Saturday, December 31, 2005


The last honest-to-goodness New Year’s Resolution I made was this: I will never make another New Year’s Resolution.

It’s the only one I’ve ever stuck to.

That’s why I made it. I’d spent a number of years resolving to do things that, if I couldn’t do them throughout the year, I certainly wasn’t going to start on January 1st with any real determination. Resolving to lose weight, exercise more, save more money, be more organized – pfft. None of it ever worked. So I made my final resolution a few years ago and I’ve been quite happy ever since.

Now, instead of resolutions, I look at what I’ve accomplished in the previous year and think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. It doesn’t mean I won’t make new goals as the year progresses and it’s a loose guideline. Nothing is carved in stone.

This year I was very fortunate to have finally gotten my writing career off the ground. It’s been a year of changes during which I did manage to become more organized, and made an effort to save more money. I wrote, I submitted, I became a professional author and I’m proud of that.

In 2006, my un-resolution, is to continue with the goal in mind of creating the career I’ve always wanted. In addition, I plan to continue my efforts to become more organized and to save more money and reduce that out-of-control feeling I often have when it comes to my financial status and the housework. I un-resolve to work steadily and not let my new open schedule become an excuse to goof off. I’d like to un-resolve to read more, but I doubt I’ll find the time, and I probably won’t develop any new hobbies either. I’ve got quite enough for now.

My best un-resolution is to take everything as it comes and go with the flow. The calmer I am, the better I deal with problems, so if I don’t set myself up to fail by making resolutions I can’t keep, the less likely I will be to feel stressed.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope that you stick to your resolutions or un-resolutions as the case may be and attain your goals for 2006.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


I thought I’d lift my head from an editing frenzy and take a break to write about an interesting trend.

For Christmas my daughter received a Nintendo DS and the new game program called Nintendogs. This game allows you to ‘purchase’ a virtual puppy and train it, feed it, play with it, and pick up after it when it poops. My daughter chose a Golden Retriever and she’s been talking to it all day. The game allows a voice interface so you can call your puppy and give it voice commands.

It’s really cute. We’ve been oohing and aahing over the pudgy little ball of fur all day. What amazes me is not that this would be a major big deal for a kid, but that a child who owns a real dog would have so much fun playing with virtual pet.

This new game brought to mind the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the inspiration for the movie, Blade Runner.

In Blade Runner/Androids as I recall [it’s been a while since I read it] there were very few live animals left on earth and people were given android pets such as dogs, cats, even insects, to care for in place of living animals. I wonder if someday we will find that our children will respond more to their electric pets than real ones. I wonder if children of the future will beg their parents for virtual puppies – or what the heck, maybe virtual ponies! instead of real ones since a virtual pet won’t wake you up in the middle of the night howling for company or standing on your spleen. You won’t have to stumble out into zero degree whether to walk your electronic puppy or fumble for the can opener at 5:00 am to appease a virtual cat. Pet allergies won’t be a problem and the landlord won’t need to be kept in the dark about the source of that strange meowing that goes on while you’re at work.

I’ll be interested to see where this trend leads. While I’m enjoying my daughter’s virtual puppy, I certainly hope that several decades from now I won’t be cooing to a virtual grandchild that she keeps in her pocket and plugs in at night to recharge.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Zen Clam

I’m no typist. I’ve always struggled with getting words on paper – or rather on cyber paper - not so much because I can’t think of what to say, but because my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts.

I was editing chapter ten of my WIP this evening and came across this little gem:
“…they drew her in and destroyed the Zen clam she’d attempted to create…”

I meant Zen CALM, but my fingers apparently weren’t paying attention. Some typos are just plain embarrassing and others, you get a good laugh out of, assuming you catch them before you mail something off to an editor or an agent. This one, I think has a bit of potential.

Everyone should have a Zen Clam I think. Imagine a little seashell you could place on your desk that spends most of its time clamped tightly shut like Pandora’s Box. But when you open it, instead of a pearl, you find inside it that perfect balance, that ticket to the ‘ZONE’ that lets things just happen exactly the way they should happen with little conscious effort on your part. I could make millions marketing the Desk Top Zen Clam. I think I’ll get started right now.

Have you ever made a typo like that?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays

To all my readers, editors, publishers, fellow Divas, crit partners, friends and family:

I'd like to wish you all

Merry Christmas

and a wonderful Holiday Season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

News Flash: Change your socks!

Rant Mode: ON

Yesterday morning I had a minor meltdown while listening to the news. There’s a reason why I avoid televised newscasts and this is it.

Because I live in the NY-NJ Metropolitan area, the current Transit Workers Strike is big news. It doesn’t effect me personally, but a large portion of people living in Bergen County commute to NY and a strike makes their day just that much harder.

The meltdown was not caused by the strike itself, but by the inane necessity of newscasters to report unnecessary and uninteresting things just to fill up their allotted time on screen. I began to notice this tendency to report uselessness around the end of 1999 when Y2K had everyone running for the hills. The daily newspaper published a running list of things to do to prepare for the upcoming emergency when it was believed all computers would instantly stop working because they would not be able to understand that 00 came after 99 in a two-digit date field. The world as we knew it was about to end and we all needed to be prepared for a sudden trip back to the Stone Age. The media helped prepare us by giving us lists of things to do and to pack and to have on hand to help us survive the nightmare when our ATMs, our home PCs and even our cars ceased to function. I understood the necessity of warning people to have some cash on hand in case they could not get money out of their bank for a few days but the topper – the one that sent me over the edge - was the list that explained to people how to keep their food safe from bears.

I kid you not.

Bears. Because apparently, as soon as those computers shut off, all the wildlife was going to turn on us and come rampaging into town to pillage our dwindling supplies of beef jerky and bottled water.

Nothing has changed. During the terror alerts that have occurred every few months since 9/11, the media has reminded us all to have gas masks on hand, water proof matches and plenty of band-aids. I suppose they think it makes people feel safer, but I believe it just adds to the panic and reminds the public that the media thinks of us as total morons.

Case in point: this morning when a well-meaning newscaster began advising commuters on what to do should they find themselves having to walk to work in Manhattan. The first thing on his list was: Have a good breakfast.

That’s when I lost it. I mean, really. People in a major city have just been told their bus or train ride to work is nothing but a fantasy. What do they need to do now? How about telling them about alternative modes of transportation? How about giving them carpooling info, or traffic reports? No. The crack news team who put this report together felt that people needed to be reminded to eat before they left home for what could be a long, cold walk to the office.


It still irks me just thinking about it. I suppose in that view point, the next thing on the reporter’s list should have been: “Be sure to brush your teeth and pack some extra dental floss in case you have sesame seeds on your cheeseburger bun at lunch. Assuming you make it to lunch since it’ll take you all morning just to get to work.” Maybe he should have advised people to pack a lunch, and a snack, and maybe a thermos of hot coffee, but not too hot, lest they burn themselves – and that would lead to a list of precautions to take before drinking hot liquids. I’m surprised he didn’t remind people to double knot their shoelaces to prevent trip and fall accidents.

The media has often been called Big Brother, but I think we should call it Mommy from now on. It certainly treats us all like we’re infants who cannot think for ourselves.

So on that note: Today’s public service announcement: Change your socks every day. It will make your feet feel better, especially if you have to walk to work.

Rant Mode: OFF

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Spirit of the Holidays

All year long, I get tons of mail from various charities soliciting for donations. Now and then I send something, which accomplishes only one thing – gets them to send me more mail. I’ve often thought charities simply fish for donations so they can pay the postage for all that mail they send out.

However, in the spirit of the holiday I thought I might take a moment to talk about a charity I think deserves a little more than a cursory glance.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital caught my attention not only because they are dedicated to helping children afflicted with life threatening and incurable illnesses, but because they don’t ask for payment above what’s covered by insurance and will treat patients without insurance regardless of their ability to pay.

