Monday, July 31, 2006

Conference: Life and Writing


I've been staring at this blank screen for about five minutes now, wondering where to start. I'm tired this morning, though not as bad as I expected, since we did manage to get a decent night's sleep Saturday night. Laying down in my own bed last night felt so good! The hotel beds were really nice, but there's nothing like your own bed.

Conference was an exciting experience, as usual, and it was filled with those challenging moments that illuminate your strengths and weaknesses. Though I hate seeing the weaker side of myself, I grow inch by small inch in confidence each time I can get a handle on whatever situation I find myself in.

My first challenge upon arriving was an unexpected one. I have a phobia that I rarely have to deal with here at home: I'm afraid of heights. We ended up with a room on the 22nd floor, which would have been fine, except the elevators were all made of glass! My first time up must not have gone well, because the Playfriends took one look at me and became concerned. I was a little worried myself, because I knew I'd have to go up and down those elevators all week. Having to make the trip to the 47th floor to visit the Mavens didn't improve my outlook, but I had no choice but to face this head on. By that evening I had worked out a system: stand fairly close to the doors and stare at them while the elevator moved, all the while maintaining a death grip on the rail. The next day, our roommate Kathy told me to widen my stance, bracing my legs to ground myself while the elevator moved. This worked like a charm!!! By the last day of conference, I could even stand in the middle of the elevator away from the rail if I had to, as long as I kept my feet shoulder width apart and stared toward the door instead of out the glass. Accomplishment #1!!!!

As was reported earlier this week, I received two requests for partials at my editor appointment, which was wonderful. An even bigger accomplishment for me was not getting so nervous that I couldn't be coherent during the appointment. :) I learned the first time I pitched that going in there prepared was key for me. Though it meant keeping myself, and several Playfriends, up until 1:45am, I honed both pitches until I could say them with confidence and not feel dorky. I practiced what I wanted to say to introduce myself and how I would respond if I messed up (just smile, shrug, and go on). Luckily, the editor I pitched to was very personable and friendly and PC's critique partner had an appointment at the same time, so we conversed while we waited to stay relaxed and distracted. I only stumbled a few times and felt I handled this situation with relaxed, but professional, confidence. Accomplishment #2!!!!

I volunteered during the Literacy Signing, along with several other Playfriends, where I was given a stretch of approximately 40-50 authors to fetch and carry for. As an introvert, introducing myself to total strangers isn't high on my fun factor list, but with each handshake it became easier. And it proved to be good practice for the rest of the conference, because I had the opportunity to introduce myself to many people I didn't know and many others that I'd met before but hadn't seen in a long time. Practice really does ease the way. Accomplishment #3!!!

There were some great classes offered during this year's conference and I attended as many as I could between other obligations. One I especially enjoyed was presented by Susan Elizabeth Philips, this year's RWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. If you ever have the chance to attend a workshop by this classy, spunky lady, I highly recommend it. Anyway, there was one sentence from her class that stuck in my mind, hopefully taking root so I'll remember it the next time I'm looking at my book and worrying that it is crap. She said, "Don't worry about writing the perfect book; Worry about writing a compelling book." This took a lot of pressure off, because oftentimes unpublished authors think that if their books aren't perfect, they'll never sell. She even gave examples from her early books' imperfections. I came away from this workshop encouraged and inspired. Accomplishment #4!!!!

But this conference wasn't all about the writing! The bonding time with the Playfriends, Mavens, our roommate Kathy, and fellow Heart of Dixie and Southern Magic chaptermates was premium. Sharing the ups and downs of conference with them enriched the entire experience and created memories that will bond us even closer. That's not necessarily an accomplishment, but a treasure that can only strengthen me as a writer and a woman.

Upon arriving home, I discovered that my worst fears had NOT been realized. Everyone was still intact. The house wasn't a disaster. My husband had coped admiringly with changes to my elaborate babysitting schedule. My children looked like they had grown a bushel, but they hadn't forgotten their mommy while she was gone. I even got home in time to see my daughter discover her first loose tooth!

All in all, this has been a good week. One in which I've grown as a writer and as a person, facing out of the ordinary challenges with courage and a lot of fear, but facing them nonetheless. And that is good, because this will enrich my life and my writing. Because life is what the writing is all about, don't you think?

Angel

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photos as promised

From the Georgia Aquarium (which is well worth the price and effort to visit)


The jellyfish


Penguins


A Beluga Whale

Look! We found Nemo!


Moving on to the conference

L to R: Me, Kristi Gold who will launch the new Harlequin Everlasting line next February and Cindy Gerard who writes hot steamy suspense for St. Martin's Press.


Gemma Halliday, who won the Golden Heart for single title in 2005 holds her book SPYING IN HIGH HEELS, which will be released next month from Dorchester.


The incredibly talented Roxanne St. Claire, who writes terrific romantic suspense for Pocket Books. Her latest, THRILL ME TO DEATH, is on shelves now.


