Sunday, January 31, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I am presently looking at revising my 2009 Golden Heart finalist manuscript - The Raven's Heart. For the THIRD TIME !! I have a great agent. I really do. I mean she has read this book so many times she knows every change in every version by heart. She has committed portions of it to memory. (Whether this is an act of will or whether the sheer mind-numbing experience of going over it with a fine-tooth comb time, after time, after time has driven some of the prose into her skull lobotomy style, I will never know.)
The set of revisions before me are things she and I arrived at together. I have them all outlined in a nice neat outline. Don't I, Jeanie? And truth be told IF I can get these changes incorporated smoothly and seamlessly into this manuscript the consensus is that the book will be fabulous - haunting, Gothic, romantic, exciting and smoking hot. That is one great big filling up the entire abyss IF !! I mean even my critique partner loved the ideas and she is NOT easy to please. (Think of the Godzilla of mother-in-laws meets Mommie Dearest. She is ONE TOUGH COOKIE to please!) The fact that she loved the first version of the book may have something to do with that.
However, once she finished waxing poetic about how great these revisions were going to make the book (Godzilla, I mean, my CP) she shot me an e-mail the next day and said "I just looked over these revisions again and this is going to be a monumental task." Gulp !! MO NU MEN TAL !! No pressure there!
So, here I sit, with my agent anxiously awaiting this fabulous revised version of a book she already loves and I stand at the edge of the abyss and do .... nothing. Yep, not a word in a week. I've made notes about where to WRITE those revisions, places that need to be revised, places where the cool new elements need to go. I've read the latest version of the manuscript and made copious notes. And what do I actually have on the page? NADA ZILCH NOTHING. Just me, standing at the edge of the abyss wondering how the heck to eat this big elephant sitting on my desk.
So, there's my abyss. How about yours? What is it and how do you jump over it? Or into it? Or fill it up so you can just walk over it. I'll be sitting here in the corner with a knife, a fork, a big napkin tied around my neck and seriously contemplating exactly how much ketchup it is going to take to get this elephant to go down. I think I hear Godzilla coming down from Oklahoma. Gotta run !!
Monday, January 25, 2010
With that being said, I was surprised to find my thoughts about my writing endeavors turning darker than the mold growing in the corner of my shower. Logically, I know my outlook in general affects how I view my writing, so the other day, when I was at my lowest, I decided I needed to revert back to what I knew I could do. I went back into my comfort zone and sent off several short magazine articles. It turned out to be just what I needed. Two of the four articles I submitted were accepted. With my confidence restored, I am now in a place where I can resume work on my current manuscript.
Today I spoke to a friend who is frustrated with her writing progress. She has given herself a set time frame within which to become published. If hard work and effort were the only criteria to be considered, she would be published already. I don't know anyone who works harder than she does and she is a great storyteller.
But, becoming published requires more than just being a competent writer. Your work must be marketable. It is subject to the financial environment and the wildly changing publishing industry. In other words, you must be at the right place, at the right time, with the right manuscript, in the right financial market. WHEW!! It's only normal that we would become frustrated. If we weren't we wouldn't be human.
At times like these it's nice to know that I am involved with a group of other people who share the same feelings. There have been several times when I have decided that I am a better reader than writer, only to be convinced by my peers to keep writing. They know what I am going through. That's what I like about Southern Magic. It, and the friends I've made, have given me the support I needed to carry on when all my senses said QUIT, QUIT, QUIT--IT WOULD BE A RELIEF--JUST ONE LESS PRESSURE YOU'RE PLACING ON YOURSELF.
What do you do? Who do you turn to when you're at your lowest ebb as a writer? What works to give you the strength to carry on?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
1.Write a Query Letter for someone else - It's easier because you have nothing personal at stake.
2.Cook a gourmet dinner - even though you do not know how to cook.
3.Start on a new novel - since this one is a pain in the butt.
4.Critique someone elses work - who has already been published and does not really need your advice.
5.Spend several hours reading on-line about how to write a query letter - then tell yourself you will start tomorrow.
6.Have a glass of wine - now you are tooooo tired to do it, so you can just go to bed.
7.Read the backs of a bunch of books to get ideas - but hey, now all you want to do is read those books and forget the dreaded query.