In an era when greedy insurance companies and poorly run medical facilities are bleeding us dry and hardworking, tax paying Americans increasingly can’t afford health care, the prospect of having a child with a life threatening illness is more frightening than terrorism. [In fact, the insurance industry IS a form of terrorism, as far as I’m concerned, but I must remind myself this isn’t a political blog.] An organization that will provide exorbitantly expensive medical care and not have their eye on the bottom line profit, definitely deserves my support.

This isn’t a plea for donations. Like all charitable organizations, St. Jude’s does enough of that for themselves. This is merely a PSA to say if you’re looking for a place make a donation in the spirit of the holiday or any time of year, the philosophy of the Children’s Research Hospital, in my humble opinion, makes them a good place to start.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The other day DH and I took the kids to see The Chronicles of Narnia and while we were watching those annoying video ads they show in theaters these days to keep people occupied and get their minds off the fact that they’ve just spent a car payment at the concession stand, we saw an ad for 1-888-ELF-POOP.

The ad had no explanation other than, IF YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING.

Of course we all thought the name alone was hilarious but I had to wonder why anyone would want ELF POOP as a gift. I can think of a few people I know who deserve some type of POOP for Christmas, but I don’t know if I’d actually have the constitution to order some-even for the naughtiest people on my list.

To make a long story short, a few days later, my husband broke down and dialed the number and we had the best laugh. It turns out 1-888-ELF-POOP [toll free, by the way so don’t get nervous] is an advertisement for Virgin Mobil Phones. They went all out with a complete telephone answering service and a website at complete with some very funny songs and videos. We laughed ourselves sick over a few of these little ditties.

The reason I really like this ad isn’t because I’m a phone fan, or because I want to buy cell phones for everyone on my list this year, but because it’s so damn politically incorrect.

The Virgin Mobil people poke fun at everybody and manage to make customers curious about their products while [probably inadvertently] reminding us of two things: One, Chrismahanakwanzakah, or whatever holiday you celebrate, has become excessively commercial, but we all knew that. And two, that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Of course there are people who are offended by 1-888-ELF-POOP – because there’s always somebody who can’t take a joke. If you’re not easily offended, give ELF-POOP a call. It won’t help you with your holiday shopping, unless you really do want to buy cell phones for everyone on your shopping list, but it will lighten your load a bit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Slush Pile of Life

Last night I was thinking about the slush pile. For an editor, that probably signifies a crate or teetering stack of unsolicited manuscripts waiting for a few spare minutes of the editor’s time. This is a project that gets done in 5-minute bursts during a boring lunch hour or a rainy Saturday. . .I don’t know for sure. I’m just guessing, but I think that about covers it.

The slush pile is something you tackle when you’ve tackled everything else, or when you don’t feel like tackling anything else, when you get a break, or when you need a break or when the guilt of seeing something left undone for so long overwhelms you.

I realized as I contemplated a manuscript I wrote that surely resides in an editor’s slush pile waiting for the day when she has that spare minute to look it over, or that day when I drum up the courage to submit it elsewhere even though I haven’t had an official rejection on it yet, that everyone has a slush pile.

I have a literary slush pile of course – a collection of half finished manuscripts that for whatever reason ceased to ring my bell. I have a reading slush pile, the books in the shopping bags in the bottom of my closet that I will get to read only when there is nothing brand new and infinitely more interesting on the top of the pile.

I have a project slush pile too – those stacks of old photographs that would make fabulous scrapbook pages one day when I feel like sorting through colored paper and stickers and making something cute to put in an album. I have completed quilt tops that need hours of painstaking stitching to turn them into usable blankets or wall hangings. I have junk draws that need to be sorted and closets that need to be weeded. I also have the procrastination slush pile and this is the worst one – this is made up those things I should do, that really need to be done, but that I hate to do, or just find annoying and therefore will look for any excuse to put them off. There’s that visit to the dental hygienist, the call to the people who clean out the air ducts, the painting of the bathroom radiator cover, none of which are life or death, all of which are necessary in the long run, better off done than not done but ugh. . .I just don’t feel like doing them.

One of these days I will dedicate some time to tackling my slush pile, as any editor might do as well. Maybe I’ll get lucky, as an editor might, and uncover a gem, hit the lottery and discover a hidden a bestseller – maybe I’ll just discover whiter teeth, cleaner air conditioning and a better looking radiator cover.

One of these days, but today isn’t it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I've been Tagged

Fifteen things you didn't know . . . and were afraid to ask:

1. I talk to myself . . .a lot. That may be a function of being a writer, though I talk less to my characters than I do myself.

2. My favorite Christmas gift is a new nightshirt or pajamas. There’s something wonderful about going to sleep on Christmas night in a brand new pair of pajamas.

3. Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10, I also wanted to be a private investigator. I know the reality of the job is a lot less glamorous than it's portrayed on TV, but it still always attracted me.

4. I believe in reincarnation and I’m collecting information on my own past lives. So far I have a little bit of data on three.

5. I can’t resist chocolate desserts. If I’m eating out and something on the dessert menu that isn’t chocolate looks good to me, I’ll still cave and take the chocolate dessert. It’s an addiction.

6. I once ate chocolate cheese. And I liked it.

7. I hate getting to the movies late. I once made my date take me home because we didn’t make it to the movie theater before the movie started. [Previews don’t count.]

8. The worst smell in the world is the smell of burnt popcorn. It gives me a headache immediately.

9. My favorite color is purple. I always wanted a purple car [back when only pimps drove them.] Now that I could get a purple car, I don’t want one.

10. I wear contact lenses and I couldn’t live without them. If I had to go back to wearing glasses full time, I’d be utterly lost and very uncomfortable.

11. I don’t have pierced ears because I’m a big chicken. My husband has offered to buy me diamond earrings if I get my ears pierced and I turned him down.

12. I’m afraid of clowns. Not phobia-afraid, but I avoid them if at all possible.

13. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of spiders.

14. If I could become any animal, I would be a bird because I’d love to be able to fly without fear of falling.

15. My dream vacation spot is a tropical island with miles of beaches to explore. [Preferably if I didn't have to fly to get there - or take a boat.]

Sunday, December 11, 2005


This weekend I made progress in the form of four Hefty bags full of garbage. I cleaned the pantry closet, my dresser, the den closet and the entire den. I found things I didn’t know I had. I found things I should have thrown away years ago and created new space to store things that I will probably throw away in the future.

Problem: Before, I found all the clutter distracting. I’d stop writing and gaze at the piles of mess and think, Gee, I should do something about this. I should dust. I should sort papers, I should. . .

Now, I’m distracted by all the empty space. I find myself gazing at the dust free desk, the large empty space on the floor that used to be occupied by boxes of paper and stacks of books, and admiring how nice it all looks. There’s no dust on my lampshade [in lieu of a vacuum attachment, a lint brush works pretty well in dusting lampshades, btw]. There’s only one stack of “items in progress” on my desk. There’s nothing to trip over, except the dog’s bone, which I found buried behind a mountain of my stuff. The dog, btw, is not impressed. He never liked that bone much anyway.

I think the point is, no matter what I do, it’s easier to be distracted than to be focused. I did work on my WIP today, and I plan to work some more later, but I spent a lot more time looking at the little dish of stones I’m using as a place holder until I get my goldfish.

Maybe once I get used to all this clean I’ll be able to settle down and concentrate. Right now all I want to do is wallow in the dust-freeness of my office.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Piece of Cake

Why do some people think writing a book is easy?

I’ve wanted to be a writer pretty much my whole life. I’ve written stories since I was ten years old and I have never once thought or said or assumed that it was a piece of cake. There are times when it’s not so hard to put words on paper, and times when it’s a lot like bleeding on cue, but it’s never a snap.

