Friday, March 23, 2007

The Perfect Setting

I'm in Ireland right now, visiting my daughter who is a student at the University of Limerick. I've been here once before, but that was when we moved her over and got her enrolled in college. Most of what I saw was the inside of college administration buildings. We did manage to get out into the country a couple of days that trip, which made me realize how much I wanted to be a tourist here.

My husband and I are doing just that this trip, and I have fallen in love with this country. We spent yesterday in Cork City, and I found an interesting little bookstore that had a huge section on Irish history and culture. I wanted to buy every book there. It got me thinking about the popularity of Ireland as a setting in romantic fiction. Certainly, the incredible countryside plays a part. The sea. And the strong character of the Irish people. Their sad history. Their love of family and friendship. All these things are great elements for romance.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to write a story set in this country like Nora Roberts and JoAnn Ross (among many others) have, but I'm loving thinking about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Not Afraid...Are You Kidding? I'm Terrified!

Several years ago I purchased a pin at the Midnight Bazaar at Nationals. It proudly proclaimed, "I have a book proposal and I'm not afraid to pitch it." Do you think I've ever worn that pin? Of course not, my mama taught me not to lie. I have no idea why I bought the thing.

Pitching my working, whether it's at a formal appointment or a chance encounter, fills me with such fear, I'm sitting here at my computer, biting my lip and sweating, just thinking about it.

I admire people who can memorize their pitch or speak about their work with such eloquence, they probably get a request for a full every time they open their mouths.

Do I prepare? Absolutely. I practice with other people, writers and non-writers. I stand in front of the mirror. I pitch to my husband...I love pitching to my husband, he's always so impressed! Bless him. I've tried note cards, type written pages and memorization. Memorizing definitely doesn't work for me, because normally, I've forgotten my name, much less anything about my work.

Picturing these people in their underwear...well, that just seems wrong and makes me even more uncomfortable, so I won't do that.

I've taken classes. Kelley's class is incredible and I highly recommend it to put the pitch together. Unfortunately, she's never there to pitch for me. So I sit there with something that feels like a gob of peanut butter in my throat and try to be articulate. Something I often struggle with even without that peanut butter feeling.

So here I am, two weeks before conference, knowing I have to pitch my work and I'm already panicking.

I know one of my biggest problems is that my work is so personal to me. I can talk all day about a variety of subjects, if I'm not personally involved or don't have an emotional connection. But get me to talking about something that really means something to me? Peanut butter time again!

So tell me, dear writing friends, what do you do to prepare for your pitch? How do you keep away the nerves?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Writers' Conference Continues to Grow

********permission granted to forward******

New Editor joins our writers' conference! Felecia Mills with Red Sage Publishing!

At the Romance in the Magic City hosted by Southern Magic in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 30, 31, and April 1, 2007.

Cost: $190 to $210 (pay by snail mail or PayPal) Walk ups welcomed.

Keynote speakers: Beverly Barton, Gayle Wilson, and Linda Howard.
Special Guest: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Agent/editor appointments at still available for:
Felecia Mills, Red Sage; Tracy Farrell, HQN; Leslie Wainger, Silhouette Books; Melanie Murray, Warner (Hachette Book); John Scognamiglio, Kensington Books; Hilary Rubin, St. Martin's Press; Kimberly Whalen, Trident Media; Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency, Vivian Beck, Vivian Beck Agency.

Workshops presented by:
Beverly Barton, Gayle Wilson, Linda Howard, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love Snell, Rhonda Pollero, Tina Gerow, Genie Davis, Linda Winstead Jones, and many more.

Special hotel rate provided at
Wynfrey Hotel
1000 Riverchase Galleria
Birmingham,.Alabama 35244
205- 987-1600 .. .. 800- 996-3739 .. 800-.WYNFREY

********Hotel attached to Galleria with 200 stores and 11 restaurants*************

For more information, check out

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Getting lucky

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I thought I’d blog a little about the writer’s fickle friend, luck.