8.Go back and revise your manuscript even though it had been revised 10,000 times.
9.Browse the internet for what agents say about query letters that caught their eyes then you realize they all say JUST DO IT.
10.Write a blog about how to put off a query and when you come to the end, force your nimble little fingers to go straight to your own blank query letter!
Gotcha - Go Write That Letter and Get Published!
Do you recognize any of these stall tactics in yourself?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The other night while working on my current manuscript..you know the one I’m talking about…the Iliad? Well while chiseling away at my epic masterpiece I had to do a little research on the Internet and came across a website dedicated to writing. Or more specifically quotes about writing.
While reading I found myself laughing aloud, nodding in agreement and smiling. Some were hilarious, some serious but all were true. The authors quoted ranged from Mark Twain to Toni Morrison. And though they crossed different genres, ages and even eras, I could relate to each one because the agony and beauty of creating has no color, creed, sex or denomination…and is something only true writers understand and experience.
As they touched my funny bone and heart I was reminded that while sitting down at the computer may be solitary, the process is not. It’s one shared by every person who has picked up a pen--or put their fingers to a keyboard--and poured, pried and sometimes jackhammered words from their head to craft a story that needs to be written.
I shared several of them below:
There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov
Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies. ~Emme Woodhull-Bäche
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain
Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we? ~Audra Foveo-Alba
A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one. ~Baltasar Gracián
The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie
It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis
Do you have a favorite quote? Did one of these touch a place that made you shout, Oh that's me!
Share with me!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The lights are still strung, the ornaments still on, the stockings are still hung on the mantel. I don’t want to take it down. Why? Because then it will be over. It also means, I will have to clean.
I am really apathetic about it. Perhaps if I ignore it will go away?
Sure, I know it won’t. If I don’t do anything about it, there the tree will stay, cobwebs forming (Oh, did I mention I don’t like dusting?), the cat will slowly chew through every little ornament on the bottom part of the tree. The lights will dim. The beautiful decorations will become tarnished. All that I celebrated will turn to nothing.
I have been treating my writing like that. I have this manuscript which has been rejected, but still needs LOTS of polishing. I’ve been slowly working on it. Ok, lets put that in perspective, slowly as in, not doing much at all. Because I have told myself once it is done, I will send it in and apply for pro.
Just like my Christmas tree, if I keep ignoring this manuscript of mine, using the excuse that I am still polishing it, thinking it will be better the longer I keep it, than I am foolish, it will tarnish. I have used my apathy to mask something deeper, something I really don’t want to nudge with my foot. Because if I have to actually DO something--like clean up the decorations and put them away, or send in my manuscript as is--it will reveal itself.
Fear is not always the recognized monster, that nail-biting, heart-pounding, wild- eyed emotion. Sometimes it sneaks in through a back door and takes position in your life and you never even know it’s there. The symptoms are apathy, procrastination, neglect, boredom, negativity, and inertia (I specialize in the last one).
How do you find it? How do you attack it? Ask yourself this: Why? Why am I not moving forward? Why is this particular scene, life, moment hard for me? Meet it head on and examine it. Where do I want to be? Why? What’s stopping me? (if you start blaming others, that’s fear, my friend).
I don’t want to be the “wannabe” writer. You know the one, the writer that always TALKS about writing, but never actually does anything. (I’m not talking about those that keep writing, submitting, and struggling forward, they’ve overcome this already). How am I going to move on this writer’s journey if I remain apathetic? I won’t. All my hopes and dreams will be ashes.
So, today my Christmas tree comes down. All the ornaments will carefully be packed away, the lights studiously placed, untangled into the boxes, and all evidence of celebration will be replaced by space.
This week, I will get my less than perfect manuscript together, make it readable, even if it is still cringe worthy, and place it on disc.
This week, I apply for Pro.
What are you apathetic about? What are you denying that needs to be done to make you move forward in your writer’s journey?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Not that I'm in the least unusual or special, mind you. I've made my share of promises to myself, quietly, each January only to lose my determination and my focus and watch them fade away just as quietly long before the new of the year has worn off. This year I've vowed to be different. I've vowed to take my writing much more seriously, improve my craft, finish this manuscript, and submit it, only to begin another. And I've started with quite a bang.
