Saturday, September 30, 2006

He SAVED a cat!!!!!!!!!!!!

So a week or two ago, I promised to tell you all about JA Konrath's Bloody Mary. Did I mention, again, that you can try it out for free here? And then go buy his shorts (stories, that is) on Amazon, and his other books in the Jack Daniels series.

In conservatory, I wasn't too great with form and analysis. Not that I didn't understand it; I just didn't see the point in endlessly debating whether the Coda started in measure 346 or in measure 432 for a WHOLE HOUR, when, in the end, both answers could be construed as correct. What's the point?

But I did formulate my nice little neat rhyme scheme form that is simple and helps me memorize pieces quickly. I still use other forms, but with small changes that make more sense to me.

Boy am I off topic.

My point is that a certain amount of obsession with form has been indoctrinated into me. Even without the music study, form is a necessary for creativity. Some argue that the more limiting the form, the more creative you can be.

What's so pleasing and satisfying about reading Bloody Mary, is everything is organized. The chapters are real chapters, not random divisions. Each chapter feels like a full course: a satisfying ending and a hook to make you want to start the next chapter.

In other words, I get my short story kick while feeding my novel habit, too!

His Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels series features a female lead, but keeps a very male feel. I'm not sure why. The book just felt very male. The things she notices, the things she says, the way she sits ... and then suddenly the author will throw in designer wear. Still, the characters are interesting and strong, and it's satisfying in the way Jennifer Crusie's books are satisfying: when you close a book, you hold it in your hands for an extra minute, smiling and enjoying the ending for just a little longer.

But most importantly, Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels SAVED a cat! A dirty, mean, unlovable cat! Yay! Yay, yay, yay! Way to go, JA Konrath!! And the cat scratched the heck out of the awful Harry McGlade who KILLED the dog! Hah! I love it!!!!

Did you know that directors and screenwriters will put dogs in war scenes to elicit empathy from moviegoers? They've done studies. Evidently, we don't have an emotional reaction when humans get killed, but when an animal is threatened or killed, we fear for it and we cry.

Isn't there something just a little screwed up about that???

Yesterday, I was browsing through Borders and stumbled across From Baghdad, With Love. I burst into tears, right in the middle of the store. In the past year, I can't tell you how many books on war, spies, and death I've read. I can't remember bursting into tears once.

But you put a puppy on the cover and I had to put the book down for fear of bawling. The poor, innocent little puppy in Baghdad, abandoned by his family. Somehow the puppy left all alone was more sad to me than say, the fact that the family was uprooted and had to flee, losing their house and home and having to leave behind many of their possessions. You could have told me they'd all been shot down, and I still would have cried more over that poor little puppy.

I only dare admit this because, evidently, this is the natural human reaction. That's just weird as hell!

Read more...

Poker Play and, er ... a little writing

So I meant to go to a conference this week, but I had work to do. I tagged along with DH to Atlantic City with my laptop, and spent a few days at Borders. I got enough done that I had time to play in two poker tournaments and sit down for a few hours at a ring game.

Poker is fun. It's such a people game. I'm more of a recluse and not too comfortable chatting with strangers, but I get a real kick out of watching them.

There's also a lot of power play in the game. A huge percentage of poker is skill and sport; I didn't realize that until I started playing it. There's a luck factor in tournaments, but not so much in a ring game. In a ring game, patience rules the day.

I'm really good at figuring out people's fear line. I can figure out how much to bet before they'll start worrying about being disadvantaged for the tournament. It sounds terribly ruthless, but what else can I use--I'm not great with the math. If I'm seeing a hand all the way to the end, I'm going to make it painful enough that they'll fold or I'm going to make sure I get a lot of chips doing it.

That's one of the reasons I'm at a disadvantage in a ring game. There's no fear. If they go out, they can buy more chips. If they want, they can sit there forever. It's free to fold. There's not a whole lot of fear on the table, and it throws my game off.

In a ring game, you usually play the cards a whole lot more than you play the people. In a tournament, you play the people, the fear, and the structure of the tournament. The cards, too, but not so much.

