Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- What do You Pack?


I’ve been traveling a little bit lately. The venues have been mixed, hence the suitcase contents have been mixed. Are you a “keep it small and wear things until it’s impossible to do it again” kind of person? Or, are you a “just don’t know what I want and so I take everything” kind of person?
I’m in between. I might need a change of shoes. I might need something slightly more dressy. I might decide that the comfy stretch pants are the answer. Then all the extras- jewelry, changes of the pashmina wraps I live under, an extra pair of glasses for otherwise I’m in big trouble. And so on.
Well, I only do carry-on on airlines except for dire circumstances. I never check a bag if there is a connection involved (been there, done that). So multiple shoes, multiple pants, multiple sweaters and multiple anything else has to go into an overhead compatible bag.
Then there is the carryon-over-your-arm bag. I confess (don’t spread the word, please) I have figured out how to have three bags all as carry on. Totally against airline rules, but I’ve got it down. So the jewelry (really not much), the medications, the liquids in a quart-sized bag, the thumb drive, laptop, iPad, notes, itinerary and if to Italy, the Euro, all go on my body never out of sight. Well, that’s not totally true and is a whole different story.
Then there is what you have to do to get out of the house. My dogs go to the breeder’s. Bills to pay (just in case you don’t make it home when you think). Windows closed. Plants brought in because it’s about to get cold at night. Yucky stuff dumped from the fridge. Damp towels not left to mold. And? The list goes on. I tease my husband, who travels far far more than I that he gets up, takes a shower and walks out the door—even if it’s to Asia with only a brief case and ultra small bag. Well, just try and ask the wonderful man where the blank checks are, when the garbage pick up is and who to call for the backed up septic system. We all have our specialties…
I am writing this Wednesday night for you to read on Thursday. I arrived home a few hours ago and have a very early departure in just four hours hours. So, as I add to my bag, finish the laundry and wistfully look at the manuscript that is nearly done, it’s time for bed. I rarely set an alarm but I think I will tonight. I will check in as I can during the day. But, a lot of it will be spent with no access to the Internet, as was the issue for the last two days.
Please do join in if you can. What are the important things you pack? What does it take for you to get out the door? What keeps you that extra 20 minutes saying, “I’ll be right there. Just a minute.”
Again, I’ll be here as I can. I hope you will be too.  It’s 11:30 at night and time to change the laundry.
Best to you all. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kari's Kave: Dental Work Isn't The Only Thing That's Painful....

Today, as I sit here and write this post, I stare at my to do list... One word jumps out at me.

Dentist

I hate going to the dentist. It can be a chore. It can be scary. And it can be painful.

Sometimes writing is like that. I love when the words just come to me, and everything is easy. The story flows and the pages turn quickly. But other times, writing can be like going to the dentist.\

A chore...
A bit scary...
And sometimes painful!

Most of the time, writing comes easy for me. But sometimes, like with the piece I've been working on lately, writing is hard. I dont' know why that happens, but it drives me crazy when it does. I feel like nothing is working, and I'm struggling to find the words. And even when I do find the words, I don't like them very much.

There's nothing more satisfying than smiling after I reread something I've written because I know it's good. I can feel it in my gut. But it's scary as hell when I read something and second guess every word on the page.

Ugh! I hate that.

So back to the drawing board for me today, and then off to the dentist. Oh, joy! Something tells me today will not be fun. Grrrr....

Cross your fingers that the words will come easier today, and the dentist won't be so bad. I need to smile again and soon!

So tell me, what do you do when nothing seems to be going right?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Anita's Attic: My Own Backstory

Backstory is a funny thing. We all have one, characters and real people alike. You can't get here from nowhere. Boring, exciting, traumatic, lonely...we all have a story to tell that got us where we are today. As I get older I’m getting more sentimental about my memories, and about myself as a little girl. I had so many fears as a kid. I don't know why, because I came from a loving, wonderful family. But I suffered in silence, never telling anyone. I kept them hidden, because I didn't want to worry anyone. That's a sad irony. 
My family would have been horrified to know how much I worried about stupid things, just as I would  now, to think that one of my kids would suffer something like that and not come to me for help. But my kids are a lot different than I was. They're far more well adjusted for one thing, and they're independent and confident and have no trouble whatsoever telling me what's wrong with their world. In fact, it appears that I'm to blame for most of it. My fourteen year old son still remembers that I threw out his Mello Yello that he wasn't finished with when we were traveling for Christmas vacation seven years ago. And to hear my daughter you would think I'm the cause of all her woes. Seriously, I have great kids. Awesome kids. But they're very vocal! 

