Monday, March 30, 2009

Contests Part 2

Last week, I ranted about contest score sheets. This week, I’m going to rave about discretionary judging. Today I got the score sheets back from a contest I entered months ago. Two of the first round judges loved my entry, giving me high scores. Yeah! But the third judge absolutely hated it. I mean loathed, reviled, bleed-all-over-it-with-a-bloody-red-marker detested it. I won’t go into everything she said about my entry, but suffice it to say this judge doesn’t live by the “if you can’t say something nice” rule. Now, I know all writing is subjective but she even marked off for something that I did correctly: manuscript format! After 10+ years of writing and submitting, I think I know what industry standard is.

But you know what? I’m not upset. I actually chuckled when she said it would take a lot of editing and revision to bring it up to publishable standards. Why am I laughing, you wonder? Because her death valley low score was thrown out and the discretionary judge gave me another high score (bless her), sending my entry into the finals. A final, I might add, that’s the 4th for this particular manuscript out of the 7 contests I’ve entered it in (not counting the Golden Heart which is a total crap shoot IMO). Not bad if I do say so myself.

I just wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall when that low scoring judge found out the entry she hated finaled and that the judging editor ranked it 1st place. And if that didn’t take the sting out of her uber-critical critique, the $100 1st prize check I got sure did. *G*

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Life is good!

We've spent some time it's time to rave :)

This week has been very busy for me. On a down note, my laptop crashed. However, I spent a lot of time talking with and booking editors, agents and a movie producer for a conference I'll be attending in June. My DH and I will be in charge of the pitch sessions, and I couldn't be more excited!

If you have the chance to do at least one writer's con this year, do it! I can't tell you how valuable that will be if you're very serious about your career, because you'll make contacts and network with people in ways that are bound to help your career. If you'd like, I can post some do and don'ts as we get closer to conference season - just post a comment and let me know, so I can get something together.

I'd love to discuss networking with you guys. I teach a class or two on it every year, and am more than happy to share tips and ideas with fellow writers.

Happy writing!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nothing to rant about...

I've got nothing to rant or whine about. That's why I didn't post last weekend. Same problem. Life's been pretty good for me.

We had a couple of layoffs at my library - but I'm sad about that, not mad. I will miss seeing those co-workers on a regular basis and I'm sad that budget cuts are forcing the decision on my library director. However, I'm really grateful that I was not one of those people who lost their job because of this wretched economy. So, first good thing - I have my job and it pays pretty good. I'm not living the high life, but my bills are paid. I'm grateful.

My first royalty check from Ellora's Cave was delayed because of bank changes, but last week I received it. It was a beautiful thing and way more than I expected. As a result, I've been accepted into PAN (the published author network of Romance Writers of America). I'm grateful for the things this check has allowed me to do - pay bills, book promotion, etc.

This week I found out my book, Protect and Defend had been reviewed in the May issue of Romantic Times Magazine. It received a rating of 4 1/2 stars out of five. I'm thrilled and I'm grateful they liked my work.

My second royalty check should be on it's way from Ellora's Cave. It's not here yet, but it soon will be. I'm grateful for that.

My editor emailed me this weekend. She should have the edits for my second book to me by early next week. I'm ready to get started with the new book, so I'm grateful for her hard work in making this possible.

So as you can see, I have nothing to rant about. I could rant about having nothing to rant about but that might just be silly. I'm grateful and happy with my life right now, so this is the best I can do with my post. It doesn't exactly fit the theme, but at least I wrote something this time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blue Line Specials

They’re at the ends of the aisles in parking lots. They have blue lines. They have Blue signs. They’re "special" spots. They’re handicapped parking spaces.

My rant? There aren’t enough handicapped spaces, people who don’t need them use them, and people regularly block the spaces.

"Handicapped" spaces are close to the doors of business because people with physical disabilities need to be close. Maybe the person has a disability that impairs the ability to walk, maybe the person’s balance is bad—making it more likely they’ll fall—and be hit by a car, maybe they use a wheelchair—putting them lower and harder to see by the cars zooming along. Maybe the person has a heart or lung problem making it hard to walk, or a back or arm problem making it difficult to carry things—like packages.

Handicapped spaces are also close to curb cuts or ramps, making it easier for wheelchairs, or people who have difficulty with steps, to get into the building. And handicapped spaces are wider than regular spaces. Those diagonal lines beside the spaces are part of the space. They are NOT another space or a motorcycle space. Let me repeat that. An area with diagonal blue lines is NOT A PARKING SPACE! Not even if you have a handicapped parking permit.

