Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Past the 20K mark!

I'm sure I'm boring the fire out of what few people stick their head in here ... but nightly reporting my progress on my blog keeps me honest ...

I am proud to report my CWC (computer word count) stands at 20,023! Yay! I have 93 pp, as well, which means I'm almost done with the horrid first hundred. Does anybody else have trouble with the first hundred pp?

My calculations (again, forgive me, I'm not tangling with that blasted progress bar) tell me I'm 28% done ...

Oh, and good news from three of my CPs: One has several agents VERY interested in her ... yay! She actually has an offer on the table and other agents are breaking their neck to finish up her stuff. Another has two requests on her YA project -- and it's good stuff, so yay for her! And my third CPs good news is non-writing, but let's face it, until we're all NYT best-selling authors, dayjob good news is welcome any ol' time ... she has a new job, her first in management. I know she'll do well, and that this will give her a good step up in the right direction.

So yay! Atta-girls all around!

A quarter of the way!

OK! I now have 17, 487 little words, and according to my calculations, that means I'm 24.9% of the way! Yay!

If I can keep up this pace, I will have the rough draft done in 23 more days ... more like 25 more days, because I intend to take off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

This makes, however, the third day straight where I have fallen asleep during my goodnight snuggle with Kate ... I wake up to find it's really late, but I MUST write. So I wind up writing until one or two in the morning and then ... that next night, I repeat the cycle.

The good thing is that after tomorrow, I should have off until the first part of January, which means I can get some writing done during the day, catch up on sleep and make some headway. My wonderful dh has said he will babysit so that I can get ahead on my writing. Maybe he's tired of sleeping by the glow of the laptop?!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another 12 pages

My dh says be reasonable ... but reasonable to a writer with a deadline is to kick it in high gear and write while the ink is flowing. So tonight, after a Christmas dance program for Kate, supper out at Mickey D's, and baking cookies for Kate's teacher, parapro, music rotation teacher, P.E. coaches, computer rotation teacher, speech pathologist, a teacher who is next door to Kate's class AND a teacher who Kate knows (all this was Kate's idea, mind you, and I felt like a bah-humbug for wanting to say, "uhm, let's ..." so I didn't.), I got kicked into high gear and wrote an even dozen.

I'm not fooling with the progress bar, but according to my spotty math, I'm 21% done now ... a chapter a day keeps the editor saying, "Yay!"

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Little Progress On The Progress Bar

Well, tinkered with the progress bar, and got it to register word count, which says I'm 17% of the way done ... onward, onward!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A chuggin' along

OK, another nine pages done tonight ... and it's only half past midnight. If I don't get sucked into Miss Snark's Crap-o-meter, (pay no attention to the woman in the stillettos, pay NO attention to the woman in the stillettos!) I will actually get to bed at a semi-decent time.

I am still at a loss as to how to fix my little progress bar. I know how to change the numbers, but I'll be John Brown if I can figure out why the progress bar doesn't move forward like it should. Very demoralizing, I tell you. Maybe it's my browser?

Today was quite busy ... my little one had to do an encore performance of a special interpretive dance at church this morning, and she had to do it solo, without her friend. She was all tears last night, until I said, "I know you can do it, and you're going to do so well that afterwards we're going to go anywhere you'd like to for lunch."

I was expecting McDonald's or Wendy's or Burger King.

She said ... "Red Lobster."

Guess that last sale celebration I had stuck in her mind!

So toss in church (she NAILED that dance, btw! Proud mommy moment there!), the celebratory lunch afterwards, a visit to my mom's and my grandmother's and then back here for supper, bath, storytime and bed (and sleep came VERY hard for Kate tonight!) ... and I was doing good to get to my laptop by 10 p.m.

Oh, and Jenna ... they ARE trying to bankrupt us! Grandparents! Why won't they get that excited about investing in the COLLEGE fund?! I know, I know ... not any fun at all!

Pshew! Still got it!

For various reasons that would bore most people to tears, I've suffered that dreaded writer's disorder (no, not Writer's Block ... it doesn't exist) Lifeus Interruptus. I'm sure there's a nice Latin word for Life, but for the life of me (no pun intended), I can't think of it.

But yes, life has interrupted and I've been away from my laptop for my nightly sessions. Coming back intimidated me ... would I still be able to churn out a chapter a night?

Well, tonight, I got back on the horse. Yes, I started late (10:45, after a day of cleaning, gift-wrapping and cell phone programming ... DON'T ask!), but at 1:30 a.m., I had 11 pp like I wanted 'em for now.

How I'll make it to Sunday School in the morning (er, today), I haven't a clue ... but if anybody has any toothpicks, I would appreciate it. Maybe I'll be so razzed to have the first 50 pp written (the first 38 revised per my editor's request) and written that I'll not require any toothpicks?!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Santa and the Tooth Fairy

You know, I’m cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

For the past few years, I’ve had it pretty well made when it came to Santa lore. Kate was an only child with no just-a-few-years-older cousins to muck things up … well, it made me a bit complacent. I started doing things my way.
(My dh, of course, would opine that I’ve ALWAYS done things my way, and that it’s the normal course of events.)

That “my way” part was a few clever little stitches in the tapestry of Santa’s life. Kate has never questioned that Santa only brings ONE present to each little girl and boy; after all, how else would he fit everything in his sleigh? She knows that mommies and daddies provide the rest of the kit and caboodle under the tree on Christmas morning.

She knows because that’s what I told her. It seemed like a stroke of genius at the time … I was, truth be told, sick of the Big Red Guy getting all the credit for the neat toys and so forth Christmas brings. Plus, I figured that the prospect of her losing one present from Santa would make it easier for her to come clean when she dispenses with the whole notion that Santa is … uhm, well, you know.

Now, however, she is in school. And she just might compare notes with some other little boy or girl … like she did about the Tooth Fairy.

Kate is sporting her first loose tooth. She worried about when her teeth would start falling out more than I expected … she worried because at least two other classmates already had visits from the Tooth Fairy. Naturally, she was ecstatic about having a wiggly tooth.

When I inspected that loose tooth of hers for the first time, I said, “Oooh, Kate, you’ll get a visit from the Tooth Fairy! Wow! She’ll leave you a bright shiny quarter under your pillow.”

Kate’s face got all scrunched up. She pondered that statement of mine for the longest time. Just as I started worrying that the Tooth Fairy’s visit might incite in Kate an unwelcome case of insomnia, my daughter allowed as to what was troubling her.

“Mason said that the Tooth Fairy leaves you a dollar.”

My heart did a double-skip. I did some mental digging into my brain’s databases … how many baby teeth were there? Twenty? Twenty-two? Whatever the number, that was a heckuvalotta greenbacks. No, no, a quarter would have to do.

“Uh, baby,” I said brightly, “that’s just for the FIRST tooth. You know, your FIRST tooth is a special tooth. But after that, it’s just a quarter. How else would the tooth fairy ever be able to afford to pay for all those kids’ teeth?”

I have similar visions of imminent catastrophe: some little kid, repeating the family tale he’s been told, will tell Kate that Santa brings him all manner of presents.

And that is as worrying as having to figure out just how I’ll pry that tooth out of Kate’s head when the time comes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Printouts and Christmas Trees

Don't ask.

Yup, that's what I'd say if you asked me how my weekend was. But in order for you to fully appreciate the weekend, I guess I would have to cough up a few details.

Say, how I squeezed in the reading of a printout (double-checking for spelling and typos on THE BABY WAIT which is due back in Toronto by Dec. 15) in with putting up my Christmas tree, participating in a parade for my dayjob boss, hustling my little one to practice for the Christmas Cantata and going to her teacher's Christmas Concert.