Our luncheon speaker on Thursday was Meg Cabot of THE PRINCESS DIARIES fame. Each attendee received a copy of the book and Meg graciously autographed my copy -- for my seven-week-old granddaughter. I'm starting her library early and when she's older, we can watch the movie together!


Instigator at the eHarlequin pajama party


All dressed up for the awards ceremony




The Playfriends and the Mavens




Saturday, July 29, 2006

Motown, HipHop and Disco

That's what we danced to at the Harlequin Party last night. Thanks to the generosity of a wonderful group of women, all the Playfriends were invited to this annual party thrown by Harlequin, who really knows how to party in style. Food galore, a chocolate fountain (yum!), champagne... the works.

We saw so many people, met new friends and danced til midnight. My poor feet are killing me today. And tonight we go to the Rita and Golden Heart awards.

The others will get online eventually and tell you their tales. So far the conference has gone great for me. This was my year to volunteer -- helping with registration, setting up for lunch and moderating a workshop. It was fun, scary and rewarding. I am so grateful to RWA for all it's given me; the least I could do was give back a little time and effort.

I've had lunch with several friends, closed down bars with others (drinking club soda :grin: ) and finally met folks I've "met" online in the past few years.

Have a great weekend! And we'll see you all when we get back home and back on our regular schedule.

PM

Friday, July 28, 2006

Halfway There

The conference is halfway over. As you've read, we've had a few tragedies, bloodspillings and wardrobe malfuctions, but overall, the conference is going well. Angel and Instigator both had editor appointments today. I'm pleased to announce that Angel got partial requests on both the books she pitched (yay) and Instigator had a nice long talk with her editor of choice about a very promising future.

Last night, we went to the eHarlequin pajama party. Pretzels and cracker jacks for everyone. I didn't run into many people I knew, of course, I know most of them by a screen name and wouldn't know them if I ran into them (literally). Once again, I was passed over for best pajamas. I still think my Strawberry Shortcake PJs were robbed last year. :)

So far, no one has asked me the dreaded question, of course, because I finally have an answer. That's okay.

We're hoping to have lots of new visitors to the playground soon, as 400 packs of playground crayons have circulated through the RWA community. Most are likely destined for the children of writers, but maybe, just maybe, a few of them will read the sticker or the postcards and drop in. Everyone is welcome! We've also gotten lots of entries for the July contest in our drop box, so if you haven't entered, you'd better, there's lots of competition for this one.

We've also been bombarded with books. Luckily for you good readers, we will be giving lots of them away on the blog soon. I just fear Angel's suburban might die in the process of getting all our crap home. :)

More later. Gotta get glam for tonight's festivities.
SP
Dear Counselor Shelley,

The hero of my book is a police officer who was involved in a shoot-out with a bad guy, but an innocent bystander was killed accidentally. He’s tormented by what has happened and it’s affecting his personal and professional life. I’m guessing this would get classified under "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." I need to know how to best get this across in the book. What kind of outward signs would he have? I need something more than just nightmares.....

It sounds like you are off to a good start and definitely on the right track. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV) does a great job of describing, in detail, how the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually manifest. Since the DSM IV does such a good job, I will answer your question by quoting a section straight from the DSM IV:

"Commonly the person has recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event or recurrent distressing dreams during which the event is replayed. In rare instances, the person experiences dissociative states that last from a few seconds to several hours, or even days, during which components of the event are relived and the person behaves as though experiencing the event at that moment. Intense psychological distress or physiological reactivity often occurs when the person is exposed to triggering events that resemble or symbolize an aspect of the traumatic event (e.g. anniversaries of the traumatic event; cold, snowy weather oruniformed guards for survivors of death camps in cold climates; hot, humid weather for combat veterans of the South Pacific; entering any
elevator for a woman who was raped in an elevator). Stimuli associated with the trauma are persistently avoided. The person commonly makes deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event and to avoid activities, situation, or people who arouse recollections of it. This avoidance of reminders may include amnesia for an important aspect of the traumatic event. Diminished responsiveness to the external world, referred to as "psychic numbing" or "emotional anesthesia," usually begins soon after the traumatic event. The individual may complain of having markedly diminished interest or participation in previously enjoyed activities, of feeling detached or estranged from other people, or of having markedly reduced ability to feel emotions (especially those associated with intimacy, tenderness, and sexuality). The individual may have a sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., not expecting to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span).
The individual has persistent symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal that were not present before the trauma. These symptoms may include difficulty falling or staying asleep that may be due to recurrent nightmares during which the traumatic event is relived, hypervigilance, and exaggerated startle response. Some individuals report irritability or outbursts of anger or difficulty concentrating or completing tasks. Individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder may describe painful guilt feelings about surviving when others did not survive or about the things they had to do to survive. Phobic avoidance of situations or activities that resemble or symbolize the original trauma may interfere with interpersonal relationships and lead to marital conflict, divorce, or loss of job."

Please keep the great questions coming!




Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Series of Strange and Unusual Occurances

Sorry this blog is so late! Apparently, I’m having trouble taking my own advice and can’t say no to scheduling something every hour. The up side to this is that there’s quite a bit to talk about – not all of it good.

The playfriends seem to have the market cornered on Atlanta catastrophes. So far, Problem Child has sliced her finger open (2 days later it’s still seeping blood), yours truly managed to dump an entire thing of eye shadow all over Lennox Mall, Angel was tripped and fell on her rear – in front of Nora Roberts, Problem Child broke the heel off of her Linda Howard shoes, and apparently I’m having trouble keeping my clothes on as my shirt buttons keep popping open and I can’t remember to zip my pants. One thing is for sure, Atlanta has been interesting.

But there have been some excellent moments as well. Several of us worked the Literacy Signing and got to fetch and carry for some of our favorite authors. It might not sound so great but trust me, it was. We managed a mini-Maven shopping trip where I found the perfect shoes and earrings – something I couldn’t find at home after trips to three malls. I was also privileged to accept the Pro Mentor of the Year Award on behalf of JoAnn Ross.

Tomorrow is a big day for everyone. Angel and I both have pitches. The other playfriends have scheduled plenty of workshops, book signings, and meet and greets to fill the day. Maybe Smarty Pants can manage to get her blog posted before dinnertime tomorrow. We’ll see J

We miss everyone!

Instigator

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish

Wednesday evening


Guess where the Playfriends went today?

After cramming more luggage into a Suburban than should be allowed, we drove to Atlanta in unbelievable time, got checked into our connecting hotel rooms, unpacked, nearly sliced off the Problem Child’s finger, registered for the conference, placed out goodies in the Goody Room, ate a late lunch and then visited the Georgia Aquarium.

There are no words to describe this place. We took bunches of photos so when we’re able, we’ll let the pictures be worth a thousand words. You’ll see that the subject line of this blog is apropos. Oh…and we found Nemo.

After spending quality time with the Mavens (and oohing and aahing over a pair of Manolo Blahniks, admiring one’s new tiara and checking out another’s new party dresses) we had dinner with Juston in the sports bar and SOME of the Playfriends made buttery nipples in the room.

We’ve also done our share of “author watching” and have spotted a few of our favorites. That’s one of the most fun parts of the national conference – playing “Who’s That Writer” and making new friends.

The Playground Monitor has an early call today – volunteering at the registration desk for the first shift, followed by a lunch date galpal Rocki St. Claire. The other Playfriends have already made plans to find the pool and hot tub and some plan to travel to Lenox Square Mall for a little shopping.

All the preliminaries are in place and we’re ready for a conference full of new information and wonderful opportunities.

Stay tuned for further reports.

PM

I’m back with the next report. Today’s been full of volunteering and fun. Working the registration desk is like a “Who’s Who of Romance.” It’s a great opportunity to say hello to so many people and give a little bit back to the organization that promotes the genre we all love so much.

After that I met up with Cindy Gerard, Kristi Gold, Roxanne Rustand and Kylie Brant for lunch. Actually they ate and I just had something to drink because I had a later lunch date with Roxanne St. Claire for lunch. We laughed and ate and laughed some more and I saw the cover for her next book and OHMYGOD it’s fabulous.

I’ve filled in a little more of my calendar for the week – both with workshops and get-togethers with friends. Remember our interview with triple Rita nominee Bronwyn Jameson? I’m having lunch with her on Friday.

Lest you think this is nothing but a schmooze-fest, I DO have quite a few workshops on my agenda and my conference goal is two-fold: to have at least one “lightbulg” moment about writing and to have fun. Oh… and to give back to RWA by volunteering. I’m working lunch set-up tomorrow and moderating a workshop on Friday.

I’ll sign off for now and try to upload a few photos from our trip to the Georgia Aquarium yesterday. Let’s hope this works.

Ciao y’all from the heart of Atlanta.

PM
Dear Counselor Shelley,

I heard someone referred to as "a high functioning schizophrenic" the other day. Can you tell me what that means?

Thanks,
Curious



Dear Curious,

"High functioning schizophrenic" is not an official DSM IV* diagnosis. However, this is a term used by both professionals and non-professionals. "High functioning schizophrenic" refers to a person diagnosed with schizophrenia who is generally functioning well. This does not mean that everyday will be a good day. Likely, some symptoms will remain. However, symptoms causing the most impairment in functioning will be absent, or more than likely, greatly reduced. A period of "high functioning" can last for a few weeks to many years. Length is usually, but not always, determined by the amount of stress the patient is experiencing and if they are recieving consistant appropriate treatment.

Thanks for the great question Curious!


Remember, my office door is always open. E-mail your professional or personal questions to me. I would love to hear them!


* Not familiar with the DSM IV? Check out the clinic archives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

ROAD TRIP



The Playfriends leave bright and early for Nationals today. Shows you how much I want to go to Nationals. I don’t get up at 5 am for just any reason. Six women, luggage, 5 hours…good thing we like each other.

