Friday, July 31, 2009

PITCH PERFECT . . . OR NOT?

I just got back from my very first RWA, and I have to say it was a blast! First of all, traveling with two of my writer peeps, Tammy and Pam, was an adventure in fun all in itself, ‘cause they are so totally cool. And then we arrived at the Marriott in DC! The buzz of excitement, the cacophony of 1850 feminine voices all talking at once, the estrogen-laden air . . . Wow. It was wonderful to be in a place where so many people shared a passion for writing. And I met so many friendly, supportive people, and made two new friends from Panama City and had lunch with Anna Campbell who is a stone hoot and . . .

And, well, you get the picture. I had a really good first RWA conference.

To top it all off, I got to pitch to a number of agents and editors.

I didn’t have an appointment, and so I went down to the basement on Friday and Saturday to see if I could pick up an agent or editor appointment from a no-show. I haven’t been in a room full of so many nervous people since I took the State bar examination after law school. For those of you who haven’t had the joy of taking a bar exam, think ice-water enema. On that long ago day, I walked into the Montgomery Civic Center along with several hundred other law school graduates prepared to take the three-day exam that would determine whether we had just wasted the last three years of our lives or would be able to practice law. I saw some pretty unnerving things during those days. Guys beating their heads against the wall, women throwing up in the bathroom, a girl curled up in one corner in a fetal position. Crying. Sobbing. Lots of praying. One girl got up the first day of the written exam and walked out. That was the worst of all. She was at the top of our class. I was not. If she couldn’t take the pressure, what hope did I have? I found out later she left because she had the flu, but I didn’t know that at the time. Gotta tell you it seriously harshed my mellow.

The atmosphere at the pitch session kind of reminded me of that. Some people walked the floor. One woman looked a little wall-eyed as she mumbled her pitch under her breath. At least I hope it was her pitch. The rest of us tried to memorize the list of agents and editors that handled our genres so we could jump on an appointment if one came available. I think we made the poor volunteers a little nervous. They were fresh meat and we were a bunch of ravening hyenas.

It was wild, and exhilarating in a twisted kind of way.

I am happy to say that I survived the experience unscathed, and even picked up several appointments. The agents and editors I talked to were all very professional and polite. I found the whole thing energizing and exciting. Happily, I did not faint or throw up on anybody (agents hate that), or wet my pants. All in all a positive experience.

What about you? Is pitching a pleasure or a bitch? What has been your experience pitching at conferences? The good, the bad or the ugly?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Release Week!!!!

Finally, after 10 months of waiting (since The Call), Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge is on the shelves THIS WEEK! I've already spotted it (and had friends send photos) at Wal-Mart, Books A Million, and Barnes & Noble. It's totally surreal. I've waited so long for this day, and now it's here. I can walk into a store and find my book -- but only for the next month. One of the minuses of category is the short shelf life. But a big plus is to be a writer for the Presents line.

Already, as a newbie debut author, I have the power of that name behind me. Harlequin Presents. It still gives me a little thrill when I think of it. Harlequin has a reader service, as I'm sure many of you know, where subscribers to the books get them a couple of months early.

This means my book has been out there since around the middle of May. And I've gotten fan mail, which humbles me and thrills me to no end. One lady painstakingly wrote a letter, on scrap paper she'd saved from a church bulletin, telling me how much she enjoyed my book. I wrote her back and sent bookmarks.

Other fan mail has come in email. One lady thanked me for the hours of reading pleasure. Another said I was her new favorite author. And then there have been a few requests for advice. I don't mind giving it, but I do feel a bit odd doing so.

Mostly, I'm excited about this coming month and all it brings. I've already weathered one bad review, thrilled to several great reviews, and I think I'm prepared for whatever comes next. It's quite an adventure thus far. I hope I never get over the excitement of it.

Please check my blog this week. I'll be guest blogging in several spots and will announce them as they happen.

And now I have to ask, because I can't help myself -- have you seen my book anywhere?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Editing Hell

I'm in the midst of editing hell. What is that you ask? It's where you've read your book so many times you're tired of it.


Each day as I'm writing my book, I go back a page or two and edit plus remind myself where I left off. Then after I finish the whole thing, I read the book and try to catch the little boo-boos plus tighten some of the writing. And then I give it over to my beta readers.

