Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zombies

Now, I have to admit, I'm really not into zombies.  I don't care for zombie movies, I haven't read any zombie books (Are there zombie books?), and I don't listen to music by or for zombies.  However, I do like to play Plants vs. Zombies.  In fact, it's the first video game I've bought in ages.

Zombies are attacking and you defend yourself with plants.  Each level has different zombie challenges and as you play, you earn different plant weapons.

Starting with the front lawn, you go to the backyard and your pool to the roof.  Day and  night.  There's mini-games to play along with puzzle type mini-games. You can play a free partial version here.

 And speaking of zombies, a while back we were challenged to write a flash fiction piece for Valentine's Day but to do something different.  So, I figured even zombies like a little romance.  I haven't had any luck finding a home to publish the piece so I'm going to share it with y'all.  I hope you enjoy it.

Zombie Hearts

Henry stood before the open fridge and gazed from side to side. Chinese or Mexican, which would Freda prefer? His left ear fell off, bounced across the linoleum. "Holy Moldy Oldie!" He shambled across the kitchen, picked up his ear, and jammed it back in place. "Mexican, I believe." Henry grabbed two ziplock bags and placed them on the counter. "Now, what to drink?" He scanned the shelf of bottles, picked one from the end. "This will be perfect." Placed it on the counter next to the bags. Storage dishes of delicacies joined the bottle and bags, and soon ended up on the dining table along with his finest china and crystal.

The living room clock chimed seven as Henry lit the candelabra. He stood back and gave the dining table one last look. Perfect, just perfect. Mexican, served a la skull and aged to its peak, Freda's favorite salad of fingers and toes with extra spicy salsa , liver pate' served with fried noses for dipping, and candied lips for dessert. Henry gazed at his watch, she'd be there any moment. He patted the nearest head, smoothed down the hair. Nodding to himself, his left ear dropped off, hit the edge of the table, and bounced into the liver pate'. Henry sighed and fished out his ear.

The doorbell rang announcing Freda's arrival. He grinned , licked the pate' off his ear and jammed it back in place again. He'd have to call doc in the morning, see about getting it reattached. Henry hurried to the door and swung it open. "Freda! You look wonderful." Almost good enough to eat. Not quite, but almost. She stepped through the door, handed him the small box she carried.

"I hope you don't mind. I know how much you love kidney pie and when I saw they had fresh ones at Jasper's, I just had to get one for you."

Henry opened the box, took a deep breath. His stomach rumbled and Freda laughed. He leaned in, gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. Now, come to the table, dinner is ready." Freda strolled across the room, Henry following. He set the pie on the counter and met her at the table.

"It looks delicious!" Freda smiled up at him as he pulled out her chair.

"I've got a special surprise for tonight." He uncovered the ice bucket, pulled out the bottle, and popped the cork. "I think you'll really like this." He filled the champagne flute, held it out to her.

Freda took the flute, swirled its contents, then sniffed. She took a small sip and grinned. "AB Negative! My favorite." Freda took another sip. "It's perfect."

"That's not all. Open your skull." He watched her eyes as she pulled the skull open by the hair, saw her joyous expression when she gazed upon the diamond ring nestled between the brain hemispheres. He knelt on one knee beside her. "Will you marry me?"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for YOU!

Today is all about YOU! 

So, tell us a bit about yourself in the comments.  Tell us what you like to write, where you live, about your kids or critters.

Tell us your favorite silly joke. 

What's your favorite book, movie or song?

Add a link to your blog is you have one.

X is for X...

Did you know X is the third least common letter in the English language?  I didn't either but I can understand why.  I mean, just how many words start with X anyway.  Not many.  And those that do are some huge thing I have no idea how to pronounce. 

Another interesting fact, words that start with the letter X are usually pronounces as if they started with the letter Z.  How strange...

So, here's some X words that are actually functional.

•Xanadu (n) - an exotic, luxurious place. This word comes from the poem "Kubla Khan" by Samuel T. Coleridge.

•Xenolith (n) - a fragment of a rock embedded inside another rock.

•Xylograph (n) - a wood engraving.

•Xyloid (adj.) - resembling wood; woody.

•Xanthic (n) - yellowish in color; having to do with the compound xanthine.

•Xebec: A xebec is a special three-masted sailing ship used in the Mediterranean.

•Xeric (adj.) - dry or desert like conditions; having very little moisture.

Got any other favorite X words?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Walrus

Info dumps = walruses.  I'm sure you've seen 'em before too.  Those big long paragraphs of description and pages of back story that really doesn't have much to do with the story taking place at the moment.  You know, those things the reader skips over to get to the action.

For the writer, it's important to know why our character is terrified of cats and how this fear affects him/her.  It might be important to an event that will happen in our story.   Maybe this fear is why the character reacts in a certain way during an important scene.

And, sure we need to set the scene for our reader, to let them know where the character is, where the story takes place.  Especially when writing fantasy or science fiction.  But when our walrus is so big it covers the whole beach, that's not a good thing.

That's where ADE comes in.  A mentor of mine told me about it. 