It’s not that I didn’t have fun as a kid. I did. My cousin Karen was my best friend. We were closer than twins. Sometimes I think we shared one brain. We had so much fun. We didn’t sit in the house playing video games. We made stuff. We got dirty and used our imaginations, whether it was making furniture for our Barbie Dolls out of whatever we could find, singing into hairbrush microphones, or building dirt paths to ride our bikes on. I remember when my grandmother gave us a bag of quilt scraps so we could sew clothes for our Barbies. It was like winning the lottery. 

I think one reason for my nostalgia of late is that my own daughter is old enough for me to really connect with, and even though her personality is different, I still see so much of me in her. I suspect another reason can be blamed on my writing. I've grown so used to building characters and poignant backstories that the writer in me wishes she could go back and revise a few scenes. If only I could time travel. 
It's bizarre, but I do find myself wishing I could go back and comfort the little girl that I was back then, as I might comfort my own daughter. I want to tell her what a waste of time it is to be afraid, to let go and live because there’s a wonderful future waiting for her. 

They say your life flashes in front of you before you die. I suspect that the older we get, we experience a slow motion version of this as we learn to appreciate our pasts, good and bad, and the things we've experienced. 

Does anyone else look at their childhood through writer's eyes and wish they could go back and revise a few things? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Liz's Lair: Networking at Conferences (Encore Blog)



First off, let me explain that I am madly racing to finish book 4 of my Clueless Cook series for Berkley. The minute I finish it, I have to start on my second A Dead Sister Mystery for Midnight Ink which is due in April. And tomorrow I leave for The Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, with my agent and my CP. That's why this is an encore blog dressed up. Here goes.

Mother, Do You Have To Talk To Everyone?

To this day, my kids still ask me that. I love to talk to people and usually do, which brings me to the first part of my topic, networking at conferences.

There is no better place to connect with people who “get” you than at a writers’ conference. Even if you are an introvert, someone like me is going to come up to you and ask what you write. Before you know it, you will be talking to a perfect stranger (me) and wondering exactly how many lattes I had that morning. (Remember Kramer on that one Seinfeld episode when he had too many? That’s me.)

And you wanna know something? Nine times out of ten, your answer will surprise the bejesus out of me. While I pictured you writing sweet romances, you floor me with plots of steamy erotica or vampire-hunting, shape-shifting werewolves. I love conferences for this reason. Even the smaller ones are great for networking. Matter of fact, sometimes they are more intimate and allow for better access to one-on-one time with the editors and agents in attendance.

That said, I love RWA Nationals, one of the biggest ones out there. I adore the crowds, the goody room, the bars at night where everyone in there is talking writing and just about everything else, including the great workshops where you can’t help learning new stuff.Unfortunately, I haven't gone the past few years for two reasons. I can't afford it, and I no longer consider myself a romance author. I decided any conference I attend would have to be all about mysteries.

Some rules are made to be broken
 
WFF is not a mystery conference nor is it specific to romance. It's a multi-genre conference where I will rub noses with foreign editors, writers, and translators. I am practicing my best schmoozing techniques so that maybe I can score a foreign deal or two!! I leave on tomorrow and will arrive in Rome Wednesday morning. Chrisitne (agent) and I are on the same flight and we'll meet up with Joni (CP) in Rome. There we'll board another flight to Bari where a shuttle will meet us and take us to  Matera and the conference. 
 
I am getting so excited not only because I have heard this conference is awesome, but because I am looking forward to spending time with both my CP and my agent. AND we are spending three days after the conference on the island of Ichia, the land of healing waters and spas. I may never come home.
 
Anyway, I digress. At all the conferences I attend, I like to collect business cards. Because I am of the age where memory doesn’t always serve, I write a little something on the back to help me put a face to the name. Last week, I was going through my stack and decided to share some with you. Most of them simply say stuff like - Canadian at breakfast, Dallas 2007, bookseller at lunch in DC 2009, etc. Some are more specific and a few are downright interesting. Those are the ones I’m gonna list. I’ll leave out the names to protect the innocent – and to keep from getting harassing emails.

A police homicide commander from Atlanta who said to call him anytime. NEVER HEARD FROM HIM.

A woman who won the Librarian of the Year award in 2006. NO CONTACT

Two women I met at the Harlequin party we crashed last year. Both belong to online book clubs and said to let them know when I sell, and they’ll get the word out to buy my book. Yippee!! THIS IS THE WONDERFUL BECKE DAVIS OF B & N WHO HAS BECOME A GREAT CYBER FRIEND.

