Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mornings, Again. Or, Coffee is Cool.

I had a paradigm shift this morning.

(I’m giggling my head off. I’ve always wanted to use that phrase, because I love to make fun of it. Isn’t it deliciously ridiculous?)

Anyhow, this morning was not a good morning. I had to wake up at 6, after two very bad nights of sleep. (Or shall we say non-sleep?) It felt like I was ripped from sleep, with part of my soul stuck in the dreamworld. Do you know, it is absolutely TRAUMATIC for me, just to wake up in the morning.

I am not a morning person.

However, after I had grumped and grogged through my workout and gotten dressed, I had an epiphany: If I can manage to get myself up early in the morning, I can handle anything.

Honestly. I can’t figure out what is harder, in a typical day, than getting up. It makes any challenge seem easy.

My second revelation of the morning is coffee. Since Jeremy James mentioned coffee, I’d decided to try coffee for awhile.

Boy, am I high, LOL.

I’m so talkative and energetic that I feel self-conscious, because I’m sure the people who know me are thinking, what, is she on speed now?

I can’t really even call it coffee. It’s more of a mud texture, with tons of soymilk and honey. Yummy.

And I’m getting tons done. I think I can get used to this coffee thing. Who needs healthy?

Read more...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Symbolism, Anyone?

Erica Orloff has had a great conversation on her blog yesterday about symbolism, and today about symbolism and the collective unconscious.

Well worth a look-see!

The extent of my conscious crafting of symbolism in my own work has been the passing thought, "Oh, well ... that’s become a bit of a symbol now, hasn’t it?"

Other than that, I avoid it. I don’t know why. I’m a little afraid of making it forced or pretentious.

But am I leaving out a tool that should be in my toolbox? Would it make my stories stronger? While I do enjoy ’seeing’ the symbolism in other author’s works, I will admit that I don’t particularly pay attention to it. I don’t go searching for symbols. If I see them, I think, "Cool."

Does it enrich the story for me?

I don’t know. Maybe it does, in a subconscious, under-the-surface way. Above the surface, it only gets a "cool." It’s always fascinating to dissect and deconstruct a story, but the fact is, I don’t know that I’m writing anything that’s particularly prone to such study.

But even if they don’t deconstruct it, even if they don’t notice it, would symbolism enrich the story for my readers? What do you think? Should I be thinking more of symbolism? Do you?

Read more...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Better Epilogue for Harry Potter

Have you seen Rowling’s interview with the Today show? She tells SO much more! No guarding secrets anymore!

But we’re not likely to get more than an encyclopedia, unfortunately.

I’ve started back on Book 1.

On a side note, have you watched Deep Space Nine lately? I never realized how much Seasons 5 and 6 (I haven’t started 7) reflect the big questions of the current times of terrorism, war, and espionage. Fascinating.

Read more...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quirks

Remember back a few years ago, when 99% of people did NOT have cell phones? And if you did, they were only for emergencies? No! Sorry, they weren’t even cell phones. They were BAG phones.

Back then, since you actually dialed people’s numbers, rather than going into your address book on your phone, you probably had a bunch of phone numbers memorized. I remember having everyone’s phone number memorized. We were all so practiced at memorizing phone numbers, that if someone gave us their phone number, we could memorize it in an instant.

Remembering that reminded me that we artists have quirks.

Back then, I was also in conservatory. Life revolved around stuffing more and more notes in our memory. (The center of every pianist’s life in conservatory seems to revolve around memorizing more damn notes, faster and better.)

My boyfriend’s reaction to this stress was a decision to forget all the phone numbers he had memorized, so that he had more "room" for notes. Instantly, at his decision, he forgot every single phone number he’d once known.

It was a little funny, LOL, even more fun to poke loving fun at.

I used to be a pretty organized person. Not completely so, but ...

Once DH came around, he gradually made life easier. He tended to remember things, so I didn’t bother anymore. He organized our bills, our mailings, our businessy-end of the business, our cleaning, etc. He just kind of remembers everything.

So I forgot. I’ve drifted toward the absent-minded artist stereotype. It’s a nice way to live an artist’s life, LOL. This weekend, I’ve got to get a handle on everything. I’m so busy, that’s I’m not that depressed anymore. That’s a good thing!

So what quirks do you have about your writing? Your artist’s life? Do you still have phone numbers memorized, or have they disappeared from lack of practice, from in-phone speed dials and contact lists?

Read more...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Embarrassing Hobbies

So. Do you have any hobbies you’re a little embarrassed about? Secret passions you’ve never told anyone about?