A = Advance the plot. 
D = Deepen the characterization. 
E = Enhance the setting.

Each sentence we write should do at least one of these things.  It's even better if it can do two and super great if it can do all three.  And this is where the work comes in.  It's sometimes hard to get those sentences to earn their keep.

And sometimes, we may have a great sentence but it's in the wrong place.  For example, our character who's afraid of cats.  Would it not be better to have her react to a cat when the reader least expects it than to tell the reader 50 pages beforehand that he/she's afraid of cats?  (That's also the show don't tell thing.)

Having info in your story is not a bad thing.  It just needs to be woven in here and there, in little bits and pieces.  Don't let your really cute, impressive walrus get lost in the crowd.  Make him stand out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vultures

Let's talk vultures, shoulder vultures that is.  You know, those critters that sit on your shoulder while you're writing and whisper just how horrid every word that goes on the page is.  How that no one would ever want to read anything you could write and why even try, cause no one in their right mind would ever pay to publish your writing. 

We all have 'em.  And sometimes they come in the form of family and friends.  Often they come in the form of ourselves though. 

For example, how many people have you told you're a writer?  When someone asks what you do, do you tell them you write?  It took me a long time before I had the nerve to let the "world" know I was a writer.  Naturally, the next question is "what have you had published" or some form of that.  And it's hard to consider yourself a writer when the answer is nothing.  But the thing is, if you are writing, you are a writer.  Even if you don't have anything published.

The thing about shoulder vultures is, you don't have to listen to 'em.  You can ignore them.  They don't have to steal your joy in writing.  So, next time you hear those whispers, make the conscious effort to ignore them. Tell them they aren't welcome. The more you ignore them, the less they'll hang around.  Oh, they'll come back ever so often to see if you really mean it or not but you can win the battle.

Mine like to sit in the yard and laugh when I get a Negative Marketing Report. They've learned not to come inside. I just ignore 'em and send my work back out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Umbrellas and Underwear...

I'm not sure why, but whenever I tried to come up with a "U" word, all that I could think of was umbrella.  I guess it goes back to school and learning the alphabet...A is for apple, B is for ball and so on.  I can't remember all of them.  Dog, elephant, goat, igloo, kangaroo, lion, monkey, queen, ring, top, yo-yo and zebra are the others I seem to remember. 

I also thought of underwear.  Though I have no clue why.

So, what do underwear and umbrellas have to do with writing?  Well, I'm not sure but let's see if we can connect 'em.  Underwear should be worn under and not seen. Umbrellas have that wire (usually) frame that no one pays attention to unless it doesn't work. 

Stories also have a frame that we don't usually see.    The "underwear" of a story is something no one pays attention to.  And just like panty lines, no one wants to see how stories are put together.  Now, as writers, we do notice how a great story is put together, how it just seems to flow without any effort.  We know a lot of work went into getting it just right though.

And in honor of story structure here's a great place to check out.  StoryFix

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Titles...

I don't know how it is for you, but either titles come easy, often before the story, or they are the hardest things to come up with.

Since I like the title to somehow relate to the story, either through characters or theme, sometimes it takes ages to come up with the right one.  I like the title to hint at what you'll find somewhere in the story.  But a very subtle hint.

Sometimes I like to do the "play on words" things.  For example, I'm working on a romance titled Free Fall.  The first scene shows the heroine stuck in a tree, hanging from a parachute.  I'm going to put her into a free fall type romance, head over heals whether she wants to or not.  It's going to be a rush. :-)

A mystery short I titled "Last Laugh" sorta captures the "he who laughs last, laughs loudest" saying.  A fantasy short called "Prey" deals with a wolf-like being hunting a child.  And in "Tyger, Tyger" not only is the main suspect a tiger, my character quotes a line from "The Tiger" by William Blake.

What about you?  Do titles come easy for you?  Do you know the title before the story?  And do you like to connect the title with the theme or some other element of the story?

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Slushpile & Submitting

I don't know about you, but I really don't like the slushpile.    And for the most part, if we're sending out our work, we're going to have to deal with it.  It's not fun being in the slushpile either.  That said, there are some things we can do to improve our odds of getting out of the slushpile.

For example, reading the guidelines.  Sure it takes some time to find 'em.  And sometimes you may find multiple sets of guidelines and have to decide between them but the closer you get to sending a publisher (or agent) what they want, the better your odds are.  I don't know how many times I've heard agents and editors comment about people sending them queries for genres they don't represent.  That's automatically gets your work discarded.

Sending an attachment is also another way to get your submission discarded.  Yes, there are some places that want things as an attachment but most folks don't.  It's just to risky.

Pink, swirly, 18 point fonts are generally a no no too. :-)  Don't laugh, I once got a submission like that.  There's a reason it's called standard manuscript format.  It's the standard expected. 

We all know our submissions need to be as error-free as possible.  Don't rely on spellchecker to catch all your errors.  Get someone else to look at your work.  Or, if that's not possible, start reading from the end and work your way to the start.  Yeah, it's strange but this way you aren't focused on the story, you focus on the words.