A Wild Rose Press editor who acquires dark paranormal. Since I don’t write that, I just partied with her. THIS IS JOELLE WALKER WHO NO LONGER EDITS FOR WRP. (SHE STILL EDITS BUT I'M NOT SURE WHERE.) ANYWAY, SHE HAS SINCE JOINED MY LOCAL CHAPTER AND HAS ALSO BECOME MY FRIEND.

A young guy from my chapter who asked if I’d look at some of his work. Not being able to say no - another thing I am famous for – I said yes and he whipped out seven chapters. Fortunately for me, his seven chapters were only 20 pages total!! NEVER SEEN OR HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN AFTER I SENT THE CRITIQUE. SHEESH! AM I THAT BAD?

And last but not least, in Reno, I sat with an older guy who was a chiropractor. He said he was shopping his book – are you sitting down? – a 650 page story involving the colon. THANK GOODNESS THIS BOOK NEVER CAME OUT. HAVEN'T EVER SEEN HIM AT ANY OTHER CONFERENCES.

You can’t make up crap like this--pun intended!!

And you must be wondering what the picture has to do with anything. Absolutely nothing. I just couldn't resist. This one makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it. Kind of like when I write something really stupid and my CP writes in big letters WTF??

Ciao!
 
Got any good stories about meeting other writers?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: What's in a Workshop?

Workshops. When you're new to writing, you can't get enough of them. You're like a sponge, soaking in all of the tricks and tips and educating yourself on putting the power in your own writing so you will be the next best seller.

I remember my very first writing conference (NEC). I went to every workshop I could and took notes like a crazy person. To me, this conference was the confirmation I needed that I was destined to be a writer and that my stories were good enough to be told. When I came back to this conference the very next year, I received my first ever request for a full from an editor at Harlequin. THAT was the best feeling in the world. Although I didn't end up selling to Harlequin, I received excellent feedback and continued to write and come up with ideas to polish and pitch. And one year after that, at a different conference (NJRWA) I received a request and 2 months later I had an agent!

But back to workshops. I think they are so helpful not only to beginning writers, but to seasoned authors as well. We all get stuck from time to time, and it's refreshing to see what new plotting ideas or ways to develop characters are out there. Sometimes we need to spice things up. It's great when you can hone in on something that will help develop your weak points as an author.

Me, I like characterization workshops. This is my weakness. I get comments that readers love my characters - little do they know how much work went into those pages!! I have a tendency to see my characters a certain way, and it takes many passes to show them clearly on paper. I'm fine with their dialogue, and of course their physical details. It's keeping their actions consistent with who they are that throws me every time. One of these days I will get it right the first time (okay, maybe by the third).

Plotting is always interesting. I consider myself a decent plotter, although I'm getting into deeper and bigger plots so I'm going to have to start really paying attention and probably become a spread sheet queen, like I know so many authors have to do to keep it all straight.

I still enjoy going to workshops. I like to go if they are being given by author friends, just to support them and see how they format their workshops. And I'm branching out to different workshops about marketing, branding...all those "next step" ones, because once you've really worked your craft there's always room for improvement, but there's more to learn as well.

What kinds of workshops do you all enjoy? Anyone ever present a workshop? And for any followers who are beginning writers or maybe just readers.... what kinds of workshops would you be interested in attending? I've been asked to give a workshop at a local library, and welcome any ideas. :-)

Have a great weekend everyone! It's starting to feel like football weather..FINALLY!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- Research Techniques, a Repeat Posting


Dear Folks, I confess this is a repeat blog from 2010 with a few edits. It has been wild around here and I'm cheating a little. Nevertheless, I think the topic is worth revisiting. Please send in your comments.

I shared news about my car accident. Many of you wrote back (thank you!) and we began a conversation about what do as research for our stories. I’d like to continue with that theme. No more automobile accidents, please, but what other techniques do we use?

My books usually take place in Italy. I happen to go frequently (such a burden, cough, cough) and have had the opportunity to plot out my former works-in-progress on the site where I wanted it to happen. For the manuscript that is now ready for revisions, I literally ran the streets in Rome so I could time how long it took to go from a particular piazza to another. No woman runs in Rome. This is the land of high heels and irregular cobblestones. I had men trying to stop me and offer help. How could I tell them to back off? They were messing with my stop watch.

In the outskirts of Rome I drove in the pouring rain to find a small town that I knew would be a perfect setting for the last scenes of my book. It was, but the drive was also story unto itself. I’m keeping those notes for a future opportunity to share.