I’m not one of those people who believe “getting there is half the fun.” The minute they invent teleportation, I am so there. I love to be in different places; I don’t necessarily like getting to those places.

But between the novel plotting, the pitching practice, the plans for what we’re going to do once we get there, the trip shouldn’t be too bad. It’s been a while since we’ve had some true bonding time.

I’m already practicing my “Are we there yet?” whine. Should I take bets on how many times I’ll get to say it before Danniele smacks me or leaves me on the side of the road?

If you won’t be in Atlanta, still come back and check the blog. Darling Geek has cheerfully added the wireless-thingy to my laptop so we’ll be able to update you on our doings while we’re there. Pictures, too. But updates will probably be made in the afternoons/evenings because our days are pretty booked. But Counselor Shelley has agreed to clear some of her backlogged questions by posting to the blog as well. The Playfriends can’t stand stale sites or stagnant blogs—even if we are away.

Wish us luck on editor appointments and pitches. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t embarrass ourselves accidentally. Pray we don’t have car trouble and that the hotel gets our complicated reservation request correct.

Monday, July 24, 2006

On the Road Again...


As we speak, the Children are scuttling around their homes, gathering up last minute items into their luggage, going over their to-do lists in their minds, and trying to keep their household happy in the meantime. Tomorrow, it's off to Hot-lanta at o'dark-thirty.

If you're coming to Nationals, that's awesome! We hope to see you there. We'll have our t-shirts and buttons with us most times if you can't recognize us by our mug shots. (I, for example, look nothing like my pictures in person. Alex online is much cuter!) Remember to hit the Goody Room and drop in your card with "SQUEE" written on the back in our box to get entered into our contest just for our blog readers. If you can't make it this time around, never fear, we'd never leave our readers behind!

As time and free Wi-fi allows, the Playfriends will be checking in with the happenings of the conference. I'm certain we'll have oodles of info and good news to share. Maybe even a fun pic or two. Be sure to check back.

We'll miss you all. See you next week!
SP (Today it stands for Speedy Packer. Or Seriously Procrastinating.)

Be-attitudes

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.


I saw that quote recently and today it's come into play. I've had a luncheon date in Atlanta change. I found out my magazine editor may be in town just for one evening and if possible I'd love to meet her in person. I also learned an online friend might be flying in for the Literacy Signing, so I want to meet her too. Thank goodness I'd done my agenda in pencil. If I didn't have a good attitude about change and being flexible, I'd probably have a headache the size of Atlanta instead of just a crick in my neck that's driven me nuts all day. I tried to get a last-minute massage appointment today but couldn't. The Playfriends may be massaging my neck and shoulders in the bar. :grin:

Maybe having lived through the raising of a husband and two sons has contributed toward the flexibility. I'm not a doormat, but there just aren't too many things worth getting all bent out of shape about. I'm a go-with-the-flow person. I roll with the punches. Sometimes I even eat burnt toast.

I think all my stuff's in the suitcase. I've already put some stuff in the car. And there's a note taped to my purse handle to remind me of the curling iron and string cheese.

How's your last-minute preparation for Atlanta going?

Ramblings

This morning I'm not feeling clever or witty (not that my posts usually are witty, but they are at least coherent), so bear with me if I just throw some things out there in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. It has been a very hectic two weeks and I'm feeling the effects.

I know, I know. I'm fixing to leave on a long and tiring trip, so I should have been resting up. Tell that to all my customers and my children. For some reason they don't agree. I've tried to respect my body's need for sleep the last few days, but that meant something had to slide. Unfortunately, that something was my book. I'd start writing after the house was quiet and work was done, until I found myself nodding off in the middle of a sentence. Sometimes I'd get several pages; sometimes I wouldn't make it past two. Yesterday I made a concerted push and am happy to say that I'm half a scene from writing THE END. I very excited and proud of that.

I've got a list a mile long today to prepare to leave tomorrow morning. Whose idea was it to leave before I'm normally even conscious? Oh yeah, it was mine. :) So I must work extra hard to get all those last minute things done today. But first I'm taking my children swimming (which will by some miracle make up for the babysitter shuffle they'll play the rest of the week). Don't even get me started on Mommy-guilt. It is kicking in big time.

One fun thing I get to do for me today is have a manicure/pedicure. I don't usually do this for myself, especially the manicure. There isn't much point when you are washing your hands all day long, because the polish chips after the first day. At least it does on me. But for Nationals, I let someone else do the work and spend the week looking at my hands as if they don't belong to me. :)

This time last week I felt like I was operating under a pressure cooker. I felt like there was so much I needed to get done and not enough time to do it. But today I feel relatively calm. Probably because I only have to focus on 2 things, my children and getting ready for Nationals. Though as the day goes on, I may have to resort to my "Happy Place" to keep from hyperventilating.

Everything will be okay. It will all get done eventually. Or not, because we're leaving tomorrow whether the dishes are done and everyone's laundry has been put away. And quite frankly, I can't wait. But then again, I can. Funny, huh?

