Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Swan Song...Pun Intended

You know how every New Year's Eve there's a countdown on the radio of the top songs of the year? Well, as another year closes and a new one dawns, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Here is the soundtrack of my year, tentatively entitled, The Soundtrack of My Year (hey, all my creativity is stored up for the manuscripts, okay?):

5. I'm Coming Out by Diana Ross- As Ms. Ross so aptly warbled it, I'm coming out; I want the world to know, got to let it show. This year I busted out of my comfort zone and attended a couple's retreat, formed two new friendships and co-chaired a luncheon. The common denominator between the three is I ripped open that protective shell I keep myself saran-wrapped in and allowed others to see that person I'm so afraid they won't understand or even like. By tearing out of that box, I discovered that not only did they accept and believe in me, but in turn helped me to believe in myself.

4. Step by Step by New Kids on the Block- Aw don't look so surprised! Could Naima Bryant really have a music list and NOT include NKOTB?? Anyhoo, this year has been a series of step. Big steps. Small steps. Leaps. Stumbles. Strides. Skips. But, every one has made me stronger, more knowledgeable, more humble and more focused. The point is whether it was soaring or stumbling, I still moved forward and that's all that counts.

3. Patience by Guns 'n Roses- My husband will no doubt find this one funny. "Patience" and "Naima" is like an oxymoron. But, if there's anything this year of highs and lows has taught me is that this race requires patience--this race towards not only publication, but fulfillment, peace, joy and success. I've learned that even though many people are entered in it, I'm running it in such a way that I'll obtain the dream at the end. In other words, I'm the tortoise. And, it's funny, but I'm pretty much okay with that.

2. (I've Had)The Time of My Life by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes or "The Dirty Dancing Song"- Last time I checked I hadn't danced the Pechanga with Johnny Castle, but I still had a ball this year. The absolute time of my life. I helped critique a soon-to-be-published manuscript. I participated in writing workshops and learned how to get my characters naked--emotionally and physically. I completed a manuscript. I met Christina Dodd!! I've laughed until my sides ache. I danced with my husband, heard my kids tell me they love me and saw in their smiles that they meant it. I am the most blessed woman I know.

1. Never Would've Made it by Marvin Sapp- This song sums 2008 up in a perfect bow. I never would've made it this far alone. This is perhaps the hardest to write because I'm trying not to be mushy--but, oh hang it! This year I discovered a group of women who looked at me and saw what I didn't. They saw potential, leadership and talent. And, I'll always be thankful to the ladies of Southern Magic for opening my eyes when I couldn't see. I have critique partners who encourage and support me as well as help me to become the best writer possible. I have a family who has never scoffed at my dream. Instead, they've taken it on as their own and do whatever it takes to see that dream come to fruition. And, finally, I have a Father who loves me unconditionally, giving me love, joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year House Cleaning for Writers

Time to clean house...

Figuratively, because I don't want to disturb the deluxe condos the dust bunnies have created. I do plan to throw away my procrastination, whininess (I do keep a small jar of that up in the cabinet, to examine on really bad days), time wasters like spider solitaire (the death knell for writers everywhere) and negative thoughts.

What will I keep? My accomplishments. This year I have:
  • Managed to complete my first face-to-face pitch (and not totally blow it)
  • Finish a partial and send it off
  • Received a rejection (Hey this is important too!)
  • Wrote half of my book and realized it was all wrong (Plot and character flaws)
  • Replotted the darn thing
  • Started writing again.--Twice

Yes, I realize that I did a lot of back tracking (like re-plotting) when I should be moving forward. I've learned a lot this year, so I want keep the good things out in the open, dusted and shiney up on the mantel--Things like my focus, surrounding myself with supportive people, perseverence, and humor.

What have you learned this year? What will you keep, what will you throw away?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Plans Anyone?

With Christmas over and the new year just around the corner, I’ve already started my writing list for 2009. I’m finishing the synopsis for my last novel this week. In January, I will be rewriting an old book. I have two sequels after that and a fantasy. Wow, that’s a lot of writing ahead of me, but I fully intend to complete those projects, along with losing ten pounds.