One of the  many things we can do to better our chances of acceptance is to read several back issues of whatever publication we are submitting to.  For fiction, this gives us the chance to get a feel for the publication.  For example, just because it's a mystery magazine doesn't mean they will publish a cozy mystery.  Maybe their focus is on hard boiled detective stories.  You won't know that if you don't check 'em out.    In non-fiction, reading back issues is a good way to see what type of articles they've published in the past, the tone of the publication and if your piece will fit or not.

Marketing research is one thing many writers don't like to do.  It's time consuming, boring, and often you find more places your work doesn't fit than places it does.  It's a necessary task though.

Want to by-pass the slushpile?  Then go to writer's conferences.  Talk to agents and editors.  Having your work requested is like going to the head of the line.  However, don't say your work was requested if it wasn't.  They remember what they ask to see.  You can always include a line in your cover letter saying you met them at such & such conference and enjoyed chatting but never lie to 'em. 

Thing is, the more work you do before submitting, the better results you'll get. If you have to be in the slushpile, make your work stand out, in a good way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Reality

I don't know about you but I've about had it with all the reality shows on tv.  I mean, how unreal can they get?  Real Housewives for  example, you know any housewives who act like that?

Thing is, I get enough reality every day by myself, I don't need to watch it, or what some producer thinks is reality.  I deal with the reality of finances, high grocery prices, higher gas prices, children, cats, dog, deadlines, cooking and cleaning.  It's my own version of Survivor every day.

So, I read to escape my reality for just a while.  And I think that's why many, many others read.  Starting as low as .99 I can find a book on Kindle (I don't have one but I have the kindle for pc thing) and read on the computer.  I can pay a little over $5 at walmart for a paperback, then sit in the shade outside and read myself away.  It's like a vacation but not near as costly.  Sure, there's no hunky pool boy to rub suntan oil in for me and bring a cool drink with an umbrella in it but at least I don't have to pack and unpack.

Which brings me to my point today.  We have to do our very best to deliver the kind of story that takes the reader on vacation.  But many times, we mess that up.  We throw in humongous words when small ones will do.  We have sentences that run on for paragraphs and are hard to understand.  We hop from one character's head to another without warning the reader or we leave out dialogue tags so it's hard to keep up with who's saying what.  All these things distract the reader from the story and we don't want that.  Reading shouldn't be hard.  Sure, there's times and topics that are hard to read/understand but those aren't escapism reading.

It's been a while since I found a book that totally swept me away.  One that sucked me in and didn't let go until the last page, that made me forget about everything but the characters.  But, I'm still looking.  And I'm seriously trying to write one. 

What about you?  What have you read lately that made you forget reality for a while?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Query

That's right, query. I could have gone with another "Q" word but this is a writer's blog so...

The thing about queries, we stress over them way too much.  Yes, they are darn important but when we put so much pressure on ourselves to get 'em perfect, we, or at least I, tend to lock gears and totally mess things up.

Writing a query can be learned.  It just takes practice.  And then some more practice. 

Here's a couple great places to learn to write a query. 

QueryShark - Agent Janet Reid takes bites out of queries, tells what's wrong and what's right with 'em.  Reading the archives is a lesson in query writing you won't regret.

Agent Query Connect - a networking community where you can get input on your query from other writers. You'll also find forums on most aspects of the publishing business.    When you get finished here, click on over to Agent Query for more info on agents and submitting to them. 

Got any other favorite query sites?  Share in the comments please!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Plot Bunnies!

I know those of you who are writers have heard of plot bunnies.  The mysterious, seldom seen, visitors who leave ideas around for us to play with.  Believe it or not, I've seen one.

It was one of those dark and stormy, really, it was.  We were on our way to church when this little bunny ran across the road in front of me, hopped  along side the car for a bit then ducked between some bushes and disappeared into the darkness.  I realized no sensible rabbit would be out in that kind of weather so he must have had somewhere important to be.  That's when it hit me...he was a plot bunny making a delivery to a writer in need.  The kids were with me and were talking about the bunny so I told them he was a plot bunny making a delivery.  They accepted the explanation and we wished the bunny a safe journey and went on about our business.

Not long after, we were in Books a Million one afternoon and my youngest (about 8 or so) found me, all excited, held out a stuffed bunny and said, "Look Mom, a plot bunny!"  See pix below.  His name is Harold, and he specializes in mystery and darker plots.  He's kinda quiet, but when he leaves an idea, it's a good one.

Not long after, Grace (center) and Ginger (end right) joined our little plot bunny family.

They hang out on my printer for the most part.  Sometimes they'll settle on my bookcase behind me but they are always close by when I'm writing.  Never can tell when I'll need a fresh idea. 

What about you, got a muse or plot bunny you'd like to tell us about?

And yes....

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Options...

Options.  Have you noticed how many options there are out there for getting your book published?  I'm not talking about Print on Demand vs print 'em all now type options, though.  Or even the paper vs digital option...but the publisher option.

