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Almost ready…

on October 2, 2007

This week is abso-freakin-lutely crazy. And that’s an understatement. Two college courses plus a writer’s e-course all started yesterday and I’m already behind. The e-course is fantastic but talk about a lot of info. The first lecture was over 30 pages. And we’ll have two of those a week. It’s DEEP EDITING by Margie Lawson and the reason I’m doing this on top of everything else is because I KNOW taking this course will make me a better writer. Between Donald Maass and Margie Lawson, how can I go wrong?!

But the big deal is this weekend. My first conference. I’m so excited. I’m also nervous but not as much as I would be if I were pitching. The book just isn’t near finished enough to try pitching it. I haven’t completely decided not to try but I’m 95% convinced I shouldn’t. I’m taking a pitching workshop Friday so I’ll wait and decide that night.

The main thing is not forgetting anything. Yes, we tie back into my CRS. I ALWAYS forget something. I’ve done so much traveling in the last few years I’ve gotten better but still not a 100% remember rate. Here’s my list:

Clothes
Shoes
Hygiene necessities
Computer
Notebooks
Folder in which to collect handouts
Bag to carry around notebooks and folder
Business Cards
Flash – with WIP so I can work (yeah right)
New digital camera (Whoohoo!)

What am I forgetting? Any conference veterans out there with tips? Something I’d never think to bring but would be miserable without? Anyone else going to the New Jersey Writers Conference this weekend? If you’ve been to any conferences, please share some stories. We’d love to hear them!

Momentum: An Amazing Thing

on September 26, 2007

I’ve been writing. Not like before when I said I was writing but it meant I might *try* to write something on my WIP a couple of times a week. I’m really writing. In the last week I’ve written over 50 new or revised pages which may not sound like much to some people but it’s quite a bit for me. I admit I cheat and am able to write at work. Ssssshhhhhhh….don’t tell.

But I even wrote at home this weekend which never happens. In an hour I had 6 new pages. In. An. Hour. Where did that come from? I’m finding I love the changes I’ve made to the story, I really like my characters and I’m enjoying myself. Who knew just making it fun would make it easier? Ok, I’m sure someone knew that but it’s wasn’t me.

So, I’m keeping this short because I want to get back to writing. My h/h are about to run into each other again, which is pretty much all they have done for the last 80 pages. LOL! These two are either going to take out restraining orders or give in and jump each other’s bones. I’m hoping they take the direction I have in mind or this book is going to be a real wallbanger. *g*

How about you? Have you ever been swept away by momentum? Have you been writing up a storm? Shopping like Ivana? Reading like a fiend? Or maybe you’re in a rut and need to get some momentum of your own going. Any suggestions on how to get things moving then make sure they stay that way are welcome. I say make it fun! What do you say?

That Magical Box

on September 20, 2007

I am a child of the 80s which means I grew up attached to my television. I was there August 1, 1981 when MTV started. I was there when Alf beamed into our living rooms, when Tutee took off her roller skates, when Murphy had her baby and when the gang from Cheers said goodbye. I was there when six friends started hanging out at Central Perk and I cried when they closed shop. I was there for the Boob-Heard-Round-the-World, when Regis said, “Is that your final answer?”, when George said, “Yada yada yada” and when Madonna slipped Britney some tongue. Yes, yes, she kissed Christina as well but what was so shocking about that?

There are several ironies in my long-standing connection with television. One – I spent years working in radio. Video Killed the Radio Star anyone? Two – I have always been an avid reader and am now a writer. Stop rotting your brain by watching tv and read a book! And my new obsession adds even more irony. Reality television. Let me preface by saying I do not want to watch some man pick his soul mate from 25 cat-fighting chicks who DO NOT need television to find a date. I can’t stand practical jokes so Punk’d and whatever that show was where the girl had to convince her parents she was marrying a moron are out too. I am, however, addicted to just about any reality show Bravo creates. I say just about. Those rich chicks in Beverly Hills can jump out a window and that annoying house flipping dude needs his ass kicked.

But there is a double irony in the reality shows I choose to watch. None of them are about anything in which I would normally be interested. For instance, Project Runway. I know nothing about fashion, don’t particularly like fashion and will most likely never wear anything fashionable. But I love this show! Top Chef. I do not know how to cook and I know nothing about spices or flavors. I’m an extremely picky eater who would starve in any gourmet restaurant. I still have a cringing reaction when I hear some of the dishes described but I never miss an episode.

Last night my other favorite started a new season. America’s Next Top Model. Why do I love this show? I don’t like watching immature, skinny chicks curse and cry. As mentioned, I don’t like fashion. But I LOVE this show. My daughter loves it even more. I’m not sure it’s smart to let an 8 year old watch this show but Tyra makes it all about self-esteem, confidence, chasing your dreams and seeing beauty where others might not. So, I’m thinking we’re good.

