Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year All!

I considered blogging about resolutions and asking how many of you actually make and/or keep them. I won't though because I'm the world's worst at making resolutions I only keep a couple of days. But it's a new year and I always feel like I need to make a change for the better, whether I call it a resolution or not.

A news segment this morning caught my attention, so I thought I'd share it with you. A doctor discussed a list of five things you could do to be healthier in '08. And since they sounded so easy, I thought, what the heck, I'm going to give them a try.

Here they are in case you'd like to give them a go too.

1. Laugh often
2. Walk 30 minutes a day
3. Use brain teasers to keep your brain active
4. Get enough sleep
5. Improve your diet by either eliminating one bad thing or adding one good thing.

I may not be able to do all five things each day, but they seemed simple enough.

How about you? Anything you're going to do different in 2008?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Music To My Ears


We’ve already talked about music and writing on this blog, especially music we listen to while writing. I’ve heard many say they only listen to instrumentals, that the words interfere with what they’re writing or they lose track of their thoughts.

Me, being me, I listen to all kinds. This is based on my mood and the scene I’m writing. I know that others must feel like I do as a few authors have CDs available to go with their books, kinda like soundtracks for movies. Of course, the main reason I listen to music, correct that, loud music is my desk sits between the dining room and living room. No doors. No way to silence the never ending thumping of the TV. So music is important to help me concentrate. Thankfully I grew up during the age of ear numbing rock and roll. In high school I possessed some decent headphones, thus made my mom happy, and I certainly had the music loud enough to cross my eyes. What did you say? Surprised I can still leer? Heh? Oh! HEAR! Yeah, me too.

Okay now I’ll get to the real point of my blog. I’ve found that music actually inspires me to be romantic and creative.

When it comes to the creative part, take my latest book, THE PREACHER’S SON. I got the idea from listening to LeAnn Rimes’s "I Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way." I especially loved the first and last lines of the song. Click here to listen to the song. The video could be better, but, hey, I’m not the director. The song made me think about some of my favorite movies like Long, Hot Summer with (1958) Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard. Heck, I liked the story so much, I even liked the one with (1985) Don Johnson and Cybill Shepherd. Love the misunderstood bad boy stories.

During one of my forays into listening to the oldies, I played Eric Clapton’s "I Shot The Sheriff." Click here to listen to it. Then decided that would be great for the next book.Yep. My heroine will shoot the sheriff (hero) but will be a suspect in killing the deputy. This one and the next one will be set in the same town as THE PREACHER’S SON. I hope to bring in the flavor of the old movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (also 1958 - yes, I do enjoy modern movies too) with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. Man! Mr. Newman had some great roles. Anyway, I love the family dynamics in both of the movies. Being a fourth (possibly more) generation Southerner, I love to write about the different skeletons in the closet stories.

Now you’re wondering why I need inspiration to be romantic, considering I love to read romances and write them, plus I AM A WOMAN. LOL! Because, I’m really not a romantic type person. My husband is more romantic. He’s the one that bought me a congratulation card when I received my first honorable mention. He’s the one that suggested we stay at a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine (Loved it! Been there two more times since!).

Well, when I’m writing those special love scenes, I have to have the right music. You know to make sure the hero doesn’t rush and heroine doesn’t rush him. Anything by Chris Isaak usually does it. Recently, I purchased "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues for my Ipod. Goodness! I had forgotten how romantic that song was. It was mine and Steve's song as teenagers. Just think, any rock song that uses an orchestra and has lyrics like below is awesome. Click here to hear the song.

And I love you,
Yes, I love you,
Oh, how, I love you.
Oh, how, I love you.

I know you were beginning to wonder what in the world is her question. What’s the most romantic song (note I said song, so that means it has words) you've ever heard? Be sure to give title and artist so we can listen to it on YouTube.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Name Game

Okay, I was going to write a long, academic blog on the importance of names. But after three tries, I realized that what I really want to know is this: Where did your name come from?

My mom was named for her paternal grandmother: Minnie Briggs. Yikes is right. When she was 18 months old, her parents went through a bitter divorce, and her mother erased all evidence of her father from her life. You know those photos of couples torn in half? My grandmother had boxes of them. And she changed my mother's name to -- wait for it -- Hilda. (My mother never forgave her for that!)

So tell us, who were you named for and why?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Since it's Christmas day and my muse and I are still on vacation until Thursday, I can't think of on single thing about writing to talk about. Sad, I know...

Well, Santa left the 2nd and 3rd Pirates movies under the tree for me...I can see a Pirate movie marathon in my future!! Surprisingly, my 3 cats are getting along great with my mom's 2 cats and 3 dogs...they ignore each other completely. Instead of turkey and dressing, we had my late grandmother's homemade chicken and dumplings. mmmmm....good!! Yesterday, my mom and I saw the new Nicholas Cage movie...sigh...that man can do no wrong... Oh!! We ate at Bonedaddy's, off of 280, last night. VERY GOOD food but make sure you come with plenty of Washingtons...


So...that's been my life for past 48 hours. What have you been doing? What are the favorites gifts you recieved? What are the favorite gifts you've given?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Romance at Christmas

This time of year you can always count on tv playing and replaying certain Christmas movies. Many I love to see over and over. As far as romances, there are five that I enjoy each time. If you're a romance reader, you know how these movies end, so I'm not spoiling the ending for you. Check them out.

THE CHRISTMAS LIST - Mimi Rogers works at a department store's perfume counter and has a crummy boyfriend. She makes a Christmas list and deposits it in Santa's mailbox. She starts getting the items on her list. She winds up with a better job and a better boyfriend/husband.

COMFORT & JOY - "It's a Wonderful Life" but with a twist. She gets to see her life on a different path. Nancy McKeon plays a workaholic who can't even remember what she buys her secretary for a Christmas present. One snowy Christmas Eve she hits a telephone pole and finds herself with a husband and two children. By the end, she loves her husband and her children, but returns to reality. Will she stay on the path she was on? If you're a romance reader, you know the answer to that one.

BORROWED HEARTS - Eric McCormick is a businessman selling his company to a man who will take the jobs to Mexico. When the buyer visits at Christmas, EM hires Roma Downey and her daughter to pretend to be his family. But is the buyer really a businessman or an angel in disguise? Of course, Eric falls in love with mother and daughter and she opens his eyes to what he's doing to his employees.

CHRISTMAS IN MY HOMETOWN - Okay, I admit I've had a crush on Tim Matheson for ages, but the movie is good, too. TM works for a tractor company and is sent to one of their plants (right before Christmas) to make recommendations on closing it. He pretends to be a customer to buy tractors. He falls in love with Melissa Gilbert and her daughter. The entire town is angry when they find out his real identity and of course, MG spurns him. What will he recommend to his boss? Will he get the girl back? Well, it's a Christmas romance, but it's fun watching Tim get there. There's also a subplot that he lived in this town when he was small (hence the title) and his father deserted him.

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT - There's a newer version with Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson, but I like the black and white with Barbara Stanwyck. BS plays a magazine writer who writes about food, her marriage, her child, and life on her farm in Connecticut. However, none of those things are reality. She's a New Yorker who can't even boil an egg. When her boss invites himself and a wounded soldier to Connecticut for Christmas, she goes into pretend mode to save her career. Of course, sparks fly between her and the soldier.

There are other Christmas classics I enjoy--Miracle on 34th Street (Natalie Wood version), It's a Wonderful Life. But nothing beats a heartwarming romance.

Any Christmas romance movies you enjoy?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Cornerstone.

My grandmother is 102.

Really.

She is also completely alert and aware. She says she stays that way because she doesn't like to "Hang out with the old people".

Her name is Kathryn, but she goes by Pansy, her middle name. She married in her late twenties and had five children (all are living) numerous grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her husband, my grandfather died a 97, (she'd been married to him for over 60 years!).

She’s been active her whole life and even did aerobics classes called "body recall" until she was 99, and it was the first thing she quit when the doctor told her at her age, she could do what she wanted. Why not? She was 99!

For my grandmother, the glass is always half empty; even when she was robbed for the first time in her life. It was a crime of opportunity; because no-one locks the doors in her secured assisted living community. Someone came in while she was out and took the cash she had on hand for incidentals. She kept it in plain view, since her eyesight is failing.

Was she angry? Scared? Upset? No. She laughed. It was her observation that if it took 102 years for her to be taken advantage of than life was pretty good.

My grandmother has been a cornerstone in my life of what is good and right. In her world there is always something to smile about and the darkness can be chased by light. Her body is slowing down and soon she will follow her husband in death. In that moment something precious will leave, and only those she touched and the memories given will remain.

Do you have a cornerstone? Share with me who touched your life for the best.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Blast From The Past

Being Married in London during the Year 1700
or the
Single Life is for Me.