First, there's the "Big 6" guys.  Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins,  MacMillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Group, Random House along with Simon & Schuster. For an overview of who these guys are, or consist of, check out this link.
Then there's the independent publishers.  Here's a good definition of independent publishing.  There's quite a few of these publishers out there.  Some have a better reputation than others so you have to be careful when dealing when them, but that's true in most cases.

And of course, there's the self-publishing option.  At one time self-publishing was not only frowned upon by agents and editors, it was something to be avoided at all costs.  The thought was if you self-published, it was because your work wasn't good enough to get a "real" publisher.  This idea has changed greatly the last couple years and it's no longer the stigma it once was.

Lastly, there's vanity and subsidy publishers.  Here's a really good link with all the definitions, differences and lots of information.

Each option has its good points (except maybe the vanity publishers).  Each option has its bad points.  What's a viable option for one person might not be for another.  What's right for me, might not be right for you. 

What I'm asking I guess, is have you considered all the options?  What decisions did you make and why if you don't mind telling.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Negative Marketing Reports

When I first started submitting, I received a LOT of rejection letters.  I still get them now.  Got one Thursday night as a matter of fact.  And while they still aren't the most fun things I've ever gotten in the mail, I don't let 'em get to me like I used to.

Someone, and I don't remember who, once called rejection letters, Negative Marketing Reports.  And when we get right down to it, that's what they are.  The market we submitted to, can't use what we offered them.  For whatever reason, maybe they had one similar not long ago, maybe the editor doesn't like cat stories and there's a cat in yours, or even something as simple as the tone isn't quite right for their publication, it's not us they are rejecting.  There's nothing personal involved.  Sure, it feels like it sometimes but we have to realize publishing is a business, especially to publishers.

Another writer friend of mine once equated it with selling apples.  You have the prettiest, shiny red apples.  They are practically a work of art.  Thing is, the buyers are buying oranges that day.  It doesn't mean anything is wrong with your apples.  Just means that's not what the buyer is wanting.  Just go find another buyer who wants apples.

One of the first rejection letters I received was the cover letter to a story with the words "I really don't like this." scrawled across it.  There was no signature, nothing.  Just those five little words.   I tossed that one in the trash.

I think my favorite rejection letter is the one that says my story was enjoyable reading, thanks for letting them see it but that it didn't fit any of the spaces they had open at the time.  This one is signed by the editor, has the title of my story and is actually addressed to me.  I've saved it.  One of these days, I'll try something with that editor again.

So, what's your worst or best rejection letter?  Don't name names though.  And what do you do with 'em after you get 'em read?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Maass...

Donald that is.

Not long ago I mentioned how much I liked Donald Maass.  You can find that post here.  I don't know much about him as an agent, except he's a very good one, well known.  And I know one day I hope to have something ready to query him with.

Writing the Breakout Novel was one of the first books on writing craft I bought many years ago.  I still go back and reread parts of it even now.   Naturally, I had to have the workbook that went along with it.  I even typed all the questions from the workbook into a Word doc, printed it out and had it spiral bound at a local office supply place so I could fill in the answers without messing up my workbook.  Plus, I can print out the questions and make a workbook for each novel I write.  (It's very cool and handy.)

Here's a photo of just a few of the books on writing I have. If you look close, you can find Writing the Breakout Novel right on the top shelf, third from the middle on the left side of the shelf.  The workbook that goes with it is the first one on the left side of the second shelf.

And FYI, the trophy that's in the middle of the very top, with the red accents, is from the Pen to Press Retreat last May in New Orleans.  It's the "Spirit of Excellence" award.  The smaller trophy is 2nd place for a non-fiction proposal. 

In the post linked above, I let y'all know Donald Maass had joined Twitter and was tweeting a prompt each day for a month.  But not only that, each Tuesday he adds another prompt to the list. After his month of prompts was over, I asked permission to share those prompts with y'all on my blog and he kindly said yes.  So, here's the first 10 to get you started.

01. What’s the worst thing your MC does? Whom and how does that hurt? Now work backwards, set it up to hurt even more.

02. What’s the most selfless thing your MC does? What good change or effect does that have on someone unexpected? Add that in.

03. Find any violence in your ms. Delete any shock, fear or horror. Replace with two *conflicting* emotions that are less obvious.

04. Choose a middle scene: What does POV character feel most strongly? Evoke that feeling without naming it, through actions alone.

05. What should your readers most see, understand or be angry about? At what story moment will that happen? Heighten it in two ways.

06. How does your POV character change in your current scene? Work backwards. Make that change unlikely, a surprise or impossible.

07. What does a sidekick or secondary character see about your MC that your MC denies? Force a showdown over it.

08. Over what does your MC disagree with his/her boss or mentor? When does the boss/mentor prove to be right?

09. What’s a place in your story where something significant happens? Switch two other story events to that location too.

10. In your current scene, what’s a setting detail that delights or disgusts your POV character? Why? Elaborate & add.

You can find more information about Donald Maass as an agent on his website

Here's a link to his latest "how to" book. The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writer.