Self disclosure here. I used to have to use a power wheelchair. One with a motor and a joystick. You can’t put those things in a regular car. You need a van with a lift. And a very wide parking space. I learned very fast to park diagonally, so as to block the area I needed to put down the ramp. If not, I couldn’t get back in the van. In fact, I was blocked out of the van on a regular basis. Now I try to stay out of "van accessible" spaces (doesn’t mean they’re where vans should park, they’re supposed to be wide enough for a lift—they frequently aren’t, by the way). If someone parks in that blue diagonal area, or takes the "van accessible" space, someone in a van with a lift is in trouble.

As for the more narrow diagonal blue areas, try to unload a wheelchair sometime—and slide over into it. The door has to be completely open and the person in the car has to be able to get into the chair.

Contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t always a "caregiver" who goes with a person with a disability to help and park and do things. People with disabilities can and do live regular lives and go places alone—or with other people with disabilities.

While I’m at it, I’d like to dispel a few other myths: No, there are NOT "too many" handicapped parking spaces. In fact, there aren’t nearly enough. I’ve had to go home before because I couldn’t find a space close enough to where I was going. No, handicapped people aren’t lazy. And it’s not a "problem" for someone with a handicapped placard or tag to park in a "regular" space. Maybe they’re having a good day. Or they can’t find a handicapped space. Or maybe it’s the wife or husband or daughter or son or friend who’s using the car. Or maybe they just couldn’t find the space they really needed. And yes, people really do get upset about people with handicapped tags or placards parking in non-handicapped spaces.

And no, it’s not okay to park there "just for a minute." If you do, you might well ruin someone’s day. And if you are an able-bodied person and you’re bringing grandma to the doctor, let her out at the door and park in a regular spot. Leave the handicapped space for someone who needs it. ESPECIALLY at a doctor’s office. No, it won’t hurt you to walk a few more feet. Maybe you can forgo the treadmill today. And feel good about yourself.

I don’t get why some people resent people with disabilities, but I know they do. True story: A man who uses a wheelchair was asked by an able-bodied coworker if she could use his handicapped placard (he actually had a handicapped driver tag, but she assumed he had a placard) so that she could do her holiday shopping. In an effort to educate, he asked what he was supposed to use—since she’d have his placard. She said that handicapped people didn’t need to be in the mall during the holiday season since they were "just in the way."

Thank God most people aren’t like that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Animals to Watch in Spring

Are you excited about spring’s arrival? I am. I’ve been watching for it for longer than I probably ought to. (Winter in Wisconsin, as you may have heard, seems interminable.)
Officially spring began on the Vernal Equinox, when the length of days and nights are the closest to equal because the tilt of the Earth's axis is virtually straight, neither leaning toward or away from the Sun.

The Vernal Equinox is usually March 20 or March 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, so that means it’s already behind us and each day is growing progressively longer.

Those of us who aren’t trying to gaze into the depth of the solar system or comparing the day-to-night length can search for other signs of spring. We look for animals.

1. Robins. When we spot one, we know that winter either has or will soon vanish.
2.Rabbits. You’ll probably notice them seeking bunny partners. It’s time to start a family.
3. Whooping Cranes. We seldom see them, but occasionally one or two wade in the pond nearby.
4. Bald Eagles. They, too, are rare in our parts, but in less densely populated areas of Wisconsin, close to a body of water that serves as a feeding grounds, to catch a glimpse of this majestic bird is not unusual.

5. Loons – if you’re fortunate enough to live on or near a lake.
6. Hummingbirds. These amazing creatures with their super-speedy wingbeat are returning to their Northern homes to build nests. My father tries to entice them with a hanging globe filled with red sugar water, with some success.
7.Gray Whales migrate, too. They return to their breeding grounds in spring. We don’t see many in Wisconsin (none, in fact) but we do dream of vacations on ocean shores.
8. Frogs.
9. Bears, awakening from hibernation. My brother who lives in Northern Wisconsin sometimes spots them.
10. Groundhogs awaken from hibernation, too, including Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania (for Groundhog Day).

11. Sea otters look for mates in spring. Sometimes biting noses to show attraction.
12. Foxes move about, and have kits.

13. And deer have fawns in spring.

In my backyard I have the pleasure of observing deer, wild turkeys, rabbits and robins. What animals do you watch? What animals do you associate with spring?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Your Manuscript Didn't Final in the Golden Hearts

My post for this week is about awards season in Romancelandia. Is there anything in our little corner of the internet that evokes more angst -- and more ranting -- than RWA's Golden Heart and RITA Awards? Well, there probably is, but since the nominations were announced today ( I thought it might be a good time to summarize, in a nice, concise list, the most common reasons why manuscripts do not final in the Golden Heart.

[[The Golden Hearts, for those of you who aren't part of Romancelandia, are the awards for unpublished manuscripts, and the RITAs are for published manuscripts. Both awards are judged by RWA volunteers in the initial round, and entries are not nominated from all available books. They must be placed in the contest by their authors (or publishers) along with a fee and enough copies to go around.]]

