Sunday, December 30, 2007

NickiGreenwood.com Is Up And Running!

My website, NickiGreenwood.com, is up and running! I have a kink to work out; the main page is not displaying correctly, although I have sanity checked everything. It seems to be losing my font and color settings. I have an email in to the support staff at my webhost, as I suspect the problem originates with their server. We shall see what happens. Back to Web Design in future entries!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Have An Agent!

I'm pausing the website discussion today to announce that I have an agent! I have decided to work with Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. I met with Christine at the New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference in October, and she is as wonderful in person as I had heard from fellow writers. Christine loves her clients, and I can tell she's the sort who will really get behind her authors' work. We discussed my books, and she has already formed ideas about what houses will be a good fit for my writing. I'm looking forward to working with her.

That said, I suppose I now have to get my website up and running. I have already prepared a website, with the intention to publish it once I got an agent, so it looks like the time has arrived. Look for my website soon, and have a very Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Websites and Writing: Basic Web Design

Most writers know they should be spending their free time writing, rather than fooling around on the Internet. But the knowledge of basic web design will come in handy, if you've decided to start a website. You'll need to know at least enough to update your website with the latest information. Here, I hope to get you started designing that spiffy website.

Learn The Language(s)

I recommend you begin by learning HTML (Hypertext Markup Language, to you) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). HTML is the foundation of most web design - a language that helps you craft the ideal webpage, and display it the way you want (as opposed to using a template designed by someone else, which isn't as flexible). Like any other language, HTML takes time to learn, but not as much as you'd think. I used a book whose current edition is called "Teach Yourself HTML and CSS in 24 Hours" by Sams Publishing. Boiled down, CSS is a dialect of HTML - a more specific and cleaner version of HTML that allows your pages to load faster, but you'll need to learn HTML first to understand it. Most web browsers will eventually use CSS more frequently than the older, messier HTML, so get the jump by learning it now, and code your pages so that they're compatible with future standards.

This isn't the forum for teaching you to use HTML and CSS - that's what the book is for - so I won't waste time on that. You can make your pages as simple or as technical as you'd like. I know learning a language, let alone two, takes time away from writing your books, but it's time well spent if you want more control over the appearance and layout of your website than someone else's template can provide. And it's cheaper and potentially faster than paying someone else to manage your website, since you control the complexity and the speed of updates. So, the minute you know your new book is coming out, you can pop that info right up on your website!

No Time? Try This!

Assuming you know the basics of HTML and CSS, you can save yourself some time by customizing a template, or taking a look at the source code of someone else's page (but don't copy without asking - it's just good manners) and then customizing that. My favorite template source is http://www.freecsstemplates.org - there are pages and pages to choose from, and customizing them is easy with a little knowledge of the languages.

You can view source code of others' pages by clicking on View > Source at the top of most browsers. It'll open a text editor like Notepad, which displays the code used to make that page. Again, ask before copying another person's layout, unless you're copying a free or open-source layout. If you're unsure whether the layout is free or open-source, ask the website owner. We'll get further into open-source material later on.

HTML and CSS Spoken Here

Now that you have read up on the languages needed to make your website, you are ready to build it. But what do you say? That's next time's topic. We'll get into what you should put on your website, as an author. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Websites and Writing: Unpubbed and Owning a Website

In my previous post, I touched on the reasons I think an unpublished author would benefit from having a website. You should, at the least, have a completed manuscript before you bother obtaining webspace. You can't sell what you don't have, and agents and editors won't look at incomplete manuscripts. (They like to know you're capable of finishing a book first.)

Got Money? No?

There are free options out there, if you take the time to look. If you're unpublished, but serious about your writing career, you might consider starting a blog, at the very least, to generate some interest. Blogger and MySpace are two options, and they're free. Blogs don't have ads (currently) unless you want them to, and if you choose to add them, they are marketed to the sort of blog you write. (I don't recommend plastering your blog with ads, though.) Don't bother with a big host that offers free webspace, such as Geocities or Angelfire. The ads they tack onto your site are unprofessional, and often annoying to visitors. At the very least, if you do intend to have a web presence someday, you should reserve your domain name (AuthorName.com), making certain first that the pen name you choose (or your own name) isn't closely related to another author's, or a person with whom you don't want to be confused. (Try not to choose a name that's also been taken by the star of some X-rated film, for instance!) Google it if you're not sure.

Is This Your Parking Space?

Which brings me to my next point. Reserve your domain name now, before someone else snaps up SusieQWriter.com, and you are left with finding some other way to help web surfers get to you. Most of us, when we're looking for a writer, just type in AuthorName.com to get to his or her site. Failing that, we'll Google you, but isn't it easier to tell people when they ask, "Sure, I have a website - it's SusieQWriter.com!" Much better than trying to write down a lengthy, convoluted web address for them when they ask. (And the very fact that your web address is your author name is one more way to make sure you are remembered.) Parking a domain name does cost money, but it's not that expensive. Well worth the money spent, especially if, down the line (God, you hope so), you become the next J.K. Rowling.

You can always "point" your Author Name web address to that other, convoluted address, too, which helps if you find a free (and ad-free) server to host your website, but they only offer that convoluted address. This allows anyone who wants to find you to type in SusieQWriter.com, and that takes you to the website with the long address. It's cheaper, too.

