Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Uh-oh. I'm going to talk about religion in this post. Please feel free to skip.

I don't share my faith much. I don't expect anyone else to believe what I believe, and I have no desire to convert anyone, and I really could care less if anyone else believes what I believe. I believe that the power of religion is in the actual faith, not in what you believe. I'm also a huge believer in the truth that everyone must find their own (and usually different) path, and that path lies within us. My only hope is that people find their own spiritual path that makes them happy, and that they not harm others in the name of that path.

I'm Wiccan/pagan (and as such, I can still embrace my Catholic roots, although they probably wouldn't embrace me!), so tonight is a special day: Halloween! Why? Because it's my New Year's Eve! From the Witch's Voice:

Samhain is the most important of the fire festivals, because it marks the Celtic New Year (a week later the Celt's Indo-European cousins in India celebrate Divali, which is their New Year's festival). Samhain was the original festival that became "All Saints' Day" in the Christian calendar. Since the Celts, like many cultures, started every day at sunset of the night before, this became the "evening" of "All Hallows" ("hallowed" = "holy" = "saint") which was eventually contracted into "Hallow-e'en" or the modern "Halloween."

We all know it has nothing to do with the devil, right? If you think I worship the devil, please just leave without commenting. And educating yourself might be a good idea, too.

Anyway, tonight's a night to celebrate our loved ones that have passed on, to reflect on the past year, to banish our weaknesses, and make goals for the New Year.

Even if you don't believe as I do, that's okay! It's fun night, with children exercising their imaginations and the air going crisp with the fall air. Gosh, I just love fall. It's my favorite season of the year! I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!

I'm sad because I'm sitting in front of a computer. I usually go to this special place on a rock by a river, secluded and special. I can meditate there and connect with nature's energy.

Unfortunately, DH and I have a disagreement on the safety issue. My night time walks have been banished, because things aren't as safe around here as they used to be. And yes, I could tell DH "tough," but the fact is, he only grew concerned after I grew nervous and concerned. So even if I go out, I don't feel safe. How sad is that?

The most special thing I've read today about loved ones that have passed on is at Murder She Writes, where Natalie shared a heartwarming story. Check it out!

I read the most beautiful Samhain ritual the other day, here.

I want to quote just a teensy bit, because it's written so well, by Akasha (Actually, she wrote that it was adapted by her ... so I'm unclear as to whether or not she wrote this part or adapted it from an unknown source. Anyway, it's speaks to my heart, perfectly!):

"Hear me now as the past year slowly dies, only to be reborn again. Today, the last of the Harvests is complete. This symbolic harvest is of my thought-seeds, Planted and nurtured throughout this past year. May the good come to pass and the bad be cast aside. With Your divine guidance and protection, I step into the New Year, May I have good health, prosperity, and happiness."

"As the New Year is born, we are all reborn With new hopes and dreams. Guide me in the future as in the past. Give me strength and courage, Knowledge and fulfillment, Assist me as I attempt to achieve my goals."

"Every beginning has an ending, And every ending is a new beginning. In Life is Death, and in Death is Life. Watch over me, my loved ones, and all of my Brothers and Sisters, here and departed, Who, tonight are joined together again for Fellowship and celebration. Bless us all as we light our bonfires, our hearth fires, And the eternal fires in our hearts. Guide us and protect us, Tonight and throughout the coming year. Blessed Be! Blessed Be!"

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A Learning Writer's Review ... Her Sexiest Mistake

Yesterday, I was pretty mad at myself for writing a formulaic and boring story. Today, I swore to dig deep and do much better. Today, I knew and loved my characters. They were so alive, and the story was a story. A real story. I thought I said something special, and I was feeling quite proud of myself.

Wouldn't you know, when I asked DH which story he liked better, he said they were the same? Outrageous! The same?? No! One said something emotional! One just ... played at writing. One had well-developed and growing characters! One didn't. *sigh*

Her Sexiest Mistake, by Jill Shalvis. She's an author I discovered through her blog. I pop by every day, because even when she has a horrid day, she manages to make me laugh. I don't know how people get to be like that, but they have my admiration, that's for sure.

I wanted to write a review from the perspective of learning something about our craft. I'd absolutely love to hear your opinions! And let me know anything else I should observe or notice, while reading the next book. Thanks!

My Favorite Line:

"Her answer was the universal gaze teenagers all over the country had perfected, the one which said Fuck off and die, but before you do, please take care of me."

