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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Update to the update...

Still no internet at the new house.  I'd chosen a provider, got everything (I thought) set up but turns out the person who took my order didn't know what they were doing and the other two people I talked to were just about as clueless.  So, I told them to cancel my order and that I'd find another provider.  Thankfully, there are several options in town here.  I'm not sure when I'll be online from my home, I hope by the middle of January but won't hold my breath.  Until then, I'll be hanging out at wifi hot spots.  :-)

I'm still enjoying new home and living in town.  The weather has been crazy...summer one day, winter the next...then kinda springlike.  Never boring.

I do have some writing news to share so check back soon.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Update...

It seems like forever since I posted anything here and I really miss it.  Not only have the holidays been a distraction but we moved.  We found our new place on Tuesday, started moving on Wednesday and finished up on Saturday.  We moved 11 years of stuff for 5 people.  Talk about work!  And while I dislike the moving process, I love being moved.  Or will once I get everything unpacked and put away. :-)  And we get internet at the new place.  (I'm using wifi in Chick-fil-a now.)

Because of the holidays, things will be quiet here until the first of the year.  Then, I'll start posting on a regular basis again.  And while I don't have all the details yet, and some I can't announce, the new year is going to be great here.  There will be interviews, contests, reviews and lots of other cool stuff so check back on the first or second of January to find out what's happening. 

So, if I don't get a chance to tell you closer to the day, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May your holiday season be joyous, filled with good things and plenty of chocolate.

Monday Mug Shot

This is actually my daughter's mug but since I have no holiday themed mug of my own, this one will have to do. 

I'm not sure when she got this but it's been around for several years. It's larger than the normal mug which is especially nice for hot cocoa on a winter morning.

 I'm not sure just what started the penguin thing years and years ago but  she has several penguin items.  And speaking of penguins, we both love The Penguins of Madagascar.  I have a hard time deciding if Skipper or Rico is my favorite, or maybe it's  Private. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Mug Shot

I love this mug.  It holds about three times as much as a normal  mug does so I haven't used it for drinking.  Usually it holds emergency chocolate for those times the plot bunnies need to be fed.

This mug is a souviener from our first trip to San Marcos Texas for son and his piano playing.  My son taught himself to play piano so after two years of him working at it alone, we found a teacher for him and he qualifed to go to "All State" and compete with kids from all over Texas. 

While he didn't make "All State" that year, he was rated "Outstanding" which is the next best thing.  Especially since he had only a year of lessons under his belt and was competing with kids who had taken lessons for 5-6 years.  Naturally we were/are very proud of him.

And speaking of the son, Saturday he competed in the East Texas Hymn Festival.  He played two hymns, was rated "Superior" on both and brought home another blue ribbon. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mug Shot Monday

I thought about it long and hard then decided to steal the idea and join the party.  Well, not really a party but fun anyway.

This is one of my favorite mugs. It's not fancy  and at the  moment it has hot cocoa in it.  A special friend gave this to me over 20 years ago.  We had started going to a gym and working out together.  She said the VIP stood for Very Impressive Partner.  She and I are still good friends even though we don't get together as often as we used to but every time I use this mug, I'm reminded of her and how much friendship means.

Now, click on over to Coffee and a Keyboard and check out some more mug shots.  And, if you are blogging, join us with your mug shots.  :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reading...

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
Stephen King


I love this quote.  Not only is it very true but it gives us the perfect reason to pull out a book and read.  

When we read, we get a chance to see how other writer's weave words, both good and bad.  We get inspired by the good and encouraged by the bad.   I mean, if they can get published writing such dreck, we who write better surely can with some persistence. :-)

I've been on a reading binge this past month.  I've read the entire Harry Potter series,  (I'd never read them before though the kids had.) a western, two thrillers and started another fantasy novel.

There's a historical romance waiting for its turn too.

I want to encourage each of you to read, and read widely.  Read outside the genres you write in.  Expand your reading horizons.

So, what are your reading ?

Monday, October 25, 2010

NaNo Thoughts

Next Monday starts the November Madness known as NaNoWriMo and I have to admit I'm looking forward to it...most of the time.  I have my idea though I still have a lot of pondering to do.  I have to finalize some character names too.  And...I don't have a title yet.  Which is unusual since I normally have titles first. There is a possible title I'm considering but no decision has been made yet. I hope to get most of the plotting, names and such finished today.

I've also added a word count widget to the sidebar of the blog just so y'all can keep up with the numbers without having to go to the NaNo site.

And speaking of the NaNo site...they have some great forums there however they can be a huge time suck. What you plan to be a 5 minute "break" cause you are stuck on a scene often ends up into an hour or more lost.  So, leave the forums until you have your daily word count down.  Turn browsing the forums into a reward.

Also, turn off the internet while you are writing.  Don't worry about checking email, facebook or twitter.  They can wait.  I know it sounds unreal, but the world won't end if you don't check 'em out every fifteen minutes.  :-)

Need a word count meter?  Try StoryToolz.  You can have up to three meters going and they are simple to update.

To finish NaNo with a 50k word count you need to write 1,667 words each day.  Thing is, Thanksgiving comes around in November.  So, if you are going to be traveling to family or having them come to your place and won't be writing for a day or two, get some extra words whenever you can. 

Most of all...

No matter how you do during NaNo, you'll have more words written at the end of the month than when you started on the first.  And that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Numbers, Pt. 2

The other day, after my horrid "numbers" thought, I had a nasty attack of shoulder vultures.  I mean, with those kind of numbers, why even try?   I sulked a while, had some chocolate then sucked it up and got back to writing. (Yesterday was good day for sulking...I had to be in the car most of the day.)

Thing is, my numbers aren't "quite" correct and I want to thank Timothy for reminding me of something.

This is part of Timothy's comment...

I've spent the bulk of my career as a publisher's book editor. I reviewed over 20,000 proposals. Most of these had a good idea buried somewhere in a fair or poorly written document. 80% of what I received did not make it past the initial review.

I've heard this before.  I've even heard it's about 90%, depending on the publication.  So, let's look at those numbers from the other day again.

Let's say they get 100 submissions a month but only 10-20 are decent.  But you know what...they only need 15 for that  month's issue.  That makes the chances of getting in a lot better.  Sure they hold things over from month to month but when you get rid of the chaff, the numbers aren't so bad.

And, I don't know for sure but I'd bet out of those 10-20, only 5 or 6 pieces really, really shine. 
Now let's look at the high end of the numbers, 500 submissions a month.  At 80%, 400 of them won't make the first cut and at 90%, 450 won't.  That only leaves 50-100 submissions.  And let's say only about 20 really sparkle and shine. 

Things still don't look so bad.  And that's why it's so important to do your part.  Again, study your target market, know what they publish.  Write the best story you can.  Get reader feedback, polish and shine your submission until it sparkles. Follow those submission guidelines.

Publication can and will happen. :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Numbers Game

This morning while hubby took his shower, I stayed in bed for a few extra minutes and while in that half asleep phase I had a thought that sorta woke me up.  And not in a very good way.

I've heard it said many times that getting published is a numbers game.  The more you send out the more chance you have to get something published.  And that's true.  You can't get published if no one sees your work.

But here's what  came to me this morning. 

There's this well known magazine I'd love to have a story in.  It comes out monthly and has about 15 stories in each issue.  That means they need about 180 stories for the entire year.  Thing is...every writer in this magazine's genre wants in so sends them stories.

Let's say they get 100 submissions a month for 1,200 a year.  But they only need 180! 
What if they get 200 submissions a month?  That's 2,400 a year.  Again, they only need 180.
Let's take it up a notch, 500 submissions a month for 6,000 a year.  They still only need 180 though.

The numbers are kinda staggering and don't really give much hope.  But, there are things we can do to better our chances of getting one of those 180 slots.  (Or any other magazine.)

