Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homework Challenge Results

This is the final post for the Homework Challenge.
I thought this would be an interesting challenge to try and spur people on to write.

For me, I managed to finish two chapters and I am currently still writing the final scenes. I consider that a success.

For those who may have participated...how did you measure up?
Let me know....prizes are involved. :-)

I know many are at Nationals, but I hope there were a few that wrote while they stayed home!

Thanks all!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Protecting The Space

In order to write you have to have a space.

It can be a corner, a chair, a home office, it can even be in your car--just somewhere that is YOURS.

Why?

Because in order to write, at least for me, I have to get focused. I need to feel like this is where I can safely sit and write. It sounds selfish, but I discovered it after years of writing in all sorts of places. For me, its my Blue Room, a home office painted a lovely dark blue color by the previous owners. I feel like I write in a cave. I love it. I feel safe here.

This summer a friend and I were discussing why we felt so discombobulated-why we could not focus to write, how we were unable to reach some of our goals. Both of us have school age children, and even though we both implemented a "program" to get the kids on track it still fell short. In frustration my friend stated, "Every time I go into my office, someone is there on my computer or playing on the floor, bringing in their stuff."

Her space was being invaded as was mine. The effect was feeling off balance, unable to focus to push forward. Of course she wrote in different places like I do, but where does she get the bulk of her work done? Where do you? In your SPACE.

Even my children were invading, I had drawings all over my desk. Parts of my chapters I had printed out were stacked haphazardly in different places-not where I put them. My husband would come in and tinker. It stressed me out.

That's when I realized you have to PROTECT THE SPACE.

My friend, she gave time limits to her children on when they could be in her office. She also banished the toys and no playing in there while she worked. She made sure she spent time with them, she was not abandoning them. It worked.

I told my family, you can come into my office, but I forbade them to touch anything on my desk without asking me first. I used bribery. Trips to the library, movies, etc. Its working. For now.

What was the end-result? I am focusing better when I sit down to write. I am slowly getting more work done.

What if you don't have an office? Find a special chair. A corner...someplace that you can make yours. How do you make it yours? Decorate or place near it an item or two that you love. Maybe its a book you have read over and over, or a candle and a trinket or two. For myself, I have two gargoyles that I placed in my office area. Make it your area, the place you feel focused and reminds you of what needs to be done, whether its writing, cross-stitch, or reading. This is the one place that you feel safe. It is yours.

Protect the space.

Tell me your space.......

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RWA National Conference Update

Wednesday - July 28, 2010, 1544 EST: Hi, All. Just a quick update from the beautiful Swan and Dolphin Resort in Disney World. First - if I could magically wish upon a star (or the beautiful fireworks that I saw from my hotel window last night), I'd have all of you down here with me. Not only for the networking/craft benefits offered by the conference itself, but hey, guys, this is Disney World! It's been so long since we last brought the kids that I'd forgotten the sheer magic/magnitude of this place. Yes, Nashville would have been wonderful as well, but have I ever mentioned in passing that as a mere infant, I was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club! Needless to say, the Mouseketeers and all things Disney hold a very special place in my heart:)

Second, I've already been busy trying to justify my trip by taking advantage of all that is available. Last night, I attended the KOD dinner followed by their AGM, and then got to be motivated by hearing the incomparable Cindy Gerard tell the story of her path to success. What a great speaker! This morning, I explored the resort and the nearby Boardwalk followed by lunch with the Heartbeart group comprised of Mills and Boon Medical Romance authors, with M&B editor Jenny Hutton along with agents, Scott Eagan and Michelle Grajkowski. Later this afternoon, the Literacy signing will begin. All those authors and all those books in one room. Be still my heart:)

Well, so far, that's it but I have great plans for the rest of the week. Again, I truly wish you all were here. Let's plan for a huge group from Southern Magic to converge on New York next year!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Change of Plans

I had plans to attend the RWA conference this year, but after the TN flooding and a few personal setbacks, I’m now staying home while everyone else is going (okay, I’m being dramatic but it DOES feel that way).

In my attempt to avoid having a pity party over this, I decided to make my time at home MORE important than anything I might have accomplished at the conference. No small task. However, after serious thought, I managed to come up with something. I'm going to finish my WIP. That's about 15k, and yes, I have a day job. But I'm determined to do it. Finish the current manuscript by Sunday night. Is it feasible? Yes. Will I do it? Yes.

How about you? Any goals for those of you not going to the conference? If you're going to the conference, what's the number one thing you hope to accomplish?

Safe travels, everyone.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

AT THE START

Most writers, I suspect, struggle with different aspects of the craft at times. For me, it’s beginnings. How to hook’em and draw them into the story. That first chapter, those first few lines. How to be brilliant and captivating and (dread of all dreads!) avoid the clich├ęd opening. Yikes!

And for me this crisis continues throughout the book in mini form with the start of each new chapter.

But nothing compares to the anxiety that comes with penning the all-important first page of a new WIP.

Let’s face it. If you don’t catch the agent/editor/reader on the first page, in the first few lines of your baby, you’ve lost them.

No pressure there, huh?

The fantasy I’m currently revising is a perfect example of how I struggle with beginnings. From its inception I have wrestled with how to start this novel. Twenty-nine beginnings later I thought I finally had it right.