What about you? Any writing plans for the new year?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas From All of Me

Subtitled: The Many Voices in My Head Wishes You A Merry Christmas!

All authors have Dissociative Identity Disorder. In other words, they hear voices in their heads and not just one or two, but many. Thankfully authors have learned to deal with the problem by letting the voices tell their stories to the outside world.

Well, some of my voices would like to wish you a Merry Christmas...

“Hi, I’m Mary from THE PREACHER’S SON. While Dusty and Mom are arguing over who gets the last piece of the apple pie I baked, I thought I would wish you a Merry Christmas. Christmas in Alabama is so much more about the true meaning than it was in Las Vegas. Sin City was more about lights and sequins. Anyway, that was then. Now...I couldn’t be happier. So Merry Christmas, everyone.”

“Hey, J.T. here. My story’s in A SHERIFF TO CALL HER OWN. While I’m sitting in my patrol car outside the Sandbox, waiting for Molly to grab her brother and toss him out on his skinny, drunken ass, I figured...” Frowning in disgust, he watched Devlin stumble out of the bar’s double doors and fall to his hands and knees. Molly walked up and shoved her brother to the ground and stood over him, shaking her finger and fussing. Times like these, J.T. was glad he was a teetotaler. “There’s my girl now. I better go and help, so have a safe Merry Christmas and a sober Happy New Year.”

“My name’s Larisa. I spilled my guts in DEADLY TEMPTATIONS or whatever Carla or an editor decides to name it one day. I’ve been taught about many religions and I guess I relate to Christianity the most. Even though there’s a lot of crap about how crosses and holy water can burn vampires. They’re just like you and me, only stronger, sexier and drink blood, and...anyway, Merry Christmas! Gotta go. Triton’s waiting to take me snow sledding tonight. I do have to say, I love making him wait, then he’ll get mad enough to flash some fang! He’s absolutely yummie when he does that.”

“I guess I’m the last one and the oldest of this bunch. I’m Tori. My tale is called THE CHAMPION. Ah, I don’t have much to say. It’s getting late and time to hunt for the perverts out there and make them pay in blood.” A little bit of fang glowed in the dark as she looked over her shoulder. “Sorry. Ah, I mean Merry Christmas! Be sure to hug those you love every day as you never know if you'll get another day with them.” Then she was gone.


**Let your characters wish everyone a Merry Christmas too.**

Sunday, December 21, 2008

That Mysterious Line

Where is it? That line that marks the end of "no news is good news" and the beginning of "no news means no thanks"?

Don't get me wrong -- I know I'm not there yet. My manuscript has only been gone a couple of months; a blink of an eye in the publishing time-space continuum. But I can't help but wonder that as more time passes without a word, my chances of getting a "yes" from the publisher and agent lessen dramatically.

Does it ever happen? Have you ever heard of a publisher buying a manuscript after having it for months with no communication with the writer?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Grandpa's Dinner

Today is my paternal grandfather's birthday. When my grandmother was alive, we would all meet at their place for dinner. Each year it was the same thing--homemade raviolis, baked chicken, peas and mushrooms in butter and a salad made with peeled tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Grandpa had a bad set of dentures that made chewing the skins on the tomatoes impossible.

There was always a relish tray on the table with black olives and two kinds of pickles. They were cut so that you knew which were the sweet ones (they were cut across rather than on the diagonal). We drank lots of wine since we were old country Italian, with even the children getting a watered down drop in their own stemmed wine glass. Of course we had cake for dessert. It wasn't just any cake, either. It was Grandma's own concoction of German chocolate cake (made from a box mix) with a frosting of whipped cream mixed with a jar of Gerber's baby stewed prunes. Okay, wait, before you say "Ewwwww", try it sometime. It is light and wonderful. It took us many years of pestering to get her to divulge what went in this special treat. Knowing made us pause for all of a second before we dove into seconds.