In the ring game, I got two hands in four hours and a long string of unsuited change. One hand was pocket kings, and the guy called me. He should have taken me all in, but I've noticed that older gentlemen like to treat ladies with respect, even at the poker table. I find that so touching, and it makes me sad that younger guys don't have that etiquette anymore. And people wonder why I fell in love with an older guy, lolol ...

I had to fold my pocket kings when the board came up Ace-Jack. I pegged him as having an ace, and he wasn't going to drop out of the hand. When I folded, he gentlemanly showed me his Ace-Jack. That was nice, and it made me feel better about folding. It's tough to fold pocket kings, but when you know you're beat, you're beat. No sense paying more. DH will sometimes carry things to the river saying, "I couldn't fold pocket kings with those pot odds!" but I disagree: no matter how the numbers crunch, if you know you're beat, you're beat! All the odds in the world aren't going to change the cards.

The second hand I had in those four hours was pocket tens. I ended up heads up against a thirty-something guy who had no illusions of gentlemanhood. He put me all in after making me pay through the nose to see the flop. I should have folded and saved my twenty dollars because I knew I was beat, but I got stupid. I wanted to leave and go to the tournament, so I pushed the last bit in instead of standing up and taking it with me, LOLOL. Stupid, but no big deal.

The tournament was great. I slipped back into my normal play, and it was SO comfortable. I had no idea I could be so aggressive until I played poker. It really doesn't suit my personality because I don't consider myself aggressive, except for when I set my sights on a goal. Still, as much as love competition, I constantly compare myself to others so that I inspire myself to be better, not because I have any interest in 'beating' them. Anyway, I did awesome at the tournament. I played my best goddamn poker.

Of course, I went out earlier than I ever had (in all four live tournaments I've ever been in, LOL). Before, I've always made the final table or the last two tables.

**Warning: Bad Beat Stories Ahead**

I went out with two bad beats in a row. First, I called a guy trying to make me uncomfortable enough to fold. Actually, he was banking on me using strict mathematics to fold. The fact is, I read his hand and I KNEW he was semi-bluffing. The pot odds were borderline, but I knew he had nothing, and I had top pair with an Ace kicker. I had the better hand, but he put me all in, and he made his flush on the river.

With two thousand in chips in front of me, I caught pocket ladies on my very next hand. It was my best shot at doubling up, and my chip stack was such that I needed to double up. I went all in pre-flop. I was glad the guy on my right called me.

Let me tell you about the guy on my right: He was one of those Dumb Luck guys that piss the pros off at tournaments. He didn't know anything about hands, odds (although he dropped the word once), or even antes, LOL. He made crazy calls all night, (he said he called everything with a face card. I thought he was advertising, but he was telling the damn truth. He called someone's pocket aces with jack and change. All IN!) He kept winning.

He called my pocket queens with jack-nine. All in, again. Maybe he mis-read the Kill Phil book, but Kill Phil doesn't advise that sort of stupidity! Kill Phil is about taking away someone's decision power when you're considerably less knowledgeable about poker, so that you can bring the playing field down to your level. When I went all in, I took the offensive. Calling with Jack-Nine is insane, pre-flop! He probably couldn't read my hand, so to him it didn't make any difference.

Knowing his play, I was thrilled when he called me: no one else did (Surprising, since my position was desperate, but they all seemed to respect my play. They didn't buy my sweetly naive act one bit, but then I gave away my knowledge when I debated with Mr. Math Guy about why I called his all-in bet with Ace-Jack.) Of course, Mr. Dumb Luck made a straight over my trip Queens.

Don't get me wrong, I don't get pissed off at Dumb Luck. You have to admire Dumb Luck. It tickles me as much as it stings, and I think it's cute when they think they're great poker players because of their Dumb Luck.

We were all playing on sheer Dumb Luck at one time. In my first live tournament, and the biggest mistake of my entire poker playing hobby, I put a guy who paired his Ace on the flop all-in. I knew he had an ace, but I had an ace, too. Ready to laugh?