I will say this -- during each and every event on my busy weekend calendar, I found myself saying, "Gee, I'm glad I took time for this!"

The tree was the worst chore. I'm too chintzy to buy a pre-lit tree, and I HATE putting on the lights. I usually put up my tree on the first Saturday in December. Kate would NOT let me put it off beyond Sunday. Which, I guess, was a smart move on her part. Any closer to Christmas, I would have stuck a bow on a poinsetta and said, "Ho, ho, ho ..."

No, I wouldn't have. I don't think.

Kate is big enough now to put ornaments on the tree, which is a bad thing and a good thing. The good part is that she basically did it. The bad thing is she was bored out of her skull until I could get her to that point.

Which brings me to another good/bad point: having so many ornaments. The bad part, of course, is the storing and the putting them on the tree. But the good part is that I have so many that you can't see any green on the tree when we're done (and we're talking MAMMOTH eight-footer here), so it didn't matter where Kate installed the ornaments -- it wound up looking as good as I could do it. The only thing I really did was help move the breakable ones to the top, in vain hopes that our two demon cats wouldn't trash 'em.

THe best part: it's DONE. And I got the printout read, too! Yay!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not Right For Me

When agents say in those hated form letters that your project is "not right for me," well, they also mean it when they tell you it could be right for someone else.

Tonight, I pulled a very flat SASE from my mailbox. An agent, who shall remain nameless so that this is not construed as a "neiner-neiner" post, sent me a very belated reply on a query letter I'd done, oh, eons ago.

It was in regards to THE RED THREAD (which is now being pubbed under THE BABY WAIT). And yes, it was one of those form R's.

In early July, this form R would have crushed me. By then, I'd been waiting for it for ages ... had even nudged the agent to no avail.

But in late July, two agents I really respected said I had "voice" and they said it in front of God and everybody at an RWA workshop. One of those agents, Miriam Kriss, eventually signed me.

And of course, having sold the book in question makes ALL the ouchies go away. I'd clean forgotten that this lone query was still out there.

So if you have one or a ton of those form R's, tuck 'em away and keep submitting. You'll get there. It's only a matter of time ... and a good bit of sheer, south-Georgia cussedness.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My deepest apologies ... and NEWS!

Okay, so I've been out of commission for, like, ahem, a month now, but Turkey Day did interrupt ... along with day job woes, family deals and --

Excuses, excuses.

I'll shut up now, and I'll commit to this: On Mondays at least I shall update this blog. I have a column due that day (newspaper dealie), so I will impose the same deadline for my blog.

On to the rest of the news: I sold book number two!

Working title is WHERE LOVE GROWS, and the best way I can describe it is You've Got Mail goes Down on The Farm ... Due sometime in February, but hopefully, once I get past the day job woes and actually get my Christmas shopping done, I'll be able to hunker down over the computer and write, write, write and get it done super early.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tawna's tag answers

Tawna Fenske was very prompt in her response to my "exam" that I sent her way -- and, like everyone else's books, make me feel a bit like a lightweight. But I'm a firm believer in different strokes for different folks. And yes, I do realize that I'm blogging twice in one day, but very possibly later this week the day-job and the family will complete my relocation to slap-dab-crazy, so I'd guess I'd better do it now.

Thank you muchly to Cynthia for “tagging” me with this one. I was an English major in college (would you like fries with that?) so it got me thinking about all the really swell books I’ve read over the years. Actually, none of the ones on this list were required reading in college. Go figure.

I actually can’t think of anyone else to tag next, but here are my answers anyway.

1) One book that changed your life:
DH and I have always been avid world travelers, and I happened to read Franz Wisner’s memoir, “Honeymoon with my Brother” right after we returned from a month in Australia and Fiji this past summer. That’s when we started talking seriously about the idea of selling most of our earthly possessions and moving overseas. It’s still too soon to tell whether we’ll really make the leap, but I credit that book with sparking a fantasy that’s become a recent focal point of my life.

2) One book that you've read more than once:
I obsessively re-read books, so there are tons of these. I’d have to say that Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams” or Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” are my favorites to read over and over and over.

3) One book you'd want on a deserted island:
Tough call. I’m fascinated by Mary Roach’s “Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” so that’s a maybe. I also adore Judy Blume’s “Summer Sisters.” (Er, could I possibly choose two more drastically different books?!)

4) One book that made you laugh:
David Sedaris, “Me Talk Pretty one Day.”

5) One book that made you cry:
Anything that involves and animal being sad, hurt, or killed. I adored “The Dogs of Babel” by Carolyn Parkhurst.

6) One book you wish you'd written:
“Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut or “Welcome to Temptation” by Jennifer Crusie (again with the drastically different books!)

7) One book you wish had never been written:
I can think of a few I’ve hurled at the wall in frustration, but can’t actually remember their names (and out of kindness to my fellow authors, wouldn’t name them if I could!)

8) One book you're currently reading:
“A Thousand Days in Venice” by Marlena de Blasi, our book club pick of the month.

This was fun. And it makes me want to go home now and re-read some of my favorites!

Tawna Fenske

I've been tagged

Sorry about the delay, Steph, but I just realized I HAD been tagged! Whoops!

1) One book that changed your life: I don’t mean to sound crass and money-grubbing, but it would HAVE to be a tie between The Millionaire Next Door and The Automatic Millionaire.

2) One book that you've read more than once: Hands down, Gone With The Wind, oh, and To Kill A Mockingbird, oh, lemme see … Little Women – oh, shoot, they just said ONE book.

3) One book you'd want on a deserted island: I get just one? Aaack! I read too fast for me to have just one. Uh, maybe The Complete Works of William Shakespeare? That’d keep me busy for a while.

4) One book that made you laugh: I love humor … so, hmm … I guess any of Mary Kay Andrews’ books – that woman has southern humor nailed DOWN.

5) One book that made you cry: Blessings by Anna Quindlen. I “read” it as an audio book, and I sat in the car on a hot July afternoon, sobbing at the ending.

6) One book you wish you'd written: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson.

7) One book you wish had never been written: Ewww … I dunno. There are tons of books out there that make me weep for the trees sacrificed for them – I’ll color in broad strokes here and say any poor knockoff book of any really good author.

8) One book you're currently reading: Falling Off Air by Catherine Sampson.

And now, hmmm ... who to tag? Well, obviously Cindy Miles and even if Tawna doesn't have a blog, I'll give her space here ... and, hmmm ... Tammy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cartwheels and other impossibilities

I'm trying to teach my daughter how to do a cartwheel.

Quite a feat, seeing as I myself can't do one.

I've researched on the web, and all they say is it's a matter of timing -- one, two, three, four.

But Kate wants to be a REAL cheerleader, and apparently all REAL cheerleaders can do cartwheels.

I came the closest this evening as I ever had to doing my first ever cartwheel as I was showing her how you get a running start, do a little skip and then commit. Only, I landed funny on my left hand, and I messed up my little finger.

It wasn't a bad injury, but just enough to make me worry. I've made my living at writing for so long that I have long been concerned about what would happen if I injured my hands or fingers. I've had one near miss -- a friend of mine slammed a car door shut on my hand once, back when I was working at my old newspaper. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to type. Thankfully, the hand was okay, and I could.

But it made me wonder ... does Nora have a policy with Lloyd's of London on her hands? What famous actress was it that had her legs covered by Lloyd's? And could I ever write by dictating?

I have had to make adjustments. For years I wrote longhand, but I have fibromyalgia and my hands couldn't take it. I went from a ballpoint to a big fat fountain pen, and finally I just had to start using a computer -- it was a tough transition because I was used to words flowing out with the ink, not on the screen. But I was glad I'd done it when I wound up working at a paper on deadline.

Still ... if I do eke out a career in this writing business, maybe I should at least give the Aflac duck a call, huh?