Coolest Writing: The heroine, Mia, is a together and polished marketing queen with a kick ass career. The only thing she doesn't have, is a past to match. Instead, she's spent years erasing her trailer trash beginnings, along with her southern accent.

Her niece, Hope, runs away to her Aunt Mia, with similar hopes for her future. Hope is a sulky and needy teenager. (See above favorite line ... it says it all.)

In this scene, Mia takes Hope to a teen center to spend the day, but is having trouble getting through the receptionist. Hope is awestruck by the receptionist's perfect and put together exterior.

The woman narrowed her eyes at Hope. "Didn't your mother ever teach you it's rude to stare?"

Mia stopped on the spot, one heel and all, drawing herself up even taller as she put her hand on Hope's arm. "And didn't your momma ever teach you it's rude to talk to a kid that way?"

I love the way she shows so much character in this exchange. You can just hear Mia's upbringing compared to the woman's with "mother" versus "momma." And although Mia has been, so far, inconvenienced by Hope, we see that even though she doesn't stay connected with her family, she still carries with her the sense of family. We learn that even though she may put down her family's roots, she won't have anyone else saying anything.

Number of Times I Laughed Out Loud: 5

Things I Learned:
1.) Stay true to your character: All the characters remained themselves. They grew and changed, which is great, but they never strayed from their real selves. Each character was well-developed and exceptionally interesting. Very original! Some changed, some remained static, but they never stepped out of their true nature.

2.) Turn cliches on their head: Mia is commitment-phobic. Kevin is a male, great with kids. Kevin is a great role model and teacher who drives a Harley. Mia is a big time marketing chic who drools at the sight of the bad boy type on a Harley. Just the setup is crackling with energy!

3.) That fabulous setup of contrasting characters really drives the whole novel. Sparks and conflicts fly everywhere, with five main characters who have multiple conflicts with each other. Much of the conflict is rooted in personality, and it provides plenty of fodder for characters to force each other to grow.

It makes me wonder if Jill Shalvis starts first with her characters, develops them, and then watches them go? I know that that is my experience as a reader!

4.) Making the internal thoughts interesting: It's a novel, so naturally we get to see the character's inner lives. I'm too much dialogue, so it was great to read, in the first three chapters, how much thinking they did. At times, when I stepped out of my experience to analyze, I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance (I love them; I'm not putting them down), and I also wondered if this is something needed?

I once read a "rule" that said if the main characters are not in the same room, then they should be thinking about each other. Okay, so I haven't been reading much romance lately, outside of Nora, Harlequin Intrigues, and Evanovich. I wasn't sure if the amount, in this book, was normal or more than normal.

I do like how Evanovich makes Morelli and Ranger so attractive, by completely understating them. You only read a few sentences at a time about them, and there's never time to obsess about feelings, between her cars getting stolen and blown up.

But that's a different genre. How do you guys feel about characters thinking about each other throughout the book?

One Disappointment:
Warning: Spoiler Ahead:
Hope. I loved Hope. Her ending was only kind of happy, and I felt a little short-cheated. Her subplot seemed to point all the way to a forever-stay with her Aunt Mia and Kevin. I wanted all three of them to live happily ever after, together.

But Hope got what she didn't want: sent home to her mother. Okay, she kinda missed her mom in the last couple pages. Her mom hadn't wanted her when she was too busy with her boyfriend to deal with her daughter, but since the mom (Sugar's) boyfriend dumped her, she wanted Hope back.

True to Sugar's character. And it's normal that Hope would, deep down, want to go back to her mom. Also true to her character.

But for the whole book, the subplot was driving towards Mia allowing and welcoming Hope to stay with her, and not send Hope back home. So it was a bit of a surprise for the opposite to happen, in the end.

However, if Hope had stayed with Kevin and Mia, it would have been a tad cliche and predictable. And unrealistic. Her mom wanted her back, and a daughter is meant to grow up with her mother. I don't see Jill Shalvis could've ended it any other way.

Still, I loved Hope, and I didn't want her to leave.