My kicker was a two. What the hell kind of a kicker is a two???? Did my brain shut down or something? Did my common sense suddenly turn off???? But on the river, the dealer turned over a two, and I won with two pair. People congratulated me, and I remember just slumping in relief and mentally yelling at myself. Even though I won, that hand goes down as my shining example of Dumb Luck. I still beat myself up over that stupid call, at the same time I still shake my head and laugh at myself.

So I don't begrudge a beginning player his Dumb Luck. That's tournament poker. Skill and luck. I love the play, though. Plus, in tournaments, you pay your little fee and you get tons of chips to play with. It's like paying for movie and dinner--only less--and you don't have to worry about losing money while playing.

**Back to regularly scheduled blogging ... **

What's funny about poker, is that after a day of poker, you start looking at everyone differently. You start sizing them up. You feel their choke level, their aggressive level, their smarts. Funny enough, it's like what Barry Eisler had John Rain consider in one of his books: it's the quiet and still ones that you have to worry about.

At the ring game, there was an older lady--and by lady, I mean in the best and old-fashioned sense of the word--sitting so still at the table. She sorta kept herself small and contained and quiet. She managed to shrink her presence down so that you could barely see her; it was SO cool. Most of the time she was invisible, I swear to dog.

She multiplied her money by six and kicked all our asses. *grins*

At the poker table, it's the quiet and still ones you have to worry about. The ones that you don't notice. Of course, the other breed that trips me up are the every-weekend players, who are so comfortable with the fact that they can turn very little into a winning chip stack that they have no fear level. And then there's the mathematical players: every decision is made by computations. They strictly analyze, and use mathematics to make their decisions.

You can't bully cold math. I need to get better at the math so I can predict their decisions and use their math to my advantage.

My other disadvantage is that I can't headplay with someone who has no fear.

Okay, I'm done with the poker talk. But writing is such a people game, too. Analyzing people is so much fun. Seeing how they play under pressure is just fascinating.

And if I blogged about bluffing ... let me count the ways it mirrors a John le Carre novel. Is she self-comforting because she's nervous or she wants me to think she's nervous? Is she self-comforting because she IS lying, but knows that I will believe she is sending a false signal, and think that she has a hand simply because she's advertising the opposite? Or will she predict that I will consider that she is falsely false-advertising? Is he telling me the truth or is he telling me a lie? Is he telling me a lie because I'll think it's a lie and he wants me to believe the truth? Is he telling me a half-truth because he guesses that I'll believe he's lying, and he'll distract me from the real truth? I could go on, but I'm getting dizzy. Thank God I'm the writer and can control all these people in my imagination!

Someone once said that people play poker the way they play life.

They are so right. The number one reason why I'm screwed in a ring game is because I'm not a gambler. I can't risk real money, even when it's 'free' money from DH's poker profit. With a tournament, you pay your twenty or thirty bucks and it's done. The only thing I'm risking, at that point, is how long I get to play poker that night. Sure, the t-shirt at the final table is nice and so is the money, but those are like bonuses to me. A pleasant surprise.

Read more...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Purpose of Contests

Why do you enter contests? What do you hope to get out of them?

So a dear writer friend was telling me how any fixit comments will sting. Well, yes, I suppose. I'm a musician. Criticism is all we hear for the first twenty years of our life. *grins*

I always do stuff like this FOR the comments. And being a typical woman, I only "hear" the negative ones and don't believe the good ones. But over at Agent Kristin's blog, there was a lively debate in the comment section on the purpose of a contest.

One passionate and anonymous fellow/gal said that the only purpose of entering a writing contest is to win, and that "any other nonsense spoke of getting picked last on a team."

I'm laughing ... I don't know what that last bit had to do with anything.

Along those lines, some people enter contests to build up a resume to catch an agent's/editor's attention in their query letter. I've also heard agents say that they notice these, but they don't carry much weight unless they're the Golden Heart.

Some want to get their work in front of an editor/agent. That's a plus. I've always been confused, though. It takes about three to six months for a contest entry to get in front of an editor or agent, and it takes two weeks to six months to hear from an editor or agent. Considering most agents have said that they only requested material from a contest once or twice in their lifetime, that's not a specatacular reason to enter a contest, IMO. (This is my blog. None of my opinions are humble here. They may be wrong, just not humble.)