The List:

1) You requested your cross-genre manuscript be entered in the WTF category, and there isn't one. (But if there had been, you'd have gotten first place!)

2) Your judges were looking for something fresh and different--but the same. Your book was merely fresh and different.

3) Your synopsis was heavily embellished with the phrase, "And then some stuff happens."

4) Your synopsis ends with the phrase, "And all the stuff happened because a wizard did it."

5) The dollar bills you inserted between the pages of the print-out just didn't push your judges over the edge of meh.

6) The hero and heroine did not meet until page 7, causing 3 or more judges to mark it "Wrong Category" since it should have been in Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.

7) Several of your judges had the highly contagious but little-known disorder referred to in the vernacular as "upsidedown syndrome" and wrote "6" when they really meant "9".

8) You wished for health and happiness instead of a Golden Heart nomination when you blew out your birthday candles last year.

9) There was no heroine, only two heroes.

10) Who may or may not have been named Sam and Dean Manchester.

For the 13 Reasons Why Your Book Didn't Final in the RITAs, visit Beyond the Veil!


Jody W.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Contest Score Sheets

As we begin Rant Week 2, I’m gonna get on the soapbox about contest score sheets. I just got the results back from the latest contest I entered. Now, I know I shouldn’t complain since I finaled. **yippy! happy dance** But when I saw my scores I was quite honestly surprised I did. I got dinged bad by 2 of the judges because my hero isn't introduced in the 1st chapter. Grrr. I hate that. I also hate 1st chapter contests that expect everything to be revealed in what, the first 15 pages? Maybe, if it's CATEGORY. I write 100K+ books. Heck, my last book didn't have either the hero or heroine in the 1st chapter at all. It featured the 2 major secondary characters. It didn't bother my (then) agent but it would've put the contest judges' noses out of joint, I'm sure. (I knew not to send that one out on the contest circuit). And what if I did reveal it all like the score sheet wanted? You know I’d get dinged for info dumping. Um, hello, isn’t that what the synopsis is for?

Just so you know, I’m not a contest diva and I only enter contests that have an editor I want to get my manuscript in front of. I also usually check to see if the score sheets will be "friendly" toward my entry but this contest didn’t have theirs online to see. All I can say is if I finaled with what I consider 2 lowish scores (the 3rd was a perfect 100 *G*) that many of the entries must have suffered the same fate as mine did.

As everyone knows, contests are a crap shoot. You never know if you’re going to get a futuristic author judging your Regency historical or a contemporary series author who’s never read a paranormal judging your werewolf meets Godzilla entry. In most cases, an experienced judge knows how to adjust for this. A newbie judge/writer, well you’re probably SOL. But sometimes, as was apparently the case in this last contest, the judges feel their hands are tied with the score sheet set up the way it is. The lowest scoring judge gave me a perfect score on everything but the hero (she gave me 1s) and the romantic plot (duh, since the hero hadn’t shown up yet, there obviously couldn’t be any romantic sparks between the H&H), but apologized profusely for being forced to do it. My perfect score judge (a published author) said "Scr*w it, I don’t care if the hero hasn’t been introduced yet. I’m giving this author a perfect score anyway.” *G* Thank you Madam Judge for giving me the benefit of the doubt, which is what I do when I judge contests.

In the world of romance writing contests, you’re going to find judges who are the ‘benefit of the doubt’ kind and some who are ‘buy the book.’ Contest coordinators should make their score sheets more intuitive and less paint by the numbers. They need to revise their score sheets so that there is an alternative for the judges, like 'If the hero or heroine are not present in the 1st chapter, does the synopsis reveal a potential for romance?' or something like that. Like I said, I shouldn't be complaining because despite the skewed score sheet, I did final. But I'm speaking for all the other entrants who didn't make the cut because I hate to see a good entry get kicked out of the game because it’s not playing by somebody’s idea of ‘the rules.’

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

I started this blog a bit early - it's almost midnight on Saturday, but I was so anxious to share, I just had to come ahead of time.

I've spent the last week working on a screenplay, a book, two editing projects and cooking. I love all of it! And some days I wonder how I am ever going to get it all done. But this week was a good one. I saw three movies - Watchmen, Race to Witch Mountain and Duplicity. Nice thing - when you're a screenwriter, you get to deduct such expenses on your taxes :)

Anyway, I thought the rest of the week would be the usual, but ... I decided to become an agent and actually sold a book, get to pitch to a movie producer in a few months and got two new clients I have to work into my schedule.

We're actually having a ranting week, and trust me, I have weeks like that. I'm really glad this isn't one of them. You've heard all the publishing bad news, but I can tell you, there's still a place for each and every one of you who has a story to tell, so don't give up! You have to write because you're a writer, and you have to write because you need to be published.

So get on your butt and get busy! I want to see progress posted here on how everyone is doing. Commit a goal to us and then let us know you're working ... do it today! The minute you get done reading this!