Since I just embarrassed myself by admitting mine to my writing pacing group, I thought, what the hell, I’ll admit it here.

Since I have nothing else to blog about.

I love poetry. I love reading poetry. Sadly, I also love writing poetry. Worse, I am not too good at it. I’m pretty bad at it, actually. I usually write it for fun, as in ... I don’t think too deep, and since I’m just doing it for fun, I often don’t bother to find that perfect word, which is pretty much the whole point of poetry.

I tend towards forms such as the haiku. I like the security of the rules (even though I broke them in 10 out of the last 16 I wrote). I like the brevity of haiku, the quickness of them, the way one word can mean so much.

But I’m always so embarrassed about it. Writing stories doesn’t quite effect me in the same way. With poetry, I blush. Even with the flippant little blog-fun that bloggers invariably have with the haiku, I always blush when I submit mine.

It really is silly.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? A secret one? An embarrassing one?

Read more...

Just Questions

When you belong to an organization, live in a democracy, do you just take the good and ignore the bad? Or is it a citizen’s and member’s duty to make the organization/country a better place?

If everyone shrugs and says to ignore the bad, then won’t the bad fester and grow like a cancer?

Where’s the line between ridding someone negative in your life, and letting down an old (ex?) friend during his/her greatest time of need?

Where’s the line between getting rid of negativity in your life, and making the world a better place?

Where’s the line between our responsibility to society, and making ourselves happy?

And since I’m eating sour strawberries this morning: isn’t it sad when fruit needs sugar?

Read more...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Comma, Life, and Feeling Done for the Day

Wow, what a great article: The Sad Fate of the Comma.

In the article, Robert J. Samuelson compares the shrinking comma to our fast-paced, ADD-prone, and multi-tasking society.

I will agree that life has gotten too fast. There’s always too much to do, with distractions and to-do lists everywhere. I start one thing, but I’ve got twenty other things needing done that are breathing down my neck. I piddle a little in one thing, then the other, then the other, never able to finish anything before I have to do it again.

The pace of life has almost become as addicting as a drug. I can’t sit still anymore, I can’t just think of one thing, and I even can’t just watch TV! Watching TV is usually done with palm pilot in hand, jotting down thoughts, to-do lists, or playing a palm game. And that’s IN BED, when I’m TRYING to fall asleep!

It’s insanity!

Sitting down to read--just read--has become difficult. How can I sit down and focus on one thing, when there are so many things to be done?

To get back to the article, Samuelson has definitely hit upon something with his analogy to society. When a book has a ton of commas, my reading and attention get tripped up. I fall, I have to go back again and re-read the sentence. In that little pause of a comma, real life leaks into the world the author has created.

I would say it’s my age, but it’s not. I remember HOURS of reading when I was child. Dickens, Austen, Bronte, and even Hardy: all comma-prone and delightfully long-winded.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I probably couldn’t get through one of those books now. I loved them, even miss those old friends, but my attention span has been sucked dry by the pace of our society.

One silly thing I miss about corporate life (twelve plus years ago, LOL), is the empty desk. I was a little obsessive-compulsive about clearing my desk and clearing my inbox. I couldn’t stand it when things weren’t finished. I loved my clean desk. In seven months, there was only ONE day where I went home with things undone. I loved the satisfaction of going home, leaving work at work, and feeling like I’d done a good job.

But now?

I’m constantly trying to cope with things NOT being done, because never, ever, ever is everything done! It just doesn’t happen anymore! Is it because I work from home?

My struggle, lately, has been to re-capture that "done" feeling, that cue to relax, unwind, that feeling of "leaving work."

I just want to sit down at the end of the day, not go to bed because I have to get up in the morning and finish a ton of things. I want to sit down at the end of the day and be DONE.

But how? How do you feel done, so that you can relax at the end of the day? How do you cope with the pace of our society? Is it possible to step out of it? Without falling behind? Or am I in serious need of some ADD drugs, LOL?

Read more...

Depression and Writing

Today at Working Stiffs, Kristine blogged about being depressed. It’s a topic I’ve heard a lot about, lately. Some author said that PAN workshops were only sitting around and talking about depression and writing (Um, no one will tell me what the PAN workshops are, except one person. The one who did certainly mentioned much better workshops than that!), and someone else has blogged about it recently.

Do you get depressed?

I never really realized I don’t, until I did.

Sure, when you’re plunging the depths of a character’s worst moment, when you’re both living in her shoes and heaping obstacle after obstacle on her, it can get exhausting and depressing.

At that point in the book, I need to step away and remember that MY life is not that bad, LOL.