Angel

Things I'm Unpacking...

I have a routine when I travel. I make a list. I pack. And then I unpack part of it after realizing how heavy the suitcase is and that I can do without that second extra pair of slacks. I also remembered that at the two previous conferences I attended, the clothes I put on in the morning were the ones I stayed in all day except for special parties (i.e. the eHarlequin pajama party and the awards ceremony). So tonight I removed two outfits that were for after-hours wear. I also removed a pair of shorts for the trip home after discovering I'd already packed a pair of shorts for the trip home.

I'll still have too much. And I really have to be careful about that heavy suitcase. I have a bad shoulder and am not supposed to lift anything with that arm. Uh... Playfriends... you may have to assist in hoisting it in and out of the car.

PM

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Eeny...Meeny...Miny...Mo...

Ok, so I'm having trouble deciding what I'm going to wear to the RITAs. I have plenty of formal outfits, so I can't really justify buying a new one, but I can't figure out which one I should wear. Anyway, I'm going to leave it up to you all. Mind you, DB took the pictures from a downward angle, so the flash of the camera highlighted horrible lumps and bumps that I would think normal lighting at eye level would not show as badly. At least, I like to think so. Anyway, vote on the blog for your favorite and I'll wear it.














The Green OneThe Red OneThe Purple One

SP
(oh, and by the way, here's my word count update....)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
56,250 / 70,000
(80.4%)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Things I’m packing today…

Miss Obsessive is almost packed for Nationals. But here’s a few things added to my suitcase today that I thought I’d share.

Downy Wrinkle Release. I promise, I’m not a paid spokesperson for this product (but the Downy company is free to contact me for my endorsement), but I never, ever, travel without it. While it won’t replace an iron, it can’t be beat for getting wrinkles out of a cotton shirt or something that just got rumpled in transit. A few sprays, a shake, and let dry. Voila! (I’ve converted Marilyn; the other Playfriends should be believers by the end of the week.)

An umbrella. Turns out, the forecast for Atlanta is stormy. While I don’t intend on leaving the hotel all that often, I don’t want to be caught unprepared. And, you never know whom you could lend it to for good will (see below).

Tampons. No, I’m not violating the Too Much Information Act here. There’s a story circulating about a writer at Nationals who entered the ladies room and was asked by a woman if she had an extra tampon. (Not an uncommon occurrence, as we all know.) Susie Writer did and happily handed it over. The woman thanked her, then pulled out a business card. Turns out, Desperate Woman was an agent. The agent told Susie Writer to send a full of her current book, mentioning in the cover letter that she was the writer from the bathroom, and the agent would give it a read. Legend or not, there are worse ways to get your name on an agent’s radar, right?

Ziplock bags. I always put shampoo and other leakable things in Ziplocks before I travel, but it never hurts to bring a couple of extras. They come in handy for the strangest reasons.

My Swiss Army Knife. Scissors, nail file, small knife, corkscrew, and tweezers all in one compact, handy item. You never know…

What’s the strangest thing you’re packing?

PC

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Dreaded Question

Smarty Pants is currently out of town. I KNOW – Again! This time on a business trip to Texas. I get back tonight which will leave me just three days to get packed for Nationals. I’m having a complete panic attack. Thank goodness I don’t have an editor appointment this year or I’d be a basket-case. It’s bad enough worrying about clothes and shoes and not sounding stupid when people ask the dreaded question. What is the dreaded question, you ask? Picture a large ballroom filled with hundreds of people eating lunch. Picture me sitting at a linen draped table with a bunch of strangers because I’ve been separated from the rest of my herd. After minutes of awkward silence, one of the women at the table looks me in the eye and says...

“So, what do you write?” she asked over a bite of salad.

I froze, the fork of ranch-covered tomato hovering in midair. “Uh...” I mutter intelligently. “Paranormals,” I manage to spit out and immediately shove the food in my mouth to prevent me from having to elaborate. Truth is that I write a lot of things. My current work is paranormal, although some might say it isn’t a classically dark paranormal. Too much info, however, the lady just wants a straight answer, so I leave it at that.

“What’s your current book about?”

“Uh,” I say again, trying to swallow so I don’t talk with my mouth full. How do I describe it without it sounding cheesy? It isn’t cheesy, but when I say it, it sounds cheesy. At the same time, I feel weird talking about my books to someone I don’t know. It’s ‘catastrophizing’ as Counselor Shelley would say, but I have images of a new bestseller hitting the shelves with a picture on the back of that woman and a cover blurb remarkably like what I told her.

“It’s about two vampires searching for a way back to the mortality that was stolen from them.” There. That sounded intelligent and brief.

It is at this point that the person nods with faux interest and takes another bite of salad before turning back to their friend, ignoring you for the rest of the meal.