I complain because lately I’ve taken some flack by non-writers for not having produced a mountain of prose in the short time I’ve been only partially employed. I ‘quit’ my day job at the end of October [though I still go into the office once or twice a week]. I can’t complain about the arrangement though it’s not exactly what I had in mind when I decided to throw all caution to the wind and become a ‘full-time writer.’

I explained to my co-workers that I would be writing full-time now, pursuing my lifelong dream and, surprisingly, they accepted that plan enthusiastically. So of course after six weeks of showing my face in the office just once in a while, they’ve been asking me how it’s going. I told the truth. I’ve got nine chapters of my WIP completed.

“Nine chapters?! That’s all!?” Someone exclaimed.

Uh. Yeah.

I wanted to say, “How many chapters do you have done on YOUR fourth novel? Eh?” But I didn’t. I made some lame mumblings about that being actually pretty good and wandered off to the copy room to stew. Like it’s easy to write nine chapters of a novel. I can’t imagine the caterwauling I’d hear if I told them how long it takes me to write a five-page synopsis. They’d never understand. I’m a writer, after all. I ditched my ‘real’ job to stay home and tickle my computer keys all day – so why don’t I have a million words or more under my belt like J.K. Rawling? How hard could it be, right?

Right. I’m off to try something easier than writing – like transforming lead into gold or squeezing blood from a stone. See ya’ later.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

When inspiration strikes back

I spent a restless night plotting a new story and woke up with that burning need to start putting things down on paper. I’m partially elated at having a new idea, and also severely frustrated that the WIPs I’m supposed to be working on took the back burner today.

That’s how my muse works. I always recall the words of Yoda to Luke Skywalker in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ when the Jedi Master was admonishing Luke for always looking to something else and never having his mind on the task at hand. According to Yoda, that was why Luke failed, because he refused to concentrate on one thing, especially when that one thing seemed pointless to him, like levitating rocks or carrying Yoda around on his back all day.

I know my WIPs aren’t pointless [though there’s always that nagging fear at the back of my mind]. But nevertheless I seem to get a wealth of new ideas when I’m in the middle of something else. These ideas burn holes in my gray matter until I put them down on paper. Today 5000 words rolled out on the story idea that kept me awake. Hopefully that’s enough to keep the flames at bay until I have the time to devote to this new idea.

In the mean time, it’s back to carrying a Jedi Master through the swamp all day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I got my cover art for my upcoming Amber Quill story, Ken’Ja:
Check out Tige [like Tiger without the R]. Intense, isn’t he? I can’t wait for January. The Starlight Serenade anthology is going to have some great stories in it. I can’t wait to read them all!

For more info on Ken’ja check out my website page. Here’s a little secret I just discovered – there is no working link to this page on my home page! Yikes! I will correct that, but in the mean time, this is the only place you can get more info about Ken’ja!

In other news...

I found the missing cheese grater. The black hole deposited it back in the cabinet where it belonged, stuck beside the bottom drawer that slides out like a little shelf. It’s not like I didn’t look under there a dozen times. Okay, maybe half a dozen.

Saves me $5.99 to buy a new one.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Suddenly it all seems worthwhile...

Today was a bust writing wise. A lot of household chores got in the way – and while I cleaned out that pesky linen closet, finished the laundry [miracles do happen] and crafted an award winning grocery list – I got no writing done.

I thought about writing a lot. I thought about all the stories I’d like to be working on and none of the stories I AM working on. I made book marks, I made dinner, I made lunch, I made the bed. Other than that I made no headway in my chosen profession.

What’s my motto? Make progress every day? How about every other day?

A little while ago I climbed up the stairs from the basement where I’ve got a chair situated between two work tables so I have access to book marks and Christmas present wrapping at the same time, and I plunked down to check my e-mail and what did I find?

A wonderful note from a reader in who just finished one of my books and thoroughly enjoyed it. She liked it enough to sit right down and tell me about it.

Aside from the obvious ego boost, it’s stuff like this that smoothes over the rough days. Back when I was writing fan fiction I got e-mail from people who enjoyed my work and I loved that – but those stories were free. The people who read them had tons of material to choose from and the only limitation was the time it took to actually read everything they wanted to read. Now readers actually have to pay for my work…so the compliment is doubled. Here’s someone who plunked down money to get my story, and not only felt it was worth the time it took to read it, but that it was worth having to pay for it, and good enough to take the time to comment to me personally about it.

That makes all the head banging worthwhile. Too bad I can't get this feeling when it comes to food shopping and vacuuming the living room.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Contemplative Vista - Winter

I didn’t take this one. It’s a sample picture from my PC, but I never knew I had it before I went looking for something to put up.

I love winter. I will deny that statement in a month or so after I’ve spent an hour digging my car out of the snow, but for now, on a blustery Friday with fluffy gray clouds threatening to dump winter all over the tri-state area, I can say with much certainty that I really do prefer winter to summer.

Part of the reason is, I like to hibernate. I like hanging out inside. That’s bad, I know. I have a huge back yard and each year I spend less time in it. I feel guilty about not liking to go outside as much as I used to and I still give my DH grief about his own preference for indoor activities as opposed to outdoor. Maybe it stems from the fact that the outdoors seem not to like me anymore.

I hate the heat. I burn easily. I can’t stand brilliant sunlight, [sensitive eyes], I have a brown thumb. My attempts at gardening turn out more like sadistic science experiments with plants. My war on weeds is somewhat of a joke and I despise bugs. As soon as spring begins each year, the battles start. Ants invade, mosquitoes bloom, weeds pop up in abundance where flowers were planted previously. This year I had to tear out several dead bushes from my front yard, the lack of rain killed the lawn, which has been replaced by weeds. [At least they’re green weeds.] None of the flowers I planted in flower pots grew at all, my attempt to patch up the grass in the side yard failed miserably. I battled biting flies and spiders on my patio and our pool developed a leak two days after we winterized it which defies comprehension, but that’s beside the point.

In the winter, I don’t have to worry about this stuff. I don’t have to rake leaves, I don’t have to pull weeds, spray for ants, dodge dive bombing mosquitoes or track down mysterious odors [the year of the dead ground hogs is a memory best left buried.] I may have to shovel snow, but I don’t have to worry that my lawn isn’t getting enough water, or too much water and everyone’s house looks the same – draped in a blanket of snow and decorated with real [not artificially lit] icicles. I don’t have to feel guilty about hanging out in the house, reading, writing or just relaxing. I don’t feel the need to start an exercise regime that includes brisk walks in the park, or long leisurely bike rides. The basement doesn’t flood.

I love winter. Check back with me in late February though, and I might be singing a different tune.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Permission to write crap

How many times can you start a chapter…how many times can you start a blog article…how many times can you close out a file, open up a new program, type a few lines and delete them…before you realize you’re just not going to get anything concrete accomplished?

It’s not that I have writer’s block per se – I just have first line block. There’s so much emphasis put on the first line of a story, a chapter, even an article. You have to open with a bang and when you can’t bang…ahem…you fizzle.

I know. I know. The mantra of a working writer is as follows: Write, write, write, then edit the heck out of it. At least get something on paper. I know.

I get like this sometimes though. I want every word I put down to be pure gold. There’s nothing wrong with writing crap and then rewriting it. But there are times I just don’t want to do that. I have so many ideas, that sometimes I can’t bear to waste the time writing badly only to have to rewrite – even though I’m a better rewriter than I am a writer. I should just get on with it. I need to give myself permission to write a crappy chapter, have my characters do something silly, say something insipid and weave some gut wrenchingly horrid narrative around it, all with the notion that it will be crossed out and rewritten later on when my brain is in a better state of mind.