But since DH went away (only 44 more days!), I’ve been sad. By six, seven o’clock I have to go home, because I just can’t keep my public face on anymore. By nine o’clock, I have to crawl in bed, hugging my teddy bear to my chest because it just hurts too much, missing DH.

I fully recognize it’s silly, and that I should be stronger. I know he’ll be back. I know he’s fine. I know I’m fine. I just don’t understand why I can’t turn off those sad feelings.

What do you do, when you’re depressed? Do you ever get depressed?

Read more...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just a Quote

Courtesy of Dr. Seuss, reminder by heractivelife.com:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Words to live by!

Read more...

About that Harry Potter

Okay, so who’s finished it? I’m dying to talk about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone! Who is still finishing it, and doesn’t want me to say anything about it?

I’ll only say that I couldn’t put it down, I finished it in a day, but I was vaguely disappointed. Whether that disappointment stems from the way the series ended, or that the series ended, remains to be seen. I suppose I’ll have to read it again.

It’s a hard life, isn’t it?

Read more...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Guilt and Artistic Pursuits

The greatest enemy of any hobby or artistic pursuit is guilt. I have seen so many people quit whatever it is they loved, simply because they guilt-ed their passion into a duty, and then guilt-ed themselves into resenting that duty.

Personally, this first developed with piano, in college. Any time I wasn’t in class or working, it was time to practice. Vacations? Time to practice more. Any free moment was for practicing. In fact, the year before I got sick, I would go to class from 8 am -1, work from 1-11, and practice from 11:30 - 3 or 4 am. (See how I got sick, LOL?)

When I started writing, it was more a matter of making money than anything else. Still, if I wasn’t teaching, or doing the business part of teaching, or doing the creative part of teaching, or practicing, I felt I should be writing.

That’s where the guilt comes in. Somewhere after "Yay! I’ll have X amount of time to practice my art!" comes the guilt. And guilt is like a cancer. It can eat up your love for ANY activity, before you can blink.

Don’t let it. Feeling guilty about not practicing your art can overwhelm your joy. Then the only way to get rid of that awful guilt feeling is to quit the art. How sad is that?

My current guilt? I didn’t write at the conference. I barely wrote this week. And now I’m on a cleaning frenzy, which means I won’t write for another two days or so.

Seriously, I write 5 - 6 days a week, like clockwork. During vacations, I pull 10 hour writing days. This not-writing has me in a bit of a panic to get back to it. But I’m determined not to feel guilty. I’m determined. My house has been a perpetual mess for over a year, because I always feel like I should be practicing or writing.

No more. This week, I’m going to finish cleaning this darned house, and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Now about guilt. Sure, one should write five days a week if one wants to become a professional. But there’s a line. Use the guilt if you have to, but don’t let it ever make you quit. There are many reasons to quit an activity or art.

Avoiding guilt isn’t one of them.

Read more...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Trying to Keep Busy

Hey all! I’m sorry, I’ve been feed-reading, but not much commenting lately. Trying to stay busy and not notice how SLOWLY time is passing until DH gets home. We both work from home, so I’m accustomed to being with him every minute of every day.

Boy, do I miss him. I am such a wimp. I don’t know how military wives do it.

Give me a couple days, and I’ll be back to my commenting old self, I promise! In the meantime, have a great weekend! I’ll be reading the HARRY POTTER book!

Will you be?

Read more...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Words of Inspiration

Tobias Buckell has a great blog, if you haven’t been. Even if you’re not into science fiction, I’d still recommend listening to his interview with Sarah Beth Durst in this week’s segment of Ask an Author on Adventures in Scifi Publishing.

She’s both charming and inspiring!

Best quote from the interview:

"It is a long road and one of the things that makes it hard is that there’s no real, clear path ... you sorta have to make one for yourself ... I really feel the key to it is just sticking with it for long enough ... you can, in effect, make your own luck...

It’s a right place, right time, right thing. If you write enough things, you’ll eventually get the right thing; if you write for long enough, you’ll get the right time; and if you do research and try to learn as much about the business and who you should be submitting to, then you’ll get the right place."

Great words of advice!

Read more...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Trend at the RWA Conference

Okay, I want to start a new trend. Will you--and tell everyone you know--put your photo on your business card?!! I thought for sure I’d remember people, but ... I’ve forgotten a few.

If I had a picture to put with the name, I would never forget them!

Tell everyone you know: if you’re going to a conference, put a photo on your business card.

I got a bunch of books autographed to DH (he loves the intrigue, cowboy, and rancher books), but of course they’re still on their way. I can’t wait until I can ship them to him.