Wrong. A dear friend looked at my shiniest new version and said, “Eh, too confusing and too much of an info dump.”

Rats.

Back to the drawing board and beginning number thirty. I dumped the entire first chapter and started in a brand new place. Virgin territory, a beginning that was actually new! Surely, I was on the right track.

She looked at it and said, “Jeanie, your beginning is actually in the middle of page two. That’s where you should start.”

I looked and, sure enough, she was right. Why couldn’t I see that?

Too close to my little darlings, I guess.

So, what gives you fits when you write, that hairball of a beginning, the sagging middle or winding it all up in satisfactory fashion?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Using Cell Phones in Public: Or Why a Jury of My Peers Would Never Convict Me



By: Debbie Kaufman

Lake Cabin Writing Retreat. Isolation and the freedom to work like a fiend possessed.

Wow, just writing those words puts the scene back in my head. Myself at a table on a screened-in porch, ceiling fans augmenting the breeze off the lake. The calm of the water’s surface broken by the occasional ripples of fish eating the insects that landed. The lovely white egret standing on the end of the dock. The lack of response from my computer when I try to access the internet…

Wait, that’s a good thing, right? No internet to play on when I should be writing like a madwoman. It’s actually great unless you are email addicted like me, and you don’t own a Crackberry. Although, in all fairness, I am the guest blog coordinator for www.petitfoursandhottamales.com I manage almost all the blog guests, and authors, editors, and agents wonder when you don’t get back to them for several days.

But, in all truthfulness, I am an email junky. And there was a little research I wanted to do for my current WIP.

So, off I went to civilization with my hostess, Susan May, and my laptop in hand. We no sooner ensconced ourselves in a back booth and fired up our laptops, than the table behind us – one of MANY free tables – was suddenly occupied by a frantic gentleman who decides to deal with one of life’s little crisis moments via his cell phone.

Out loud. Very loud.

Using the free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s suddenly cost more than my small diet drink. A lot more.

Forget everything you ever heard about identity theft. Really. There’s no need for hackers to go to lots of trouble. In this case, all the potential thief needed to do was to sit anywhere within a fifty mile radius of this guy (okay, slight exaggeration) and they would know everything they needed to steal his identity.

Not only did I get to hear him repeat the saga of how his truck door had been hit by “someone who just run off” as he got bounced from extension to extension at his insurance company, but I was also treated to all of his personal information.

No, I take that back. I don’t think I actually heard his momma’s maiden name.

It used to be that you couldn’t tell Bluetooth from crazy as people walked around having quiet conversations with themselves in public places. Now, it seems, all restraint is gone.

Susan and I struggled valiantly not to react to this public display of the man’s life. Of course, Susan had her back to him, so she had it a little easier.

No one but me could see her face.

If you knew Susan, you’d applaud her self-control. She managed not to go smack the poor guy upside the head. Me? I wanted to use his cell phone to do it.

I'm convinced that a jury of my peers would never have convicted me. Especially if those peers had been the other folks sitting in McDonalds that day.

Later, we commiserated on how cell phones have instituted a whole new definition of bad manners, where people talk on them when they shouldn’t, and how we often get to hear more of people’s lives than we’d ever wanted. My conclusion: Forget obsessing about your Facebook privacy settings, people. Stop telling the whole world your business when you’re on a personal call. In Public.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the worst case of public display of someone’s life on a cell phone; formerly know as TMI, but now PLDD (Public Life Display Disorder) I’ve ever heard.

The absolute worst was the guy in a Hallmark store selecting a greeting card while he loudly announced to his caller that he “Didn’t touch that little girl, no matter what her lying momma says.” I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation. Suffice to say that the clerk would have left WITH the rest of her customers if she could have.

What about you? Do you have a PLDD story to tell about someone’s inappropriate cell phone conversation? Or maybe it was just their timing of talking on the phone? Come on, vent. You know you want to!

So, fire away. And remember your manners next time you’re on the phone in a public location.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No Detail Too Small

Anyone who actually looks at the blog calendar may have noticed that Lynn posted on my date (thanks, Lynn!). She was nice enough to switch with me since I did not have Internet access on the 12th.

That's because my husband and I recently took the kids on a 12-day tour of Europe. We hit the highlights of cities like London, Venice, and Paris, and enjoyed the natural beauty of Innsbruck and Lucerne. But the most interesting part for me was the details that made Europe different from the US.

Not just foreign languages, old buildings, different food, and paying to use the restroom. I mean the things you might never discover without visiting.

For example, in many of the hotels, the lights wouldn't turn on unless you inserted your key card into a slot by the door. After the first night in one of those hotels, the tour group was laughing about how long it took each of us to figure it out.













If you're in continental Europe and you want a Diet Pepsi, too bad. Pepsi apparently failed Euro-marketing 101. It wasn't even in the little grocery stores. And if you want a Diet Coke, it's Coke Light.

In Innsbruck, there are boxes at the crosswalks, but no obvious button to push to request the walk signal. We never did figure out if it was a motion sensor or what.



If you need to know what street you're on, check the wall of the nearest building. No street signs on poles.