Things I Loved:
1.) Ribbon-Tied Ending: I love how she wraps up each thread and ties everything up in a nice, neat bow. If I hadn't been a little disappointed in Hope's ending, it would have been hugely satisfying. As it was, it was still satisfying, and I enjoyed the neatness.
2.) Fast Pace: I never felt the need to put the book down. In fact, one night I couldn't stop reading it. At about one in the morning, I could only keep one eye open, I was so tired, but I couldn't put the book down. At about two in the morning, I noticed that I kept falling asleep for about five minutes between paragraphs (and only because I'd been working for twelve - thirteen hours that day!). Eventually sleep won, but the book's pace was always lively, fun, and interesting.
3.) Characters: She can really create characters. I want to meet them all in real life, and short of that, I want to be them. I found them all inspiring and interesting.
4.) I laughed. Boy, I needed some laughs, when I read this book. I drank up the author's optimistic voice like a ... hmmm, what was that cliche I wrote yesterday? *grins*

She has some romantic suspense out. Our bookstore only had one, and I think it's a set of three. I'm dying to read them ... I just can't wait to find out how Shalvis's upbeat and funny voice reads when combined with suspense. I bet it's going to be awesome. Her fast pace promises to be a natural at suspense. Has anyone out there read them?

Read more...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Anonymity & Growing as a Writer

I consider this blog half-anonymous. I don't really care, at this point, who knows me, but I do try not to let my clients know that I write, just for business purposes. Gotta keep up the illusion that I do nothing but my job, I'm that dedicated. Well, heck, I do day-job a TON, a job that never stops. What can you d?

Anyway, I was reading an interview with Meg Tilly over at Beatrice's blog. I was so impressed with how very brave she was, to publish such emotional memories of a private pain.

"They" say that every author needs to write that one sorta autobiographical book. I wrote mine under the shelter of anonymity, and I know I wouldn't have had the guts to share that publicly.

Anonymity does have big drawbacks. Just today, I finished a story that was formulaic and ... well, there was just nothing different about it. It's easier to put out less than your best when you're anonymous. I really have to work on creativity.

How do you guys do it?

It's so hard! I don't do writer's groups. Partly because I prefer to write erotica under a pseudonym, partly because I have a problem. I have this insane belief if someone thought of an idea, then it's not original enough. I know it's stupid, because there are so many people in this world that are smarter and more creative than I am. But there you have it.

Ah well. I watched an inspiring biography of Stephen King last night. I love that he desperately wrote fast for rent money and food money. That's me! He wrote brilliantly, though. Me, on the other hand ... sometimes I feel like I'm spinning out formulaic crap.

Do you guys ever feel like that?

Oh, and what do you consider prolific? How many words a day/week/month/year? Just curious!

And how do you push yourself to the next level of writing? How do you make yourself better?

Read more...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More on Competitions

I went to a piano conference last week. I'm re-energized! I needed that conference as much as a dehydrated man needs water in a desert. (Okay, look at that last sentence. Do you see why I hate taking days off of writing?)

There was quite a bit of talk about competitions (insert proper reference to Yohaved Kaplinsky of Julliard), and I was surprised at how much it applied to writing competitions.

The similarities: No matter how well-designed a competition is, it cannot produce an artist unless an artist enters. No matter how perfect the scoring system or competition format, the competition will never will be perfect. Judges and entrants alike are human, and are fallible.

The differences: In the piano world, one needs competitions if you are above the age of eighteen and are not already well-connected with conductors, getting concerts, and gigging with the major orchestras.

In the writing world, there are a plethora of opportunities and possibilities that exist outside of competitions to make a career.

In the writing world, you get comments and can learn in a competition. In the piano world, only some competitions give comments--mostly just competitions for younger kids.

Interestingly enough, musicians and writers in both worlds are turning to small presses and small venues, in order to build an audience.

Interesting Tidbits: They've done studies! (I don't know where.) The optimal ranking for the fairest scoring is 1 to 25. However, each judge is different. Some judges won't give anything below 5, because that would be too insulting. Some just don't believe that anything is perfect, so they won't give out anything above 23 or 24. Those factors shrink the 25 spread down to 17.

So, at Case Western University, some math whiz professor took the median score of each judge and made a program that would convert it (and all the other scores) proportionally to 12.5, and spread out their scores from 1 to 25. That way each judge is basically using all twenty-five numbers.

Also, 11 to 13 judges is the optimal number for a jury.

I'm tired from traveling, so that's all for today. How was everyone's week? I can't wait to catch up on all the blogs!

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Snow

It is NOT snowing outside, is it??

It IS! I can't believe it! I'm yet undecided as to whether I'm excited or appalled. I can't take my eyes off of it, but ... but ... but ... it's fall! Fall is my favorite season! I don't want to skip fall; I love fall!

And what about Halloween? Whoever heard of snow on Halloween?

I'm being a productive little worker, and playing with the new blogger. Have you tried the new blogger? It lets you make categories, and everything! I was thinking of switching to wordpress, but now that blogger will let you do categories, I'm happy here! I think you have to login at beta.blogger.com. I think I miss my old design, though. What do you think?