I got to meet SO many people from online! I was a little disappointed that there were a few I didn’t meet, and I was also disappointed I never got to the bar! How do people have time for the bar? I don’t understand how to fit it in.

I did have time on Friday night after dinner. I went upstairs and one of my roommates and I decided to go down. Problem was, two hours later we were still chatting, and I was changing into my jammies, LOL.

There has to be some method. Do you skip everything in the morning? Skip the evening stuff? When is there time for the bar?! Do you not sleep?

Next year, I will have to investigate beforehand.

On another note, number of dinners I’ve burned since DH left: 4

And I’ve only been home for two and a half days.

Read more...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

RWA Conference: Kate Duffy

I meant to sit and be depressed all day about DH being gone for another 54 days (figured I’d get it all out in one day), but I spent the day reviewing all the conference hand-outs, my notes, and finishing up Nora Roberts’ High Noon. (Great book, so great I was depressed that it ended.)

I have so much to unload from the conference, so don’t be surprised if I’m double-posting for a few days. The greatest thing about the conference is that I came away thinking, "Man! It’d be great to work with this person! And this person! And that person! And ..."

You get the idea.

On Friday, I went to Hilary Sares’ "Publishing Myths" workshop. Hilary was stuck in an airport, so she called Kate Duffy to talk. When Kate Duffy stood up (having not had much time to prepare a talk on Publishing Myths), she told us the normal myths that we all know are wrong.

Two tidbits:
1.) When you get advice, consider the source.
2.) I particularly liked when she said that there’s no way to think your way into a contract, into a relationship with an editor or agent, into a sale, into anything. The book has to do it all.

Always good advice, but not exactly earth-shattering, LOL.

She finished about fifteen minutes into it, seeming like she was going to dismiss us, but a ton of people asked some great questions. (There was only one trying to ask about another editor’s response time on her particular book. Kinda boggled my mind, since how would Kate Duffy know, LOL!)

That’s when she said some newer things that I really liked.
1.) She said that e-pub credits are a viable backlist and not a strike against the author. (Boy, is RWA behind the times. I hear even the conservative Author’s Guild even accepts e-books!) She said that she’s done a 180 degree turnaround on her opinion of e-books in the last five years, and that she just bought a 7 book backlist of one of her author’s ebooks.
2.) If you’re not going out with your best book, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. In other words, getting a crappy book published is not going to do you any favors. You’ve got one shot at a first book, and if you fail, you’re done. You want nothing less than your best out there the first time.
3.) In other words, if your first book doesn’t sell, write another one and get better.
4.) When soliciting opinions on your work, don’t exclusively solicit writers’ opinions. Find readers, like booksellers, and ask them how they think it would sell. They’re on the floor every day. (Hey, Dark Scribe! I have a favor to ask you! LOLOL ... just kidding.)

Here’s some scary gems:
5.) People don’t "almost miss" getting published, she said. You’re either publishable or unpublishable, and the chasm between two types of authors is a huge gap like the Grand Canyon.
6.) The authors that do get published, get published because it’s inevitable, and she’s just lucky enough to discover them first.
7.) She knows within the first 3 - 5 pages. As she said, either the author can sing or she’s tone deaf.
8.) You’re not competing against the slush pile, you’re competing against the best authors on the bookshelves. To have a successful first book, you need to make your book *that* good.
9.) She knows when she’s found a gem if, immediately in the book, her noisy office recedes and fades away. It’s all in the writing. She accepts mysteries, thrillers, and primarily romance. She’s also head of the ... (Yikes! It’s Brava, right? At Kensington?)
10.) She also said, "We’re all book people in the book business." She stressed that she is and has to be accessible, that editors aren’t out to kill authors. She said that it doesn’t matter how you submit, and it’s not a big deal if it’s on crazy pink paper or has 3/4 inch margins instead of 1 inch margins. It’s okay to call them after a few months and ask the status of your submission. She just wants to find good books.
11.) She even said (to my complete surprise, and I can’t believe I heard her right), that she doesn’t mind if the book is complete or not.
12.) She said not to stress about the synopsis. It’s your book that matters, not your synopsis. It’s just a tool they need. If you can’t write a synopsis, have a friend read your book and write your synopsis; it’d probably be better that way anyway.
13.) She just wants to find good books, and that it’s a myth that you can get an editor on a "bad day." She’s not allowed to have bad days, because it’s her job to find great books. She wants to find great books, not crush writers’ dreams.

I have to say that I grew to respect her and like her after hearing her talk. To be honest, she does have a bit of a scary reputation in the business. She admits that she forgets authors have feelings, because books don’t have feelings. She does have genuine enthusiasm for her house’s books coming out.