The commercial rest stops are amazing. Clean bathrooms, great food, and nice displays. They reminded me of the toll road oases in Illinois and New Jersey, but nicer.







Just to make things confusing in Italy, if you wanted self-service food, it worked like a cafeteria, but if you wanted something made-to-order, you had to pick it out, get a ticket for it, pay at the cashier, then take the receipt back to pick it up. We stuck with self-service and still got excellent food like the tortellini above.

The UK had fun names for its pubs. We didn't get a chance to eat at The Slug and Lettuce ("Slug" for short), but we dined at a pub called The Bunch of Grapes (near Harrod's).



This is just a sampling of the things that I noticed on our trip, but I think they're the unique aspects of a place that make it interesting. And as a writer, it's the little details that make a setting real to the reader. I'm already dreaming up ways to incorporate some of the places we visited into a new book.

What are some of the fun things you've learned about different places you've been (foreign or not)?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Remember "Forget You" on July 20th!


Why can't you choose what you forget...and what you remember?

July 20th brings you a hot summer read of love, conflict and amnesia. Nope. Not The Young and the Restless. Forget You is the newest release from MTV Books by award-winning author, Jennifer Echols!

Check out the blurb below:

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people—suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

Available at all of your local bookstores and online stores! Preview the first chapter here!

I for one am rooting for Doug...but since I doubt Jenn is going to spill the beans about who Zoey ends up with, I'm headed to buy the book! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meet Deborah Sharp

I am thrilled that Deborah Sharp agreed to an interview for our blog.  As a reporter for USA Today for nearly two decades, she wrote about killer sharks, rampaging alligators, and human evil-doers.  Now, she entertains her readers with the ''Mace Bauer Mystery'' series, set in a sweet-tea-and-barbecue slice of her native Florida. The series debuted with ''Mama Does Time'' (Midnight Ink, 2008). Mama's out of the slammer and into the saddle in ''Mama Rides Shotgun''(July 2009.) In 2010's ''Mama Gets Hitched,'' Mama ties the sacred knot of matrimony . . . for the fifth time.


You can check out her website or become a fan of Mama on Facebook.




Who is your heroine, Mace Bauer?

Mace is an outdoorsy, independent Florida native who works at a nature park and traps nuisance critters on the side. She's a middle sister, and Mama's last unmarried daughter. Mama never misses a chance to remind Mace of that particular fact.  Mace is tough enough to rescue Mama from an alligator, but she can't manage to wrestle her love life into submission.

Who is Mama?

Mama is the much-married Rosalee Deveraux (soon to be Mrs. Sal Provenza), a Southern belle with a taste for sherbet-colored pantsuits, sweet pink wine, and gambling with the Seminoles. 

In your first book, Mama Does Time, we first meet Mace and Mama.  What sort of troubles do they encounter?

The first book really sets the tone for the whole series: Mama has a penchant for landing in trouble; Mace will always have to to haul her butt out of it. 

Mama's on the way home from gambling at the Seminole casino, when she gets a hankering for a butterscotch dipped ice cream cone. She pulls into the Dairy Queen in little Himmarshee, Fla, where a fender-bender reveals a body stuffed into the trunk of her turquoise convertible. The police wind up thinking she's the killer. It's up to Mace and her sisters to find the real culprit. If they can't, Mama goes to prison-- just like an embarrassing lyric in a country western song. 

In your second book, Mama Rides Shotgun, Mama convinces Mace to hit the Florida Cracker Trail.   How do they fare on this trip?

Badly, as you might expect. The week-long horseback ride across Florida gets off to a nice start, despite Mama trying to lasso every available cowboy she sees for the still-single Mace. The trail soon turns to murder, though, when one of the wealthy cattle ranchers hosting the riders keels over dead in his Cowhunter Chili. Threatened by everything from rattlesnakes to runaway horses, Mace must corral a killer before the low-down varmint can strike again.
 
 Your third book, Mama Gets Hitched, was just released on July 1.  Publishers Weekly described the book in its review as ''charming.'' The review said: “Sibling rivalry, steamy romance, a surprising killer, and plenty of catfish and hush puppies make this Southern cozy a winner.”  What can you tell us about Mace’s newest mystery?

Who doesn't love a wedding? Mama loves them so much, she's fixin' to tie the sacred knot for the fifth time. Just because she's a serial bride, she sees no reason to tastefully scale back. She’s planning the Wedding of the Century – complete with a “Gone With the Wind’’ theme, her daughters in Scarlett O'Hara dresses, and a ring-bearing Pomeranian sporting a satin vest and top hat. What’s a Bridezilla to do, though, when her caterer turns up dead in the kitchen at the VFW, even before the first pig-in-a-blanket is passed? Mace must find the killer, or Mama’s Special Day could turn especially deadly. 

What is your writing process?

Not as disciplined as I wish it was! I do slack off a bit, but in my defense, I was tied to daily deadlines for 20-some years as a news reporter. When I left the news biz to pursue mystery-writing, I welcomed the chance to have a little more freedom. I was thrilled I wouldn't be a prisoner of the ticking clock, like I used to be. I do try to write a little bit every day. The upside is that I write quickly, so if I fall behind I can usually catch up.