As I write in the mystery/suspense genres, I worry a great deal about how to kill people and create a certain level of mayhem. My kids are very concerned about the research I tend to do to attain the right level of both accuracy and graphic detail. I certainly have never personally murdered someone, nor plan to do so, but it is important to get our facts correct, right?

Now, I do need to give a little background so you’ll understand why my daughters become anxious with this topic and with the process. My husband travels internationally a huge amount of time. Often that is to the Middle East, Dubai, and parts of Asia. The kind people in customs and immigration have told him there is no way extra pages can be added to his passport—it’s too thick already.

Well, for one of my scenes,  I needed to have a poison that would kill someone (this is about my writing, believe me) and could be hidden in a meal. My fingers flew over the keys. The Internet search engines were talking to talking to me. Oleander Soup!! It’s a beautiful and common flowering bush. A month later I was walking in Rome with one of my daughters and the Oleander was in full bloom. Gorgeous. “Oh, boy,” I said. “ Do you how much damage I could do with all of that?” My daughter stumbled on the steps and gave me a look I’ll never forget.

Then there was the time I needed to understand how a Molotov cocktail was made. Yup, it’s all out there. Then there was a time I needed to blow up a house. I posted a question on one of my writer’s loops—any ideas? The responses flooded back in.

My two daughters have begged me to stop. Dad, they say, travels the globe to some places that could have risky safety issues. YOU, MOM, are Googling bombs, poisons, guns and methods of creating havoc. Is this really the best plan for the family? What if men in dark suits arrive at our door? What if they wonder what our family is really about? STOP.

I nod with a sincere look on my face, hoping my girls are buying it. I haven’t told them yet that I’m thinking about joining our local gun club. For those of you who know me, this is a shocking admission. But how else will I feel what the recoil is like, or how long it takes to reload with trembling fingers? Then there is the evasive driving course at Lime Rock that is designed for security personnel and those who need protection. The list is endless.

I have no defense of what is on my hard drive other than it’s research. I promise I have no ill will for anyone, but I do need to know.

And you? What’s your wildest research story. Bring it on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kari's Kave: Birthing our Babies

Relax, people, I won't go into actual "birthing" details :-) But I will tell you my nephew's girlfriend is having a baby. She is going in to be induced today...yay! I just love babies. And this will be my very first great nephew. Yes, it's a boy. He will be named Dominic Anthony Russo. I can't wait to see him and hold him. It's been a while since we've had any babies around.

So that got me thinking about authors and their books. AKA...their babies!

Every time I write a book, I feel like I'm giving birth to a new baby. It takes so much effort to get it to grow and develop properly. It can bring a lot of joy along the way, but it can also bring a lot of pain when things aren't going right.

Sometimes we feel like giving up and many times we say we'll never do this again. But then the day comes when we offically write the end. We give birth to the finished product and love it no matter what. We have to realize not everyone will find our baby as pretty as we do, but it won't matter. That pride and joy over what we accomplished will always be there. And yes, we WILL write another one because that is what we do.

Happy reading and writing, folks!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Liz's Lair: Meet Debut Mystery Author Susan Boyer


In Which I Moonlight as a Translator

Thank y’all so much for having me visit today on Mysteries and Margaritas! Those are two of my very favorite things in the world, by the way. I brought along margaritas —did everyone get one? They just seemed like an appropriate hostess gift. Please keep the glasses. Aren’t they darlin’?

Like y’all, I write mysteries, but lately, I’ve developed a sideline. It’s more of a hobby right now, but I’m thinking I could maybe turn it into a money-maker if I set my mind to it.  And what with the economy being in such turmoil, who couldn’t use a little extra cash?

What is it I’ve been doing? Translations. No, I don’t speak French, Spanish, Russian, or German. Now, I did take French in college, but that has been a while. I occasionally fake a little French for entertainment purposes, if you know what I mean. Heaven only knows what I’m really saying, so let’s say no more about that. I know enough Spanish to order in most Mexican restaurants, but that’s the extent of that.

No, lately I’ve been getting calls from other writers who need help translating their characters’ dialogue into my native language—Southernese.

Why just yesterday, I got an emergency call from a writer friend out west who needed to know how her character, a Southerner, would say, “Why would you go out with such a bad man?” Now, as her character is a lady, I told her the proper usage would be, “Why on God’s green earth would you even consider going out with that no-good scoundrel?” There are other acceptable variations, of course, and had her character not been a lady, “scoundrel” would have been replaced with a more colorful noun and a few more adjectives. And, of course, “in this wide world” is always interchangeable with “on God’s green earth.”