And she definitely went on my wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-work-with-her-someday list.

Read more...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Update on RWA update and Respect

I was one of the brave fools to stand up and ask a question in the general meeting at the national conference. I was terrified--absolutely terrified--and my voice was shaking. I’m not much of a public speaker yet, LOL. If only you knew how far I’d come, you’d be appalled! A number of people thanked me over the week, so it made me feel better. That may have been their only intention, LOL.

The latest on the PAN/PRO mess, if you haven’t heard, is that RWA is going to revisit their wording. The general meeting was silly, because the president kept insisting that her wording was correct, and at the same time insisting that they didn’t mean what the wording meant. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

The gist is that Ellora’s Cave and Samhain are cool, because they distribute some of their books in bookstores and you can find their books on Amazon. If the publishing company does not distribute, then you are vanity-published.

Still not correct, but I guess it will make most people happy. I’m still "vanity-published" in their eyes, though, LOL, because my tiny pub does not distribute. It’s pretty ridiculous I ever allowed them the power to tell me whether or not I’m published. The tax man has no qualms about my status, that’s for sure.

The founder and inspiration of RWA, the person whose vision started it all, stood up and spoke to the entire conference. She got a standing ovation, but I still think it went over many people’s heads when she reminded us that the original vision of RWA was to help unpublished writers.

Period.

She didn’t add to it, embellish it, or offer any other reason why RWA was founded.

Now RWA treats unpublished writers like lepers who may not go near a workshop, or a portion of the website, that’s strictly PAN. Or PRO, for that matter.

How very disappointing.

Writing is writing, after all. Do you head over to Buzz, Balls & Hype ever? A blog sponsored by MJ Rose? Gregory Huffstutter, the "Ad-Man," guest blogs. He made a name for himself in the writing community by publishing one of his novels, Camilla Spa, on his site for free.

Another man who’s setting trends and earning respect is Jeremy James. Have you checked out his website? Checked out his "sponsored" but free-to-read (or listen to) book? And his book has just gone up on podiobooks. Well worth a look-see, because it’s not the last you’ll see of him.

After all, the amazing and amazingly successful Seth Godin said that if you give content away for free, you’ll have readers for life. I wouldn’t presume to know how his books are doing or what his income is, but it’s a safe bet his books are doing pretty damn good.

How did I get from the beginning of this essay to the end? Well, we’re all in this book business together. Bookseller, librarian, reader, writer, editor, amateur, professional, whatever. What’s more, we need each other. We damn sure should respect each other, no matter how we choose to make our career. Or even hobby.

Read more...

I'm Back! And tired ...

I have so much to tell you! I didn't feel like spending a fortune to get on the internet except one day (I was really in withdrawal). I will blog more about it as soon as I recover.

I came home to an empty house, minus DH. Only 54 more days until he gets home!

I'm off to finish Nora's new book, High Noon. I'm so grateful we got it for free! I'm off buying books until fall. My books from Meljean Brook's contest win came in, too. Even Erica Orloff sent me a free book, a surprise! Thank you, universe! (And Nora, and Meljean, and Erica!)

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, but it always throws you a bit of luck to balance things out. You know?

All we can do is focus on being grateful. Someone said this week (and last week is so blurry, I'll have to look it up!) that it's much harder, much more courageous, and much more difficult to be positive, than it is to be negative. Complaining is easy.

So I'm taking one day to read and curl under the covers, and then it's off to work again! How's everyone doing? I feel like I've missed everything! I can't wait to catch up on my blog reading.

Read more...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Morning: PRO/PAN & Vanity Publishing

Warning: a little sarcasm ahead.

WOW! I just learned that I am VANITY-PUBLISHED! Wow! I get paid money up front above the RWA threshold (straight up, I don't have to 'earn it out' like standard royalty agreements), I get 40% royalties forever, and I don't pay them a cent. But you know what? RWA, in all their wisdom, has deemed that I and a TON of e-published authors (including the e-pub darling, Ellora's Cave) are VANITY-Published!!

So not only am I not "really" published, but I'm VANITY-published!

Maya Reynolds has the scoop.

That's just something. Many of us make more than New-York published authors, and yet we're considered vanity-published.

I don't believe in leaving an organization if you're unhappy. I believe in staying and using the system to make the organization better. I plead with upset authors to stay, unite, and reverse this alarming trend of RWA.

Which is why I'll stay, why I will NEVER join PAN/PRO (I think it's the most appalling thing I've heard of in any organization, ever), and I will campaign until my dying day to end it.

