Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing You A Safe And Happy New Year

Just taking a moment today to wish you all a safe, happy, and joyful New Year. Be careful out there tonight, but live it up!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Little Ingenuity

Every once in a while, I surprise myself with a stupidly simple solution to a problem.

As I finished stringing the last bit of lights on our Christmas tree this year, I discovered half the strand was out - at the top. So the top two feet of our tree was unlit. Curses! And, since I was already all done with it, I didn't want to take them all off, so a quick trip to the craft store yielded a bunch of fake poinsettia which I jammed in at the top. Our angel now looks like she's sitting on a cloud of poinsettia!

Hubby observed that the top still looks a bit dark, so next year I will buy a new strand of lights and intersperse them among the flowers. Assuming we do a country-folk art tree next year. Hubby is talking about wanting a huntin' tree - even though he fishes rather than hunts. Complete with those shotgun-shell light strings. Well, I guess I can't hog all the fun. I give you the 2009 Tree:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Not much to report this week - just plugging away as usual. I have some editing to do this week and next, so I'm really just popping on in between to wish you all a safe and happy holiday, and a very happy New Year full of great writing for you writers, and awesome books for all you readers. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow!

Woke up to three inches of the white stuff this morning, the first that has stuck this winter. My son will be happy. :) I showed him how to make a snowball yesterday when we got a dusting, and he thought that was Really Cool. Maybe it will stick around so that we can make a snowman now!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Hee Hee, Guess Where I'm Blogging From?

(Yes, I know that isn't grammatically correct.)

I'm in my living room - which is far away from my desktop computer upstairs. Yep, I got my netbook. Yay! I can now go anywhere I want in my house and connect to the 'Net, as well as write whenever I get the urge to do so. While I will fondly remember my Dana, I have happily moved on to a Gateway Intel Atom N270. Jargon for Really Nice Little Guy That Is Fast Becoming My Versatile Writing Pal. It has shorter battery life than advertised, though it was more than enough to get me through my day. I sacrified some battery life (was looking at a Toshiba netbook) for the nicer keypad of this little fella, but so far I am quite enjoying it. I have small hands, so the scaled-down keyboard isn't much of a problem, after a short learning curve. This model has Windows 7 Starter, which is a watered-down Windows platform that doesn't allow pretty desktop wallpapers and whatnot, as well as a few other things it can't do which I haven't cared about so far, since this is only a writing and research machine - so it's been perfect thus far. I can get on the Intenet, write, and use Pandora. Very Happy Indeed.

So, in closing, I will do the happy dance and thank my Awesome Husband, who got this critter for me. Much love to you, hubby, for increasing my writing productivity. Woot!

Friday, December 04, 2009

MWA Cuts Harlequin

Following on the heels of RWA's removal of Harlequin from its list of approved publishers, the Mystery Writers of America has done the same in a unanimous Board vote conducted this week. MWA members may no longer use Harlequin-published books as the basis for their "published" status. This is another blow for the romance writing industry's biggest hitter. After a media frenzy regarding the launch of Harlequin's self-publishing arm, Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin quickly changed the arm's name to DellArte Press - but it's still Harlequin under the new suit. It remains to be seen what happens to Harlequin's status with MWA and RWA going forward. GalleyCat has the full scoop.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Movie Review: New Moon

* Spoiler Alert *

Chiming in way late here, but I will say this movie was a big improvement on the first one. What Twilight, the movie, lacked, New Moon made up in spades. The dialogue and acting were better (though not perfect), and I remember liking Jacob in the first movie, of all the characters. He's in this one a lot more, so yay on that. Taylor Lautner, you rock. Can't wait to see what you do next in your career.

I expected a fun distraction with some good special effects, and I got that. You don't notice much heavy special effects use until about halfway into the movie (and if you read the book, you know why). I wasn't wild about New Moon, the book, as much as Twilight, the book, but I definitely like New Moon, the movie, better than Twilight, the movie. (That, and it reinforces why I am now Team Jacob. He's so much more fun as a character.)

The Spoiler Section: For those of you who have read the book, you will recall that Edward overhears that Bella's dad is attending a funeral, and he mistakes it for Bella's funeral. Without checking the facts (one of the ignoring-logic-in-favor-of-drama instances where I get annoyed with the Twilight universe), Edward decides he's going to commit suicide by provoking a much older clan of vampires into killing him. People who haven't read the book might get confused at first by this, because it happens so fast and after a simple phone call. They do explain it, but not until after you've already said to yourself, Eh??? A classic case of why misunderstandings aren't true conflict in fiction, and shouldn't be forced to become so.

After that, the slow burn of everything that happened before, including Bella and Jacob's there-but-not-there relationship, pretty much goes Fttt!, and it's all action. Jacob, sadly, gets tossed aside once Bella gets a sniff of Edward's continued existence. I hated the way she dismissed Jacob once Edward was back in the picture, in movie and book, after all he had done for her. (Insert unfriendly insult to Mean Jacob-Dumping Bella. How could you? WHY would you? You did see Jacob, right? He SMILES, and everything!) I will admit to being in Edward's camp at the beginning of this book, but I warmed up to Jacob and was really pissed when she dumped him for Edward. Even though I knew that was the way the book was headed. Sigh.

The movie is good, all in all. So go, expecting much improvement upon the first film. There's some nice scenery, and a couple cool songs on the soundtrack, though not as many as the first movie's soundtrack. I dare you not to be Team Jacob after this film. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know my Canadian friends have already celebrated Thanksgiving and that this is late for you, but I want to wish you, and all Americans, a Happy Thanksgiving. Take time to share some good food and good conversation with family and friends today. Remember that giving and being thankful for what you have is what this day is all about. And don't forget to pass me a drumstick. Be safe!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

RWA Removes Harlequin From Conference-Benefit Eligibility

Harlequin recently added Carina Press, an E-publishing arm, and Harlequin Horizons, a vanity publishing arm, to their massive publishing umbrella. In response to the vanity arm, RWA has responded by removing Harlequin from eligibility for conference resources provided to non-vanity, non-subsidy publishers. From the RWA Alert made public yesterday:

"With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints."


(Full text available at the RWA Website for RWA members, or you can check out E-Reads for an editorial on the matter, which includes the full text of the RWA Alert. You can learn more about Harlequin Horizons from Harlequin's Website.)

This does not directly affect E-pub Carina Press, but is aimed at Harlequin Horizons, the vanity portion. While I have heard (read: not confirmed) that Harlequin has stated Horizons is a completely separate entity, RWA seems not to be buying that. The portion of HQ's information page regarding Horizons that looks, to me, to be the sticking point is:

"Titles published through Harlequin Horizons will be monitored for excellence and retail potential for possible pick up by Harlequin's leading traditional imprints."