If you are a high-born lady wishing to marry your stable boy, an uncle wishing to marry his niece, or a young couple wanting to marry without consent, you would go to the alleyways known as the Rules of the Fleet near Fleet Bridge, not far from the river Thames. All types of "plyers" would encourage you to come into their "marriage house" for the ceremony. Most of the clienteles were craftsmen, innkeepers and the lower classes.

One-ninth of England’s population lived in London during 1700.

Weddings were legal only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and noon.

A contract for marriage was official when the man provided the woman with a ring or presented her with half of a coin.

Males over the age of 14 and females over the age of 12 could marry with the consent of their guardian. Both sexes could marry without consent at the age of 21.

A single woman had many of the same rights of a man. She could own property, leave a will, sue or be sued, but once married, her husband own her lock, stock and barrel. Should she commit adultery, her husband could sue the man for trespassing on his "property."

Popular sex manuals of the time were Aristotle’s Masterpiece and Aretine’s Postures. The man’s sexual organ was at times referred to as his "yard." (Funny! In his dreams!) A midwifery book by a Mrs. Jane Sharp claimed the wife would not conceive if there was "no desire nor delight . . ."

A 5 shilling tax was paid on licenses and certificates of marriage. Thus, the reason cheaper marriage houses married 1/3 of the London population.

A Fleet marriage to a stranger help legitimized a child and prevented the woman from being publicly whipped.

Neither a license nor posting of Banns was required in a Fleet marriage.

If a woman got heavily into debt, she could marry a prisoner and the debt would be considered cleared. (You can’t arrest the husband for the debt when he’s already in prison, duh!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The One You Remember

It's my turn to blog and I'm in the middle of revisions, which so far has been akin to chiseling granite with a plastic spoon. Since I'm short on time, as are most folks this time of year, I thought it'd be fun to share a Christmas gift memory.

What is that one gift you received that you'll never forget. The one that made you laugh, cry or in my case, shake your head and say, "What were you thinking?"

My memorable gift was my first married Christmas. My husband proudly presented me with....drum roll please...an ironing board! Yes, I know he meant well...at least that's what he said and twenty years later, I can look back on that night and laugh. My sense of humor wasn't as well defined then.

What about you? And to keep this writerly, have you ever used this Christmas memory or any others in your writing?

Monday, December 17, 2007

You Did What?


You've heard stories about authors' computers being confiscated by the authorities. A scary thought for two reasons: 1) who wants to be in trouble with the government? 2) who wants their computer out of reach for weeks and possibly months? Yuck!

I know if they came into my house and looked at my books I have on interrogation, poisons, following people, and survivalist manuals surrounding my computer, they would begin to wonder about me. Thank goodness I also have how tos in writing romances and grammar books galore that would surely give someone a clue of what's going on.

What got me to thinking about all of this? Actually it was an email conversation I had with my CP the other day. It went something like this...

***
CP: How goes it with you?
Me: Going good. I just blew up Mary's Lexus. LOL!
CP: Cool. A bomb?
Me: Yep! Her dead husband's boss is sending her a
message that he doesn't mess around. He wants
that evidence. Or at least she thinks it's him.
HeeHee
CP: You go girl!
***
See. So much glee in causing destruction. I do believe to be a writer you have to be a little warped. LOL!

What books do you have that would make people wonder about you?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just Exactly How Hard Is It to Write?

You've probably heard of Jean-Dominque Bauby, the former editor of Elle magazine.

I hadn't until I glanced at a CNN.com article about a man who is completely paralyzed except for his eyes. He communicates by answering yes and no questions; he looks up for yes, down for no. I found the article mildly interesting, and then I saw these sentences: "Former Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominque Bauby suffered from the same syndrome and was also able to communicate using only one eye. He wrote about the horror of having locked-in syndrome in his book "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," which was made into a film released November 30.
Bauby's writing was an exceedingly slow process. He dictated the book by blinking his left eye when the correct letter was presented to him."

That last sentence stunned me: "He dictated the book by blinking his left eye when the correct letter was presented to him."

Holy you-know-what.

If that's not inspiration, I don't know what is. I have a new word taped above my workspace: BLINK.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/12/14/locked.in/index.html

Thursday, December 13, 2007

3 large dogs, 2 Christmas parties and 1 very stressed out writer

So today is my day to blog but I can’t think of anything creative to talk because I’m STRESSING!

I should be a happy little bug right now. I’m sitting at my desk at work (shhhhh) looking at all the Christmas lights and red tinsel covering the bookcases, twinkling snowflakes and children’s department staff stockings hanging over my workspace and a 6 foot tree in front of the floor to ceiling window. I mean it looks like Christmas just exploded in here. But I can’t help but think about all the things I need to do between now and 12/25. I have a sing-along this afternoon in which I and two other people will be tooting our horns. My biggest fear this afternoon - finding every wrong note on the pages, grabbing them and blowing them out of my horn. Can you tell practice didn’t go well last night????

Santa is coming to the library on Saturday. The rain better hold off until after 4:00 p.m., that’s all I’ve gotta say.

Two more parties next week plus a hayride THEN loading up my 3 cats and heading to mama’s house. My babies love going to Granny’s house – there are three 75 lb+ inside dogs to sleep on. (I swear they do it!!)

OK…I’m finished venting. Anyone else care to share what is stressing them out at the moment? How are you getting through it?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Perfect Gift

Only fourteen more shopping days remain. Have you been good? Have you made your list?

The most perfect gift I've ever received is God's love and salvation. Sometimes we forget what this season is all about.

My most wanted gift is a Fly Fusion pen. You write and then upload it to your computer. Voila! Your writing is text. (flyworld.com) They advertise it a million times a week. Then, there's always a laptop or software for us writers.

Or maybe you're the diamond or lingerie type. I got over that eons ago.

The idea of the perfect gift varies from person to person. So, what is the perfect gift you hope to receive?

Monday, December 10, 2007

THE SCENE

You've read it.

You know, that scene that just grabs you making your heart jump, or your eyes water, elicits a laugh, and even gets you a bit twitter-pated (well you know).

For me, its that moment that the hero says a quiet word that makes others jump, or when the heroine has just had a enough and makes a stand.

What are you reading that has grabbed your attention? So much so, that scenes from the story just tumble through your mind?

I am currently reading some delightful stories by fellow writers (and since I am bloody late posting this and haven't had the chance to ask them if I can use quotes, I won't put them here.--Sorry!!--Christy, I need time management AND a de-cluttering class).

So you get to reveal what you're reading...and why it jumps out at you. (Hey, and it will give me a list of books to go read...) :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Not My Turn But I Had To Tell Someone!

I know it's not my turn to blog, but I had to tell someone...I finally watched Pride and Prejudice!! And I LOVED IT!

Boy, oh, boy, I'm such a snob. I thought I would be bored out of my skull. Though I normally love period pieces, I was afraid the girl would die in the end or wouldn't get the guy or some other horrible ending I've seen in other "classic" period films.

Wow, was I wrong. That was so...dare I say it...romantic!!! Now I won't promise to read the book and if the book is ten times better, I still not sure I want to give it a go. My stack of TBR is way too big to add another.
Ooookaaaay, if you insist, but maybe next year.

Now the verison I have is from 2005 with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. I heard the 1995 verison with Colin Firth is better and what did I do today when I took the day off and went Christmas shopping? Yep! I bought the older verison! LOL! Early Christmas present to myself.
Hopefully I can watch it soon and compare the two. I'll let you know my opinion.

What about you? Seen it? Love it? Which verison?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Visions of Neatly Stacked Sugar Plums

I have a confession to make. I'm a disorganized person. Now for those of you who know me well, you're snickering, rolling your eyes and thinking, "Yeah, like I didn't already know that." There may be some I've fooled. It's getting close to the end of the year and I feel the need to confess. I'm a mess. My office is a mess. My house is a mess, but that's a different blog for another day.

Right now, when I go to my word documents, I have 12 different files for my first book. Some are different versions, some are notes I've made on possible changes, there's a synopsis, possibly several. You get the idea. And that's just for one book on my computer.

I also have a file cabinet filled with old contest scores, rejections, story ideas, marketing, etc. It's also a chaotic mess.

So why am I telling you this? Because I need to hear from those who are organized, who have it together. Who only have one version of each item and don't feel the need to create a new file every time there's a new idea for your story.

I also need to hear from those who are in the same position I am...but that's just because I don't want to be the only one who's this disorganized.

What are your tips and ideas for keeping your writing life organized? What secrets can you share about organizing your computer files or paper files? It's coming up on the new year and I really want to de-clutter my writing life! Can you help?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Auntie WIP Talks About Subplots

Auntie said I could bring out one of her articles as long as I provide some eye candy too. Dirty old woman! Here you go...