So far, only my friends have asked me to translate into Southernese, and of course, friends don’t charge friends. But I was thinking I could put up a website and offer my services on a per-word basis. I could also translate from Southernese for those who have the need to know things like what to expect when his wife is fixin’ to pitch a hissy fit, what to do when his wife has a hankering for something, or the proper form of y’all to use in any given situation—you, y’all, all y’all, y’all’s, or all y’all’s.

Then there are the more practical aspects of Sothern living that could be useful to the Nouveau Southern—things like what constitutes proper funeral food, how to season cast iron frying pans, or how to make red eye gravy.

It’s just a thought. Right now I have my hands full telling folks about my new book. LOWCOUNTRY BOIL releases tomorrow! It’s the first in the Liz Talbot series. Liz is a private detective—I hope y’all are going to like her! She has a Golden Retriever named Rhett that must look a lot like one of Cassy’s.

Thanks again for having me over! Y’all come see me on the web any time. I hang out in all the usual places:

 
Hey, before I go, do y’all have a favorite southernism? Or maybe you need something translated? We’ll have a drawing from those who leave comments, and the winner gets a free copy of Lowcountry Boil (format is winner’s choice).

Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and an RWA Golden Heart® finalist.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Flexibility and Wishes

We've all heard that saying "be careful what you wish for". I really think that holds true. How many times have we struggled with something, practically selling our souls to get it, then having what we wanted and more! You know, the old saying "when it rains it pours"! Yeah, those 2 cliches kind of go hand-in-hand. Oh, and they are followed by "Karma's a bitch".

Again, we know as writer's, spouses, friends, and parents, we wear many hats. We are flexible to a fault and do what we need to in order to get the job done, the book written, the shoulder cried on, the band-aid stuck, dinner cooked and the drinks flowing. Even in our writing and writing goals we've had to learn to be flexible, sometimes taking turns in our story that we hadn't planned to take, or branching off into new worlds and new genres. We do this why? Well, because we CAN, and also because that one thing we wish for is publication. We dream of it, we breathe it, it flows within our veins.

And we will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to get it. [remember that wish-thing?]

Everything in writing land has been great. With two self-published books out, I'm feeling very confident about my abilities as an author. Although, my goals for completing the 2 holiday anthologies over the summer basically melted away with the heat. But have no fear!! I was able to tweak my short story "Extreme Love Makeover" - to be release very soon, and my full length romantic suspense "Twist of Fate" - to be released in October. I was productive, just not in the area I had originally intended. Ahh, yes, I've gotten extremely good at flexing.

So much so that I created a new series and finished the entire proposal last weekend. Most likely in another week I will be starting on book 1 of that series and I'm psyched!! I feel really good about this one. I think it's unique and original and my hope is that once I get the full book written, my agent will be able to shop it around - but I will also be prepared to self-pub it as well. There are 8 books in the series, so maybe if the 1st one does well on its own.......someone may pick it up? Hey, you never know.

In the mean time, I still have a partial of my cozy mystery out with a publisher. It's been out there a while, and I've been patient and working on other projects to keep my mind off things. But now that I'm formulating a game plan, you just know that publisher is going to come back with good news! (I'm hoping!!!) and you know what that is, don't you??? That is the torrential downpour - and I will have to balance my way through 2 series all because I wished for publication and Karma is indeed a bitch! :-) But that's okay, Bring it ON!!!!

How have you all had to be flexible? What are some of the wishes you have? Have you ever been bitten by Karma? or did you kick her butt?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- Word Games



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we pick a certain word to portray our intent. What is the nuance you are looking for as you create a scene? What is the tone you are hoping to achieve? This whole thought process led me to thinking you might enjoy hearing about word games my father and I play. We’ve had one game going for nearly 35 years. We recently started a new one, but my dad has said he’s bored with it. I’ll let you decide.
The first game, the old and true one, we’ve dubbed it the “Para” game. The rules are these:
You have to create a pun of sorts;
You have to supply a clue to the creation of a new word that always has the new word begin with “para;”
Hang in with me here. You get it in a minute;
The clue always is in a multiple so that “para” is also a pun of “pair of.”
Here are two examples so you see what I mean.

What would five nickels be? Answer: Paradigms
What would two state cops be? Answer: Paratroupers
Got it?

The new game, which as I said my father is now bored with, has to do with finding words that are spelled exactly the same but can mean very different things. No fair using what we call derivatives. We both have veto power over the other. A derivative is when the base (that word you think would qualify) is actually the same as your new meaning. I’ll give an example below.

Okay choices: Blind- you can be without sight or you can be hunting ducks.
Root- you can dig this up in your yard or cheer on the home team.
Present- I don’t have to explain this one.