This seems then to be a new way for potential HQ authors to get face time with a Harlequin editor. An intelligent marketing move for Harlequin, who will have more options for making profit and picking up good authors, however, RWA will not endorse a vanity or subsidy publisher. Since the two are linked, HQ has been denied access to those resources mentioned in its Alert.

Harlequin is a giant in the romance industry--the biggest romance publisher in the world, in fact. This may have huge impact on the way RWA classifies its eligible publishers, maybe including E-pubs. Fallout remains to be seen, and there are some widely differing opinions on whether or not this is a good move. I'm still forming an opinion, myself. Carry on, y'all.

EDIT: Check out this editorial on the topic at Jackie Kessler's Website, explaining in detail why she feels this is poor sport on Harlequin's part. Great article with detailed analyses of the problem at hand!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

CBS, How Do I Love Thee?

Not-Subtle Hint: It's a lot.

I think one of the loveliest things about the Internet age is the ability to get whatever you want, whenever you want it, online. I'm not usually this much of a technogeek, but even I can see the pros of viewing Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly anytime I like from the comfort of my computer chair. (Darn nice chair it is, too.) Particularly nice is viewing NCIS online when I have missed the last two weeks of it. Stupid life, getting in the way of NCIS. Yay, Internet age.

Jeez, I hope someone gets me an NCIS cap for Christmas. (That's also a Not-Subtle Hint.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Harlequin Announces Digital-Only Carina Press

Harlequin Romance has announced today the opening of Carina Press, a digital-only publishing house that will offer a wide variety of women's fiction subgenres. Check out this article at CNBC:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/33785094

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Um, Why Am I Awake?

Got in late last night from CT. Michael Hauge was a good speaker. Learned a few new ideas, but WOW am I tired. More on that when I'm not actually comatose. Have a good Sunday, all!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I hope all of you who celebrate have a safe and happy Halloween. Here in NY, it looks like a bit of rain, but it won't stop me--er, my son--from trick-or-treating completely. Dress up and be silly!

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Honest Look at E-Publishing

J. A. Konrath has been writing thrillers since his first book deal in 2003, and in a recent blog, he has shared with us some facts and figures on his E-publishing vs. print publishing experiences. The caveat to keep in mind is that your experience may differ from his, but he has posted a detailed look at his sales numbers here. Go look - it's worth it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help! I'm Being Invaded!

As much as I like ladybugs, this is a bit much. Harmonia axyridis, the Asian ladybeetle, has decided to pay me a visit and bring thousands of her friends. They're all over our new vinyl siding. We haven't seen this many ladybugs since we were kids.

When we first moved into our house, several years ago, we had a few of them getting inside. We fixed that with some caulking. When we knocked our chimney down, we found a giant nest of them, which, of course, we got rid of. This year, when we sided and insulated the outside of our house, I suspect we evicted a bunch of these little buggers.

I haven't gotten that far in my research yet, but I suspect they are doing their fall swarm, looking for their usual way in under our old cedar shake siding for a cozy winter bunk, and are going to be disappointed now that the house is better-sealed. The best hope I have, since I don't plan to fight them with pesticides (they eat crop-destroying aphids), is to gracefully wait until cooler air moves in and they go away in search of better lodging. It remains to be seen whether we have this problem in future years. As far as I can see, our crawlspace attic is ladybug-free.

No aphids here, nosirree. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Michael Hauge Workshop 11/7/09

I'll be attending Michael Hauge's workshop in Connecticut on Saturday, November 7th, 2009. Michael will be presenting an all-day workshop on "Story Mastery." I hope to come back with lots of great new information to work into my writing. Say hi if you see me there!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Release Date for EARTH Has Been Moved Up!

BREAKING NEWS!

The release date for my first book, EARTH, has been moved up to 4/2/2010. I just got the news from my editor. This is great, because I can now have the book in-hand for signings on and near Earth Day. I can also start contests earlier!

More news will follow as it becomes available. :)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Kate Duffy, Editorial Director of Kensington Books, Has Passed Away

As usual, I am the last to learn of things. I only realized that Kate had passed away when I received my RWA eNotes. I was shocked, of course. Kate was a powerhouse editor, and known for launching and guiding the careers of many brilliant authors of romance. She was loved and respected by many within and outside of the industry.

My thoughts are with Kate's family and friends this evening. Thank you, Kate, for everything you did for romance. We will miss you.

World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions

Got to see these beauties last weekend. What a horse geek I am. I sat there in awe for most of it. My favorite parts were the half-pass, a diagonal dressage (equine dancing, for you non-horse types) maneuver, the extended trot, which looks like the horse is floating (really beautiful to see), and of course the "airs above the ground," during which the horse rears up (called a "levade") or jumps into the air (called the "capriole").

Dressage horses are serious athletes. It takes a lot of work to get them into the shape they need to be to perform these maneuvers, and it's breathtaking to watch them do it.

But my favorite part was the Andalusian stallion. If I was awed before, I just about drooled when they brought him out. What a stunner. Check out that gorgeous, heavy mane and tail!



How do I get me one of those?!?! Simply an amazing-looking horse. :)

For more photos of these lovely horses, check out my Facebook page, where you'll find an album of a few of the best pictures that came out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ack - My Family's Falling Apart Today

My husband is home with a backache and is on bedrest. My son has a virus. I'm mothering them both today. Eek, who cursed me? :)

Off to the store now for chicken soup and apple juice ....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Need Exercise? Get Reel

Our siding is finished. It looks beautiful - but our yard was a different story yesterday. With trucks and our cars parking on it all week, it looked like a trampled hayfield. Last night, my husband mowed the front yard with the gas mower, while I tackled the backyard with the reel mower. Keep in mind, I am currently wrestling fall allergies.

If you want to sweat buckets even when you feel fine, try using a reel mower. You gotta push hard in spots, unless your lawn is perfectly flat. Then add that you already feel yucky because your throat is sore and your ears are stuffy. I got the yard done, but I felt like I had just survived an hour on a Stairmaster. Ugh. Good for the environment, those reel mowers. Heck on your body when you're already feeling icky.

Lawn looks better though! On to the next project. :)

8:21 AM EDIT: Check out this news item on E-Readers: Suddenly, Earth-Friendly E-Readers Are Everywhere

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greenwood: 6; Shrub: 5

Day two of residing has gone swimmingly. The house is beginning to look like I imagined it would when we moved in several years ago.

That includes pulling out the overgrown landscaping in the front. I kid you not: the day we closed on the house, I was out there with hedge clippers, taking down the rhododendron that was slowly devouring our front window.

Tonight, it was my husband and I versus the barberry and juniper shrubs. The barberry bushes came out easily, but that dang juniper just didn't want to accept its eviction notice. We dug at it. No success. We pulled at it with rachet straps and hubby's car. Darn thing actually snapped the rachet straps ... three times. Then it snapped the handle on the shovel.

After that, we gave up and got the reciprocating saw.

