Does it make me a bad person to say that I'm really, really glad that Christmas is behind us? So many obligations, so many expectations, so many things to do, say, drink, eat, buy, wrap, return, decorate and take down to be packed away.
I, for one, am looking forward to the coming year in a way I never have before... my first book will be coming out in the fall, my youngest will finish his third year of college, my husband and I will welcome a new baby into the family, and with any luck I'll get that long-awaited Alaskan cruise along with a couple of other smaller trips. Yay!
I have my health, my Captain America, dear friends, a beautiful home, and a new career. I don't make New Year's resolutions, but if I did, I'd resolve to appreciate each and every day of the coming year. And if I could manage to lose this extra 'Christmas' weight fairly quickly, that would be a bonus. :)
What about you? What are you looking forward to in 2007?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Does it make me a bad person to say that I'm really, really glad that Christmas is behind us? So many obligations, so many expectations, so many things to do, say, drink, eat, buy, wrap, return, decorate and take down to be packed away.
Friday, December 22, 2006
My dear friend Janice Lynn has just sold two medical romances to Harlequin! Her first (as yet to be titled) will be a November 2007 release! Some of you may remember Janice for her delightful, funny and oh-so-romantic single title, JANE MILLIONAIRE, but writing a series for Harlequin is, to quote Janice, "her dream come true".
I'm so proud of her for never giving up that dream. I'm also very proud to have her as a friend - Janice is an extraordinary woman. She's sweet, fun and bubbly, balancing a busy family life and a full-time career along with her writing. She's imminently suited to write those medical romances - she has a Masters in Nursing from Vanderbilt and works as a nurse practitioner in a private family practice. And just look how pretty she is!! :)
Congratulations on a well-deserved victory, Janice... it couldn't have happened to a nicer person, I'm just glad I got to be around to enjoy it with you. You GO, girl!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Do you know what this is?
Those of us who've been pregnant do.
Someone I know and love is expecting (no, it isn't mine - bite your tongue or I'll bite it for you!) - and I spent quite a bit of time with them at the doctor's office yesterday, watching this little peanut wiggle and twist and turn. Only 11 weeks old, people... 11 weeks! See the profile of the face? Start at the upper right and follow the profile downward: there's the forehead, the nose, the mouth. The whiter areas are the cheekbones and chin... bone is already forming. The little arms and legs are there, but in this image the left arm is kinda 'folded' against the body so you can't seem it too well (the white streak at the bottom of the photo is the bone of the arm).
Video showed it all - a still photo can't quite capture it. Two arms, two legs, five fingers and five toes (respectively) on each limb (thank goodness!)
But the anxiety isn't over yet. The reason we were at the doctors is because this is a 'high-risk' pregnancy. I won't go into all the details, but Little Peanut isn't in the clear yet, and we won't know the test results until next week. Cross your fingers and say a prayer, will you?
Monday, December 11, 2006
Writing is not for wimps. One might think that coming up with story ideas and getting them on paper in a coherent, entertaining style might be hard enough, but it's truly only the beginning. Learning your craft, honing your craft, creating your characters, developing your dialogue, intriguing your readers; all challenges to overcome, and all things you have some measure of control over. Then there's the inevitable rejection letters from editors and agents, the well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well meaning) critiques from friends, family members and fellow writers, self-doubt, writer's block, worries about promotion, websites, and reviews.
But the worst part is the waiting.
Right now I'm waiting on several things. I'm waiting on a cover for Dead Girls Are Easy. I'm waiting to find out if two big name authors who've been asked for cover quotes are going to give them. I'm waiting on the final copy edits before the book goes to print. I'm waiting for first-round line edits on Where The Ghouls Are. I'm waiting to hear if a current proposal for an entirely new book will be accepted.
I wrote an article a while back called What Are You Waiting For?. It's basically about how waiting is useful for its own sake, and that you should be getting your stuff out there while keeping busy in the meantime, and I still believe it as well as practice it.
But, man... sometimes I sure get tired of waiting. What are you waiting for?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
"Doctor, it hurts when I do this."
"Then don't do that."
That's kind of how the conversation went yesterday when I went to see a doctor about some problems I've been having with my right hand. Pain, numbness, swelling, tingling (gee, those last two symptoms sound sorta fun!), all getting worse, particularly when I type. His immediate recommendation?
Gee, Doc, no can do. I'm a writer, you see. Writers write. Writers type. Writers use their computers to do research, to put words on paper, to play adventure games... (um, forget that last part).
To make a long story short (because it hurts to type it), it appears I've fallen victim to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Not only am I now wearing one of those stupid wrist splints, I have to go to a neurologist tomorrow for a 'nerve study'.
(Yes, Doctor, I have nerves - and you're getting on them.)
Nah, he's a nice guy. Not his fault. I'm hoping there will be a simple fix (can you say 'cortisone shot'?), and no need for surgery. In the meantime, he's given me pain meds to take if it gets really bad (can you say Vicodin?), and is sending me to his best 'hand guy'.
I really had to bite my lip on that one. :)
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Ya know, all the recent media blitz over Paris Hilton and Britney Spears has really touched my heart. I mean, look at them here, holding hands as they stumble out of a private party at 5:30 in the morning. Are they like two little drunken peas in a pod, or what? (... and speaking of peas in a pod, Britney evidently loves to showcase her peas, along with various other body parts.)
So what makes a good friend? Is it the one who tells you that you look 'totally hot' when in reality you look like a hooker, or the one who tells you that you need to 'button up a little', or maybe throw on a sweater? Is it the one who tells you that your writing is 'fabulous', or the one who tells you it needs a little polishing? Is it the one who buys you another drink when you've already had too many, or the one who quietly takes your car keys and drives you home?