1.  Study their publication.  Read back issues.  See what type of stories they like to publish.
2.  Write the best story we can and polish it until it gleams. (This means learning our craft and practicing.)
3.  Follow submission guidelines. (Yes, basic info we should know but sometimes we need to be reminded.)
4.  Hope for the best, expect the worst.  Meaning, have another market in mind in case of rejection.
5.  Realize there are a lot of stories competing with yours.  Just because it's rejected doesn't mean your story is bad.  It just means it wasn't what the editor was looking for at that time.
6.  Never give up.  Keep writing, keep submitting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Snowflakes

Okay...

I've my one sentence summary of my NaNo novel and I've been working on the paragraph.  I've done a lot of pondering but just haven't written anything down yet.  But, for those of you doing better than me, here's step 3. 

Step 3) The above gives you a high-level view of your novel. Now you need something similar for the storylines of each of your characters. Characters are the most important part of any novel, and the time you invest in designing them up front will pay off ten-fold when you start writing. For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:
•The character's name
•A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
•The character's motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
•The character's goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
•The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
•The character's epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
•A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Snowflake Method

I'll admit it, I'm a plotter.  To some degree anyway.  I like to have a roadmap that shows where I'm heading.  Sure, I might drift from the map at times but it's nice to have the map, just in case.   So, this year for NaNo I thought I'd give something different a try during my plotting.  And, I thought since misery loves company or something like that, I'd have y'all join me in the process.

For this week, let's work on step 1 & 2.  I've copied them here for your convenience but you can find the whole process on this site

When you get your steps done, feel free to post 'em in the comments for the rest of us.

And...here we go!!!

Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.
When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. It's the hook that will sell your book to your editor, to your committee, to the sales force, to bookstore owners, and ultimately to readers. So make the best one you can!

Some hints on what makes a good sentence:

•Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
•No character names, please! Better to say "a handicapped trapeze artist" than "Jane Doe".
•Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
•Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.


Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as "three disasters plus an ending". Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don't know if this is the ideal structure, it's just my personal taste.
If you believe in the Three-Act structure, then the first disaster corresponds to the end of Act 1. The second disaster is the mid-point of Act 2. The third disaster is the end of Act 2, and forces Act 3 which wraps things up. It is OK to have the first disaster be caused by external circumstances, but I think that the second and third disasters should be caused by the protagonist's attempts to "fix things". Things just get worse and worse.
You can also use this paragraph in your proposal. Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup. Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending. If this sounds suspiciously like back-cover copy, it's because . . . that's what it is and that's where it's going to appear someday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo

I'm most of you know about NaNoWriMo but just in case you don't, the basic idea is to write at least a 50k novel during the month of November from scratch.  You can plot and plan before Nov. but no writing allowed.  It's an interesting challenge that thousands of writers each November take part in.

For those who don't know about NaNoWriMo, you can find more info at their WebSite.

I've taken part several years now.  When I set my mind to it, I've managed to finish with something that can be used as the basis for a novel.  In fact, the dragon novel I'm revising now (that's under contract by the way) is a NaNoWriMo project.

This year, I've decided to take the NaNo leap again.  I'll be doing something a bit different from my normal mystery or fantasy so I'm kinda excited.  I'm actually ready to start plotting some.

So, I thought we should plot our NaNo novels and share the journey to 50k together.  I think tomorrow we'll talk about characters.  :-)

Here's today's questions? 

1.  Who's going to take the NaNoWriMo plunge?
2.  What are you going to be writing? 

P.S.   The NaNo website might be a bit  slow for the first couple days of this month as they have just relaunched it and are working to get the bugs out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dream a little dream...

The last couple nights I've had some of the strangest dreams.  And that means I've spent too much time editing and revising and not enough time creating. I've noticed this also happens when life gets in the way and I don't write anything new for about a week.

Normally I don't remember my dreams (if I have them) but when I haven't been writing/creating I have the most vivid, interesting dreams.  Dreams that hang on all day, nag at me and sometimes get jotted down in an idea file for later.

In fact, I've got three story ideas right now that came straight from dreams. 

So, what about you?  Do you remember your dreams?  Do you ever get ideas from them?  How can you tell if you haven't been writing/creating enough?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Warrior Wisewoman #4

This is the 4th in an anthology series of science fiction stories that feature strong and remarkable women.

Editor Roby James says:
"I am looking for stories that shed light on the truth of what it means to be female, that illuminate the wisdom and the strength of a woman, but not in cliché 'goddess' stories. I love action and adventure, grand space opera, thrilling discovery, and intelligent protagonists. Make the story thoughtful, wise, and surprising. In addition, the stories in the anthology should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder. The science can be part of the background and the characters foremost, or the science can be central to the story, as long as the characters are realistic and appealing. "
 
You can find more details HERE.   Deadline to submit is Jan.  15, 2011 so you have plenty of time.

Cave Dwellling

Yesterday evening my better half uttered some words of wisdom and the more I thought on them, the more I realized how much they applied to me lately.

Just minutes before, I'd hit the send button on an email submission.  My remark was to the effect I wasn't sure if I'd done something smart or stupid but it was a bit scary anyway.  That's when he said,  "You can't get discovered if you live in a cave."

As I writer I have to put myself and my writing out there if I want to be discovered.  And I do want that.  I want to see my novel on the bookstore shelves. I want people to discover my writing, read and love it.  But that won't happen if I don't suck it up and send it out there.  I have to come out of my cave/comfort zone.

But the more I thought about what he said, I realized it applied to me in more than one way.  Lately I've withdrawn into a cave, distanced myself from online friends, this blog, and even people I see on a regular basis.

So, I'm coming out of my cave.  I'm going to be writing and sending out more stories, working harder on the novel revisions and endeavoring to keep up the blog. 

Join me as I expand my comfort zone?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Hero's Journey

I was first introduced to the "hero's journey" a couple years ago at a small writer's conference.  The workshop instructor used the movie Star Wars (the original one with Luke still on his home planet) and then pointed out all the different stages of the journey for the hero. 

Not long after, a friend recommended the book The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.   Based on Joseph Campbell's mythic story structure, Vogler breaks it down so that anyone can understand and apply to their writing.

One of the things I like about the hero's journey is how it's kinda like a road map.  It gives you a general direction of where to go and mileposts along the way.  And while this sounds like something that only works in fantasy stories, it applies to all genres.  Even a mystery has a "Call to Adventure," "Tests, Allies, Enemies," and "Return." 

I'd encourage everyone to learn more about the hero's journey and it just so happens someone out there formed a group so we can do that.  This group is dedicated to learning, using and teaching the mythic structure for writers called The Hero's Journey.  You can find it here.   It's a new group, just getting started so give it a look see. 

Also, get the book The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.  I've got "LOTS" of writing books but this is one of my favorites.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Market Monday

Hey all...

Maybe I'll get back on a posting schedule...

Here's a Steampunk Anthology.   I really didn't think I'd like steampunk, but I was pleastantly suprised.  So, even if you don't want to write it, give it a read.

It Came From Her Purse - This sounds like a fun anthology.  it's for sci fi, fantasy and a few horror stories.  I think anything that came from my purse would be a horror story. :-)

Shock Totem -   for dark fantasy and horror short stories.    They also want some non-fic so might we interesting to check out.

Lightspeed Magazine -  For all science fiction short stories. 

Spectra Magazine - This is another spec fiction market. 

These look nice however, I haven't totally checked them out.  I just offer them as a suggestion.  Remember to read the submission guidelines and contract info before signing. 

Have a great week!

Monday, August 2, 2010

World Building or is it Worldbuilding...

Whichever it is, that's what I've been doing.  But not only the geography but lots of other stuff such as government, religion, customs and trade.  Plus so much more.

Thing is, for fantasy writers who create their own world, these are things you have to know. 

So, for all who who create your own worlds, here's a really, really, really nice worldbuilding questionaire by Patricia C. Wrede.

Also, a Map Workshop from Holly Lisle.