A derivative example that my dad has vetoed on me: Right- you can be right as in correct or take a right turn or even right a chair that has fallen over. But, they all come from the Latin ‘dextra’ as does our word dexterous. He claims it doesn’t count. I disagree. Your call on this, as the whole conversation is a made-up game.

My list is long as we’ve been playing this one for a few months. I’m not going to reveal (another one that I think qualifies) them all. It’s now your turn.

Want to play? Pick either game or both. I’d love to add your words to my notebook.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kari's Kave: Fall Inspiration

I know it's not fall yet, but I love the cool crisp feeling in the air. The haziness of hot, steamy summer days goes away, and everything looks sharp and vivid. I'm looking out my window as I type this, and there's a huge tree that's already turning colors. Fall is just so pretty, it's my favorite time of year.

I wish the season lasted longer.

While it's here, I intend to use it for inspiration. I have my cup of tea and warm snuggy on, and the sun is shining bright outside. The hubby is gone and the kids are off to school. Oh the possibilities for the day ahead of me.

I love writing the end, and finishing a project. Then comes the polishing and editing and copy edits, etc. until I can finally close the door on that particular book. It is what it is. Now the exciting part comes. It's time to start a brand new book.

I repeat...oh the possibilities.

I have so many ideas I want to write, yet so many ideas I need to write. I have my traditionally published books I'm contracted for with deadlines and all. Then I have my self-published books that readers are asking for, with my own personal deadlines.

If I've learned anything, it's to write the book that's burning within. That excitement and passion will shine through on the pages. I guess I need to pull out my calendar first and figure out what I have to do, then plug in what I "want" to do :-)

Here's to being inspired, people. Now, go forth and prosper. By the way...what inspires you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anita's Attic: Manuscripts and Puppies


Manuscripts are like dogs. They start out small, with perhaps just a cute idea, kind of like Luna here. She's our second boxer. Isn't she cute?



We give the story lots of nourishment and love...




And it starts taking shape; the characters and plot emerging...



 A little mischief happens...






Some confrontations, a few twists and turns... (Lily and Luna)





And before you know it, you have a growing story...




Finally, it's fleshed out and ready to go...



Pretty as a picture...




 We went from this....



To this...



The biggest one...yeah, that's the puppy six months later. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liz’s Lair: It Was A Storm and Darky Night



Okay. Don’t be sending me emails to say I screwed that line up. I did it on purpose to lead into my topic for today, which is the worst first lines ever.

I was browsing one of my loops and found a Publishers’ Weekly blog that announced the winners of a Bad First Line contest. As one who struggles with first lines, I couldn’t wait to read them all to see if I would have qualified. Thank heavens, I can honestly say I probably wouldn’t have.

But OMG, some of them were really funny. Here’s the overall winner:

As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.

Okay, that’s pretty funny, but I thought the third place winner had the best one:

She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her.

You can read the article in its entirety here

And y’all know how my mind thinks. I know some of you are really creative out there. I want to hear what you can come up with to beat out these winners. I’ll even send one lucky winner (chosen by my blogmates) one of my books (their choice) or a souvenir from Italy when I go in two weeks.

So, start churning them out. You can post as many as you want. Just be sure to include your email address so I can notify you if you win.

If you're wondering if we were discussing first lines in the picture. The answer would be no. Christine Witthohn and Shelia Redling were  cracking up because my fat arse had just fallen into the cooler. I just thought a picture of people laughing went with the blog and since I am being careful about what photos I use, I decided to use one of my own.

Anyway, take your best shot!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Writer's Backhoe

Happy Friday everyone! Strange blog topic, I know, but you'll catch my drift in a minute.

We all know what a backhoe is used for in construction, right? It's the big monster truck that creeps onto the scene and knocks things down only to scoop them away with that big bucket. As I looked all around my quaint little writing area which is now barely big enough for my laptop or my hands to type...and I thought "Where's the freaking backhoe!?"

There are STACKS of books both on and below my desk. 2 empty mugs, my stack of printed off Twist of Fate chapters I'm editing, PILES of research/notes/characters sketches for the new series, not to mention index cards, a lamp, a file organizer rack jammed to the hilt with I-don't-even-remember what, and the leaning tower of binders/notebooks on top of that! yes, that is just the top of my desk folks.