When they give it back to me, I make the corrections I feel are needed and add or take away any scenes that are necessary. Then I read the book outloud. It's amazing the things you catch that way. You can get a feel of the book too.

Then my book goes to my critique partners. They catch all the stuff I or the betas missed or where I made a lot of changes after the betas had read it. It's only the last two books I've written that I had beta readers and it does help in making it a little easier for my critique partners. For I am horrible about leaving out words or using the wrong one (like form instead of from or worst instead of worse). Those who had to read my emails understand perfectly as I rarely edit those. LOL!

Then after my critique partners do their thing, I'll often read it again. I can tell you, I'm well and sick of the book about halfway through this process.

What's your process to edit? Are you like Linda Howard and once you're finished writing there is no more editing?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book Report


A few weeks ago, I hit yet another roadblock with my ms. After resorting to all sorts of tactics to try to get back on track (eating lots of chocolate, forcing myself to write, eating more chocolate, telling myself it was okay not to write, eating more chocolate...), I finally realized that the reason I was stymied was because I didn't know my characters.

So I pulled out this book.

Needless to say, I didn't count them, but it really does look like there are 4,000 questions listed.

And also (needless to say) I didn't answer every single one for my characters. But looking at just a few of them really made me think about my heroine and what her background is; what her hopes and dreams are.

Here's a sampling of the thought-provoking questions.

What is something your father or mother considered very important?

Who do you trust more than anyone in the world?

How forgiving are you when someone lets you down?

I now feel like I know my heroine pretty darn well. We may not be best friends yet, but we're getting close.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Plot Thickens .....

My RWA Conference this year was a blast due in no small part to my traveling companions - Tammy Lynn and Jeanie Therklesen. We really had a great time and laughed so much my face still hurts.

Our trip home started at 5:30 AM Alabama time after entirely too little sleep the night before because of the GH/Rita celebrations. On the way home, however, we turned what could have been a miserable ride into a thirteen or so hour plotting session. We filled several pages of a legal pad FULL of great ideas for our WIPs and even some future WIPs. We bounced ideas off each other, wrangled and mangled them and took lots of notes.

Writing can often be a very solitary endeavor. You sit alone at a computer and talk to people who aren't really there and immerse yourself in a world that only exists in your head. Inviting others in to wander around for a bit can be a bit unnerving unless they are the kind of people who know how to visit.

My critique partner, Erin, and I spend a lot of time brainstorming. Especially when we write ourselves into a corner or try to shoot holes in our stories before an agent, editor or contest judge can. We stand a much better chance of nabbing our target audience if we see the holes and then fix them. It can be a very rowdy process. Sometimes we don't agree. But the best thing about our relationship as critique partners is that we trust each other enough to be BRUTALLY honest and that we care enough about each other's work to want it to be the best it can be.

How about you? Do you like plotting alone or do you sometimes want the feedback of another person? Is that person usually another writer? a loved one? a teacher? How do you manage to take thoughts or advice that CAN sting and make really good use of it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visual Attraction

Tonight I watched a new program about dating in the dark. The gist of the program is that the candidates meet in a room where they can not see the people they will potentially date. There are three men and three women and they must evaluate each other based upon what they hear and sense in a room with no light. Based on that meeting, they then request to meet individually with the one person who they would like to talk to individually. Later, experts revealed who they were most compatible with based upon their personality profiles. Ironically, each of the three couples picked the same person the experts found to be their most compatible match.

They were given time to get to know each other but it was still in the dark. Then they were put with a rendering artist to draw the likeness they mentally of each other based upon their non-visual impressions. Finally, they were shown each other independently when the other could not see their reaction. At the end of the program they were given the opportunity to continue dating outside the show. To do so they were to meet on the balcony of the house where they had been staying. If they didn't want to continue seeing their "match" they could walk out the front door and keep going.

As romance writers we describe attraction between our characters. The majority of our heroes and heroines are attractive or noteworthy in some way. In the future I am going to rethink how I describe my main characters because this program made me think about physical attraction in a different way. The couple who seemed to be most compatible in the dark was the only couple whodidn't make it when the lights came on.

How important are looks when you describe your main characters? Are they all movie star handsome or pretty, or do their looks take second place to their personalities? Did you follow the same tendencies when you picked your special person?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Unexpected Productivity

I awoke at 0345 a.m. It was dark, the drum of rain fell softly on the roof, echoing the creak of the ceiling fan. In the living room down the hall I heard the plaintive meow of my cat, wandering the house. Beside me, my husband breathed evenly, and I envied him. I knew my children in their rooms slumbered on. It was a perfect time to slide right back into the deep comfort of sleep.