Hope you enjoy.  And I promise, I'll do better this month.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sigh...

Forgive me blogger for I have neglected you way too long...  I did think about you though...and I really do feel bad about the neglect.  It's just things have been so busy and life has been unusually realistic lately.

So, here it is, midnight.  The hubby is asleep and all's quiet and dark.  And I only have a couple things that I should be doing so it seems the perfect time to catch up here.

On the reality side of things, our fridge decided to give up the ghost.  And the week after we got a new one (to us anyway) the hot water heater died.  No warning...just died.   If that wasn't enough, our satellite tv is out and they can't get a repair guy out to look at it until next week.  So, it's going to be a LONG weekend.  Oh...and not to mention it's been hot as bleep here...heat indices up to 110.  However, things may cool off if Bonnie sends up any rain.

On the writing side...

First, I received another rejection letter for  my zombie romance.  If I can't find a place for it soon, I'll hold it and post it here for Valentine's Day.  The zombies are upscale and sophisticated so I think that's the problem  since they aren't the normal zombie.  I do have a couple flash fiction places in mind to send it as soon as I catch my breath.

Next, I finally sent in the manuscript for my dragon fantasy novel.  It's called Dragons of Jade.  It's about a young woman who is transported to a world of dragons in order to save them from the person killing them.  While there, she finds a bit of romance and discovers she's not the person she thought she was.  I really like the story and the world so I'm excited about getting it ready to share with the rest of the world.   

As the revision/editing/publishing process goes along, I'll keep you informed about what's happening. 

Lastly...I'm now the editor for the Roughdraft which is the newsletter for the local writing group I belong to.  This month I put together my first issue and it turned out really nice.

Now, tell me what y'all have been up too. :-)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Targets

This past weekend I had another lesson thrust upon me.  The importance of target markets.  Now, we all know it's important to tarket your readers when marketing your book or story.  But do you realize how important it is to target your readers beforehand?

For example, if you are writing romance, then your first readers should be familar with the romance genre.  A thriller reader might not be the best choice for the most helpful comments.

If you write literary prose, someone who loves hardboiled detectives may not have the knowledge of the genre needed to be an effective critquer.

Now I'm not saying you can't get some valuable feedback from them, however you have to take into consideration their writing experience and background.

This also applies to instructors. Whether you take classes online, at conferences or at a school of some sort, if your instructor isn't familar with the genre you write, then you may be getting some wrong information.

So, another lesson learned.  Now on to the next one.:-)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Markets

Steam Punk anthology - I have to admit, when I first came across "steam punk" I didn't think I'd care for it but was pleasantly surprised.  Deadline is October so come up with a story and send it in.

Crimefactory - this is a new one and they want queries first.  Yeah, that's right, query first.  However, they like hardboiled and noir especially so if that's you...give 'em a look see.

New Love Stories - this looks like a really nice romance magazine. They want traditional romance in most of the subgenres with word counts from 2,700 to 3,800.

The Western Online - It's a non-paying market but looks good.  Be sure to read their guidelines though.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bad Advice

There's a lot of advice out there in the writing world on how to write.  And there's a whole lot of advice on how not to write too.  Thing is, it's darn hard to know what's good advice and what's bad, especially if you are just getting started in the writing industry. 

Often what works for one writer, won't work for another.  Take for example the "don't get it right, get it written" advice.  I don't know how many times I've spouted this one and while it works for some folks, it doesn't work for me.  I rewrite as I go along.  Yes, it takes me longer to get a complete first draft, but that's the way I work.  And, if this is the way you work best, then you must ignore that advice.

So, my question to you, what bad writing advice have you been given?  Share that advice in the comment column so we can all benefit from it.

Here's a great article that lists some other bad writing advice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turn up the heat...

There is nothing worse than Texas in June. Heat indexes of 100 plus, the only breeze is from passing traffic on the highway and any rain we get comes complete with sound effects and a fireworks show that rivals the most professional pyrotechnic presentation. Wait; there is one thing worse…July and August in Texas. More of the same with humidity so high it is like going into a sauna just getting to your car.

Just like Mother Nature, we need to turn up the heat in our writing. Not only do we have to create characters the reader will love and identify with, we have to increase the risk, raise the stakes and make it matter more for our characters.

My favorite movie to show this raising of the stakes is Dante’s Peak. Especially the last half. The volcano is about to erupt, ash is falling like snow in a blizzard and the mayor’s kids have taken the truck and gone up the mountain to bring stubborn grandma to safety. Personally, I was with mom, if grandma doesn’t want to come down…then stay up there and get lavafied. But now, mom and our manly hero Harry, “have” to go up the mountain also. We see them headed up the mountain ash falling so thick they can hardly see.

A helicopter crashes right in front of them; rock slides threaten to knock them off the road. Trees are falling left and right. They barely make it through a rock and tree slide that blocks the road behind them. Grandma is upset, mom is upset and the road behind them is blocked, what will they do now?

Moments later, lava starts pouring down the mountain and into the back of her house. They run out the front door, lava flows around the trucks so they run to the boat that just happens to be there. Motoring down the lake to safety, they notice the dead fish. Seems the lake has turned to acid and has started to eat the metal boat. Talk about turning up the heat. Here they are, in the middle of a lake of acid, surrounded by dead fish…in a leaking boat. What could be worse than this?

Again, the writer turns the heat up another notch. The propeller on the boat motor has been eaten away and no longer is useful. And to make matters worse, the water in the boat is rising fast. Grandma saves the day by jumping into the lake and towing the boat to safety. As they run down the dock to land, it crumbles beneath their feet but they do make it to shore. Naturally, Grandma dies before they reach the ranger station and another truck. But at least she's redeemed herself.

As our characters drive cross country, things seem to have swung their way. Until the lava blocks their path, front and back. Driving through is the only way to go. As they head into the lava, the truck tires begin to burn and then, the writer turns up the heat a notch. They get stuck. Lava is heading toward them, tires are on fire and they are stuck. Heroic effort gets them out and going again when what do they see, Grandma’s dog on a boulder. They can’t leave him…

Eventually, they make it to town and the safety of a mineshaft. As they settle in to rest Harry realizes he forgot to turn on the NASA GPS device that will tell the world they are alive in this mineshaft. Returning to the truck, Harry is injured in a tunnel collapse but manages to struggle onward. Climbing in the broken windshield, the tunnel collapses more, crushing the top of the truck. Finally, Harry is in the truck, broken arm and all. What else could go wrong? The roof is creaking and groaning and sinking lower and the GPS, won’t turn on. Eventually, he gets the GPS turned on and they are rescued.

Our characters need to be challenged also. The reader needs to care about what happens to our hero or heroine. If they don’t, the reader won’t finish the book. When you are writing, think about what could happen next. What would be the one thing that would turn up the heat in your story and increase the risk or raise the stakes for your main character? Then, let it happen. Let your character be tested and have to struggle. Put him/her in a situation that causes them to grow and change, to test their limits and moral fiber.

One help I’ve discovered in doing this is Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel and the workbook that goes with it. The workbook has writing exercises designed to deepen our characters, enrich the plot and make your writing stand out from the crowd. Not only does this work for novels but I have found it to be great help in short stories. These techniques work in all genres; mystery, romance, SF. Give it a look over. I highly recommend both of them.

Gee, is it hot in here?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vision...

One of the things CJ mentioned to us during our first class at Pen to Press was vision.  Meaning, our vision for our story. 

And while in New Orleans, I learned I'd lost my vision.  I'd been writing my novel to meet other people's expectations.  For example, I'd been trying to pass it off as a cozy mystery even though deep inside I knew better, because that's what a writer friend/mentor of mine expected me to write.

Then, I let others decide it was a romantic suspense.  People who had never read a single page were telling me what kind of book I was writing.  How silly is that?

Because of this lost vision, I missed a wonderful opportunity to pitch  my novel properly.  And while all isn't lost since this person and I connected on another project idea, an opportunity was wasted. 