Oh, and anybody who has a no-fail method of teaching a five-year-old a cartwheel ... I would so appreciate it if you'd share the recipe!

More movies ... and a failing

Thanks, Cindy M, for the Demi Moore suggestion -- you know Paranormal well, so I know I'll love Half Light. I'll just have to close my eyes until I get past the demise of the five-year-old ...

Which brings me to a failing I have. Before Kate, I could watch almost anything and it didn't bother me (well, except for slasher/horror flicks, which I've never liked.) But since I've had Kate in my life (nearly five years, can you believe how time FLIES?), I cannot watch movies where children get hurt -- or worse. I can't even watch small-screen stuff where that happens.

I know they're trying to tap into emotion and get a visceral response ... but it just throws my over-load switch and fries my circuitry. It's the same way when an animal gets hurt -- a dog or a cat or any family pet in a movie. I just cannot bear to watch it.

I don't suppose I'm very different from other moms, so I'm assuming this isn't odd.

Speaking of kidlets, Ricky made another trip to the video store ... came back with that Disney movie In The Wild or Out of the wild or something like that.

I have to share my reactions to this, because I got a flash of what agents/editors think when they see a project. At first I was thinking, "Haven't I seen this before?"

And I had ... the opening was not very different from Madagascar.

But then it took a different turn and had some hugely comic elements, and the animals were negotiating the wilds of New York. I was thinking, huh, maybe this has some merit after all -- especially when the lion was attacked by a poodle that strongly resembled how I see Miss Snark's beloved Killer Yapp.

So I'm enjoying their travels through NYC, and I'm thinking, "yeah!"

Ennnnh. Wrong Answer buzzer going off. The movie dissolves into the requisite trip to the requisite jungle isle so that the zoo animals can make their requisite faux pas as they try to find their inner requisite jungle wildness. Hugely reminiscent of Madagascar ... and I don't think as well-done from that point.

But Kate enjoyed it ... and I think Ricky got the movie free (our video rental store is shaking in their boots at NetFlix, so they give away loads of free movie rentals.) He also rented Eight Below and a movie I'd never heard of called The Weatherman. But it's got Nicholas Cage -- I think it's got Nicholas Cage in it. Could be wrong. Anyway, one of the actors I like usually, so I don't think it will be a hardship.

To go back to the toon flick I saw tonight, and how I channeled agents/editors while watching it:

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, there was no such thing as a synopis.

That being the case, at the query stage, if the writing was phenom, I would have probably asked for a partial. Then I would have got the partial, and it would have ended at the part where the zoo escapees are navigating NYC, and I would be thinking, "Pretty darn funny -- send me the full."

But then, I would have gotten the full, and the MS would have completely fallen apart for me.

So, not to dis Disney, but I would have sent them a nice (probably personal to some extent) R, saying, "story has promise, but a bit too predictable."

Has writing completely screwed up the way you watch movies or read books? It very nearly has for me ... tomorrow (or Sunday, whenever I get a chance to blog again), I'll blog about two vastly different books that completely shut off my inner line-editor.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Lakehouse

My dh, wonderful soul that he can be, recently rented me the dvd of The Lakehouse, with Sandra Bullock and Kenau Reeves. I loved the pair in Speed, and I'm a diehard Bullock fan. Reeves? Eh. He's hit or miss for me. Some of the stuff he's done is great -- others, not so great.

But The Lakehouse is one of his great ones -- at least I think so. This is a wonderful love story, the kind I love, because it brings out all sorts of baggage that the characters have been hauling around.

My dh tried to watch it ... but the format just was too much for him, and he couldn't get into the whole "two-times-existing-at-the-same-time" deal. Me, I'm much more forgiving about deals like that. As long as the universe you create follows the rules you've created, I'll go along with your premise.

Of course there were some weak points (ones that I won't share because of spoilers), but overall, the theme is one that I have always liked: it's the little decisions we make that bring us to the big ones. To follow a dog -- or not. To make a left-turn ... or not. To grab that extra cup of coffee, to choose that particular firm to do whatever professional service you require.

My own dh and I wound up together based on just such a small decision. My sister and I decided to eat lunch at a steak house. Yup. That's what ultimately led to three years of dating and a marriage that has lasted for nearly 16 years.

When we were leaving the restaurant, my sister ran into an old friend of hers -- who worked with my dh. My dh saw me, recognized me as a customer he'd always liked, and later that night (I kid you not) saw my picture in his local newspaper. With a little help from Ma Belle Detective Agency, he tracked me down, called me up and asked me for a date.

I said no ... but I just had to see this guy, this complete stranger, who'd called me up. So I went on a re-con mission to scout him out. He asked me again ... I said yes.

And the rest is history. See? A small decision ... my sister and I could have opted for McDonalds instead of the Western Sizzler. But maybe it was destiny, you know?

The Leaning Tower of Books

I used to shake my head over readers/writers who had towering To Be Read piles of books. I was such a voracious reader that a paperback rarely lasted more than an afternoon, and a hardback might have taken me two or three days, tops.

But in the last year, I've found myself more and more relying on audio books to get my reading in while I do my daily commute.

Part of it is because the time I used to spend reading is now devoted to writing -- and carting Kate to and fro from all her extra-curricular activities. Part of it is that fear that I will unconsciously copy others in my genre. I remember listening to a best-selling author talk, marveling at how he said he couldn't read within his own genre any more. At the time, I thought, "If you write mysteries (which he did), you must prefer them, so why wouldn't you read them?"

Ahhh ... Now I know. I don't read romances while I'm actively writing -- save those of my CPs, who don't write in the same sub-genre I do. One writes paranormal with yummy ghosts (that's Cindy Miles who's releasing SPIRITED AWAY in the spring), one writes romantic comedy with heroes to die for, one writes romance with a liberal dose of mystery (or mystery with a liberal dose of romance), and one writes women's fiction with a healthy dollop of romance.

So all those other authors? Well ... I just have to wait until I take a break between projects. My TBR pile gets higher and higher ... And my reading addiction seeks its fix in the audio books of another genre.

What about other writers? Can you read within your genre while you write?

And readers who are not writers -- do you go through authors and genres until you're satiated? Or do you jump around?

For both readers and writers, how do you choose new authors? That's a tricky one for me ... But I guess that might make another blog entry, huh?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Changing Tastes

Sunday night I bit the bullet and washed an armload of turnip greens and roots -- well, I had help, as Kate decided she wanted to assist in the endeavor. It took me, no joke, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. to get the turnips washed, stemmed, in the pot and cooked -- along with the peas and rice and cured ham that went with it. I did NOT fix cornbread. The labor in the turnips alone was sufficient to say, "I love you!" to my family.

Kate, of course, took one look at the heap of turnips on her plate and scowled. "I don't LIKE turnip greens, Mommy!"

It took me back: how many times had my own mother washed and cooked fresh-out-of-the-garden greens for me? And how many times had I thanked her by saying, "I don't LIKE turnip greens, Mama!"

I was an avowed greens hater until I came home from college for Thanksgiving and I tried some after years of barely tasting the stuff. They were, gasp, good. Had I been missing something all these years?

Hmmmm ... nope. I don't think so. At the same time I avoided anything green and leafy, I had a few other preferences: milk chocolate over dark; big white-columned houses over the cozier "English cottage" variety; trendy clothes over the classics; Louis XVI over Shaker; cozy mysteries over thrillers; Coca-Cola over tea.

I think that our tastes evolve, just like life. Our tongue becomes more tolerant of the more complex, less straightforwardly sweet tastes as we grow older. Why is that?

Scientists say that babies come into the world with a prediliction for all things sweet, so they can find their mother's milk and survive. That may be true. But I have another, more poetic, theory.