Holy cow, this thing was stubborn. Four-inch trunk, going straight down. You should have seen the happy dance we did when we got it out. Ha! I think if hubby had a football at the time, he would have spiked it on the dirt patch the thing left when we hauled it out.

I'm already making plans for some soft grasses and low-growing plants for the front landscaping. It'll have to wait for spring, but that will give me something fun to think about for the winter months. It's going to be so nice to start fresh, with new plants! I can't wait to design it.

For now, though, I'm just going to be glad I don't get stabbed by those barberry bushes every time I try to weed. :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My House Is Naked!

Day one of residing my house has begun. All the old cedar shakes are gone! They were original to our house, which is at present 40 years old, so you can imagine what sort of condition they were in. Our house is now halfway sided with foam insulation board, and they have fixed the sagging soffit in front. I'm so excited I could dance. I now get to go shopping for light fixtures for beside the doors. Yay! :)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

By George, I Think I've Got It

Well, for the past two weeks I haven't gotten much writing in, thanks to the argument between my Dana and my desktop computer. But last night, Hubby unearthed his old laptop (old meaning Windows 2000), and I have found a stopgap way to write on the go. I'm still eyeballing netbooks, though, as they're much more portable than this laptop. But for now, I can get words on the page and get them from the laptop to my desktop by way of a flash drive. Good enough for me. Yay!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Windows Vista, How Do I Hate Thee?

Let me count the ways. No, wait, that'll take a couple years.

<-- begin techno-rant -- >

Since purchasing my new desktop computer, I have had problems with virtually every application I use daily. Most notably, iTunes and my Alphasmart Dana.

iTunes, I fixed, with the help of some really smart folks who knew how to rescue my MP3s from certain oblivion. My Dana is another matter. *sob*

I loved my Dana, but AlphaSmart has decided not to pursue a Windows Vista patch for this model, because they are pushing to get people to buy their new Neo. The Neo 2 has a smaller screen, however, and I don't feel it's fair that writers who use the Dana like me are SOL if they get a computer running Vista. My new desktop computer won't run HotSync either, which was a dandy little program that let you connect your Dana to your computer, and then electronically transfer all your writing files to your desktop PC, converting them as it went to .DOC or .RTF.

Can't do that in Vista. There's nothing out there yet that's capable of converting a file written on AlphaWord (they use WordSmart) from its native .PDB format to a .DOC or even .RTF. You can get an SD card (1 MB or less) and save all your files off the Dana to that, then plug it into your computer, but you'll still get a .PDB file that isn't properly readable by MS Word or Open Office. Does anybody recall that saying that your data is only good as long as you can read it?

You CAN right-click on the file once you've plopped it from the SD card into a folder on your desktop computer, and open it with a text editor like Notepad, but then you have to copy all that text to a new document in MS Word/OO and delete all the gibberish characters by hand. (It doesn't read the hard returns or italics or underlined text properly.) Then you can save the edited file as .DOC on your desktop PC. This is what I did, to rescue all my writing. Lucky for me, I didn't have much to edit because I updated so frequently and had backups I could just add the new text to. Still took me all night.

Any of this making sense? No? Just humor me, then. I'm always crabby when I have to waste good writing time making technology behave.

Anyway, I am eyeballing the HP Mini, or something similar, that will still give me a small and portable word processor, but play nice with my desktop PC when it comes time to transfer files. Too bad it will be so much more fragile than my Dana. I have dropped that sucker on a cement floor, picked it up, and continued writing with no ill effects.

I hold out hope that someday MS will release a Windows platform that doesn't require ten thousand patches, bug fixes, and updates the moment you get it. This could be a futile effort. Why has no one throttled MS for making Vista so unlivable? I miss XP. The more I know about Windows and Microsoft, the more I love open source software. Bleah.

<-- end techno-rant -- >

Hope your weekend goes better than mine! Heading off to the fridge now for a tiny bottle of Godiva liqueur ....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Looks Like A Pickle

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I went to lunch at a sandwich shop. With our sandwiches, we each received a dill pickle spear. Our two-year-old son picked his up and asked, "What's this?"

Normally, when he asks that about something he knows, it's just to get an answer. Thinking I was being smart, I asked, "What's it look like?"

"A pickle," said our son.

"What's it smell like?" asked my husband, clearly willing to play along with my game.

"A pickle," said our son.

"Then what is it?" we asked.

Didn't even hesitate. "A banana."

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Win! (iTunes Tech Support Loses): Problem #1 Solved

So, I bought my snappy new computer, and immediately ran into 2.5 biggo problems:

#1) iTunes version 8 won't read my songs on the Nano

I stood to lose over 400 songs I have amassed over the years. I called iTunes tech support - no help whatsoever. They basically told me, "Tough cookies." Then I checked in with the ol' Google, and found this article, which shows you how to pull all those songs off the iPod (including those purchased in other places than on stupid iTunes) - and for free. The whole thing's just a matter of plugging your iPod in, getting Windows to recognize it as a removable drive, and showing the hidden files. (A touch more complicated than that, but don't fret - there's a complete walkthrough even for us poor souls using Vista). So yay, my writing music is back on my computer, syncable to the iPod, and I can write. Which brings me to my next problem ....

#2) Vista won't recognize my Alphasmart Dana

Screech! This is how I write when I am not at my computer, and their patches at the Alphasmart website don't seem to be doing the trick. This is the older, 8 MB Dana. I am still working on a fix for this. If nothing else works, I might have to get rid of Vista and go back to XP, since Vista so far is sucking mightily.

#2.5) Why Microsoft sucks and Open Source doesn't

The third, less troublesome problem is that the Microsoft Works app (the newer version of the Office suite, including Word, Excel, etc.) that they bundled with this spiffy computer is a limited license. Once it expires, you're on your own, bucko, or you get to shell out the whatever-it-is-now that MS is charging these days to buy it - or hope your older MS Office suite disk is forward-compatible with your new computer. For the price I paid for this computer, you'd think MS could spring for a full license.

No problem. Open Office is a free, open source, never-have-to-pay-for-it suite of programs compatible with all MS suite documents. I highly recommend it for haters of Microsoft, or people who need an Office suite for any reason. Nice thing is, Open Office's Writer program can convert .DOC files to .PDF files, if you need that sort of thing. Open Office, I love you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Computer

I traded in the ol' dinosaur - finally - and got a snazzy new computer tower. Lots and lots more memory, much faster. Happy me! I can now work more efficiently, and actually click a button without waiting for a five-minute lag time.

I got it from Gateway, and I decided I love them as soon as I opened the box. NO Styrofoam in sight - just molded cardboard, which is recyclable. Yay, Gateway! You rock.

Hubby now has computer envy - but he's still the one with the bigger monitor.