I also write my first draft in long-hand (dinosaur-like!). I love the fact I can stick my cheapo spiral notebook in my backpack and go for a walk or a bike ride to the beach, to a coffee shop, to a bench along the New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and get some writing done.

Today, I wrote while sitting on a marble bench in a cemetery, one of my favorite spots. Great atmosphere for a mystery writer, and very quiet!

What is the worst writing advice that you received?

This bit of advice was actually good for newspaper writing, but very bad for mystery writing. I learned to write in the style of the inverted pyramid, which basically means you load the top of your story with all the pertinent facts (the broad base of the pyramid). That way, the newspaper copy desk can cut the story from the bottom if space is tight, and only miss the less important stuff (the narrow point of the pyramid).

Because of the inverted pyramid, it took me a long time to learn how NOT to reveal my whole mystery in the first paragraph. 
What is the best writing advice you received?

Another newspaper habit I had was telling readers what I was going to tell them, then telling them, then summing up what I'd just told them. A great writing coach in Ft. Lauderdale, Joyce Sweeney,  told me that mystery readers are very smart. They don't need to be hit over the head by the author. The pace of my fiction-writing improved a lot once I learned not to repeat myself. 

Your books are humorous while delivering great tension and mystery.  How do you manage to balance the elements to deliver such an entertaining read while keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat?

Well, thanks for saying that. I'm flattered! I attempt to take the advice of the great Elmore Leonard, who said: ''Try to leave out the part that readers skip.''


Not only was Deborah gracious enough to share time to be interviewed for our blog, but also the fabulous Rosalee Deveraux Provenza (aka Mama) of Himmarshee, Florida, also agreed to answer a few questions for us.  She has her own blog, Ask Mama, and would love for you to visit and read Deborah's books following the adventure's of Rosalee's daughter, Mace.

What role do you play in assisting Ms. Sharp in documenting the mysteries encountered by your daughter, Mace?
Assisting??? Honey, those stories are all mine. That's my life. All that gal does is write it down the way I tell her it happened.  You'll notice all the books have ''Mama'' right there in the titles, right? Mama Does Time; Mama Rides Shotgun; Mama Gets Hitched. Next year, in 2011, we'll have Mama Sees Stars.

She may take the credit for being the author, but  the titles don't say DEBORAH did any of those things, do they? 
 
What are your views on romance and romance novels?

Oh, honey, I love romance! (Now, I can just picture Mace and her sisters rolling their eyes over my multiple marriages, saying maybe I love romance a little too much!) I also love a nice romance novel, but not those ones with the heavy breathing and graphic sex scenes. You do know I teach Sunday School in Himmarshee, Fla., right? All I need is for some of my little lambs to spot me reading one of those heaving-bosomed, hoochie-coochie books. It 'd be a bigger scandal than when the choir's soprano ran off with the church organist.

What is your favorite book?

You mean after ''Gone With the Wind,'' right? Well, I hope I don't sound like I'm bragging, but I have to pick one of the MAMA books. Don't ask me which one though. That's like asking me which one of my three daughters I love the best. 

Thanks again to both Deborah and Mama for taking the time to share a little of their magic with us!  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Homework: Assignment #3

Did you accomplish 10 pages?

I did not. I get a C. I only made it to 7 pages.

Still, I am pressing on.

In view of the fact that Nationals are Looming....I will be lenient.

ASSIGNMENT #3

5 pages written if going to Nationals.
20 pages written if NOT going to Nationals.

OR

Revise 10 pages if going to Nationals
30 pages if not NOT going to Nationals.

Due July 30Th, 2010 (Where many of you will be at RWA conference in Orlando).

Tell me how you've done? Or not?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Training of a Writer

Okay, I’m nervous. This is my first post for the Romance Magicians and I should introduce myself. I considered a bio, but decided to present my background to illustrate my take on language and writing. After all, writers are interested in words…and it’s easier to talk about myself, Rashda Khan, when I’m talking about something else. :)

During an overseas trip to London, I often got my communication wires crossed even though I spoke English. Imagine myself and dear hubby walking into a Boots –the equivalent of our Walgreens—in search of formula for the baby. Each one of us happened to be carrying a child when we tracked down a staffer and asked for the baby formula.

He quirked an eyebrow as he took in our family and deadpanned, “Seems that you’ve already discovered that formula.” The British refer to formula as milk. Lesson learned with much blushing.

Language changes day to day even without leaving home. It all depends on where, how and why we use words.

I started off as a newspaper journalist and covered politics, city and business news. Just the facts only, cut and dry, objective.

When I retired to raise my family, I gave in to my dream of writing fiction. I wanted to write the stories I loved – full of romance, mystery, and paranormals. The first few attempts were disasters. Critique partners would say: you need more setting, your characters need to dialogue rather than be quoted, and where are the emotions? Turning off my news brain proved to be a greater challenge than I expected.

I had to learn a whole new way of writing, slowing down and expanding, knitting together words. The process took several years and led to much frustration. Every time I became overwhelmed, I’d turn to my other passion: cooking. I’d put up my hair and pull out the skillet. I wrote a lot and cooked a lot. Some of my news training – hard-nosed editors and daily deadlines – actually helped me. The end results: I got a greater understanding of the craft. My stories went on to win a few contests, garner some requests.