If you aren't on Twitter, you need to get there and follow him.  You can find him as DonMaass. These prompts will make a difference in your stories if you use them.  And while you're on Twitter, follow me too. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lemmings!

The game, not the critter.  Lemmings was originally developed for the Commodore Amiga (which we had) in 1991.  I loved this game and was totally addicted to it.  Which is one reason I try to avoid video games, I tend to get obsessive.  Here's the scoop.

Lemmings is divided into a number of levels, grouped into four difficulty levels. Each level comprises both destructible landscape elements such as rocks, indestructible sections such as steel plates, and numerous obstacles including chasms, high walls, large drops, pools of water or lava, and booby traps. Each level also includes one or more entrance points and one or more exits. The goal is to guide a certain percentage of the green-haired, blue-shirted lemmings from the entrance to the exit by clearing or creating a safe passage through the landscape for the lemmings to use. Unless assigned a special task, each lemming will walk in one direction ignoring any other lemming in its way (save for "Blockers"), falling off any edges and turning around if they hit an obstacle they cannot pass. They die if they fall from a great height, fall into water or lava or off the map, or get caught in a trap; they also die after being assigned the bomber skill.
To successfully complete the level, the player must assign certain lemmings specific skills. The quantity of skill assignments of each type is generally limited, requiring the player to carefully assign which skills will have to be used in order to successfully guide the lemmings. There are eight skills that can be assigned. Two skills stay with the lemming regardless of how they are reassigned: "Climbers" will climb any vertical surface they hit, and "Floaters" can safely fall off from heights without injury. "Bashers", "Miners", and "Diggers" cause the assigned lemming to dig across, diagonally downward, or directly downward, respectively, through destructible material until they emerge into open air, hit indestructible material, or are reassigned. "Builders" create a rising stairway of up to 12 steps, with audible cues when they are nearly done with their task to allow the player to reassign them if a longer stairway is needed. "Blockers" will reverse the direction of all lemmings that hit them, and cannot be reassigned unless first the ground under their feet is removed. (They can be exploded, though.) "Bombers" will continue whatever they were doing prior to assignment, but after 5 seconds (indicated by a countdown timer above their head) they will stop and explode, taking a small chunk out of any destructible environment around them. While the player is able to pause the game to inspect the level and status of the lemmings, skills can only be assigned in real-time.

The lemmings are initially released at a rate predetermined by the level (from 1 to 99), but the player can increase this to a faster rate. If the rate has been increased by the player, the player can decrease the rate down to, but not lower than, the initial rate. The player also has the option to "nuke" all the remaining lemmings on the screen, converting them all to Bombers, either to quickly forfeit in order to retry a level or to remove any Blockers that remain after the rest have been rescued.

The four difficulty groups—"Fun", "Tricky", "Taxing" and "Mayhem"—are used to organize the levels to reflect their overall difficulty.  This rating reflects several factors, including the number of obstacles the player has to surpass, the limitation on the number of types of skills available to assign, the minimum rate of lemming release, and the percentage of lemmings that must be saved. *** Copied from Wikipedia.

I still play occasionally when I need a break and don't want to do the solitaire thing.

Want to give Lemmings a try?  Then click on over to here and enjoy.

When you need a break, what do you do?  Go for a walk, read, play some kind of video game?  Got any links for the rest of us?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kryptonite

Kryptonite, the one thing that could bring the man of steel to his knees.  His Achilles' heel.. 

Thing is, we all have some sort of kryptonite in our life.  Something that never fails to bring us to our knees.  I'm not going to turn this into a personal life type post but think about it.  We all have issues in our writing that brings it to its proverbial knees.  Meaning, we can always improve our writing.

For example, for a long time "that" or "just" showed up in my writing all the time.  It weakened the writing, kept it from being a good as it could be.

Others among us might have issues with dialogue tags.  Replied, questioned, hissed, sneered, cackled, cried, and so many others.  Usually a simple "said" will do. 

And what about adverbs.  Have you ever read something like these, "yelled loudly"  "whispered quietly" or "ran quickly"?  Those adverbs weaken our writing.  Not only are they redundant, they tell us instead of showing us. 

Another weakening issue is generic terms.  Chair, car, house.  Instead, why not use words that show us a specific item, for example, a rocker, convertable or victorian. 

Sure, these things are fine for a first draft.  Remember, the first draft is to get the story written, to get it on paper (or screen) so we have something to revise.

So, what's your writing kryptonite?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jean...

I mean, what else could it be for.  So, here's a bit about me.

I'm old enough to know better, but too young to care.  I was born in Arkansas but live in Texas now.  Course, since I was born in Texarkana, I was really close to Texas from the start.  After joining the military, I lived in Florida, (Homestead, Panama City) and Missouri (Sedalia) along with Fort Worth, Texas.  Also, lived on Guam for two years, thank you Air Force.

I met  my better half in Homestead, he was in the same squadron I was. While I worked on airplanes and he worked on bombs, we still managed to meet and get married.