Four online writing classes in January. What was I thinking? You all know me - the one that you'd better pick up the phone and call if you want to communicate with because I don't even read my home email on a regular basis. So how did I think it was possible for me to keep up with four online classes - oh, yes, the new me. The newly, re-invented, stick-to-my-good-intentions me. But even so - four online classes? Okay, calm down, I counsel myself. Just because email is flying over here like grains of sand in a dust storm is no reason to panic. I can handle it - you know, the new me. Just pick a class - any class - and begin. Take it one step at a time. Save, copy, and paste those other lessons for next week, next month and beyond. I can do this.
And I have. So far. It's not pretty, but pretty was not one of my resolutions. Writing better was.
So how about you? How are those resolutions coming, this 17th day of 2010?
Friday, January 15, 2010
My metamorphosis into “cool chick” status started around freshman year when [insert the popular, good looking boy’s name here] walked up to me in class and announced he’d noticed my boobs were bigger than the previous year (I know, some kids should be smothered at birth).
By sophomore year (15 years later), I had arrived. I had a steady boyfriend and a number of people I referred to as friends. But blossoming late isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The same people who dodge-balled my face and tripped me down the stairs were now my “friends.” I think that was a step up but I'm still not sure. I didn’t trust my judgment, much less anyone’s motives. It's possible I was bitter. You just don’t go through fifteen years of negative and bounce back feeling great about yourself.
MANY years later when I recovered from my childhood trauma and severe eating disorders, I met and married a kind, handsome man. If you ask him about his childhood, his first answer is always, “I was the fat kid with big glasses. It sucked.”
Does anyone ever get over these years?
Up until very recently, I thought I had.
I’ve been writing stories for twenty years. For fifteen of those years I merely dabbled; writing manuscripts, sending those to agents/editors, improving a little, and sending out again. Five years ago I got serious, joined a few writing groups, and I’ve made tremendous progress in my craft. But after fifteen years of rejections, how does an ugly-duckling writer take herself seriously? How does she know she’s arrived?
I'll admit those years of rejection took a toll. Even now, when a well-known agent or editor asks for my full manuscript based on a partial he/she LIKED, my first reaction is, “What kind of fly-by-night outfit is this? Do they have any idea what they’re doing?”
Seriously, it’s startling when you get a kiss on the cheek instead of a dodge ball in the nose. You’ll rationalize it. You’ll tell yourself it isn’t real. You’ll try desperately not to hope. Is it really, truly, honest-to-god possible you’ve arrived?
How did you convince yourself you’ve arrived? Or have you?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
My second book for Harlequin Presents, Cavelli's Lost Heir, hit the USA Today Bestseller list at #112. As a new published author, of course I had the list in my sights someday. It was something I hoped to achieve, but I was pretty sure I'd have to sell a single title novel to do it.
Six Harlequin Presents titles made the list for the week of January 3, 2010. Why did it happen? Well, HPs sell really well, first of all. And second, Harlequin changed their sales tracking in such a way that made series titles eligible for the list. I don't know the specifics, and I don't really care since it might boggle my non-mathematical mind, but I do love the result. HPs have ALWAYS sold extremely well, and now we simply have another barometer of the line's success.
I'm excited to see if the books hit each month now. There are no guarantees, of course, but it will be fun watching.
What has it meant to be a bestseller? In the week since I learned the news, I've been floating on air. I've had calls and emails and everyone has been so happy and supportive. It's hard for me to believe that just a little over a year ago, I sold my first book. I was prepared for the slow steady climb (and I still have to make that climb), but I feel like I got on-board a rocket for a moment and it propelled me somewhere I always wanted to go but didn't dream I'd reach so quickly. It's been amazing.
And yet I have to come back down to earth. I have revisions to finish, copy edits to read, and two books due before June 1st. Guess I better get busy, huh?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Oh, my goodness, this is the part of writing that fractures my nerves! For one thing, I’d rather have a ticked-off porcupine shoved up my posterior portion than write a synopsis, and I don’t think I have the query letter gene anywhere in my DNA. How DOES one encapsulate the book you’ve poured your heart and soul into, reducing it to a smart, snappy, grab ‘em-by-the-seat-of-their-pants missive that describes your precious literary baby with crystalline clarity and wit? Oh, yeah, and you gotta do all this in ONE PAGE and in a way that makes it stand out from the hundreds, if not thousands, of query letters an agent may receive in a month?