Why not just mail the work to an agent/editor directly?

Some people use contests to test ideas before they commit to writing the whole thing. They are paying to enter, so they can use them for anything they want. That seems like a logical reason if any, especially since writing a whole novel takes time. Kristin mentioned that an agent's enthusiasm wanes if she does request (again, once in her life so far) a full from a contest, and no full manuscript exists. Also, I wonder if the trends haven't passed you by, by the time you get your entry back, finish the thing, and start sending it to agents.

Then some people enter contests to learn from the comments. If/when I enter a contest again, this would be the reason I'd enter. The drawback is that most semi-finalist judges aren't trained. Like me. My only training is years of critiquing music performances and my years of writing. And a few workshops on how to critique and word things constructively.

I've got one entry that I keep erasing my comments. I want them to be strong enough that she'll fix the issues--because I'd love to see it published--but not too strong that she'll get discouraged.

The last reason to enter a contest is just for fun. I always thought about stories and writing, but never in a serious way. I wrote little bits, outlined a few books while I was in bed sick, but for some strange reason, it never occured to me to really write. And yet, in a strange way, I always knew I would write.

Then there was a contest and I thought, Hey! A little money, why not? Just for fun! And I had a total blast writing it (it was terrible). I didn't win first place, but I ended up selling it and writing for that publisher for years. So if competition will spark your enthusiasm and motivation to finish the book; there's another great reason to enter a contest!

So, in the end, I'm going to pretend I'm judging a kid. Positive suggestions, and any blunt words or truth carefully hugged by compliments. The scores have to be outright fair and honest, nothing I can do about that.

Read more...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

JA Konrath surprises again!

Since my foot has been hurt, I've been blog-reading more. Wow, I'm just finding new authors everywhere! Now, if only I can read three books a day and write 10,000 words a day, I would have the perfect life!

J.A. Konrath is one to notice. Give it another twenty years, and he'll be mystery's Nora Roberts. (At least in the constant NYT bestsellers department.)

So while he's still a normal folk (as opposed to a writing god with hundreds of books published), he's got free stuff everywhere to get you addicted to his writing.

If you're a writer, and have ever asked a family member or friend to read your work, you will relate to this story: Piranha Pool. (Oh, and if you're a writer and haven't checked out all the writing and publishing info jam-packed into his site, you're in for a real treat!)

I've been dying to read one of his books, and he posted on his blog yesterday that Bloody Mary could be downloaded here for free. (I don't know for how long.) I'll let you know how it is tomorrow, after I read it tonight.

If you missed my post a few days ago, he also has free stories here and Four Pack of Jack at Amazon for 49 cents. You can download the first SEVEN chapters of his newest novel, Rusty Nail, for free, too!

As if that weren't enough, he blogged a week or so ago about collecting Books for Troops. He will give away THREE free first editions to the person who sends over the most books. So mail me your books, so I can mail them and win. *grins* Just kidding. There's no way I'm going to be able to wait. I'll probably buy the other two in a week or so when I get paid. Mail the books to the address he lists anyway, 'cause it's a good thing to do. :-)

Why buy his books? First, because he writes good stuff. He's a storyteller in the same way that Stephen King and Richard Heinlein are storytellers. You read his stuff, and if you read past the entertainment value to analyze it, the only thing you can think is that's craft. After I read Heinlein's stories, I always feel like I'm in the presence of a master storyteller, and am beholding a piece of art. J.A. Konrath makes me feel the same way.

Now, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, buy his books because he's working too hard promoting his books! Of course, it's necessary for a writer these days, and I've read on his blog that he loves it. BUT we need to make him such a success that he has more time to WRITE!

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Medical Insanity

So the past few weeks, ever since the taekwondo accident, I've been repeating the following pattern: go to doctor, follow his orders, and watch my foot swell up again.

I've also noticed another pattern in the last year or two. You know how you need a prescription for certain meds? Well, after my appointment with the doctor ended last week, he wrote out a prescription so that I could get a follow up appointment in three weeks!

Insanity!