That's next on my list. :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wednesday Wit

A couple of laughs for you today, one toddler-related, and one writing-related:

Smart Boy

I was having a talk with my toddler earlier this week about ages. Lately, he wants to know how old all our family members and friends are. I went through the list one by one with him, including my own age (hint: it's between 30 and 40). About ten minutes later, he asked me again how old I am. Hoping to reinforce his memory, I answered, "I just told you, honey. How old am I?"

Without missing a beat, he said, "Twenty-one."

C'mon, how do you correct that without wanting to give your kid cookies? :-D

Rejection Ditty (to the tune of that Queen song)

Da, da, da
Another book bites the dust
Da, da, da
Another book bites the dust
And another "No" mailed, and another "No" mailed
Another book bites the dust
Hey, they'll reject you too
Another book bites the dust ...

(I'm considering writing the whole thing out, and singing it whenever I get one of those form rejections.)

Happy Wednesday, all! :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Weird Beer Names and Marketing

Hubby and I were strolling through the grocery store today, and he spied a beer called "Arrogant Bastard Ale." You know when you find something with a name like that, you gotta take a closer look.

The label bears a smiling cartoon devil. The description on the back of the bottle is hysterical. Totally cheeky. It only got funnier as we read it. Someone in Marketing had a brilliant idea, because even at $4.50 a bottle, we bought one to try. (Seriously, if you have this beer where you live, go read it. *snort*)

We're living proof that humor is a great way to sell something. Work humor into your stories, and you're going to grab a reader. People like to laugh. Think about what your book has that will grab a reader emotionally--whether that's humor, or sadness, or anything in between, and really bring that out. Emotion sells romance.

By the way, Hubby disliked this beer (he being a staunch Guinness man), but he says he's keeping the bottle on principle. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Warning: Spoiler Alert!

Now that we got the warning out of the way, on with the movie review. My first impression was that, while this was a good movie, it wasn't a great one. Granted, my expectations were insanely high, considering this is my favorite book of the Harry Potter series. But I couldn't help feeling that this was the Cliff Notes version of the book. It touched on all the high points of the book, bip-bip-bip, but never stopped long enough to examine and feel them as it went. I couldn't help sensing that it lacked the depth of emotion that could, and should, have been conveyed, given the material it had to draw from.

What I Liked:

Ron! Considering fans missed out on the "Weasley Is Our King" bit that would have come up in the last movie (no Quidditch, no WIOK - bummer!), we are given our due here in this film. We get to see Ron in his Quidditch-playing glory. Yay! The Quidditch game, by the way, is maybe my favorite of all the movies. Seeing Ron navigate the perils of romance was fun, too.

I also liked the interaction between Harry and Hermione. Very nicely done, very sweet. Perfect. In fact, all the interactions between Harry, Ron, and Hermione were well done.

They trimmed down the memory lessons with Dumbledore to the two most essential. These were the slowest parts of the book for me, so I was glad to see the director minimize them.

Harry hopped-up on Felix Felicis. Really. Flipping. Hilarious. The movie had to tread very delicately with its comedy, and where they placed it, they did so perfectly. Genius.

What I Disliked:

They changed several things that I thought should have been left as they were in the book.

One, they changed when, where, and how Ginny and Harry have their first kiss. I loved that part of the book, and I feel that, while what they did is nice, it's missing something compared to the book's portrayal.

Two, they changed where Harry is at the time of Dumbledore's death. Instead of being Petrified under his Invisible Cloak, Harry is underneath the platform where Dumbledore is standing, and able to move around and watch what's happening, though Dumbledore has made him promise not to interfere. I think it lacks the dramatic irony of Harry wanting to act, but not being able to.

Three, I was really hoping for the standoff between Harry and Snape at the end to be larger than it was. Harry accuses him twice of cowardice, and Snape doesn't react at all. I wanted this to be a much more hotheaded interchange.

Four, if I remember correctly, the children face off with the Death Eaters in the castle grounds at the end of this book. None of that happens here. A huge shame, and I imagine they must have cut it for time reasons - but it left me hanging.

Finally, there was no funeral for Dumbledore in the movie. That, I think, might have been the most grievous omission, because it's such an important part of the book. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard anyone ever knew, and we should have seen the funeral because of the impact of his death on the wizarding community.

Overall:

I will probably go see it again, but this movie is more of a play-by-play than an emotional journey through the events of the book. Viewers who have never read the series might feel like they're missing something ... and they are. (Read the book for the full impact - it's better!) "Order of the Phoenix" still stands as my favorite film. It'll be hard for them to knock that one out of the top spot. "Half-Blood Prince" sure didn't.

But still, go see it. Just to see Ron win at something besides chess ... and get the girl to boot. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FYI - I Am No Longer On Facebook

I have removed my Facebook account, as it's too time-consuming to maintain. From now on, the only place you will find me online is on my blog, or my website - so if you want to know all the news, this is the best place to do that. You're still free to contact me if you want to chat, and here is where I'll post any upcoming news on my current or future projects. Thanks, and have a good evening!

Skaneateles - A Perfect Summer Getaway

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I stayed recently at a B&B. That was the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles (pronounced "skinny-atlas," for you non-native folk). Talk about a summer getaway! Skaneateles is beautiful at any time of year, but the weekend I stayed there was simply amazing. Not too hot, no rain, and enough cloud cover to prevent me from burning to a crisp. How I love Skaneateles!

If you get the chance to come to upstate New York, you should check it out. It's a lovely historic town with some amazing food to be had, as well as boats galore for those of you who enjoy that. For the landlubbers, there are scads of quaint shops (including a chocolatier whose biscotti could make your eyes cross, they're so good).

I'll be living off this ultra-relaxing weekend for the rest of the summer. I'm already trying to work out the next time I'll be able to stay there. Siiiigh!

Changes to the RITA

Breaking News!

RWA has announced changes to the RITA that will allow E-published authors to submit their work. From the July 2009 RWA Hot Sheet:

"Beginning with the 2010 RITA Contest year, books published by any non-Vanity/non-Subsidy publisher may be entered in the RITA....Beginning with the 2010 RITA Contest, entries must have an original copyright date of the year preceding the contest year. However, during the 2010 transitional contest year only, those books with BOTH a 2008 original copyright date AND a 2009 North American printing date OR a 2009 first printing date may be entered so that members who had waited to enter in this contest year are not penalized by the change in policy."

This means that even if you don't get that $1000 advance, or advance-plus-royalties, you are eligible if you your book meets the word count. For further information and the full report, visit RWA's website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Slippery Slope of A Foodie

The day job was slow last week, so I got to leave early. Yay! I spent a lovely hour at Panera Bread eating the best panini sandwich ever, and followed it up with a pecan braid that was so good it ought to be a crime. Mmm.