My husband, Captain America, says that your true friends are the people you'd call if you found out you only had 24 hours to live. I'm terrible about calling people - even the people I love the most - but it really made me think... who would I call?
Besides my immediate family members and my three sisters, there's (in no particular order):
- the friend who's been like brother to me for the last 25 years
- the friend who I've known since the 4th grade
- the friend who I met when our sons started kindergarden together
- the friend who lives nearby who never has a bad word to say about anything or anybody despite having plenty of reason to
- the friend who used to be my cleaning lady but now runs her own business
- the friend down the street who's going through a tough time with her son
- my agents, Annelise and Christina (they might need to know I won't be able to make deadline) :)
- the friend who works for Captain America, and looks after him at the office the same way I do at home
- at least 15-20 other friends I've made through various writing loops who've shared the ups and downs of the last five years
I may exceed my 24 hour time limit, but it'll be time well spent. What about you? Who would you call if you had to (in the words of that really great Tim McGraw song) 'live like you were dying'? Besides your family, who are your best friends?
Monday, November 27, 2006
Ever heard the term 'booty shorts'? I hadn't.
I went Christmas shopping this weekend at the mall. Crowds are not my favorite thing, but my daughter asked me to go, and I was up for getting out of the house and maybe getting a jump start on Old Saint Nick. There we were, in the middle of a throng of shoppers; Moms, Dads, little kids lined up for Santa Claus, Christmas songs in the air. We're walking along, eyeing the merchandise and doing a little 'people watching' while were at it, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A woman wearing these:
Only - believe me - she didn't look nearly that good in them. Late 20's, maybe even early 30's, with way too much 'junk in the trunk', if you get my drift. And get this - she was with her mother (I know, because as we passed, I heard her call the woman 'Ma'). Does the word 'gross' mean anything to you, Ma? How about the word 'cellulite'? Ring any bells?
Bewildered, I looked around, wondering if the North Pole had suddenly turned into a stripper pole, or if I was just caught in the Twilight Zone. Judging by the reactions of the people surrounding me, I wasn't the only one agog at the woman's outfit. I was actually tempted to ask her if she realized that she'd forgotten to put her pants on before leaving the house. Or maybe she'd been mugged in the mall parking lot, and someone had stolen her skirt. "Um, excuse me, Miss, but I think someone's taken the other half of your outfit." Better yet, "What the hell were you thinking?"
Listen, I'm all for dressing the way you like in the privacy of your own home. Your man like a little booty? Show it to him.
Just don't show it to me.
Or to that little girl who still leaves out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and thinks that when she grows up, she'll be loved for who she is, not for how much skin she shows. Geesh.
Gives new meaning to the word 'cheeky', doesn't it?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Ah, the joys of the holidays. Two of my all-time favorite movies are HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr., and the classic, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, starring Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid. Both are 'must-haves' for the holiday season, and both will be watched many times over this week (at least by me).
Why, you may ask, do I so enjoy laughing my butt off at the holiday drama and trauma of dysfunctional families like the ones portrayed in these movies?
Because my family is even worse, and it warms the cockles of my little heart to know I'm not alone out there. Sometimes things are so bad that you just gotta laugh, and so laugh I will. :)
C'mon now... we've all sat across the table from someone we really didn't care for, and smiled 'til our teeth hurt, haven't we? We've all rolled our eyes and bitten our lip and entertained visions of sweet potato casserole dumped over a relative's head (or is that last part just me?). We've all poured ourselves that extra glass of wine, popped that extra beer, and looked for a quiet place to hide in a room crowded by opinionated family members who barely speak to you the rest of the year. We've all been polite and gritted our teeth instead of biting somebody's head off, we've all slaved over an elaborate holiday meal for people who have absolutely no appreciation for the effort, we've all ignored thinly veiled insults disguised as bland pleasantries, and we've all turned up the heat to fend off a cold shoulder hidden behind a warm hug of greeting.
What? You haven't? Oh, well... either you're incredibly lucky or your nose just sprouted a couple of inches, Pinocchio. :)
This year promises to be be even more dysfunctional than most, if that's possible, so I've decided that my only option is to laugh. To observe the weirdness with a detached eye, to chuckle (giggle, even), and TAKE NOTES.
After all, I've got more books to write. :) Truth is stranger than fiction, and I could never make up half this stuff.
I challenge you to make the most of your holidays this year - take the stuff that makes you grit your teeth and figure out how to use it to your advantage. Grandma June put her false teeth in her water glass? Use it. Dear old Grandpa Joe boring everybody to death with his war stories? Use it. Baby sister pitching a hissy fit because you made her sit next to Aunt Thelma? Use it.
And if by some chance, you just can't manage it, c'mon over in the corner with me... I've got an extra bottle of wine stashed under the couch in case of emergency, and I'll be happy to share it.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Okay, I blame my friend Sheila for this. She told me about a website called 'Meez' where you can create your own animated characters; you choose the hair, the eyes, the clothes, the background, etc. I'd been wanting a more 'personalized' avatar that wasn't an actual photo of myself, and voila!:
I'm such a geek. :)
Once you've created your character, you can save it several different ways. Headshots, bodyshots, animated, non-animated. This is the animated version of me. You've got a half-hour or so to kill, don'tcha? Go do one for yourself, and let me see it!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
...then Happy Birthday to us! :)
Yes, another birthday has come around to prove to me that I'm not getting any younger. I'm not giving up without a fight, though - already donned my war paint (i.e., makeup), and dressed in 'power colors' of black and red. My secret motto is 'Look like a million bucks, feel like a million bucks'. Some people say you are what you eat - I tend to think 'you are what you wear'. LOL
Anyway, before I share my 'horoscope of the day', I want to share one that I saved from the year 2000:
If today is your birthday, you are dynamic, inquisitive and very serious where romance is concerned. You are a natural writer, psychologist. you travel more than most. One day you could write a novel.