It just kills me, though. The stories are all there, in my head, fully formed. I just can’t get them to come out smoothly on paper. I’m putting too much pressure on myself to produce and when that happens, my muse takes a holiday. Fortunately she doesn’t get holiday pay. Unfortunately, neither do I anymore.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Holiday Crush

Where did the year go? I know it’s not actually over yet, but it’s winding down. December starts on Thursday and that leaves just 31 short days left in 2005.

I hate to see it go. Not just because I have to cram all my November projects, two manuscripts, Christmas shopping, several holiday dinners and a trip to the dentist into the year before it expires, but because 2005 has been a banner year for me and I worry that I won’t be able to top it.

This year marked my first acceptance letter (okay, December 31st 2004, but still), my first signed publishing contract (January 1st) my first contest win, (February), my first cover art (March), my first release (Hunter’s Moon in April), my first print novel (May) my first royalty check (August), my first review, my first interview, my first writer’s conference, my first best seller list and my first foray into full time writership.

How can 2006 compare? I suppose if it brought my first NY contract, my first agent, my first book signing…maybe my first advance, or my first royalty check containing a comma somewhere to the left of the decimal point? I’ll wager 2006 will bring my first rejection. I’ve been too lucky so far – I know there’s an R on the horizon, but that’s okay. I can deal. If, in 2006 I can continue to live out my dream, and shape the life I’ve always wanted, it won’t matter if it doesn’t contain as my firsts as 2005. I’ll be happy and deliriously busy with new projects.

Of course I just have to get the old ones out of the way first, in addition to all the holiday prep and falderal. There are never enough hours in the day, but this year, I can say there were certainly enough firsts.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fresh Blood

If you have a taste for vampires, check out Fresh Blood, just released at New Concepts. Here’s the blurb:

A desperate call from her missing sister sends Erica Talbot on a dangerous rescue mission. Determined to prevent her twin from becoming a feeder, Erica steps out of her quiet, lonely existence and into a dark underworld where vampires rule.

Maxwell Hart is a vampire investigator. Part of his job is to protect humans. The moment he lays eyes on Erica, he knows she doesn't belong in his world, but that doesn't stop him from wanting her there.

With Max as her guide, Erica descends into a world where humans willingly give up control to their vampire masters. Posing as Max's submissive feeder, Erica discovers a strange freedom in relinquishing her hard won self-control to Max.

After just one taste of Erica's blood, Max finds he hungers for no one else. How can he possess her when drawing her deeper into his dark world will change her forever?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Day After Thanksgiving

You know what I like about the Day After Thanksgiving? It’s an unofficial holiday. Schools are closed, most businesses [well, except retail businesses] are also closed for the day. There is still mail delivery, banks are open and of course, you can go shopping anywhere.

People have Day After Thanksgiving rituals and traditions like they do for official holidays. There are those leftover turkey sandwiches [the best!] and at my house, it’s Christmas Tree Day. I just spent a couple of hours decorating the tree, baking cinnamon swirl bread and assembling a set of German candle chimes. Some people put up their outside decorations and others gather at the break of dawn to mount an all out assault on the mall. I wouldn’t mind spending all day hunting bargains, if 40 million other people weren’t doing the same thing, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

So Happy Day After Thanksgiving, the year’s only unofficial holiday. Kudos to whoever decided Thanksgiving should be held on a Thursday so that the next day would make a logical choice for a day off as well. Nice going.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Amber Heat Wave

To coincide with Amber Quill Press’s promotion of the upcoming Amber Heat Wave Contest for 2006, many of the Heat Wave authors are posting excerpts and anecdotes about their contest winning stories.

Renna’s Sacrifice [originally titled, The Sacrifice when it was submitted] was my entry in the 2006 Amber Heat Wave Contest. It was only the second steamy sci-fi story I’d written and I had no expectations whatsoever that it would be chosen as one of nineteen winners by Amber Quill’s editorial staff.

Renna’s has a shock-your-socks-off cover and hopefully a surprise ending [at least it surprised me when I wrote it.]

Here’s a short excerpt to commemorate the Heat Wave 2006 kickoff and hopefully encourage other writers out there to strut their stuff to Amber Quill Press:

He shook his head. "You shouldn't be here."

"Neither should you."

He smirked at her quick response. "What brings you out here each night?" he asked.

"At first it was to escape the rules of the Refuge for a while. Now, I come to look for you."

"It's the same with me," he said. "Are you a Priestess?"

"No. A ward. They took me in as a child and I live their life, but I'm not one of them. Are you a disciple of the Sun God?"

He nodded.

"What is this place? I never knew it was here."

"This is a sacred pool," he said. "On certain nights, if you stare into the reflection in the water, you may see visions."

Renna's eyes widened. She'd never known someone who saw visions. "What visions have you seen?"


Renna gasped. His voice sent shivers down her spine. Beneath her shift, her flesh pebbled at his revelation. She let her cautious glance skim down his body and back up to his handsome face. "You saw me?"

"Many times, even before you found this place. I've wondered when I would meet you."

Renna crossed her arms over her breasts to combat the ache she felt there when he looked at her. "Why would I be in your visions?" She cocked one eyebrow at him and grinned.

"I don't know. I suppose over time, I will find out."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Courage to Fly

A post at Romancing the Blog made me think. At what point does doing what you want to do in life change from being irresponsible to being courageous?

All our lives we’re told to tow the line, do what’s expected of us, be safe rather than sorry. We’re taught at a young age not to take chances and to fear the consequences of our mistakes. Granted, there’s merit in being cautious and developing a healthy sense of self preservation, but oftentimes our mentors, parents, teachers etc, go beyond giving us the wisdom to keep our hands off the hot stove and instill in us a fear of working without a net. They make us unable to walk in the rain without an umbrella.

Having a fall back plan is great in life, but living your fall back plan first is dismal. I went to college and got a business degree in the mid-90’s not because I loved business administration, but because it was a safe thing to major in. You will always be able to get a job, I was told by family, friends and co-workers. They were right. I can work in any office. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked in some nice places and I enjoy the challenge of composing a good business letter, creating a kick-ass filing system and being the go-to girl for computer questions. But none of that compares to finishing a novel, crafting a powerfully emotional love scene or receiving a publishing contract.

The author of the blog entry mentions finally quitting her job and venturing out as a full-time writer. I congratulated her on her courage and commiserated that such a decision has to be met with skepticism from the people in her life. Every day we take chances, some days we win the gamble and some days we lose, but we keep trying.

Here’s to all of us out there who have discovered the courage to fly and are still wondering if it isn’t just a phase we’re going through or a reversion to our irresponsible youth. Keep flapping your wings and ignore the turkeys who want to keep reminding you that you may fail. Remember they can’t fly and they’re more afraid of seeing you succeed and being left in the dust, than watching you fail and having to pick up the pieces.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Friendly Spam

Warning…Warning. The following blog post contains controversial opinions that some individuals may find offensive.

Like friendly fire, friendly spam comes from an unexpected source-someone you think is on your side in the war on unwanted or nonsense e-mails that clog your in-box and waste your time. I’m not talking about the ridiculous ads for Viagraag, Ceealiss, or other wondrous products that will make it looonger and increa$e your enjoiment [misspelling intentional of course to get through your spam filters.] I’m talking about the endless stream of wasted bandwidth sent by friends, acquaintances and co-workers with titles like: For A Wonderful Friend, To All the Sexy Ladies I Know, A Mother’s Prayer, A Funny Story, etc.

I’m sorry. I really am, but these things annoy me even more so than the trash spam because they come from people who I’d like to hear more from than a reconstituted, regurgitated, forwarded, forwarded, forward piece of pablum designed to brighten my day or uplift my spirits. I don’t need to read the latest joke, sob story, plea for my signature on an Internet petition or the infamous little ditty that starts out with a canned message about how wonderful I am and ends with an entreaty to forward the message to 10 more people in the next 12 minutes if I don’t want something bad to happen to me in the next 8 hours. Give me a break.