Except I was wide awake.

Every nerve ending felt like it was bouncing on high energy. I could not find a comfortable spot in the bed, nor retrieve some hazy dream to drift back to. I was ready for the day. Except it was 0345 in the morning! I'd only been asleep for four and half hours. I needed my sleep. I can get by with six hours, seven is better, eight to ten hours is ideal. Anything less and I'm pretty much as pleasant as a cat thrown into water.

Worse, why couldn't I be this wide awake when I have to get up for work?! (I think it's an internal denial of the inevitable).

What is a person to do? What I did, is finally get up in all my snarky glory and lurched to the living room, made some coffee and dragged out my lap top. After fiddling around on nothing for a while, I started doing what I should have done: Revising. I even managed to get a chapter done.

That was an unexpected bonus--being able to have quiet time to just wrestle through with my story. Unfortunately, I did pay for it...by 2 p.m. I was wondering if I could reinstate afternoon naps for my eight and eleven year old!

Now, I am actively looking for places in my life to get more quiet time to get my writing done. Where do you find your writing time? Does it come unexpectedly?

Now I am hoping I can have a weekly "early rise", but I am afraid, after reviewing what I did the night before--I drank very strong coffee at 5 p.m. I'm not sure I want to have to do that every week...*sigh*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sigh. Missing Nationals.

So sorry! Dropped the ball today. I didn’t realize it was my turn to blog until waaaay late. Let me blame it on the fact that I’m truly bummed not to be at Nationals this year.

I’ve been writing like crazy making up for it. I at least plan to get two more books done this year. But I am thinking of my sisters there, hoping their pitches are perfect and that they glean as much information as they can from the informative workshops.

Maybe next year.

So I'm doing the day job and writing chapter after chapter. Tell me, what are you doing INSTEAD of being where you want to be?

Monday, July 13, 2009

HOLY COW, YOU MEAN I HAVE TO SHOVE THAT CADILLAC UP MY NOSE AGAIN?

This is from Jeanie. She was having Blogger difficulties. :-)

As writers we approach the craft in different ways. Some of us are plotters with flow charts and character profiles and some of us are pantsers, surprised at how our own story unfolds. And that's great. I'm glad we don't all approach writing in the same way. How boring would that be?

But just as we go about the process of writing in different ways, most of us probably have different things that cause us to stumble.

For me, it's beginning a new chapter.

By the time I've finished a chapter I've reviewed and revised and tweaked and prodded the darn thing until I'm satisfied with it. That's not to say it's perfect, but I'm usually pretty pleased with the result. There's this rush, this feeling of excitement at having finished one more block of the story to my satisfaction and then . . .

Then I have to do it all over again! When I start a new chapter, I usually have a rough idea what I want to happen in the next few pages, but I agonize about how best to start. Do I pick up where I left off, jump forward in time to keep up the pace or switch to a different POV and character altogether? What is the most effective way to move the story forward? This is my own personal bugaboo, a crisis that happens over and over again at the start of every new chapter. Once I get, say, five hundred words down that I'm reasonably happy with, I'm good to go. But that blank page, that new start to the mini story that is every new chapter always makes me nervous and anxious.

And in the back of my mind is the gnawing fear that I might not be able to do it again.

So, having laid bare my own neurosis for all to see, what battles do you face in your own writing? What makes you pull your hair out and gnaw your bottom lip with worry? Endings, dialogue, exposition, sex scenes? How about adverbs? she asked innocently.

Come on, I can't be the only one. Fess up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

August 22, 2009 - All Day Workshop!


FROM THOUGHT TO PLOT
from award-winning author Mary Buckham and NYT best seller Dianna Love
creators of BREAK INTO FICTION®
Mary and Dianna will show you how to develop a budding idea BEFORE you begin to plot. This is not the 2 day Power Plotting retreat, but a brainstorming workshop where they will show you where a story and characters break down before you get to the point of plotting. The backbone of a strong story begins with developing these critical points in the early stages of brainstorming so that you aren't trying to "shore" up your story later. Most stories fall apart because once a writer has invested a significant amount of work in a story it's much harder to back up and make changes so they press ahead, shoving support wherever they can. For this reason, come to this workshop with a "NEW" idea you have not fully developed to the point where the idea of making any change is stressful. This workshop is to show you how to take ideas and spin them to be fresh and different, yet with a strong plot infrastructure.