Hey, Starvingwritenow! You reading this? If you switch to the new blogger, and click template, and customize, then it is now REALLY easy to add links and all sorts of cool stuff!

Snow. Wow.

Because I'm having fun, I just might post my review of Her Sexiest Mistake tonight. We'll see.

I might just sit on the porch and stare at the snow. It's so mesmerizing.

Read more...

NOT writing

Ack! I'm all nervous and agitated today.

In Stephen King's On Writing, he once mentioned something along the lines of not taking a day off, because he's afraid he'll lose his skills. That's WAY paraphrased from a foggy memory.

But you know what? It's true! When I don't write for a little while, I get really nervous. See, writing's like a muscle. I can do two to three thousand a day that I work, and five to seven thousand on my days "off." BUT, I had to work my way up from one hundred a day.

Friday, I wrote only five hundred words. Saturday, Sunday, and today: nothing. (Threw a baby shower, worked a 13 hour day, and today I'm packing and working.)

Tuesday through Saturday, I'm gone. (Hey, I'm going to miss reading around everyone's blogs!)

I don't know what to do with myself. I'm feeling terrified that by the time I get back, I won't know how to write anymore.

Maybe I'll work on the first fifteen pages of my spy novel, and do some outlining and stuff. I can do some short stories, especially if I write a little in the hotel late at night. Ack!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reading to Write

Sorry, my blogging has been a little wimpy lately. I just pushed out a 38,000 word novella in 16 days. I'm beat!

So I rewarded myself by buying Her Sexiest Mistake, by Jill Shalvis. She's a writer I discovered by her blog, which is a fun read. It makes me smile every day. I took one look at the picture of the cover, and I just KNEW I'd love the book.

In other news, I joined Nanowrimo, username spyscribbler. Drop me a line if you're joining the fun, so I can add you as a buddy! I was skeptical at first, but it looks SO cool. I wish they did it every month! I just looks fun, because you can record your progress in this cool little book thing.

I wanted to do my spy story for Nanowrimo, but I've got to write a novella to help fund our Christmas budget. I'm also working on an essay for an anthology (I'm SO excited about it!), so it's going to be a busy month! I am looking forward to December as my spy story month!

In preparation, I've decided to really analyze all the books I read, since I've been really analyzing my own writing lately. I want my writing to be in as tip-top shape as possible for December, when I write my spy novel. I know that I need to work on LESS dialogue and more observing, description, and introspection. Good news: I think I'm doing okay with conflict and dialogue.

So I have a question. When you're reading in the hopes of learning something about the craft, what sort of things do you read for? What do you analyze? Or do you just read for fun?

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Acknowledgements

Hey, out there! I have a question for everyone who pops by. Do you read the acknowledgments in a book?

Ever since I started scanning for agents' names to pop up years ago, I've been addicted to acknowledgments. I don't know what it is. I read every single list, every single name. Some authors just write it dutifully, while others use their acknowledgments to let their voice and style shine through.

I LOVE the acknowledgments. It's fascinating to me, all the people who some authors thank. Barry Eisler puts in three or four page acknowledgments, and I read every single word. Laurell K. Hamilton thanks her critique group in every book, and I'm pretty sure it was Beth Orsoff who had an acknowledgments page that made me laugh. One thing, I notice, that chick lit writers do really well, is their acknowledgments.

It's getting to the point where, when I find an author without acknowledgments page, I have to push away the thought: what, do they think they got here all by their lonesome? And I do push the thought away, because tons of writers don't use acknowledgment pages.

But when I see a great acknowledgment section, I'm really impressed. It's another one of those stupid, harmless prejudices that I have. I think that if an author takes the time to write acknowledgments, then she/he must be a pretty fine person.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Putting Your Characters Through Hell

So I had two wonderful days of writing. 14,000 words, which I desperately needed.

Of course, I find myself second-guessing the way the story is going. I know that we have to be willing to put our characters through hell, but I crawl into my character's skin and try to feel what she's feeling. This means that at the end of two days, I feel traumatized, hurt, stressed, and exhausted.

Meanwhile, DH sits down and reads it, and laughs. Laughs! My character and I are going through hell, and he laughs!

Okay, that's not such a terrible thing, because while I'm putting my characters through hell, I'm worrying. How much is too much? When does the story start to feel darned depressing because there's too much conflict and problems to solve?