I think as we grow up, life reveals more of its own complexities. We grow and change ... and our tastes reflect that.

What sort of things did you like when you were younger that you can't abide now? (An example -- I adored Juicy Fruit gum when I was little, but now even its sweet smell makes my stomach roil.) What sort of things did you not like as a kid that you like now?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gotta share!

Cindy Miles, my very first Critique Partner -- the one who encouraged me to join RWA and who very kindly yanked my head out of my butt when it came to passive voice -- has got her cover!

Yes! I didn't think I could be any more excited than the day she called me and told me she'd sold -- but I'm just as excited to share her cool new cover with you guys. It looks like a movie poster, IMHO, and I can assure you that the book is GREAT! It's coming out in May of 2007, and it's called Spirited Away. It features a hunky ghost and a tenacious archeologist ... just put it on your to-buy list now!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm On The Web!

Yup, I'm really on the world wide web! My website is up and running, thanks to the patient folks over at Stonecreek Media!

Of course, the first thing that I did once I checked it out was to google myself -- and it's amazing what turns up! My blog shows up ... but so does a few more Cynthia Reeses ... there's a California realtor, an Atlanta make-up artist, a softball player ... my doppelgangers have quite interesting lives.

I do wonder what they'll think when a book comes out in April with their (my) name on it!

What's the funkiest thing you've ever turned up when you googled yourself? (Or somebody you know?)

Monday, October 02, 2006

It Never Gets Any Better

Right now, all those pubbed authors who told me that it would never get any better, that I would always feel that panic rising about submissions, that nothing would ever get "old-hat" (unless you're La Nora, but there's only one La Nora, right?) ... well, all of those guys would be sagely nodding their heads at me right about now.

Because ...

Well, it never gets any better.

I sent off my MS of UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM last Wednesday by Global Express. Usually it takes eight days for mail to wind its way from middle Georgia to Macon, Ga. to Miami and then to Toronto. It has to go through Customs and everything.

So that was eight days I could relax, right? I requested e-mail updates from USPS about my tracking, and I ordered myself to get busy planning my next book and getting my webhosting and domain names straightened out.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from my own lovely editor, telling me that the MS was on her desk. Gasp! Chortle! I was seized by the inexplicable urge to catch the next flight to Toronto and rip it from her hands and shriek, "It's not done yet! NO PEEKING! I'm not ready for you to look at it!"

But of course, at this point, I am done with it. I've done all that I can until I get an expert's opinion about what to do next -- and she's the best expert I know. She's a jam-up editor!

Compare that plethora of panic to my phobias a year ago. Back then, I worried and fretted about whether it had got there. Did the absence of the returned self-addressed postcard mean that the mechanical wizardry that runs our mail service had chewed up my MS and spit it out?

I wasn't worried about what an editor would think of it -- at least not immediately. I took weird insulating comfort in the certain knowledge that, when it got there, my work was safely in the confines of a towering slush pile.

Not on my editor's desk. Not like now.

Guess it just goes to show.

We writers worry about everything.

It never gets any better.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Rules To Win

Miss Snark recently had a would-be Harlequin writer ask her about whether she should listen to friends or follow Harlequin guidelines.

I wrote a comment there, but I figured I'd expound on it here.

Rules. Everybody has rules. Nobody seems to like 'em.

But they are there for a reason. It keeps the system running more efficiently. Take for instance, your car. It's designed to run on a certain type of fuel. If that's gasoline, think what sort of havoc you'd create if you decided, "Hmmm ... off-road diesel's 30 cents cheaper. I'll use that instead."

Uh, well. That "savings" will turn into a huge expenditure by the end of the deal, now won't it?

Same thing with publishing submissions. Follow the rules, and you'll stand out from all of those folks who thought that NOT following the rules would result in a savings -- in the publishing world, that's usually a savings of time.

Sure, we all hear about the exceptions to the rule. There's got to be at least one person who got pubbed even though they subbed it written in marker on college-ruled paper, front and back and sent it to a publishing house without a SASE.

But why stack the odds against you? Show them that you are easy to work with. Show them you respect their rules, their system. They'll reward you for that -- if it's only their internal, silent, "Wow. Just what I asked for -- now that's an oddity."

The flip side is this: what rules have you broken and still come out ahead? And were they REAL rules (codified in some way by The Powers That Be?) or just the "rules" that people create out of superstition and anecdotal research?

Friday, September 29, 2006

TV or Not TV

That is the question ...

OK, so growing up, I didn't watch a lot of tv or movies ... it wasn't that my parents were weird or anything; nope, they just owned their own business, so we kids (extra labor) didn't get a whole lot of lollygagging time. We did watch Dallas (I know! Wasn't that freaky? My parents let me watch Dallas? But then Dallas is so tame compared to the things that are on tv now.) and Falcon Quest (loved David Selby ... sigh.)

But Tammy mentioned something in the comments trail about how TV (good TV) teaches pacing and chapter hooks. Absolutely ... I agree.

I think all those years of watching Law & Order helped me see how you could reveal character with just a few well-placed lines of dialogue. In fact, the old Law & Orders (of the Lennie Brisco era) are better than a lot of movies out there. Same with the CSIs (yes, I know, it's NOT really like that ... CSIs don't get to question and investigate ... but they make it seem real!)

I saw the pilot of a new show called Smith -- it's about a heist team, something I would normally avoid. But I wound up watching it halfway through, and just thought the writers had done a fab job of taking very UNSYMPATHETIC characters and showing them in a more sympathetic light. Will I continue to watch it? I dunno ... I suspect that to be real, it will wind up being more in line with a Greek tragedy. And you guys know ... I like my HEA.

You know the shows I really like these days? Alton Brown's GOOD EATS, Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals and her $40 a Day, What Not To Wear and those makeover shows that redo a house on a rock bottom budget ... But I also like good drama. It irritates my dh, who is more of a sit-com kind of guy. I put up with his ESPN (which stands for Every Sports-Particular Nut!) and he puts up with my love for fluffy make-over shows and gritty dramas.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shoot, Even When I'm Relaxing

OK, so Michelle celebrates with chocolate and a glass of wine and Tammy takes in a movie ... I took the hybrid approach and treated myself to chocolate chip cookies (not as good as a bag of Dove chocolates, but in a pinch, cookies'll do) and a movie.

It was supposed to be a time when I could relax and lose myself in a movie -- a thing I find very hard to do with books anymore. I availed myself of an unexpectedly a free video rental -- the video store actually -- gasp -- called me to say they'd missed me. Sheesh, I really have been in a cave!

I rented JUST MY LUCK. It looked funny, and I liked the premise. I'm a sucker for romantic comedy and thrillers -- I know, two opposite ends of the spectrum!

So off I go to lose myself ... only, I couldn't. I found myself analyzing the heroine's sympathy quotient (at first, not much ... dang, I'd hate someone that lucky). And then I found myself REALLY pulling for the hero ... great character with many layers, and the screenwriter didn't take the cliche way out and have the hero corrupted with the good life. He remembered where he came from.

But it was the black moment that got me ... that's when the conflict -- which sprang forth so organically from the way the movie was put together -- really hit me in the face. How WOULD the writers work this out?!

I got it then, again, in a new way, what conflict does for a story. (Sorry to bore you non-writers out there with writing stuff, but this is really how my puny, pathetic brain operates) It must come from the characters -- their goals, their motivation. You have to create those layers first ... and then you can threaten them with something that really scares the be-jeebers out of 'em. And it must be, uhm, not opposing, but almost (at first glance) a clear win/lose situation -- if the hero loses, the heroine wins, and vice versa ...