Some Web Hosts

If you do decide to host with a site such as Geocities.com, spend a little extra and get the ad-free site, for reasons mentioned above. If you're a member of a writing organization, you can get free webspace from DuelingModems.com, however, they are currently moving to a new server, and their signup process is currently unavailable. Looks like they have some kinks to work out. I do know a published writer who is happy with that host. They offer a convoluted address, so I recommend pointing your personalized domain name to that site. Other domain hosts include DomainDirect.com, GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, and OurInternet.us, to name a few.

An Important Caution About Domains

DO THIS! When reserving a domain name, MAKE SURE YOU ENABLE THE PRIVACY SETTING! Anyone who uses the Net and is halfway savvy is capable of doing a "WHOIS" lookup to see who has registered the domain, which includes the Registrant, Administrative Contact, and Billing Contact name and address. That means they could conceivably wind up with your real name and address, if that's what you entered as a Registrant. Since you don't want people showing up at your house, be sure to enable your host's privacy settings. This creates a "WHOIS" that shows the contact information for the domain host, and not your own information. Check out my "WHOIS" for an example of how to enter the data to protect yourself. The only info you see is that of my host, Domain Direct. That's because I entered the Registrant information care of my domain host, and not my actual info.

Someday, I'll Be Famous!

If you get really, really popular someday, you might want to park all the possible permutations of your author name and web address (.com, .net, .info, .cc, and so forth) so that someone else can't make a website and pretend they're you. JK Rowling has reserved all known domain name extensions for her name, smart lady. And if you did a "WHOIS" on her, you'd only see the contact information for her agent. So she has her artistic integrity, AND her privacy, both protected.

Get On The Net

So, that's a basic rundown of the Who and How of getting a web presence. Next time I will address the basics of learning to make a website. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Headers

Me being such a tree hugger and all, I have created seasonal headers for the blog. What do you think?






Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Websites and Writing: Why Web?

I thought I would talk a bit about websites for the next several entries, as a bit of a mini-lesson. As a romance author aspiring to be published, I'm very pro-website. If you're trying to break into print, you should be, too.

Why? Why? Why?

This is the biggest question facing authors who are considering a website. Some published authors do not have a website, and there are some unpublished authors who do. If you have decided you don't want to take advantage of the Internet to reach a wider audience, that's completely your decision, but the caveat, especially in an ever-changing market and society, is this: there's a whole new generation of readers coming up, who are convinced that if something isn't online, it doesn't exist. If you want to last as a writer, and you want these potential readers to learn about your work and become fans, you're going to have to establish a web presence of some kind. Heck, even Blogger is free. Why not take advantage of free advertising, and tout your work for minimal effort? It takes me an average of ten to fifteen minutes a week to write a blog entry, and sometimes I create one ahead of time, save it, and paste it once a week to this page. You don't have to be super-savvy to use Blogger, or to format a page. It's quite easy to use, and templates are available if you don't want to fuss with design. My blog's got some pretty bells and whistles, but that's because I am a closet web design junkie. More on that in later posts.

So why haven't you got a website, Miss Greenwood?

I started with Blogger to get my feet wet, and to get my name out there. After some thought, I decided that at this point in my career, a blog, combined with actually writing my novels, is sufficient. I am currently shopping for an agent, and when I have one, I will most likely move up to the next level, i.e. a bona fide website. I have already saved, or "parked," the domain name. Go ahead and try it out - http://www.nickigreenwood.com - but all you'll get is a page saying it's "Under Construction," until I actually upload the site.

It's All About Me

Your website is your ambassador, available to all comers, twenty-four, seven. The Internet's always on, and your website (barring major server crashes that make it temporarily inaccessible) can speak for you when you aren't around to welcome a potential or existing reader, or to answer questions. Make the most of that boon with a website that explains who you are, and what you write. You may get new readers in far-flung places where you've never traveled! You can talk about anything you like, from how you got started writing, to what you're working on next. Readers like to connect with the author, and learn more about his or her world. What better way to do that than give them a forum that's all about You? If you're concerned about how much of yourself to put out there, just remember that you control the content. You don't have to advertise where you live, or the names of your family members. A few words about your pets or hobbies would be nice, and some authors post fabulous recipes that play some part in their novels (Susan Wiggs, for one - mmmmm).

Convinced Yet?

So there you have it. Websites aren't just for snazzy technology companies. They are for You and Me, and they're a great way to get the word out about your work. It's a terrific way to say, "I am writer! Hear me roar!" (Or type. Or mouse-click. Or something.) Until next time!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I'm a day late, but I hope everyone who celebrated had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Today's Black Friday, so many of you will be shopping. Not me! I have to work my day job, but I expect all will be quiet, with everyone at the stores or still traveling home from yesterday's festivities. So this is just a brief note to kick off the holiday season with good cheer. If you're staying home, you may already be putting up your decorations and listening to some merry holiday music.

This is my favorite time of year. I hope you enjoy it, too. If you're putting up a Christmas tree, be sure to have a cup of cocoa for me, and play some Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Little Things

Sometimes a kind word is all it takes to put a good spin on a bad day. Mondays are usually an onslaught of craziness at work, and I feel about five minutes from screaming in frustration. But just as I was feeling that way this week, two people in a row came into my office to thank me for being there when they needed something. That rocks. Feeling like I've made a difference to someone is definitely the best part of my day job.