I have a personal rule: no sentence, no paragraph, and no page without conflict. Luckily, I'm ADD, and I tend not to write (or read) the parts where nothing is happening. Once in awhile, I'll stick in a couple paragraphs to give some balance or offer a light-hearted moment to contrast with all the conflict.

But, as I'm second-guessing (which I always do), I'm wondering: how much conflict is too much? When does putting a character through hell start to get annoying? Or is it okay?

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Growing Up and Playing the Game ... Or Not

Today I made a tough decision, but once I made it, I felt SO good.

See, all the people I know that are over the age of 35ish have been saying that sometime in their thirties, they stopped caring what other people think. Since I just had a birthday, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and stop caring what people think.

I also decided to learn, once and for all, the art of saying no.

Next month is our local RWA conference, and I've been dying to go. One, they need participants to keep it going. Two, it's fun to be surrounded with like-minded people. And three, I just wanted to go!

But during the same weekend, I was a little bit obligated to go to another state conference. See, I've just been elected to the state board in my music organization. That's great, and I'm very excited about my job. It fits exactly with what I love to do, and I hope that I can add something good to the organization. There's a big board meeting on Thursday, but then the only thing "official" I need to do after that, is smile, nod, and be introduced at a luncheon.

I'm a big believer in the fact that, if you belong to an organization, you should volunteer some time. Even if it's an hour a year. I'm happy to do it, and I truly feel that it's my duty. But I don't have any political aspirations within my organizations. And I certainly don't feel that I should pay $250 to smile, nod, and be introduced.

I WILL go to the board meeting. Yes, I will do my job. No, I will not pay $250 to smile and nod and be introduced.

And you know what? I don't care what people think!

So now I'm really excited that I get to go to the Romance Writer's Conference in November. Yay! I get to pay a whole lot less, and enjoy a good conference.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Romance as Porn ...

Warning: Outrage ahead.

In Texas, Fred Head (I'm serious, that's his name) is taking mud-slinging to an entirely new level. He's not just slinging mud at his opponent, he's slinging mud at ROMANCE NOVELS!

He's calling them porn!!!!!!!!!!!!

His opponent, Susan Combs, wrote a Kismet Romance called A Perfect Match sixteen years ago. Evidently, THREE whole pages have sex on them. Boy, what a pornographic book. I don't think it even qualifies as erotica!

How wise is that? Considering that romance is the number one selling genre, and woman buy the most books, isn't he alienating his female constituents?

I really hate it when people judge like that. But I'd sure vote for Susan Combs, though!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Click and Drool!

Ohmigod. You have to check out this drawer. Click and drool. It's her husband's "tool" drawer. You're not going to believe it.

I've actually visited Jill Shalvis's website THREE times today, JUST to look at that drawer. This is insane behavior, right? I did swear off sugar today, but I'm re-thinking that. Now, if only I can get myself in bed before my feet take me to the store to create a drawer just like it!

Did I mention that I'm drooling?

I just peeked in our kitchen, to be sure. We don't have a drawer that big! Man, but shopping for a drawer that big would be fun. Let's see ... I like Hostess Cupcakes, Dove Chocolates, Little Snickers Bars, Black Licorice, OH!!! I'm totally on a Tootsie Pop addiction. Oh!!! Have you had those Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow lollipops? A couple bags of those ... and those softish peppermint sticks. And Pop Rocks!!! I love those, although ever since I've saw The Tin Drum, they've become a bit of an aphrodisiac. As long as DH is still awake, that's a good thing. *grins*

Just give me fifteen minutes. I can fill a drawer that size in NO time. Problem is, the drawer would NOT stay full for long!

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Little Rituals

Lately, the stress has been killing me. Just working a ton, and banging out as many words as I can when I'm not working (which is actually working, too). I feel like I'm just about ready to crack in half from the stress.

So, I had a cup of tea last night. Just a tiny little thing. I know that little cup of tea will make me feel better, but most days it feels like ONE more detail, ONE more thing on a to do list.

Ten minutes, just me and a teacup.

Why don't I do it more often?

Any tips on what you guys do to relieve stress? When life just gets too busy and overwhelming? Do you drop all self-care? Or do you have some nice little rituals in your daily routine, that keep you balanced and happy?

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Harmless Prejudices & Blogging

An author at Romancing the Blog recently lamented that for all the time she poured into her blog, she didn't get many readers. I think she should add to that, "that she knows of." Ever since I've been reading blogs this fall, I've discovered a ton of authors, all of who I've picked up the book.