When I read this, my first thought was 'Gee, I have always wanted to write a novel... maybe I should give it a shot." And six years later, I've written six novels and am hard at work on my seventh. (The first two were pretty much crap, the second two were pretty darn good but 'hard sells', and the last two will be published by HarperCollins next year!) I'm not claiming that all that hard work was the result of the stars being aligned - but reading those words sparked something in me - the 'what if' that propelled me into a whole new career.
Today, my birthday horoscope isn't quite so specific:
Stamina and a discerning eye: Those two qualities enable you to fix just about anything that needs adjusting right now. It's wise to concentrate on your own issues. Friends need to learn how to get out of their own messes.
Ouch. That'll be a hard one... I have so many wonderful friends, and while I can be a bit reclusive, I'd never turn a friend away who had a mess that needed solving. As to concentrating on my own issues, I've got four more books to write in the next two/three years, and plenty of other issues to concentrate on while I'm at it. :)
I plan on doing it all, without neglecting my friends any more than I already do.
Look out world! This Scorpio wants her birthday cake and plans to eat it, too!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I'm sitting here staring at a bag of leftover Halloween candy, and thinking about the nature of temptation. I never eat candy (seriously... well, hardly ever) :). I'm no saint or anything, it just that the way I deal with that particular temptation is to never have any in the house. But here it is, and here I am... and man, that Reese's peanut butter cup has my name written all over it!
It's not just the candy that has me thinking about temptation. I'm working on the third book in my Nicki Styx series, and poor Nicki has some serious temptation on her hands. She's a former 'bad girl' who's trying very hard to be good, but the devil's in the details and the 'details' are pretty damn tempting. Which brings to mind a question I've wondered about for a long time: is being tempted as bad as actually acting on that temptation? Does the fact that we're tempted to do something make us as guilty as if we actually did it?
Take, for example, that hunky guy who works behind the counter of your local Starbucks. Does the fact that you'd rather have him than the Venti Mocha Latte make you a bad person? What about that adorable guy who works in the next cubicle? Does the fact that you look forward to seeing him everyday (even though you're married), fantasize about him (even though he's married) mean that you're mentally cheating? *Please note, Dear Reader, I work at home - but I've done my time in a cubicle. :) Dilbert has nothing on me...
Anyway, we're tempted all the time, aren't we? Tempted to do things we know we shouldn't - eat too much, drink too much, tell a little white lie here, a fib there, lie about our age, our weight, our successes, our failures, our whereabouts and our habits. Sometimes we give in to temptation with no real consequences - other times the consequences can be disastrous.
When you think of your greatest temptation, what comes to mind? I'd tell you mine, but my mouth's too full of Reese's peanut butter to talk clearly. :)
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I tried all day yesterday to upload some pictures from my Halloween party, but Blogger just wouldn't cooperate. *sigh* But today, the forces of the universe are flowing in my direction, and here they are! First up, a nice shot of the graveyard:
Here's three of the cutest witches you'll ever see:
He wants his mummy:
Like mother, like daughter (that's me with the bird):
One seriously weird dude:
Madame Zelda draws a crowd:
It was tons of fun, tons of candy, tons of people and tons of work! LOL But we all had fun, and the best part is that we raised almost $500.00 for the Freedom Playground Foundation, which is a local charity working to build an 'all-access' playground for handicapped children.
Now can somebody come help me take all this Halloween stuff down?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
How do you like my.... pumpkins? LOL
My friend Kimmi is a whiz with Photoshop, and was kind enough to 'morph' a photo of me and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. (hence, 'Telvira') It was too good to go to waste. And please, make no mistake - my 'pumpkins' are nowhere near that big!
Today is a big day (and night) at my house... Madame Zelda's Haunted Graveyard (i.e., my backyard) is bursting with tombstones, dripping with purple lights and cobwebs, and ready to rock the neighborhood! All I need now is a little more 'fog juice' for the fog machines, some black lipstick and grape juice for the 'witch's brew'. I have a crew of giggly teenage girls in costume to help with crowd control, Madame Zelda has brushed off her prediction skills, and Witchy-Poo is ready to cackle her way into the hearts of trick-or-treaters everywhere. If you haven't seen the slideshow I made of last year's monster bash yet, then click here for a real treat.
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. My girlfriend Maria and I would go trick-or-treating for hours by ourselves - nobody worried about anything bad happening. (Although my mother would never let me eat any candied apples for fear of razor blades. Like I wanted to eat an apple when I had all the candy! Duh.) :)
Do you have a favorite Halloween memory you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it.
Happy Halloween, everybody!
Monday, October 30, 2006
I'd howl, too, if my owner did this to me:
(The 'Force' is definitely NOT with this poor pup.)
Or what about this one:
(Poor little Pocahontas might wanna trade some beads for some plastic surgery.)
I think somebody deserves to walk the plank for this one:
(Avast there, ye scurvy sea dog! Where's me biscuit?)
(Just wait until Professor Dumbledore hears about this...)
And my personal favorite:
(Arise, my beloved, and become one of the doggy undead!)