We have 3 kids now, the oldest (21) is myone and only son.  We had three daughters but lost one to cancer at age 5.  It was 11 years ago so while there's still a void, time does heal.

Hubby is a Baptist preacher, and while I don't mention it here often, my faith is very important to me.

I've been seriously writing since about 2002.  And while I play in most genres, my favorites are mystery and fantasy.  I like SF but don't like the research needed to get it right.  Which reminds me of a story...

After the plot bunnies dropped off a SF idea for me, I realized I needed to do some research on space travel, specifically Faster Than Light (FTL) travel.  Now, I tend to get a bit obsessive about that kinda stuff so I read a LOT about FTL travel.  I guess when I went to sleep that night, FTL was the last thing I thought about cause next morning when I got clothes out for hubby, I noticed the FTL printed at regular intervals around the waistband of his undies.    Naturally I wondered just what the heck underwear had to do with Faster Than Light travel.  It took me about 10 minutes of pondering before I realized FTL stood for Fruit of The Loom. 

My WIPs include a mystery which is being run through my critque group and a dragon fantasy I'm revising in my spare time.  (Yeah right, what spare time.)

I do stupid things.  Multiple times.  I don't care for veggies cause I ate so many of them as a kid.  It was veggies or nothing so...

Chocolate is my favorite food. :-)  Course you already knew that. 

Our household includes a Golden Retriever named Doofus and a several cats.  El Gato de Muerte keeps bringing me dead things (this morning a cardinal) and  Skittles is a kitten given to us by the neighbor last week.    I love horses, Dobermans and Long Horn cattle.

As a kid, I spent many hours under the covers with a flashlight and book.  I loved "horse" books, westerns, fantasy, SF, horror and even gothic romance.  My favorite books vary from day to day so I won't even try to list those.  However I will say I've never read War & Peace, Moby Dick and most of the other classics.

Comment section open for questions though I won't guarantee an answer. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I is for Inconsistency

Okay, I admit it...I like CSI Miami, or used to.  I haven't watched it very often since they moved it to Sunday evenings but I managed to remember tonight and honestly I wasn't very impressed.  Besides the fact that all the CSI guys are out in the field searching buildings, interrogating suspects and arresting the bad guys, they do things that no self-respecting cop would. 

For example, tonight one of the characters let himself get beat up by the bad guy.  First, this particular bad guy was an expert in  some form of martial arts.  Second he was carrying a gun and had already killed several people.  So, what does CSI guy do...get within reach and get himself beat up.

Next, when the bad guy is finally brought down, one shot to the chest by the way, the head CSI guy strolls up to him and makes a "witty, sarcastic" remark while the guy is laying there with a gun in his hand.  Which of course, he raises and tries to fire.  (That earns bad guy another bullet and ride to the morgue.)  Anyone who knows police procedure knows one of the first thing a cop's gonna do is get the weapon from the bad guy, probably by using his foot to slide it out of the way.

Maybe it didn't bother some folks but that kind of inconsistency bothers me.  It's like when characters put silencers on revolvers.  (And yes I know they really aren't silencers but that's what they are called by most people.)

My better half was in the military and worked in the Munitions area.  He knows bombs and missles.  What they look like, how they work, which airplanes they go on and just how many can be carried by an aircraft.  It drives him almost over the edge when he watches a show that get those things wrong. It doesn't bother me cause I don't know any better.  (What bothers me is his ranting about how the plane can only carry 4 of a certain missle and but just fired #15.) :-)

All of that to say, get your facts straight.   

Here's another thing to think on.  Not long ago, my critique group called the police procedure in my WIP into question.  I was pretty sure I'd done enough research and had it right but I did some more research and talked to a sheriff's officer and ran my scene past him.  I was indeed correct.  My police procedure was spot on. 

My guess is, and I'm not sure, but I figure my critiquers have watched crime shows and were going by what the officers on the show were doing.  And that's cool.  I realized later the reader may have the same expectation so I need to make sure they know that my procedure is proper.  When I revise that scene I'll do some tweaks so it's not a big deal.

The thing is, we don't want to throw readers out of our stories.  Either by getting the facts wrong, or by getting them right and the reader having a different expectation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hmmmmmmm...

As I've pondered "H" nothing has really popped out at me so y'all are getting some random "H" thoughts today.

H is for Heros - not those in our novels but those who lay down their life everyday protecting our freedoms and fighting for the freedom of those who are in bondage.  Also, the guys in the background who support those heros on the front lines.  I spent almost 5 years in the Air Force, and my husband spent 20 in.   As a military member, we didn't/don't have the choice of which war to fight, we follow orders.  Even if you don't agree with the politics, I urge you to support the men and women who are just obeying orders.

H is for Hairy Monsters - I love Monsters, Inc.  Sully is most definitely my favorite monster.  And I love shouting "2319" ever so often when least expected. 

H is also for Happy Dance, perfect for just about any occasion.  Acceptance letter, do the Happy Dance.  Hubby brings home chocolate, do the Happy Dance.  See the first Robin that says spring is near, do the Happy Dance. Find a great book from a new author, do the Happy Dance.  Send out a short story, do the Happy Dance.  You're a writer, do the Happy Dance.  Find an unexpected Hershey's Kiss in the bottom of your purse, still in the wrapper, do the Happy Dance! 

