Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Remembering Kate Duffy

I'm sure most of you have heard by now of the passing of Kate Duffy of Kensington. Many of her authors have been online the past few days to mention her and the fond memories they have. I wanted to take a moment to remember this strong romance supporter and editor who went out of her way to help writers become published and give advice when asked. She donated her time to worthy causes and has always been spoken of well in the publishing business. I did not know Kate, having only met her once, but I know she will be greatly missed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inside an Editor or Agent’s Head

I’m in contest mode right now. No, I’m not entering them. I’m judging them. Somehow I managed to volunteer to judge two contests at the same time, so I’m up to my eyeballs in entries. As I ‘struggle’ through each one, I now know why editors and agents whip out those form rejections. With some manuscripts, there’s so many things wrong with them, there’s just no place to start. The grammar and sentence structure is so bad, it gives me a headache trying to read it. Or the plot is so overdone, I can name at least a dozen authors who’ve written a similar book and done it ten times better. Sometimes, there’s not really anything wrong with the writing, it just doesn’t have that special…whatever. The story doesn’t bore me to tears but it also doesn’t keep me turning the pages to see what happens next. It doesn’t excite me.

Out of the batch I’ve gone through so far, there’s only been one that I wanted to keep reading past the first page. It wasn’t because it was technically better than all the rest – it still had some issues. But the writing was engaging enough, the plot was fresh (or at least fresher than any of the others so far), and the author’s voice showed through the typos and occasional grammar boo-boo. If I was an agent or editor, I probably would’ve requested to see more. Then again, if this was one of a hundred queries I’d received that day, maybe not.

I can honestly say that after years and years of judging contests, I’ve only run across one entry that really grabbed me. I couldn’t stop reading it. I was upset when I got to the end and there was no more. As page after page drew me in, I got chills thinking, “OMG, this is fantastic! Why is this author not published yet?” I wanted to track her down after the contest was over and beg her to let me read the rest. It was the type of entry, that if I was an editor or agent reading it, I wouldn’t just email the author and request more. I’d pick up the phone and call her and say I want to see the rest NOW!

So I have learned one valuable thing from judging all these contests. I know that if I’m ever going to sign with an agent or sell to an editor, that’s how I have to make them feel. The writing has to excite them. It needs to give them chills (in a good way) as they read it. It has to keep them turning the pages, totally oblivious to the chaos of the office around them. It needs to leave them reaching for the phone because they can’t wait to read more and not copying and pasting that dreaded form rejection letter and whipping it back to me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Tooth Fairy Cometh

Last night was a very busy night for the Tooth Fairy. Yesterday one of my son’s friends lost both his front teeth on the father/son Indian Guides campout, then the little girl down the street lost her front tooth, and finally yesterday afternoon my son lost his front tooth that had been dangling by a thread for almost two weeks now. As I tucked him into bed and he checked on his prized tooth for the 100th time, he looked at me with those big, brown eyes of his and asked me in all seriousness if the Tooth Fairy was real or if I snuck in his room at night, took the tooth and left the money. My heart plummeted to my stomach. My son is only seven years old. He can’t be disillusioned of all of childhood’s special wonders so soon, could he? I asked him why he asked, thinking the older kids may have spilled the beans on the back of the school bus. Not so. He wondered because he had seen two of my molars that I’d had pulled back when I was a teenager with braces stuffed in an old jewelry box of mine. I told him of course the Tooth Fairy is real. I just never cashed in those teeth and instead decided to keep them, since they would likely be the last teeth I ever lost. I told him he could keep his if he wanted to. With the greedy gleam only a seven-year-old can have, he tucked his tooth under the pillow and said he’d much rather have the money. And so, my son drifted off to sweet dreams, still believing in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus . . . at least for one more year.

So when did we stop believing in those special childhood visitors who snuck into our homes in the wee hours of the night? For us paranormal writers, I think there’s a part of us that still does believe. I know I do. Only now our night visitors might be a little more grown up and a tad scarier (or perhaps sexier, depending on the tale we’re telling *G*). But I believe they’re still out there, somewhere, waiting to pay us a visit some dark and magical night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Summer’s Over: Getting Back to Books

This is Harvard's Science Library.

Today’s blog is something of a public-service message. …

Did you know that September is Library Card Sign-Up Month? Probably not.
Now that summer has slipped away, to encourage everyone to visit their local library and apply for a card -- or make the best use of the one they already have -- I’ve compiled 13 quotes about reading I hope will inspire.