I will be very sorry to hear the outcry against this latest ruling. I hope too many people don't quit. They're essentially kicking a TON of people out of PAN.

You know, advances aren't the most important thing in the world. They're necessary, in the beginning, but in the end? It's like investments. You want to live off of royalties, not advances, if you want to have a secure living. Getting there is tough without the advances, though, just so you can buy the time to write that much/well. Getting there is nearly impossible if you don't earn out your advance.

With 40% royalty rates, I'd rather be published by an e-pub without an advance than a NY-publisher with a dinky little one to three thousand dollar advance that you don't earn out because of no support, and so you end up without another contract.

It's all a big gamble, isn't it? I mean, I wouldn't complain about a ten thousand or above advance, but to hear people talk, those are rare gifts these days, anyway.

Read more...

Wednesday: Literacy Signing

I keep forgetting to mention that you can read TONS of great posts on the National conference at Blogging National. And there's an RWA Official Conference Blog, too!

I woke up at 7, and worked the Literacy setup from 8 - 8. While I do think one should volunteer at National, a 12-hour day is TORTURE to the feet. Especially to writer-feet, that are accustomed to you sitting down for most of the day, propping them up nice and comfy-like.

The Literacy Signing was noisy and hot, with tons of people everywhere. I loved it for the first hour. I won a basket in the raffle!

I am just loving all the adults around. It is SO great to talk to adults! I chatted myself hoarse yesterday!

I was in charge of watering the A and B authors, including Suzanne Brockmann. She's a class act. She also brought two assistants--men--who were pretty damn good-looking. I now want to be her so I can hire two hot assistants, too.

Seriously, though, they were cool because they kept her line under control and we didn't have to. :-)

I thought I would die and never make it to the Chick Lit chapter's party, but I made it! They had cheese and spinach dip and ... Oh. My. God. ... this mousse parfait thing with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry mousse. Amazing! They even topped it with a truffle! It was well worth the asthma attack, LOL.

Read more...

Tuesday: Fire Ants at National

It's been fun so far! I signed up for a 5:55 flight, which seemed a fine enough time. But when you add getting there the required two hours early, as well as the time to park at the park 'n fly and then take the shuttle to the airport, and the time it takes to get to the park 'n fly, I had to leave at 2:45.

Since I was late getting ready, I didn't sleep.

The first day was a little bit of a haze because of it. I volunteered a bit and visited the goody room. GREAT goody room! I got quite a few books that I've been dying to read.

One group blog, Naughty and Spice, handed out Charms lollipops! Yum.

But this is Texas. After I finished the lollipop, I set down the lollipop stick on the wrapper, on the windowsill. Would you believe that even way up here, on the 14th floor of a big hotel, it was swarmed with fire ants within FIVE MINUTES??????

Then one of my roommates--a nurse, bless her soul--told me stories about how people will keel over from a heart attack (still living), and by the time they get to the hospital, they have pockets of fire ants in their body.

So my first night here, I kept waking up with phantom fire ants all over my body, and dreams of fire ants eating me alive.

Read more...

Monday, July 09, 2007

How to Create a Website for Free

Website up, albeit jury-rigged. My blogroll is NOT done, not even up yet. I’m sorry for the temporary dis-linkage. I’ll finish that when I get back from National.

Okay, see how I’m featuring commenter’s books in the middle column? Well, not done yet. If you’re not there, let me know! I’m sorry for that, too! I’ll finish that when I get back.

I’m glad you can’t see my house. I’ll finish cleaning when I get back.

Oh, and the laundry, the emails, the mail, the bills, the phone calls, the appointment-making, the thank-you cards, the contest winner from last Thursday, the contest judging ...

When I get back.

Oh ... and do y’all see how clever I am? A whole website, hosted for free, all on Blogger. What do you think? I did pay $5 for the www.spyscribbler.com domain. It just redirects. Bad? Good?

See any mistakes? Please let me know! Anyone know how to get rid of that stupid off-white strip above my header picture? And I’ll fix the un/ordered lists, too.

When I get back, LOL. I am SOOOOO late! I have to leave in five hours, and I still have laundry and packing to do!

Read more...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Joys of Hammocks

It’s been a rocky two days. First, I obsessed over missing my jeep while it’s getting an overhaul. Then I obsessed about clothes for the National conference. When DH left for two months? It all came out. I don’t think I really cared about the jeep or the clothes, LOL, but it was a heck of a lot easier to obsess about those than think about missing DH.

Boy, do I miss him.

Last night I slept under the open sky in a hammock. Pure bliss.