There are so many reasons to celebrate that we ignore or don't see.  Let's make it a point to celebrate every day. Don't let life pass you by.

H is for Hairballs.  Ewwww...ever step on a fresh hairball in the middle of the night with your bare foot?  Not the greatest sensation.  Reminds be of those rawhide chews my dogs used to leave on the floor.  I don't know how many times I stepped on one of those. 

Lastly H is for High Hopes.  One of these days I hope to see a novel of mine on the bookstore shelves published by a major publishing house.  I know that's not every writer's dream and that's cool.  We are free to chase differing dreams and march to that different drummer.  Just don't let anyone rob you of your dream.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Good Friends...

Today I was reminded just how much good friends are worth.  I spent the morning in the Emergency Room being that good friend to a good friend.  Which is why this post is late and the topic has changed.  So, to all those good friends, here's a big THANKS!

To my writerly friends,  Mary Rosenblum, Deborah LeBlanc, CJ Lyons, Judy, Evelyn, Gay, Lynn, Roe, Kassie, Sandra, Wolfie, Elfie, Gala, and all the many others too numerous to mention...THANKS!  For your support, your critiques, brainstorming, the freedom to be myself and all the good times we've shared.  Know that y'all are a very important part of any writing success that I have had or will have.

Sassy...we've gone to conferences together, brainstormed and shared.  Know that you'll always be one of the special friends I've made through writing. 

Autumn - I'll never forget New Orleans.  The memories we made at the Pen to Press conference will never be forgotten.
To my non-writerly friends...

Kym & James - We've been friends for a long time and though we don't live close by now, I still consider y'all some of the most special friends.  Y'all were there before kids, at the birth of our first and second, and through the hard times when we went through the cancer treatments with Tinker and when she was called home.  I always knew if I needed anything, you were there.  I hope you realize the same thing goes for you...need something, don't hesitate to call.

Sherrie & Vicki - Thanks for being there while we were at Bethlehem.  I'll always remember your kindness.

Miss Betty -  You're very special to me, especially cause of your love for my girls.  I miss seeing you each week.

Ladies of Parkway - I haven't know y'all long, but already y'all are special to me.  Rebecca, I admire your strength.  Deborah, I applaud your servant's heart.  Elaine, you amaze me with your inner strength, your caring, calm nature and how you share your faith even going through tough times.  Sue, Phyllis, Mary, Brandy, Bobbie, Sharon, Geri, Angela, and all those names I can't remember, your friendship means a lot to me. I look forward to getting to know y'all better. Julia, I think of you as the sister I never had.

And to the best friend of husband.  I know he won't read this, but I'd not trade him for any other.  Not only is is a great father and husband but he totally supports me in whatever I attempt.  He cheers for me, consoles me when I fail, and celebrates with me when I succeed.  Plus he knows that chocolate is always on the list of things to pick up at the store. :-)

So today, I encourage each of you, take the time to let your friends know just how much you appreciate them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for "First Things First"

I don't know about you but so many times what I "want" to do gets shoved aside for things I "have" to do.  Somedays, writing (what I want to do), takes a backseat to just about everything else and sometimes writing doesn't even make it in the car. (Insert big sigh here.)

The question is, how do we make what we want to do a priority?  I don't know about you, but sometimes it's hard to justify sitting at the puter when there are dishes/laundry that needs doing, kids that need our attention and what seems like 900 other things demanding our time.

I once read, well, more than once really, but the idea was to get up a half hour early and do your writing then.  Or, stay up a bit later after everyone else has gone to bed.  But what if you are just too tired to do either one?

Then, there's the "make an appointment with yourself that you can't break.  Ha!  Isn't that just the time when the baby wakes up or the cat hocks up a hairball in the  middle of your desk? 

And, then there's the other stuff we need to do that relates to writing such as blogging, tweeting, editing, market research, submitting and such.

So, what do we do?  We run plots through our heads while doing the dishes.  While running errands we rehearse dialogue and when we get it right, we pull over for a moment and make a note.  (I plotted a whole story in the car one day. Thankfully I had pen and paper with me.)  We jot down a scene here and a scene there and sooner or later, we have a whole story.  Then, we can put it all together. And, while shopping or doing things out on the town, we watch people.  We watch how they carry themselves, their body language and expresssions and make a note about that so we can create realistic characters.

I don't know the answer for everyone else so here's where y'all come in.  What are some tips, tricks, helpful hints to get the writing done when there are 900 other things that need to be done?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Expectations

I don't know about you but when I buy a book, there are things I expect.  For example, I expect to be transported to another world.  I want to leave the reality behind for a bit and go on an adventure.  I want to experience something I've not done before and might never get the chance to do.  I want to meet characters who become real to me, that I'd like to sit down and chat with over a glass of tea or cup of hot cocoa.  When I read a book, I want to go someplace I might never get the chance to visit.