Then life threw me a curve ball. My local paper gave me the opportunity to be a freelance food writer. My dream job combining both my passions. After much Snoopy dancing, I panicked. Could I write non-fiction again? What if it messed up my hard-earned fiction writing skills? I took a deep breath and wrote my first column and then the next, and next. Maybe my love for food and writing trumped my fears, maybe I’ve grown as a writer. Whatever the reason, the words are flowing.

So I am a mom, a writer and food enthusiast. I’m published in non-fiction. I’m still pre-published in fiction and I still don’t have an agent. I continue to learn, write and cook. Occasionally, I’ll share my journey with you. I hope you enjoy my words.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Firsts In Living Color

This week I was talking to a friend about getting older and the subject of first times came up. You know like the first time I saw a color TV. No, I’m not talking about a orange or purple encased TV set but the shows were in “Living Color.” I was probably eight or nine and a friend of mine invited me over to her house. Her family had just purchased a color TV set and I was fascinated. My brain had a hard time registering all the moving colors. They were so bright and mostly green, blue and red. The TV set at home had only black, white and different shades of gray (the reason football players wore light jerseys versus dark jerseys to distinguish which player was on which team). It was awesome. Only a couple years earlier had I seen my first color movie, Tarzan, and now we could watch shows in color at home? Wow! Well, that is at my friend’s home.

Another first I remember is seeing Microsoft Windows for the first time. It was in 1989 and our company had bought several of the executives and managers Personal Computers for their desks. Before that a few secretaries had the oversize computers with the tiny black screen with green type and so boring with their large floppy discs and so many codes to remember. The new computers were smaller but so much more powerful. Once again, I was fascinated by the colors appearing on the screen. But this was also in 3D! While other people were going on and on about what all it could do in calculating information, I was ecstatic by the detail pictures and how easy it was to correct a typing error. NO MORE WHITE OUT!

A biggy was the first book I ever owned that hadn’t been my sister’s. I was probably four or five. It was a copy of SCAT! SCAT CAT! It had avocado green binding and the pictures inside were done in watercolors. The paper was thick and silky smooth. I loved it and in fact still own it.

One first we all talk about at one time or another (no, get your mind out of the gutter) is the first book I started. It was never completed, though I did complete a historical seven years later. It was a contemporary and I wrote it in long hand. I remember using the word trudged. I had never used that word in my life and thought it was so cool. "The girl trudged down the road with suitcase in hand." In fact, I was thrilled to hear the word used during a scene in the movie, A KNIGHT’S TALE. Geoffrey Chaucer, naked as the day he was born, walks by Will and his two friends and is asked, “O sir, what are you doing?” And he answers, “Uh…trudging. You know, trudging? To trudge: the slow weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.” Love it!

So here’s to many more firsts as I trudge along my road to publication with the determined hope I'll continue to be fascinated by the colors of each new experience. Soldier on!

Though it's not the first and certainly not the last (I hope), wish me happy birthday (today) and tell me some of your favorite firsts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Favorite Brand of Sexy

I don't know about other writers, but when I write a story, it's because I want to read it. I pick characters, settings, situations and emotional conflicts that I want to read about, and then I tell the story so I can find out what happens. I learn a lot about myself with each book. And one thing I've discovered over the course of writing fiction is that my favorite brand of sexy is a red hot Southern boy.

Of course, if I had paid a little more attention to my television and movie viewing choices, I might have discovered that about myself a lot sooner.

It's no coincidence that my favorite character from Lost was Sawyer, the Georgia bad boy who found both love and redemption when he opened himself up to trusting other people and putting their needs before his own. He had me long before he found a way to embrace his humanity and not just his pain. It was partly the dimples but mostly the drawl.

Well before Lost, I fell pretty hard for another Southern bad boy, Remy McSwain, the crooked cop with the decent heart in the New Orleans-set crime thriller The Big Easy. The son of an even more crooked cop, Remy had never really questioned the way things were done among his fellow cops until a smart, honest and vulnerable assistant D.A. showed him the dark and dirty reality of what his corruption could lead to. When Remy chooses honor and honesty over tradition and family lies, it's a deeply satisfying moment.

My newest Southern crush is a little more upright than the previous two examples, although Raylan Givens from Justified has more than his share of demons. Between his daddy issues, his women troubles and his well-earned reputation as a trouble magnet, Raylan is a complicated guy. But let him flash me that sexy smile and say something in that mountain drawl, and I'm willing to take on all his baggage.

As you can see, Southern boys are it for me. I love 'em. Can't get enough. Which explains why my Cooper Justice series features six sexy Southern boys who'll gladly give their lives for family, for honor and for the woman who steal their hearts.

Next up, in my August Intrigue One Tough Marine, Luke Cooper has been living in self-imposed exile from his family for a long time. He has his reasons for staying away, but when the widow of an old friend needs his help, he realizes the only people he can really trust to have his back are his family.

And in September's Bachelor Sheriff, Aaron Cooper assigns himself to play bodyguard to an old high school classmate who's become the target of a killer. Though the football star and the geeky brainiac had hardly been friends, Aaron's not going to let a former classmate die on his watch, and he's willing to put himself on the line to make sure she stays safe. But who knew little Miss Valedictorian would turn out to be so tempting?