There are three types of subplots: 1) connected, 2) comparable, and 3) conscience.

Connected
This one is the most obvious and, of course, the most used. It’s where a writer’s main plot has a smaller plot(s) that hints at or provides momentum or information for the main plot. This will give the main plot a three-dimensional feel and provide your characters with depth. Often used in larger book formats where you have more room for your characters to grow and show backstory.

A good example is in Debra Webb’s STRIKING DISTANCE. You have Tasha North tracking down an assassin to save the head of the Colby Agency. At first, you have no idea of the connection between the assassin and a main character, but as the plot moves along several subplots reveals their connection. The author subtly provides hints until the connection is revealed. So as not to reveal the twist, read the book and see how well crafted the subplots are entwined into the story. In this case, the subplot becomes fundamentally connected to the main plot.

Comparable
This can be used for effect, but an author needs to be very careful. It can also become more of a fill, making a manuscript longer, and bore the reader to death. You take two plots, either of the same importance or one of more importance and written parallel of each other.

Sorry, it has been years since Auntie has read a book like this, though there are probably many excellent ones. The best example would be the movie LOVE ACTUALLY. A wonderful romantic comedy. The only connection the four stories had was that they were about love. The stories were presented in parallel of each other, but of different types of love.

Conscience
All authors would like to use this more, but we have to be careful in popular fiction to not preach or push our particular causes on those that just want a good read -- a delightful escapism. We’ve all read books that tell us a moral behind the story or makes us think about how we treat the environment or our fellow humans. If you’re subtle with it, it can give a story flavor.

The one that comes to mind first is Linda Howard’s CRY NO MORE. Some of you are saying, "What? That didn’t have anything related to public awareness." Linda doesn’t preach or thrust her views at you. It’s all woven into the storyline. You have mention of the Amber Alert and adoption practices that help but at times can hurt needy want-to-be-parents. None of the information provided in her book dragged down the main plot or made you feel like it’s all your fault. They actually solidified the story further.

For more information on subplots, check out the following:
http://groups.msn.com/RomanceWritingTips/subplots.msnw
http://www.storymind.com/dramatica/plot/subplots.htm
http://www.thewritersezine.com/t-zero/archives/2005-texts/2005-01-craft2.shtml
Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass

Now for the eye candy.



Monday, December 03, 2007

Making a Long Trip Even Longer

Warning: This is nothing more than a rant -- I freely admit it.

I have been awake for almost 24 solid hours, and I am just a tad grumpy. Here’s my question: Why can’t people just be honest? My daughter and I sat in JFK airport for five hours today waiting for our flight to Atlanta. Now I understand that most of the time, flight delays are unavoidable and have nothing at all to do with the people that keep airplanes flying. But this one did. And we kept getting the same story over and over: “We’ve been waiting on your crew. They’re all here now, and just as soon as they get the plane ready, we’ll begin boarding, so don’t leave the gate area.” And then they’d back the flight up another 20 minutes. Again. And again. And again. Twenty minutes turned into five hours slowly and painfully.

And back to the question at hand: Why couldn’t they just say “We don’t know when your flight will board. Go to the bar, kick back with a cold one, and we’ll let you know when it’s time to go.”

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

And They Lived Happily Ever After

If you didn't make it to the Christmas party, you missed a treat. Laughter, music and stealing were on the menu. One gift in particular was a plaque from Hobby Lobby that read "And They Lived Happily Ever After". This was a big item up for grabs. Christy got it first then Jenn E. stole it. I know several of us were eyeing that plaque but I think we didn't have the nerve to go up against Jenn. ;-) Afterwards, several people proclaimed "I'm going to Hobby Lobby!" - I being one of them. So Jenn M., Jason and I hop in the car and off we go!

After an exciting scavenger hunt through two different Hobby Lobbies, - and a run in with Christy at the first one, we finally found the plaque. Jenn quickly called Christy to tell her about the find - Christy, did you get one??? - and off we went to the checkout line. Ten minutes later, and with the help of Jenn's employee discount :-), I walk out of the story with my treasure. It's now hanging in the living room.

I just love that saying. It gives me inspiration to create Happily Ever Afters of my own. What are some of the sayings that inspire you?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Whatever Happened to "You're Welcome"?

The evolution of our language is fascinating. Words we used a century ago have shifted, shortened, changed meaning or become extinct. I'm not sure why that is or what makes it happen.

The other day I went into a bank. A young man, on his way out, held the door open for me. I thanked him and he responded with, "No worries." I guess that a derivation of, "No problem." But really, what happened to the good old fashioned, "You're welcome"?

I'm a child of the seventies and clearly remember saying, "groovy" or "cool" to a multitude of things. I still use cool, but it's been years since I found anything groovy. When I worked in the corporate world, seemingly every year, a new buzz word would make the rounds. In every meeting, that "word" was used numerous times. I remember working really hard not to use them. Ah yes, I'm a word rebel.

I guess new words or phrases reflect progress and a changing world, but sometimes I miss the old fashioned ones.

What about you? What words do you say that are no longer in? What are some new words or phrases you hear out there that are catching on? I may need to use them in a book, so please share if you know any. I hate to get behind!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Called This One In

The other day I was reading a book that the author wrote the contemporary heroine dialed the number on a borrowed cell phone. I don’t know about you (as my mind works completely different than others I’ve found), but the word "dial" jumped out at me. Who dials phones nowadays? All mobile phones I’ve seen and land lines too, do not have a rotary dial. You know, those old-fashioned phones you placed your finger into the round slot and pulled counter-clockwise with your finger to the far right side of the dial for each number you were dialing? It took so long to dial a telephone number if it had a lot of eights and nines. I doubt my youngest would even know how to call someone on a phone like that.

Hopefully I’ll write punched, or something similar, whenever my heroine makes a call.
I've come across a few others that jump off the page and tell me the author's age but presently can't think of them.
What about you? What books have you read lately that pinpoints the author's age?

Monday, November 26, 2007

An Irish Thanksgiving

I really thought I had escaped Thanksgiving this year. My oldest daughter and I planned a trip to Ireland to visit my youngest daughter, Kate, and decided to fly on Thanksgiving Day. My secret plan to stay out of the kitchen had succeeded. But two days before we left, Kate e-mailed me from Ireland and asked if we could have Thanksgiving on Friday after her sister and I arrived. All her college friends -- Irish, English, Italian, American, Canadian -- wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday because they had classes all day on Thursday. And...would I bring a can of pumpkin and make a pumpkin pie? And some cornbread to make some dressing? And, if there's any way I could bring a turkey--

So I checked two suitcases at the airport. One with my clothes; the other packed with cans of pumpkin, cans of turkey broth, ginger, cinnamon, poultry seasoning, nutmeg, condensed milk, a slab of homemade cornbread, and treats for Kate that she can't get here: Oreos, Jif peanut butter, Cheezits, muffin mix. On top of all the groceries, I left a note for the TSA inspector that said "I am going to Ireland to make my daughter Thanksgiving dinner, which is why I have a bag full of groceries. Happy Thanksgiving!"

I don't know if the inspector had a nice Turkey Day or not. But on Friday, while everyone else was either shopping at the mall or watching football, I was celebrating Thanksgiving in Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland, with 14 young people far away from their homes. Couldn't have asked for a better one.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to the Mall I Go

Well, my mother and I did the unthinkable...we joined the zillions upon zillions of shoppers who were out and about today. About 3:00 this afternoon I found myself sitting in on a bench surrounding one of the fountains at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery. Mom and I both needed a rest so we enjoyed a few minutes of 'people watching'. Lordy, some of the conversations I heard waltz by me! A wife was yelling at her husband on the phone (apparently, he bought the wrong color bedspread for their daughter's room) and he "better take it back now!" Another couple was trying to decide on a certain size sweater for someone's mother (Lord help them if they get the wrong size. Apparently, they won't hear the end of it until NEXT Christmas.)

Surprisingly, during all the noise and madness, I did come up with a few scenes for a book or in that 10 minute break.

Where do you get inspired during the holidays?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Thanksgiving!

Another Thanksgiving is upon us. Another 10+ pounds. Another hassle to clean my house and cook for guests. Note to self--I must change my attitude.

I have so much to be thankful for. God's love and grace. Family and friends. A job that allows me to put gas in my car and feed two ravenous cats. A roof over my head. More than enough to eat. Sometimes those are easy to forget in the hassles of life.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Subversive Motivation

Motivation.

Last week my boss thought it would beneficial to discuss the latest and greatest motivational speaker, it was thought that it would spur us employees onward, to strive, to set goals.

Actually, it did the opposite.