His birthday dinner was really a lunch. It began at eleven and usually ran all afternoon. No one complained. We sat, we talked, we laughed, and, in the way of all good Italians, we argued politics with a friendly passion. No one took offense, even when we didn't always agree with each others' point of view. We always ended a hotly fought position with, "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree."

I miss those meals and I miss my grandparents. They're both gone now. I'd give anything for just one more meal sitting time around their table. Much of what I am, I owe to them. Happy 104th birthday, Lorenzo Carlos Alloro.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prayer of 33-year old Wife and Mother Who Will One Day Use the Bathroom By Herself

Dear God,
Today I rolled out of bed, blinked at the clock and nearly bawled because I couldn't afford that 15 extra minutes of sleep I desperately wanted. I threw on clothes that fit a wee bit tighter than they did the last time I wore them and that cute hairstyle I sported when I left the house evolved into a frizzy afro by the time I dashed through the rain.

My supervisor was tripping. I couldn't break for lunch because of the massive amount of work on my desk and on the drive home, I ended up behind every driver who procured their license through the want-ads. My daughter's name graced the "No Playtime" board--again. And my son wants to give his girlfriend a Christmas card. His girlfriend! He's only 9! So, once I'm home, I enter the one place in the house where I can find peace and solace--the bathroom--only to discover my daughter waggling her fingers at me from under the door before she proceeds to slide everything from my lost earring to her coloring book in the room with me.

So, I ask You, God, why me? If You blessed me with the gift to write, why not work it so we're a single-income family? That way I wouldn't have to work a 9 to 5 job and could concentrate fully on writing. Or, if I have to work , why can't it be simple and hassle-free? Why can't my children be the best behaved in the class, go to bed promptly at 8 pm without any argument and not notice the opposite sex until I'm ready for it. Like when they're 30. In other words, God, if You called me a writer, why didn't You make it easier for me to be one? Why allow so many obstacles, difficult situations and people in my life?

But, wait...I guess if I didn't have the job I wouldn't know how to deal with stress, deadlines and attitudes. My skin wouldn't be as thick. If I didn't have the obstacles I wouldn't know what it is to persevere. If not for the challenging situations squeezing me, I would never discover my faults that I need to work on. Sometimes only under extreme pressure can the layers of coal be burned away to reveal the diamond underneath. If not for my children's "precocious" natures, I would never learn not to take myself so seriously. I wouldn't have laughter.

You know what, God? Never mind. I appreciate every obstacle, because it teaches me patience. And through patience and perseverance, I am discovering experience and a strength of character I never knew I possessed. And, experience gives me hope. Hope that at the end of the day I'm a better person, wife, mother and writer. Thank you, God, for every bump as well as every victory.

You're awesome...and smart. I guess that's why You're You.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Writing the Wrong Way.

I've written 35,000 words and realized I wasn't being true to myself. Ouch.

Have you done that?

I was writing away, painfully, something that I thought "editors" and "agents" and those mysterious "others" would like to read. I was not writing what I liked..but by stars I was going to finish it.

After reading Karen Beeching's blog I realized what I had done--I squashed my inner voice that was telling me "Hey you dolt, this story is not working because you are not writing it correctly!"

It took a writing partner who has been working with me for the last 10 years to tell me gently, humorously, and truthfully--"This is not you".

I agreed.

Now, before I ramble on incoherently, you may ask, what was I writing? I was writing a romance, paranormal specifically. Problem is I don't write romance...oh, I read romance, I like it in my stories, but I don't write romance focused stories. I write suspense and adventure paranormals--ok, its called fantasy. I have to have an element of creepiness along with fully developed characters. Oh, I know you can do that in Romance, but the way I was approaching it was just not me --and you could tell.

That realization took the wind out of me.

I also breathed a sigh of relief. I finally understood why I was dragging my feet, why my hero was two dimensional, and the secondary characters were not fully fleshed out. Worse, I couldn't get a handle on my heroine. She was a voice that you could not relate to (I know I couldn't) who had no reactions other than, "oh!"--boring!