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Tag, you're IT! I've been 'tagged' twice this week, once by my dear friend Tawny Weber, who wants to know about my book-reading habits, and yet again by Michelle Cweirtney over at The Writer's Vibe, who actually thinks five exciting things may have happened to me in my lifetime! :)
I'll start with the five interesting things:
1) I've lived in a haunted house. When my husband and I were first married, we moved into a different part of town. Unsure whether we wanted to make the move permanent or not, we decided to rent instead of buy, and ended up in this great little red brick house - white trim, good schools, nice tree-lined neighborhood. A few months after we moved in, my teenage step-daughter came to me one morning and told me that she'd seen the transparent figure of a man in the hallway outside the bathroom door in the wee hours of the morning, and that while she'd watched, he'd vanished. It freaked me out enough to check with the neighbors about the house, and lo-and-behold, the house had been the scene of a murder/suicide. I did further digging, and found the actual newspaper article about the murder. The man who owned the house had been quite a 'player', and a jealous girlfriend had finally decided to put an end to his philandering. When I read that the murdered man had been found in the hallway outside the bathroom door, that was it for me... we were outta that house. There's more, but I won't bore you. :) We moved a very short time later.
2) I've been 'stalked'. Long story, involving a restraining order, expensive lawyers and recurring nightmares. Ugh. 'Nuff said.
3) I'm the youngest of five children, four girls and a boy. Air Force brats all, each one of us born in a different city, state and/or country. Believe it or not, I'm the 'smart one'. *snort* Oh, and I come from a long line of sharecroppers and moonshiners... my paternal granddaddy was on the run from the Revenoo-ers when he settled in my hometown.
4) My husband's wedding ring is engraved 'Love At First Sight', because that's what he claims it was for him. I, on the other hand, was too busy thinking how great he looked in his athletic shorts and trying to wipe the drool from my chin without him noticing.
5) I read over 500 words a minute. At least, that was my measure in high school, which was... well, never mind how long ago it was. That means I read a lot, and I read fast.
Which brings me to Tawny's 'tag' and the books that have most influenced my life.
Which is another blog entirely. :)
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I brought it on myself, I suppose. Yesterday afternoon I got it in my head that I wanted... nay, needed... a special something for my Halloween graveyard (construction has begun on this year's backyard neighborhood monster bash - more on that in another blog). Anyway, I went to my favorite discount store: nada. I went to my second favorite discount store: still nothing. On impulse, I stopped in a store I don't normally go to, just on the off chance they'd have exactly what I need.
Sometimes you get lucky.
This was not the day.
I did a quick run-through, scoping the aisles for already discounted Halloween decorations and various odds and ends that could be used for the fortune-teller's den, the wicked witch's hut, etc. Disappointed in my search, I was headed back toward the door, ready to leave the store, when I saw it: a long table full of Halloween markdowns, just waiting for me. Come to mama, baby. :)
So I'm pawing through cute little candy dishes and candleholders and various Halloween crafts, etc., when I see this really cool witch's broom leaning against the wall. It's all gnarly and authentic looking, except for some ribbon that could be easily removed, and best of all: it's on sale! I reach out to pick it up, and notice that right where anyone's hand would naturally go, there's an extremely realistic wooden cockroach glued to the handle. Yucky, but I can't help but think: Nice touch.
It's so realistic, though, that I lean in to check it out. Wow, I think, somebody went to a lot of trouble... that ugly little sucker looks like the genuine article. My hand is inches away, and so's my face. Coward that I am (I despise cockroaches, I blew on the bug.
And it moved.
Thank goodness there was nobody near me, or they'd have been mowed down by one seriously freaked-out woman. I was ready to bolt, but I made myself go find a manager, pointed out the bug, and left while he was preparing to take care of it.
I'll never set foot in that store again, and as for the candy on that discount table... eeewwwww.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
|You Are The Moon|
You are about to embark on a very important journey - and a very difficult one.Some of your deepest dreams will be realized, as well as some of your deepest nightmares.Follow your creativity and visions; stay away from your weaknesses.You are taking a voyage to the center of yourself, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.
Who knew I was so deep? My mother always said there was a fine line between genius, and madness. And here I thought she was always talking about my sister. :)
So, What Tarot Card Are You?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Remember the boogeyman under the bed? The monster in the closet? I remember going to bed with a scarf wrapped around my neck to protect me from vampires, but childhood fears didn't keep from watching old reruns of my favorite gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. A sexy werewolf named Quentin Collins and a lonely, misunderstood vampire named Barnabas? I'm there! I'm still afraid of the dark, but I'll eagerly curl up to listen if Brad Pitt wants to tells me his woes as the courtly vampire Louis, in Anne Rice's 'Interview with a Vampire'. Antonio Banderas is in that movie, too - he made an absolutely delicious vampire Armand.
What's the attraction? How do I reconcile being such a scairdy cat with being so attracted to bad boys with a dark side? (Only in theory, of course - my husband, Capt. America, has supernatural powers, too, but he uses them only for good.) ;p It isn't just vampires... it's the idea of the ultimate, misunderstood bad boy. The bad boy with the good side who wants to be good, but is trapped, governed by fate or fortune or forces beyond his control. Poor, misunderstood bad boy. LOL Did anyone see Edward Scissorhands ?
Anyway, I'm lucky these days... I can take my childhood fears and turn the boogeyman under the bed into a sexy spirit who absolutely loves blonde women who write books for a living. I can take that monster in the closet and turn him into a good-looking ghost who craves the arms of a mortal woman (hey, sometimes those bumps in the night can be a good thing). :)
The manuscript I'm working on right now, WHERE THE GHOULS ARE, has a male character who's such a bad boy that he's distracting me from the main story. Oh, that Sammy Divine... he's got a story to tell, that one. And he's determined to tell it his own way, in his own time, with a wicked wink, a killer grin and a bad boy swagger.