So, today I want each of y'all to ponder your vision.  For your story, your novel, your writing career.  Don't let the expectations of those around you cause you to lose your vision.  If you discover you've strayed a bit, then get back on the path that leads to your vision.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Markets

Want to try something in the way of an anthology?  Then check out these guidelines from Whortleberry Press.  Right now they have fairy tale, Halloween and Christmas anthlogies open for submissions.  A couple of the dates are getting close but you still have time to get something to them.  These are for spec. fic.

Daily Science Fiction - nice looking market that pays.   They especially need flash fiction but will take longer work too.  I may have to see what I can come up with for this one.:-)  They also need artwork.

Out of Ruins - features "dark, weird fiction" so if you have something dark and weird, give 'em a try. 

Over My Dead Body - nice paying mystery market but you must query first.  I don't understand why but that's what they want. 

Fem-Fangs - an anthology of short stories, allowing readers to delve into the alluring lore of the female vampire.  This one has a nice 1-7k word count too.

Now, go write and submit.:-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Balance...


One afternoon while I was in New Orleans, they  held a "street stroll."  It was a food and wine tasting thing which you had to pay to take part in but the strolling was free. 

When I saw this guy, I just had to get a picture.  Yeah, that's a real guy.  His ladder is not leaning against anything and he's perfectly balanced on it.  The 2 by 4 on his shoulder is also perfectly balanced.  I watched him for a few minutes and he never moved a muscle. 

We went on to eat and when we strolled by almost 2 hours later he was still standing there.   Talk about being balanced!

Writing needs balance too.  We have to balance narrative and dialogue.  Exposition and description.  Back story and action.  Character and plot.  Writing and marketing along with so many other things.

Then we have to balance our writing with our "real" life.  Many of us have day jobs we write around.  We have families and responsibilities to deal with when we'd often rather be writing.

While I don't have any words of wisdom to impart, I encourage you to ponder the balance in your writing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Characters

One of the things I learned in New Orleans is how our characters drive our stories.  How the character's arc corresponds with the story arc.  It took me a bit to grasp but when I did...WOW!!! 

Here's the thing, if we don't know our characters, what drives them, why they do the things they do, we can't tell their story properly. 

Now, the novel I took to New Orleans to work on is more plot than character driven however, I still have a lot of character issues that add depth to the story when  properly revealed.

So, today my challenge for you is to get to know your MC.  What is his/her greatest fear?  What event caused that fear?  How can you use that fear to deepen your story?

Today, I'm working on my fantasy novel which is definitely more character driven.  What I've realized is I don't know her very well.  So, I'm going to be delving into her childhood, her fears and asking questions she may not like to answer.:-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Doing the research...

One thing several of the agents and editors I talked to last week agreed on was the value of getting short stories published.  Especially in the "big" markets within my genre.

So, this means Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for me.  Now, I've submitted to them before and last time got the "send something else" rejection letter so it's time for me to whip up something else to send them. 

However, this time I'm doing some indepth research first.  Yesterday I picked up the latest copy of EQ at Books a Million and today started reading.

Right now, I'm focusing on hooks or opening lines.  Here's the opening lines of the stories in this issue.

1.  Agatha Canford said, “No, no, no,” and leaned forward to tap Quincannon smartly on the knee.

2.  Kieran sat on his bike at the edge of the wood line and watched the new people transfer their furnishings from the van to the house.

3.  Salvatore (Sally) met with the godfather, Franco Calderella, in the study of his Staten Island Mansion.

4.  The guy who’d just tried to kill me didn’t look like much.

5.  How could I, Josie Welford, licensee of the White Hare, waste a whole day worrying about putting right a perfectly innocent mistake?

6.  At least the caller had the good grace to wait until Amy and I had finished making love.

7.  "It's me!"
    "I'm in the lounge."
    "Good day?"
    "Very.  Exceptionally good.  Brilliantly good.  Yours?"

8.  "What's going on?"
     I'm in my own house minding my own buisness, and he motions me over.

9.  The Hotel Mozambique.  Aptly named.

10.  He didn't even lift his head when she put the cup dowin in front of him.

11.  I suppose I remember it better than the other, countless other, picnics of my childhood, and I suppose the reason for this is the murder.


I don't know how many times I've heard it said and been told that you must hook the reader with your first line.  And I don't know about you, but I struggle to get the best first line I possibly can. 

So, what do you think?  Which first line (The ones that started with dialogue, I added a couple extra lines.) catches your attention and causes you to want to read more?  What about them do you like? 

Any opening line that you don't particulary care for?  Why, why not?

Remember, no author bashing, just good discussion please. :-)

Take this class!!!

I'm finally  getting back into the "normal" routine of things here.  Of course I still have the usual 900 things to get done but progress is being made.

As I've said before, the things I learned at Pen to Press have made a huge improvement in the way I handle a story and now you have almost the same chance I did.

CJ will be teaching her Character Driven Plotting class this month online.  It started yesterday but you can still register.  The cost is $30 plus $5 for registering after the class starts but believe me, this is so totally worth it.  I'm seriously considering taking it.   We went over the material so quickly in class that having almost a full month to work with it would be great.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Home at last & HOLY MOLY!!!

I have had the most amazing week.  I've learned things I'll apply for the rest of my writing career.  I met some great writers and made friendships that will last long after this week.  And, I met industry professionals who actually showed interest in my writing and my career goals.   (Hi Tom...it really was great to meet you.  So often writer's are intimidated by those who hold positions such as yours but you made us all feel appreciated and comfortable during the retreat.)

Here's a couple retreat high points.

Tueday afternoon we started classes.  My instrustor was CJ Lyons.  She writes great books and also teaches online classes.  I'll be posting links soon for those but I'm telling you right now...if you can take any of her classes, do so.

We also had our "Welcome" banquet Tuesday evening.   Very nice!

Wendesday we spent all day basically mapping out our novels and getting to know our characters better and what drives them.  I can't begin to tell how much this helped me.  That night, I showed my roommate all we were taught that day and she said it made a major difference for her too.

Thrusday we also had class all day.  We worked on our openings and pitching.  Learned more great stuff.

Friday morning we practiced pitches, had a synopsis writing workshop and then started meeting with agents and editors in the afternoon.  I'll give you more details on that later.

Saturday was spent doing the pitch meetings.  All total I had the chanced to talk to six people.  And while several weren't in my genre, they let me pitch it to them, gave me some pointers and discussed my novel and other ways to improve it. 

We had our "Awards" ceremony about 4:30 Saturday afternoon. Much to my surprise, I won the "Spirit of Excellence" award for our class.   Everyone in our class could have won it.  I'll post a pix of the "trophy" soon.  It's so cool.

Now for other high lights...

There was a guy who played tuba until all hours of the night on the street in front of the hotel.  And if he wasn't there, the guy with the drums was.    A couple nights my roommate and I were working on homework at 2 a.m. and they were just playing away. 

Thursday there was a "street stroll" on the street in front of our hotel.  I've got a few pix I'll share of that later too.

Bourbon Street!!!  Just WOW!!!  I walked along Bourbon Street three times and never had any negative experiences.  I saw some things I'd like to unsee but that happens everywhere.

Now, the admonishment.

I'm not sure when Deborah will have the next Pen to Press.  My thought is 2012 but that's just me.  However, everyone who can, needs to go.  If you want to take your writing to the next level then you can't miss the opportunity that Pen to Press  offers.  I've already told Deborah I'll be back whenever it is, even if I have a novel out there.  So, head over to the Pen to Press website, click on the "contact us" link and ask to be added to their mailing list for the next retreat.  Again, you won't regret it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pen To Press Adventure - Day One

While the retreat/worshop hasn't officially started yet, it won't do that until noon tomorrow, it's been day one of the adventure involved with Pen to Press.  So, since it's been such an exciting, errr...well, I'd not say exciting but since I'm not really sure of the correct word to use, exciting will have to do.