Do you also need your weekly dose of Heidi, Chef Tom and Miss Jay? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Do you watch reality shows? If so, are you screaming at the television who to vote off the island next or do you prefer to sit back and watch the train wreck that is Paula?

Squinty Hookhand the Well-Endowed here…

on September 19, 2007

And I bring you “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”. Well, I don’t really *bring* it to you. I mean, I have no idea who came up with it or how they got the word National on the front but I’m thinking whoever *they* are, *they* are masters of marketing.

Back to the program. Today is “National Talk Like a Pirate Day” and if you’re anything like me, you’re already tired of those morning radio people saying “Aarrrrgggghhhhhh” all morning long. But wait, we can’t be tired of pirate talk already! It’s not even 9:30 in the morning. Well, it’s not 9:30 yet here on the east coast at the moment I am writing this blog but I’m thinking it will be well past 9:30 by the time I post this so lets just say, “It’s not even 10 o’clock in the morning yet!”

Back to the topic. You may be asking yourself, “Who the hell is Squinty Hookhand the Well-Endowed?” Silly you, that would be me. But you can call me Squinty for short. Just don’t call me Hookhand because I don’t really like the sound of that. And Well-Endowed isn’t bad and it does technically apply (take a bow girls!) but it seems a little over-the-top don’t you think?

Where was I? Oh yes, pirates. So I have this really cool book called Pirattitude (thanks to a wonderful friend in Mississippi) by John “Ol Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers. Hey, I just read the back cover and it says these guys invented “Talk Like a Pirate Day” Mystery solved!!!

Sidetracked again, sorry. This books talks about everything from how to find your pirate name (hence my new one) to pirate pick up lines to how to throw a pirate party even Martha Stewart (or Squinty Headwound) would be proud of. You can find translations of everyday modern speech into pirate. For instance, for the kiddies in school, detention would be Davy Jones’ locker and skipping school would be called taking shore leave.

You’ve got yer pirate fashion, yer pirate quotient (Pi-Q!) and even yer pirate zodiac! Here’s my sign of the Piradiac…

Cutlass – Ye’re sharp and decisive! Ye’re also scrupulously truthful, but willing to work on that. Ye show great initiative and leadership under fire while still enjoying long walks on the beach and those fancy drinks served up in a coconut shell with a tiny paper umbrella. Ye likes what ye likes! If ye weren’t a pirate, ye might be a firefighter, a military officer or a livestock auctioneer. Predicted outcome: Aye, ye’ll hang. But ye’ll know ye had it comin’.

Wow, it’s like they know me exactly. I say give the site a good lookin’ over and see if ye can’t have a little fun today. As the guys say, DO refer to everyone as “matey,” “me hearty” or “me saucy dumplin’ o’luv!” but DON’T use anyone’s real name. They are drinking to forget or be forgotten!

An Empty Tool Belt…

on September 17, 2007

I found the idea for this blog in an email conversation last week. I lost it for a few hours but thankfully it came back. Lets say I want to build a bookshelf. What would I need? Wood, saw horses, nails, glue, a tape measure, a saw, and clamps. Could I do it without any of these things? I might be able to skip the glue if I’m ok with some of the shelves not being perfect. I could do without the saw horses if I want to crawl around on the ground which would make it more difficult. I could go without the clamps if I think I could do some twister moves to hold stuff together. And maybe, if I have half of the nails I need, I could just slap it together and not worry if it’s not the most sturdy bookshelf.

The problem is, I could never slap something together and feel good about it. My personality requires that if I build a bookshelf, I must be able to put it next to anyone else’s bookshelf and it be just as good if not better. I’m not saying this makes my way the right way, it’s just the reality of who I am. So, when I write a book, I have to be able to put it next to other books and feel it holds it’s own. It’s just as good if not better. That means I need the tools required to write a good romance novel. And right now, my writing tool belt is sorely lacking.

Almost a year ago I came up with a reasonably simple love story and created two characters of which I’m quite proud. I started writing, made it seven and a half chapters in and realized there was no story. These two met, they liked each other right away and there was no reason for them NOT to be together. She had some abandonment issues that would need to be worked through and he had a dead fiancé he was still getting over but less than five minutes with the heroine and fiancé girl was long forgotten. In summary, I had no conflict.

Now I’m starting over and realizing the problem is how little I know. Not about my characters or about the action that unfolds throughout the story but about writing itself. I don’t have the tools I need to create a powerfully emotional story that sucks the reader in, makes them laugh, makes them cry and leaves them with a satisfactory sigh. That is what I want to create. I must find the tools.