The point is, I like sexy hunks with a dark side as long as they stay under the bed until I call them, and then let me call the shots. How about you?
Friday, October 13, 2006
*cue spooky music*
Are you, by any chance, 'paraskevadekatriaphobic'? If you are, you have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Perhaps you're only 'triskaidekaphobic', and fear the number 13 in general. Either way, get thee to a therapist, because today is NOT your lucky day!
What is it about Friday the 13th that makes it so unlucky, hm? (Other than those horrible Freddie Krueger movies. Ick.) Theories abound as to why we fear the number 13, so I did a little digging into the reasons behind this particular superstition. Here are some ancient legends regarding its origin:
Judas Iscariot was the last disciple to arrive at the Last Supper, raising the number of attendees to 13 (Jesus plus the 12 disciples). This betrayer of Jesus also supposedly spilled the salt, which gave rise to another superstition, but one phobia at a time... :)
In a similiar story from Norse mythology, 12 gods were summoned to a banquet in Valhalla. Guest number 13 showed up uninvited: Loki, god of evil.
Ancient Romans associated the number 13 with death and misfortune. According to the Roman clock, there were 12 months in a year and 12 hours in a day, so 13 was seen as a violation of the natural cycle.
To the Egyptians, 13 represented the final rung of the ladder by which the soul reached eternity.
In modern-day times, the unpleasant beliefs and traditions regarding the number 13 continue:
It takes 13 witches to form a coven.
The 13th card in a Tarot deck is the skeleton - Death.
Many buildings do not have a 13th floor. Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
It's considered bad luck to invite 13 people to a dinner party - supposedly one of them will die within a year.
But what about good old Friday, everyone's favorite day of the week? (TGIF, people! End of the week and the weekend lies ahead, remember?) Why does Friday get such a bad reputation when paired with the number 13?
According to what I found in my nosing around, it seems as though most of the bad luck associated with Fridays is Biblical: tradition holds Adam bit into forbidden fruit on a Friday; that the Great Flood began on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; and, of course, Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified.
So while the 'thirteenaphobes' stay in bed with the covers pulled over their heads, and the teenagers gather for late night 'slasher flick' marathons, I'm gonna live dangerously today by venturing to the mall. :) The only slashing I'm interested in on Friday the 13th is slashed prices, and I'm not afraid to venture out on the unluckiest day of the year.
After all, there can't possibly be any truth to a silly superstition like this one... can there?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
We’ve all heard the phrase: ‘Do your homework’. Easier said than done in the literary world – unless we’re willing to sift through a mountain of dry facts in publications like The Writer’s Market, or spend untold hours surfing the Internet, how do we know 'which' literary agent wants ‘what’, and exactly how they want it?
Six literary agents were on hand October 7th at the NJRW’s 2006 Put Your Heart In A Book Conference to share their likes, dislikes and personal style. For those who were unable to attend, I thought I’d share the experience, and hopefully save you a little homework. :)
Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary is young, hip and cheerful. Her dark hair is short and curly, and she wears cool glasses, a black t-shirt and jeans. Nadia started Firebrand in September 2005 at the age of 24, and has a special interest in Young Adult fiction. She accepts e-queries only, and will ask for more material if she’s interested. When it comes to writing, Nadia emphasizes ‘quality vs. quantity’, but prefers both – excellent writers who are fairly prolific.
Christina Hogrebe of the Jane Rotrosen Agency is also young, hip and cheerful, with wavy auburn hair just brushing the shoulders of a fashionable brown suit. The Rotrosen Agency has been in business for over 30 years, and Christina has worked there since 2003. Christina is looking for mysteries, thrillers, and young adult, but stresses that she’s not limited to those genres; she’s searching for well-told stories written in excellent ‘voice’. Her submission preference is a one page query letter, with a synopsis and first 3 chapters (snail mail only). It should be noted that Christina is the only agent at the Rotrosen Agency who is currently accepting unsolicited material.
Christine Witthohn formed Book Cents Literary just a little over a month ago, and has a preference for murder mysteries and thrillers. Christine lives in W. Virginia, has a pleasant, professional style, curly blonde hair and a background in medicine. She would like to see a short query letter, a synopsis and first 3 chapters.
UPDATE AS OF 10/28/06: Christine Witthohn has provided her agency's website address. Visit Book Cents Literary at http://www.bookcentsliteraryagency.com. Thanks, Christine! :)
Natalia Aponte is a former editor at Tor who has gone on to form her own agency, Aponte Literary. With short, dark hair and a no-nonsense manner, Natalia has no particular genre preference, but is always looking for strong writing. She prefers to correspond by email, and likes to see a query, synopsis and the first 50 pages.
Miriam Kriss is Vice-President of the Irene Goodman Agency, an agency which has been in business over 25 years. A young woman with glasses and a mane of curly brown hair, Miriam emphasizes that while she loves women’s stories, strong voice and good writing, her focus as an agent is always on author career planning. She likes to see a query letter, synopsis and the first 1-3 chapters, by snail mail only. No e-queries.
Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency is her own boss, representing about 40 clients. Long blonde hair and soft-spoken manner, Mary Sue is especially interested in Christian-themed books, romance and non-fiction only. Her submission preference is a 5 page synopsis and the first 50 pages by snail mail. No equeries.