How about you? What kind of hero is your catnip? Cowboys? Princes? Sheikhs? Cops? Tell us all about it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Feeling like a fraud

I think every writer must go through a phase where they feel like a fraud. It might happen every once in while, or it might happen on a day to day basis. It definitely depends for me, I can tell you that.

Being published, being a bestseller, doesn't make the feeling go away. It can be just as strong with the evidence of your success (i.e. book covers) staring you in the face as it can be when you have none of that.

Some days I wonder when my editor will realize she made a mistake and I just don't have what it takes. Some days I stare at the story in progress and wonder how on earth I've made it through 7 books so far (7 that Harlequin have bought, not counting the under-the-bed books). I wonder when it's finally going to happen and the page will just stay blank because I can't possibly think of another word to put on it.

If you've ever felt any of this, believe me that you are not alone! It happens whether you've published several books or no books. I stumbled across a post by Bob Mayer that gave me several aha moments, and I wanted to share it with you. Go forth and read Bob's words of wisdom. Know you are not alone. :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

HOMEWORK: Assignment #2

Did you accomplish 15 pages or 30 revised?

How do you feel?

If you didn't accomplish it, why?

*I managed to squeak out my 15 pages---IF you want, I will give you until Monday, July 12 to finish your homework.


NEW ASSIGNMENT:

Since Nationals are looming for many of you, I am going to go easy on you.

Assignment # 2:



10 pages written or 15 pages revised.

Come one, you can do this one!

DUE DATE: JULY 17, 2010 (and the next assisgnment)



Good luck!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

While the Kittens Were Away

I've been on an extended vacation with my darling daughter. We left our Northern AL home two and half weeks ago to go visit two colleges, University of Virginia and Princeton, as well as to see our friends and buzz around Washington, D.C. During part of the time we were on vacation, my darling daughter stayed with her best friend's family so my darling hubby joined me in the city and we had a mini-honeymoon (we'll be married 25 years in August). But then it was time to part our ways and darling daughter reunited with me while darling hubby returned home.

While we two kittens were away, darling hubby was left to fend by himself. Some wives go to extreme levels to assist their hubbies with basic household chores while they are gone. I once read an article about three different wives who leave their darling husbands for the summer. They shared their preparations for their husbands' comfort while they were gone. One woman put 5 sheets on top of each other (bottom) so all the husband had to do was pull the top sheet off, put in a basket, and have a clean sheet again once a week! Another had all the meals prepped, frozen and labeled. Now mind you, all these ladies take the children with them, so the darling husbands don't have to worry about childcare.

Confession: I was not listed in that article.

I've hauled out of town with my darling daughter for up to a month at a time. When she was a baby and a pre-schooler, we'd go to Canada and stay with my BF and her children while she housesat her parent's place in Vancouver Island or West Vancouver. Over the years, we've gone all over the USA as well. Just this year, we've gone to Asheville, Duke, DC, VA, NJ and NYC without my darling hubby. When she was younger, and we were poorer, we just hung out and played with the kids or took them to the beach. We wives would work together and all the housework would be completed without any problems. The summers were easy and lazy. But I was still the "parent-in-charge" or PIC as we called it. I wasn't worrying about my hubby having clean sheets while I was gone. Nor was I worried about his belly being full. I had the real job--one where I had total responsibility of a child 24/7.

Confession: When DH had a temporary position up in DC, I was on my own for weeks on end with my 2-4 year old. I developed the utmost respect for single moms/dads and military families with spouses deployed. That was hard!!

Sometimes I wonder what my DH is doing while we kittens are away. My big mouse is at home right now dealing with the cats, one who is 18 and addicted to wet cat food, as well as his job and our house. Here are my thoughts about his life while we are away:

*Laundry: I know he's done laundry. He wanted me to show him how to use the new machines we bought for this house (when I am home, I do it all), but I figured he has a doctorate in physics so he could teach himself the basics. I'm fairly certain he is not sorting his clothes (he confessed this to me). Now I wonder if all his clothes are turning a faint shade of gray.

*Cooking: He's probably not cooking much. He's gone out for dinner with colleagues a few times. Yesterday he had his usual "Scotch Friday at PF Changs"--I don't even ask anymore. He told me he went to Publix and bought ribs, pre-made, to cook in the oven. He's in "man food heaven" and enjoying his meat. I have no idea if vegetables or salads have made it into his stomach. I don't think the caveman diet will kill him, but I'll be glad to see him eat greens when I return.

*Working at Home: I know my DH is missing his MAC book cause he left it in the Reagan Airport so I've been hauling it with me since I retrieved it a week ago. But he's a hunky geek who can't resist working math problems and other such nonsense, so he's probably got a stack of books next to his red reclining chair with doodles and notations on them as well as another laptop to work out his mathematical issues. I know he's glad I'm not there to gripe about the clutter pile next to his chair or, most likely, on the kitchen table.

*Care and Feeding of the Critters: He's been looking after the cats, Mischief and the Dowager Feline Clancy. They're still alive. I hear Clancy crying loudly for more wet cat food whenever I call him, day or night. He threatens to shoot them both, but I know he loves them, too. He's a soft hearted guy when it comes to the critters.