The morning started off decently enough.  We made it to the car rental place right on time but it quickly went downhill from there.  The guy in charge wasn't there.  I did as the sign said, called the cell phone listed and he told me he had just left from picking up a person and would be back in 5 - 10 minutes.  Okay...cool.  I can wait. 

Now, hubby is in the car waiting.  He works an hour away and was actually supposed to be at work but told the boss he'd be a bit late cause I had to get rental car.

So, rental car guy finally shows up about 20 minutes later and takes care of his "other" client.  That takes a few minutes so by now hubby has been waiting for about 40 minutes.

My turn...rental car guy swipes my credit card for the deposit and it's declined.  Now, I know there is money on it cause I put it there.  But he processed it as a debit card instead of credit then tells me "I can't run it agin for 24 hours."

Normally this wouldn't be a problem cause I have my debit card that goes right to my checking account.  However, this month, someone charged about $3,000 worth of tickets to Dublin on it and I had to cancel the thing.  Needless to say, my checking account is in a total mess and while I do have a new debit card...it won't be approved cause I'm still way in the red.

Little car rental guy is not being any help either so I call my banker who has been helping me straighten out the mess and after she talks to the home office and some other folks, she gets my debit card approved and I get my rental car.  Thank you Nikki!!!

By now, hubby has been waiting for a little over an hour...and he still has to drive an hour to work.  Not so good.  But I get my stuff from the car, load rental and head out.  Only thing...I only have 1/8th tank of gas.  After gassing up the car, I used the credit card that had previously been declined cause rental car guy didn't know what he was doing.

New Orleans is about a 5 1/2 hour drive and I was getting started almost two hours later than I planned.  Which wouldn't have been a problem except I told a friend I'd pick her up at the airport.  So, I drive and drive and drive.  I did manage to keep it under 80 and the cops were few and far between. 

About halfway through happy hour I think I'm getting close to New Orleans and since it is happy hour, I stopped at Sonic and got a slush.  While there I asked the carhop how far it was to New Orleans.  She tells me about 30 minutes so I call my friend waiting at airport, let her know I'll be there really soon and head out again.

As I'm pulling out of the parking lot...I'm almost sideswiped by a truck pulling a trailed with a lawnmower on it.  Thankfully he misses, I didn't spill my slush and I managed to get back on the interstate.  There, I see a sign that says  "New Orleans 61 miles."  I can't drive 61 miles in 30 minutes.  I mean, I could but it wouldn't be a good thing so I debate about calling friend and telling her it'll be a bit more than 30 minutes but decide not to.  I figured I'd just blame the traffic.

About 45 minutes my cell phone rings.  I figure she's wondering where in the world I am so reach for my phone.  It's not where I left it.  I can't find the thing.  I move my map, a couple napkins left over from lunch ( a very ick lunch too) but no phone.  I figure it slid off the seat in the accident avoidance thing.  I found it after the call ended.  *sigh*

I managed to pick up friend at airport but got turned around and got on wrong road to the hotel.   Back on the right road we finally get to the French Quarter but again miss a turn.

I don't know if any of you have been here before but there are 900 one way streets and each time I wanted to go up one of the darn things, it was the wrong way.  We eventually managed to circle around and get to the hotel and after a few minutes we got checked in and settle in our room. 

After a bit, we met another writer friend in the lobby to go find food.  The three of us stroll down the streets and end up on Bourbon Street.  All I can say about Bourbon Street is "WOW."    As we are walking along, we stroll pass a strip club and the "pimp" outside the door tells my friend she needs to come in and make some extra money while she's in town.  She declined and we quickly crossed the street.

After we ate, we strolled back up Bourbon Street.  By this time, it's dark and there are more people in the streets.  Bands are playing in the clubs and music from the stores is being blasted into the street.

We browsed a couple tourist souvenier shops and I bought the perfect  mystery writer t-shirt.   It's black with white lettering across the front..."I'm smiling because they haven't found the bodies yet."

Things are starting to look up, I'm feeling better.  I've managed to cross the street without getting run over, I didn't get propositioned and we made it back to the hotel.  After checking in online with the family, I decided to get my shower and get settled in for the evening.

Now, hotel showers are always interesting anyway so I turn on the water, let it run into the tub.  It's cold but it'll warm up.  Since I'm wanting a shower I flip the little lever, the water stops coming out the faucet and comes out the showerhead....straight onto me.  My whole front is soaked with cold water.  Now tell me...who turns a showerhead so that it points into the bathroom and not into the shower?  I mean really...

I managed to get a really nice hot shower and now I'm settled on the bed with my puter and chocolate.  Tomorrow has to be better.:-)

And while I'm thinking about it...I forgot to put the link to the website I used to create my "newspaper clipping."  So, here it is....  Newspaper Clipping Generator

Friday, May 21, 2010

In the News...

First Impressions

I've always heard "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression" and it's so true. 

And while this isn't a big deal, it's still something to think about.  Just what does your email addy say about you?

Does it say I'm a professional or something else?

For example...  "#1mom"  or "momof4" might be nice for general things but is this the way you want to introduce yourself to an editor or agent?

Or what about "hotmomma72" or "bigdaddyo" ???  Not quite the best first impression I have to say.

But what about something like "fantasywriterjean" or "chihuahuafan" ??? 

While it may be tempting to use our hobbies, pets or nicknames for our email addy, many times these aren't really appropriate for the professional writer.

Today I challenge you to ponder your email addy.  If it doesn't say "I'm professional" then come up with one that does.  You won't regret it. :-)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jasper and the Unbaked Yeast Rolls

My mom sent this to me and I just had to share.  This is how the last two weeks has been for me.  Hope you enjoy and get a laugh.  I don't know who wrote this but it's hilarious.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We have a fox terrier by the name of Jasper. He came to us in the summer of 2001 from the fox terrier rescue program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of adoption, imagine taking in a 10 year old child about whom you know nothing and committing to doing your best to be a good parent.

Like a child, the dog came with his own idiosyncrasies. He will only sleep on the bed, on top of the covers, nuzzled as close to my face as he can get without actually performing a French kiss on me.

Lest you think this is a bad case of 'no discipline,' I should tell you that Perry and I tried every means to break him of this habit, including locking him in a separate bedroom for several nights. The new door cost over $200. But I digress.

Five weeks ago we began remodeling our house. Although the cost of the project is downright obnoxious, it was 20 years overdue AND it got me out of cooking Thanksgiving for family, extended family, and a lot of friends that I like more than family most of the time.

I was assigned the task of preparing 124 of my famous yeast dinner rolls for the two Thanksgiving feasts we did attend.

I am still cursing the electrician for getting the new oven hooked up so quickly. It was the only appliance in the whole darn house that worked, thus the assignment.

I made the decision to cook the rolls on Wed evening to reheat Thurs am. Since the kitchen was freshly painted, you can imagine the odor. Not wanting the rolls to smell like Sherwin Williams #586, I put the rolls on baking sheets and set them in the living room to rise for a few hours. Perry and I decided to go out to eat, returning in about an hour. The rolls were ready to go in the oven.

It was 8:30 PM. When I went to the living room to retrieve the pans, much to my shock, one whole pan of 12 rolls was empty. I called out to Jasper and my worst nightmare became a reality. He literally wobbled over to me. He looked like a combination of the Pillsbury dough boy and the Michelin Tire man wrapped up in fur. He groaned when he walked. I swear even his cheeks were bloated.

I ran to the phone and called our vet. After a few seconds of uproarious laughter, he told me the dog would probably be okay; however, I needed to give him Pepto Bismol every 2 hours for the rest of the night. God only knows why I thought a dog would like Pepto Bismol any more than my kids did when they were sick. Suffice it to say that by the time we went to bed the dog was black, white and pink. He was so bloated we had to lift him onto the bed for the night.