What are you waiting for? Go!!!
Jeannie :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

OK, enough with the Daylight Savings Time fiasco. I don’t care how wonderful the reasons are for this unreasonable attempt to make nature fit our human lifestyles; you can’t really change the hours in a day. The sun will shine for however long it’s supposed to shine. The number of hours depends on the relative distance from and the angle between the earth and the sun. It has nothing to do with the number on our watches. Pretending it’s 6pm when it’s really 5pm is just plain silly. Plus, it messes with people’s rhythms.

The human body has various processes (digestion, blood flow, etc.) which are constantly in action. These processes have ebbs and flows in the same way the oceans do. These fluctuations are commonly called biorhythms, and are part of who we are. We all know people who wake up ready to get going—who are most productive in the morning. Then there are those who do their best work in the evening after everybody else has gone to bed. Morning person or night person, most of us tend to have a downtime in the afternoon. And pretending it’s 3pm when it’s actually 2pm isn’t going to change that.

There aren’t enough hours in the day as it is, and when the "time changes" (which is a ridiculous statement) we all go through a period of adjustment. This adjustment can decrease productivity and increase stress. It’s sort of like jet lag—without benefit of travel.

Maybe I’ll go to Hawaii next time the "time changes." If I’m going to have jet lag, I want pictures to show for it.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hello Green!

Header from samulli
I DON’T know about you, but I suspect you, too, are sick of winter. Here in Wisconsin, we’re subjected to almost FIVE MONTHS of finger-numbing conditions – from November well into March.

Believe me, it wears on you. But finally it’s all changing!

A recent unseasonably 70-degree day inspired me to fling open windows and doors and dash around my soggy, still yellow lawn to inspect my bulbs. Were they growing yet? Yes! I saw a little green poking out of the soil.

I decided I had to nurture that green, that little hope of spring. So sending positive vibs to my emerging flowers commemorating spring’s arrival and tossing in some St. Patty’s Day cheer—here’s my list of 13 green items.

1. a bottle
2. the vegetation around a waterfall.
3. clover
4. a hoodie
5. a butterfly
6. a leprechaun
7. celery
8. bamboo
9. peas
10. a “Go Green” sign
11. my backyard (hopefully soon)
12. gumballs
13. a sculptured bush

How about you? What’s the weather like in your hometown? Has Spring emerged? Or are you still shoveling the white stuff? Send a comment to let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Blogger Monica McCabe on Whining

This week and next week, as noted, we're relieving some stress the wordy way! Tonight I've invited romance writer Monica McCabe, aka "Adventure Girl", to talk to us about whining and comlaining in general. Enjoy!


I have a legitimate complaint. Honestly, I do. My dilemma is picking which one I want to whine about most. There is so much subject matter to choose from. The lousy economy, the 10% pay cut I just had to take because of the lousy economy, the extra spring landscape work I have to do because I ignored the fall clean up, the insurance guy who forgot to add that rider for our other property and we didn’t find out until after that wind storm? When it comes to bellyaching, I can probably lead the pack.

Quote: Oh, wouldn't the world seem dull and flat with nothing whatever to grumble at? ~W.S. Gilbert

That’s totally true, but I’m taking the high road for this forum. Never mind that I’m risking an ulcer in the process for locking away all that angst. They have a name for people who publicly complain on blogs you know – Demotivational Posters. No way I’m getting stuck with that moniker. Not that I haven’t been called Moniker before, with a name like Monica I’ve certainly heard worse. No, what worries me is the burning hole that rage creates if it doesn’t find a way out. Fortunately there are options for those of us needing to vent their irritation in a non-high-profile way.

• Find a secluded corner and scream. I don’t personally recommend this one unless you are completely alone. The resulting 911 calls from neighbors or coworkers only add to your growing heap of frustration.

• Keep a journal and write down every nasty thought that comes your way. Just make sure you either hide it where it will never, ever be found, or burn the massive tome at the end of each year. Last thing you need is for someone to find it and make your mad rantings public.

• Go public with your nitpicking. I know, I just said you shouldn’t. But there are actually websites that allow you to anonymously snarl at the world. Just change the names of any mentioned evil doers because an injunction for slander will only cause more irritation. Try or just drop by for a dose of someone else’s ire. Might make yours seem paltry, thus releasing your stress.

• Voodoo dolls. Don’t do it. Even though the gratification of sticking a hat pin through the spleen of your annoyance might sound tempting, the law of karma should make you think twice. The safety of your own spleen might be at stake here.

• There’s my personal favorite – write a book and create characters to either kill off or suffer the fires of purgatory. Model your victims from those you despise the most. It’s sneaky, cathartic, and though your nemesis might suspect, they can never prove it, not as long as you’ve taken proper precautions (see slander reference above).