As a group, five of the six agents (Nadia being the exception) stated that the synopsis is a very important part of any submission, and is usually what they read first. A synopsis should tell the beginning, middle and the end of your story, and should reflect the ‘tone’ of the manuscript itself (i.e., if your story is a romantic comedy, your synopsis should be entertaining; a romantic suspense would read as darker, grittier, etc.) Requested materials are always responded to faster than unsolicited materials, and when it comes to author follow-up, Miriam Kriss offered this gem of advice: Follow up by ‘how the agent contacted you’. In other words, if you received a phone call asking to see more of your work, you can follow up with a phone call after a reasonable amount of time has passed. if you were asked to submit material by letter, follow up with a letter. If you were emailed, feel free to email back. However, if you were not asked to submit, and sent unsolicited material anyway, then you should simply be patient, no matter how long it takes. Slush piles are large, and agents don’t have time to sift through them to follow up on an unsolicited submission.
When it comes to current trends, it appears that both ‘sexy’ and ‘spiritual’ books seem to be on the upswing. The general consensus was that Chick Lit was no long quite so ‘hot’, unless the story itself has that elusive ‘something different’. Vampires seemed to have glutted the desks of editors everywhere and drained the market dry (sorry, couldn’t resist), while the field of Sci-Fi is growing. Young adult novels are increasingly popular. All six agents agreed that knowing the market and staying ahead of trends are the best strategies to follow, and that good writing is always the key.
And the final and most consistent piece of advice? Do your homework.
Which you just did. :)
Instead of a gold star, you now get to pick your dream agent... doesn't have to be one on this list. If you could choose anyone in the world to represent you, who would you choose?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I just got back from attending my third 'Put Your Heart In A Book' conference in beautiful *ahem* Iselin, New Jersey. (Don't make the mistake of calling the town 'Icelan' unless you enjoy rude cabbies.) For the second year in a row, what should've been an easy 2.5 hour direct flight turned into a 8 hour nightmare of delayed flights and airport snafus. I'd planned carefully, intending to arrive early morning on Friday for two full days of networking, socializing and workshops, but didn't actually get checked into my room until 8:30 Friday night, missing the entire first day of the conference. Sigh. Other than that, I had a great time!
Here I am with some of my best writing buds (l to r), Anna Sugden, Janice Lynn and Kathleen Long. Not nearly enough time to catch up properly, but did get to crash in Janice and Kath's room for an impromptu pajama party Friday night. I was supposed to moderate a workshop on 'Panic-free Pitching' with Anna on Friday afternoon, but Janice kindly stepped up and covered for me while I was in airport hell.
Saturday morning I attended a hilarious workshop by Victoria Alexander called 'You Don't Have to be Crazy to be a Writer, But It Really, Really Helps'. After that, it was off to attend Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer's workshop, called 'Yex & Violence' - what a odd couple they are! Total opposites. Bob is straight guy to Jenny's comedic putdowns, but both of them are so talented and funny that the routine completely works.
One of the high points of the day was an hour and a half lunch with one of my agents, Christina Hogrebe of the Rotrosen Agency. We were joined by NYT bestselling author Carla Neggers and well-known mystery writer Nancy Martin . Both ladies were incredibly gracious to a newbie like me - I got to hear all about book tours and dealing with booksellers and even help do a little brainstorming on a future book of Nancy's. I spent most of the hour and a half trying not to get ketchup on my shirt and pretending to be totally cool with lunching with big name authors. :) Afterward, Christina introduced me to Jenny Crusie, and I had a great chat with suspense writer Mariah Stewart. I owe Mariah so much... she was the first to tell me to 'aim high' when it came to looking for an agent, and has been a wonderful friend and support.
After lunch, I attended an agent panel with Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary, Christina Hogrebe, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary, Natalia Aponte of Natalia Aponte Literary, Miriam Kriss of Irene Goodman Literary and Mary Sue Seymour. I'm writing an article on that, as it's way too much info to include in this post :). Check back in a couple of days and I'll have the finished article posted here on my blog.
All in all, a wonderful conference, but boy, was it good to get home!
I've met so many wonderful people at conferences... who would you most like to meet at a writer's conference?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
One of the writing groups I belong to has this cool writing exercise once a week or so, where a picture is chosen at random, and those who participate are challenged to write a very short story, as quickly as possible, about the photo. I usually only do it when the picture itself speaks to me, as this one did. The name of the photo is called "The Haunted Corner". How could I resist? :) Anyway, here's my 'off-the-cuff' creative exercise:
The Haunted Corner
Opal Myers sat in her favorite chair, right by the window, where she could watch the world go by without ever leaving the plush comfort of her home. While others stood in bread lines and whined about lack of work, Opal had merely to ring a small bell and food would be brought to her on a tray. Another ring, and the tray would be taken away, the crumbs no doubt eaten by a sneaky servant girl before they reached the kitchen.
Opal didn't care. Let them eat cake. Depression, indeed. The poor deserved their fate... they either hadn't the guts to work hard, or they hadn't the wits to marry money. She'd done both.
"Wow, honey... look at this place." A man's voice disturbed Opal's privacy, but she didn't look away from the window. The man would be gone soon enough. "Still looks like it did in 40's."
"The 30's, actually." A woman's voice answered him, a voice that Opal found vaguely familiar. Familiar enough to ignore. "We at Hampton House take great pride in keeping the house just the way it looked when the murder occurred. Opal Myers was killed right there, in that chair."
"Ew... how creepy." Another woman's voice, different from the first. "By her own son? That's what the brochure said."
"It was never proven who did it, but the son was the number one suspect. He disappeared right after the murder and was never seen again."