I've been paying a lot more attention to food lately, because the heroine in my next book, WATER, is a chef. A few weeks ago, I stayed at a B-&-B that served olive tapenade (a minced-olive spread) on artisan bread for an appetizer. I like savory dishes, so this salty little offering was right up my alley. I have successfully learned to reproduce the tapenade, and made it for a Fourth of July family gathering. It went like hotcakes. I think my mother was one step from fanning herself with relief that I can, in fact, prepare some sort of food dish. There's hope for me yet, Mom.

But I still can't replicate her meatballs, no matter how hard I try. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Never Say Die

I've been slogging through a bout of the "my writing sucks" blues this week. Yesterday I held my little pity party, but today, guess what? I sent out four queries.

Even experienced writers have moments of doubt about their work. The important thing is to persevere through that until the words come again without effort. If you want it bad enough, it will happen. Wanting it bad enough may mean years of hard work at your craft, but if that's what it takes to see your books in print, it's worth it, right?

Don't give up. Send out queries. Write something. Write anything. Just keep doing it. :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Objectivity in Art and Authorship

In my spare (Spare???) time, I like to draw. Portraits mostly. Sometimes wildlife too. I learned somewhere that after I think I'm done with a piece, I need to turn it 180 degrees and finish it upside-down.

What this does is fool your brain into re-looking at what you've drawn as the series of pencil lines it is, rather than a representation of something which your brain will "fix" into the intended image. The brain is an amazing thing. It will "fix" a thing, or fill in the blanks, without conscious effort so that you see what is meant to be, rather than what is. That's why a lot of us writers miss misspelled words without spellcheck. It's also why we have such a hard time editing our own work. Because we know what's meant to be there.

In the course of my work, I have found that it's much easier to critique others than to edit my own material. When you write a story, you're too close to see its flaws. Regaining objectivity is an important step in editing your own work. Sometimes you need to toss that manuscript in a drawer for a month. Sometimes you need to hand it over to your critique partners and let them have at it. Sometimes you just need to forget you're the one who wrote it.

Whatever method you use, if you do it right that "switch" goes back off in your brain and the work becomes what it is: a series of words on your computer screen or paper. And if you play it right, you pay attention to how the words flow. You notice how this work will affect your audience, and not what the words mean to you. And then you can edit with objectivity, sacrificing words or whole chapters for pacing if it's needed, or adding words to deepen or strengthen the story. Tough stuff. Never let it be said that writers aren't a brave lot.

I just wish I could turn a whole story 180 degrees and edit it upside-down.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth Of July

Just taking a moment to wish all Americans a safe and happy Fourth of July. Here in NY, it's threatening rain, but my family is home and we all get to celebrate a nice day together. That's enough for me!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Loves Hulu? I Do! Do You?

Sorry, couldn't resist the Seuss-ism. :)

I have, over the past week, grown quite attached to Hulu, a website where you can watch selected TV shows and movies for free. Yes, free. There are periodic, short "commercial" interruptions, but the entire movie or show is intact (whole seasons of TV shows, in fact). Since I am too cheap/busy to pay for cable (not wanting to shell out $60.00/month for a hundred channels I won't watch anyway), Hulu is my new entertainment best friend.

I can now watch some of my favorite episodes of "Buffy" and "Angel" again (sold off my DVDs after not watching them for so long), and feed my new obsession, "Burn Notice." Not to mention catching up on "House." "NCIS," I can watch on CBS.com, if I miss it on TV. "NCIS," I would watch in a hole in the earth and fed on stale bread and muddy water. (Michael Weatherly ... Sorry, where was I?)

The drawback, of course, is having to use my computer for writing. Oh, technology, you slippery slope of entertainment goodness. Guess I better go. And write. Really, I swear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

RWAChange

There's a new Yahoo group called RWAChange out there, and you romance writers who are E-published or interested in E-publishing might want to join in. The mission of this group is to help effect positive changes within RWA, a way for authors who don't feel they're being heard to have a voice in what goes on within RWA pertaining to digital publishing. It's been up for six days and it's already over 500 members strong.

Its focus is not to disparage RWA, but to help it become an organization which all of its members, including the E-published ones, can be proud to support. I have high hopes for this organization's efforts. Already the communication has been extensive and positive.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on RWA vs. E-Publishing - It All Comes Down To Money

Here's RWA President Diane Pershing's response to Deirdre Knight's article on RWA's E-publishing position. I'm disappointed in RWA's foot-stamping, I'm-not-changing-my-mind stance on this issue.

Any time it comes up, E-pubbed authors and advocates of E-published authors have been extremely vocal about RWA's need for change on this issue. Having served on the board several times for my local RWA chapter, I can tell you that any time a concern comes up, my local chapter does its best to address it and make its concerned members as happy as possible. In the end, no matter how you slice it, it makes more financial sense to make your customers happy. Anyone who runs a business knows that. No happy members (customers) means no dues, means less money for the organization.

RWA may not founder by losing some disgruntled members, but it will feel the difference, considering they felt they had to raise the dues by $10.00 recently. I don't fault them the rise in dues, as businesses need operating funds, but I do feel that I am paying for services which have not been a help to me in the path to publication since shortly after my initial foray into the pursuit. The best help I have gotten has come from members of my local chapter, books on craft, the library, and workshops that are open to anyone, RWA member or not, for a slightly higher fee.

Nationals may be different, of course, but with my other bills (and a very active toddler), it's hard to justify spending that kind of money getting there and staying there. I find it more useful to stay home and write. If I don't have product to sell (a finished manuscript), I'm wasting my time anyway!

Between RWA and my local chapter, I spend an annual $110.00, $85.00 of which goes to RWA. I wish to God there was a way to keep my local chapter without having to spend the dues on RWA, because CNY Romance Writers has been an enormous help and support to me and I love them. But my return for that $85.00 investment in RWA has not been sufficient for a few years now. So it is with regret that I've decided I can't justify the cost anymore. I will have to leave RWA, and my local chapter once my RWA membership runs out. I would rather put that money into other methods of remaining educated about what's going on in publishing.

It's a sad, tough decision which I have wrestled with for a year now, but I've come to the realization that it's time to move on from RWA. I'm thankful for the friends that I have made in my local chapter, and I wish I could stick with CNYRW. Perhaps when/if RWA outgrows this prejudice against non-vanity small presses, and forms a better way for individual members to be heard, I may rejoin.

If they don't, I'll still write.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

About That Word Count Meter...

Well, I think I am getting more used to the word-count meter. I've even decided to put one up on the blog. At some point. I've been checking in with it, and it actually is motivating me to write so I can see that percentage go up.

The problem now is, continuing to be sure that the words I put there count. Not just writing to write, but to make the words matter. I still have to cut away any deadwood that slows pacing. You've got to sacrifice your words for the good of the story, so to speak.

So look for one of those little gadgets in the sidebar soon. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

More on RWA vs. the E-Publishing Community

Deirdre Knight of The Knight Agency speaks out against RWA's position on E-publishing on a recent news item from ESPAN, the Electronic and Small Print Authors' Network (a chapter of RWA). The article is lucid, articulate, and well done. Have a look - and thanks Deirdre for your insights!