• And lastly, it may comfort you to know that complaining is as old as time. If cavemen could grunt their displeasure, why can’t you? Well, you can. Have you any idea how many words there are that can be defined ‘to complain’? Moan, whimper, bellyache, gripe, drone, howl, criticize, grumble, carp, nag, object, protest, bitch, nitpick, grouse, bemoan, lament, growl, snarl, rumble, grizzle, snivel, grouch, whine…and about a zillion more. This legitimizes complaining as an art form.

Quote: I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain. ~Jane Wagner

That proves it, right? So there you have it. My little rant on complaining. What about you? Have you any suggestions to share? A crafty way of venting that gets the point across without bashing anyone over the head? Not that I’m not counting that option out or anything, sometimes I’d like nothing better than to deliver a good whacking. It’s just the physical effort it takes would be exhausting.

Monica McCabe, Adventure Girl

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Little Whine With That Cheese?

The girls here at the diner feel the need to vent this week. Guess that means I get to start off the pity party.

Want to know what’s been bugging me lately? My characters. They aren’t playing nice. They still refuse to tell me where the heck this story is going. And I hate that. I’m a plotter to the core. For my last two books, the entire story played out from start to finish in my head like a movie on the big screen and all I had to do is write it down as fast as I could before I forgot it. Not happening with Sam and Roderick’s story. They keep teasing me with a snippet here, a brief flash there. It’s all previews and no feature film. I am soooo not good at pantzing. Tried it once with my very first book and it shows -- that puppy is never coming out from under the bed. But I have no choice. If my hero and hero refuse to come out and play, I have to play without them . . . and it’s a no fun swinging on the swings all by myself.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Read an E-book Week - March 8-14, 2009

If you haven't been living under a rock for the last few years, you know e-books are electronic books which are downloadable from publishers' Web sites. When e-pubs first started springing up you could only read e-books on your computer, but now people can download them to readers (like the Sony Reader or the Amazon Kindle), their cell phones, iPods, and any number of other electronic devices we carry with us every day.

Publishers, writers, e-zines and a number of other companies, organizations, and individuals have partnered to create a week devoted to promoting the e-book revolution. They call it "the future of books." Do I think print books will ever, I don't. People enjoy holding books in their hands. But like the scene in one of the Star Trek movies, print books as we now read them might one day be a luxury rather than the norm. But hey, that was the 24th century or something and we're only in the 21st, so don't panic yet.

The Read an E-book Week Web site offers some great reasons for reading e-books:

  • It's green - because it reduces your carbon footprint.

  • It's cutting edge - you can get the newest books when they're new with no waiting for copies in a book store.

  • It's getting less expensive - e-books are already less expensive (or at least comparably priced to print) and the readers are dropping in price. Also since you can download to your phone, you can read anywhere.
That's great for readers, but what's in it for authors you might ask. Let me tell you - cause I'm an e-book author.

My first book was published by Ellora's Cave in January and shortly I will be receiving my first royalty check. Yeah, that's right. It came out in January and two months later, I get my first royalties.

On e-books, my publisher pays 37.5% royalties on each book sold. That is a very nice royalty rate. Now, I received no advance - that's true. However, I don't have to worry about sell through (where you don't make a dime more until your book makes back your advance). I also do not have to worry about holds against returns. That's where a publisher will hold some of the royalties your book has earned because they might get returned from book stores.

I haven't yet received my check (due to a bank mix up - darn bank) but I now know how much that check will be for...and I have no complaints. In fact if you heard an odd scream echoing across the fields this morning - it was me. I'm quite happy with my e-publisher. I'll be happier when I receive the check - but hey, no worries.

Don't let people tell you that publishing with e-books is something you do at the end of your career when you're desperate - unless you consider Danielle Steel desperate. DS just announced her books would be coming out in electronic format and she's not the only big name going there. Then when you look at romance - many writers who are household names started out electronic. Lora Leigh and Cheyenne McCray both started at EC. In addition to her fabulous print books, Angela Knight also publishes with Loose Id.

Smart authors cultivate relationships all across the publishing spectrum. Don't cut off your nose to spite you face. I'm happy in electronic publishing right now. One day, I may choose to go to print. If I do, I'll have a solid track-record of sales for EC and be all the more interesting to Kensington or St. Martins or someone else because of it. NOT in spite of it.

But hey, if you choose not to consider going electronic that's cool too. More contracts for me!

Friday, March 13, 2009

To Twitter Or Not To Twitter, That Is The Question

Help! I’m being dragged into the 21st Century.

First there was the whole computer thing, and learning to use Word (and that magical spell-check!). Then there was the culture shock of email. Eventually I was convinced to start a blog as a place to vent about both medical issues and my writing. I was surprised that I met so many fantastic people and enjoyed blogging so much. And when I discovered the amazing amount of publishing information out there, I felt I’d found the treasure at the end of the rainbow! Until I realized there was more than I could ever hope to keep up with.