And THEN, to top it all off, you have to think outside the box (and this is where JUST MY LUCK fell apart for me) and create a solution to that conflict, something believable and credible, something that supports the idea that the heroine and hero will indeed be able to live happily ever after.

Any of you want to share with me when/how a lightbulb moment went off for you? Either about writing or life in general ... what and how?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Back From The Swirling Maelstrom

Or life, as the less dramatic of us are wont to call it. Yes, I am back.

I have my full manuscript winging its way to Toronto today ... along with, bless Harlequin's lovely heart, my contract, signed and initialed, and sealed with a kiss -- well, a prayer.

I could use the money -- for the second month in a row, one of our felines has landed in the animal hospital. And for the second month in a row, Kate wound up at the doctor's office. Neither was inexpensive!

The kitten is on the mend, and Kate, after two days out of school with Strep throat, is thrilled to be back in class. Says a bunch about my ability to entertain sick kids, huh?

So how do the rest of you guys (if there's anyone else here) celebrate finishing a big project and moving it off your desk?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of THOSE Scenes -- aaack!

OK, so it's midnight, and I've just finished up my 10 pp per night quota ... but it feels more like I've finished writing something the length of WAR AND PEACE.

Yes. I have been writing one of THOSE scenes.

I don't write gratuitous sex. It's got to move the plot forward. I also don't do behind the bedroom door very well -- as you can tell from that noise over yonder -- that's the cackle of my CPs who are rolling on the floor, laughing their butts off.

I've had all sorts of advice about how to get this scene done ... from the sly wink and the "go experiment!" all the way to someone advising me to read The Song of Solomon. I admit, that particular part of The Old Testament is pretty racy!

Other advice has fallen somewhere in the middle -- a good bottle of wine, they tell me, will help loosen up the ol' inhibitions.

Yeah. Only, here's the problem. I don't drink.

I feel like maybe I should get started on rectifying that problem ASAP -- especially after this scene.

I've got it roughed out, but I can tell you, the rest of the story will be a piece of cake compared to writing this scene. The black moment is still firmly ahead -- something I usually dread writing. Not this time. Uh-uh.

Yup. Give me any number of black moments to one of THOSE scenes.

So how do you do it? How do you write THOSE scenes? I could use some advice right about now! And if you're fresh out of advice, how about sharing the misery and your opinions? Why ARE those scenes so blasted hard to write?!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So ... Do You Like It?

See all the cool new stuff on my blog? See? Doesn't it look pretty?


Now before you guys call me vain, I have to say I had NOTHING to do with making the changes -- save for ordering them up. My buddy/CP/talented-writer Steph Bose did my redecorating! It's like when someone compliments my daughter's looks, I say, "Yep, she IS beautiful -- and I can say that, because I had nothing to do with them!"

The progress bar to the right shows the sorry truth -- I am STILL not finished with UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM. But I am further along than I thought, so yay!

Within the world of category, I have some hot news! Peggy Webb, a NEXT author, has been nominated for a Pulitzer! Yeah, a Pulitzer -- you know that thing Margaret Mitchell snagged for GONE WITH THE WIND? And the thing Harper Lee picked up for her book TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?

And, yes, Peggy Webb's nomination was for DRIVING HER CRAZY, a category paperback! I don't know her, but, WTG, Peggy!

Friday, September 08, 2006

OK, so I like fridge magnets

YOU try saving thirty gajillion drawings that your daughter churns out -- and that's just the ones she's churned out in the past ten minutes. Even if I only keep the masterpieces (which you have to do, because you know one day she's going to be famous and this here first attempt is going to be your oil under the petunias), you still need lots and lots of magnets.

Most of my supply comes from freebies that I either get in the mail or with things that I buy. I still have a Happy Kitty magnet that came with a thing of catfood back when my hubby and I were spending our first married days together.

If someone were to ask me what PR gadget would be the best bang for the buck, I'd have to say fridge magnets. Why? Because they stay there, on the fridge, sticking in your brain with a subliminal sneakiness that can't be beat. Heck, I actually feel guilty that I don't buy Happy Kitty -- what with the magnet being so useful and so faithful all these years. No matter that my current cats much prefer Kit N Kaboodle to the point they would revolt if I brought anything else home. And revolting cats -- well, they're simply revolting.

Nope, I have to confess, when writer friends give me their goodies -- bookmarks, pens, pads of paper, sticky calendars, those post-card sized versions of their covers -- I don't always treat them with the proper TLC.

The bookmarks just make me feel guilty, because (gasp! Yes, I do!) I still dog-ear pages. Hey, they're my books, I can dog-ear them if I want. The pens I write with until they run out of ink (usually pretty quickly) or I lose them (usually even quicker than the ink runs out.) The pads of paper I give to my dd -- for those art messterpieces, you know. The sticky calendars I get rid of poste-haste, because my hubby, bless his heart, WILL pick the WORST place to put those suckers, and you CANNOT get them off without removing at least one layer of paint or wallpaper. I really feel guilty about tossing the full-color post-card versions, because we all know how pricey CMYK printing is these days -- but what do you DO with them?

I'm definitely a form follows function kinda gal.

Magnets, now. They're useful -- gimme, gimme, gimme! The only thing I like better than magnets are Anna Destafanos's bookmarks, because she always attaches two pieces of Dove chocolates with them ... Yum! I'd buy her books just to encourage her to keep giving out the chocolate -- and that's TWO pieces -- one for you, and one to share. Thoughtful of her, isn't it?

Which reminds me ... I still have some Dove chocolates left over (no, not Anna's -- what, are you crazy? Those things got eaten THEN!) ... I need to have my Vitamin Ch today!

On the subject of hair

Raise your hand if you hate your hair.

Yup, me, too. When I was younger, I hated it because it was down to my butt and straight as a board, too fine to hold a curl. My mom loved it. My grandmother loved it. Try bucking those two.

My sophomore year, after I convinced my mother that I would suffer permanent psychological damage if one more football player yanked on my braid, she cut it off in layers. This was the 80s, mind you, and big hair was in. Thank God for hot rollers -- but curse 'em, too, because my curl usually all fell out by lunchtime. And that was on a good day.

So after I graduated from college, I said, "To heck with this. I'll just get it cut in a bob and wear it straight."

Only whaddya know? The dang stuff CURLED. It wouldn't STAY straight.

I progressively got it cut shorter and shorter, until it was to the point my own mother begged me to let it grow out. My hubby kept telling me to get it "just like it was when I first met you." Yeah. Right.

In a fit of insanity, I did that -- well, let it grow out longer, if not the same style. I thought I would kill me, the hair dryer or my husband, none of which was a good thing. So I chopped it all off again.

In the midst of all this, I started having trouble with finding a hairdresser. My usual hairdresser, who had been doing my hair for years, is rich enough (or content enough) to work only weekday mornings (except Wednesday, when he's off all day.) Not good for my schedule.

I won't bore you with the tears and travails I've had trying to find me someone who is good, open on Saturdays and will continue to cut hair. I'm having about as much luck as an explorer trying to find definitive evidence of Big Foot or The Loch Ness Monster.

But my hair is in dire need of a cut. Dire. I'm beginning to look like a sheep dog. Plus, we won't mention all those grays I keep seeing creep in there. Maybe they'll think they're highlights?

I am a BAD Blogger, I am!

Eeek! I haven't blogged in days, and by now probably, all three of the folks I could ambitiously call "regulars" have gone off to do something much more interesting. Yanno, like watching paint dry.

Mea culpa.

In the interim, I have been busy -- I have my final revisions done on THE BABY WAIT, and I have mailed that sucker off! Yes!

Plus, I finally have my new adapter for my laptop -- yeah! Thought I was going to have to resort to a little breaking and entering at the closest Fed Ex Ground terminal, but they at last came through for me.