Header from samulli

1. “To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.” -- Andre Gide
2. "Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. " -- Groucho Marx
3. My dad’s favorite: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -- Joseph Addison
4. “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” -- Jacqueline Kennedy
5. “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.” -- Walt Disney
6. “We read to know we are not alone.” -- C. S. Lewis
7. “He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes.” -- Isaac Barrow
8. “Life-transforming ideas have always come to us through books.”
-- Bell Hooks
9. “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
-- Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
10. “The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things.”
-- Umberto Eco, “The Name of the Rose.”
11. “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” -- Frederick Douglass
12. “To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” -- Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables”
13. “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
-- Harry S. Truman

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Kind of Creature

Like most writers, I have a favorite writing space. It used to be the end of the couch in the family room but when we reclaimed the sunroom (aka playroom) from the kids and turned it back into a real sunroom, I picked out the perfect writing chair for me to call my own. I love this room. It's (usually) a quiet place with plenty of light and gorgeous views of the woods.

Speaking of views, this is one from my writing chaise. And what do I find in my line of sight this morning...

Can't see it? Let's move a little closer...
(note where the red arrow is pointing)

Still can't see it? How about a close-up...
That's right. A gianormous spider has woven a web across my sunroom door. As I sit here writing away, I can feel his eight spidey eyes upon me and thoughts run through my head...is it keeping something out or keeping me trapped inside?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paranormal creatures

This week I want to talk about creatures used in paranormal fiction. We all know about the Hobbits and Gandalf the Grey, Hogwart's, Haggard and Harry Potter and the mystical creatures they deal with on a daily basis, and even Twilight, the vampires and werewolves inherent in any such storyline. There are so many other creatures to study and learn about to make our stories come alive for our readers with something new and different, or maybe even just a few different tweaks to a familiar creature we feel we know too well.

One of my favorite books is called The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews. Its subtitle is: the ultimate a-z of fantastic beings from myth and magic. What more could we ask when we're writing about myth and magic? You'll find a definition for a multitude of little-known magical creatures, mystical beings we've heard of in lore and fiction, but haven't really taken the time to research. This is your chance to find out the Black Shuck, otherwise known as Old Shuck or Shuck Dog, a one-eyed dog the size of a donkey to be found in England. Or perhaps the Irish Lair Bhean, a grey mare hobby horse who accompanies revelers on Samhain night (Halloween). Maybe even the Russian Sivushko, a magical horse that could leap over mountains. It's a great and wonderful tome of various creatures of lore and legend guaranteed to get your creative juices going.

We'll be talking about some of our mystical creatures this week, so be sure to stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School’s In: 13 Quotes about Education

September is a month of beginnings for me. As a teacher, September’s arrival signals a whole new year, full of promise. To celebrate the start of school, I’ve collected 13 quotes about education, both positive and negative.

Header from samulli

1. “If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.”
-- Edgar W. Howe
2. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
-- Albert Einstein
3. “Learning is finding out what you already know.”
-- Richard Bach
4. “To teach is to learn twice.”
-- Joseph Joubert
5. “It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”
-- Alec Bourne
6. “I've never let my school interfere with my education.’
-- Mark Twain
“7. The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” -- B.B. King
8. “A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep.”
-- W.H. Auden
9. “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” -- Angela Schwindt
10. “Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going back to school the next day. It would have been called Independence Day, but that name was already taken.” -- Bill Dodds
11. “Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of facts.” -- Henry Adams
12. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
-- John Dewey
13. “Only the educated are free.” -- Epictetus

As you may have guessed, I like school and enjoy taking classes, but my children remind me that not everyone is as fond of education as I am. What are your thoughts? I’m always happy to read your comments.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

What does Labor Day mean to you? A day celebrating the workers of our Nation, from the burger flippers at Micky D's to the CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations? The last day of summer? A good reason to throw an outdoor barbeque?

For me, it means the beginning of my work season (September through mid-June). The kids go back to school tomorrow -- Woo hoo! -- and I can begin a new manuscript after taking the summer off. OK, so I read a lot, making a minor dent in my TBR pile. For writers, we can justifiably call it market research. *G* But come tomorrow, it's time for Lori-the-writer to plant her butt in the chair and get back to work. Or, in other words, start the labor.