Take a second today to think about someone who did something nice for you. Call them, visit them, send them a thank you note. I bet you anything that they'll remember you for that kindness.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Old Friends, Part 2

OK, so MySpace is good for something! I found my high school best friend, whom I'd lost touch with over the intervening years. Yay! I really missed her. We used to do the craziest stuff, and she was like a sister, only better (no sibling squabbles!). We'll probably try and get together sometime soon to catch up on everything. So woo hoo, there you have it. The Internet really is useful.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Annoying Vernacular

I understand that in many ways, the English language is an ever-evolving thing, but sometimes the direction of its evolution bothers me. Sometime in the past year, I started noticing that every cashier I have spoken to starts our conversation with "Can I help who's next?" This makes me cringe every time I hear it. Did "May I help you?" suddenly become too direct and clear? I start to wonder if every one of them started reading the same training manual. For the record, it is "May I help you?" One request to help the person you're looking at, who obviously wants to buy something, since it's in her hand. You can help her, if you're the cashier, since you have the training to do it. Whether you may help her is up to her. And "who's next" should be obvious. Using "you" seems to have become taboo in favor of this indirectness. Are people afraid to single others out even in a question these days? And don't feel the need to cram two questions into one. (May I help you? Who's next in line? Maybe it's another attempt at shortcutting communication. Ugh.)

While we're on the subject, "in regards to" is another one that makes me wince. I don't know whether people are trying to sound extra smart, or what, but just plain "regarding" suffices.

My college roommate always had issues with the phrase "I wish I was ..." Its proper use is "I wish I were ..." Steph, I hear ya.

There you have it. My one-woman crusade to keep the clarity in our language. Write on, fellow authors. But clearly. :-D

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Old Friends (and Some New Ones)

An old friend from GA came to town this week. She used to live here, but hasn't been back in five years. A bunch of us got together for a bonfire, a couple dozen or so assorted people and our kids. Some of these people I've known for years, and some I just met last night. And it was like old times, only better. I guess you don't realize how much you miss something until you come back to it years later. We all recalled some old standing jokes, or places we've been, but now we had new stories to add. It was good to see them all, and I wonder where the hell I've been hiding myself for the past whatever years. Note to self: make time for those guys. Besides, they've got dirt on me I've forgotten about. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

"... and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" or, The Power of Three

So, this week, I get to channel that guy from "Network" who, at a breaking point, leaned out his window and yelled that he was mad, mad, mad. That's me, folks. My three-year-old furnace died at 3:00 o'clock Saturday morning. How? Search me. But the people who were supposed to come fix it have dragged their feet for three days now. (Maybe I should play threes in the lottery. Maybe Fate is trying to tell me something.) I have a 9-month-old son, so to experience no heat at this time of year is, as you might think, Really Bad.

The tech who came out to look at it first was prompt, if sleepy, but since then I have had nothing but headaches from this company. We have paid them three years in advance (see, threes again) for service contracts, and their techs never show up on time, or at all, for the service appointments. Yo, a phone call would be nice! When I got a rep on the line, she told me it wasn't her problem. Hmm. I doubt she's a mom. After telling her I was Less Than Pleased with that, she gave me her supervisor, who, while clearly longing to tell me more of the same, at least shaved off some more of the outrageous bill they tried to quote me. I'm not convinced that they don't engineer these things to fail. The furnace that came with the house when we bought it went over ten years before quitting. I buy a new one, and poof, I need to fix it three years later. As my country-boy hubby sometimes jokes, "That ain't right."

The silver lining is, Peanut and I had somewhere to go while all this insanity went on. My mother offered to let us stay over the weekend, and longer if necessary, until the heat gets fixed. But what happens to all those people who don't have local family? Would the heating company just have told those people to suck up and deal? I may be an adult, but sometimes I envy the freedom a toddler has to stomp her feet and yell, "Not fair! Not fair!"

What WOULD be fair is, if you play threes in the lottery this week, to send me some of it. Say, three bucks. LOL

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Oughta Know By Now ...

... that whenever Peanut gets the slightest little bug, Mama's going to get it worse a couple days later. I have a wicked cold. It hurts to talk, and everything. I came home early from work yesterday, ate soup, and conked out for the next 12 hours. I am still run down. Ugh. Chicken soup and tea for me, the next few days! On the other hand, I got some (enforced) rest. Just gotta keep pouring tea down my throat for a while!

Monday, October 08, 2007

NJ Rocked!

New Jersey's conference was a blast this year. I met a lot of great people, and had a ball. One of the writers from my chapter, Christine Wenger, was there, but Cara Summers couldn't make it - which was a bummer, because she won NJRW's Short Contemporary category for her Blaze, "The Cop!" Woo hoo, Cara!

So now, I am all jazzed up and ready to pound out about eight hundred books. OK, well, that's an exaggeration, of course (wish it weren't), but I did get motivated to work! I love conferences. If you haven't been to one, go!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Editing

I think if, in an alternate life, I grew up in NYC, I would have become an editor. Coming next year, I will be teaching a workshop on editing at the Central New York Romance Writers. One of my fellow writers suggested it, and I, being the not-so-closet line editing junkie that I am, could not resist. Keep an eye out here for details, and if you are in the CNY area when the workshop comes up, drop in! It should be a great time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Slow But Steady

I'm plugging along on my current WIP, and I am getting a little better at it now that I know the characters better. I've also managed to make a deal with myself: that even if I don't like it, I'm just gonna write the consarned thing. It's only a first draft, and much like a painting, I can always go back and layer in some more color if I don't like the first results. That's kind of a relief! :)

NJRW Conference is fast approaching, and I can't wait to get there and immerse myself in romance writing for a weekend. Should be a great time. In the meantime, I keep writing. Eventually the dang thing will be finished!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do or do not. There is no try.