I have also been busy writing on UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM -- if I hold fast, avoid getting sucked into the Internet Black Hole, I just might be able to finish it up by mid-September -- or earlier. Discipline. Discipline. That's the key. That and a laptop without a portal to the world wide web.

Of course, that last bit doesn't help my problem with being blog-challenged! I promise to do better, how about that?

Next on my to-do list (in addition to finishing UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM)

1) Get my hair cut (don't ask -- hair dressers are hard to find these days! But that's another blog) and have some pix made of me. That way, you guys can actually see what I look like. Oh, it would be good for that website I'm trying to get going, too.

2) Write a proposal for another Superromance.

3) Get that aforementioned website up and running.

4) Survive the month of September, when it seems Kate will be doing soccer games three times a week -- what gives? Why can't it be like football and be one time a week?

5) Actually get round to doing some de-cluttering. Aaack! This house of mine!

6) Get some business-card magnets printed up with my logo -- I love magnets -- much to the despair of my sister, who thinks that my fridge is going to fall over from the weight of so much stuff I have on it. But yanno, it's stronger than she thinks!

Friday, September 01, 2006


A short blog to say a few "pshews!" I'm not sure if that translates to a long sigh of relief for the rest of the country, but here in the South, that's what you say when you feel like you've dodged a bullet.

Dodged Bullet Number One: Got my revisions for THE BABY WAIT ... and they are mercifully easy. I've heard all sorts of horror tales of revision letters after a sale ... but this letter (e-mail, actually) was so sweet it could be a bedtime story. I have a tiny little to-do list, and the hardest thing for me will be printing it out and saving it to a disk or a CD.

Dodged Bullet Number Two: Got my three-paragraph synopsis in and my Art Fact Sheet done -- and reviewed ... apparently, everything looks good to my editor, for I've had no complaints.

Dodged Bullet Number Three: Kate's soccer coach has worked with her a bit -- and reassured Kate's dad that he won't let all those hooligan boys run over her (I'd like to see 'em try when she's really good and mad, but that's the feminist in me.) So Kate's dad has now decided that it's really okay for his Little Princess to tackle team sports.

Dodged Bullet Number Four: Ernesto didn't march through Georgia in a reverse Sherman attack (very sorry for the Carolinas and Virgina and all the folks getting the rain now, as well as any other victims of Ernesto), so that means we are not lighting candles and manning the kerosene lamps. You think I worry too much? Two years ago, Hurricane Frances, by then Tropical Storm Frances, left us without power for nearly a week. I now have a healthy respect for even "wimpy" tropical storms -- and an even healthier respect for modern conveniences!

That's all, folks! Just ... "pshew!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Little Princess Syndrome

All of us mommies who have little girls know about this -- well, I'm thinking that I must not be the only one. Most little girls do have their daddies wrapped around their finger, no?

I know Kate has her dad not just wrapped, but tied up with a bow. And for a guy who first thought adoption was cool because we could get a boy, he sure does love his little princess.

He tries so hard to shield her from the bumps and bruises of life. Take for instance, her first foray into team sports. Ah, soccer.

I had a feeling that I should have swapped off and let him go to the Parent's Night at her kindergarten, while I went to the soccer field. I came home to find that Kate had spent at most 15 minutes at practice before running up to her dad, tears streaming down her face.

Of course he took the little princess home, where he promptly let her sack out on the couch.

When I tried to delve deeper into this, all he could sputter was, "It was all BOYS! They had BOYS on her team."

He, who lives and breathes football and basketball and any other rough-and-tumble sport, thought soccer would be too much of a contact sport for his little Princess.

Kate, of course, was upset because of a different reason, one that I sussed out of her this morning.

"They wouldn't let me kick the ball, Mommy!"

Yup. Knowing that she'll have to compete against boys her whole life through, I'd say she needs to head right back out on the soccer field and figure out how to MAKE them let her kick the ball.

I'll bet she'll learn to do it in the best Little Princess style yet.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Need An MBA In The Business of Writing!

Yikes! This has been a week, all right! (Yes, I know it's only Tuesday!)

When I first started writing, I pictured a pubbed author's life kind of like the character Kathleen Turner played in "Romancing The Stone" (no, not the trek through the jungle with yummy Michael Douglas, but the first bit, where she's writing and sniffling all by her lonesome.) It would be a leisurely pace, writing away on my laptop, because publishing, everybody says, moves at a speed that makes glaciers look like they're on the Daytona 500.

Ha! Already this week, I have received a request for a three-paragraph synopsis of THE BABY WAIT (due this week) and a go-ahead to send a proposal on UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM, my current WIP. The synop is not due until Thursday, but I think I will get it in before that. I stayed up late last night to polish the proposal (and it's a fat proposal, since I'm sending all 189 pp of what I have so far), and get the final synop of UFRB written. It all winged its way to my lovely agent Miriam Kriss via cyberspace at midnight last night.

You see, I had to feed Kate, do kindergarten homework, and dunk her in the tub (plus copious amounts of story time) before I could get settled down on everything. Sleep? Who needs sleep? It's vastly over-rated.


Those are just my OFFICIAL assignments. Other stuff includes website worries -- why, oh, why didn't I tackle that one earlier? And then there's the prospect that my revisions for THE BABY WAIT are soon arriving. Plus, I dearly want to finish this WIP I'm on ...

You see ... (shame-faced), I have ANOTHER story idea.

That racket in the background? Well, that's my poor, long-suffering dh who is groaning loudly. As he says, "It's always another story, another deadline."

Maybe things will settle down soon, and I'll do better about blogging. No, I'll make that a promise -- I'll blog more regularly -- one day, soon, very soon. Just as soon as I get through this deadline.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Final Exam On My Book

We had horrific thunderstorms last night, complete with flashflood warnings and a torrent of rain that would make Noah's ark feel a little uneasy (if arcs could feel, of course!). So no internet last night, and no writing and no blogging. Sigh. I will have to catch up tonight.

I was all set to blog, too, and knew what I wanted to write about: I had to take a final exam on my very own book. Yikes!

When I sold, my editor told me we'd have to rush on the cover art, but I didn't know what "rush" meant. It meant that I was given my deadline for my Art Fact Sheet even before the official title had been settled (though that came quite soon after, thank goodness!)

The Art Fact Sheet is a series of questions about your book that Harlequin's cover artists use to come up with your very own cover. The cover is frequently in process before the book goes into print, I understand, so artists need to know a little bit about the book before they pick up their paint brush (or computer mouse, more likely in this day and age!)

I peeked at it the first day they sent me the info. Truly, it scared the be-jeebies out of me! Man! They expected me to answer all these questions? Gulp.

You'd think I would readily know the answers to questions about a book I've revised three times, but, ahem, no. I know how the characters feel. I know the obstacles they overcome. I know the way they typically respond to whatever curve balls life throws at them.

But eye color? And did my heroine's hair match the "short but floppy" or the "short and curly" better? Or maybe it was really short and wavy? I had to go back and look at how old she was in the book before I could plug in her age. My own book! I had to look!

Questions like that were the easy ones. They also had some tough "essay" type questions about conflicts and turning points and themes. Plus you had to describe up to three scenes that you would suggest for the cover. Ultimately they decide what goes on it -- they're the experts in marketing, after all.

I hope I have it all done right. I know I felt a huge load off me when I finally e-mailed the editorial assistant and told her it was done. I haven't felt that way since I finished a final in my upper level Lit courses in college!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A well-rounded diet

My family can attest to the fact that we didn't own a book that I haven't read -- growing up, I read everything, including Webster's. I know. I'm a complete geek, and even more geeky for confessing it. But I used to open that book on rainy days, when I couldn't find anything else in the house worth re-reading for the second or third or fourth time -- and we had lots and lots of books.