Below are several craft bags full of my crochet yarn and magazines - because, you know, when I'm stuck in a story crochet is a nice way for me to clear my mind. Just don't tell my hubby there are more bags of yarn scraps etc..in the closet. Oy! *insert forehead slap* Gee...then there's the stack of file folders (you know, filled with ideas, kid papers from last school year, MY school-work notes, photos, and more I-can't-remember kind of stuff), 4 college class books I don't need and really need to return to Amazon for credit (because Amazon credit is fun!), more piles of papers??!! (is that even possible?), Oh yes, and all of THAT is stacked creatively on top of a big plastic file box - we've all got them, right? You know, the ones that look all top-secret and special with the closeable top that latches shut and a carry handle? Yeah...keep smiling, I know you have one. But seriously, mine is so packed full of OLD writing ideas and research and even MORE stuff I can't remember, that it must way 30 pounds! I won't be carrying it anywhere. At least there is still room for my feet under the desk.

Backhoe you say?? I think I need to be on a reality show or something. Maybe I will create one! The Writer's Reality - No Backhoe Required (just backing up!) ha ha. While yes, I understand that I need to do some MAJOR cleaning/clearing out. I am a certified pack-rat. I'm sentimental over everything and I hate to throw things out because you just never know when you might need it. And I've proven this point to my hubby MANY times over the last 20 years. But still....

If I really cleared out the "personal" junk/maybe keep, I would be left with my writing stuff. How can I get rid of it??? At one point I saved completed works on CD's. But now I've gone back to those stories and tweaked and made changes, so I suppose the old CD's could go. As much as I love technology, I'm very attached to my papers and written words. it's like, I can looked at typed notes and not make a connection. But when I look at my handwritten notes, I can put myself back to when I wrote it and remember exactly what I was thinking and where I was going with it! It's true! I think it's the images of the loops and lines in writing and jog the memory.

It doesn't matter how cluttered my paper is with notes, either. I will still be able to follow it and know exactly what I was doing. Now, I've tried to neatly copy my notes, and to be honest the new notes don't have the same effect. Has anyone else ever had that happen? I think it's funny how the mind works. Sure, the new notes look very orderly and easy to follow....but the passion behind the scribble is gone.

So do I really need the backhoe to swoop in and remove my clutter? No, because to my writer's mind, the clutter is a motivator to dive in and finish. I think I just need to "learn" to organize the clutter so that when a story is done or into a different stage, it can be neatly set aside until I dive in again.

Oh, and as a reminder to all: we know that our notes are not always safe from being accidentally tossed out or misplaced. But as some of us know all too well, our technology isn't always safe from destruction either.

Be creatively conscious and find a way to backup your files. If you're not worried about your actual computer program/files, at least backup your pictures and writing. Pictures can't be replaced, and let's face it, you won't write a chapter the same way twice - let alone an entire book. :-)

We don't need a backhoe, we just need a proper BACK-UP!

Enjoy the Weekend everyone!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cassy's Corner- Working in Odd Spaces

I have always admired those people who can write in any spot--kid's soccer games, on city buses, during a lunch break. I am sitting at this moment on the edge of a hotel bed typing on my iPad rather than my computer. For me, it changes everything. I don't think the same. My fingers don't work the same. I admire those who can pick up and go for it. I tend to need my routines. I work in three places in my house. I have a desk to machine ands a laptop. The laptop moves with me from desk to the kitchen island. Past that, I work when I travel and it always disconcerting. I see people on planes typing away. My husband can spread out his drawing and create huge buildings on the tiny airplane table. He sets up a full office on a very few square feet. Not I.
I need to have my things around me. Even when I travel for any length of time, I have my goodie bag of pens, notepads, laptop, stickie notes, plus much more. I need to set up my little desk.
I truly admire those who can plop down and get right to work.
If anyone has suggestions, let me know,please.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kari's Kave: Support at its Best

I was sitting here this morning, on a cloudy rainy day, feeling tired and a little blue.

Where did summer go?

Where did the time go?

Where did my sanity go?

This summer has been a crazy ride. I'm trainging for my first 5k, and I'm excited for my oldest to go off to college, but a little sad too. He still has to go through his senior year of high school, but tough decisions have to be made now because he's playing a sport. So we've been traveling all over, looking at colleges and meeting coaches. So exciting, but reality is hitting home. He will be my first to leave the nest next year. As crazy as it is being a mom of 4, I still don't want any of them to go away :-( Yet, I am so excited for him to spread his wings and fly :-)

And then there's my writing. Trying to fit it in during the summer is always a challenge. Writing early, writing late, writing on the road...oh my! Forget the Calgon...bring on the wine!

Then I glanced at a mug on my desk, and it brought a smile to my face. The mug says:

Good friends are like bras: supportive, never leave you hanging, make you look good, and are always close to your heart.