Several years ago, I had written quite a few manuscripts for adults and quite a few for teens, but I decided to shelve the YA writing for the time because the market for teen novels was so depressed. I concentrated on writing for adults and finished a Harlequin Flipside. I was getting good responses from my queries to agents when the line folded.

So I wrote a single title adult romance and got an agent for it. It didn’t sell, either. One editor asked me to revise and resubmit, and we had high hopes for a sale to her. But the same week I resubmitted the revision, she quit her editing career altogether--so we couldn’t even send it to her at another house.

In the meantime, I’d heard that the YA market was on the rise again. I didn’t really believe this would last, but just in case, I wrote MAJOR CRUSH and sent it to my agent. She sent it to Simon & Schuster. Little did she know that the editorial assistant there was a former band geek.


My point here is that to get published, and published AGAIN, you have to do everything right. You must write the best manuscript you can. Either you need to know the market inside and out, or you need to get an agent who does. And even then, luck may be against you most of the time.

The trick is to keep writing, keep submitting, continue to give your agent something to sell for you. You can’t hang all your hopes on one manuscript, because chances are, you won’t get lucky with one manuscript. If you have two, or three, or four, your luck increases.

It’s in the nature of luck to turn. And it’s your job to make sure that when luck finally turns in your favor, you’re not out to lunch. Even if it IS corned beef.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Has Sprung and Brought Spring Fever

I'm afraid today's blog has nothing to do with writing. Everyone should take time to enjoy the sunshine and smell the hyacinths.

I love this time of the year. Neither scorching heat nor frigid cold. I've had spring fever this week. My daffodils, hyacinths, and yellow bells are blooming. Friday I went to Lowe's to buy flowers for my cup & saucer pots. English daisies--fitting I thought. Ah, if only it were like this year-round. But, alas, I'd probably never get anything done.

Yesterday evening I put up my hummingbird feeder. Now, I impatiently await their arrival. To hear the whir of their delicate fairy wings. So graceful and colorful. So territorial. They do fight over the feeder.

So, I'll enjoy the weather before it becomes too hot and humid to spend time outside.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Diva Express

Picking up Jennifer’s contest thread:

A few weeks ago, I decided to flag down the contest bus and climb aboard. I’m not a first-time passenger, though. I rode this bus for quite some time back in the first part of this century (and trust me, it seems just as long ago as that sounds). My skills are rusty. I got so confused at the Post Office when I tried to remember all the nuances of the contest-entering procedure that I think I included a letter to my daughter in the packet.

But today I received the self-addressed, stamped “don’t-worry-we-received-your-entry” postcard, so maybe that Brillo pad I’m using to scrape off the rust is working. Seeing the postcard gave me a quick little thrill, and I heard a tiny voice whisper “I’m back!” I have no false hopes of placing in this contest, but I am looking forward to hearing what writers in another part of the country have to say about my work.

Besides our own Linda Howard Award of Excellence, what are your favorite contests and why?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My First Time

Ha! My first conference. Thought it was something else, didn't you?

With Romance in the Magic City Conference coming up in a few weeks, I've been thinking about my first conference. How scary and exciting it was. How I felt both powerful...after all, I'd just finished my first manuscript...and weak...I knew absolutely nothing about nothing.

A few months after I joined RWA, I received an invitation to the Write Touch Writer's Conference in Wisconsin. I was living in Indiana at the time and it never occurred to me...can you say naive...that they were sending invitations to RWA members in the surrounding states. I honestly thought they'd heard about me and my manuscript. Okay, you can stop laughing now!

I asked my mom to go with me and we set off to Madison, Wisconsin. Again, I knew no one and so wanted to make a good impression, so of course, I had a suitcase full of new clothes. I arrive, looking absolutely really, I did. But I also looked as green as spring grass and probably terrified out of my mind.

It was an incredible learning experience. I met with an editor from Harlequin. We both agreed my manuscript wasn't a category romance, but she gave me some wonderful tips and was just so sweet and cute, I wanted to hug her. I think she was even more nervous than me.