*Household: I don't want to know. I'll see soon enough. But he's relatively neat and clean due to 25 years of training so I am not too worried. The floors will need a bath, but the rest of the house should be okay.

Confession: I had fully intended to dig into the housework and the laundry and the 4th book's revision on Monday after I returned.

But a funny and wonderful thing happened while I was away. I checked my emails while we were in our hotel room last night. I have a request for a FULL for a manuscript I queried to Modern Heat sitting in my email in-box. Even darling hubby posted on my Facebook that I will be "Miss... I - gottta-work-my-a**-off-until-this-is-out-the-door-and-can't-focus-on-anything-else-wife" when I return home. And he's right. He knows me well. But you know what I love about my Mouse in the House? He's happy for me and is very excited for my opportunity. He'll support me in my endeavor.

I'm a very lucky Kitten indeed cause my Big Mouse in the House is a true hero!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Do Uneeda Sign?

A long time ago, I had to have some banners made for an event. The company recommended to me was called "Uneeda Sign." Address in hand, I drove down the street searching for the company's office. When I found it, I burst out laughing. The sign for the Uneeda Sign Company was so faded, it was barely readable. "Boy, you do need a sign!" I said aloud.

Over the past few months, I've really needed a sign. A sign to tell me to keep working on this blankety-blank manuscript. A sign to tell me not to cancel my ed/ag appointments at nationals. A sign to keep writing. A sign, a signal, a message, anything--I'm not picky, but the clearer the better. An ad on Facebook would be ideal. Something that says "Do not give up. Do not stop writing. Keep going." I prayed about it, but, to my despair, no FB ad appeared.

So I stopped writing.

I should have known God would be far more creative than a silly FB ad.

The last thing I did before I closed the document for good was come up with a title: White Handkerchief with Pink Roses. The handkerchief is pivotal to the plot, and oh, I don't know, it just seemed respectful to bury the thing with a title.

For a couple of weeks I tried to forget about that ms. I tried to pretend that I could just start on another project. I tried to put all that writing business behind me. But I couldn't. I kept thinking about my story, and I started looking for guidance again. I really wanted a sign.

One day not long after, I was in a local variety store -- a place where you can buy a handbag as well as a hairnet, a yard of ribbon as well as a yard game for the kids. I wandered the aisles, marveling at the amazing merchandise. I stopped in front of one display, and suddenly, my mouth went completely dry. Right in front of me was a stack of frilly white handkerchiefs. And the one on the top had a bouquet of pink rosebuds in the corner.

It might as well have been a FB ad. I'm writing again. I have new energy and new faith. Because I needed a sign and I got it.

How about you? Tell us about the signs you've had in your life.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?

A day late and a dollar short.

It hit me this morning while washing my hair. I was contemplating writing and social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.). I wondered how much involvement was too much. Is it even necessary? I thought, what a great topic to blog about. Then the light bulb went off. I totally and completely forgot. Yep, you got it - yesterday was my day to blog. Sorry for dropping the ball.

Obviously, I've figured out that I don't need too much. Right now I juggle twitter, blogging here and attending my writers' group monthly. Sounds paltry comparatively, but it keeps me connected and growing as a writer. Yet, I look at some recent successful writers and wonder if its necessary. For me, in this day and age, I think the answer is yes. But then the question becomes how much is enough.

So, what do you think? Is social media necessary to find success? If so, how involved should a writer become?

Monday, July 05, 2010

HOMEWORK: Assignment #1

I have decided to try and inspire us self-saboteurs to write.

I was given this idea by a fellow writer, Nicki Salcedo from Georgia Romance Writers group, who called these challenges Homework assignments. It was because of these assignments, I managed to clean up my partial and send it off in time for the Maggies. (I just won't mention the gnashing of teeth).

Note: www.candacehavens.com also has an excellent site/group that challenges writers to complete their manuscripts. If you like this challenge, I'd encourage you to check it out.


HOMEWORK CHALLENGE:
This is a 3 week challenge. At the end of the 3 weeks, if you managed to complete ALL assignments. A small prize will be awarded--such as chocolate, tea, a book...or something odd, you never know what I am going to do.
***IMPORTANT**** I can ONLY send prizes to those within the United States.....I apologize for this, but I figure if I sent you chocolate, not only would it take forever, but cost more than if you bought it yourself. But I will give a HUGE congrats on this blog.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Find a partner, a friend, fellow writer (they can participate in the challenge or not). They will receive your pages. Once you find a partner, decide whether you want them to take a look at the pages for a critique (as well as if you want to critique theirs), or just have them verify that you sent the required work.
  2. Each week I will post the Assignment, and everyone should comment on what they accomplished or did not. Tentative days I will post the assignment are: July 11, 2010, July 17, 2010, July 25, 2010 **RESULTS will be posted on July 31, 2010.
  3. Prizes: This works on the honor system. You post that you have made it, I will believe you. Only you will know if you lied. For those who are to get prizes, I will post an email at the end of the three weeks, and you can contact me directly with your mailing address. I want to keep your information as private as possible.

I realize that the ending of this challenge coincides with RWA national conference. If there are not many participants, I will run this again in August or September if everyone likes it. Plus, all the kinks will be worked out and I may have new and evil rules....but I am hoping to keep it simple.