***Suggested movies to watch since these will be referenced during the workshop (plus, these are the movie examples used in the Break Into Fiction® book to keep continuity for those using the book to plot a novel): PRETTY WOMAN, BOURNE IDENTITY, CASABLANCA, FINDING NEMO

The workshop will be held in meeting room 101 of the Homewood Public Library
1721 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209

Presented by
Southern Magic,
Birmingham chapter of the Romance Writers of America

Click here for more information.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Misconceptions

The last few weeks I’ve seen the same commercial for Southern Belles: Louisville over and over again. One of the “belles” announces that someone asked her if they wear shoes in Kentucky. Her answer was “Yes, we do. We wear stilettos.” LOL!

And I'm not sure how my dad met a professor from a small college in California, but the man came to visit him for a few days. My dad lives in a little town north of Huntsville, Alabama, called Ardmore. It’s not large, but it’s a nice place and typical of a small town in the south. Well, dad was doing his usual barbecuing on the grill for company and needed to pick up something at the store. So the man decided to tag along to the nearby Piggly Wiggly. As they were walking down the aisle, the man said, “Wow, your grocery store is like mine at home.” Duh!

Those two stories are typical what we come across everyday. Since I love to travel, especially in the U.S., I meet a lot of people who have never been to Alabama and I’m always surprised by a few of their questions. A large number of people believe everything they hear and see on television and in the movies. So when a southern author writes about their home state or the South in general, it’s amazing how editors and judges in contests show the same misconceptions.

And don’t get me started on the misconceptions non-literary people have about romance writers.

What about writers? We’re human, but thankfully, most writers love meeting people from all backgrounds, educations, shapes and sizes. We love watching them and talking with them. To me, writers, especially romance writers, are the most open-minded people I know. If not, their writing will suffer. I believe some experience writer’s block by closing themselves off from experiencing new things and meeting new people. We’re all unique and that’s why I like meeting people wherever I go.

It’s an amazing world, isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

No More Thank-You-Buts

JoAnn's sunning on the beach and asked me to post this for her...

Like a lot of Southern mothers, my mom raised me to be modest in speech. When someone complimented me, the proper response was a simple “thank you.”

But as I got older, that “thank you” acquired an ugly appendage of self-disparagement. If someone told me they liked my haircut, I would say “Thank you. But I think it makes me look a lot older.” If someone complimented my attire, I would say “Thank you. I know it makes me look fat, but it sure is comfortable.” If someone complimented my cooking (a rare occurrence, to be sure), I would say “Thank you. But I cooked it too long and I should have added more butter.”

Last year at a conference, a well-known author introduced me to her agent. The writer said “JoAnn’s been burning up the contest finals lately.” My response? “Thank you. But I just don’t tell anybody about all the contests that I don’t final in.” The lovely smile on the agent’s face faded quickly.

So I’m adopting a new attitude. I’m going old-school. No more beating myself up. When someone compliments my writing, a simple “thank you” will do nicely. And if you see me take a breath to say something else, will you please clap your hand over my mouth?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why Do You Think They Call Them Deadlines??

My brother had a poster in his room for years. It had a buzzard sitting on a dead tree staring out over the desert and it said "Patience, hell! I'm going to kill something!"

I'm beginning to feel like that buzzard! I really want to have my third book finished by the time I leave for Nationals. That would be Tuesday, July 14th. Yeah, in less than ten days. I'm not going to tell you how many pages I have left to write. Suffice it to say that it is A LOT !!!

This all started when my agent asked if I could have said book finished by Nationals. She'd read the first 30 pages and loved it. Yes, I said 30 pages. Guess what? That's about all I had at that point - May 27th, to be exact. Yes, May 27th of THIS year!

I am not one of these people who can churn out 20 pages a day every day. I have HAD those days (notice the past tense.) I work a full-time job for Wal-Mart and they have begun to restructure so that department managers like myself may end up being over more than one department from now on. Restructuring is just another word for getting one mule to pull two plows. The mule doesn't like it much either!

So, here I sit trying my best to write as many pages as I can every day and I am FRUSTRATED!