One of the first stops is the New Jersey writers conference in three weeks. I’ll be attending workshops on topics such as dialogue, making the story stick with the reader, forgetting the rules, creating non-Alpha heroes (perfect for me!) and writing emotional love scenes. I have another conference in November in which I’ll learn more about creating conflict and real characters plus I’m looking into a popular and powerful online course that dives deep into emotion and editing among other things. And I can’t forget the book recommended by Elizabeth Hoyt – How to Write the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I did purchase it but I’m afraid I haven’t found the time to read it!

What about you? How is your tool belt hanging these days? Feeling a bit light? Or perhaps so full you can’t fit anything else. Where do you go to find the tools you need for success. If you have any links or how-to book recommendations, please share.

Another big step…

on September 11, 2007

If I’ve learned anything in the last year it’s writing consists of much more than just writing. If you want to be published anyway. In an effort to dip my toe further into the waters and hopefully learn more about the craft and the industry, I’m attending my first romance writer’s conference in less than a month. The New Jersey Romance Writers of America Put Your Heart in a Book conference may not be as large as the Nationals but it’s not all that small either. Authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Elizabeth Boyle, Sophia Nash and the duo of Liz Maverick & Marianne Mancusi will be speaking or presenting workshops. And that’s only the beginning. The complete list offers many more authors as well as industry professionals.

On a little aside, I’m happy to announce I am one of the lucky attendees invited to Julia Quinn’s workshop on dialogue. This is a ticketed event for the first 100 registered and I’m ticket #94. Whew – just made it.

But back to business. In addition to meeting some of my favorite authors (re-meeting Eloisa James Yay!) and gaining priceless knowledge and insight into writing from the people who know, I’ll also be networking. I hope. Which is why I’ve now made it official and ordered my first business cards. I can’t believe it.

First of all, they confirm I’m a writer. Really, it says it right there on the cards so it must be true. And second, I’ve never had a reason to have business cards before so that in itself is surreal. If all goes well, I’ll have them in my hot little hands no later than four days before the conference. If all goes wrong, I could be up a networking creek without a card. But we’re thinking positive here so lets not go there.

How about you – have you ordered your business cards? Have you attended or made plans to attend your first conference? Does the idea of talking to your favorite authors or pitching your MS give you the heebie-jeebies? Thank goodness I’m not pitching this time around. I said dipping my toe in not doing a belly flop off the diving board!

And before I forget – I highly recommend Vistaprint. You can get business cards for free! (plus shipping of course)

That giant whooshing sound you hear…

on September 5, 2007

…is me exhaling. Math final done. English final essay done (in a record four hours and turned in with 55 minutes to spare). I now have three blissful weeks before the next quarter begins. I cannot tell you how wonderful that sounds. I have two goals for the next three weeks.

Goal One – do everything possible in the publicity and promotion of the Chesapeake Romance Writers Conference in November. I won’t know exactly what that entails until this Saturday but other than stuffing promo bags, I’m hoping everything can be done or at least well underway before the end of this month.

Goal Two – make major progress on the WIP. The muse returned somewhat this weekend and I’m hoping to keep the momentum alive. A coworker asked me about the book this morning and as I told her about the changes I’m making and where I plan to take the story, I found myself getting excited about it. I really like the direction it’s going. Today I ordered the book Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass as recommended by Elizabeth Boyle – thank you very much. Ms. Boyle says this book is great for explaining character motivation and that’s what I need. And I found it at half.com at a really great price so double kudos to me.

Since we are talking about goals, I’ll reiterate another one of mine. I want to write THE END on my story on or before December 31, 2007. That means, on or before the day I turn 36 years old, I will have a finished MS. Grant it, there will be months of revisions after that but I figure, if I stick to this schedule, I’ll be able to enter a somewhat polished MS in some Spring contests and have a very polished MS to pitch at Nationals.

How about you? What are your short term goals? Long term goals? Even if it’s just get those dang clothes off the bedroom floor and into the closet – one of my very short term goals – please feel free to share.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the accomplishment of one of my long time goals. I’ve purchased my first couch ever! It’s being delivered tonight. I realize it’s nothing spectacular but when every piece of furniture you’ve ever owned has been a hand-me-down, one brand new sofa is a very big deal. *g*

Where does writing fit?

on August 30, 2007

I have been under a great delusion. For some reason I believed that once summer ended, my daughter came back and we settled back into a routine, life would settle down. I suffer from this delusion all the time. I think “once the holidays are over” or “once the summer is over” or “once softball season is over” everything will get back to normal. But it never does. Apparently, this is normal.

A few days ago I was writing an email to a friend and started listing all the things that are going on in my life in the next few months. Not until typing it all out did I realize I’m going to be insane by Christmas. The insanity starts tonight (well, intensifies anyway).