Yep, I'm just geeky enough to quote Yoda. Yesterday was suckariffic. I was out of work from my day job the previous day, due to a stomach bug the generous little peanut shared with the whole family (awww, he's learning to share already). So I came back to a mountain of work on my desk because, let's just face it. Unless you've been doing my job for several years, it's impossible to get into a rhythm that will get you through a Monday workload by the end of the day. (Which is why I try never to take a Monday off unless I'm half dead, which I was.) I also have a lingering cold, with its associated stuffiness and incessant use of tissues. Why haven't they invented a way to take your nose off and hang it up until you're done with a cold? Jeez, they invented everything else. :-P In addition, my ride fell through for the NJ Conference, so I had a little moment of panic, but we survived. I think I have a Plan B on that. Always have a Plan B, let this be a lesson.

But guess what? I wrote yesterday. Not much, and not that great, but dammit, I wrote something even on the crappiest day. Rockin'.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bruce Coville

Over the weekend, at my monthly chapter meeting for RWA, I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Coville, author of numerous children's books, including The Unicorn Chronicles. Bruce generously agreed to give a talk on writing, specifically children's and young adult books. He was possibly the best speaker I've ever heard! I found him funny, articulate, well-versed, and very high energy. I learned so much in that workshop that could be applied not only to children's fiction, but writing in general. What a great workshop! And if you have never read his work, and have any interest in children's fiction, you should go to his website right now and check out all the cool stuff! I have been toying with a YA idea, so this may be the kick I needed to get it done. :)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Woo Hoo! Ratha Lives! (and Other YA Giddiness in the Tradition of Watership Down)

One of my favorite authors from my youth, Clare Bell, has written a new book! For a long time, she hadn't written anything, and fans of her Named series pined for a new book--especially since the original books had gone out of print.

Ratha's_Courage is the newest book in the series, which is about the coming of age and subsequent trials of the title character, Ratha, a prehistoric cat. The new book is due out October 18th. It's been 13 years since the last Named book, and I know fans will be delighted to see Ratha's return. The best part is, Firebird Books is re-releasing the others, which are as follows, if you're interested in delving into this series. (Believe me, they're worth it for anyone who likes fantasy or cats!)

Ratha's Creature
Clan Ground
Ratha and Thistle-Chaser
Ratha's Challenge
Ratha's Courage (out 10/18)

She has also written some cool novels outside the Named series, particularly Tomorrow's Sphinx, which I loved. Check these books out! You won't regret it.

While we're on the subject, Firebird Books is becoming my new best friend. A short while back, they re-released the Firebringer series by Meredith Ann Pierce, which had also been out of print for a while. That series is a coming of age tale of Aljan, the unicorn. The Firebringer series is as follows:

Birth of the Firebringer
Dark Moon
The Son of Summer Stars

So, if you can't tell, I loved books that went along the same vein as Richard Adams' Watership Down. Besides THAT book (which is rabbits), there is The Wild Road & its sequels (domestic cats), Tailchaser's Song (also domestic cats), and The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West and Piper at the Gate (horses). I still have my original copies of most of these books, if that tells you anything, something like 20 years later. I couldn't let them go.

Go Read! Nicki out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Days Like These I Feel Like I Can Change The World

And then there's those days that just rock from start to finish. I have a day job, and that was actually pleasant. No angry people, no complaints or testiness, just all-around pleasant. On top of that, and even better, is that I have been rolling right along working on a 4-book proposal. I have done two synopses in two days, and I'm hoping to get the fourth and final one done today. Yay, me! I can't believe how smoothly it's going. I think I actually like writing synopses better than the books! LOL - so keep your fingers crossed for me. After the last synopsis, I return to finishing the actual manuscripts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sad But True

I had a dream last night that I was asking for input on a new story idea. It's actually one that in waking life, I had been toying with, but it's not my usual subgenre, so I back-burnered it. I explained the basic premise to these people, and in the dream I was getting excited about it. Then I asked, "What do you think?"

What I got was, "Nah, I don't think I'd write that one." Gah. How sad is it when the people in your dream tell you they don't like your idea? I'm sure dream psychologists would have a lot to say about that.

The good news is, there was a kernel of an idea that I came up with in the dream, that I can use for conflict in another story. Weird how sometimes your dreams can provide book fodder like that. And also nice, because my subconscious did some work instead of me having to come up with it while I'm awake. Yay, me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kilt - It Does A Body Good

So, the Renaissance Faire was a big hit yesterday. The bride looked beautiful, the wedding went off with a hitch, and the day was all-around awesome. The ceremony took place early in the morning, and then guests were given time to walk around the Faire and enjoy it - which we did - and then we had the reception in the Faire's tavern, with incredibly good food. DH and son wore kilts. The peanut looked adorable, and he was a perfect angel all day. And hubby - well, let's just say hubby is a fine braw laddie who was made for kilts. :-D

I don't know how I'm going to top this year at the Ren, but I'm sure we'll try next year! Gonna be hard to top that food, though. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Can I Have a Side of Good Karma With That?