The timing could not have been worse. I was up to my eyeballs in a project and there I was in a meeting that was sucking my precious time. I won't tell you the name of the motivational speaker (there are dozens take your pick). It touched on setting goals, stress, you know, the usual mantra. Something happened in that meeting, because once back in our offices a wave started---an "anti-motivational" one.

Instead of posting our goals we found the opposite; sarcastic, witty, darkly humorous phrases that were taped above our computers, emailed to each other, and shared in conversation. Here are a few:

From despair.com:
"The race for quality has no finish line, so technically, its more like a death march."

"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

Another web site: zazzle.com allows you to create your own. Here are some amusing ones that were there:
"I have no idea what you are saying and I'm not listening either."

"Tact is for people who lack the wit for sarcasm."

"I suppose I should be flattered that the whole universe is out to get me."

This counter movement turned out to be the best thing, everyone was more productive once they recognized their inner passive aggressive selves...(actually we all laughed and moved on).

Here is a saying that I posted above my computer: (I have no idea who coined it) Either Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Do you have a anti-motivational, or sarcastic phrase that comes to mind? Something that makes you laugh? C'mon, share it! We all need the chuckle.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Acts of Kindness

I love the concept of paying it forward. There's a commercial, I think it's for an insurance company, showing people observing a kind act, and then when an opportunity arises, those people perform an act of kindness for someone else.

This is an ancient, biblical concept. The ethic of reciprocity or the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is at the very foundation of our humanity.

So what does this have to do with writing? For an organization such as RWA, in a word, everything. From the people who work tirelessly on the national board, to the volunteers who perform a multitude of tasks most of us aren't even aware of, to local chapter members who coordinate and work at events and behind the scenes, all for the love of the organization. Most of these individuals will never be recognized for their efforts, but that's okay, because it's done with an attitude of selfless giving, and is one way to pay it forward.

I don't know what I would do without my local chapter. This year especially. My friends, Jenn and Kelley, have given me solid advice and patiently listened to my whines and woes. Carla and Marie have encouraged, cajoled, consoled and provided much needed comic relief. When I made my sale, other than my husband and mother, they were the first ones I shared the news with, because honestly, in various ways, each of them assisted me in selling.

At the end of every chapter meeting, I leave encouraged and motivated. Every attending member contributes to those positive feelings. Seeing our members post their good news on the loop thrills me, but it's the sincere congratulations from others that touches my heart.

Thanksgiving brings to mind all the numerous blessing in my life. RWA, and most especially my local chapter, are definitely on my list.

What's on your list?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who knows?

Since 1994 when I entered my first writers’ contest (Golden Heart), I’ve seen a lot of changes. I can’t say they’re all good or all bad. Probably half and half. Believe it or not, but in the Golden Heart you use to receive judges' comments. I understand now with 1200 entries we would have a hard time finding that many willing judges to write the detail comments I had gotten in the past.

Nowadays, I understand so much more about writers’ contests, as not only have I've entered a good number of them but I’ve also been judge and contest coordinator. So I’ve seen every aspect of contests including finalist and finally WINNER! HeeHee, still riding cloud nine with that one.

For the last two years, I’ve heard chapters complain about lower entry numbers. Some of it is due to the large number of contests to choose from, yet I can’t help but wonder how many people decide not to enter a contest because past bad experiences or/and costs. So far in the last seven contests I’ve entered, I’ve had some negative experiences. One contest sent me my entry back with only one score sheet. The other judge (or someone) wrote the scores directly onto my second entry. No comments. Nothing. Just the numbers in a straight line. Hopefully in the same order as the other score sheet. Who knows?

Another contest held my non-finaled entry for a month after the winners were announced. Did you know that a stamped, flat-rate envelope (which is what I use) can be placed in a private mail box or you can set up a time and date with the post office to pick up at your house or business? After I emailed the coordinator the second time and she finally answered over a week later, she claimed she just hadn’t found time to get to a post office with her small child. I have no idea why her child wouldn’t let her go, but hey I took my kids everywhere with me. So who knows?

Then you have contests that are never announced on ChapLink or any other contest loops. They finally show up on their website a month or more after other people say they were finalists/winners.

Hey, I understand how contests can be a pain to coordinate. Last year we had a judge to take the entries and never returned them or return my emails or phone message. I even contacted the president of her chapter (the judge could’ve been in the hospital or dead – heaven forbid). She couldn’t get a hold of her either. Just think how easy it would’ve been for her to place the non-judged entries into the return envelope. That would’ve made more sense. Who in the heck knows?

Or how about the final judge that forgets to place the finalists? Or the first round judge that decides to call heroes morons?

To me and hopefully everyone else, the main thing to judge in a contest is the story. Is it something a reader would want to buy? Maybe the story isn’t my favorite kind (pirates bore me) or something I like to write (vampires are so sexy), but does it read smoothly? Can you see the action in your mind’s eye? Does the story make you wish to read more? Formatting and what size the print should not be as important as the story. I understand if the print was tiny or in red that would turn off an editor, but my goodness folks, it’s the story that counts.

With all of that said, I believe our contest has it right. The score sheet emphasizes the importance of story. The price is right at $25 for snail mail entry. And we have a wonderful name for the contest, The Linda Howard Award of Excellence. I do know all of that has a lot to do with how successful our contest has been for three years now. And with the caring and wonderful coordinators and judges we have this year, it will continue to have the good reputation it has.

So here’s your chance to complain or compliment other contests. No need to say contest names. I’m sure many are trying to improve themselves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What’s So Funny?

There are two kinds of writing that absolutely baffle me. One is mystery -- I just don’t think I’m smart enough for that -- and the other is comedy. I mean, laugh-out-loud funny stuff. I can write “amusing” and “humorous” and occasionally my words will elicit a giggle. But I would love to be the kind of author that sends readers into fits of uncontrollable laughter.

So how do they do it? I want to know so I bought The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus. Seems like a good start. I’ll keep you posted.

What books have you read that made you laugh out loud?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Let's pretend...

At the luncheon I heard a couple different authors say that they were in talks with movie studios to make one of their books into a movie. Sooooo....I began to picture people for my books. If I had a say in who I wanted, I'd pick....

George Eads - Nick - and Jennifer Love Hewitt - Julianna - for my first MS in the series.
Nick is the playboy who is finally ready to settle down (although his reputation won't allow him as easily as he'd hope) and Julianna is the shy wallflower who is trying to break out of her simple shell.








Paul Gross (Due South) - Daniel - for the second book in the series. He's Nick straight laced older brother who does everything by the book. He really needs to learn to loosen up.
I'm having a hard time thinking of someone who could play the heroine. Kat is a very outspoken woman with short, red hair who doesn't care what people think of her. She said what's on her mind without a second thought. She's the wild child to Daniel's buy-the-book personality.
Any suggestions?

If one of your books was considered for the movie and you had your say in who played the hero/heroine roles, who would they be?
Barb

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Time's Acomin'

You're probably thinking it's a wee bit early to be thinking of Christmas. Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away. But over the weekend is Christmas in Cullman. It's the only weekend of the year the Chamber is open and I will be working. Christmas music will waft over the city from three different stages while Santa visits with children. There are carriage rides and train rides. And participating merchants decorating. At over sixty degrees the weather won't quite feel like Christmas.

Memories from Christmases past crowd my mind. Center stage in all of them is Mama. I always came to Mama's for Christmas. I never miss her more than this time of year. There were never a lot of presents, but there was always love.

What's your favorite Christmas memory?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Our Fabulous Luncheon

Carla's not the only one who forgot about the blog. And she stole my idea too! I was going to blog about a whole lot of nothing. Now that I'm here though, I'll chat about the luncheon, which I thought was fabulous.

The amazing Jenn, who ran a 10K before she came to the luncheon, brought incredibly beautiful gift baskets for the raffle. Larry and Susan out did themselves selling the raffle tickets. Can't wait to hear the final total.

The centerpieces Susan Vickerstaff put together were wonderful and very Southern Magic appropriate.

Deb Webb did a strip tease to show us all how a multi-published author dresses at work. It was fun to see that she and I pretty much wear the same business attire.

Sherrilyn brought us all to tears with her inspiring stories.

The delicious barbecue and cake that Karen arranged was a huge hit. And I'm always awed by the willingness of our Southern Magic members to pitch in wherever needed.

This was my mom's first time at a readers' luncheon, and she had a grand time. She'd never met a published author before. And before you write in and remind me I'm published, let me tell you that to her, I'll always just be her baby. I wouldn't have it any other way either.

What was your favorite part of the luncheon?

Writing time....when is it.

When is the best time for you to write?

For me, I love to write early in the morning, and on and off through out the day. I really don't enjoy writing at night--but I like to revise then...why? Who knows I am weird.