I didn't have an agent appointment, but an agent spoke at the conference. Quite honestly, she scared me to death. She was professional and knew exactly what she wanted and didn't want anyone to waste her time. Today, I can appreciate that attitude. Then, I was petrified. But I worked up the courage, thanks to a group of supportive writers I'd just met, to approach her during a break and ask her if I could send her a partial. She said yes and I almost fainted. By the time I made it back to the table, where my new friends sat waiting, I was sweating buckets but beaming with pride.

Lisa Jackson was the keynote speaker and I sat awestruck, listening and absorbing, relishing every single word. I was amazed at how funny and entertaining she was, when all the books I'd read by her were serious and somewhat gritty. She was a nice, normal person. Wow, what a revelation!

I've been to several conferences since then, but this one will remain in my heart as my all time favorite. It was the very first time I met real life authors, chatted with other romance writers and actually felt like a writer.

What about you? Do you remember your first conference? What did you learn? What was your best experience?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Guys and Gals

On the way to work, I’ll listen to a couple guys on my favorite radio station talk about a little of everything. Some days I can’t handle their silliness, but today they were talking sports, including my favorite, NASCAR. Tomorrow they plan to have only women call in and talk about sports.

With the exception of NASCAR, I really couldn’t care less and usually tune them out. But one thing caught my attention. How they talked about the athletes. You know, they’ll say "he no longer has it." Or "he should have sat on the bench and never played." Harsh words. And in a public forum. They say the names, team names, etc.

I know there are websites that talk about authors and books that way, but I could never imagine saying the same things in a public forum.

But I do listen to their word rhythms and word usage during the conversations with other men and women. I notice there is a difference in how they respond. It comes in handy when I type dialogue for my heros and bad guys.

With the guys, they're more apt to interrupt and tell them what they think. With the women, they listen and ask questions.

What about you? Is it other books, your spouse, movies, TV shows that help you with your dialogue?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Show me your booty!

Last week I called the finalists in Southern Magic’s Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and sent out certificates. This week I ordered the engraved gold bookmarks for the winners. Only I know who they are! I have never felt so powerful! Bwa-ha-ha! (Well, that’s not quite true—I told Christy who they are in the event of my untimely demise.) I also reserved space for the full-page ad that will feature the winners in the July issue of Romance Writers Report.

Then, in this month’s Romance Writers Report, I saw an ad for the Madcap Award for romantic comedy, given by Heart and Scroll. The prize is a trophy and some kind of jester hat. I want this hat. So I e-mailed them to ask if they accept YA.

And this got me thinking. The Gayle Wilson Award and Linda Howard Award prizes seem very nice to me, but what do I know? I have never won or even finaled in the Award of Diddly-Squat.

I know some of you are contest whores divas and have lots of comparative information. So I’d like to know: what are some of the prizes you’ve won? What prizes did you treasure especially—not because of the competition or the book or manuscript, mind you, but because of the loot involved? Don’t name the contest. I’m just interested in how other people do things. Did you get a certificate for finaling or winning? Did you get a bookmark, a pin, some other trinket? Was your name or your book cover included in Romance Writers Report? And what do you value most? What do you wish a contest would give you?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A little inspiration on a raining day...

Read the instructions below before scrolling down for the puzzle!
Here is a visual-perception challenge for you. See how quickly you can find the dogs in the picture in the attached file . Men seem to do better at this than women, for some reason.

Average times for men and women are: Women - 12.46 minutes Men - 1.23 .seconds

Typical comments by women taking the test:

1. 'I couldn't see a dog and I stared at the picture for a good 10 minutes.'
2 'I think it's one of those pictures where you have to stare at a certain spot and then everything comes into focus ... but it never happened to me.'
3. 'I'll give it another try later'

Hint #1: The dogs will appear to be white with black spots.

Hint #2: There are only 2 dogs in the picture.

Good Luck!