Shoot me, please.
This is, by no means, my first sally into Query-dom. I have an unagented (boo-hoo!) completed women's fantasy novel that is near and dear to my heart gathering dust. I think I broke some kind of query record on that baby, with a resounding lack of success. Received a big, fat ‘No thank you, it is not for us. But, please, after you’ve picked up your eviscerated guts from the floor, try another agent’ letter more than . . .
Well, I won't embarrass myself by repeating the number of rejections I received. Trust me when I say it was a lot.
But not all agencies reject you outright. Some maintain a deafening silence. Total absolute quiet, the soundless vacuum of deep space. As in you-suck-so-bad-and-so-hard-you-don’t-even-merit-a-form-rejection-letter silence.
So while I’m not a complete newbie to the query letter thing, I feel like I’ve stepped off a ledge.
That whistling sound you hear is me plummeting. Will I land safely or go SPLAT? Only time will tell. Lots of time. Six weeks, four months or maybe never, depending on the agent. So, toes and fingers crossed for me, please.
Oh God, I need another Baby Ruth.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
The day before the wedding his mother and mine were in the kitchen getting acquainted. As they talked about their lives his mother mentioned living in Mobile, Alabama. How odd - we lived in Mobile when I was a child. When did they live there? The same time we did. Where did they live? A few blocks from us near my mother's cousin. The cousin that kept me when my mom helped out at my dad's work. Seems she also kept my fiancee while his mom worked. Putting the pieces together, our mothers finally remembered meeting all those years before. Turns out we played together when we were 5 years old. What a strange coincidence.
This week on the RWA Craft loop there's a discussion of coincidence. It seems the coincidences we experience in life are too unbelievable to use in a book. I don't know. Do you think it would work to have two kids play together, each move to a different part of the country only to meet and fall in love 15 years later? It sure was romantic.
Do you use coincidence in your writing or do you find it too unbelievable? Maybe truth really is stranger than fiction.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Anyway, I was sitting in the truck thinking about the old Sanctuary with its stained glass windows. They were so pretty. But I remembered how one window had a small piece missing. It use to bother me so much. At the time, I kept wondering what had happened and why it hadn't been repaired. Well, when they built the new, larger sanctuary, they had to destroy the stained glass windows. Too sad.
You're probably wondering why they didn't save the windows and use them in the new building. Others asked too. It appears it would've cost way too much money to take the windows out and preserve them. The money was better spent elsewhere.
So there I sat feeling sad about the small piece that was never replaced and the lost of such beautiful windows. Then I mentally slapped myself. Instead of regretting stained glass windows with holes in them, I needed to rejoice in the beautiful day. The blue sky God created is so much better than any stained glass window.
Moral of the story: When you concentrate on something small, it can become big. So concentrate on something bigger, then all else will appear small. :-)
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
As it turns out, "the fishing thing" is not only how Hannah makes a living—as a crappie fishing guide—it's also part of who she is. She's the only daughter in a family that runs a fishing camp and marina, a place that becomes the focal point of my Cooper Justice series.
So I guess you could ask the same question of me: what's with the fishing thing? Why did I choose to make Cooper Cove Marina such a crucial part of my new series?
For one thing, I wanted to create a palpable sense of place for my characters that had meaning and heft, even when they weren't actually there. Hannah Cooper is far from home and in grave danger in Canyon Creek, Wyoming. But knowing she has a home back in Alabama, filled with people who love her, helps ground her and give her the strength to survive. In GONE WITH THE WIND, Scarlett's home, Tara, has a visceral pull on her. I believe that Cooper Cove Marina has that same pull for the Coopers of Chickasaw County.
I also wanted to create a place knew I would love spending time for the next seven or so books. I enjoy fishing and boating, and I love the mountains, so I created Gossamer Ridge, a fictional town nestled on the banks of Gossamer Lake in northeast Alabama, and populated it with a happy if sometimes rambunctious and headstrong set of seven siblings, six men and one women, who have the same love of the land and love of family that I have.