We arose at 7:30 and as we always do first thing, put the dog out to relieve himself. Well, the dog was as drunk as a sailor on his first leave. He was running into walls, falling flat on his butt and most of the time when he was walking, his front half was going one direction and the other half was either dragging the grass or headed 90 degrees in another direction.

He couldn't lift his leg to pee, so he would just walk and pee at the same time. When he ran down the small incline in our back yard he couldn't stop himself and nearly ended up running into the fence.

His pupils were dilated and he was as dizzy as a loon. I endured another few seconds of laughter from the vet (second call within 12 hours) before he explained that the yeast had fermented in his belly and that he was indeed drunk.

He assured me that, not unlike most binges we humans go through, it would wear off after about 4 or 5 hours, and to keep giving him Pepto Bismol.

Afraid to leave him by himself in the house, Perry and I loaded him up and took him with us to my sister's house for the first Thanksgiving meal of the day.

My sister lives outside of Muskogee on a ranch, (10 to 15 minute drive). Rolls firmly secured in the trunk (124 less 12) and drunk dog leaning from the back seat onto the console of the car between Perry and I, we took off.

Now I know you probably don't believe that dogs burp, but believe me when I say that after eating a tray of risen unbaked yeast rolls, DOGS WILL BURP. These burps were pure Old Charter. They would have matched or beat any smell in a drunk tank at the police station. But that's not the worst of it.

Now he was beginning to fart and they smelled like baked rolls. God strike me dead if I am not telling the truth! We endured this for the entire trip to Karen's, thankful she didn't live any further away than she did.

Once Jasper was firmly placed in my sister's garage with the door locked, we finally sat down to enjoy our first Thanksgiving meal of the day. The dog was the topic of conversation all morning long and everyone made trips to the garage to witness my drunken dog, each returning with a tale of Jasper's latest endeavor to walk without running into something. Of course, as the old adage goes, 'what goes in must come out' and Jasper was no exception.

Granted if it had been me that had eaten 12 risen, unbaked yeast rolls, you might as well have put a concrete block up my behind, but alas a dog's digestive system is quite different from yours or mine. I discovered this was a mixed blessing when we prepared to leave Karen's house. Having discovered his 'packages' on the garage floor, we loaded him up in the car so we could hose down the floor.

This was another naive decision on our part. The blast of water from the hose hit the poop on the floor and the poop on the floor withstood the blast from the hose. It was like Portland cement beginning to set up and cure.

We finally tried to remove it with a shovel. I (obviously no one else was going to offer their services) had to get on my hands and knees with a coarse brush to get the remnants off of the floor. And as if this wasn't degrading enough, the darn dog in his drunken state had walked through the poop and left paw prints all over the garage floor that had to be brushed too.
 
Well, by this time the dog was sobering up nicely so we took him home and dropped him off before we left for our second Thanksgiving dinner at Perry's sister's house.

I am happy to report that as of today (Monday) the dog is back to normal both in size and temperament. He has had a bath and is no longer tricolor. None the worse for wear I presume. I am also happy to report that just this evening I found 2 risen unbaked yeast rolls hidden inside my closet door.

It appears he must have come to his senses after eating 10 of them but decided hiding 2 of them for later would not be a bad idea. Now, I'm doing research on the computer as to: 'How to clean unbaked dough from the carpet.'

And how was your day?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Market Monday

Black Lantern Publishing  - mystery, fantasy and magic realism.  Also some poetry.

Breadling Press - West Coast Anthology - looking for stories, poems and nonfiction of West Coast settings.  Check out their guidelines for what they are wanting.

Cats with Thumbs - a new ezine but I like the title.  Can you imagine the mischief cats could get into if they did have thumbs?  They are open to most genres.  Again, check out their guidelines.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bonus Saturday

Here's a couple "free to enter" contests you might enjoy.

Query Letter Contest - This is kinda cool, you get your query judged by an agent and win a nice prize too.  Deadline is May 31st.

Flash Fiction Contest - Write a story between 500-800 words with the topic of "hotel room."  Deadline is June 3rd. 

Here's a paranormal romance  anthology.  They want stories from 1,000 words up to 8,500 words.  The deadline is Nov. 1st.

Want to read books on your computer but don't want to pay for a Kindle, Nook or IPad?  Then you'll love this.  Download the Kindle software onto your computer and you can be reading in just a few minutes.  And there are LOTS of free books along with many very inexpensive ones.  This is a great way to find new authors.

Writer's Police Academy - This looks like such fun.  It's Sept. 24-26th and would be great to attend if you write mystery or crime novels.  Lee Lofland also has a great blog for crime stuff. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Link Salad

It's been one of those weeks and it's only Tuesday evening.  That means y'all get a link salad.

Let's start with this...

11 Amazing "Fake" Harry Potter novels from China. - These are so funny.  Be sure to check out the cover art.

Here's some cool quotes about punctuation.

And this...How to Write a Novel in Three Days.

Ever wondered if you should post your writing online?  Here's one guy's take on it.

I'm sure y'all know about the flooding in Nashville and here's your chance to help out.  Do the Write Thing for Nashville.  There are some great items up for auction from some amazing agents, editors and authors. 

And lastly, some great advice from author Scott Turow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Welcome to the Troll's Bridge!

Pull up a stump, grab some trollhouse cookies off the refreshment table and make yourself at home.  Once you finish exploring here, jog over to Joyful Paws.  Or, if you like to visit a different blog, head on over to Blog Jog Blog.


While you're here, sign up for our newsletter for updates, more contests, info and writing news.  I promise not to give out your email address even if threatened with chocolate deprivation.:-)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flash Fiction Challenge

Okay all...

Here's a really nice little contest sponsored by The Needle.

Story must be no longer than 1,000 words and must contain a needle of some sort in it.

And, for those of you who like 'noir' be sure to get your own copy of The Needle. 

Here's the writer's guidelines too.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Right Start

.Many times the first sentence or paragraph is the deciding factor between a sale or a rejection letter. Editors are very busy and if you don't grab them right from the start, more than likely a rejection letter will be coming your way. After all, if you can't get the editor's attention, how is your story going to catch the attention of the readers?

The start of your story or article is called the hook...and that is just what it has to do. Hook the reader and drag her into the story. It does this by causing the reader to ask questions and continue to read until those questions are answered. That's a pretty big job for just a sentence or paragraph so let's look at what it takes to make a good hook.

Many times a hook starts with action. Whether waking up on a runaway train or finding that dead body we are left with questions. What is our character doing on the train, why is the train out of control, where is train going? Or who is the body, who killed the person, who is the person who found the body....and just what happened to begin with? A great hook leaves us wanting more.

Other hooks start with the character doing something interesting. The character is one of the things remembered most about stories. Making the reader care about your character is a sure way to draw them into the story. Give the character a problem to solve, a seeming impossible goal or unusual dilemma and readers will stay around to cheer.

Catchy dialogue is another way to grab attention. Why is your character yelling "freeze" or begging the old lady to take care of her baby? Once again, the reader wants to know and this will draw them into the story.

The best hook in my opinion is a combination of these. Here is an example.

He’s coming...go faster. Carly checked the rearview mirror, gave the aging Caviler more gas. The engine coughed, hesitated then settled into a smooth hum. The car skidded around the curve then straightened out. She checked the rearview mirror again and fastened her seatbelt. “I’ll be gone for Christmas.” she sang along with the radio. Headlights approached from behind, she held her breath, clenched the steering wheel. Please don’t let it be him. The car turned off leaving her in darkness. She sighed and wiped her palms on the jacket in the next seat. Gotta go, gotta go she repeated in time with the windshield wipers. She brushed a strand of hair back from her eyes and flinched. Carly flipped down visor, opened the mirror and gazed at the reflection of a stranger.

We have dialogue in the form of thought. Who is coming? Why is he coming? Where is he coming from and where is she going? These are just a few of the questions we can come up with.