The problem is this--I don't get a chance to write when I want to. Yep, everyone has that problem. I wish I could stay home and write after the kids left for school, but like many, I must go to work. (For some reason, I like regular meals, clothes that fit, and comfortable place to sleep--I don't do the starving artist bit--tried that when I went to art school, no thanks!)

So, I actually write in spurts. I write for a few minutes when I get home, while the kids are taking a bath, before I go to bed. I'd like to say that this is my best writing, it isn't--- but its what I have. I figure, perseverance will win out and perhaps I can get a story done before I'm 92.

So, my fellow writers and readers, when is the best time for you to write? When do you actually get to write? Tell me your tales of woe, because I'm interested.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh! Crap! I Forgot Again! A Seinfeld-type Blog


My turn to blog was Saturday. Of course, most of my writing buddies know, considering how much I complained abou it, my internet was down for four freaking days! Well, it turns out the cable company messed it up at the pole. I can tell you my husband was so happy. He can (and did) now say, "I told you I didn't do it!"

Anyway, besides not having internet, I was gone all day Saturday, like many of you - thank you - working at the Romance Readers Luncheon. A successful luncheon in fact. With so many wonderful authors there such as Sherrilyn Kenyon and Linda Howard to mention only two biggies, that can make a huge difference.

So it was destined I missed my turn. Then again, I plain ol' forgot it too! I have the worst case of CRS. Considering that's part of my initials, I was doomed to be that way.

Not having the internet shouldn't bother my writing, but when I know I can't use http://www.dictionary.com/ or http://www.thesaurus.com/ , it ties up my muse and stuffs a dirty sock in her mouth. That was my sister's favorite punishment when I talked too much and aggravated the crap out of her like little sisters could.

Then on top of all of the above, and that's pretty high up, I have a full requested and need to be typing the manuscript and not this blog--though I do enjoy doing this and always have dozens of things to type about but pretty much forget what wonderful blog I thought about in the car on the way to home at six o'clock in the evening, remember I have CRS. Wow! A run-on sentence at 5:58 in the morning and no caffeine. LOL!

Yesterday as soon as the guy left I started answering my emails about the on-line workshop that was to start that day, the contest that's in first round mode, update Southern Magic's website including the front page, luncheon page, authors' current books, and workshop page. Then I updated my website as I had WON! my first contest (not first contest as being first entered but as in first one that I WON!). Next, I checked the chapter's email and accepted "friends" at the chapter's MySpace page and forward info to our chapter treasurer on PayPal notices. I checked PayPal as one of the notices had gone awry and then I transfered money out of PayPal into the chapter's bank account. I sent out invitations to eight people and the speaker to join the on-line workshop loop. THEN set up the 2008 Board members on several different loops owned by Southern Magic, accepted a friend on my FACEBOOK, and send out several notices about contests, other on-line workshop, and general announcements for the chapter.

Are you bored yet? LOL!

And during all of this I kept thinking, "Crap! I need to be working on my WINNING manuscript!" LOL!

Okay, I've wasted enough time and it's getting late. My paying job is waiting for me and time for me to get going.

What TV show do you sometimes feel like you're living in? Today, I feel like Jerry Seinfeld and I would be good friends. Like my blog, his show was whole lot of nothing. :-)

On-Line Workshop with Caren Johnson

**PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED AND ENCOURAGED**

Southern Magic is pleased to host an on-line workshop, Everything You Wanted to Know About An Agent But Were Afraid to Ask, with literary agent Caren Johnson .

Description: This is a soup to nuts guide on what an agent does, how to work effectively with yours, and danger signs in any agent/author relationship that you should watch out for. Come join us to ask questions, learn about the benefits and drawbacks of having an agent and when you really need to have one.

When: December 3 through 14, 2007

Cost: $10 for Southern Magic Members, $15 for All Others

Class Advisor
::Caren Johnson:: began her literary career at the Peter Rubie Agency. She stayed for three years, working her way up from intern to agent. She went on to work with Nadia Cornier at Firebrand Literary for a year before starting her own agency in early 2007. She works closely with each of her authors, not only acting as an agent, but offering career guidance and publicity consultation. Her goal is to make sure each of her authors gets published and has a long-lasting, lucrative career.

Caren is full up at the moment with wonderful romance and mystery authors (though any who have written brilliant novels in these genres are more than welcome to submit to her as she is always on the lookout for great contemporary romance, exciting romantic suspense and fun mysteries). She is currently looking for women’s fiction in the vein of Monica McInerney, Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Sue Monk Kidd, and Laura Moriarty, fiction in the vein of Lisa Lutz, Christopher Moore, Michel Faber, Kate Atkinson, Louisa Luna, Audrey Niffenegger, and Jeffrey Eugenides, and YA in the vein of Scott Westerfeld, Stephanie Meyer, Markus Zusack, Gabrielle Zevin, Libba Bray, and Kevin Brooks. In nonfiction she is currently looking for more narrative nonfiction in a variety of subjects, pop culture, women’s interest (though no self-help), humor and quirky gift books.

Please check out her publisher’s marketplace page at http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/carenjohnson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Registration deadline is December 2 via PayPal/credit card.

The class is conducted through a YAHOO group format and you will receive an invitation to join at the time you pay. For more information, please check out our website at www. southernmagic. org and click on the WORKSHOP icon.

Thank you.
Carla Swafford
President, Southern Magic
Birmingham, Alabama

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How Deep Is Deep?

I understand point of view. In fact, I think that's one of my strong points. But lately, I've been struggling with depth. Just how deep do I need to go?

For example, on a recent contest entry, a judge commented at the end of the first scene that she didn't know what color the hero's hair was. I purposefully excluded it because I was in his point of view. My reason being he knows what color his hair is. It would seem silly to say "Matt shoved his hand through his dark, silky hair." At least it seems silly to me. But am I being too literal?

How deep is too deep?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Take 2 and call me in the morning

I just got back from a great weekend writer's retreat, my brain full of new ideas and suggestions. I sat wide-eyed, listening to best-selling and award winning authors give out plot ideas. I was too embarrassed to talk about my plot, although I know it wouldn't have been frowned upon. It was a treat to sit in my PJs and shop talk.

What was some of the best advice you have received and who passed their wisdom on to you?

Barb

Working the Net with Barbara Ferrer

**PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED AND ENCOURAGED**

Southern Magic is pleased to host an on-line workshop with Barbara Ferrer. WORKING THE NET TO MAKE THE NET WORK FOR YOU.

Description: Should you blog? Have a page on MySpace? Every writer can establish an Internet presence ot help spread the word about your work, even before you're published.

When: November 5 through 16
Cost: $10 for Southern Magic Members, $15 for All Others

Class Advisor
::Barbara Ferrer a.k.a. Caridad Ferrer A first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, born in Manhattan and raised in Miami, all of which Barbara realizes makes her a walking cliche. However, it also means she speaks Spanish reasonably fluently, at least enough to be able to employ some of the more colorful expressions in her writing. Loathing heat, humidity, and bugs the size of aircraft carriers, Barbara was of course destined to return to her home state despite swearing it would never, ever happen. So, after living in such exotic locales as Nashville, Tennessee and Ohio, she now resides in Jacksonville, just within the Florida border. Which serves as an important lesson: never underestimate the power of parental guilt when grandchildren are involved. Most current books written as Caridad Ferrer, Adios to My Old Life, and Not About The Accent
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Registration deadline is November 4 via PayPal/credit card.

The class is conducted through a YAHOO group format and you will receive an invitation to join at the time you pay.

For more information, please check out our website at www. southernmagic. org and click on the WORKSHOP icon.

Thank you.
Carla Swafford
President, Southern Magic

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hot Heros

Is your hero hot?

If so, how do you describe him? Do you start with those dreamy eyes? Maybe its the curve of the lips, the breadth of shoulders, or the way he fits those jeans. Perhaps its the height? Do you infer instead of describe?

Look at the book you are reading now and find the description of the hero. What passage makes you think of him...does it give just enough information or too much? If you're like me and I don't like the description--I change what he looks like in my minds eye.

Share with me that passage, I'd like to read it. Below is a passage from a book I am currently reading, it has a bit of both. It describes but does not elaborate.

"...At six-feet-six, and descended of great warrior known only as the Bloodletter, V was a massive male. With his blue-rimmed ice-white irises, his jet black hair, and his angular, cunning face, he might have been considered beautiful. But the goatee and the warning tattoos at his temple made him look evil."
----Lover Unbound, By J.R. Ward

I found the above succinct and descriptive and an area I am working on. (That is why you don't get a description that I wrote at this time.)

So share with me your descriptions.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Popping the Question

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. Yay us! My husband and I tend to reminisce each year about our dating life, wedding, honeymoon, etc. We laugh about how incredibly boring our wedding was, though we didn't know it at the time. Not until we watched the video a few weeks later did we realize that we throw a really dull wedding. Let me know if you're having trouble sleeping and I'll loan you the tape. It'll put you right out.

