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?


Working the Net with Barbara Ferrer


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


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

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?


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 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 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?