What authors have you discovered from blogs?

I think the first blog that I popped by was Barry Eisler's The Heart of the Matter, which is very informative. It's one of those blogs where the conversation in the comments is as interesting (maybe even more interesting) than the actual blog itself. Barry comments in the comments, too, so hopefully that's not insulting! I learn so much there--both about myself and the world around me. I also spend a lot of time scratching my head, but that's a post for another day.

Somehow, that got me to read blogs, and I ended up at JA Konrath's blog. (Maybe from linking to his comment at some point ... that's another way I find new blogs.) His blog is also educational, but about the business, not politics.

Of course, I've been addicted to Miss Snark forever, who led me to Agent Kristin's blog, and also the BookEnds blog. Agent Jessica posts there, and she is so un-snarky that it's refreshing. Snark is funny, but something about Jessica's enthusiasm for the business rings true to me, even during her not-so-wonderful days.

I then ended up at Allison Brennan's blog, because she's a big people person, and sincerely helpful on a bunch of lists. Her blog isn't quite as interesting as where she blogs once a week: Murder She Writes.

And in all that blogging, led me to buy stories and books from Allison Brennan, JA Konrath, Karin Tabke, Jill Shalvis, and MJ Rose (who is now one of my very favorite authors!).

At some point, I linked to Tess Gerritsen's blog. I adore her blog. She seems like a very honest and sincere person. Unfortunately, I'm not into all that medical-schmedical stuff. (I say that with a grin.) So I enjoyed only her blog and didn't buy a single book.

But all her fans in the comment section kept talking about her. Other authors that I'd enjoyed posted about how they enjoyed her latest book. But you know what insane thing got me to finally pick up one of her books?

The fact that she mentioned that she played the fiddle. *insert eye roll at myself* (And by the way, I picked up Vanish, and DH had to tear it out of my hand to get me writing.)

Which got me to thinking about all the harmless prejudices that we have. One of mine is that a musician is a good author.

What are some of your harmless prejudices?

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Authors vs. Readers

Over at Miss Snark's blog, there's an interesting debate in the comment trail about her link to Robin McKinley's rant about reader mail. Since I had to squash my compulsion to send yet another comment, I felt I better take my stirred-up feelings and stick 'em on my blog.

I'm not saying that authors are obligated to respond to reader mail. But to denounce it, in the way Robin McKinley does, seems the epitome of ungratefulness.

It's a cliche, but it's true: don't bite the hand that feeds you.

I don't know why my feelings are so stirred up about this. I TREASURE my reader mail. I can't understand why anyone would rant about it, publicly. Yes, sometimes I'll get an email that I'll share with DH, and we might laugh. Or we might say, Ick! Does he think I'm a prostitute because I write erotica? But I would NEVER publicly denounce it, and the fact of the matter is, I LOVE it when my readers write me.

To put down a reader because she didn't research your married name? Whether you're a Mrs. or a Ms.? To put down readers for writing you at all? To put down readers for misspelling your title? Getting the name of a character name wrong?

Give me a break!

My opinion? If a reader writes you, say thank you or shut up. But what sense does it make to insult your readers??? And publicly, even? That's just beyond me.

And if you don't have time to respond to mail, just don't. Or send a form letter. But to insult them? I just don't get it!

One commenter said that an author doesn't owe a reader anything. To that, I say that readers provide your income. They don't owe a reader anything beyond the book, but I would go one step further and say that I hold a human being responsible for being kind to a human being who is looking up to them. The author doesn't have to do anything, doesn't have to respond, doesn't have to do any favors. But they can at least be kind and NOT bite their heads off. Another commenter fretted that an author shouldn't have to put on a public persona, shouldn't have to be polite to their readers.

I'm not asking anything of the authors I read. I allow them their moments of humanity. Publicly posting a rant on your webpage--not blog, where it's fine to slip, IMO--is not a moment of humanity. It's not losing your temper, and it's not saying that writers aren't human beings.

I'm saying that I hold authors to the same standard I hold every other single human being. When someone tries to be nice to you, or someone compliments you, no matter how annoying it is to you, you don't rant at them!

Life sucks. We all, in all our jobs, have to 'act' a certain way to stay in our jobs. We all have to do our fair share of nodding and smiling while we're annoyed inside. Being a writer isn't any different.

I haven't written many authors in my life. Now that I've joined a few organizations, I'll pop congratulations on the list for the things that they announce. It's the polite thing to do when someone announces good news, at least the way I was raised. Actually, I sent a brief, two-line email to JA Konrath once, and I believe that's the only mail I've sent to an author, except for friends who are authors. I tell them how much I enjoyed their stories in our regular chat, you know? That doesn't quite count.