Adapt this to an elevator ride, small talk before a workshop, standing in line for a book signing or to get into the dining room. It doesn’t matter where, its always the same. People pretending to be interested in your work in an attempt to fill dead air space. They’ll graciously accept your business card, smile and nod, but I never get the feeling that anyone cares. Maybe its just me and my ‘sincerity meter’ needs to be recalibrated. Maybe, as people have to rudely pointed out, I’m just lacking the social skills in that area.

Why, then, is it that I stress so badly over my answer when it seems people are just being polite? I guess it’s that one in a hundred chance that the person asking is an editor or agent not wearing their ribbons or nametags. I will never sell a book over a one line blurb at a lunch table, but what if I end up face to face with them at an appointment later that day. I don’t want them eyeing me and thinking “oh, it’s that girl that doesn’t know what she writes.”

So, what can you do to be better prepared when that question comes around? Playground standards include an arsenal of the following:
  • A one line elevator pitch - this is what you'd throw out for the dreaded question. If you work it out in advance, you'll be in much better shape that if you make it up on the fly.
  • A full editor pitch - this is a paragraph that hits the high points of your book that you can read off of a notecard during an editor appointment. Sure, it'd be great if you could just memorize and recite, but you've got enough to worry about. Just read it off the card.
  • A partial (2-4 page synopsis and 3 polished chapters) - have one of these ready before you leave. You don't need to have printed copies with you, but if you get a request, you want to be able to go home and mail it right away. Have one ready to go.
This won't make people genuinely interested if they're not, but at least you can answer any question with confidence and feel good about it if they turn out to be someone important to your career.

Anyway...any of you folks in CyberSpace going to be headed to Atlanta next week? If so, maybe we can practice our small talk together.

SP

(PS. I can’t post my word count this week because I’m in Texas without a computer and WHO KNOWS what I’ve hand written. I’ll post this weekend when I get back, if its even changed! I'm inclined to let these two weeks go by and pick up my book when I get back. Of course, when I get back, I'll have gone to enough workshops to think by book is garbage.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Atlanta Surprises


We seem to have a theme on the playground this week. And considering we're all rushing to get ready for Atlanta I don't suppose anyone's really surprised. Who am I to buck tradition?

So far, the playfriends have discussed dos and don'ts for nationals, the literacy signing, and how to handle the panic of preparations. We've mentioned editor/agent appointments, workshops, parties and luncheons. You'd think we'd covered everything by now wouldn't you? But no. There's one thing we forgot to mention.

The little surprises.

And sure, I mean the freebies that are available at every turn: books, toss-aways, trinkets, and gadgets (don't miss the playground surprise in the goody room!). And of course, running into your dream editor in the elevator and having her request your manuscript off a pitch. But there's more.

What about meeting that one author, the one that inspired you to write, the one you've been reading for years, devouring everything she's ever written. How special would that be? Now imagine sitting across the luncheon table from her, discussing her latest book or the newest trend in publishing. You can plan every last second of every day during nationals, and considering how expensive it can be to get there I understand the inclination to do so. But don't. If you do you're liable to miss out on so many opportunities.

Sit at a luncheon table with people you don't know. You never can tell who'll be sitting beside you.

Skip that workshop and get a massage at the spa. That editor you've been stalking just might be waiting for her appointment too.

Take a notebook and sit in the lobby. You never know what character traits you might pick up from the crazy woman or the honeymooning couple checking in at the desk.

Take an afternoon and sightsee. Atlanta is an excellent setting for a book.

There's more to nationals than workshops, pitch appointments, and luncheons (although those things are important). It's easy to get caught up in the rush. Don't let yourself forget to stop for a moment and enjoy the other things this opportunity can offer.

Instigator

Nationals Bulletin

In addition to giving away some cute promo items, the playground is going to have a contest running in the goodie room at Atlanta - 2 entries for the price of one: Our Sizzling Summer Nights contest going on right now and a special basket of goodies our own Angel is preparing just for Atlanta.

But we wanted to do something special for all of our blog readers. So, we've got a third prize, several autographed Blaze books by Samantha Hunter. All you have to do is write SQUEE on the back of your business card or entry form before you slip it into our contest box and you'll be automatically entered into the running. I'll announce the winner on the blog after we get home.

In addition, the first person to find me in Atlanta, and mention they read this on the blog, gets a hand-made book thong by our very own Playground Monitor.

See you there!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bring a suitcase

An extra one that is. You'll be buying books at the literacy signing. They also raffle off very nice baskets and you may be a lucky winner. You'll get free books in your registration packet. There's a bookfair. The publishing houses have book signings and give away free books. There's a goody room with... well... goodies of all sorts. And there's the Moonlight Madness bazaar with other goodies.

So you're going to need space to take it all back home. And remember if you're flying that there's a weight limitation on your bags. Go over that and it will cost you.

At my first conference, I packed a suitcase in a suitcase. And I picked up one of every item in the goody room. Last year I packed a small duffel bag that folded flat in the bottom of my suitcase and I was more selective in the goody room.