Where was I? Oh, rainy days and Websters. I'd run my fat little finger down that column of tiny print, marveling that there were so many different ways to say the same thing -- and yet, not quite, for each had its own little meaning and connotation.

I'll go ahead and admit that I got on a Hemingway kick when I was in high school, something that concerned my English teacher to no end. Did I really, really GET it? she wondered.

At the same time I devoured Hemingway, I was also reading things my teachers probably considered "junk." Rex Stout. Catherine Cookson. Robin Cook. Phyllis Whitney. Any Harlequin Romance I could get my hands on. (No, these writers didn't write junk, but you know how librarians and English teachers can get, right? Heck, I was an English prof myself, so I know we can get uppity.)

I didn't limit myself to "adult" literature, either. I went back and read all sorts of "children's" literature, books that hadn't appealed to me when I was younger: ALICE IN WONDERLAND, LITTLE WOMEN (still one of my faves), and even THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS.

To this day, I'm still an eclectic reader -- lots of biographies and mysteries and thrillers -- oh, and romance, of course. Lately, I've been enjoying Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series ( with my daughter -- it's great writing, and I love the little scamp she's created.

The point of all this? The point, I guess, is that I'm glad I never fell into the trap of believing that "reading should be good for you." Tess Gerritsen put it so well recently in her blog entry called Legume Literature. People who are determined to read high-brow stuff -- when high-brow stuff really doesn't move them -- are making themselves miserable, and in the process not getting the true payoff for reading.

So ... With my little one, I do what my mom did for me: I let her read whatever interests her. If it's a non-fiction book about snakes, well, I'll squirm but I'll keep turning those pages. If it's more June B. Jones, that's great, too! As long as she's reading!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cool Cat

I am about to confess to something that would make millions of people say, "Yech!" Heck, I even said, "Yech!" myself. So why should I fuss about anyone else's agreeing with my opinion?

In addition to the recently "fixed" Max (who seems just as manly as ever, or at least as interested in warning off other strays from his territory), we are the proud possessors of another kitten, a flame-point Siamese my daughter dubbed Pete.

If you don't know what a flame-point is, don't feel like the Lone Ranger; I didn't either. Picture a white short-haired cat with golden-brown ears and paws and tail. He looks like he's been stuck under a broiler for just a bit and he's crisped at the edges.

Knowing Pete, he'd waltz right into that broiler. He cannot resist an open door. He'll go in my kitchen cabinets, my closets, behind service panels -- if it's a crack that's as wide as his whiskers, he's in there.

Against dark portals, he fairly glows, so it's no big deal to swish him back out of the forbidden opening.

Ah, but it gets complicated when he attempts light-colored doorways.

Like my fridge, for instance.

Yup, that's right. The other night, my better half was watching television, while I was curled up with my laptop. Kate was in bed. All of a sudden, my dh heard Pete meowing.

He'd heard that meow -- that was a, "Get me outta here!" meow. So off he went, opening cabinet doors and closet doors and peeking into every corner he could think Pete might have been.

When all stones (or so he thought) had been turned, with no little broiled-coconut colored kitten stepping out, my dh decided he'd open the fridge.

Out popped Pete, a little chilled, but no worse for the wear.

You'd think a chilled kitten would fear the fridge, but not so. Pete's still intrigued by the big food box. We just know now to keep our feet in continuous motion so we can sweep away any of his attempts to be a cool cat again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My own little clothes pony

I came to motherhood late -- and with zilch hands-on practice. I'd never even held a baby until I held Kate. Part of that was I was afraid I wouldn't want to let go. Part of it was sheer, unmitigated terror. Strange, I know, to have the twin emotions of terror and yearning in response to the same thing.

Suffice it to say, I've had loads of surprises along the way. For turning out to be as good as I am, Kate can thank all the good and sensible moms I know who have steered me right.

One of those surprises has been Kate's fascination with clothes. The child has picked out her outfits since she was 18 months old -- back when I thought it would be a good thing to lay out two different ones and let her choose. I had no idea she really was choosing until I kept pulling out this cute little pink striped outfit and she kept picking the alternative. One day I tried to put said pink outfit on her -- only to get her visceral, "Me no wike!"

Fast forward. She's five. She's in kindergarten, with its PE and climbing equipment and slides and playgrounds. Skirts and flipflops are out, so we have to make do with her shorts wardrobe -- such as it is.

This morning, the child hornswoggled me into letting her change shorts not once, not twice, not three times -- but four . She finally got a pair that she liked -- while I stood there in no makeup, dressed in my ratty bathrobe, hearing the clock tick. And it's not like I didn't lay out clothes the night before.

But my bad. I didn't let Kate choose. Oh, man. I've got to get better at this mothering business.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A bit of progress

Well, I'm in proud possession of another chapter of UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM, my current WIP. (Which is why I didn't blog last night -- I was all written out.) My usual pace is 10 pages a night -- which is also my usual chapter length, too. But what with school starting and The Call and the flurry of activity which has resulted from that, I've been more than a little ADD lately.

It was nice to get to the end of a chapter, and I know that eventually I'll be able to do that every night again. I feel more confident now about where this manuscriptis going.

I should really give myself a break. I know that. I've had a tumultous few weeks -- the RWA conference in July, The Call the next week, Kate's first day of kindergarten, our cat getting hurt. It's all been a bit much. And I don't do well with "a bit much" patches.

Things (if not my house) are getting back to normal (and my dear husband would say that the house is very much normal, if not neat, LOL). I'm finally mostly unpacked from conference and my editor hasn't called me back saying, "BIG JOKE! BIG, BIG JOKE!" Kate is doing well in school -- and Max is back home from the vet. He is not holding his, uhm, procedure against me, instead climbing up in my lap, turning on the purr motor and making me feel incredibly guilty.

And I've got a chapter done. Tonight, I'll write one more chapter. And the night after that, another chapter. Before I know it, I'll be typing THE END.

Which, besides "I love you!" or "Congratulations, you're the new Publisher's Clearinghouse winner!" or "I'd like to buy your book," are the most beautiful words in the English language.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's Official!

I have official word! My book has a name -- THE BABY WAIT, news my editor sent me via e-mail -- along with a heads-up that revisions should be winging my way shortly. That news certainly has lit a fire under me to get this current Work In Progress (WIP) finished.

It's so nice to be able to refer to my upcoming book with a real, live, definitive name! It will take some getting used to in order to think of it as anything but THE RED THREAD, but I had an idea from the get-go that my own working title was toast.

For those of you not familiar with the publishing process, authors have very little control over most everything once the final draft hits the editor's desk: the title, the cover, the back cover copy -- all of that is carefully engineered by The Powers That Be to generate book sales. I defer to those Powers That Be, as they are in the business of selling books. Me? I just write 'em!

On the home front, the Max report looks good. Max is doing very well, according to the vet, and my former tom will come home that new non-man tomorrow. Kate is quite excited about the prospect, though we've warned her that he probably won't feel up to a whole lot of holding. I just hope the rascal doesn't think we've abandoned him!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Repellent Weekend

I got the grand sum total of eight pages written this weekend, so I am well and truly behind on my self-imposed deadline for UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM -- which means I'm well and truly behind on my other self-imposed deadline for OLD GLORY.

But, teacher, I have an excuse, really, I do!

Friday evening, while I was playing around with website design ideas, and Kate was playing in her room with a friend of ours watching out for her, she got into the insect repellent -- Family Off, the Skintastic version?

Well, Kate decided she would spray down her room with the stuff -- only she forgot to check the direction of the nozzle on the spray. It happens -- I did it myself when I was her age. My spray of choice was the aerosol static clean eliminator.