So, over the weekend I found a lot of money in a grocery store parking lot. A lot of money, for me. How do you just drop $1300? Man, I could almost have paid off my car with that ... but I did the right thing and brought it back to the store. They found the guy it belonged to - he happened to be in their manager's office - rightfully - having an attack over losing it. Needless to say he was really, really happy when he got his cash back. So I did my good deed for the day. Ye gods, if you're listening, I could use a cosmic pat on the back - say, a book deal? *grin*

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Renaissance Faire

I'm a big fan of the Renaissance Faire. We have one, sort of locally, that DH and I go to every year. This year, we're bringing along the little peanut. We are *all* going in garb, which should just be too stinkin' cute. But that's not why I'm so tickled. This year, we're going to a wedding there! Co-worker of DH is getting married at the Ren, and it should be a great time. I've never been to a themed wedding, much less a Ren-themed one, and I might be just about as excited as the bride. (If you can't guess, I *really* like the Ren.)

Oh, yeah, and there's turkey legs and apple dumplings with ice cream. If you have never been to the Ren, bring lots of money and don't eat for three days in advance. The food ROCKS.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spam In The Place Where You Live

OK, I've had enough. Who decided I need this many credit card offers, emails with the subject "Hi" from people I've never heard of, phone calls asking for donations ... and heck, I'm a woman - do I need offers for male enhancement? Ugh - what cosmic spam list did I get on this week? And this is with our house being on the Do Not Call list (http://www.donotcall.gov in case you, too, are suffering under the strain of nonstop phone calls - just don't register under an email address you plan to use a lot, because I have heard they grab that and you'll get e-spammers from then on).

First, I should tell you that I am on the phone eight hours a day. The last thing I want when I get home is a pushy telemarketer trying to pick my pocket. They seem to enjoy giving vague non-answer answers to "Who's calling?" and "What do you want?" Someone somewhere must have incorrectly told them that the longer they keep me on the phone, the more likely I am to say, "Sure, let me empty my wallet for YOU, buddy."

Don't get me wrong. There are many worthwhile charities to which I am willing to donate. After 9/11, I sold a ton of collectibles and donated part of the profits to the Red Cross - and that came to a nice chunk of change that I was more than happy to give away. I've done some other, smaller things too, for charities I believe in - but the difference is, they don't keep calling me and nagging me to do so. Telemarketers turn me off, whereas I have a good friend who seems to enjoy scaring them into never calling her again. (Maybe I should take lessons.)

There is no government agency to stop junk mail at this time, though there is a way to get on a regulated list with your address that prevents junk mail for a time. (Through the Direct Marketing Assn, I think, but don't quote me.) The feds really ought to get on this, though, and stop this unnecessary killing of trees and manufacture of plastics that will never be used. (I'm a tree hugger, yep.)

Anyway, it was reaching the point where I had to vent or explode. So there you have it. I live in Spamville this week. :P

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Mom and I are big Harry Potter fans, so my kind, wonderful, considerate, also HP-fan DH watched the peanut while Mom and I had a night out and saw the movie.

Wow. This is the best one yet, folks, and I risk the wrath of Potter-book purists by saying it may even be better than the book! (Sorry, JKR, but "Phoenix" was my least favorite of the series.) It has managed to retain Harry's emotional upheaval of "Phoenix," the book, while trimming down to the essentials for movie format. Some things have been changed or omitted, of course (no time for Quidditch in a movie like this - yes, Weasley is our king, but he'll have to keep his crown offscreen).

But if you're anything like me, this movie will leave you stunned and speechless. It's got everything. Furthermore, the soundtrack is a beautiful mix of the first movies' wonder, and Goblet's unsettling darkness. Best one yet on that, too, I think.

In short, go see this movie. Twice. And maybe twice more. Buy popcorn to throw at Umbridge when she comes onscreen.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Predictions

For years, I willfully ignored Harry Potter. But people talked about him. And talked about him. And ... you get it. By the time "Azkaban" came out, I caved in to curiosity and bought all three books. I stayed up really, really late every night reading. JK Rowling reached out and Super Glued my eyes to the pages. Mom read them, and then I suckered my husband into it. ("Read page one, honey, I dare you.") He now reads them more often than I do. This is Mr. I Hate Reading Anything That Isn't Muscle & Fitness.

What makes these books so gripping that kids (and adults) who hate to read are turning onto them in a frenzy of midnight book parties? The shipments need security guards--SECURITY GUARDS--to protect them from theft by anxious readers. JKR, can I borrow your life for a while? :) "Half-Blood Prince" is one of only two books that have ever made me cry ("Where The Red Fern Grows" is the other), so you can imagine how eagerly I await "Deathly Hallows."

Which brings me to the point: my predictions for book seven. Who will die? Voldemort, surely. You don't write seven books about fighting the good fight and not let the heroes win at the end.
But not without cost. My bet is on one of the Weasleys. If it were me, I'd choose Percy or one of the twins. What more heroic act than for self-centered Percy to realize the error of his ways and die defending his family? And could you get much more tragic than taking only one of the twins and leaving the other?

I DON'T think it'll be Hagrid, and I'm sure she'll let Harry, Ron, and Hermione live. (Unless she wants a storm of hate mail from her readers.) Likewise Ginny. The girl's got moxie, and I get the idea she'd be the last one standing if the whole world blows up. Plus, being a romance writer, I'd really, really hate it if Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione didn't come through OK.