Today I’m cleaning before National and packing. Liz Wolfe has wisely advised that I do what I need to do to get what I need out of the conference.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem they have what I most need: marketing info, what to do with your work after it’s published, your career after "how to pitch, query ...", etc.

Barring that, I pretty much just want to talk to adults. Most of my conversation is with kids, and when I’m not teaching, I’m sitting in a corner and writing.

I’m not nervous about my clothes anymore, but I am nervous about my schedule. There are several 15-hour days. What was I thinking??? I have a feeling I’ll be skipping quite a few workshops. And I wanted to write while I’m there, too!

So anyway, if you’re going, what do you want/need to get out of the conference? If you were going, why would you go?

Read more...

Friday, July 06, 2007

National Conference & My Poor Jeep

Two good and two bad pieces of news today.

First, DH leaves for two months on work, tomorrow. *insert very sad face* We both work at home, so we’re accustomed to spending every minute of the day together. God, I’m gonna miss him like crazy.

Second, we dropped off the Jeep at the hospital. I’m not sure if you’re aware of how much I love my Jeep, but ... it’s my baby. I can’t think of anything more fun than driving down the road with the top off, with the sun shining and the wind whipping my hair everywhere. I am definitely a Jeep kind of woman. It will probably be fixed soon, but I’m not sure if I can pick it up until DH gets home.

The first good news is that my "niece’s" baptism is Sunday!

The second good news is that I leave for the National RWA Conference on Tuesday! I can’t wait! I’ve booked my schedule with volunteering and such, but I think I might get to meet with one of my editors! She has such great ideas; I’m thrilled.

I’m not known for being too studious at conferences. I write every day, so I figure a conference is a bit of a vacation and an opportunity to hang out with other writers. (You should see how much writing I get done on writing retreats--Hah!) There are tons of great workshops, so we’ll see. At my piano conferences, my mind goes blank after a couple days. I’ve been known to skip most of the last day, LOL.

I’ll spring for internet a couple of the days and post all about it, but I won’t have time to visit y’all’s blogs. (Lame-oh, Natasha!) I’m sorry! I have the following week off, so one day I’m gonna sleep in and then blogsurf in my pajamas all day. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

So what about you? When you go to a conference, do you mostly go for the editor/agent appointments, the workshops, or the camaraderie? Have you been to a National RWA conference? Any advice or wisdom to offer? Anything special you want me to check out and blog about, if you’re not going?

Read more...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #?: Help me; win a book!

I write in an orderly way. I can’t write my first chapter until I’ve got a title, and I can’t write my story until I’ve got a first chapter. Okay, I already have first chapters galore, second chapters, scattered scenes, but it’s just not gelling yet.

So I’m begging your help. Here are thirteen facts and thoughts on my WIP. If you leave at least one idea for a title in the comments section, I’ll random.org one lucky winner and send you a signed copy of Cherry Adair’s Edge of Danger.

img1

Thirteen Bits About my Work-In-Progress
or
The Quest for a Title

  1. Main Character: Lauren Price
  2. Occupation: Humanitarian by day, assassin by night.
  3. Age: 34
  4. Backstory: Retired Marine, too good at killing for her own comfort.
  5. Main Character Trait: Stubbornly principled, even to a fault.
  6. Her Journey is to become an assassin and spy.

    My Ideas so far:
  7. Spy Awakened
  8. Assassin Awakened
  9. Heart of an Assassin
  10. Web of Lies (I think this title has been done before, but I’ll have to check.)
  11. Secrets ... um, Secrets ... um, I like the word Secrets. Help, anyone?
  12. Truth or Dare
  13. Leave your title idea in the comments to win Cherry Adair’s Edge of Danger!

Join in the Thursday Thirteen fun!

Read more...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Commas, eegads!

I’m not much of a grammar buff. In fact, I hated, hated, hated diagramming sentences in school. *insert shudder* In fact, despite the A’s I got from a talent for guessing correct answers, I never knew with certainty what a direct object, indirect object, etc. was, until I studied German.

(Yep, I would actually translate my sentences into German to find the direct object for English class. Y’all already know I’m weird, so I’ll just let it all hang out here. :-) )

Commas are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. If you have a sit in the grammar section of the bookstore, it’s fun to look through the books on comma rules. The ’experts’ will tell you there are anywhere between two to forty-two rules about the use of the comma. Me? I side with the two-rule camp.

Commas are something I never get right on the first run-through. In fact, I have to go through my whole manuscript at the end, just to take out a bunch of commas. (And insert a few, sadly.)