Then I sold a novel. "You have to have a MySpace," I was told. And a Facebook. I fought it for a time, but it wasn’t long before I gave in. And again I was blown away by the variety of people I met there. It was great. I love it—maybe too much.

Now there’s Twitter. Yeah, I know it’s been around for a while, but I’ve been staunchly standing with my head buried firmly in the sand. Why? Because I am the queen of wasting time on the Internet. In fact, it seems the more behind I am, the stronger my desire to put random subjects in Google and get lost in a meandering search. Adding one more thing to take up my time just seemed counterproductive.

The temptation is just too great, though. Too much going on that I’m missing. An opportunity to meet more people. A way to do a bit more promo. A place to learn more about readers, writers, and the publishing world. I’m getting pulled in…closer…closer…

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love this Internet stuff. The problem is that I love writing more than anything except my family and friends (well most of the family anyway). It’s hard to do both and still have time for…what’s it called…oh yeah…


Meet you on Twitter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

13 Encouraging Quotes… to Keep You Plugging Away at Your Work-in-Process


Ah, revising. It’s necessary but painful. Beginning writers hate it. Many experienced writers aren’t crazy about it, either.
Afterward, I get a sense of enjoyment. In the same way as when walking through my kitchen after I’ve washed the dishes, put the food away, emptied the garbage, and swept the floor.
I feel a satisfaction as tangible as the clean scent of lemon wafting from the kitchen tiles.
When I revise a manuscript, I’m hope for positive feedback from my critique partners, saying something like: “I see what you’re getting at.”
That thought helps make revision tolerable.
But … while I’m tearing words from my manuscript, staring at those awkward sentences I failed to fix yet again or reworking whole sections, I often need a dose of inspiration and encouragement. I imagine you might, too, so I’d like to share a sampling of the quotes that keep me going.
Header from samulli

1. The wastebasket is the writer's best friend. -- Isaac Singer
2. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. -- Elmore Leonard
3. A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition. -- Clare Whiting
4. Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and a particular skill. -- Edmund Morrison
5. The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat. -- Robert Heinlein
6. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. -- Truman Capote
7. Writing is not like painting, where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work more visible. -- Elie Wiesel
8. I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. ... I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out. -- Erica Jong
9. If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop. I felt insulted. I didn't realize the teacher was saying, "Make it shine. It's worth it." Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope. It's a new vision of something. It means you don't have to be perfect the first time. What a relief! -- Naomi Shihab Nye

10. Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush. -- Pete Murphy
11. Be grateful for every word you can cut. -- William Zinsser
12. The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist. -- Michael Lee
13. Some of the best writing comes when you rehash. It's in the retelling of stories that the improvement comes. I compare it to preparing a lens for a telescope. For months, all you're doing is grinding it into the generalized shape of what a lens should be. Once the rough-cut bowl is formed, it's not going to reflect an image. … In writing you can have your skeleton, your structure, but it doesn't reflect. The reflection comes in the polish. What a person will see, what a person will feel, comes in the polish. When you finish polishing your writing, it forms the image you're trying to create. -- Donald Perry

How about you ? Can you tolerate revising? Or do you hate it? What helps you keep plugging?


Monday, March 9, 2009

Hot ‘n Cold

This time last week, I was buried under a foot of snow. It was 11 degrees outside and 54 degrees inside (did I mention we lost power – and HEAT!). In between snow ramp repair and fishing children out of the creek at the end of the snow ramp run, I was busy keeping the fireplaces burning so those wet, freezing children and their friends could track snow through my house to warm up. Boy, what a difference a week makes. Today I’m in shorts, it’s a balmy 79 degrees and too beautiful a day to stay inside and write.

If I was a good girl, I would’ve taken my alphasmart to the park or sat outside on the deck with my laptop. But I didn’t. I could’ve taken a notebook down to the river or dictated into my micro-recorder as I took a nice, long walk. But I didn’t. Well, I did take the long walk but when I have the two dogs in tow (one, an energetic almost 1 year old golden retriever mix and the other an old, blind, black lab mix) I don’t get much talking done. I’m too busy trying to keep them from getting tangled up, or keeping the blind one from running into mailboxes (or me) or scooping poop. I’ve tried to walk and talk with them and it ain’t pretty.

But you know what, sometimes you just have to put the writing aside and take a beautiful day off to do nothing but enjoy it. That’s what I did and I’ve got the sunburn to show for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's happening in publishing?

I hear a lot of things about the economy and the state of publishing. It's true publishers are shutting down lines and laying off employees. But the news isn't all bad. There are still editors out there looking for work. This past week, Heather Osborn from Tor mentioned she still is accepting submissions in paranormal romance. Some of the authors I know just want to give up, quit writing and do something different. If you CAN give up, and you want to, then do what's right for you. But if you're like me, and other writers I know, you CAN'T NOT write. You have to do it, whether you get paid for it, recognized for it or rewarded for it. You hang in there, dream about it, sit at a blank computer or hold an empty piece of paper and are compelled to put words on it, even though it's difficult or intimidating - you are a writer.