The hotel website says it has a "full service business center" and that may include UPS service to ship things back home. I've emailed the hotel to find out what this "business center" includes and if there's a post office close by. Will let you know what I find out.

Edited: I heard back from the Marriott and here's what they had to say.

Thank you for contacting Marriott. We appreciate the opportunity to provide you with information.

We contacted an associate at the hotel, and you are able to ship packages from the business center. There is also a post office directly across the street.

PM

Today I read

Today I read.


I read many things.


I read a newspaper.





I read the nutritional information on the pasta salad box.



I read the laundry instructions on a garment I was considering buying.



I read a recipe to make dinner.



And I read a book. Well, not exactly this one, but it was a novel.



Being able to read is something I take for granted but I shouldn't. I heard a show recently about Radio Al-Mahaba, the only women's radio station in Iraq. It was started by one brave woman and is manned by her and thirty others as a voice for women in a war-ravaged country. Their goal is to educate women about their rights and to entertain them as well. Why radio? Because 75% of women in Iraq are illiterate. The former regime kept them uneducated in order to keep them subservient and uninformed. Many of these women are staying indoors most of the time out of fear for their safety. Radio Al-Mahaba is their only community and it is in danger of closing because their transmitter was the victim of a car bombing.

Imagine if three out of every four women you knew could not read a recipe or a newspaper article or the latest New York Times bestseller. And if you can't read, you most likely can't write. You can't make out a grocery list. You can't write an excuse for your child's absence from school. You can't address a birthday card to a family member.

Before you think the problem is limited to other countries, listen to this statistic: one in seven Americans can barely read a utility bill or the classified ads in the newspaper. They are among the more than forty million functionally illiterate citizens of this country.

What can be done?

For one, if you are in the area you can attend the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing at the RWA Conference in Atlanta on July 26, 2006 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel. Over 500 romance fiction authors will be autographing their books, which are donated by the publishers. The proceeds of the sales are distributed to literacy charities. To date RWA has raised approximately $450,000 for literacy. Let's try to hit the half-million dollar mark this year.

A list of authors in attendance can be found here. Obviously I won't be signing anything (unless someone drags out a copy of True Confessions magazine) but I'll be there, getting copies of books from favorite authors and doing my part to stamp out illiteracy in this country.

Hope to see you there.

PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wireless Internet update for Atlanta

Many, many posts on different RWA loops have mentioned the lack of free Internet access anywhere in the Marriott. So, thanks to a link from another blogger, I went to the Mall at Peachtree Center website.

I quote:

"Peachtree Center offers FREE wireless internet connection in The Mall. With a battery-powered laptop, the internet is accessible in a "hot spot" of The Mall. Look for the designated areas in the South Food Court and near the Information Booth."

Just FYI.

How Not To Make an Ass of Yourself at Nationals

Well, that’s not what this blog is about in its entirety, but that’s what we’re all worried about, right? I knew a girl in college who said (more than once), “I just want to be memorable.” Well, I’d rather be forgettable than memorable in “I-will-be-blog-fodder-for-weeks” kind of way.

So, let’s start with how not to end up as a Cautionary Tale by August 1st.:

1) Watch the booze. I know; mingling is much easier with a drink in your hand. If you aren’t the talkative type, it’s easy to use that drink as a crutch: “Can’t talk; my mouth is full.” But hitting the open bar for all it’s worth is dangerous. You could say something you’ll rue in the morning, or worse yet, dance on a table… Know your limit and stay well under it. Club soda is never a bad choice.

2) Turn off your cell phone. At the very least, turn it to vibrate (not the vibrate-ring setting; chances are, you won’t hear/feel the vibration and it will be playing Fur Elise before you know it.) There’s nothing more annoying than someone’s cell ringing while you’re in a workshop, but do you really want your phone ringing while you’re having that totally unexpected chance to pitch to your dream editor in the breakfast line?

3) Avoid heavy perfume. I don’t even have allergies, and I’ve sat next to women who made my eyes water. Even worse was being caught between two perfume lovers in a crowded workshop. Opium battled Obsession until I was light-headed. Go easy on the eau, okay?

4) Avoid jangly jewelry. Last year, I sat in a workshop with a woman wearing the noisiest charm bracelet in the universe. Every time she moved, the bracelet jangled. After about 30 minutes of this, I wanted to rip the thing off her arm (and I wasn’t particularly concerned if her arm came off with it). I could tell by the evil looks going her way that I wasn’t the only one.

5) Don't be negative. Don't go on and on about how bad the food is, how evil you've been treated by editors, how hard it is to get published, how much better Nationals was 3 years ago, how horrible Author A is in person... No one wants to be around a negative person--especially if she's trying to have a good time and enjoy the moment. Be aware of the energy you're projecting.

6) Be careful what you say. This is really, truly the time to live by the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” adage. Trust me, the best friend/critique partner/chapter mate of that writer you’re trashing is probably standing right behind you. If you’re trashing editors, I can guarantee one is standing within earshot. HEL-LO, you’re wearing a name tag. Your name and tacky comment will be noted and reported. It’s a small world and that comment will be biting you in the butt in no time. If you HAVE to say something, wait until you are in the privacy of your hotel room—not the ladies’ room, not the bar. Your hotel room.
(This goes for reporting gossip as well. )

Okay, so how to be memorable in a good way?