Now I am starting from this point on (right at 35,001) and finishing the story but in the style that is me. I am listening to that inner voice.

Are you?

A side note: I finally have a website, it's a work in progress (especially after what I just wrote), but if you are interested here is the link:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Giving Yourself A Break

No, it's not what you think. Not a break from writing, but a break in feeling as though you haven't done enough for your writing. Most of my friends are writers and I talk with them frequently, either via email or on the phone. We chat about all sorts of things, but I've noticed one trend. Many of them talk about what they haven't done as opposed to what they have done. It's rarely, "I'm so proud of myself for finishing that chapter, submitting that manuscript or heck, reading a book or watching a movie." It's usually, "I didn't write, I didn't edit, I didn't submit, etc." And I say, "Give yourself a break!"

Do I concentrate more on what I haven't done than what I have done? You betcha! Therefore I'm including myself in the mix. Today, instead of my 'To Do' list, I'm going to do a 'Ta Da!' list and make myself list the things I've done for my writing this week.

Ta Da!

1) Blogged twice (good exposure)
2) Commented on three blogs (more good exposure)
3) Took an online writing course (taught by the amazingly talented Allison Brennan. Oh man, was this class great!)
4) Read some pages in Blake Snyder's Save The Cat! and Stephen King's On Writing (fantastic books!)
5) Made notes for two more books. (love those ideas that pop up out of nowhere!)
6) Spent several hours on Facebook, making friends, commenting on statuses and reading bios of other authors. (more exposure and a great way to meet authors and readers)
7) Created a new list for my links page on my website (not a lot of fun but a must)
8) Prepared an excerpt to add to my website for RESCUE ME (okay, this was fun!)
9) Fixed some dangling modifiers my copy editor suggested for RESCUE ME (I apparently have a great fondness for these!)
10)Starting signing bookplates to send to a bookseller in Australia who requested them. (I met her on Facebook!)
11)Watched several action movies to help me get a better feel for writing some action scenes. (Mission Impossible and the Bourne movies are my favorites)
12)Watched several romantic movies to help me...well, you know. (Return To Me, Princess Bride and Where The Heart Is)
13)Read several industry articles (very interesting things going on in the publishing industry right now)

There's more, but you get the picture. Yes, I am a writer and my number one priority is writing. However, instead of beating myself up for not writing the fifty pages I had hoped for, I'm going to give myself a break and think about the other positive things I did as a writer.

I know many of you have full time jobs outside of writing and I am in complete awe that you can do that and write too. So, you deserve even more credit. Now it's your turn. List all of the things that you've done for your writing this week. And after you're finished, give yourself a huge pat on the back for being the incredibly talented, energetic and multi-faceted person that you are!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Inner Voice or Hindsight?

Tuesday I was speaking to someone in the counseling profession about communication. He told me about a communication exercise that really got me thinking. While facing you friend/spouse/etc., talk to them for two minutes. At the end of that time, ask them to repeat what you said. This is not only a way to find out if someone is listening to you, but also an exercise to help improve communication in a relationship that may be having trouble.

I’m wondering how I can use this exercise to hear my inner voice better.

When I knew there was no possible way to make the GH deadline, I entered it anyway, only to end up stressed out and crushed when I didn’t quite reach it (for those who know I entered the GH, I finished the book but not the synopsis in time, and the other book not at all).

So when my inner voice is telling me x, y, and z, why am I already pondering my rebuttal of a, b, and c?

My inner voice is never wrong so I’m not sure why I don’t listen to it. Or is this just hindsight and how can one tell the difference?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It Totally Like...You Know...Blew My Mind, Dude

I’ve blogged about songs that inspire me to write a book. Music has always been a part of my life. And there’s one song I can’t get enough of it. In particular, this one lyric just blows me away. The visual is intense. Any romance writer can understand it.