How do you deal with a deadline? Does it make it easier or harder to write. Does it inspire you or make you freeze like a deer in the headlights? Are there any little tricks you use to convince yourself that the DEADline is no big deal and that you can just sit down and calmly work toward that DEADline without actually ending up DEAD??? Somebody PLEASE tell me how to do this without losing my mind, or at least losing more than I have already.

That buzzard's solution is starting to look better and better. Is there some way to COERCE your characters into talking to you when they just won't? Don't they understand I'm under a DEADline here????

Saturday, July 04, 2009

From Thought to Plot - August 22, 2009

Mary and Dianna will show you how to develop a budding idea BEFORE you begin to plot. This is not the 2 day Power Plotting retreat, but a brainstorming workshop where they will show you where a story and characters break down before you get to the point of plotting. The backbone of a strong story begins with developing these critical points in the early stages of brainstorming so that you aren't trying to "shore" up your story later. Most stories fall apart because once a writer has invested a significant amount of work in a story it's much harder to back up and make changes so they press ahead, shoving support wherever they can. For this reason, come to this workshop with a "NEW" idea you have not fully developed to the point where the idea of making any change is stressful. This workshop is to show you how to take ideas and spin them to be fresh and different, yet with a strong plot infrastructure.

***Suggested movies to watch since these will be referenced during the workshop (plus, these are the movie examples used in the Break Into Fiction® book to keep continuity for those using the book to plot a novel):
PRETTY WOMAN, BOURNE IDENTITY, CASABLANCA, FINDING NEMO

The workshop will be held in meeting room 101 of the Homewood Public Library.

1721 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209

Presented by Southern Magic, Birmingham chapter of the Romance Writers of America

Click here for more details.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Mark of a True Friend

The other day I met a friend for coffee. That day I took more from the friendship than I gave. I spent our entire time together moaning about the fact that my not very mechanical husband had decided to change the air conditioning compressor on my truck. Did I mention that this was my truck--the first new vehicle I had ever purchased?

He didn't ask me if I wanted him to do it. He just stated he was going to be doing it the day I was away at our chapter meeting. In shock, I didn't express my reservations about this announcement for fear of emasculating his budding macho self.

I felt real physical pain as I watched him take the grill off my "baby" and it slipped towards the pavement. I can only describe the anguished moan that escaped my lips, as akin to that of a mother bear with her foot caught in a trap. Nothing good could come of this I told myself morosely. During the day, the progress reports proved me correct.

Again, I called my friend for support and encouragement. We discussed what was more important--the truck or the husband. It was a close call, but the husband won. Barely, but he won. As we hung up she realized I was still upset. Her parting words showed she was a true friend. She brightly offered, "I'll help you hide the body if you kill him." This, is the mark of a true friend. I think I'll keep her, the husband and my truck with the fixed air conditioner. I am a lucky woman!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cucumbers and Dreams

It all started with a cucumber.

From that moment, a love affair that would endure for the next twenty-plus years was born. That cucumber's name was Fred and he changed my life. You see, Fred was the main character in the first book I ever wrote when I was in the third grade.

Ask any writer and they will most likely remember the first story, article or book they wrote. It was the turning point for most. It's when we discovered our love for creating characters, placing them in tight situations only to battle their way out and discover their happily-ever-after.

Okay, so Fred's struggle was finding his way to the store to buy a book. But, I remember shaping Fred and his desire for this book and how he couldn't buy it because he was afraid to walk to the store by himself. He struggled with his fear--of crossing the street alone for the first time, of being independent and braving something he'd never attempted before. Finally, Fred conquered his fear, or rather he moved forward in spite of it, left the security of his home and travelled to that bookstore. He not only obtained the book, but he discovered the courage to do anything he put his mind to. Riveting stuff, I know, and with twenty years distance, that story seems so much deeper now than it did at nine. But, it stirred something that exists even today.

The love of the story. Of drawing the emotional struggle we often experience when faced with obstacles that seem insurmountable. And, of course, celebrating the triumph of the human--or vegetable--spirit.

I'll never forget Fred, who unfortunately looked more like an amoeba than a cucumber by the time I finished drawing him. While the thought of being an illustrator died a quick death, my dream of being a writer never did. He will always hold a place of honor in my heart and the actual book will always have a home in a dusty corner at the bottom of a deep trunk in the back of a dark closet...