What? I'm not to be trusted with walking the whole five steps to the receptionist and reporting when I need to see him again honestly???

So after I followed his orders, and my foot swelled up, I called for an appointment. In order to get an appointment, I had to call the receptionist. Dear God, if I don't have a prescription for an appointment, then we need to go through the following insanity:

The receptionist had to transfer me to a nurse. The nurse doesn't answer the phone, but just listens to her voicemail. I left a message with the nurse. The nurse had to talk to the doctor, the doctor had to talk to the nurse, the nurse had to talk to the receptionist, and the receptionist had to call me back to make an appointment.

Insanity.

So if you need an antibiotic, you first need a prescription to get an appointment--which is hard to get if you don't have an appointment to get a prescription--and an appointment to get a prescription.

I'm confused. I'm tired. I'm tired of pain!

Read more...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Evanovich's How I Write

Amazon sent me Janet Evanovich's How I Write today, and I scarfed it down in an hour. Do I recommend it? Well, I loved it. It cracked me up, and she said a few good things.

On the other hand, she's being entirely honest when she says that she took the content from the FAQs on her website. If you've read the FAQs, you've pretty much read the book.

The book organizes the material more methodically, and Ina Yalof has put in a few bulleted lists of main points a la For Dummies.

However, Janet Evanovich is very encouraging. If you need a good friend to sit beside you while you write, then plop this book beside you, and when you hit a tricky bit, open it up. You'll find an encouraging friend to cheer you on.

The best advice she gave in the whole books was to "write for the reader." I've heard a lot of debate on whether one should write for oneself, or one should write for the reader. People tend to think that their perspective is the right one.

Me, too. I'm firmly on the "write for the reader" side. Of course, as a pianist, I practiced to perform. I never much liked the process of practicing much. Just a chore to do until the next time I could perform. That's where writing for oneself is a wonderful thing: it'll keep you motivated when the going gets tough, when it feels like no one is ever going to read it--or if they do, they'll think it's crap.

But when I was finishing my last novella (Boy, I struggle to get the last quarter of a novella done. It's a chore, let me tell you. A letter by letter chore.), a reader wrote me. Basically, she just wrote how wonderful it was to read about a man who understood and respected 'his' woman, and that it helped keep the hope alive that one day, she would find that, too. It made her feel a little less lonely, if only for a couple hours.

I have to tell you, the last quarter of my novella flew after that. I was on a mission to reassure her of all the above. I suddenly felt like what I did was important: giving one woman happiness and hope, and at least a vicarious feeling of love, albeit fictional.

True, I deluded myself into thinking my story was much more important than it actually is. But at least the last quarter flew, and I felt like I was doing something important.

So what do you do? Write for yourself, or for the reader? And what keeps you going when the going gets hard?

Read more...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do you know what today is?

Constitution Day!

U.S. Senator Byrd slipped in legislation that all schools that receive federal aid must read and celebrate the constitution. Not a bad idea. Knowing our rights helps us appreciate our rights.

Whatever we do, let's not make it yet another Monday holiday. There are too many already! Friday would be fine.

Did you know Constitution Day all got started in a little town in Ohio? From Louisville's website:

In 1952, Louisville resident Olga T. Weber petitioned municipal officials to establish Constitution Day, in honor of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1789. Presiding Mayor Gerald A. Romary proclaimed September 17, 1952, as Constitution Day in the city. The following April, Weber requested that the Ohio General Assembly proclaim September 17 as state-wide Constitution Day. Her request was signed into law by Governor Frank J. Lausche.

Weber didn't stop there. In August 1953, she urged the United States Senate to pass a resolution designating September 17-23 as Constitution Week. The Senate and House approved her request and it was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On April 15, 1957, the City Council of Louisville declared the city Constitution Town. The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society later donated four historical markers, located at the four main entrances to the city, explaining Louisville's role as originator of Constitution Day.

And by the way, that's Lou - issss - ville, not Louey - ville.

I'm off to feel all patritotic.

Happy Constitution Day!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

He KILLED a dog!!!!!!!

Dear God, J.A. Konrath's Harry McGlade killed a DOG in Whelp Wanted from Four Pack of Jack!!