If Dreams Were Thunder
Lightning Was Desire
This Old House Would’ve Burnt
Down A Long Time Ago
By John Prine

Is your house still standing? Mine’s all ashes flying in the wind.

How about you? What lyric just blows you away every time you hear it?

In the meanwhile, listen to this version sung by Susan Tedeschi. You need to check out her CDs.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Humbug, Anyone?

I am distracted. Even more than usual. A few weeks ago, Karen blogged about Thanksgiving and asked what we were thankful for. I wanted to answer, but I was so distracted I couldn't think straight. I mean, I know I am grateful for a lot of stuff. I just couldn't articulate it at the moment.

I still can't. I feel myself being pulled in ten thousand directions. I'm worried about my day job. I'm worried about my night job (the one that I took because I'm worried about my day job). I'm worried about my daughter overseas (riots in Greece, poisonous pork in Ireland). I'm worried about my 401K and my day-to-day finances.

And I can't find my Christmas tree. We bought a new artificial one last year, and I don't know where we put it.

There's usually a moment during all the pre-Christmas chaos that the quiet serenity of the reason for the holiday lifts me above all the madness. At that point, I am able to cope.

I'm ready for it. Right now.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holidays are the easiest time of the year to describe as a writer. All of us can draw on family traditions that evoke warm feelings, fond memories and happy times spent with family and friends. Sure, holiday time can be hectic. We all try to do too much to enjoy this time of year, but I for one, think that the effort is well worth it.

This year the holiday season is going to be difficult for many families struggling with hard economic times. That doesn't mean that we must stint on those traditions that are meaningful to us. My husband and I were recently reminiscing about our earliest traditions and the talk gradually turned to the new traditions that we have adopted since we moved to Alabama. Challenged to come up with my current favorite holiday ritual, I offered without hesitation, "Standing in the freezing cold,watching the hokey holiday parade in downtown Florence, made up of every decorated fire truck in the tri-city area and waiting breathlessly for...not Santa, but the dogs and puppies from the animal shelter, being led down Court Street with bright red bows around their necks and hopeful looks in their eyes." It just doesn't get any better than this!

What's your favorite holiday ritual?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stepping Stones

12:01 a.m. December 1st signalled the end of another NaNoWriMo. To those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, writers undertake the monumental task of writing a novel in a month. Whoever said there's a fine line between genius and insanity must have had all the people who decided to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days in mind!

Call me an underachiever, but I knew when signing up that I wouldn't obtain that lofty 50,000 word goal. I just wanted to break the previous year's showing: 5,000 words. I know. That sounds so dismal! But, so true. 5,001 was my goal for the month of November. Now, if you knew my history, you'd understand why this is huge for me. This year, I experienced a bad break-up with Procrastination. We still cohabit from time to time, but I'm weaning myself off. I also had a parting of the ways with Fear, Low Self-Esteem and Doubt. Oh, we continue to mix it up every now and again, but those times are becoming fewer and farther between. And I emerge less bloody and bruised with each encounter.

I've found a new relationship--or relationships. I guess you can call me poly-amorous. I'm in love with Discipline, Faith, and most importantly, Myself. We're all taking it slow--not having known one another long--but, we're growing and learning one another. Because of my past entanglements and my present relationships, I recognize the importance of setting realistic limits and goals for myself. It's not self-defeating. It's simply saying, okay, I'm not up to this level just yet. But, I can master the place I'm at now. No child goes from crawling to running full throttle. In between is the shuffling while holding on to a table. And then the hesitant walk right before the confident stride. And then--only then--do they run. Right now I'm in between the hesitant and confident walk. And, like a child, I'm grinning over each milestone. And looking forward to running.

Reaching the goal, no matter how modest, is an achievement and a stepping stone. Because it tells me I'm evolving. I'm learning. I'm faithful. I attained 5,001 this year, so I have no doubt that next year I can conquer 10,001 .

My goal for the 2008 NaNoWriMo was 5,001 words.

But...I wrote 8,108.