While some people who think they are ‘keeping in touch’ by forwarding this stuff may be offended, I have to say please spare me. I beg you. I’d much rather get one paragraph from you written specifically to me, about how you are, what’s new in your life, even your views on religion and politics if you’re so inclined to share them, than a two page sob story about a missing girl in Springfield and can I help find her by forwarding this worthless e-mail to everyone I know? Or better yet, would I like to participate in a cool experiment whereby I add my name to a four-page list of names, cross off the three on top, add three to the bottom and then wait patiently for fourteen weeks until my name comes back up to the top and something truly amazing happens. Or maybe I could use a good cry so here’s the following heartfelt essay on the glory of friendship, the joys of motherhood, the peace of Christ, etc. Maybe I’d like to help them get a free gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or help Bill Gates test his new e-mail tracking software [wouldn’t it be cool if this were true? We could all earn a living doing nothing but forwarding e-mails to people who don’t want them!] It goes on and on.

Yada yada. Again, I apologize, but I’d rather know you cared enough to ask me how I am, and tell me how you are, than know you had 10 seconds to add my e-mail address to your forwarding list and send me crap that I delete unread. Our greatest strength, our greatest treasure is our ability to communicate with one another. We can share ideas, forge friendships and learn so much from one another – but only if we communicate new and unique information , not by endlessly forwarding timewasters around the Internet and thinking we’re keeping in touch in a valuable way.

End of controversial message. Sensitive individuals may continue reading from this point forward.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

‘Tis the Season…for Catalogs

Quite a few years ago when my children were very little, I decided it would be a lot easier to do holiday shopping from catalogs rather than battle the crowds at any of the various metropolitan malls around here.

I thought I was so smart. I sat curled on my couch, pen in hand, circling gifts for friends and family, then I went on the Internet or the telephone and placed my orders. A few weeks later, boxes started arriving and lo and behold, I was ready to start wrapping.

The downside of catalog shopping hit me about two years ago when one August afternoon I came back from the mail box with my arms loaded – catalog after Christmas catalog began arriving, sometimes 6 or 7 a day. By Halloween I had piles of unread catalogs on my desk, and piles of catalogs with pages dogeared to things I wanted to order.

My name had gotten around. I get catalogs from places I’ve never heard of, from places warning me that if I don’t place an order soon, I’ll never see another one of their catalogs again {like that’s a threat!} I know the truth, if I don’t place an order today, I’ll get another catalog from them in 10-14 days with the same warning on the outside and the same stuff on the inside. They can’t scare me. I won’t miss out on their next sale because they can’t bear to strike my name from their mailing list. I get coupons, promises of nearly inexhaustible credit, offers of interest free purchases, free delivery if I order right now, and guaranteed arrival by December 23rd. They’ll do almost anything to get me to order.

And I do. That’s why it all never stops. I like the convenience of ordering on line or over the phone. I like things being delivered to my door. I hate battling traffic and long check out lines and carrying heavy shopping bags. Am I saving money? I don’t know. But I’m saving myself aggravation and that may be worth a lot more. I just hope my mail carrier will forgive me. His bag gets heavier every year.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I consider how good a book is by how long it takes me to read it. If I labor over something for three or four weeks and read other books in between, it’s probably not a keeper. If I measure time spent on a book in hours, it means I couldn’t put it down.

It took me less than 48 hours to read Jenna Peterson’s Scandalous. The fact that I’m not normally a fan of regency era historicals is important to note.

From the first page, the characters drew me in. The story is intricate and compelling. The language flows, making for an easy, enjoyable read. While I’m well aware of the hard work that goes into writing a complete novel, Ms. Peterson manages to make it look effortless.

What I learned from Scandalous is the necessity to layer the details into a story and construct characters with deep motivations and intricate backgrounds. Divulging those important details piece by piece keeps the reader turning pages and keeps them invested in the outcome of the story. The balance lies in not inundating the reader with tedious info dumps. I have a hard time with putting in enough information for fear of that oversaturation and Scandalous provides a good example of how much is just enough.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Name Game

Here I go again, ranting about character names. Honestly, I find naming characters to be one of the hardest parts of writing.

The hero in my current WIP has what I consider to be a cool name. It’s not outrageous or otherworldly, not hard to spell or to pronounce. It’s a name that any average, red-blooded American male might have and probably does…or rather, definitely does.

Last evening I happened to be in one of the local high schools where I work occasionally proctoring professional service tests. While standing in the hallway handing out test booklets, I glanced up at a row of team photos hanging above the lockers. The photo immediately in front of me caught my attention. It was one of those detailed pencil sketches that the local newspaper does to highlight young athletes. Well, guess what? The name under the photo was the same as my hero’s.

Coincidence? Yes. Unfortunate happenstance or an encouraging sign from the Powers That Be reminding me to think about my hero and give him a little more background detail, like perhaps a high school athletic career?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of saying, pick another name, this one is too common.

Maybe I’m just hypersensitive. It’s not like anyone on earth has a completely unique name, but I tend to view things like this as signs. Everything is a clue – the secret lies in knowing how to interpret those clues. Good sign or bad sign? I’m clueless.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Contemplative Vistas: My new wallpaper

Here’s my new wallpaper for my home computer. Kewl, huh? I’d like to say I took this in Nepal just before beginning my assault on Everest, but it was taken from a walkway outside of the Tarzan Rocks pavilion in the Animal Kingdom at Disney World. It’s the mountain from Blizzard Beach, which happened to be closed for renovation that day.

In a previous shot, there was a construction crane off to the right side of the frame, which totally ruined the illusion, but this one came out perfect. It reminds me of the front cover of Northern Lights.

I hope you find it inspiring even though it’s a not a real mountain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crimson City

I just finished Liz Maverick’s Crimson City. First in a series, it introduces a number of characters I’m sure will be recurring in upcoming books. It’s an edgy vampire adventure romance. Lots of action, and an unusual worldview that’s skewed toward vampires being the elite of society with humans in the middle and werewolves at the bottom.

I learned about world building from Crimson City. Ms. Maverick, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at NJRW, created a functional universe where the world seems to have gone a little mad. The story doesn’t assume the fantastical elements are fantastical but that they are commonplace. This is a world where the inhabitants accept that werewolves and vampires and mechanized humans exist and they don’t question it. It just is, so by the end of the book the reader doesn’t question it either. It just is.

That’s something I strive to attain in my writing. I want to build worlds that the readers accept as real. Of course, suspension of disbelief in the eyes of the beholder. I know a number of readers who refuse to pick up sci-fi or paranormal books because they refuse to believe, even for the sake of the story, that aliens or vampires or magick exist and they can’t invest in a story about something they believe could never really happen. That’s exactly what I LIKE about sci-fi, paranormal and fantasy. We get a 24/7 dose of reality and it isn’t always pretty. Who wants stark realism in their fiction? I even like my contemporary stories a little bit out there – I like to dream.

I don’t know if I’ll pick up the rest of the books in the series – I honestly have so much else to read, but this one was worth checking out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's 10:13

Does this happen to anyone else? Have you ever noticed that you tend to look at the clock around the same time every day? I don’t mean just when it’s getting near the end of the work day, or a few minutes before the kids are due home from school or whenever it’s five minutes to Wapner…I mean when you just happen to be strolling through the house doing whatever it is you’re doing and just casually happen to notice the time and it’s 10:13 or maybe 9:11 or some other significant number. Am I the only one this happens to?

This has been going on for a long time and it used to bug me, but now I sort of look at it as one of those universal guideposts, like a light house beacon that tells you you’re going in the right direction.