The Digital Age and RWA: A Call for Change

Monday, June 08, 2009

Release Date for EARTH Announced!

The release date for EARTH is official. My first book will be released 4/23/10 - aptly enough, one day after Earth Day! I will hold contests and giveaways following the book's release, and I hope you'll be as excited about the prizes as I am. Keep an eye on my blog for announcements and updates regarding these contests!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Harry Potter and the Best Book Ever

The Half-Blood Prince was one of only two books that ever made me cry (the other was Where The Red Fern Grows, and if you know that book you understand why). I am a grown woman, and I cried, cried, cried at Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Tell me the trailer doesn't look amazing. The end of this trailer says the release date is July 17th, but the movie actually comes out July 15th. So July 15th, I know where I will be!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

New Toy (Sorta) and License Plates

I got my replacement Sony eReader in the mail last night. My other was broken, and I have sent it for repair (assuming it will cost less to fix than to buy new). How much did I miss this sucker? So I'm doing the happy dance this weekend!

Meanwhile, I am writing fast and furious in the next Elementals book, WATER. The characters are beginning to develop layers, and it's always fun to explore a new hero and heroine and find out what makes them tick. While I already have the synopsis written for all four books in the Elementals series, I don't learn every little thing about the characters until I have written (and revised, and revised, and revised) the stories.

Last week I saw my first Montana license plate. Funny, considering the hero from EARTH (and his siblings) are from Montana. A good luck sign? You decide....

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

iTunes Anonymous?

I'm such a music-driven writer, and I guess I should have seen it coming when my brother gave me his old iPod Nano for Christmas a couple of years back, but I'm an iTunes junkie. I love that I can say "Hey! I like that song!" and click that little "Buy" button and get it without moving an inch out of my seat. Then I can go back to writing. Instant gratification, thy name is iTunes. On the upside, my writing gets done faster than it would if I had to trek to the mall. On the downside, my wallet cries whenever I get that little zing of awareness that Song XYZ would be great for my current scene. Do they make a twelve-step program for music-driven writers? :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Allergies and Other Fun and Games

It's raining this afternoon. Some days, I hate rain. Some days, I love it. Today, it's perfect, because for the first time in two weeks my sinuses aren't going into pollen overload. Yay, me!

I hope those of you who celebrate it had a great Memorial Day. I snuck in some good family time, which included getting dirty in the grass with my toddler. (Ever notice how much fun you have when you stop being an adult and give yourself the excuse to act like a child?)

My first book, EARTH, finally has an ISBN number and will soon have a release date. WATER is continuing at a pleasing pace, though I am finding the usual difficulties with the first draft. I have to keep reminding myself that it is a first draft and I can go back when I'm done to add layers and whatnot. I have a hard time doing that. I like it to be right the first time! But they do say, in so many words, that writing is 90% editing.

Which I ought to be doing right now. Hee hee. See you next week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hanging On Every Word

I've decided I am on the fence about word count meters. Things being as they are (i.e. a day job, half-hour lunch, maybe an hour free in the evenings to write due to obligations with family, and I re-read before I write that day), I sometimes get zilch done for writing in a day. Other days I can crank out several pages (though never my goal of a whole chapter in one day).

As it stands, I'm about 13% done with WATER. Wow. There goes my eagerness. I don't think I want to see that anti-motivator in pictorial grandeur every day. I submit Exhibit A:

Word Count: WATER
9040 / 70000


C'mon, that looks pathetic. Around 80% complete, it might look a little friendlier, eh? This sort of makes me feel like those writers who got paid by the word back in the day. I could write "the" and get paid. Heck, I could write "a" and get paid!

I can see why these can be helpful, or at least nag you like a silent but insistent reminder to write--but in the early stages they seem a little disheartening. I might give it a shot at some point though--post it here for y'all to see.

Maybe when I get to 80%. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

EARTH Hits The Galley!

I got my galley this weekend (the "dress rehearsal" for a final, printed or e-published book). And with it, I got the book's ISBN number. Yay--it's finally coming together! EARTH has a 2010 copyright date, so I will assume we should see it in print and e-publication early next year. This is exciting news for me, and it's making me even more eager to get into Book Two in the Elemental Series, WATER. I hope to have that book finished by the end of this year (fingers, toes, and eyes crossed for luck). More news to follow as it comes in. The next thing I should hear about is a release date!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Squirrel Wars

(Or, How A Little Fuzzy Grey Mammal Shouldn't Be Smarter Than Humans, But Is)

I am in the midst of that great perennial battle--Human vs. Squirrel. Several years ago, when my husband and I bought our house, I was big-eyed with dreams of turning my backyard into a miniature nature preserve. I set out a nice new (standard hopper-style) bird feeder expecting to see all the pretty birds show up to eat and to listen to their tweets and chirps over my morning coffee.

No dice. Grey Squirrel shows up, pops the top off my feeder, eats the whole batch in two days.

Okay, I said. Let's try something different. I bought a tube-style feeder and a pole, and some suet cages.

No dice. Grey Squirrel shows up, knocks down the tube feeder, opens it, eats everything. Just for good measure, he opens the suet cages and eats that too.

Hmm. Not to be denied, I re-hang the feeder and suet cages, using floral wire to keep the cages shut and the feeder on the hook.

This time he breaks the wire and gets everything anyway--suet, birdseed, my pride, you name it.

Okay, you fuzzy little guerrilla birdseed eater, I'm gonna fix your wagon. I went to the hardware store and bought a few of those single chain-links that you have to screw shut. NOW the little monster can eat my suet, but at least he can't open the cages and gulp it down in one day. It takes him a few, but hey, I'll take what I can get at this point. Try that on for size, Mr. No-Opposable-Thumbs!

On to the feeders. I like goldfinches, and this little bugger's not gonna keep me goldfinch-less. I find a cone-shaped thistleseed feeder that's made of steel and heavy-duty screen wire. The birds can cling right to it to munch away. A-ha! GS leaves it alone! I get pretty yellow birdies! (Maybe he just doesn't like thistleseed.)

Okay, I said. What about the other feeder? I dispense with the tube feeder and blow a chunk of change on a squirrel-resistant hopper feeder that slams shut when GS's weight plunks on it. Hooray! It works! More birdies! Then one day I see GS hanging upside-down from the feeder roof and chomping merrily away at what's in the pan. Arggh. "Resistant." Not "proof." Well, we're aiming for almost perfect anyway now.

Then, hoping for some different birds, I try adding a wire basket-style feeder that you fill with sunflower seed. GS is showing signs of being Houdini reincarnated now. Two days after hanging it, he has figured out how to unhook the lid latches, flip the thing open, and chow down on the contents. And he got on his little squirrel Blackberry and texted his pals, because now there are three of them.

Scream.