A few days ago, I was thinking about the way my husband proposed. It was sweet and unique, as is my husband. We went on a short spring trip to East Tennessee. A few months before, I had moved to another city two hundred miles away and our long distance relationship was wearing on both of us. I kind of expected a proposal on the trip, but days went by, and nothing happened. By the time we arrived in Greeneville and sat on top of a hill of his old family farm, I wasn't in the best of moods. It was cold, we were going home soon, and my left hand was naked! Out of the blue, he was on one knee, popping the question. I cried, and of course, said yes.

A little while later, he took me to a beautiful memorial park in downtown Greeneville. In front of the tomb of former President Andrew Johnson, he proposed again. Sounds odd, I know, but it's actually a beautiful place and at the time, it seemed the most normal thing in the world. Though, I have had trouble explaining it over the years. And before you ask, I said yes again.

What about you? Will you share how your significant other popped the question? If that hasn't happened yet, what's your dream proposal? And to keep this related to writing, have you ever used your own experience in your writing?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Week Left for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest

****PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED AND APPRECIATED****

Southern Magic, the Birmingham Chapter of Romance Writers of America®, is pleased to announce its 3rd Annual Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest for unpublished writers.

Enter: Up to first twenty-five pages by snail mail or email
Fee: $20-$25 (a $2 fee will apply to electronic entries paid by PayPal)

Deadline: Postmarked on or before October 27, 2007; or electronic entry by October 27, 2007 11:59 pm.

Eligibility: RWA Published (see rules) & Unpublished Authors

Judges: Published, PRO, all trained or experienced in judging

Top Prize: Engraved Bookmark and winners will be announced at the Gulf Coast Romance Writers' Silken Sands conference in Pensacola, FL, on the BEACH!

Categories/final judges:
Series Short/Long Contemporary: Susan Litman, Editor, Silhouette
Single Title: Selina McLemore, Editor, Grand Central Publishers (formerly Warner)
Suspense: Lauren McKenna, Senior Editor, Pocket
Historical: Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester
Unique Genres: Selena James, Executive Editor, Kensington

For entry form, score sheet, and rules, Southern Magic's Website , or send an email to carlaswafford@charter.net

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Keepin' the Faith, Baby

I just returned from a writer's conference, and, although it was focused on writing for children, a lot of what was said can apply directly to writing of any kind.

One of the first things I heard was "Writing is an act of faith." Every time I hear that statement, I feel like I've been kicked in the gut. But then the speaker said "You gotta believe. You gotta believe in yourself and your work, because, in the end, that's the only thing that will sustain you."

But how do you do that in this scary world called publishing? How do you keep believing in yourself?

The only way I know to do it is to keep learning, to keep trying, to keep on keeping on.

And never, ever give up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Contest Conflicts

I entered two contests back in the summer. The results came back about a week apart from each other. The first one was viewed by four different judges - 3 of the 4 tore my story to pieces. The other contest entry was only viewed by one judge who really liked it. Of course, I had a few grammar problems and small things to change, but over all, she really like the story itself.

Here are my questions: What do you do when you have several different people telling you several different things about your story? What do you change? What do you leave in? Do you just go by gut feelings?

Thanks,
Barb

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An Excellent Movie Choice for Romance Lovers

A co-worker suggested The Outsider with Tim Daly as an excellent movie. She wouldn't tell me how it ended. I do NOT like bad endings, i.e. someone dies or boy and girl remain apart. But she assured me I wouldn't be disappointed. Of course, who could be disappointed with Tim Daly to look at? He looks quite nice without a shirt.

I can't believe there is a romance movie I hadn't heard of. It's based on the book by Penelope Williamson, which I haven't read. My coworker was right. A great movie. Sort of an "Angel and the Badman" with John Wayne and probably similar to "Witness", which I haven't seen.

Naomi Watts is an Amish/Quaker type of woman whose husband is murdered by the evil cattleman. Tim Daly is a wounded gunfighter that stumbles onto her farm and she takes him in. Of course, they fall in love and you know the relationship is impossible as they struggle with her religion and distaste of violence and his urge to protect the woman and child he has come to love.

Includes themes of good vs. evil, revenge and redemption. If you get a chance, catch the movie on tv or rent it. Just bring your tissues.

Any romance movies you'd recommend?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Opening lines

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, that does not work. I see Snoopy typing that in the cartoon strip.

Hark, what light through yonder window breaks….

Nope, that doesn’t do it either, that has been so over done (Sorry Shakespeare).

Opening lines, they are a necessity and if you do it right, it makes the reader keep on going. Do you struggle with it? I have and still do. Sometimes I look at the books I am reading and write down the opening sentence just to see it clearly. Here are a few first sentences that I have found:

Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood.
-Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen

Kaye took another drag on her cigarette and dropped it into her mother’s beer bottle.
-Tithe, by Holly Black

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the obituary.
-Touch the Dark, by Karen Chance

The halls of Bixby High School were always hideously bright on the first day of school.
-Midnighters, by Scott Westerfeld

My philosophy is pretty simple—any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.
-Darkfever, by Karen Marie Moning

These are all out of books I have read in the last year or so. They all intrigue me. How about you? Do you want to find out why Claire is dreaming of her family or why Kaye likes to be nasty to her mother? Does it make you wonder why an obituary is unnerving and does the description of the starkness on the first day of school bring back memories? Don’t you just want to find out why the person is happy when no one is trying to kill her? I know I did.

Here is my challenge to you, write the first line of a book you are reading, show me what has drawn you in; then tell me, was that first line worth reading the rest of the book? (The ones above were!)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Before The Big Crash

It's time for a new computer, and this time, I've decided to be proactive. I started writing in 2001, using an old computer we'd had since the Eisenhower days. Well, maybe not that long ago, but it was old. Then, one day it went bang-kapooie, and we got a brand spanking new one. Two years later, the new had worn off and it just looked like it had been spanked...a lot.

I am one of those unfortunate people who knows little about computers, which wouldn't be so bad, except I'm also one of those lazy people who don't want to know anything about computers. I just want it to do what I want it to do when I want it to do it. When the poor, abused machine finally crashed...you know the fatal error they never seem to be able to recover from...we had the hard drive replaced, with a warning that it wouldn't last long. That warning turned out to be too true.

About four years ago, for my birthday, my sweet husband gave me a laptop. I loved it...still do. But it's getting some age on it. The numbers and letters are disappearing off the key board, it's loaded with manuscripts, various versions of each manuscript, partial manuscripts, ideas for future revisions of various versions of each manuscript, and well, various versions of various versions. Basically, it's loaded.

My wedding anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks and in lieu of a little romantic getaway, I asked for another laptop. So I'm in the market and have no idea what I'm looking for, what I need, what I want or what the best one is.

Anyone have a suggestion for a laptop brand, and a good place to find one? Please, help me before another fatal error hits!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Dug Up What?


I'm at a spot in my romantic suspense where my heroine had a dilemma. She needed to dig up a body without being caught. LOL! If you had told me twenty years ago, I would need to know something like that, I would've thought you're crazy.

Well, as we all know, you merely have to Google it and get all types of information you wanted to know and even some you could live without. Don't worry. I'm not about to go into the grizzly details--thankfully I have a strong stomach. But I will tell you in historicals, this can still be done with a shovel and pick. Though the arsenic might kill you later. Arsenic was used in embalming.

Nowadays, the problem is tied up with moving the near ton cement lid from the vault. Most of us have been to graveside services. We've seen the heavy lifting equipment discreetly to the side. While in the country, they often have it within feet of the grave -- just plain folk, they figure no big deal. :-)

Of course once you figure out how to get the lid off without people noticing, then you have another problem I won't get into.

Like I said, I've got it figured out but I promise my view of such things has changed. (When I was a kid, my Dad's family had reunions in the family cementery. Though I had nightmares about it as a kid, I'm now more comfortable visiting one.) I'm also thinking about being cremated when the time comes. At the next meeting, if you wish to know the details I found out, ask me.

How about you? What have you researched for a story and discovered that you didn't know half what you thought you did? You don't have to tell all, but something general like I did above.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Great Big Piece of Gray Dough, part 2 or Does it really stink, or is it just me?

Here’s a question I wish I had asked Debra Webb when she spoke at the September Southern Magic meeting: Do you know? I mean, really know? When you finish a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book -- do you know that it’s great, that your editor and the public are going to buy it and love it?

Because right now, I look at what I write, and I know it’s crap. Yet the manuscript has finaled in some contests, won one, and the judges’ comments have been overwhelmingly positive.

So I’m sitting here going “Maybe it’s me. Maybe, as Carla and Christy commented on part 1 of this blog, I’m just my own worst critic.”