How could he even think it???? Not just killed it by accident, not killed it because it was sick. Nope, killed it because he didn't want it. It bit his couch, I believe, or some such minor thing.

I do have to admit: Konrath's an awesome short story writer. I loved Four Pack of Jack.

Tess Gerritsen just posted about how little things authors do that can inadvertantly turn off a reader for life, called "When Writers Get In Trouble With Readers."

I don't expect much of authors as human beings. I figure they've got their own private lives and whatever their politics or morals are, it's not going to affect my reading loyalty. I just care about the story. If I get to know them as a friend, that's different. But as a reader, I would be interested in an author's stories, but never turned off to her/his fiction because of their beliefs.

But ... Harry killed a dog.

I guess ... I suppose ... in this case, and in only this case, I can forgive it. Only because J.A. Konrath impressed me with some great stories. And if I forgave him for creating a hero that killed a dog because he was a minor inconvenience, he must be one hell of a writer.

But ... still. I'm gonna be pissed about it for awhile. ;-)

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The Prologue Controversy, featuring AWESOME writer, J.A. Konrath

I was reading the Killer Year Class of 2007's blog about Prologues, the other day.

The prologue controversy alternately cracks me up and drives me crazy. Personally, I just don't understand why someone would skip a prologue. I don't understand why someone would even notice that they're reading a prologue. I mean, who cares if it says "Prologue" or "Chapter One" when you start a book? They're both non-descript, boring labels. I don't even look. I assume an author wants me to read on page one, and I start there. If he doesn't grab me on page one, then I don't buy the book. (Except for John le Carre. He tends to hook me by about Chapter 7.)

BUT, today I was taking a break from writing and I was thumbing through the shelves. I read the most kick-ass prologue that I've ever read in J.A. Konrath's Rusty Nail.

Oh wow, if you go to his website, you can read SEVEN full chapters of Rusty Nail!

I promptly picked up Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary. Guess what? They have kick-ass prologues, too.

He has some free short stories posted on his bulky website. (I just love short stories!) I'm just taking a quick break from writing and I've got to get back to it, but I'll let you know how they are! On Amazon shorts, he also has a Four Pack of Jack that I'm going to slip into my shopping cart when I order Janet Evanovich's How I Write. Has anyone read it? How is it?

I don't have the money to buy J.A. Konrath's books yet, so I'll have to wait a month or two to tell you how they pan out after the prologues. (Damn!) But I do get to buy a really cool Vera Atkins biography called A Life in Secrets.

Oh man! I just discovered that J.A. Konrath has an anthology coming out at the end of October called These Guns for Hire. It's a collection of short stories (be still, my heart!) about hitman. I can't wait to read it!

There's a website for the collection here. M.J. Rose is writing for a story for it, too!

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Judging ... Whew!

So I've been judging some contest entries lately. Whew! It's hard. Does anyone have any advice? Tips? Links to good ideas? Things you wish you could have heard from a judge? Wish you hadn't heard?

My worst problem is focus. You know, I just can't focus long enough. Something either has to grab me by my throat and keep me focused, or I lose it. If it's something interesting, no problem. But sometimes people's language just gets in the way of what they want to say.

I like things simple and clear cut.

Last June, Agent Kristin gave a query workshop. It was fantastic. I hadn't finished my novel (and that was okay; it was a workshopish, although she did request some partials). We each got to submit one paragraph on our novel, and she critiqued the query-like summary.

I'll be damned if she didn't zero in on every single problem I was having with my novel. I remember looking at her critique in total shock and admiration. From only three sentences, she could somehow sense and extrapolate every problem I was having with that novel. Absolutely amazing!!

We have to judge 25 pages, and I know I used to think that 25 pages wasn't enough. Oh yeah it is. Five or ten would be plenty. Two would even work.

In the "real" world, we only have about a sentence or maybe a paragraph to hook a reader.

I'm seeing some great writing, though. Much better than mine. I need to be more vivid. I tend to write too sparse. I'm easily bored, so if it bores me, I don't bother writing it. I don't like to delete.

