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!"