Who's R.A.B.? Well, for various reasons, I'm 90% convinced it's Regulus Black. JKR doesn't just deus ex machina her way into a plot twist. She leaves clues, couched in wording that makes a reader gloss over that part and come back to it going "HEY!" when she reveals her surprises. And for an ex-Slytherin, ex-Death Eater to be the pivot-point for Voldemort's downfall? This is just tooooo good.

Speaking of which ... Snape. Dumbledore trusted him. I trust him. Nuff said.

Enjoy the wait, and I might see some of you at the bookstore on July 21st when we find out the answers (and in the meantime, "Phoenix" is out on the 11th to whet our appetites)!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Forays Into Sleepnessness

So, DH and I were up at 2 AM. Little peanut's got croup. Mom warned me that croup usually sounds scarier than it is. Wow, still didn't prepare me for that raspy wheeze. We tried steam, then cold air, then steam. No luck. He still seems chipper, but DH wound up taking him to the ER anyway just for safety's sake. He'll be OK, but they say to alternate between steam and AC today. Good excuse to put in the AC unit that's been sitting on our bedroom floor for a week. Now to go to work and chug some caffeine. Mmmmm.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Triskelion Declares Bankruptcy

By now, most of you fellow romance authors are aware that on Wednesday June 20th, Triskelion Publishing announced it would file Chapter 7 on July 2nd. Many Trisk authors are now scrambling to get their rights back before their books are tied up in legal issues. My heart goes out to all of you, especially my friends Susan St. Thomas and Jennifer Talty, who were due to have their first books out very soon. It's a terrible and heartbreaking thing, and my thoughts are with you as you muddle through the confusion. Susan and Jennifer, you are wonderful authors, and I know you will get through this!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Storms

I don't know when, but sometime during my childhood I stopped being afraid of storms, and started being in awe of them instead. Last night, we had a doozy. Lightning, thunder, high winds. Talk about fireworks!

The last time we had a storm like this, it was just after a scorching hot day, and the rain came down the gutter downspouts so hard that one of the downspouts fell off the front of the house from the force of the water! I was so hot and sweaty that I went outside in my shorts and tank top and stood under the open downspout and took an impromptu rain shower. That felt great after such a hot day.

I remember another storm where my mom was yelling at me to come inside, while I stood outside in the driveway staring up at the lightning because it was going straight across the sky from cloud to cloud instead of coming downward. That was pretty cool!

Yep. I'm nuts. But nothing beats Mother Nature's own light show. :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

May Just Sucks, And I'm Glad It's Over

I found out last night that my first boyfriend (you know, that first-love one) passed away earlier in the week. He was way too young, and even though he moved out of state and we hadn't talked in a while, I still cared a great deal for him, and the world is missing one of the best guys I ever knew.

May hasn't been a good month for me of late. Another boyfriend, my second one, passed away in May of the previous year. It's a vicious sort of irony, and I guess all there is to do is pull my family close around me and hug them and be thankful I have them. And maybe I ought to find a way to skip that effing month next year.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Just Kiss!

DH and I went to see "Pirates of the Carribbean: At World's End" last night while Grandma watched the little peanut. Without giving too much away, I'll just say it lived up to everything expected of a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Definitely worth watching, and better than "Dead Man's Chest." Johnny Depp was hilarious as usual, and lots of fun. And though I may not be into Orlando Bloom, per se, let me just add a WOW for the end of the film, 'cause Purrrrrrrrr.

You'll see.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pantsers!

Pantsers, as opposed to plotters, write by the seat of their pants. Pantsers don't know anything about where the book is going, and may not even know much about the characters, before they start typing (or writing) away. It may seem scary, but pantsers live for that flash of insight that makes them go, "HEY! This is an awesome twist!" or, "What'll happen if I drop this man-eating lion in front of my hero?"

I used to be a total pantser. I loved that jolt of energy I got just from a sudden idea that went right from thought to paper without any editing in between. And hey, sometimes you can get a great surprise in that way - a surprise even to you, the writer! It can lead to some wild and memorable writing.

Now, I think I'm a hybrid between the two, and most writers are. It's nice to have a loose structure as a road map for my book, but sometimes I'll write a scene without an exact idea of its contents. I'll know where it needs to GO, but not how it'll get there, and I still sometimes surprise myself. Whatever way you write, I encourage you to try it the other way, or even mix them, just for a scene or so. You may be surprised at the results, and it could jog you out of a writing rut.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Plotting vs. Pantsing

I thought I'd talk a bit about Plotters vs. Pantsers. This will be a discussion of Plotters.

Plotters will tell you that a book goes much smoother when you've ironed everything out in the prewriting stage - GMC, outlines, synopses, snowflake plotting, index cards, sticky notes, character interviews - everything is given the once-over before words hit the page. Plotters know their characters inside and out before they write the story, which helps when you want to plop Joe Hero into a situation he'll hate, just to get a little tension going.

Many plotters begin with character interviews, just as if they were interviewing a live person. Remember all those stupid forwards you used to get in your E-mail asking for name, DOB, likes, and dislikes? Well, they're good for something. Use them on your character!

Plotters continue with figuring out what a character's GMC is. (That's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict to you and me.) Once those are worked out, plotters will outline the story with the meet, the major turning points, the black moment, and resolution. In romance, of course, you must have a happy ending.