Are you ready? I'm going to start easy on you....

ASSIGNMENT #1

Write 15 new pages of your story --OR-- Revise 30 pages of your current story.

DUE BY MIDNIGHT JULY 11, 2010

Find your partner: GO!!!

Good luck! ;-)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Are You A Carrot or a Stick ?

I overheard someone talking about housebreaking a puppy the other day. This person had it on good authority (whoever that is) that rubbing a puppy's nose in it when the puppy "had an accident" was the best way to convince the puppy NOT to do that again. He'd been using the method for six weeks with less than stellar results. And at the point of the conversation this "expert" was contemplating dumping the "stupid" puppy off at the local animal shelter. The puppy has my sympathy. I can just imagine the conversation between this unfortunate cutie and his cell mate in animal jail. "I miss the little ones. They cried when I left. But that big one was really weird. He had this pee fetish like you wouldn't believe!" Being me, I intervened and gave the guy some tips on how to convince his puppy that doing his business outside was a great thing to do. I hope he tried it even if he is a weird guy with a pee fetish I think he genuinely liked the dog.

Writers spend a lot of time getting feedback on what they've done. Sometimes we get praise and sometimes we get our noses rubbed in it. Not fun no matter what your species. And while we expect that sort of treatment from editors and agents, when we get it from our fellow writers it can be a bit disconcerting. Or can it?

Some people respond really well to "tough love." The best thing for them can be some drill sergeant yelling at them about how much time they spend on Facebook and how this thing or that thing is not helping their writing. They do much better when someone is shaming them or telling them they aren't trying hard enough to make time for writing. These people work best under a constant harangue of negative reinforcement. I admire people like that. I wish I could be one. I'm not. For me, all of that sniping makes me feel bad about myself. I begin to feel useless. Instead of trying to change what is being said I begin to believe it. And I get discouraged.

Some people, like me, do much better with a cheer leading type encouragement. You can do it. I believe in you. You'll do better tomorrow. Sounds great, right? I try very hard to be that way with other writers. I want people to do well and I want them to know I believe in them. Positive reinforcement. Praise for small victories. Little validations here and there. That works for me. BUT, there are those who think all that does is give a person permission to blow off a bad day or two or twenty with the excuse that they will do better tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or ... You get the picture.

So, what kind of person are you? What makes you plop your butt in that chair and write. Do you write better if you are glowing from someone's praise of your work or do you do better when you get "pissed off" because someone has called you out on your time wasting, your lack of focus, your unproductive behavior? (I say "pissed off" in spite of it being unladylike because frankly, "upset" is what little old ladies get when their cake falls. I get "pissed off!")

Which one works for you? And which one do you use when you feel like a fellow writer needs some encouragement? And where do contests fall in that miasma. Do you enter contests in the hope of positive reinforcement? Do you do it because you are masochistic and want to hear someone say bad things about your writing?

Are you a carrot or a stick? And please don't rub your puppy's nose in his pee. He doesn't know why you are doing it and he is telling other dogs (and possibly cats if he is bilingual) that you are some kind of nut with serious urinary issues. And he's right!

Friday, July 02, 2010

The K.I.S.S. Method of Writing

Every writer creates a novel with a premise. Many times that idea is formed with the marketability of the end product in mind. What's selling? Are historicals out of sync with today's market? Have vampire series run their bloody course? What can I write that will still be in vogue two years from now? After all, that is how long it usually take to see your work in print.

The other day I was reminded of a very basic fact. Good writing will prevail even if the story line is not very complicated. I was reminded of this by reading Danielle Steele's book, Big Girl. The story is about just that--a big girl. Now, some of you who know me may say that it resonated with me because I am carrying around a few extra pounds. Although that is true, it wasn't what appealed to me about this book. It was the clarity of the author's voice, her ability to paint a picture that evoked an emotional response and simple story telling that had a beginning, a middle and an end.

There were no big surprises, complicated plots or exotic locations that piqued my interest. It was just a nice story, told by a good story teller, who has the ability to convey an emotional response from her readers. I had forgotten how good she is. It's no wonder she has sold over 590 million books.

Thanks for the reminder, Danielle. You don't have to come up with complicated plots, exotic locations or bizarre twists and turns in your manuscript. Simple, clear, writing, that is believable and the reader can identify with, will do the trick.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Colby is in Control This Summer!


The Colby Agency is back!

Harlequin Intrigue brings us another another heart-stopping suspense from award-winning author, Debra Webb. Colby Control, the next installment in the popular Colby Agency series, is available today, July 1, 2010! Passion, suspense and action equal a hot read for the summer!

"When the Colby Agency and the Equalizers merged, their agents were expected to work together. But the moment Ted Tallant met hotshot investigator Nora Friedman, there were sparks—and not the good kind. Nora was a risk taker, while Ted was a by-the-book kind of guy.

When they were sent to Vegas on a case, those sparks turned into something hotter. They were good together—really good. But when an enemy from Nora's past twisted their assignment into something deadly, all hell broke loose. And suddenly skill and attraction weren't enough. They would have to trust each other…or everyone would die."

Available at your nearest bookstores or buy here from eHarlequin! Happy reading!