I have such great supportive friends. My Book Cents Babes, my CP's, my agent, my editor, my family.

I CAN do this. I can have it all: be a mom, be a wife, be an author, be me, as long as I have support.

So I'm raising my mug (of coffee not wine...it's 9AM people:-) to all my supportive peeps out there.

Write on!

I'm hitting the road to Ohio this time, and tackling my copy edits for Trouble in the Tarot along the way :-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Anita's Attic: Summer's End

Yay! Or is it Boo Hoo? Summer is officially gone, and the new school year has started. I'm excited for things to get back to normal, since I need to get a lot of writing done, and it's hard with the kids  home. But on the other hand, I enjoyed having them around.

It's an exciting year for both kids. Caleb is in high school--9th grade--and can I just brag for a minute? He made it as starting quarterback for JV! They have three teams. 9th grade, JV, and Varsity. And he beat out a couple of 10th graders for the spot.

Skylar is in middle school this year, and she made the cheerleading team. She was really worried since so many girls were trying out. Of course she's ecstatic. I'm so proud of both of them. But it's time for momma to get her butt in gear--translated...in the chair--and get moving toward these deadlines. Happy End of Summer!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Liz's Lair: Encore - What Labor Day Means To Me



Strapped to a gurney in the back of a C-130 military transport plane on my way from CCK Air Force base in Taichung, Taiwan to the Navy hospital in Taipei, I remember thinking how could I have been so stupid.

What in the world was I doing there, you ask. stupid.

This requires a little backstory. I married my high school sweetheart his last year of college. I was already a nurse and working in the Pediatrics department at the local hospital where I trained, but left it all to follow him to Nashville for his last year of college. One day in downtown Nashville, he and a friend went to see the local Air Force recruiter just for grins and hubby took the tests necessary to be a pilot. I talked him out of it because he was about to graduate with an engineering degree and had a really nice job lined up in St. Louis, Missouri, where two of my brothers lived.

Life was good.

Until Nixon instituted the draft lottery and he was number 17 in our small town and most certainly would be drafted into the Army. Quickly, he went back to the recruiter and signed on the dotted line. Thus began his military career where his first assignment was to CCK Air Force Base in Taichung, Taiwan, flying C 130 Hercules aircraft around Viet Nam transporting everything under the sun, including prisoners of war.

Did I mention how young and stupid we were at the time? CCK was considered a remote tour, but if wives went there, the Air Force would take care of them. I was seven months pregnant with our first child and we were so afraid if we waited, it would be three or four months after the baby was born before I could go. So, with two dogs and my fat self, I made the trip, missing my flight in San Francisco and having to stay over with no makeup or clothes.

When he left for his assignment, I was in hot pants (we all wore them back then) but the girl who stepped off the plane could no more have gotten her fat body into hot pants than Humpty Dumpty could have. My feet were swollen to triple their size, I was swollen and all I could do was cry that I wanted to go home.

Actually, it wasn’t so bad. CCK didn’t have a hospital, only a male clinic, so my prenatal visits were with a psychiatrist. Pregnant women had to travel to Taipei two weeks before their due date and wait in a hostel for women until they had the baby. I tricked them when my water broke two and a half weeks early. Thus the ride up in the C-130, affectionately called the Baby Bomber.

Two days later, I was still waiting for the baby when they decided to induce me. What I remember vividly about that experience was that a young Navy officer’s wife was brought in with contractions right off a commercial airliner. Being seven months pregnant, they were unable to give her anything for the pain. “The baby’s too small. We can’t medicate you without hurting your baby,” they said. As God is my witness, the woman screamed, “I don’t care about this baby. I want drugs.”

In the meantime I was waiting for the pitocin drip to start my contractions, alone in the room with no mother, no sisters, not even my hubby. Since the hospital was so small and there was another woman in the room, he had to wait outside. I was stuck in the room with this crazy lady who was ready to kill for demerol.

But this story has a happy ending. That night, I had a beautiful seven pound baby girl, and we called her Nicole. The next day was – you guessed it- Labor Day.

You can't make up stuff like this!!

What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing, but I figured no one would be reading this blog today anyway. Hopefully, all of you are grilling hot dogs, at the beach, around the pool, with family celebrating the fact that we are all alive and healthy and able to work our jobs.

Cheers to all you workers out there, especially to the three young guys who flew the Baby Bomber that day so long ago and kept coming back to check on me. Guess they figured if I got them out on their day off, the least I could do was have a pain or two. It never happened.


Happy Labor Day to y'all. Happy Birthday, Nicole.  I can't wait to celebrate with the family in a few hours.