Having experienced such a crisis first-hand, I knew what I had to do: get that girl's head under the water and wash out that eye for 15 minutes. Only, things didn't go to plan: picture Kate screaming "No 'mergency room! NO 'mergency room!" Picture our friend shouting that what was really needed was for us to take her out to the yard and use a water hose. That of course induced more screaming from Kate.

Fifteen minutes later, with me soaked and Kate soaked, I finally felt confident enough to call the ER and the poison control hotline. The guy on the poison control hotline was a peach -- he seemed quite impressed that I'd actually made a five-year-old cooperate with an eye-flushing.

Assured that I had done all I could do, I collapsed into a chair, hugged my little one until her ribs creaked in protest ... and ordered a pizza. No way could I cook after that adrenaline buzz wore off.

Our pizza was interrupted when our tomcat Max got into a free-for-all with a stray. He seemed no worse for wear when we got him in.

The next morning, both Kate and Max showed battle scars: Kate's eye was swollen and Max was limping on a leg that was double in size. So off to the pediatrician and vet we went, to their respective Saturday clinics.

Kate's doctor laughed at me when he saw her eye -- after the wait for our turn with him, Kate's eye had no visible swelling. The vet, on the other hand, did not laugh -- Max was the proud possessor of the highest feline fever the vet had ever seen.

Picture Kate holding onto the counter by her fingernails as I pulled her away from her beloved cat ... Max is now much improved after spending a few days recuperating, and when he comes back, let's just say he will be a brand new man -- or as my editor so succinctly put it -- a brand new non-man!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sign of the Times

My hubby can be a sweetie -- and completely surprise me sometimes! Like yesterday, when Kate and I left open house and drove down Main Street ... there it was, big as life, a rental sign he'd put on display in a friend's front lawn.

On one side, he'd spelled out, "Congratulations, Cynthia Reese!"

And on the other, he'd wished good luck to Kate on her upcoming first day of Kindergarten.

It was definitely an awwww moment!

He gets impatient at times, with my seeming permanent attachment to my laptop and my undeniable addiction to the internet and the loops and boards I'm a part of (JUST a few dozen!) He worried about me this past year and a half, worried about my single-minded focus on writing. After all, I'd given up Law & Order AND CSI (and all their subsequent mutations) to pursue this -- this was a serious commitment!

He didn't want to be a wet blanket -- but he also didn't want to see me chasing after a pipe dream. My guy is a definite here-and-now kind of guy.

And speaking of Kate's Kindergarten Debut ... she did wonderfully ... but Mommy cried. I did manage to hide my tears until I was out the classroom door. This afternoon after school, she told me, "You know, I think I might go back there!"

Glad to hear that -- since tomorrow is another school day!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Paroxysms of Paranoia

Okay, so I get the good news about my book on Friday. I should be deliriously happy, right? Floating on air?

But for the longest time, a lead balloon kept me tethered to the ground. I kept thinking ... What if you got the release date wrong? Wouldn't that be soo embarrassing?

I looked at those notes I scribbled during The Call a million times. Each time I looked, the ink had not changed. It still said, in blue ballpoint, April 2007.

Had to be a mistake. I have writer friends who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a slot. So it must have been my wishful thinking or complete delusion or auditory hallucinations.

And ... ahem, if I got that wrong, what if I'd gotten the whole deal wrong?

I was ordered by more than one critique partner to get hold of myself and calm down. So, I screwed up my courage and I e-mailed my editor, and I asked the stupid question.

Luckily my editor knows a few things about the phenomenon of Book Brain. She was hugely gracious about it. Yup, the book is to be released in April of 2007. I even have my number! Wow! No official title yet, but that will come.

My dh is learning a few things about Book Brain, too. I attribute, gratefully, to a whole host of my shortcomings here lately to Book Brain: forgetting to register my five-year-old for her ballet class; forgetting to buy milk when we were down to droplets; forgetting to double-check my day-job's pay stub to see if there were any errors on my direct deposit. He's pretty accommodating now, but I have a feeling he's thinking the same things my critique partners have told me.

Get hold of yourself and calm down!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Truth About Ladybugs

It occurred to me that perhaps I should explain about the ladybug in my banner.

I've always liked ladybugs -- what's not to like, right? They don't bite, spray or sting, which is the kind of bug you're hard-pressed to find in south Georgia where I live.

But I didn't love ladybugs until my dh and I were in midst of The Paperchase and The Wait for our daughter Kate. Kate was born in China, and we adopted her when she was 8 months old -- our Wait lasted about 18 months, so we were praying for her even before she was born.

When you don't have morning sickness or even a due date you can count on, people come up with some awfully strange superstitions. Somehow, some way, the folks on the APC (adoptive parents of Chinese children) Yahoo group came up with the idea that every time you saw a ladybug, referrals would soon follow -- somewhere, and soon, a mom would get The Call -- she would find out who and where her baby was.

So ladybugs became our mascot of sorts -- and to this day, when I see them, I smile and think, "Referrals!"

It's only fitting, since the book that garnered me another sort of The Call is about a couple going through their Wait for a baby from China, that I use ladybugs here, too.

So if you see a ladybug ... know that somewhere, and soon, some happy mom will get The Call that will change her life forever.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting The Snail To The Ark

One of my mantras is a quote from Charles Spurgeon: "Perseverance is what got the snail to the ark." It's a great motivator, right up there with, "The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time."

And it's so true. Years ago, I read a book (can't remember the title) about getting organized in a week or ten days. As a hopelessly recovering disorganized person, I am drawn to books like that, and this one was no different. It talked about your priorities and your dreams, and it said something magical that stuck with me: do one thing toward your dream each and every day, and your dream can't help but come true.

The first dream I had was my house, and I'd been holding onto that dream when I started reading the book on organization. I put that book down, and I called an architect. In the weeks that followed, my dh and I went shopping for land. A year or so later, we wound up not building the house we originally had planned, instead moving an old house that we got for a bargain. But if I hadn't been prepared, that opportunity would have slipped away.

The second dream I had was for my daughter. We adopted her from China, and it involved a long, long process. But I did one thing each and every day. It might have been something really small -- or it might have been a great big accomplishment. No matter, it chipped away at the barriers between us, and sooner than I could imagine, she was placed in my arms.

The third dream? Well, you guessed it! It was writing and selling a book. I tackled that dream in the same way. Each day, I did something that I could do toward my goal. It might have been writing (I'm a big believer in writing every day on a project), or it could have been studying the market, or making connections with other writers so that I wouldn't feel so alone.

Those other writer friends were crucial. In this business, there are times you get down, times when you don't feel like you can go on. The key, though, is to keep plugging along ... and you, too, will get to the ark, right alongside of the snail.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hello, World!

This is a pretty big step for a technologically-challenged gal such as myself, starting a blog. I've resisted for some time now, even though lots of my writer friends have blogs to which I'm hopelessly addicted.

But Friday brought news that made me realize I had to disengage myself from the cabbage roses in the wallpaper ... big news!


Yes, the wonderful call from a wonderful editor, telling me that -- gasp -- Harlequin Superromance wants to buy my book!

I was supposed to get The Call Thursday -- my editor (oh, how I love saying that! Please forgive me!) called me twice, only to catch me in a meeting with my phone's ringer not on. So when I realized that it was Harlequin on my caller ID, I screwed up my courage and I called her back the next morning.

My book, tenatively titled THE BABY WAIT, will hit the shelves April 2007 -- a scant few months from now. I am beginning to realize that everyone who told me to get a website and get a blog and get some ideas going was, ahem, right.

Thanks to a very dear friend of mine for helping me set this up -- I told you I was technologically challenged!

As far as what happens next on the road to publication, your guess is as good as mine. It should be an adventure -- one that I would not miss for anything!