Watch out, philosophy attack coming on. I’ve been noticing 10:13 for years now. It all started when I was an X-Files fan. The X-Files was produced by a company called Ten-Thirteen and it was one of those little sound bytes that stuck in my head, “It’s Ten Thirteen.” Like “Bad Robot” after an episode of Alias or “Grr-Arrgh!” after an episode of Buffy.

Ten-thirteen stuck with me and I ended up noticing every time the clock hit 10:13. I haven’t watched the X-Files in years and likely never will again, but 10:13 is my guidepost. When I see it I think, “Ah, it’s 10:13, I must be on the right track.” It’s a little Matrix-like – as though I know I’m in the right spot in my program whenever my little reminder numbers show up.

Maybe I’ve just conditioned myself to know when it’s 10:13 or maybe I’m just nuts. There are after all 1,440 minutes in a day – 720 combinations of numbers can show up on a digital clock. What are the odds of noticing any one of those times more often than any other – especially a time you’re not specifically waiting for like 3:15 when the final bell rings, or 5:00 pm when you can safely leave your desk and not annoy the boss? I guess the odds are 720 to 1. Too bad the lottery doesn’t have odds like that, I’d win at least once a day.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Black holes and vorpal dust bunnies

There is a black hole somewhere in my house. It’s a free floating quantum singularity that randomly sucks up objects for days at a time and then deposits them somewhere else. I’ve never seen the black hole, but I know where it’s been. I never know where it will strike next.

Most recently the black hole has been responsible for a number of missing objects starting with my bedroom slippers. They disappear regularly and I end up trekking all over the house trying to find them. They invariably turn up in a room I’ve visited at least twice during my search. Earlier this week the thermometer disappeared. My daughter had been under the weather when we got back from vacation and I took her temperature with one of those little heat sensitive plastic strips. I love it and I’ve had it for years. It may not be as accurate as the new digital ones, but when the kids were little it was the easiest way to tell if they had a fever. The dern thing disappeared for three days. I looked everywhere. Gone. I finally went to the drug store and bought another one for $3.49. The next day the black hole deposited the missing one back in the dresser drawer where I’d looked four times. [It belongs in the medicine cabinet.]

Yesterday my cheese grater disappeared. You may laugh, but I find this frustrating enough to blog about. I have two cheese graters – a good one and a not so good one. Of course the good one is missing. I’ve looked everywhere. Not too many people in my house have cause to grate cheese. Mostly, since I’m the chief cook – and the chief dish washer, it’s my domain. So you’d think I’d be able to find it. It’s not like a lot of other people around here do dishes or – gasp – put anything away!

I’m confident it will turn up. The black hole always returns the things it steals. It returned that pot lid that had been missing for a week. And it finally returned the pair of scissors that went missing during Christmas morning gift unwrapping last December. They turned up only after I bought a set of five new scissors to replace them figuring I’d have four to go before I needed to buy scissors again.

I’d like to get rid of the black hole. Though I’m afraid that may violate the laws of physics. I’d settle for training it to suck up things I’d really like to get rid of like the dust bunnies that show up behind the bedroom doors or inside the closets. The black hole never touches them. I think, like me, it’s afraid of them because they never move but they just keep growing.

Maybe next time something is missing, I’ll break open a dust bunny and look inside. If I find the cheese grater in there – I’m afraid I’ll probably have to throw it out and get a new one anyway.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The view from my desk

This is my bulletin board. It was the best $20 I ever spent in connection with my writing space simply because it reminds me every day, and every time I sit down at my desk, that I’m a writer.

Here’s a quick tour: The blue bordered oval on top center contains my inspirational motto. The bumper sticker to the left of it says “Republicans for Voldemort” – a gift from my DH. [Not to fire up a political debate, but no, I’m not a republican and I certainly wouldn’t vote for Voldemort if I was.] I have some coupons tacked up, because I’d forget to use them if I didn’t keep them in sight, and some more inspirational quotes from other writers in the bottom right. That thing with the curly antennae is a lady bug that my daughter made for me out of wax strings. The big white list at the top right, is my Release Calendar. It’s nice to look up every day and see the titles of my books. I’m hoping that list will one day be too long to hang from my board. Then I’ll give it its own wall somewhere.

Amid all the other notes and reminders of deadlines etc, is a copy of the NCP Best Seller List at Fictionwise from October 17, 2005 wherein Hunter’s Moon was listed at #1! Talk about inspiration. Seeing something I wrote on a best seller list is incentive enough to keep at it, but seeing it at #1 is just indescribable. [Currently, Hunter’s Moon hovers at #2 and can also be found on the overall best selling e-book list at Fictionwise at #15]. Was this a shameless plug? Well, sort of. It’s also a piece of advice to other writers – celebrate your accomplishments and keep them in view so you don’t forget that all the hard work does have its rewards.

Friday, November 11, 2005

You may be right…I may be crazy

…but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for…Or so the song goes. Something a fellow writer said to me today made me think about why we write – or why I write, anyway. Chaste Foxxe said, We all must be crazy.

Crazy to keep at it after we get rejection notices. Crazy to stay up way past bed time when the muse strikes us, or get up in the middle of the night to finish a scene. Crazy because when the voices talk, we not only listen, we take notes.

Mostly, crazy because, as I replied to Chaste, we muddle our way through a business where we have no guideposts. Sure there are tons of how-to manuals on writing. There are support groups, classes, conferences, seminars – but there’s no formula for success. What works for one author will not work for another. There are authors out there who have broken every rule and still succeeded and there are authors out there who have suffered for minor infractions of those same rules. It’s a wheel of fortune and we just keep spinning.

I write because I can’t not write. I go crazy when I don’t. The scenes pile up in my head when they have nowhere to go. Sometimes they don’t make it to paper as quickly and completely as I’d like them to, but that doesn’t stop me. I’m easily distracted – oh look, a bunny! I procrastinate with my WIP because that’s what we writers do. But I never stop. I keep writing because there’s so much to tell.

Is it a form of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results – by clinical definition, yes. We’re crazy, but we love it…and we’re not alone in our craziness so that makes it okay.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The eyes have it…or maybe it’s the hair?

Here’s a question that’s been plaguing me for a while and I should probably take it up with the gang at Romance Divas to get some input.

How important is a detailed physical description of a character? As with all writing rules, I’ve read the gamut of suggestions. Most authors like to include the basics: hair color, eye color and maybe a brief detail about a character’s appearance such as a hero’s impressive height or bodybuilding physique or the heroine’s brilliant smile or perky turned up nose. [Impressive and perky can also describe other attributes if you’re, let’s say, an erotica writer, but let’s not go there right now. LOL.]

I question how important these details are. Not that I would consider writing a story where I offered no physical description of the characters, BUT I will say that as a reader I very rarely, if ever, take into account what an author tells me a character looks like. If the characters appear on the cover, I’m sure I’m influenced by the artist’s rendition of them, which is supposed to be based on suggestions made by the author, [but not always]. I’d have to confess that 99% of the time, my mental image of a character is shaped by their NAME rather than any detailed accounting of their height, weight, eye or hair color, mode of dress, etc.

This goes back to my post on names and why I would not name a hero Eugene for instance. [Although, the only Eugene I ever met was a rather attractive geology major I went to college with…but let’s not go there either.] Not only the character’s name, but his or her voice, occupation, situation etc, also shape their appearance in my mind. I have no doubt that if an author wrote a book that contained absolutely no character description, I would not be seeing faceless mannequins in my mind as a read. I would assign those characters faces and voices no matter how little the author gave me to go on.