Opal settled herself more deeply into the chair and smiled a chilly smile. Her son would come home eventually, and when he did, she'd be waiting.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I don't know if it's just the happy childhood memories of Halloween, the much-needed break from the Florida heat, or just the subliminal message that the holiday season has begun, but October is, and always has been, my absolute favorite month of the year. I've always been so jealous of people who live in other parts of the country during October - they get to see the leaves change, enjoy bright splashes of color on the hillsides, crunch through fallen orange and yellow leaves. They get to enjoy crisp apple cider by a roaring fire, wear boots and cableknit sweaters, see the frost on the pumpkins. At least that's my fall fantasy....aah... lucky dogs. It's green where I live, green with palm trees year-round. I only get to wear my black leather jacket once or twice a year.
Maybe it's just the fantasy of fall I love so much, but I always look forward to October. :) So here's a few tidbits about the month itself:
If you were born in October, you're either a Libra (Sept 23–Oct 23) or a Scorpio (Oct 24–Nov 21). (Scorpio here, passionate to the extreme, but you Librans are so calm and laid back... very nice sign to be born under.)
Your birthstone is the opal, a very pretty gemstone with a fiery array of colors; blues, greens, reds and even oranges. (Such beautiful stones - no two are alike.)
Friday the 13th will be in October this year... isn't that cool?
So how is October where you live? When do the leaves change in your area? Dragged out those sweaters yet? Lucky dogs....
Monday, September 25, 2006
Where would a paranormal writer be without a special place in her heart for Halloween, spooky stories and chocolate, hm? :)
Fiendish little ghoul that I am, I'm holding the 2nd Annual Tell Me Your Ghost Story Contest on my website during the month of October!
Tell me the spookiest thing that's ever happened to you (or someone you know), and you could win some Halloween Godiva Chocolate (something sweet):
and a copy of the Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (something scary):
I've already gotten some pretty creepy stories! The winner will be announced on October 21, 2006 (just before Halloween!), and the story published on my website. You can read last year's winning entries here.
Go ahead, ghoulfriend... tell me your story! You know you want to. :)
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I stole this idea from my friend, Ellen Meister who has a really cool book out right now, entitled Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA (it's a hilarious look at what happens when three suburban housewives conspire to bring George Clooney to their town to film a movie. Check it out.)
Anyway, the idea here is that if you had 30 seconds to pitch your novel to a Hollywood producer, what would you say, and who would you cast as your main characters?
For Dead Girls Are Easy (coming July 2007 from Avon Books, YAY!), I'd probably pitch something like:
A former Goth girl has a near-death experience, and wakes to find herself an unwilling 'ghoulfriend' to the dead.
Who would I cast? Hm... tougher call than one might think. For my smart-aleck, fashion-conscious heroine Nicki Styx, I think Zooey Deschanel would work. She's got the right attitude, gorgeous eyes, and a fashion sense all her own. (Her real-life sister, Emily Deschanel, plays the no-nonsense Temperance Brennan on Bones, so she'd be perfect for Nicki's not-so-twin sister, Kelly.)
For the lovable and sexy Dr. Joe Bascombe, the man who brought Nicki back to life (in more ways than one *g*), I'd have to choose Patrick Dempsey from Grey's Anatomy. I still have to struggle with my memories of him as Will's gay boyfriend on Will & Grace (one of my favorite shows, btw), but I can suspend disbelief long enough to see him as Joe.
And finally, (and perhaps the easiest of all), would be the irrepressible, outrageous Evan Owenby, Nicki's best friend and business partner. Who better to play the gay co-owner of a vintage clothing store called 'Handbags N' Gladrags' than Carson Kressley, America's favorite Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?
So now I challenge you aspiring writers out there to do your own 'Hollywood Treatment' on your story. Who would you choose to play your main characters, and why?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Ok, this is getting ridiculous.
As a Florida native (yes, we do exist) I'm used to searing heat, humidity you can swim through, mosquitoes the size of dragonflies, alligators in the retention ponds, hurricane season, love bugs, tropical monsoons and frequent lightning storms.
But earthquakes? This is just too much!
Um, can you say 'tsunami'? Though we've been assured there's no current danger of that, due to the type of quake this was (thrusting vs. shifting), we in Florida are not amused.
No offense, Mother Nature, but you can be a real bitch.
However, this whole 'earthquake in the Gulf' thing got me thinking about how we go along fat, dumb and happy most of the time - until something happens to 'shake us up'. Anything happen to you lately that made you rethink something you thought was true or constant in your own life?
Friday, September 08, 2006
Bet you can't say that three times, fast. :)
Since my writing life revolves around 'spooky' stuff, I do a lot of research into the paranormal realms. Well, to be honest, I've always done a lot of research into 'spooky' stuff - a result of too many rainy afternoons watching re-runs of the classic gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, I suppose. (I don't regret a minute of it, Barnabas! Not a minute! :-p)
Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some of the weird things I've learned through the years:
--According to measurements taken at the moment of death, the human soul weighs three-fourths of an ounce.
--Tombstones were originally put over graves not as memorials, but so the dead couldn't escape.
--The Japanese wear white after the death of a loved one, not black.
--Once a death has occurred, those of the Jewish faith will open all the windows in the house so the soul can escape.
--Neanderthals buried their dead curled in a fetal position, always facing the sunrise, as though they were being 'born again'.
--The most common word spoken by a dying person is "Mother" or "Mommy".
Freaky enough for ya? Happy Friday! LOL
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Hard to believe.
Unbelievable, in fact.