What you need to know is, eventually the economy will recover. Publishers will again be looking for new writers, unpublished writers, and if you've continued writing, you'll be out there in front of the ones who quit because they believed the market just wasn't there right now. So don't give up - keep true to your course and write the very best book you can.

Happy writing!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Than Words...

I've had an interesting few weeks. At the beginning of February I had a surge with my writing where I threw out about 16,000 words because a story wasn't working and wrote about 13,000 in the space of a week or so. Unfortunately, I then hit a bit of a wall. Part of that was due to some outside forces - literally.

The evening of February 19th I tripped and fell, spent three hours on Friday the 20th being x-rayed and all sorts of other stuff. I was ordered to physical therapy for two weeks, but before I could get that set up I ended up coming down with the flu which layed me out for a week. I'm just coming back and it's really hard to get back into the writing groove again. Especially since the spot I'm trying to get written is a rather intense love scene. Despite suggestions to the contrary by many--intimate (and explicit) love scenes are not easy to write. The scene has to make sense in the context of the characters and the story. Fortunately, the scene is appropriate and in the right spot, but you have to really gear up to write least I do.

So, my characters are in bed and on the edge of consumation and...well...that's where they are. Trust me, they're ticked about it. However, when you're coughing your lungs out and tired beyond belief - writing a love scene does not happen.

However, today may have afforded me just a bit of motivation for getting better and getting my writing going again. I checked a book store for the April issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine. They had copies and I had them hold two. There are two reasons for this.

First, this may be the last ever issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine, which is a total and complete bummer. It's been a great place for aspiring fantasy authors to get their work published for some exposure. The other reason I bought two copies was because my book, Protect and Defend, is included a full color ad near the back of the issue. Ellora's Cave bought an ad before the magazine announced it's demise and I bought in on the ad so I could advertise my book. It was SO cool to get the magazine today and whip through to find my book as part of a full color ad - and it is a gorgeous ad!!! I hope it increases sales.

That's kind of the other funny thing that's been on my mind lately. Before I had sold anything to anyone, I just wanted someone to offer me a contract. I didn't think about sales or promotion or anything like that. Now, I get excited about my book and about a second sale, but in the back of my mind are things about developing a backlist. Promoting my book so I have some solid royalties coming in...stuff like that. The love of writing is still a part of me and always will be, but I'm also starting to consider the bottom line. Sales.

I don't know if that means I'm maturing as a writer or that I've lost my innocence as an author. What do you think? When you think about stuff other than the writing have you gained something or lost something? Please comment! I'd love to know what you think.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Retreating From the Everyday World

Ah, writers retreats. Wonderful areas in space and time where a writer can truly be a writer.

I was introduced to this amazing delicacy about four years ago, when I went to a Smoky Mt. Romance Writers retreat. The Great Smoky Mountains, what a perfect place to get away for a few days The location changes a bit from year to year, but the scenery is gorgeous, the company of other writers encouraging, the workshops informative. But by far the best part is leaving my "real life" behind for a weekend. Letting go of the mundane that tends to hold back the creative side of a person and diving into the exciting waters of the imagination.

This weekend, in addition to learning a lot about the craft of writing—as I always do at a retreat—I also hope to gain some insight into the two manuscripts I’m working on at the moment. I had started on one, couldn’t get into the story world, and finally put it aside to began working on another. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to figure out the problem with manuscript #1 (the heroine wasn’t spunky enough). Such is the life of a writer. Still, I know there are depths to both manuscripts that need to be explored—and this weekend seems like the perfect opportunity.

I can’t wait to get on the road. Again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Need Help Revising?
13 Tips from Master Writers

Spring, that magical time of rebirth, is almost here. It makes me think of turning the soil in my garden and putting in seeds and new plants. I think about renewal and change. Then I muse over when the bulbs I’ve tucked into the ground will emerge and what they’ll look like. I anticipate flowers -- exquisite and lovely.

I hope for the unexpected surprise as well as expected results.

Revising for me is a lot like those bulbs I place into the ground in fall. I read over what I’ve written and see if I can make it stronger -- choosing better verbs or cutting out extraneous adverbs, lines, paragraphs and scenes. I see if I can make sentences and sections clearer, less awkward and more power-packed.

Most of time, the hope that I can improve my writing keeps me going. But for those moments when I feel like giving up on a particular page or chapter, I remember that others have experienced what I’m going through and they’ve usually succeeded in improving their manuscripts. I enjoy reading their advice. It perks up my spirits.