Crime novelist G.M. Ford said this in an interview: “I'll tell you the truth: I teach a class at the [University of Washington] on mystery writing, and the first thing I tell my students is that, for the most part, writers succeed by conquering self-doubt. It isn't so much about talent or any of that other [garbage], it's about the temerity to start [a book] and the tenacity to follow it through.

Then, once you've started, the self-doubt really begins to flow. And then you get about halfway through, and you're picturing the castle scene in Frankenstein, where they come for you with rakes and torture instruments. [He laughs.] I go through this every time I write a book. About a month after I finish it, I sit there and I think, God, you've written the worst book ever in the history of mankind. And then I turn it in, and people love it, and I'm convinced again that there's no literary taste in America.”

I wonder, do most multi-published authors feel this way?

See http://www.januarymagazine.com/profiles/gmford.html for the whole interview. Thanks to JoAnn Ross for posting this on her loop.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A tisket, a tasket, I need help with my basket

It’s Southern Magic Reader’s Luncheon time again, and I’m in charge of putting together baskets of books to raffle off, with proceeds going to the chapter. That’s no problem.

My problem is that I also need to bring an author basket, and I don’t know what to put in it.

I am new to this whole basket thing. Kelley St. John had to explain to me how to put one together last year. I’m new to this whole author thing, too, so I have only two books to include. And both of them are young adult books--probably not the subgenre of choice for most of the luncheon attendees.

Other items I’m including:
- The $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble that I won as a door prize at the last Southern Magic meeting. Yes, I'm a re-gifter.
- A cloth book cover to hide your more risqué reading material in public. This problem isn’t limited to romance novels, of course. Last year at the beach I was reading Striptease by Carl Hiaasen (i.e., the movie with Demi Moore) when a man stopped and asked me, “Are you taking a class?”

And that’s it. I have other ideas like my critique partner’s historical, bath products, and hot chocolate, but none of that speaks to a theme that can be tied to a couple of teen romantic comedies. And if I made it a teen basket with a DVD of 10 Things I Hate About You and a CD of Now 37 (or whatever number Now they're on), I'm not sure the luncheon attendees would appreciate it.

Help me out here. If you won a basket, what would you love to find inside besides the author’s own books?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Moonlight and Other TV Shows

Lately, I'm trying not to waste as much time, so I've cut down on my tv viewing. I haven't watched a lot of the new tv shows.

For the first time, I've watched Dancing with the Stars. Mainly because of Marie Osmond and Jane Seymour. They're doing the older and chunky ladies proud.

I also watched Private Practice even though I'm not a Grey's Anatomy viewer. I've always liked actor Tim Daly.

But the best is Moonlight on Friday nights. They sucked me right in because there's the promise of a romance. It's about a private detective who just happens to be a vampire. It reminds me a bit of the old noir detective shows. He's a kinder, gentler vampire. He buys his blood. No attacking people. The actor is kind of cute, too.

Have you seen anything worth watching?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Writing Spaces

I used to write in the dining room. It was open, airy, had wood floors two huge windows, and I could see everything that was going on in the kitchen and living room. I happily thought this was the place for me. Of course there were a few glaring problems.

The first problem I had writing in the dining room was lack privacy. I couldn’t sit down at the computer with out someone coming in to ask questions be it my husband or children, or I had to jump up and answer the door, or phone, to clean up something the cat threw up on, prevent a fight, or to finish dinner. Second, I had no bookshelves. I’d like to say that didn’t deter me, but honestly, sometimes I just figured I could get by without it…especially after five trips already to the room that did have the book shelves. Granted, bookshelves for the dining room are on the “list of to-do” but as you know, it should be called the “list that never will get done”.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it. There was a smaller room, with a window, painted a dark blue with a teal rug (it came with the house-not my choice believe me), but it had two walls of bookshelves, a ceiling fan—and most gloriously a DOOR. It took me a week after coming home from work and all of Sunday (today) to do it, but I moved in. I removed all the books that I didn’t want (you know things like bike remodeling, the pathology of yawning etc) and put all the ones I needed like “Writing the Break Out Novel” by Donald Maass. I have now shut the door and am writing this.

Bliss.

I should have done this a long time ago, but the wood floors and large room enamored me. Now I am in a cozy room, and I feel so much more focused and it is quiet. Well, this is all well and good, now let’s see if I can really get some work done….

I know there have been workshops on creating your own writing space. But, what have you done to create your own space? Where do you feel the most comfortable? I’d like to know.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My First Panic Free Conference

I'm headed to Atlanta in a couple of hours for my first Moonlight and Magnolia conference. This will be the first conference I've attended that I didn't have a scheduled appointment with an agent or editor. For many people, pitching their work is easy and painless. I'm not one of those people. In previous conferences, much of my time was spent reviewing and practicing my pitch. By the time of the appointment, I should have been ready, but instead always found myself floundering. My last agent appointment netted me my dream agent, but I promise you, it wasn't from my smooth pitch. She was kind enough to ask questions and I actually had answers.

So I plan to thoroughly enjoy myself, learn from some amazing writers and experts, spend time with friends, make new friends and cheer for some of my favorite authors at the Maggies.

What about you? What do you enjoy most when you go to a conference? What do you look forward to and what do you dread?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Premiere Week!











Between the hours
I'm working and
this week's premieres,
I haven't been very
productive. I promise
to have a good blog
next time. For now
I'm giving you some
new eye candy.








Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Romance Readers' Luncheon

Five days left before prices go up.


***Permission granted to forward***

Come and join us at the Homewood Public Library on November 3, 2007,
Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Birmingham, Alabama

Southern Magic presents NYT best selling Sherrilyn Kenyon
and welcome speaker multi-published Debra Webb

Over twenty romance authors will be in attendance along with
Linda Howard, Janice Lynn, Kathleen Long, Kelly St. John and Peggy Webb.
To see the complete list go to http://www.southernmagic.org/luncheon.html .

Door prizes!!
Be prepared to purchase raffles for chances at baskets loaded with books
along with the popular Get Your Name In a Book!

A Book Signing (open to the public) will follow the luncheon.
Registration: $25 Until September 30, 2007 ($20 for S-M Members)
$30 October 1 to 27, 2007 ($25 for S-M Members)
Please Print

Name____________________________________________

Address____________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Phone Number______________________________________

Email Address______________________________________

Make checks payable to: Southern Magic
Return this page with your payment to:
Southern Magic Luncheon Registration
113 Sutton Circle
Birmingham, AL 35242

http://www.southernmagic.org/

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Great Big Piece of Gray Dough

I'm having a love-hate relationship with my manuscript, and right now, it's all hate. This is a ms I started about five years ago and subsequently abandoned. So when I pulled it out last year, I knew it would take some revisions to freshen it up.

To help me decide what kind of revisions I needed, I entered it in some contests. Surprisingly, it finaled in several contests. But no requests from editors.

Over the weekend, I read an article about pacing. Ah-ha! I said. That's it! That's what's holding me back. All the things that slow pacing-- long sentences, big blocks of narrative paragraphs, characters doing boring activities--(the list goes on)--pretty much includes everything I have in this ms. Long sentences? My specialty. Narrative blocks? I love getting inside my characters' heads and thinking with them.

So yesterday, I started full-scale revisions. And now, the ms is a mess. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and my mom made biscuits. She would give me a bit of dough to play with. I would work that dough with my grimy child's hands until it turned into a dried-out gray lump.

And that's exactly what my manuscript looks like. There's nothing fresh about it. Each word, each phrase, each sentence, each paragraph is forced and overworked and reads like a dried-out gray lump.

My mom always made me throw out the piece of gray dough.

I guess the good thing about the ms is that I can go back to the way it was. It may never get requested by an editor, but at least it won't be gray any more.

Overcoming Writer's Block and Other Obstacles

Southern Magic is pleased to host an on-line workshop with Genie Davis. OVERCOMING WRITER'S BLOCK AND OTHER OBSTACLES.

Description: Coming up with a viable idea for a book can be a project in itself. Then you have to pitch and sett it -- that's another project. And somewhere in there you need to write the book! Genie will tell us how to stay fresh through all of this -- and write on deadline.

When: October 1 through 12, 2007
Cost: $10 for Southern Magic Members, $15 for All Others

Class Advisors
::Genie Davis a.k.a. Nikki Alton A produced screen and television writer, Genie Davis’s work spans a variety of genres from supernatural thriller to romantic drama, family, teen, and comedy. She’s worked on projects with companies as diverse as Smith-Hemion Productions, Wild at Heart Films, Craven/Maddalena Films, and Craig Anderson Productions. She’s written on staff for ABC-TV’s Port Charles; written, produced, and directed reality programming and documentaries for The Learning Channel, PBS, and HGTV, as well as numerous television commercials and corporate videos. She’s directed such notable corporate films as "Santa Goes Shopping at Frederick’s of Hollywood’ and "Let’s Watch the Big Metal Machine Parts go Up and Down for Twenty Mintues While the Boring Guy Says Stuff." Most current books, The Model Man and Five O’Clock Shadow written as Genie Davis and a novella "Rodeo Man" written as Nikki Alton.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Registration deadline is September 30 via PayPal/credit card; September 23 via check.

