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


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:

"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: 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?

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 or , 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


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


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?