Header from samulli

I bet their tips will encourage you, too. Here goes:

1. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again and then again and once more, over and over. -- John Hersey
2. I can't write five words but that I change seven. -- Dorothy Parker
3. Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading. -- William Zinsser
4. The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile. -- Robert Cormier
5. In working on a poem, I love to revise. Lots of younger poets don't enjoy this, but in the process of revision I discover things. -- Rita Dove
6. Don't Tell me the moon is shining; Show me the glint of light on broken glass. -- Anton Chekhov
7. Books aren't written -- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it. -- Michael Crichton
8. Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing. -- Richard North Patterson
9. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing. -- Bernard Malamud
10. Books are never finished; they are merely abandoned. -- Oscar Wilde
11. It is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. -- Robert Southey
12. My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts that readers skip. -- Elmore Leonard
13. You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. -- Arthur Polotnik
Do you have a revision story or a gardening tale you’d like to share? I’m all ears.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Off Week Links

We've got an off week here at the Diner, which means we're serving up everything from mystery meat to leftovers. Here are some of the links I visited today when I could have been writing. Okay, I couldn't really have been writing, because most of the day I had a sick or otherwise whining child draped across me, but these are places I surfed:

Passive Aggressive Notes: (I emailed the link to my sister and asked her if it looked familiar to her)

How to keep your email inbox cleaned out: (I flagged it and put it in my inbox to read later)

Fantasm Awards: (I got one for A Spell for Susannah)

Natural Insect Repellant: (I am researching herbs and spices for a work in progress)

Trouble with mice? (More research on the interesting properties of herbs)

More trouble with mice: (My mom keeps finding mice in her CAR, so my research led to a more practical area.)

Saffron: (I wanted to know how expensive it was, really.)

Herbs with Interest: (Herbs used for magical purposes--random internet list with no source information)

Merriam-Webster: (I needed a definition to be sure my heroine would actually say that word.)

Salvia: (Research sometimes teaches you things you had absolutely no clue about.)

Steatite: (Research about soapstone, der)

Advice for New Writers: (I got tired of researching and decided to catch up on some favorite blogs)

TWOP's Smallville Forums: (Every now and then I like to wallow in my hatred of the show, even though I've been "Noiscotting" all season)

Fugly: (Because I probably am, but I still visit every day)

Hair clip craft idea: (My kids both have very fine silky hair that won't cooperate with regular hair clips and God forbid I try to get a rubber band in there.)

Mama Writers: (A new blog I found for romance writers who are actively parenting small children)

Flying Spaghetti Monster: (I like to catch up on all the new sightings of his Noodly Appendages once a month or so)

Suvudu Free Book Library: (They've got several really great ebook downloads right now.)

These aren't even half the pages in my history for today, either! Sheesh, it looks like I sit around and surf the internet all day long, but I don't. I just read really fast in between feeding, bathing, reading to, playing with, cuddling, wiping the noses of, forcing medicine down and threatening my children.

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

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pet Peeve: Children in Novels

Don’t get me wrong. I love children. Got two little rug rats of my own. I also have no problem with children as secondary characters in romance novels. Many authors write them very well. However, there are some (two NYT best selling authors immediately come to mind) who either have never had children or their kids are grown and they’ve forgotten how *real* children behave. These authors either portray these kids as child geniuses or have them behave like miniature adults.

Take child example #1: Yes, I’m sure there are little prodigies who can get out a computer manual, read it, UNDERSTAND it, and reformat a hard drive all by themselves at age 10. Heck, I’ve been using a computer for 20 years (10 of those doing web design) and I have a hard time understanding how to reformat my hard drive. I also have an almost 10 year old. She’s been in a computer class in her school since kindergarten. She and her 7 year old brother can both log onto our home computer, Google a bit, and play some harmless online games. That’s all I want them to be able to do at this point. This same fictional child reads the newspaper (mine don’t even read the comics) and drinks wine with her aunt like it’s grape juice. Wine and grape juice are miles apart and unless the child is French, I doubt she’d like the taste of it much less drink more than a sip of it. And what kind of adult allows a 10 yr old to have wine in the first place? Child example #2 was 5 years old, running around on a movie set unsupervised, staying up until 2 am every night with the actors and crew, living on junk food, riding in cars with no car seat and reading on what I consider a 3rd grade level. Paleeese! (For what it’s worth, I liked both novels – it’s just the child characters in them I had problems with.)

Like I said, I’m sure there are some children out there who are computer whiz kids or are far mature for their tender years, but the fact is most aren’t. Most are normal, all-American kids. We as authors need to stay true to our characters – ALL of them. If you don’t have children or it’s been a while since they were the age they are in the novel you’re writing, do your research. Go to the park and watch the kids and how they interact with other kids and adults. Volunteer at a school. Borrow a child for the day. And above all, unless you’re writing a book about a child genius, just let your kids be kids.