But I've received plenty of email. Some people send me paragraphs about their relationships, and their hopes and dreams. Dear goodness to heaven, that's something to be treasured, not ranted about! Yes, readers have asked me to read their stuff. I'm flattered they asked. I almost always have to say no, but I'll be damned if I don't put in a very sincere thank you. And yes, some readers have asked me to do some very inappropriate things. (I write erotica; comes with the territory.) Again, they bought my novella. I can say a firm no, and thank them.

I guess I can be grateful that I don't have to put on a public persona in order to be appreciate and flattered that a reader writes me.

Because I treasure reader mail so much, I recently told myself that I should pop a thank you card in the mail when I'm particularly touched. Or send a quick email. But now I'm re-thinking that. What do you think?

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Friday, October 06, 2006

The best goddamn birthday ...

I'm sorry, this is going to be one of those boring posts where I exclaim what a wonderful day it's been, and it'll only be interesting to me.

But I'm a very happy girl today, so I just have to blog about it.

First, I managed to get all my Friday chores done yesterday, so I had the WHOLE day to write. Did I mention I finished my short story and last novella last week? Well, this week I started a new one, and I'm already a third of the way through. It's just flying out of my fingers. It feels really good to me. In general, I find that the ones that I enjoy the most, are the ones I get the least reader email about.

Just goes to show that you should NOT write what you know.

But the pay's the same, and I also got an email from my other publisher asking for a novella. Things are looking good for scaling way back on my job next year. Ohmigod, may I just tell you how HAPPY I would be???

And I ended the day with a two hour fondue meal at The Melting Pot. If you ever need to get in the mood ... or get anyone else in the mood ...

Let's just say, it was incredible. Heavenly. A heavenly evening of savoring yummy food, and drinking great martinis!

So, that's a pretty good birthday. Aside from my foot, and the fact that I'm devastated that it looks like my morning tkd class might be cancelled (I can't boost attendance, because my foot's hurt!), things are looking like this is going to be one of my best years ever.

Big grin!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Overwhelming TBR

Hey! Anyone know where Miss Snark is???? I can't get my daily dose of Snarkisdom! What am I going to do???

I'm a list person, but I'm very uncomfortable with keeping lists around. When I used to work in a law office, I'd get my to-do list done by lunch. It used to drive them crazy. They'd give me more to-do, but I'd just work faster. Eventually, it got to the point that I would get my to-do list done by two, and just sit for three more hours.

What could they do?

My to be read pile has reached enormous lengths. I've recently discovered the world of blogging, and with that, I've discovered a ton of wonderful authors. I recently joined RWA (in January), and I've got a list a mile long of friends I'd like to read. Then, all these short stories are coming out, and I've got about five collections of them on a list.

In addition, I've got the backlists of several authors that I've discovered online in the past month. I have about six or seven books lying around that I want to read, and I've got two Noras coming out this month.

And today, I was wondering through Borders. I could have picked up ten or so books that I got that "oooh ... I really want to try that one!" feeling.

So I sat down and decided to make a list. Want to take a stab at how many books I have to read in my TBR pile??? How many do you have?

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Short Story Slut

It's official.

I've become a short story slut. I practically orgasm at the sight of them, lately. J.A. Konrath just released Six Pack of Crime on Amazon Shorts, as well as These Guns for Hire--a collection of assassination-themed short stories. Must read!

I've already drooled over Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things. Laurell K. Hamilton just released Strange Candy. Both are incredible storytellers. The kind of storytellers who would be great if we were still passing down stories around campfires! The good writing skill is an added talent, for them!

What am I forgetting? I've been seeing short stories everywhere! Anyone have any other short story collection recommendations?

And why are they suddenly so popular?

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Snarky Reviews

The other day, there was a lengthy discussion in the comments section of Romancing the Blog on the "Mean Girls" and stream of snarky review sites, where poor author's books are smashed to pieces. Evidently, (I haven't seen one of these sites) tons of readers gleefully join in the fun, stomping the poor book into little bits.

Of course, there are hurt feelings. But, if there are readers joining in the fun ... um, aren't readers running out to BUY the books so that they can join in the fun???

Yes, I understand that it hurts. What can you do? A lot of commenters complained that some would-be authors were critiquing, instead of reviewing. Boy, get thee to a conservatory and learn the true art of dealing with criticism! Aside from the sting, we have to remember that the act of crtiquing and analyzing is very beneficial to learning the art of writing.