Tonight is our first softball practice. When I say *our* I mean my daughter’s but I’m saying *we* since we’re in this together. I do not know yet how often we will practice nor how often we will play games but I’m thinking it’s going to take up at least 2 to 3 evenings/mornings of my life. My daughter starts school the day after Labor Day, I have a final paper due that day and a final exam to take that evening. I have a meeting the following Saturday at which I will find out exactly what I have to do to promote my local RWA chapter conference coming up in November. I somehow got *volunteered* to be in charge of publicity though no one has told me exactly what that entails.

October 1 my fall quarter begins and it’s back to school for me. The first weekend of October I’m attending the NJRWA conference only to return on Sunday afternoon in time to attend the Brad Paisley concert that night. As mentioned, our local chapter conference is in November and I have a feeling I’m going to have heaps of promo materials threatening to take over my house for several weeks prior to the big she-bang.

Throw into all this I’m in charge of planning our company Christmas party for the first weekend of December. Though the major decisions are done, come October I will again be inundated with flower arrangement decisions, menu decisions, compiling the guest list, picking and printing the invitations, handling the RSVP’s, booking hotel rooms (including my own for free – Whoohoo!) and in general making sure the night goes off without a hitch and looks like it all took care of itself.

So, my question is, where will I find time to write? My friend says I need to cut back. Where would I cut back? I’m not going to screw my daughter out of playing softball. Quitting school is out of the question. I have no intention of quitting RWA nor missing the conferences. I’ve invested way too much at this point to back out now. I could tell the chapter I can’t handle the publicity job but I would never do that. Once I make a commitment, I keep it. (Yes, yes, I’m divorced and that was sort of a commitment but give me a break!)

I know I just need to make the time. And I really want to get this book done. But right now I spend my days so exhausted I get a headache just thinking about writing. The laundry won’t do itself, the kitchen won’t clean itself, the garbage will not walk itself to the dumpster and the job is sort of mandatory for survival. So what’s a girl to do?

Anyone out there a master at time management? Anyone know a good, cheap (read: free) cleaning service in my area? Anyone want my life? LOL! Anyone else have this problem. And can you tell me where does the writing fit?!

I’m So Excited!!!

on August 23, 2007

I know. I’ve been saying that a lot lately. (Quick aside: is it “a lot” or “alot”? Since Word just changed “alot” back to “a lot” I guess I have my answer) This weekend my daughter comes home!!! Ten weeks. Ten VERY LONG weeks. And this time there were no “how much longer do I have?” calls starting around the six week mark. I’m not handling that well. My little girl is growing up. She’s getting used to being away from me. I’m trying not to be crushed about this.

Earlier this summer I was talking to my dad and looking at a picture of my daughter when she was about 4. I said, “My baby girl isn’t a baby girl anymore.” Without missing a beat my dad said, “Well, neither is mine.” I had never thought of this. I was once my daddy’s baby girl. I guess I always will be in his eyes but I don’t think of myself that way at all. But after this conversation I try to picture Isabelle all grown up with a little girl of her own. I can’t do it. My child is never growing up. I’ve decided and that’s that.

So, I’ve been working on her room. When she left it was a mess mostly because I have been remiss in purging her old toys and clothes. Not anymore. I hauled off almost 10 boxes and bags to the local children’s hospital fund raising store. (Yay! Tax deduction for me!) New desk, New poster, new curtains, new bird cage stand (messy dang bird) and a practically empty but organized closet means we are in business. *pats self on back*

To top it all off the plan is to spend Saturday afternoon at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. It’s on our way back from Knoxville and I’ve been trying to find the time to check it out for three years now. If all goes well (and they allow it) I’ll have plenty of pictures to share when we get back.

Now a couple of quick reminders. Romance Vagabonds are holding an Avon Fanlit Anniversary/Reunion Celebration all this week. Yes, I’m a little late but you can check out the stuff already posted and there’s plenty more fun to come. I happen to know the big sex scene is still to come but don’t tell anyone I told you. *ssssshhhhhhhhhhhh* So hop over there (after commenting of course *g*) and join the fun. And no, I cannot be bribed to tell you who wrote what chapter. I mean….errr…..I have no idea who those people are.

One more quick thing. I have found the funniest and coolest damn thing on the net. It’s Brotherhood 2.0 and it’s hysterical. Don’t sit here expecting me to tell you what it is, just go. See for yourself. Just be prepared to be addicted!

Now, anyone else excited about the end of summer and the promise of cooler weather, a change of season or the impending holidays (which will be here in about 10 minutes!!!)? Or anything else you might be excited about. Share with us, won’t you?