Plotters flesh out their skeletal structures with many other tools, but the most important one is the synopsis. That's where they'll work out whether a certain twist works, or where something can be tweaked to get the most out of a scene. By the time a plotter is done with this synopsis, the hard work is done, and all that's left is to write the story in connect-the-dots fashion! There is wiggle room, of course, but if you are a plotter and you find yourself writing way off into left field, the synopsis will help you get back on track. Not bad, if you're on a deadline.

Next time: Pantsers!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

De-Stressing Rocks!

Let me tell you what doesn't suck. Sticking your bare feet in grass after months and months of snow. DH and I met some friends at the park for sandwiches last night, and it was AWESOME. He tossed his football around with his buddy, while the baby and I sat in the grass and let it tickle our toes. The baby seemed to like it - except when I laid him down and the grass started tickling his ears, LOL. But I so needed this little break from daily life, and actually, it sort of helped me focus on my current book, so really, I was working. Not just sitting around on my rear watching the world go by.

But I was doing that too. :-D

Monday, May 07, 2007

OK, So Maybe I Am Part Geek ...

... but I have an excuse. This weekend, I was working on a website and promo materials for a fellow author, and she had THE coolest flash drive EVER. The thing has a retractable USB port! I saw that and got all giddy. My flash drive's been through the wash and lived to tell the tale, so I have a soft spot for the ol' thing, but man, I gotta get me one of those newfangled critters. (And while we're on the subject, why don't you ever hear of OLDfangled things??? That always bugged me. LOL)

Normally, when it comes to techie devices, I'm the type to wait for hand-me-downs. My old computer? Hand-me-down. Digital camera? Same thing. And I'm still waiting for someone else to get bored of their MP3 player so I can inherit it. But I'm running out and getting one of those turbo-cool little flash drives next paycheck I get. Hee hee!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Babies = Hilarious

So, this weekend was gorgeous. Got outside, got some exercise, etc, etc .... Great weekend!

Last night, though, my little one was in a very cranky mood. He's four months old, and doing the math, I am guessing he's starting to teethe. No sleeping through the night anymore for this little guy! UGH.

Anyway, he was crying and crying, and I'd already put his bottle on to warm, and Papa was holding him and trying desperately to stop our normally angelic boy's fit of hysteria. Well, I went into the living room holding his bottle, and when I got round the doorway with it, our screaming, crying little man went from scrunched-up, red, teary face to big grin in a split second. He didn't even see Mommy - just that bottle, and the look on his face said, "Yes! They can be trained! Hooray!" Hubby and I started laughing fit to explode.

Yep. We know where we rate with our little guy. Man, why don't I write Mommy lit?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Getting to Knooooow You

So, I haven't written in my new WIP for a while, but I do have an excuse - I'm trying to work out WHY I haven't been writing in it. Usually when I put something down, it's because I don't feel all that spectacular about writing it. That's been happening a lot with this book, and I think I may have figured out why. I need to do more work plotting it. There are a few things that need better motivations and stronger twists, so it's back to the ol' drawing board to interview my characters and figure out a little more about what makes them tick.

The first two books I wrote, I knew almost everything about the characters. I'd known them for a solid 10 years or more. These two, I'm starting with strangers, and it feels odd to get to know them as I'm writing them. So it's time to play journalist, and sit these guys down and ask why they do what they do. It's much easier to have a character take action in his or her scene when you know what kind of reactions they will have, rather than just plop them there and see what happens. It also helps you create more active writing. So, that is what I will be doing the rest of this week - a little digging and peeling back of layers. I'm hoping to find a few prickly bits of character angst and flaws that I can work with! We writers are such a ruthless lot, aren't we?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

If you ever want to know how far your writing has come, pick up one of your early works. I did that yesterday. One word.

*Cringe.*

I honestly couldn't read at least half of it. Head-hopping, useless dialogue, cheesy action. Now, really. Do you need a whole conversation on who's going to do the grocery shopping?

The upside to this is, I can be proud of how improved my writing has become in the years since writing that book. I flatter myself to think what I write now is actually readable.

I love the characters in that story to death, but if it's ever to see the light of day, it'll need SERIOUS reworking. If you're starting to think your writing is bad, reading old stuff will make you feel a whole lot better. Trust me!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Short Stories

I haven't written a short story in years - probably since I was a kid - but yesterday I sucked up and sent one in to a magazine contest. The story took me a few days to write, and it came out OK, I think. We'll see what happens.

The nice thing about the short story is that it helped recharge me and freshen my writing, so I can get back to the "bull" - my current WIP that seems to be the book that never ends. It did help me look at my work in a new way, though, so even if I don't win the contest, I think the story has done me some good. Give it a try, if you're stuck on a longer WIP. There's a lot less pressure - at least there was for me. And a neat bonus is, the plot is condensed way down in a short story, so if I want, I could go back and expand it into a full-length book. Pretty cool, and maybe a good way for me to get more writing ideas! And as we writers know, having that idea box/file filled is a darn good insurance policy against writer's block.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yay, Spring!

So, spring is finally here as of yesterday - hooray! It's finally going to start getting warm out in NY, and I can stop with the cabin fever.

With spring, of course, comes spring cleaning. Complicated this year by the presence of Baby. He's at the point where I can't just plunk him down for a nap anymore. I can tell already, he's a guy on the go. :) But we'll manage, and somehow my house will get cleaned, even if I have to ship the little one off to Grandma for the day!

