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 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.  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 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.