I am now trying a feeder that claims to be squirrel-proof. It says so right on the box, and there's a picture of smiling people and lots of birdies flitting around the contraption. It's a tube feeder with a cage around it, so GS can't stick his head in there and suck down my sunflower seeds like a furry little vacuum cleaner.

I am not convinced.

There is a flaw in this lovely design. The top, which they claim "locks," just sets down on the top of the tube--somewhat snugly, but you see where I am going with this. There is no padlock on this sucker. And I think GS might be working out how to mutate his little paws into something with opposable thumbs at this very moment.

I will keep you posted. But if you hear screaming, it's me, overrun by Squirrelfest.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Yay! It Worked!

I managed to get my website up and running at its new home, so it's now working and ready for you to see. I'm excited to present my new website! Look it over and see what you think. If there's anything you'd like to see on it, please let me know. Have a great day (I know I will, now that things are running smoothly again)!

With that comes the new blog header. I decided that for ease of use, the blog will look slightly different than my website, at least for now. The new blog header is above. What do you think?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Webhosting Changes

I'm in the process of changing my webhost from Web.com to Yahoo, as I have come to the realization that Web.com is not working for me. I've been unable to upload changes to my website for the past several days, and their technical support yields little more than pat answers.

As a result, you may see a "hiccup" in certain functions of the site while I move it to its new host. I hope to unveil a redesigned website soon to celebrate the impending arrival of my first book, EARTH. Thanks for your patience while I complete this move!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Saw Orlando Bloom Today!

(Sort of.)

Let me explain that. At my "day job" (you know, the one I have to do, and then I go home and do the one I want to do, which is write), I see lots of people. A girl came in today and one of my coworkers was assisting her, so I turned away to answer the phone. When I looked back, there was a guy with the customer, wearing a hat.

Double take. Another double take. Try not to stare. Holy &%$*, what's Orlando Bloom doing here? Look again. OMG. This guy was the closest thing you can get to Orlando Bloom without actually being Orlando Bloom. And not washed-out, blond-haired Legolas Orlando Bloom. We're talking full-on, curly dark-haired, short ponytail, incredibly cute "Pirates Of The Caribbean" Orlando Bloom. I half expected him to be wearing a bandanna and black pirate shirt instead of a cap and tank top. I'm not particularly crazy about Orlando--Hugh Jackman being more my cup of tea--but wow. That was some doppelganger.

That was the bright spot in my day. Now, Fate, if you're listening: about Hugh Jackman....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, one of my favorite holidays! Whether you do something as big as a community cleanup, or something as small as choosing a washable travel mug over that disposable Styrofoam, remember that you're helping your planet stay healthy! Check out these easy tips on how to live green from WorldWatch.org! Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Toughing It Out

I recently hit a rough patch where I thought my writing was awful. I sulked last night about it and wisely stayed off the computer. But this morning, I got right back on the horse and worked on some editing. And y'know what? My writing isn't that bad.

All writers think, at one time or another, that their writing isn't worth reading. It's a natural part of wanting to be a better writer than you already are. Please, if nothing else sticks in your head about the craft--remember this. Write it down, and tape it to your computer:

Keep Writing.

Tough it out. Don't quit, because the very next manuscript could have been a New York Times bestseller.

Keep Writing.

Eventually you're going to write something that makes you remember why you sit in front of that damn computer every day and struggle to say something worth saying.

Keep Writing.

I've said it before, and I will say it for as long as it takes to encourage every new writer to be a better one. No one ever published a quitter. :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Movie Review: "Slumdog Millionaire"

People have said it before me and probably said it better. Wow, what a movie!

Y'know how you let a book sit on the shelf forever and then kick yourself for not having read it sooner? This was that sort of thing for me. I never saw it in the theater, but I heard about all the good reviews it got. So I rented it this weekend, and it was fantastic.

I'm not even sure how to classify it, except that it's a movie about a kid from the slums that makes good...and you're gonna care why and how, right from the opening sequence. I don't think I have felt this bad for a character since Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness. All of the protagonists in the film inspire that same empathy. (And let me say that Freida Pinto is probably one of the most gorgeous women ever. Might have to use her as inspiration for my next heroine!)

If you're a writer, watch this movie for the way it strikes empathy from the word go. If you're just a movie buff, watch this movie because it tells a terrific story of hardship, family, betrayal, redemption, loss, and love. But definitely watch it, especially if you've been on the fence about it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Final Edits on EARTH

I'm in the homestretch on my first book, EARTH. I have the final edits in hand, and I am working my way through them. I hope to have them done soon, and then I can jump back into the next book, WATER. While I'm doing that, I will be revising my synopsis for GEMINI and submitting that around again.

The warm weather is definitely slowing down my writing. I think I'm in such a happy frenzy to be able to get outside without a parka and dogsled! I can't wait to plant flowers. For those of you who celebrate, Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ooh, It's Wednesday, Isn't It?

How'd that happen? LOL

Time management is a problem for many of us writers. You know you need to get yourself in front of the computer every day, but when are you going to squeeze it in?

The answer is, make time. You're a writer, and writing is your job. If you skipped work a lot, you'd get fired, right? So definitely block out at least half an hour daily where you tell the family (or friends, or roommates) that nothing but blood or fire is to interrupt you. If you want to be a serious writer, writing's got to be a priority.

I have a half-hour lunch at my day job, and strangely enough, I find I get a lot more done in that half-hour (or less, when you consider taking time to prepare and eat food too), than when I have an entire day to write. That little bit of pressure sometimes encourages me to focus better. There are days when I write only one sentence, but there are days too when I can get several pages in. (Remember that I am the type who can't shut off her internal editor and "puke out" a chapter. I have to edit as I go.)

In short, be aware that you need to treat writing like a job, even if you are your own employer in this case. That means consistent effort. After all, you can't get pubbed if you don't write anything and get to The End!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour: 8:30 PM Local Time, March 28th, 2009

Tomorrow night pro-environment people across the world will "Vote Earth" by taking part in Earth Hour! I am symbolically turning off the "background lights" in my blog and on my website tonight, and this will remain in effect through tomorrow. To learn more about this event (and how to join in), click the link! Yay Earth!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High Concept

You can actually Google "high concept" and get a fair idea of what it means. Wikipedia has a good article on the subject. Steve Kaire has another.

But I didn't understand the concept of "high concept" until CJ Lyons put it to me like this: take a universal, everyday idea and turn it on its ear with a great twist. (She put it in better terms.)

You can sum up high concept with three earmarks: unique, mass-appeal, briefly summarized. Unique, meaning no one's ever come up with this idea before. Mass-appeal, meaning a large cross-section of people would be able to understand and appreciate your idea. And briefly summarized, meaning you could pitch this to an editor in three sentences with no problem.