And, we also have action. The car skids around a curve, headlights approach from behind, the windshield wipers are doing their job. But what is causing our character to drive in this manner?

Now, our character. We can tell right away she is probably afraid. She has an interesting sense of humor since even in a trying time she sings along with the radio. As she repeats the phrase 'gotta go' we see she is obsessed with putting some distance between her and whoever or whatever she left behind. Again, we are left with more why questions we want the answer to. When she flinches after brushing her hair back we wonder why. How did she get hurt...we start to care about her. And that keeps us reading to see what happens. And that is exactly what a hook is supposed to do.

Here's your homework. Grab your favorite book off the shelf and check out its hook. When you are at the bookstore, spend a few minutes browsing and check out the hooks. Consider the opening line and paragraph. Do they make you want to read further? Study them, make some notes, see what works and what doesn't.

A great hook won't guarantee an acceptance letter but it sure cuts down on your chances of receiving the dreaded rejection one

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Git 'er dun!!!

Last Friday I spent most of the morning at hospital on base (retired military) in the X-ray department getting a mammogram and ultrasound.  This was to follow-up my last mammogram 6 months ago, to make sure things hadn't changed.  And thank the Lord they hadn't and everything's fine. But I want to take this chance to remind you to go get those health checks done.

My mom's breast cancer was found in the very early stages because of regular mammograms.  In fact, when they did the needle biopsy, they got it all and she didn't have to have any treatment.  She still goes back on a regular basis but the news is very good. 

And guys...I know you don't think of this as a men's issue but men do get breast cancer.  Rarely, but it does happen.  However, I'm sure there's a woman or two in your life you'd like to keep around for a long time, so remind them to take care of herself.   

And ladies, remind those men to get their regular check ups too.  I don't know about you, but I finally have mine trained for the most part and don't want to have to start over with a new one.:-)

Yeah, I know visiting the doc's office is not the best way to spend the day, and the tests tend to be a bit uncomfy, but they may save your life.  And that's a good thing.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Market Monday

New Moon Girls - a magazine for girls 8-12.  Must be female to submit.  Submissions from "girls" given precedence over "adult" submissions. 

Smash Cake - is new but pays a bit.  Takes most genres.

Midwest Literary Magazine - for you more "literary" folks.:-)

Freedom Fiction - seems to be a nice magazine.  Plus you get feedback on your story whether accepted or not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing Conferences Pt. 2

Here's a few do's and don't for attending writing conferences.

DO study and research the agents and/or editors that will be there if you are going to pitch to them.  If they don't deal with what your write, don't waste their time or yours.

DO be friendly.  Talk to others, mingle and make some new friends.  Need  a conversation starter?  Just ask the other person what they write.  Works every time.

DO take business cards but DON't be annoying with them. When you get cards from others, make a quick note on them so you'll remember that person better.

DO be professional.  DON'T hog the pros.  Everyone wants to chat with that agent or editor so be considerate of others.

DO plan which workshops you want to attend beforehand.  This way you know where you need to be and when you need to be there.

DON'T expect an agent or editor to take your manuscript home with them from the conference.  They don't need another thing to lug around and on the plane.

DO have fun, enjoy the experience.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing Conferences

I just spent the most wonderful weekend with a bunch of great people - writers - at the annual NETWO (North East Texas Writers Organization) spring conference. There was a Friday afternoon workshop then time to get to know each other.  Several of us sat up chatting after everyone else called it a night which was very nice.

Saturday was filled with sessions by an agent, an editor, a PR guy (excellent info) and several authors.  I had a nice but very quick meeting with an editor from Berkley and met some really nice writers.  And while I wasn't ready to come home, I'm even more excited about my WIP.

So, the point of this you ask?

You need to go to a writer's conference.  Yes, you do and here's several reasons why.

Meeting other writers - I'm made quite a few friends from conferences.
Meeting agents, editors and other industry professions in a relaxing setting - they really aren't scary. :-)
Learning about craft or  the business aspect of writing - this year's PR session was GREAT!!!
Networking - getting to know others in the business is always a good thing.
Pitching to agent or editor - this often gets you a request for more and is a step in the door.

And, most importantly...

Recharging your creative self - sometimes life isn't nice and stomps on our creativity.  Writer's conferences are a great way to recharge.

It's not to late to find a nearby conference for this year so check out Shaw Guides.  They don't list them all but it's a nice place to start.  You can search by state, month, season and several other things.

Also, do the Google thing.  Your state and writer's conferences should get you some hits.

I encourage each of you to commit to attending at least one conference this year.  You won't regret it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kill 'em

For all you mystery and triller writers out there.  This is just too funny!!!





Shamelessly stolen from Janet Reid's blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Toy...

The other night we were killing time at Target and ended up in the electronic section where I found this.  After reading the box, I just had to have one.  I waited a couple days to see if the urge to splurge would wear off and nope, it didn't.  So, I gave in and bought one.

I'm so glad I did.  This is such a cool tool for a writer.  For example, taking notes at a conference while recording the session at the same time and having your notes linked to the audio. How cool would that be?  And what about interviews?  Or attending lectures? 

For those times you don't want to record the audio, you can still have your notes uploaded to your computer without having to retype them.   I haven't used all the features yet but I look forward to doing so.

There is an online tutorial to walk you through the learning process so it's not hard to figure out.

Also, there are quite a few apps you can download from the website for very little cost that makes the SmartPen even smarter.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I enjoy writing the old fashioned way with pen and paper. It just has a whole different feel about it and now with the Pulse Smart Pen, I don't have to type in all my scribbling.  I just upload it into the computer and go from there.

All in all...I'm impressed with this new gadget.  And no, no one paid me to say so.:-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Market Monday

The Western Online - this looks like an interesting place.  Everything western goes here but be sure to check out their guidelines.  They are also looking for western art.

SpaceWesterns is looking for western type stories set in outer space along with several other things such as steampunk and space opera. 

Rope & Wire - Wants western stories along with cowboy poetry They even accept contemnporary western stories.

Daily Love is a new market that publishes romance online everyday.  They like flash fiction so if you have anything this might be the place to send it.

Moon Washed Kisses - another relatively new online "zine" that wants flash and poetry.  Nothing erotic though.

Stony Meadow Publishing has a Robot Romance Novella contest going along with another short romance contest that happens monthly.  Again, no erotica.  They also have songwriter and poetry contests.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Friday Free For All

Today I'm sharing things I think you might be interested in. Such as...

Here's a really nice post on setting up Business Cards for writers

Vista Print is a really reasonable place to get business cards.  They are always having some sort of sale and sometimes you can pick up some cool free stuff too.

Y'all might want to follow Editorrent also.  It's a very nice "editor" blog.

Here's a confession...I LOVE Donald Maass.  I've read his books and drool at the thought of being at one of his workshops.  (Now if one will ever come this way...sigh.)  So naturally I love THIS!

This Procrastinator's Flow Chart is kinda cute and mostly true.  

Here's an interesting post on writing and editing.

And lastly, How to Start a Novel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taxes...

It's not too late to start thinking about taxes for next year.  Here's a couple good links to start you off.


Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog post.

Some basic info on recordkeeping.

Interview with John Caton, CPA who does taxes for writers.

And just for laughs... A Tax Form for the Marginally Employed.  Be sure to read the fine print.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Discipline

I have to admit, I don't do discipline well. I think it has something to do with the time I spent in the military. I'm not very organized either, though I've gotten better in the last several years.

What's discipline got to do with writing you ask?

Just this…if you want to write a novel within a reasonable amount of time, you have to be disciplined. This means writing on a regular basis. It's one of the things that serious writers have in common. They write on a schedule. They make their writing a priority.

I had problems with this. Call it procrastination or call it lazy but it isn't a good thing. So, I followed the advice of many writers and decided to make writing a priority for me. To make it something important in my daily routine.