So, in a nutshell, how important is physical description? Have you ever read a character description and then gone on to read the book with a totally different picture in your head? I have. And I will continue to do so. But alas, I won’t stop describing my characters in my own stories, or fretting over exactly what they look like. Yet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Gift of Gab…or Wow, I can Blog

Last month I had the privilege of having dinner with two published authors during the NRJW Conference. Liddy Midnight, Jenna Peterson and I had a wonderful time discussing lots of things writer related and the subject of blogs came up.

Blogging is one of those double edged swords for writers. Most writers I know have them now and update them frequently. It’s a great tool to exercise the writing muscles every day even when the WIP is stalled, your characters are gaping like guppies because they have no coherent dialogue and they’re floating around in blank space because you’re at a loss as to how to describe their surroundings. What’s the solution? Blog about it.

My greatest concern before starting a blog was that I would have nothing interesting to say. I didn’t want a blog that detailed the joys of walking the dog or polishing the silverware [neither of which I actually do, btw]. I wanted a blog that said something interesting and that helped me stretch my writing skills a little bit. Having to come up with a pertinent paragraph or two every day is actually therapeutic more than it’s distracting. That was another concern. Would I spend all day thinking about my blog entry and ignore my WIP? With a mild sigh of relief, I can say no. I’ve so far managed to handle both and find that blogging is forcing me to think analytically about my chosen profession, and with any luck at all, make others think about it as well.

So I’ve answered that age old question, To Blog or Not to Blog and I think I’ve made the right choice. Now back to my WIP…

Monday, November 07, 2005

Contemplative vistas

I’m a daydreamer from way back. I’ve always loved to stare off over the horizon and imagine what’s out there, look up at the stars and think about what someone in some distant galaxy might be thinking, or gaze at a gorgeous landscape and populate it with characters from a story.

I don’t get to do much photography lately, but now and then I take an interesting shot or two and I thought I’d post them here and call them my Contemplative Vistas Collection. Perhaps they’ll inspire a fellow author to create a scene or even an entire novel – that’s all it takes sometimes is a snapshot, a snippet of dialogue perhaps – to launch an entire book. If any of my vistas inspire, let me know, I’d be thrilled.

This first one is a scenic view of Tom Sawyer’s Island in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. It makes me think of fairytale, maybe a princess who can spin straw into gold, or an idyllic cottage where an innkeeper and his wife raise a passel of feisty daughters. How about you?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Out of the old rut and into the new?

I’m back from vacation and eager to get to work on all three of my WIPs. After a solid week of no writing and barely any reading, I feel like I’ve been under water. Rather than clearing my head and giving me a new perspective on things, the week off put some unwanted distance between me and my characters. I spent some time today getting back into their heads and trying to reconnect with them. Like people you haven’t seen in a long time, there’s a period of breaking the ice and falling back into a comfortable relationship.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my time off. Didn’t have to cook or make beds for a week, no dish washing or laundry folding. But there was also no quiet reflective time either. As a writer, I’m used to living in my head most of the time, thinking, plotting, holding conversations with my characters. I didn’t have time for that this week. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s disconcerting to suddenly have the voices in your head go mute. I’ve wondered what that would be like, and wished for it now and again. A little psychic silence is nice, but rather than having that insistent radio turned back on full blast with a new repertoire, I’m getting muffled bits and pieces of the program. I need to retune.

My new routine starts tomorrow…and the unique thing about it is it won’t actually be a routine. For the next few weeks each day will be a different schedule, and that’s a good thing. I don’t want my new routine to be a rut. I want the freedom to schedule my time creatively so I can maximize my potential. How’s that for doublespeak? All in all, I’ll be happy just to maximize my writing time before the walls of my new rut-een get too deep. We’ll see how things go.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Leavin' on a jet plane...

My long-awaited vacation starts tomorrow. Hopefully a change of venue will jump start the creative process and I’ll be raring to go when I get back and settle into my new routine as an almost-full-time writer.

It’s funny how all I can think about is how things will be when I get back. I’m not a good traveler. I don’t appreciate airplanes or airports or packing everything I might possibly need during the course of a week into a vinyl box and handing it to some stranger whose job it is to make sure my stuff meets me in some distant city. Most people think I’m nuts – of course anyone about to go on vacation should be walking on air and I’m a snapping turtle wishing I could just retreat into my shell until the ‘getting there’ part is over. That’s not half the fun, as far as I’m concerned.

Ah, well. Adversity, real or imagined, makes us stronger. I’m sure my colorful friend here would agree. Catch you in a week. Here's hoping my luggage doesn't have a better time than I do.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Why YA?

In a way it’s funny and in a way it’s strange. I’m a very private person which I’m finding is a disadvantage in the writing world, because you have to be willing to toot your own horn in this business and talk about your books and your achievements all the time.

That’s hard for me. I’m background. I’ve always been the silent observer, which I guess is why I like to write – but that’s a topic for another blog. Today’s topic actually is, why is it when people find out I write, they immediately assume it’s children’s books?

All right, I admit I don’t fit the stereotype of a steamy romance writer. I’m not dripping with jewels and feather boas, especially while I’m at my office…but I just find it peculiar that so many people who have recently found out about my writing career have come up to me and said, “What is it that you write? Children’s books?”

I sigh inwardly. I have nothing against children’s books or young adult books at all. I have children and I encourage them to read and I would be desperately unhappy if there were suddenly no books being written for them. But that’s not what I write. Now I don’t expect people to be clairvoyant, and I suppose I might find it equally disconcerting if they all took a gander at me said with a knowing wink, “You must write smut, right? You look like an erotic romance author.” That would definitely freak me out, but it’s still weird to have everyone’s first question be – “Do you write children’s books?” Why would they assume that? Because I’m a mother? Therefore my only interest must be in motherly, or childrenly topics? They look mildly surprised when I say, “No, actually, I write ADULT books. Steamy adult romances.”

There’s that pregnant pause, and then, “Oh…kewl.” Which of course makes it all worthwhile, but in that one quiet minute, I can almost see the wheels turning. Quiet little YOU writes WHAT? Yeah. Quiet little me. It might be ya-ya-ya, but it ain’t YA.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can't get no satisfaction

Someday I will make enough money as a novelist to be able to pay a cleaning service. But until then, I have to do it myself and I have to confess, I’m no good at it. I can’t clean very well.

I’ve been in other people’s houses, people with children, people with pets as well as people without, and their homes always seem so much more spotless than mine. It’s depressing. So now and then I go on cleaning binges, where I really break out the elbow grease. Sadly, it never seems to make a difference. It’s an uphill battle and I always lose.

I have an extensive collection of cleaning products and a few handy gadgets like a steam cleaner [which I think I wore out – it doesn’t work so well anymore]. I bought that thing on a stick for cleaning windows [it doesn’t work]. I’ve bought dusters and polishers and all those presoaked cleaning pads that you stick on the end of a plastic mop [they smell nice and they pick up a lot of dirt, but they leave a lot of dirt behind too.] The one newfangled cleaning product I swear by is Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. By golly, those foamy little rectangular sponges are amazing! I’ve run around my whole house with one of those, cleaning smudges, fingerprints, and crayon marks with it. Love ‘em.

But despite my supply of Magic Erasers and other modern chemical wonderthings, I still look around and think, sheesh, what a mess. It just never looks clean in here. Maybe I’m too hard on myself. Maybe I look too closely at things at home that I don’t look at when I’m at someone else’s house. Maybe they have dog hair in the corners and smudges on the handle of the fridge and dust on the leaves of their houseplants and I just can’t see it. Hopefully when other people come to my house, they can’t see the dirt either.

Just another incentive to put away my dust cloth and write, write, write so one day I can sign my royalty checks over to a team of professionals who actually know how to clean.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Northern LIghts

I just finished Northern Lights and found it, as most of the books I’ve read by Ms. Roberts, to be full of compelling characters and fascinating places. She has the ability to make a fictional place seem real – and make you long to visit. She draws her characters richly and gives them all enough quirks to make them larger than life without being unrealistic.