Finally, I wanted to create heroes and heroines with jobs that weren't necessarily typical "Intrigue" jobs. It's not that I don't have cops--I do--and cowboys--got one of those, too. A couple of the Coopers are former Marines, and the eldest Cooper brother is still in the Naval Reserve. But I wanted to take them a step beyond those roles, to give them and their families the ability to live off the land if they needed to. To track villains threatening their families with the expertise that comes from knowing the land like the back of your hand. And I guess I've always wanted to have at least one hero who's fished in a Bassmasters tournament. With the Coopers, I have two.
Writers are often told to write what they know. It's a rule that can limit you a lot, so I don't always subscribe to it. But I do think you should write what you love. And that's what I've done with the Cooper Justice series.
So how about you? Have you written what you loved? Or if you're a reader only, what do you love? Cowboys? Firemen? Medical Intrigue? Or is there a topic close to your heart that nobody seems to be writing about these days? Tell us what you love and why. I'll draw a name from the commenters to win a $10 Barnes and Noble gift certificate.
UPDATE: Thanks, everyone for the comments. And the winner of the Barnes & Noble Gift Certificate is....Jeanie! Congratulations, Jeanie. I'll contact you via email to firm up the details.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Is your writing fresh and new? How can you tell?
I was recently catching up on Janet Reid's great agent blog, and she addressed this very issue. After discussing how she handled the 122 of 124 writers she chose not to represent in 2009 (!), she gave some advice for aspiring authors.
First of all--and the part I can really get behind--any progress toward your goal is a measure of success. Don't think of writing as all or nothing. That is, if you didn't get published, but you made great strides in improving your writing, that's not failure. If you learned what not to do. That's not failure.
The part that gave me pause, however, is something that keeps cropping up in agent blogs, workshops (Dianna Love & Mary Buckham mentioned this very thing), and writing books: Make sure your writing is fresh and new.
This part scares me. Not because it's bad advice, but because my own gauge for whether anything I write is unique seems to be broken.
Ask me what's different about my stories, characters, and settings and I draw a blank. Well, other than the fact that I wrote them. And, which part has to be special? The voice, the characters, the premise? All of it?
I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
So how do we figure out what hasn't been done before? Of course, without being so different that no one wants our work. (And people wonder why writers are crazy?)
According to Ms. Reid, Joe Finder and Lee Child read voraciously in their genres (and still do), and did research to make sure they weren't just duplicating the rest of the market.
The logical, business major in me loves this idea. It makes sense. I want to sell my books. But as a writer, it sounds so clinical and cold. Where's the passion for the story of your heart?
The reading part I have down pat. No problem. I can only hope my "fresh and new" meter gets calibrated soon. I'd really like to quit writing stale, overdone stories sometime before the next decade.
Maybe I should write in a refrigerator.
How do you keep your writing fresh?
Sunday, January 03, 2010
So, because my brain cells went on a cruise while I cleaned the pantry, I've come up with a quick and easy blog post dedicated to the "Not so Serious Resolutions" which I hope you all will add to and enjoy.
In 2010 I resolve to:
*laugh every day
*stay away from lint
*hide my toilet cleaner and brush
*avoid tight clothing for at least a ... ahem... given the poundage... 2 months
*drink a medicinal dose of wine every day (dosage varies according to aggravations incurred)
*stock up on wine for the month of February (that's when DH, the world's worst patient, has surgery)
*learn to love dust
*avoid negative people
*hang out with fun people
*love even when tested
*avoid asking the Gods for patience as that's when it will be tested most
*walk away from unmade beds
Well, that's my not so serious resolution list...
Join in and add to it!
Happy 2010 All!!
Friday, January 01, 2010
1. May you meet and surpass every daily writing goal you have, whether word-count, page-count, or chapter-count.
2. May you have enough spare cash to enter all the writing contests you feel would be beneficial to your career.
3. May you final in all the writing contests you enter.
4. May your queries sparkle so much that they dazzle all who read them, especially agents and editors.
5. May your synopses possess the magnetic appeal of an electromagnet and portray your irrestible story in its best light.
6. May your non-writing life be calm, peaceful, and full of health.
7. May enthusiasm for writing fill your every moment.
8. May your writing experiences inspire others.
9. May you take joy in all who achieve their writing goals, even when yours seem elusive.
10. And most of all, may you find the words you need. Those perfect words that make the stories we love to read.
Here's to 2010 -- may it be full of blessings for all!