Oh! One important question. I have a little personal rule. It's my own rule and I never heard it from anyone else. I tell myself that I'm not allowed to write a single sentence if there's no conflict. Internal or external or both.

So if I'm not finding conflict in the first five or ten pages, is it MY problem or is it a story problem?

Read more...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Workshops

I just joined a great workshop (free! check it out) on How to Write A First Draft in 14 Days, by Candy Havens. It's a good one.

But it's funny. All the workshops say the same thing: just write. This latest workshop reminded me that if I wrote 5,000 words a day, I'd have a first draft in fourteen days.

Nice to know.

When I don't have to work, I write between 5,000 and 10,000 words a day. (The 10,000 happens when tons of people owe me money and aren't paying, and I'm getting terrified that I'll never get paid for anything again, ever.)

When I do have a working day, I try to write 1,000 words at least, but I like it better when I kick it up to 3,000 words.

*sigh* Ideally, I'd like to write 20,000 words in the next three days, and then 40,000 words next week. Then I'd be all caught up, and I could focus on writing my spy novel. I'll be able to pay of my foot, too.

I can do it. I just have to get a bit desperately focused. I go to the doctor again tomorrow, so it shouldn't be too hard. $200 - 400 for 15 minutes of his time! Geezuz!

Read more...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More on amateurs in the Art of Music and Language

I've long compared the art of music and language. I once went to a writing group and we went around the room, reporting how much we had written that month. One lady got uncomfortable and reported with some frustration that she had only written a few pages in the last year.

I thought that was so sad. Who cares? A few pages ever is a good thing. In the art of music and painting, amateurs abound. They become better consumers, and they get more enjoyment and understanding of the art. It's a good thing for them, good thing for the professional musicians and artists.

And so I've said that language should be the same way. That writing groups and organizations should encourage and embrace writers: both professional and amateur. Amateur used to be a noble word, but lately it's lost its respect.

The basis for my beliefs has been that amateur musicians understand and enjoy music better.

But I realized, yesterday, that understanding what an author is doing does not make me enjoy reading better.

I was reading To The Nines, and I was so annoyed when she introduced the murderer. As soon as she described him, I knew that he was the murderer. When I read a mystery, I try not to figure out whodunnit. But when I stumbled across the killer in To The Nines, it felt like he was waving a huge red flag and saying, "Hey! It's me!"

Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

Luckily the characters are awesome enough that I didn't mind too much.

But in general, I find that my reading enjoyment often gets interrupted by noticing the techniques or reasons and author is writing something. It's jarring and annoying.

And my patience for books has significantly decreased. Once upon a time, if I started a book, I'd finish it. I was a book slut and I loved it and reading was fun. Don't get me wrong, reading is still fun.

But not as fun.

I had the same problem with music. After playing and listening to it for eight to ten hours a day, the thought of listening to music for enjoyment was like more work. I craved silence. So has your writing practice improved your enjoyment of books or decreased it?

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Crushin' on Ranger

I am SO crushing on Ranger right now. I started Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I almost put the series down forever in Hot Six, when Stephanie chose Morelli over Ranger.

Okay, I see her point. Of the two, Morelli is more stable and closer to the marrying kind.

But this is fiction, and the wonderful thing about fiction is that we get to live with adventure and great sex. (Boy, have I fallen from my fancy-shmancy literary days.) Why the hell is danger so erotic? Will someone please tell me? Ranger is definitely the dangerous type, with a protective streak (but not too protective) where Stephanie is concerned.

Major drool factor of ten. Ten plus.

So I was relieved in Seven Up when they kinda broke off their kinda engagement. And I just got to the part in Hard Eight where Ranger tells her he's collecting his fee for helping her. The fee, of course, is sex.

Good golly Miss Molly, I'm fanning myself right along with Connie and Lula!

So I read that way-too-short scene (instead of relieving the frustration I've been feeling through eight books, it's only fanned the flames! Argh!!!!), and I got a big happy grin on my face.

DH looks over and asks, "What?"

I'm still grinning. "Ranger." I'd told him yesterday that I had a crush on Ranger. He'd been pretty understanding about it, considering it was a fictional character. I would have been jealous if it been him, but he's not.