What I take from Northern Lights is a desire to create my characters the same way – with vivid emotional scars and a drive to overcome their personal demons. I would like my readers to feel as I felt when reading this book, that I had to know what happened to the characters and why. The only distraction I would mention is the ending is abrupt, considering the pace of the book. At 470 pages in hard cover, there’s plenty of room for all the important events and the conclusion certainly doesn’t need to crammed into the last ten or so pages. Also this book is standalone, not part of a trilogy as many of Ms. Roberts’ books are, so there’s no follow on for these characters. Lunacy, Alaska is a place I’d like to visit again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Crowded Mind

My alter ego discussed the trials and tribulations of idea flow recently at the Romance Divas blog. Sometimes it’s a floodgate and sometimes it’s just a meager trickle.

Of course, the floodgate tends to open when I have a project I SHOULD be working on. Like now. The story I pitched to Dorchester is languishing in a dark corner of my brain, brooding like the hero it’s supposed to be about. Meanwhile, other characters and plot ideas are bombarding me to the point of distraction.

As I’ve managed successfully in the past, I think the best thing to do is go with my muse. I’m a pantser – see the post below about pantsing. Forcing myself to work on one story when another is forming in my head is like trying not to breath or to think about pink elephants. It just can’t be done.

So, also as I’ve done in the past, I’m going to give myself permission to take a break from the hard ‘work’ of writing and see how far my insistent idea takes me. I’ve been known to put aside a story in the middle and write another completed story before getting back to where I left off on the first one. It’s frustrating at times, but it works. I caution you, though. Don’t try this at home. The most responsible way to write is to plot. I do believe that. Stick to your plan and work your way systematically through your story. ROTFL. It’s a lot like sticking to a diet. I can’t do that either.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Rat Race

It seems like everyone is super busy these days. No one has any free time anymore. People work as many hours as they can, they cart their kids from after school activity to after school activity, dinners are pushed back to right before bed time and weekends are jam packed with chores and other obligations.

That's a lifestyle I'm trying desperately to avoid, but it seems to be the norm, especially here in the Metropolitan area. I just spent 90-minutes at soccer practice listening to other moms talking about doing homework and dinner simultaneously in order to get to practice on time, about never having the time to cook a meal so they always eat out [hmm, that actually doesn't sounds so bad], couples who never see each other during the week due to conflicting work schedules.

One of the many reasons I've always wanted to be a writer is because I hoped it would allow me to have a more relaxed lifestyle. I didn't want to spend my evening on the train commuting home from a 9to5 job and find myself scrubbing the bathroom at midnight because there was no other time to do it.

I always pictured an unhurried life, where there's time to bake cookies, and decorate for Halloween, make Christmas crafts and enjoy the sunset [and still make a cartload of cash once in a while.] You can't have it all. I learned that as everyone else does, the hard way.

But if I had to choose between having it all, and having enough - I'd take just enough so that there would be some time left over to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Art of Procrastination

I know I’m not the only one who does this. We writers have a keen ability to avoid writing even though it’s something we love.

Today I practiced procrastinating in order to avoid working on one of my many WIPs, any of which I’d be happy to make some progress on. I started with household chores, which technically can’t be considered professional procrastination because they do need to get done anyway. Food shopping will not do itself and neither will the laundry. Once those tasks were done, I got sucked into cleaning up some of the basement. Again, a necessary evil. When I got tired, I came upstairs and balanced my checkbook. There’s a masterpiece of procrastination for you. Who would choose balancing the checkbook over writing? Only someone who doesn’t want to face a blank page.

After all my obligatory paperwork was finished, I decided it was too late in the day to get any serious work done before dinner so I went back to the basement and made a few bookmarks. Then it was dinner time. Then there was laundry to fold and, oh, yes, a blog entry to write. That’s where procrastination is elevated from just wasting time to performance art. First I read a couple of other blogs, then I gaze at my lovely sunset picture for a while and wait for inspiration to strike. Then I start writing – with a break to pet the dog for a few minutes. [That's him in the picture. He's working hard at inspiring me to ponder what dogs dream about.]

Now it’s 7:30 and I’ve run out of excuses. A hard day of procrastination is over and it’s time to get to work. Maybe after a nice cuppa…

Saturday, October 22, 2005

By Any Other Name

Naming characters can be as difficult as naming children. I’ve only named two children and I think I did a pretty good job. I had some editorial input from my husband and of course a last name to work with.

I’ve named maybe a hundred characters and it gets harder all the time. Abby, Allie, Adam [I like A-names], Jake, Max, Gideon, Chance, Jordan, Lucas, Bren, Renna…they all needed last names too. Well, Renna doesn’t have a last name, but the others do. The same rules apply to naming characters as naming children. You want something noble, a little unique but not so far out there that people will make fun of them. With children, you don’t want initials that spell bad words, names that rhyme with body parts or names that no one can pronounce properly, even with lessons.

With characters, you want names that readers won’t stumble over or worse, laugh at. A serious romance hero should not be named Lance or Rod. [Oh God, not Rod! LOL, sorry.] You want names that can hold up in a love scene or a fight scene. Names with substance, names that flow.

Another problem I have, and maybe other writers don’t so much, is the fear of naming a character after someone I know and having everyone think the book is now about that person. If I call my heroine Steven – will my neighbor think I’m writing about her husband? Maybe it’s silly, but stuff like that bothers me. So, I’m always searching for good names that stand the snork test [do I go *snork* when I see them in print?] and that don’t already belong to someone I know well enough that they might wonder if I modeled a character after them.

Then again, maybe I worry too much about what other people think.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sisterhood of Traveling Pantsers

Having to write a synopsis before the story is torture. It’s even worse than writing one afterward. The ‘after’ synopsis is a lot like writing a book report, which reminds me of being in school [hence bad] but I was always good at book reports so I manage to sweat it out and produce something useful [hence not so bad]. I don’t know what my publishers do with the synopses I’ve written – probably just snicker gleefully as they run them through a shredder before mailing me my contracts. At least I find them useful for mining blurbage.

Blurbs are hard, too. But they’re nothing like the ‘before’ synopsis. That’s what I did today. I broke down my ‘to be written’ story chapter by chapter which made for some pretty lame stuff.

I’ve noticed a number of my fellow pantsers lately being forced to become plotters and I can only sympathize with their struggles. There’s something so exciting about sitting down with nothing more than a kernel of an idea and letting your imagination run with it. I’ve surprised myself a number of times, and those are the moments I truly love being a writer. I suspect that’s what entices other pantsers as well, and why there are so many of us.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Make Progress Every Day

That's my motto up there. Make Progress Every Day. It's tacked up to my bulletin board above my desk and as far as inspiration goes, I have to say it works. It's easier to 'make progress' than to fulfill a quota of pages or chapters or word counts. I usually always feel like I've accomplished something each day - made a little bit of progress - and that keeps me going.

Today's progress: I edited my final draft for the last of the four anthology stories I volunteered to write during a fit of insanity several months ago. The stories total over 87,000 words. Now if only I could write one 87,000-word novel. LOL. Short is easy.

But, they constitute progress. Today's editing is complete. I also worked on a synopsis for the story I pitched to Dorchester at the NJRW conference. Now where can I come up with another 87,000 words? Ah well. Tomorrow I'll make a little more progress.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

test post

This test post has been edited.

Profile picture Posted by Picasa

Welcome to my blog

Okay, I finally jumped in and decided to make a blog. I have no idea what I'm doing so bear with me, at some point I do hope to have something profound to say. That won't be today, but it will be at some point. I can't upload a profile picture yet so I'm including my fall themed picture just to see if it works.

Next I'll try uploading some of my covers.