Back as far as I can remember, I've loved to read.  I remember reading under the cover with a flashlight cause the book was so good I couldn't wait to read the next page.  In school, I used to read during class by putting the book on top of my textbook and holding it up so the teacher couldn't see.  Of course, that worked fine until I got so involved in the story I didn't hear the teacher call on me and a classmate had to get my attention. 

But, when I read a book, I want to get that involved.  So involved I forget where I am, that I need to fix dinner, or put the laundry in the dryer.  I want to keep turning the pages until I reach the end at three in the morning.  And when I get to the end, I want to feel satisfied but also a little sad.  Satisfied cause it's a fitting ending but sad because my time with the characters has come to an end.  I want to put the book on my keeper shelf and know I'll be reading it again soon. 

What do you expect from a book?  And got any recommendations?

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Dream, Dream, Dream...

One of the ways I can tell I need to be writing fiction instead of non-fiction is my dreams become extra vivid and extra strange.  It's like my subconscious is so full of ideas that insist on coming out, one way or another.  Most of the time, the dreams are unconnected and don't make much sense but ever so often I dream something that's really good.  I've even gotten a couple ideas for stories from my dreams.  Which is kinda cool.  What's interesting is when I'm writing a lot of fiction, if I dream, I don't remember them.  

And speaking of remembering, I remember as a novice writer being told never start a story with your character dreaming.  And I kinda understand why.  I seriously dislike starting a story only to find out it's a dream.  It's annoying.  Same thing with television shows.   It's like I've put all this time and emotion into whatever's happening to the character only to find out it's not real.  I feel cheated.  Of course, there's always exceptions to any rule.  The mystery novel I'm working on now has a prologue that's a dream.  However I make it plain from the start it's a dream.  The dream also gives the reader some info that is important later.  I'm still not sure if I'll use the prologue but it's there for now.

And speaking of dreams, I read an article this past weekend (I think) that basically asked how much you sold your dream for.  Meaning, at one time you had a dream, yet you settled for something else.  The example was a man who had at one time dreamed of becoming a chef  but had instead gone into business. It sorta made me think about the things I let get in the way of acheiving my writing related dreams.   I realized I need to be more focused on what I want instead of what just sorta happens.  And, I find it sad when people give up on reaching their dreams because the journey becomes a little tough. 

So, here's some questions for you to ponder.  Please share your answers in the comments if you like.

1.  Have you ever gotten any ideas from your dreams?  Do your dreams ever connect with your writing?

2.  How do you feel about dreams in novels?  What about in movies?  Do you use dreams in your writing?

3.  Are you letting unimportant things distract you from your writing dreams?  And just what are those dreams anyway?

C is for...


Milk, dark, white (yeah, I know, it's not really chocolate),'s all good.  Cakes, pies, brownies, fudge, cookies, ice cream, cereal...just bring on the chocolate.  Chocolate eases stress, stokes the fires of inspiration, is the perfect reward and cures most things that ail. Okay, I admit it, I'm a chocoholic.  My dream vacation would be to Hershey Pennsylvania for a week.

Hi, my name's Jean and I'm a chocoholic.  It's been, ten minutes since my last bite of chocolate. :-)  Egads, it's been ten minutes since I've had chocolate!'s not that bad really, but I do like chocolate.   

What's this got to do with writing?  Just that one of the things well known by my friends is I enjoy chocolate.  What do your characters enjoy?  What is their passion?  When your character has a really, really, really bad day in fiction land, what do they turn to?  Some form of alcohol, ice cream or other comfort food, a hot bubble bath or a trip to the gym to work out some frustrations?

Showing the reader this bit of information gives depth to your character and helps them connect.  We want our reader to connect, to become part of the story.  We want our readers to relate to the characters we write about. 

And when they do, it's a good thing.

**Update:  This came to my email a few minutes ago and I just had to share with the rest of you chocoholics. I haven't tried them but they sound yummy.

Double Chocolate Brownies


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup fat-free hot fudge sauce, warmed


1.Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

2.In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except fudge sauce; mix well then spread half the batter in prepared baking dish. Top with hot fudge sauce then spread remaining batter over sauce.

3.Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely then cut into squares and serve.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Bonsai

A couple years ago I started a new project and needed a "cool" hobby for the main character. I don't remember exactly why I chose growing bonsai but I did and now I'm hooked too.

I've killed two little trees trying to figure out how to keep 'em alive and think I finally have it. This little guy has lived through one summer, one winter and now is here for spring. It's about ready for trimming though I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that part of the process.

Growing bonsai is kinda like writing too. You need a strong root system, have to water often and then you have to trim 'em back. For us writers, we must have a strong root/plot, have to water/write often then we trim/edit what we don't need.

It's a learning process too. And while we can't kill out writing, we can obsess so much over it that it's not fun any longer.

And writing should be fun. Sure there will be days when we really don't want to write but shouldn't be be eager to write, to get words down on the page and slip into the world of our characters? I'm vowing to have more fun with my writing. How about you?