Sounds like a tall order, right? But work with it. What makes your book so original? What takes it from a typical "boy-meets-girl" romance to the compelling story it is? What makes it different? Try it out and see if you can pitch your book in such a way that its unique qualities stand out from the legion of romances available to buyers. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Is Here (Almost)!

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and am I ever relieved! It's nice to hear birds and see sunshine in the mornings--not to mention the flowers that will soon be popping up in my garden!

The CNYRW Mini-Conference is over, and I finally learned the concept of a high-concept book, as well as a lot of tidbits that will help me bring depth to my characters and manuscripts. More on those topics in future entries. For now, enjoy the warm(ing) weather! Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

CNYRW Mini-Conference / Earth Hour Is Coming Up!

This weekend is the CNYRW Mini-Conference, featuring speaker CJ Lyons on Putting Your Character In The Driver's Seat. Last night she gave an informative workshop on Breaking Free Of The Slush Pile--a workshop designed on improving your query letters to catch an editor or agent's eye. Did you know that most editors look at your query for a matter of seconds? It's crucial to keep your query short, succinct, and compelling, and CJ showed us how with examples from our own work. Today's all-day workshop promises to be just as exciting, and CJ is a wonderful and accomplished lady. I look forward to learning from her today!

Don't forget, Earth Hour is coming up on March 28th! That's the day businesses and homes turn out their lights for one hour (8:30 PM local time wherever you are) to show their support in the fight against global warming. So wherever you are, switch off those lights for a little while to help your planet. Go green!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RWA, E-Pubs, and RWR

I have a letter to the editor coming out in the April RWR regarding the organization's views on E-pubbed authors. I got the email last week confirming it. I'm hoping that in some part, this generates some interest and awareness of a need for RWA to create a more hospitable environment for E-published authors, at least as it pertains to contest involvement and publication status. We'll see what happens!

Not much other news this week. I've been taking a short "fill-the-well" break from the writing. A couple more days of that and I will be back to work. I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Deus Ex Machina

Today I'm going to address a common novice writer's error: deus ex machina, literally "god from the machine." Writers who write their heroes into a corner and can't find a way to help him escape sometimes resort to an extraordinary and convenient rescue. Maybe someone with magical powers comes in at the last minute and swoops him out of danger. It's a convenient and weak plot device to quickly solve what might otherwise seem an insurmountable problem.

How do you avoid it? Simply put, write carefully. Think about the danger or conflict you want to put your hero in (what's a book without a little danger and conflict for your hero to overcome?), and think of one or two ways to get him out of it, that are not contrived. Give him the tools to do that, spread throughout the book, so that it doesn't feel like just a convenience that he happens to have that nifty skeleton key in his pocket that no one saw until this crucial moment. Give him a reason to have that skeleton key in his pocket in Chapter One, and now you're talking.

Convenient plot points are lazy writing. Find a way to make them less so. More necessary and inevitable to the plot. Critique partners are great for this. They can point out those convenience twists and help you smooth them out. The result is a better and more likely read that will have your reader cheering, because the hero will be the one doing all the work of getting out of danger--not that god from the machine.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Toddlers on Politics

Last week, I was reading the newspaper in the car while waiting to drop my 2-yo son off at daycare.

"You reading a book, Mama?"

"No, honey, this is a newspaper."

"Who's that on it?" My son points to a picture on the front.

I recognize an opportunity to educate. "This is the president. He runs the country. His name is Barack Obama."

"Barack O-Mama."

I laughed so hard I cried. Then I called my husband, who cracked up. No matter how hard I try, I can't convince my son that the president's name is not O-Mama. Maybe I should write the president and advise him that for the next four years, his name will be different than what he thinks it is. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Review - "Inkheart"

OK, it wasn't rocket science. But there were some really fun moments in this fantasy movie aimed at the pre-teen/tween crowd. Inkheart, based on the first book in a trilogy by Cornelia Funke, follows the story of bookbinder Mortimer and his daughter Maggie. Maggie is unaware that her father is a "Silvertongue," capable of bringing literary characters to life by reading a book aloud. Nine years ago, "Mo" accidentally read his wife, Maggie's mother, into a book and discovered this unusual talent. Since then, he's been searching for a copy of the rare book (aptly titled Inkheart) to try to read her back out of it. Meanwhile, he learns that he has read some of the book's evil characters out into the real world as well, along with a flawed character called Dustfinger (played by the always riveting Paul Bettany).

As a writer, I found this to be an enjoyable movie with a fun premise, and I quickly began sorting through my own manuscripts to see which one I'd read out loud. (Yes, I decided on one, and no, my hero didn't pop out into real life--darn.) So while I wouldn't call this movie particularly cerebral, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday. Some of the imagery is wonderful, as the story takes place in Italy. While it seems to be the latest in a slew of children's fantasy books made into movies, it's definitely not the worst one to be had. It certainly made the little kid in me happy for an afternoon. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Have Left Book Cents Literary Agency

A couple of things this morning. First, after discussing the issue with Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, she and I have decided not to work together any longer. This was a mutual, amicable decision and I will be shopping the Gifted series elsewhere.

Second, my main website was down this morning. I know that the domain host has changed hands, and that has something to do with it, I am sure. It is back up and running now, but feel free to email me with questions or difficulties navigating it.

Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Lately I feel like I've been run through a mill. I don't know if it's post-Christmas burnout, or what, but I've needed a break from my writing. I've taken the past couple of weeks off from my own work, with the exception of a writing exercise I do on the side when not working on my main stuff. I have also been editing for others, which may contribute to said burnout. On top of that, I've taken the mantle of Secretary back up for the 2009 board of CNY Romance Writers. What a task I've made for myself this year.

But I persevere! I made myself work on the next book in the Elemental series a couple of days ago, as well as doing my editing. Writers who want to write for a living must treat it like a job and do it regularly. With that in mind, I will jump back in this week and try to get myself back on track. Let's hope the doggies stay rollin' once I get them rollin'.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

RWA vs. E-Pubs

There's been a lot of hullaballoo lately about RWA's position on E-published authors. As it currently stands, E-pubs are not allowed to enter in RWA's RITA contest for published authors, because the books entered must be "mass-produced" in "print" format. See the article at Redlines and Deadlines for more on this topic.

As an author about to be E-published, I feel this alienates a lot of our E-published authors and hopefuls in that arena. I am contracted, so I can't enter the Golden Heart. I am going to be E-pubbed, so even when my book comes out, I won't be allowed to enter the RITA. Where does this leave me? It certainly puts a bad taste in my mouth as to RWA's opinion of me.

I truly think RWA needs to open its collective mind to the fact that E-publishing is not going away, and more and more authors are turning to it as an option to market their work. I'm sure the percentage of E-pubbed members of RWA is growing exponentially, if the growth at my own house, The Wild Rose Press, is any indication. I'd like to see them take more notice of us. Maybe RWA needs to dust off those RITA rules to include a place for E-published work and prove to its dues-paying E-pubs that it cares about us too.