The class is conducted through a YAHOO group format and you will receive an invitation to join at the time you pay.

For more information, please check out our website at www.southernmagic.org and click on the WORKSHOP icon.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Show and Tell

Today I really enjoyed the meeting with Deb. She was GREAT! I did have one question I really wanted to ask her but really didn't want to look like a goober so I'll ask the group instead.

This is a question that has bugged me for a long time. How do you show and not tell? Are there any articles out there on the subject?

Thanks,
Barb :-)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Living the dream

Now that she has sold her first THREE books, Christy Reece e-mails me once a week with a list of questions about becoming a happy, well-adjusted newly published author. I always answer, “Why the heck are you asking ME?”

Here for Christy and the rest of you is a list of steps to living the dream.

1. When your book receives a good review, that’s because the reviewers really know what they’re talking about.

2. When your book receives a bad review, no one pays any attention to that rag anyway.

3. When you win a contest, this is just one more indication that you are a terrific writer.

4. When you don’t win a contest, it means nothing because contests are so subjective.

5. When your book sells well...now you KNOW you’re a terrific writer.

6. When your book doesn’t sell well, you are not lowering your standards to appeal to popular tastes.

7. When your editor buys your next book, you’re on a roll, baby!

8. When your editor refuses your next book, that’s because you are so creative that you are ahead of the curve. Someday...SOMEDAY, perhaps long after you are gone, the world will appreciate your art.

9. When your mother loves your book, she knows best.

10. When your mother hates your book, she has Issues.

Just kidding, Mom! I meant mothers in general. I was going for the punchline. Ba-dump-bump. *cymbal crash* (My mom reads this blog.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Fair is in Town

The Ferris wheel and merry-go-round travel but get nowhere.
Cows and pigs are judged and the more they weigh the better.
(If only that were true in life for us.)
The midway rings with enjoyment and loud music.
Aunt Addie and Aunt Deanie enter their homemade jam and pickles.
Yes, the county fair has come to town.

My husband and I are odd. We're not interested in the rides or entertainments. At the Montgomery fair they had a circus which was enjoyable. We mainly go to look at the exhibits and the food. Yum, I can almost taste the funnel cake, cotton candy, and candied apples now. It's a great place to people watch.

What do you enjoy about the fair?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Waste of My Time....

I wasted my time and money yesterday, by going to the movies. Normally, I don’t say that, because I do not go often and usually I find exceptional movies to watch (like “300”). Unfortunately, my love of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal brought me to a movie—Dragon Wars.

Now, if you think of it, Dragons are interesting creatures, throw in War and you have a potential for a thrilling movie much like Lord of the Rings (at least, that is what I was hoping for.). What I got was Power Rangers with better graphics, horrible acting, even worse editing, and a confusion of scenes with no point. So basically—I wasted my time.

As a struggling somewhat new writer, there are many things I use to encourage and motivate my creative side. If I am having a hard time with writing a scene involving a relationship perhaps I’ll watch something like “Ever After” or “Practical Magic” Ok, you see what I mean? I love those types of stories! Even “Good Will Hunting” is a very good one to show character development, motivation, etc. (and has a very good “black moment!”) I use Good Will Hunting, because I am in a class that is using it as a base…and it works!

What do you use to motivate? What have you done lately that has been a detriment to your writing, when you meant for it to be positive? How do you change it into something positive? As writers we all have our own ways of dealing with getting ourselves motivated and I am interested in what you have to say.

Now, I have to get back to my manuscript…I have a few characters who are suspiciously trying to turn into Power Rangers, and that has got to be stopped…..

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Found My Voice, Then Developed Laryngitis

I know that writing takes practice. That you can't just one day decide you're going to write a book, write it and then right after you type 'the end', you've got a publisher dying to buy it. Okay, this has probably happened to someone, but for most of us, it takes years of practice.

When I first started writing, I tried to be a certain way. Write a certain way? No, be a certain way. My hero and heroine were perfect. My villain had no redeeming value, and I had so many characters with their own point of view, even I got confused. I wanted my characters to be a certain way, so I forced them into boring stereotypes. And it showed. After a while, thanks to conferences, workshops, chapter meetings and talking to and learning from many talented writers, I learned to loosen up, let my inhibitions go and just write the story.

I wrote two books this way and thought I'd found my niche, my voice. That indefinable, vague but oh so important thing that defines 'me' and what I write and how I write it. I've heard good definitions for what 'voice' is, but can't think of one at the moment. But however it's defined, I thought I'd found mine.

Last year, I went through some sort of transformation. I didn't know it at the time. I just knew I couldn't write. Nothing came. I'd sit at my computer and get so frustrated and angry for not being able to put anything on a page. I was seriously questioning if I would write again.

Then, something sparked my imagination and I sat down and wrote three chapters. Problem was, I couldn't figure out what was happening. It was so different than my usual style, I thought I might be writing a historical. That surprised me. I don't write historicals. I love them, but I can't write them. So what did I do? I stopped of course, completely frozen in fear.

In January, I took two online courses that not only inspired me, they freed something in me. I began writing again. I went back to the story that had scared me, figured out what was happening in it and wrote the book. Turned out not to be a historical, after all. Odd, huh?

So what does this have to do with voice? Everything! The other day, I went back to one of my old books for some reason, can't remember why. It's always been my favorite. I read a few pages of it and realized it doesn't sound anything like my new voice. I was stunned. What had happened? Where did my old voice go? Will it come back? Actually, I hope not, because I like my new one.

I never expected this kind of change in my writing. I'm not saying it's better or worse, but it is totally different.

What about you? Have you found your 'voice'? Has your voice changed over the years? For those who write in different genres, do you have a different voice for each? Oh, and have you ever had literary laryngitis? How did you get over it?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Girly-man! Hear Me Now and Believe Me Later!

Yes, I loved Hans and Franz on Saturday Night Live. So funny, especially when The Arnold came on the show. Anyway, what I want to talk about is the growth of our characters.

As most of us know, each major player in our book must grow in some way before we can type THE END. We can show their growth several ways. Yes. You’re right. Another list from Carla. I’ve been a good girl for a while and it’s that time again.

1) By learning to love. That one is used more often for the male characters than for females. The character could be nursing a broken heart caused by a minor character or the other major player in the story. Maybe her childhood was horrible or someone in his life had a tragic accident and he refused to try to love again.

One of my favorite books, SARA’S CHILD by Linda Howard, has a hero whose wife and children died in a car accident. He struggles not to love his dead wife’s best friend. When they marry and she becomes pregnant, he refuses to acknowledge the child. I cried and cried the first time I read that book. Of course, it has the HEA. That’s why it’s a keeper.

2) By learning to trust. Another great one for romance. Often this is used with number one. The character’s betrayed by a mother, father, best friend, or past love. Money stolen, left for dead, or that broken heart.

I’m sure if I thought about it hard enough I could think of several books, but what comes to mind is Mel Gibson’s PAYBACK. Hard to believe, but it has a romance. Mel’s character, Porter, is betrayed by his wife and best friend, left for dead. I won’t say more, but I can promise you won’t be disappointed. I found on the internet a new re-cut verison is out. I’m not sure about that one. Just in case, get the original verison and check it out. Mel plays an anti-hero, so watch out, the story is violent.

3) By redemption. A character has realized the errors of his ways. Authors often use amnesia for this growth as they’re afraid the reader can’t believe a bad person can make a 180 degree change. I believe they can. Ask me about it sometime. Historicals like amnesia victims too. I see redemption used in paranormals a lot.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter books use redemption beautifully for her "Mad, Bad, and Immortal" heroes. Who doesn't love a man who has fences to mend and is willing to do it.

4) By plain ol’ learning. This is where the character seeks vengeance against another character. But maybe love (see number one) or the truth is revealed and changes the character’s direction, helping him grow.

I know I’ve read several books like this since Johanna Lindsey’s PRISONER OF MY DESIRE, but none come to mind. So Johanna’s heroine forces the hero to have sex with her (yep, forced a man) and later he takes revenge by forcing the same on her. Of course he makes her want it first. Oddly, in this one, what’s good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander.

Okay, now for the questions, what other character growth have you seen in books or movies? What are some of your favorite books or moveis that represent the ones above?


In closing, as Hans said, "Sorry, Mr. Girly-Man, but here's a treat for your girlfriend!"