I primarily write for online readers. An editor at Ellora’s Cave once confirmed what I had suspected to be true for a long time: online reading begs the use of less commas than paper reading. She didn’t expand on that, but I remember wanting to record her words and send them to one of my editors.

I hate reading stories that feel like an eighth grade English teacher punctuated them. Commas are definitely a rhythm thing, and liberal use of the comma can cause stilted flow. You know I’m obsessed with rhythm.

The Nora uses lots of commas, even using a comma in place of the word ’and.’ Imitators often don’t realize that she varies her rhythm: one heavily-comma’ed sentence followed by a quicker, flowing one.

I’m absolutely in love with Marcus Sakey’s prose. You know I’m crazy about his book, The Blade Itself. Part of the reason is that he uses less commas per capita than any author I know. And it works, it works very well.

If you have a stroll through each section, you’ll find that literary prose often tends toward more commas, while thrillers tend toward less commas. (Generally.) Romance can fall in between, and speculative fiction is a world of its own that doesn’t seem to follow the trends of the rest of the world. (Especially concerning point of view.)

So what kind of rhythm do you prefer with your commas?

Read more...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Morning Grumblings

I’m so annoyed. My one publisher is over three months behind in reporting and paying my royalties. Actually, she’s six months behind with part of them. And she’s up and disappeared. I swear, some days it feels like the last thing American society cares about is paying people on time.

Since it’s morning and I’m grumpy in the morning, I’ll expand on another question that’s been bugging me: who are our heroes going to be in the next decade and on?

I look at kids today--no, parents today, so people my age, my generation--and ’selfish’ is the word that comes to mind. Parents seem to care about convenience first, about their kid first, and respecting the order of society seems the last priority.

For example, when I was growing up, if no money for something was around, we didn’t steal money from our bills. Nowadays? People skip paying their bills to go on vacation, buy iPods for their kids, etc. Keeping up with the Jones’ is more important than keeping up with the bills.

I don’t see parents teaching their kids social responsibility. ’Protect the self’ seems the battle cry of this upcoming generation. It’s not their fault, of course. It’s my generation’s fault. Or is it the fault of our parents?

Or maybe the world has to give a reason to inspire a generation to think outside their own little world. Or maybe it’s just the community I live in.

But I swear, something’s wrong when a child thinks it’s funny that his mom doesn’t pay her bills on time.

The very worst thing about being self-employed? The feeling of having to beg for honestly-earned money. That’s why I aspire to make music my hobby one day. I want to do it for the love--not for the money anymore. There’s a big difference. I’ve never written except for money, so writing with the goal of money doesn’t bother me. I don’t know if that makes my love more for music or writing. I suppose it doesn’t matter. They’ll both be part of my life.

So how’s your morning going? Better, I hope?

Read more...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wrapping the Mind Around Horrors

I’ve been really wrapped up in my story the past few days. I love that intense zone I get into, at the beginning of a story.

I’m a firm believer in getting into the minds of my characters. I tell myself that I must not only understand them, but feel them, feel why what they do seems like the right thing to them. Even if it’s not the right thing to do.

But some things are a struggle.

I’m toying with a villain who touches on a fear of mine: senseless, sadistic violence that is torture for pleasure’s sake. I’ve been reaching out into history to the things so terrible they make me gasp.

Long sleeves and short sleeves (made by machetes hacking off arms in appropriate places), pockets (cut in the obvious place, with hands shoved inside). Concentration camps, gas chambers, genocide ... the list goes on.

What makes it so horrifying, aside from the horror of it? Is it the everyday label applied to something so frightening? The everyday people involved?

I study those things, not because I want to use them as is in my fiction (been done before, I’m sure), but because I want to understand how ’normal’ people can do those things.

And yes, I firmly believe they are normal people. Sure, there are psychopaths and sociopaths, but I’m talking about normal people who grow to do these things. I believe that if they have that switch in them, then so do I.

So I’m searching inside myself. I’m trying to put myself in those shoes. I once had a very nice, loving, and brave German woman try to explain the holocaust to me, from the ’wrong’ standpoint.

There is pure evil out there, but I believe it’s rare. The cases above were
embraced by large groups of people, not a single being of pure evil. The cases
above are proof, I believe, of the worst humanity is capable of.

I wonder if, in addition to studying and remembering atrocities, we shouldn’t study how a normal human mind can come to think of certain horrors as the right thing to do. If we understand where and how to activate that switch, then we can be in control. We can choose not to ever flip that switch, and make sure it’s not ever flipped for us.

I don’t know. This post is just begging to be misinterpreted, isn’t it? I’m struggling to wrap my head around these thoughts. What do you think?

Read more...