 99, you fail to write 100 words, you have to start your day count over again. So the incentive to keep writing is not having to start over — that and the new pair of shoes or new reference book you’re going to buy yourself when you meet your goal.

Why is this different from other BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) programs? First, 100 words a day really is easy. Really. It's not like NaNo, although NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, going on now!) is also wonderful. One of the most obvious, and fixable, things between aspiring novelists and publication is finishing the book. You sit down, prepared to put in a couple hours, and that blank screen — or that last scene — eats away your brain until you can’t even get started. Or you while away your time revising your first three chapters endlessly, like some kind of Promethean writer’s hell. Write your 100 words first then do whatever you want. It will only take you about 10 to 15 minutes. Chances are, once you get started, you’ll want to keep writing.

Second, 100 words a day isn’t intimidating. You aren’t telling yourself to sit for three hours without once checking your email. You aren’t telling yourself you have to finish this chapter or draft an entire 10-page synopsis (speaking of writer’s hell). You’re just saying that you’re going to write 100 words…which is about the length of the first paragraph in this article…and anything else is gravy. Since your goal for the day is so tiny, you’re very likely to achieve it, and everyone knows that achieving your goals leads to increased self confidence.

Third, if you manage to motor along with Club 100, keeping your gears greased makes the writing flow more smoothly. Those 100 words keep your plot and characters in the forefront of your brain, instead of in the back behind the pickles and the scary egg salad leftovers. So you think about your book more, both consciously and subconsciously, and when you sit down to write you’ve got more ammunition and more to say.

Will 100 words a day get your whole novel written? No, but the fact of the matter is, when you sit down each day the 100 words become easier and, on frequent occasions, turn into 500 words a day. 1,500. I managed a 6,700-word day recently when I thought I’d be lucky to get my 100. 6,7500 words! Now that’s the way to get your whole novel written. (Of course I was writing a 6,700 word short story, but you know what I mean.)

What they are saying about Club 100:

“Club 100 helped me finish the rough draft of my manuscript in record time. This concept has brought a consistency and discipline to my writing schedule that is paying off in increased output as well as improved quality.” — Susan Peck

“Every book is different, and my work in progress is moving slowly. I’m only writing a few hundred words a day. Club 100 helps me focus on consistency. And all those small totals really do add up!” — Ransom Schwerzler

“Club 100 has enabled me to get back in the groove of writing consistently. I've added 80 pages to my current WIP in the last month. Another benefit of the list is the encouragement one receives whether 100 or 1,000 words are written.” — Mary Varble

“Club 100 gets me to the computer on days when I'd rather go alphabetize my spice rack. By drastically lowering my expectations about how much I must write on a given day, I find it easier to begin. Once I'm over that hurdle, I'm usually fairly productive.” — Beth Pattillo

“Club 100 is a great way to keep you from falling into that trap of saying you’re too tired, too busy, too something to write. It helps prevent the common problem of having difficulty getting back to writing after being away from it for several days.” —Trish Milburn

Link to Club100: http://www.bethpattillo.com/id8.html

Recommended for writer's block and writer's progress!

Jody W.
LIAM'S GOLD--Available now, Samhain Publishing

Monday, November 17, 2008

Writing Prompts and such

Okay, so for now we are closing the curtain on Chris, Donner, Vixen and Dash. I must say that I never suspected that out little prompt would prompt so...much! Now I'll be developing those characters into a YA novel in the near future.

As Bruce Springsteen wrote: From small things, Mama, big things one day come.

Sooo what did I learn from the experience?

1. I LUUUUV writing YA!
That was my first try and boiy was fun! I have 2 teenagers in my house and steal their novels on a regular basis so, I knew I liked reading it, but I actually LOVED writing it: the pace, the humor and the angst.

2. I am not a pantser but...
Things kept happening as I wrote the next installment. Characters shifted. Worldbuilding began...ACK! The words kept coming!

3. Cliffhangers rock.
I love leaving readers hanging. MWAHAHAHA!

4. The mind works in very strange ways.
I'm still not sure how I cobbled reindeer shifters, Will Ferrell and the Winter dance together, but that's the beauty of creation.

Write on!


Questions for an Agent

Since I’m about to begin the great agent search once again, I thought I’d share my list of questions I have prepared to ask the agent when I get the call *insert positive thinking here* and because the last time I got the call, I wasn’t prepared and babbled like an idiot.

About the Agent
  • How long have you been an agent?
  • How much longer do you intend to stay in the business?
  • Who else will be working on your behalf (secretaries, other agents, assistants, etc.)?
  • How many agents are there in the agency? Will they all have input regarding my ms?
  • Do you have in-house lawyers? Do you use outside counsel? Who pays for them to examine a contract? Under what conditions would the writer pay legal fees?
  • How many active clients does you have right now?
  • What other paranormal romance authors do you represent?
  • What recent houses have you sold to?
  • How many publishers - on average - will you send a book to before you give up?
  • What houses do you deal with most often (in my genre)? What editors do you submit to the most?
Agency contract
  • Do they have one?
  • Can I see it before agreeing?
  • Does your contract have an interminable clause? (with an interminable clause, if you sign with this agent, she will ALWAYS be entitled to 15% [or whatever percent you agree to] of your earnings on this book. Even if she doesn't sell it.)
  • Do you charge fees? (If yes, then run!)
  • What is your commission? (15% commission and 20% foreign are standard)
  • What do you cover and what do I cover, expense-wise? (copying and shipping for example.)
  • Do I get to approve or disapprove any expenses over, say, $200?
How Do You Work With Your Clients?
  • How much editing input do you do with your clients?
  • Do you see your role as hands-on editing/revision with each ms or do you lean more toward career guidance and go-between for editor & author?
  • What about subsequent books? Once a relationship is established with an editor do you want to review everything (proposals for option books, new ms) before they’re sent to the editor or do you leave the editing/revision of any future manuscripts up to the editor?
  • What is the protocol when you don't want to represent a particular ms, but would prefer another project instead? Who determines which proposals are submitted to publishers?
  • How often will I hear from you? (Once a week, once a month, only when necessary?) How? (email, phone?)
  • What do you expect from me as a client? Do you expect me to be writing a certain number of books a year?
  • Royalty statements: Do you send out the original statements from the publishers or copies?
This Book

  • When do you think you’ll start shopping this around?
  • Which editors do you have in mind?
  • Do you make multiple submissions?
  • Will you keep me up to date on what's going on with the ms? By phone? E-mail?
  • Will you pass on rejection letters or just paraphrase them to me?
And last but not least, say thank you, that you’ll think about their offer and call them back in a day or two. Then hang up and dance around the house like a maniac.