Steve Irwin, everyone's favorite Aussie, better known as the Crocodile Hunter... gone. Death by 'freak accident', the news says. I'm not buying the 'freak accident' spin for one moment. Couldn't they have come up with a better tribute than that?
He died in a split second's worth of judgement, a hairsbreath moment of decision between man and nature... one I've seen him make on TV time and and time again. I've seen him bitten in the face by a snake, bitten on the arm by a lizard, hold a deadly scorpion in the palm of his hand, twitch his arms and legs out of the danger zone more times than I can count, smiling all the while.
This time, he quite simply didn't flinch fast enough.
The odds of being stung by a stingray while filming a documentary? Small. The odds of being stabbed directly in the heart while swimming over one? Much smaller. The odds of surviving? Infinitesimal.
Considering what Steve Irwin did for a living, it wasn't freakish at all. It was a weird, yet somehow fitting end. After all, how does a living legend want it all to end... wearing boxer shorts in his living room, Fosters in one hand and the remote in the other?
Sad for his family. Heartbreaking to those who will miss his irrepressible sense of fun and daredevil attitude. But not freakish at all. I haven't felt this sad about the death of a total stranger since Princess Diana died. Another good person, a public figure who tried to make a difference, gone before their time.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
I belong to a small writing group of extremely talented, extremely supportive women who call ourselves "The Writer's Playground" (not to be confused with another group out there who call themselves the Playground, too, but whatever *grin*
Since we formed our Playground in March of 2004, 7 of our 18 members have finaled in the Golden Heart (multiple times), there have been more RWA chapter contest wins than I can possibly count, 8 of us have signed with literary agents, and 6 of us (including me) have gone on to achieve our ultimate goal of publication.
Last year we began a new tradition: when one of us sells, the rest of us chip in for gifts: a customized 'Build-A-Bear' based on the genre of our books, a bookbag imprinted with the book cover, and/or a beautiful, personally engraved fountain pen to sign those precious contracts. Here's mine... ain't it purty?
And here, without further ado, are the newest contract signings by my Pals:
New Harlequin Blaze author Tawny Weber signing her contract for 'Double Dare', with her purple pen.
New Harlequin Historical author Stacey Lynn Reimer (a/k/a Stacey Kayne) signing her contract for 'Mustang Wild' with her green pen.
And yours truly, signing her contract with Avon HarperCollins for 'Dead Girls Are Easy' and 'Where The Ghouls Are', with my green pen (Stacey always copies me *snicker*).
Do you have any 'Pen Pals' in your life? Someone to share the ups and downs of your writing with? If you don't, find some. I was extremely lucky to find mine, and it's made the journey all the sweeter.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Living in Florida has its perks.
Late yesterday, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice seafood dinner at one of our many local waterfront restaurants. Life has been a bit stressful lately because of some family issues, and we felt the need to relax, unwind, breathe some of those salt air 'ions' that really do give your mood a lift. (They work - trust me.) We asked for a window seat overlooking the bay, and sat there (cold beer in hand), watching the ripples on the water, the sunset reflecting on distant high-rises, a tall white heron stalking fish along the shoreline.
And then I saw them. Three fins breaking the surface, three quick blasts of air and water marking them as a trio of dolphins, out for an early dinner in the shallows of the bay. We watched, oohing and aahing as they appeared and disappeared, breaking the surface, gray backs glistening as they dived and circled. And suddenly, I was reminded of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. If you haven't seen this one, you should: directed by Jodie Foster, starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., a young Claire Danes, and the very hunky Dylan McDermott. Holly Hunter has gone home to be with her elderly parents and completely dysfunctional extended family for the Thanksgiving holidays. Though she loves them, she finds herself very quickly going nuts, locked in a bathroom for some privacy, and talking to her teenage daughter on the phone just for the sense of normalcy and sanity it gives her. Her daughter reminds her of a scuba trip they took together where they watched an angel fish swimming peacefully beneath the sea, all silence and beauty, and tells her mom, "Remember the fish, Mom. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."
Not only can I relate to the dysfunctional family part :), the advice was perfect. I can only do what I can do, and what other people do is, for the most part, beyond my control. I'll just keep swimming, one eye on the shore and the other on the unknown deep. Every once in a while I'll come up for air, splash around a little for good measure, then submerge myself back into the water that is my life. A life which, for the most part, is pretty darn good.
It got me wondering, though... what's your favorite way to make a splash? A night out, a day in your jammies, an afternoon at the mall? What helps you 'keep swimming'?
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Meet Grandma Ghoulie. :)
She was kind enough to direct my friends and neighbors into my backyard last year for my annual Halloween party, better known as 'Madame Zelda's Haunted Graveyard.' The lawn is transformed into a cemetary, the garden shed becomes a fortuneteller's hut (complete with a real Madame Zelda, thanks to one of my equally ghoulish ghoulfriends), spooky music plays and fog machines abound. It's so much fun!!!
Yes, it's true...everyone who knows me knows I have a problem... I'm a Halloween fiend. Nothing makes my evil little heart go pitter-patter more quickly than to see the first rows of skeleton heads leering at me from the store shelves; the fake tombstones looking totally out of place in the brightly lit aisles; the orange pumpkins, black spiders, purple glitter and grinning ghosts. Luckily for me, Halloween retail madness begins a little earlier every year, so I don't have to go as long between my 'spooky fixes'. :) August isn't over yet, but I'm already planning this year's party.
Here are some more highlights from last year. Don't you wish you could come?
Shh...don't wake the spirits...
I'll get you next year, my pretty! I see some serious therapy in your future...