"Jesus," he said.

I hear Twelve Sharp has a whole lot of Ranger in it. I'm becoming obsessed, to the point of skimming along until I get to see Ranger again. I'm getting half my writing done because I keep reading for more Ranger. And when I do write, my male heroes keep acting like Ranger. I'm dreaming about Ranger!

*Warning: Whine Ahead*

I usually don't do much deleting of words. They cost three cents each, so I try to write clean. Plus, I feel guilty when I delete words, like I'm throwing away money.

I particularly shouldn't be writing sloppy when the bills for my foot keep racking up. Two doctors and one set up xrays are already up to $750ish. AND MY FOOT IS GETTING WORSE! What the hell? I don't know what's wrong with it and I'm out Now one doctor said I need an MRI and another said I need another X-ray, which would put me up to another $800, not counting seeing the doctor (hopefully not more than $125?). And then I probably have to pay again to hear the results of the X-ray and MRI. And then I need treatment. This is going to cost me over $2000 ... that's two more novellas before I can get caught up, and another one to pay for some other things. 120,000 words and then I can write my spy story.

At least, the spy novel characters have been brewing in my head. I know all my characters pretty well. A plot that works might be nice. I need to read more thrillers--but whose got time? It's not a form I've written before, and I need to know the form so well that I feel it, in order to write it. If I try to work from form or impose form, the thing gets clunky.

Do you ever feel like you've read enough books? I squeeze in about two a week. Maybe three, sometimes four. Once DH's business gets off the ground and I can write full time, then I'll read a book a day. Wouldn't that be wonderful??

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Oh. My. God.

This is one of those posts that is as boring as hell to you, but amazing to me.

Today I discovered the most wonderful food ever.

Friendly's Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Smucker's Marshmallow Topping, microwaved.

Pour one on the other, and just die. It's incredible. The marshmallow is as soft as that stuff that used to be in the chocolate marshmallow ice cream that they used to make. The peanut butter is NOT full of nuts.

Everything is smooth and creamy.

Somedays, you just need to cuddle up in bed with a big bowl of ice cream. Now if only I can get my dearest to join me. Hmmmm ... it's a toss-up as to which is yummier: him, or this new ice cream.

Does anyone else find food orgasmic?

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Funny Joke & Great Writer Just Waiting To Be Discovered

One of my chapter members, Edwina "Eddie" Columbia--a VERY FUNNY writer--posted this joke. Check out her book, Mistress In Training. It's hot and hilarious, exactly like the author! (Don't let all the flowers on her website fool you!)

Here's the joke she forwarded:

When everybody on earth was dead and waiting to enter Paradise, God appeared and said, "I want the men to make two lines; one line for the men who were true heads of their household, and the other line for the men who were dominated by their women. I want all the women to report to St. Peter."
Soon, the women were gone and there were two lines of men. The line of the men who were dominated by their wives was 100 miles long, and in the line of men who truly were heads of their household, there was only one man.
God said, "You men should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you to be the head of your household! You have been disobedient and have not fulfilled your purpose! Of all of you, only one obeyed. Learn from him.
God turned to the one man, "How did you manage to be the only one in this line?"
The man replied, "My wife told me to stand here."

Funny, huh? Okay, now read the joke again, but let's switch all the males for females and females for males:

When everybody on earth was dead and waiting to enter Paradise, God appeared and said, "I want the women to make two lines; one line for the women who were true heads of their household, and the other line for the women who were dominated by their men. I want all the men to report to St. Peter."
Soon, the men were gone and there were two lines of women. The line of the women who were dominated by their husbands was 100 miles long, and in the line of women who truly were heads of their household, there was only one woman.
God said, "You women should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you to be the head of your household! You have been disobedient and have not fulfilled your purpose! Of all of you, only one obeyed. Learn from her.
God turned to the one woman, "How did you manage to be the only one in this line?"
The woman replied, "My husband told me to stand here."

Not funny at all, huh? In fact, I feel repulsed by the second version. Do men feel repulsed by the first version? What does all that say about us as a society?

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