About this time, James Scott Bell tweeted about completing his Nifty 350. Meaning, his goal for the day is 350 words, written in the mornings. I took this idea and ran with it, so to speak.

I decided on a "First 500" and put my self on an internet diet. Harsh yes, but it really worked. I took my laptop into the bedroom so first thing in the morning, I could fire it up and get to writing.

The first couple days, it took about 4 hours to get those First 500 words. Now, I'm one of those writers who tend to write, edit, rewrite and then revise each sentence as I go along so that's not a long time for me.

After the first week, I found myself looking forward to writing first thing in the morning and the word counts rising and not taking as long to get on the page. It only took a couple days of  doing this before  I started to get between 1,000 to 1,500 words in the same 4 hours.

I also learned that the internet won't wither up and blow away if I'm not there. I discovered that many of the things I did online, once thought of as necessities, really weren't.

And I've discovered I like writing more than reading many other writing blogs. Sure, I still have a favorite few I read on a regular basis but now I've gotten my priorities in the right order and when I spend some time online, I don't feel guilty because I haven't written.

I don't have any books to recommend to you however, if you have a problem with procrastination, check out Procrastinating Writer.

Then, take a look at your schedule and make writing a priority.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Market Monday

Realms of Fantasy will be putting out a special "Women in Fantasy" issue for August 2011.  This is for women writers only though the protagonists don't need to be women..  They'll be needing women artists too.

Basement Stories - This is a new mag looking for short sf & fantasy stories up to 6k.  They also take poetry.  To get things kicked off, they are holding a contest too. 

Singularity - Here's another new mag that looks really good.  It's based in the UK and only accepts snail mail subs.   I really like the look of this one.

Moon Washed Kisses - Looking for romance flash fiction and poetry.  They do not want erotica so be sure to read their guidelines before submitting.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Market Monday

Due to a really nasty case of troll flu, Market Monday is late and sparse.  But since I felt  like a zombie for most of today, very apt.

May December Publications is all about zombies.  They have three anthologies taking submissions and they also publish zombie novels.  So, all you zombie writers...err, I mean all you writers who write about zombies, stop by, take a look and see what they have to offer.

Oh, troll flu is very different from the regular human strain.  First there is phase 1 or the approximately 24 hours of "please, just let me die" then you have phase 2 which is the 12 hours of "I think I might live afterall" followed by phase 3, about 6 hours of "I survived troll flu and am lucky to be alive but when will I feel normal" again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bonus Saturday - Contests

First, a couple posts from the judges point of view...

How to win a creative writing contest.

How not to write a story.

Now, for the contests...

My Favorite Grandkid Story - for writers over 55.

Tell Your Love Story

PARSEC SF/F Contest - themed "the color of silence"

Novel Beginnings 1st Chapter Contest

The Christmas Spirit

On The Premise - another themed contest.

Be sure to check and follow the guidelines.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Relax and get inspired

Tonight I had to take son to piano lessons which means for an hour I need to find something to do.  So, after a quick trip to Walmart I headed to Sonic for a blue coconut slush and some quite reading time.   Reading material tonight was Woman's World. 

One article included helpful hints on getting out of a rut and getting inspired.    Several of them really applied to writers.  Such as...

*  Trying new experiences.  By stepping outside our comfort zone, we look at things differently.  And I bet some great ideas for stories would be gotten too.

*  Gardening.  Apparently gardening has been proven to relieve stress and increase intuition.    I think it has to do with the mind being focused on one task while the subconscious is working on another such as plotting that story.  I know quite a few writers who swear by washing dishes to get ideas flowing.  While I rather play in the dirt and be out in the air, I often plot or ponder characters while doing the dishes.

*  Take a fifteen minute nap.  When my kids were small, we called these power naps.  Give 'em about fifteen minutes of sleep and they woke up recharged and ready to go for hours and hours.  Naps may not be feasible for most of us but maybe a quiet break of just deep breathing would work.  I think I  may give it a try.

So, my question for all of you is...what do you do to get relaxed, get the ideas flowing and get inspired?  Long walks, hot baths, sudoko, taking a drive???  Share your favorite method with us!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Finding Inspiration

One of the things often asked of writers is where they get their ideas. And the answers are as varied as the authors.

Not long ago I was chatting with another writer who is a truck driver. Together she and her husband take turns driving across the country. She prefers to drive at night. Says she thinks better. One of the things she told was about watching the sunrise in Colorado. How cool would that be:-)

Another writer mentioned she gets a lot of her ideas from things her kids say. I have to agree. My kids are a wonderful source of ideas. They look at things so different than I do at times. That freshness keeps things interesting.

Just by looking around us, we can find so many ideas. An old oak in my front yard became a "hanging tree" and a ghost/western/mystery was born. A rainy day and a car accident became the start of a romance story I'm working on. And, a Discovery Channel show on how carousel horses are made gave me the idea for a smuggling mystery.

Just by asking who, what, where, when, why and how we can come up with more ideas than we'd ever have time to write. Plus, it's such fun to brainstorm ideas. Even if you never use them.

So for today, share with us your favorite place/way to find inspiration?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DUH!

I'm a list maker. No way around it. And most of the time, most of the things get done. Usually the ones that are most important. Or at least the ones with deadlines looming. I'm getting better about meeting deadlines. In this business, you have to be.

However there was a time when my favorite thing about deadlines was the "whooshing" sound they make rushing by.

I've done the goal setting thing, the resolution thing, the do it and reward yourself thing and failed at all of them. I want to share what works for me. It's a little thing called DUH!

D - Do it first or as close as humanly possible.

U - Understand it may be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway.

H- Hurray, celebrate! You did it!

Here's why it works for me. There isn't much worse than going to bed with things that needed to be done still needing to be done. The guilt robs me of sleep and I lay there berating myself for not getting things done. By applying "D", I don't have to dread doing it or the results of not doing it.

The "U" also reminds me it may not be fun. For example, exercise. Not fun but definitely got to be done.

My favorite is the "H". We should celebrate our accomplishments everyday. No matter how small they are.

I'd love to take credit for this little system but just can't. I found it on Margie Lawson's website several years ago.  I didn't see it there the last time I looked but  here's the link.

Now, apply as needed:--)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Market Monday

Zombidays - Here's an anthology for all you zombie lovers.  This one gives you plenty of words to play with (5-8k) but your story must be holiday themed.  There is a list of holidays given for you to choose from.  No deadline for submissions yet but don't wait too long.

Whortleberry Press has two anthologies taking submissions now.  One for Halloween and one for Christmas.  Be sure to check out their guidelines and deadlines.  These also have themes so be aware of that.

Short Story America - all genres and from 500 to 12k - I think this market might be very literary.

Port Iris - open to most genres and up to 5k.  You'll have to scroll down a bit on the page to find the guidelines.  Or at least I did...

Kasma - mostly science fiction but doesn't limit themselves.  If they like it, they'll publish it. 

Now, go submit something!

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Friday!

Ever have one of those days when you really just want to crawl back in bed and stay there until the next day?  Well, it's been like that here for a little over a week now.  What I really want to do is hibernate until about May but that won't be happening.  So, here's to Friday and flash fiction.

365tomorrows - No more than 500 words - Science fiction in all it's many forms - no pay

Bards & Sages Quarterly - Up to 2,000 words - Spec. fic.

Bayou Magazine - Flash fiction and shorts up to 7,500 words - literary - no email subs.

Defenestration - Humor in any genre. Be sure to check their guidelines for submission periods.

On Spec - Flash fiction up to 1,000 works and shorts up to 6,000 - Spec. fic.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Link Salad

Here's a site for those of you who have a day job and need to take an occasional break.  Right now, there are three games that won't get you noticed by the boss. 

Need a banner for your website?  Check out BannerFans

And for all you writers out there...  This Business of Writing.  This is a nice blog I found yesterday.  I haven't read it all but what I have, I really like.

Worried about your story opening?  Read this great advice.

Lastly,  exposition.