Personally, I find writing very humbling. I have a couple readers who are kind enough to email me and let me know my mistakes. I really love that. I really do. It doesn't hurt my feelings, although I don't know why. They're trying to be helpful, and I really appreciate it. I mean, how can I properly yell at myself if I can't find my mistakes? They're sure nicer to me than I am, when judging my own writing!

Funny enough, negative reviews aren't the only ones that get writers down. Tess Gerritsen recently read a wonderful remark the Los Angeles Times had made about her work, lumping her in with bestselling blockbuster types such as Stephen King, John le Carre, Dean Koontz, etc. She blogged about feeling insecure and like she didn't belong, in a post called "You Can't Possibly Be Talking About Me."

Let me check out my latest reviews: I growled at John le Carre's Mission Song, which irritates the heck out of me (although--if I'm to be entirely honest--part of it might be the fact that I feel stupid reading him, sometimes); I yelled at J.A. Konrath's Four Pack of Jack for killing a dog; and I got annoyed that The Nora--as much as I love everything she's ever written--can't hear rhythm in her rhymes (or did I forget to blog about that?).

All three writers are ones that I respect and ones that I read. I highly recommend them. It makes me wonder, would the commenters over at Romancing the Blog call me one of the "Mean Girls?"

I think I would LOVE that! Being "nice" is pretty darn boring. I'm so tired of being called nice and sweet. If I'm as snarky as the rest, then I really have to laugh.

Besides, I don't know about the other Mean Girls, but if only you could hear me review my own work! Boy, talk about brutal! Is anyone else brutal to themselves? Gosh, I beat myself up hourly. Strangely enough, it doesn't bother me. It kinda gets me all psyched up. I just snot right back to myself, "Fine! Well, wait until you see me do it better! I'll show you!"

And gosh, I read le Carre and I yell at myself, "It's like a fugue! You know fugues! Why can't you write a plot like this?" I read Konrath and yell at myself, "Hah! See, look at all those twists! When's the last time you twisted anything?!" And when I read The Nora ... dear heaven, I have to hold back there. She makes me shake my head and think the one thing I don't allow myself to tell myself!

And maybe that's where the line should be drawn in reviews, too.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Savoring Words

On Agent Kristin's blog, she posted about her author's German covers. She mentioned that the sound of German thrilled her. (I'm positive she didn't mean it thrilled to her in quite the same way it thrills me.)

On Miss Snark's blog, a commenter used the word, "frenemy." Totally cracked me up. I love words, especially made up words, that have so much meaning you just want to trip over yourself finding that perfect opportunity to use it.

In the meantime, I can just sit here and smile as I repeat to myself, "frenemy," over and over looking just a little insane.

I was reading Neil Gaiman's new release of short stories, Fragile Things, and almost orgasmed when I discovered the made-up word, "upsettling," which is, as he explained, halfway between "upsetting" and "unsettling." *grins*

God, I love language.

It reminded me of the days when I first started writing. How was it for you? For me, I sat for hours, grinning at the screen and toying with a sentence. Ohmigod, I had so much fun. I'd play with the words until I found precisely the exact word that made the sentence pop.

Nowadays, it's write, write, write; faster, faster, faster. I don't play with the language much anymore. I could delude myself into thinking that I'm more practiced, more efficient, and that I know the right word right away. No need for playtime.

*insert big knee slap here*

Back to savoring German words, I was trying to remember what made the German language so beautiful to me. One, the poetry. Two, the literature, and Three ... HUGE THREE ... the art songs. The study of all three in college gave me the pleasure of dissecting the words and analyzing why one was chosen over the other. The study of art song and music made me search poetry for the most meaningful word, and to give those words even more meaning with the interpretation of the music.

Art song is my greatest musical love. Poetry and music together ... I can't even express the pleasure I feel in art song. Dear god, please don't let the form die while I'm still alive.

Back--yet again--to savoring the language. When I listen to English people speak, I get the impression that each word has more meaning--or maybe more precise meaning--than when Americans speak the language. Something about listening to English people talk makes me feel like the language is appreciated more.

I don't read that richness in a lot of American prose. In the poetry, maybe.

The English use the language with relish, whereas Americans just speak the words.

Anyway, I miss those days of savoring words. In conservatory, we spent a little bit *insert grin* of time discussing the correlation between sex and music. Form, sex, and music.

You know, language can be orgasmic, too.

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