In writing news, I'm working on a short story I rattled off for submission to a magazine contest. It's mostly a spur-of-the-moment thing to sharpen my writing skills so I can get back to my longer WIP. I plan on entering a contest later this month with one of my other books just to see how I do. And of course, I have my first book out to a publisher and a query letter to another, but we'll see what happens with those.

Hope you all enjoy the arrival of warm weather (soon, if not now, where you live, I hope. Unless, of course, you're in the southern hemisphere, in which case you're probably heading in for fall. Sorry. LOL).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Here, sleep. Heeeeere, sleep!

Right. So I'm up late on the phone with a pal last night (late for me). No problem. Still got plenty of time to catch some Z's, and that was my decision. 9:40 p.m. Good to go. Close eyes.

Wake up. DH's arms are wrapped around my middle and he's murmuring amorously in my ear. Crack eye open. 1:23 a.m. Is he kidding? He doesn't have to get up at the arse-crack of dawn in the morning to do laundry, feed the baby, cart him off to daycare, and then spend the day on the phone at work chugging cappuccino to stay awake. Murmur back, snuggle a bit, hope that's sufficient. Seems to be. Close eyes.

Wake up. Baby's crying. Open eye. 3:20 a.m. Grooooan. (You have to understand. The baby NEVER cries in the middle of the night, not since he was a month old.) Beg DH to take care of him, which he does. Yay, DH. Doze.

Wake up, ten minutes later. Baby is crying, DH unable to get him back to sleep, so assumes he is hungry (unusual for baby this early). DH is busy with diaper, asks if I can get bottles together. Sigh. Get up, make bottles, give one to DH to feed baby. Yay again, DH. Check clock. 3:43 a.m. OK, let's try this again. Close eyes.

Wake up. Cat is on my head trying to get into windowsill even though window is shut and have no idea what he wants out there at...4:10 a.m. Start to cry. Get up, toss cat out, shut bedroom door. Try desperately to close eyes.

Finally. Dreaming! Some strange thing about having dinner at a theme restaurant with a lot of crazy seafaring gear on the walls. What the hell am I eating? Is this fish? Should it be looking back at me?

Buzzzzzzzz. Alarm clock. 5:00 a.m. Damn. Try to consider whether it is better to be awake than to have bizarre dream. Then contemplate how big a cappuccino one can have before going into caffeine overload. Contemplate filling a swimming pool with it and diving in. This is going to be a looooooong day.

And it's Monday.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

OMG! She's Entered The New Millenium!

I'm so not a techie. I was still buying records on vinyl in the 90's. There was no way I was buying a DVD player at the prices they were when they first came out. My computer is cobbled together with the bare minimum of gadgetry, and heck, I don't even like video games. I'm the female equivalent of Gibbs on "NCIS."

But, I am bemused to say, I have finally caved and gotten a cell phone. Oh, not for me. The DH talked me into a prepaid cell phone so I can pick up and say, "Hello, dear, I'm in a ditch - come get me." (I'm not noted for my love of driving, period, and winter driving is so much less fun.) It's more so I'm not stranded roadside with my son in the car. It's not even one of the cool camera flip-phone ones with interesting ring tones. Although, I admit, I now wish it were. I heard someone's cell phone go off with "The Godfather" theme the other day. I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse: don't call me.

But it does what it's supposed to, and I've even used it a couple of times. Not, thank God, for car accidents. I'll probably still have minutes on it when my car disintegrates into dust.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Review - "300"

The DH and I went on a date over the weekend, sans baby, which was refreshing. We did lunch and a movie. Lunch was bland. The movie was stunning.

We saw "300." I know, you're thinking, "What the heck kind of date movie is that?" Well, if you knew us, you'd completely understand. Our official date movie was "Lethal Weapon," back when we first started going out. Then we broke up, went out, broke up, went out, and broke up. Our reunion movie was "Gladiator." Sensing a theme here? We're action-movie junkies.

So...on to the official review. I won't lie. The movie is incredibly gory, and it pulls no punches to make war look pretty. It's gritty, bloody, and chilling. But it's just so beautifully shot that I can't help myself. I love it. It's unapologetic and just plain gorgeous. (Didn't hurt that there were 300 sweaty, muscular men running around in very little clothing, but I digress.) So, if you can stomach the violence, I highly recommend this movie. BTW, it's based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, which is also quite beautiful in spite of its bloodiness. Go forth and see this movie!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hello, My Life, How I Missed You!

Well, I have a gorgeous baby boy now! He was born just a few days before Xmas, and now that we've ironed out the basics of Mommyhood, we're doing fine. I'm now back at work, and getting a rhythm back to my life. Staying home for maternity leave was fun, but I was ready to get back to my (slightly altered now) routine.

It's snowing to beat the band here in NY, and I'm so ready for Spring I can taste it. I want flowers! Sunshine! Walks outside that don't involve snow boots! C'mon, Spring!

In writing news, my second book, FLASHPOINT, won 2nd place in a contest! I'm psyched. And I've managed to get work done on my third book - although I didn't write during my whole maternity leave. Ah, well! I'm writing again now, and that's what matters.

My pal Susan St. Thomas will be published in August 2007 with her book, NEVER MY LOVE - yay, Sue! - and another pal Barbie Jo Bogart is currently agented and shopping around her YA novel. Way to go, girls! Now, if I could just get back to being that industrious...