1) Use generally-accepted good manners. Open and hold doors for people. Don’t try to break into line. Hold the elevator. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t have private conversations on your cell phone in public areas. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Say "Please" and "Thank You." Common courtesy will go a long way.

2) Breathe before you speak. For those of us who tend to say the first thing that comes to mind (only to realize later how it actually sounded…), it pays to think before you speak. But, if you can’t think first, at least breathe first. That nanosecond pause while you take a breath can be all you need to keep from blurting out the line that’s repeated on the Internet for months.

3) Talk to people. Preferably people you don’t know. At lunch, include the woman sitting across from you who doesn’t seem to know anyone at the table and isn’t saying a word. She’ll probably thank you for it—and hey, you never know whom she might know…

4) Introduce yourself. Don’t assume everyone can see your name tag. And introduce the others with you. Really, introductions are a great conversation starter.

5) Smile. Smile at people when you pass them and catch their eye.

6) Keep an open, approachable, body position. If your arms and legs are crossed and you’re holding your bag in your lap like you’re afraid I’m going to take it from you, I’m not going to want to approach you and say hello. A relaxed body position and a smile will make people want to talk to you.

7) Ask questions. Don’t hog the conversation. Get other people talking about themselves—they’ll think you’re a brilliant conversationalist and you won’t have to say all that much.

In short, be kind, be friendly, and be nice. Ask yourself what kind of person would you like to meet and talk to, and then try to be that person. Try to emulate someone you admire who has great interpersonal skills.

Have fun at Nationals! Here’s hoping none of us become the protagonist in the story that starts, “You will never believe what this girl did in Atlanta…”

PC

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Dose of Panic, Anyone?

It is only eight days until the Playfriends leave for Nationals. Eight days. EIGHT DAYS!!!! I'm embarrassed to admit that something fluttery has taken up permanent residence in my stomach and I'm on the verge of hyperventilating. Over and over I repeat some of the suggestions that Counselor Shelley recently gave us on remaining calm and not catastrophizing. Believe me, my thoughts lend toward catastrophe more often than any human being's should.

The lists keep getting longer and more elaborate. There's the packing list that I keep adding to. The list of papers I need to remember to take with me. The babysitting schedule I'm forcing my husband to create when he'd rather put it off to the last minute. Directions on how to feed and take care of my kids (they're still SMALL, so I think it's ok for me to be this detailed). And let's not forget my schedule, the one that tells me where I have to be each day that I'm gone—travel, checking in, volunteer time, editor appointment, classes… And yes, Mavens, I've even scheduled in some down time (and party time!).

I've obsessed about what I'll wear. I've obsessed about what I'll do. I've obsessed about what I'll say, where I'll sit, what I'll take, where I'll go, how I'll pitch… what I'll pitch. And each time I have to stop and breathe, because nothing will be gained by these whirling thoughts other than more nerves.

I wish I was an extrovert, that I could take new situations and people in stride, be energized by the excitement of it all. Instead I've mentally set aside three days to crash once I get home. Oh, I'll have to move around. Cook. Clean. Take care of my sorely-missed children. But I know I'll be brain-dead for at least that long. Probably longer.

But despite all the panic-and the ruthless struggle to control it—I wouldn't miss this for the world. Not the endless shopping trips and pitch meetings with the Playfriends (or at least we were supposed to be discussing our pitches). :) Not the lists or last minute rush or even the week away from my family. Because it is the experiences that make our lives what they are. And I have a feeling these will be memories I'll cherish for a long time.

Now, I know I'm not the only one obsessing around here. What's on your mind? How do you deal with it?

Angel

Challenge Meter:


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
42,125 / 50,000
(84.3%)



The writing has been slow this week, with numerous life interruptions. I was supposed to finish my first draft by yesterday, but as you can see, I haven't. My new goal is to finish by this Friday. If next Monday's post isn't 100%, feel free to give me h*ll over it. :)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Updates on the Playground

It's the 15th--new stuff over on the Playground!

Counselor Shelley's article about attitude will be especially helpful for anyone headed to Nationals, but it's good reading for everyone.

Smarty Pants recommeds Rita Herron's latest (btw, she's a really neat person as well).

And I'm back in Time Out...

Have a great weekend!

PC

Friday, July 14, 2006

Different Strokes

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Here at the Playground, I am pleased to say that we are all very different writers with different styles, genres and interests. I’m sure its part of what makes us an interesting group, although we’re similar enough in values and goals to be cohesive, even co-dependent. I guess we’d be boring if we all wrote the same kind of stuff for the same lines.

One big difference is sex. When it comes down to it, we all write romances and unless you’re targeting an inspirational line, there’s going to be some. They could be married and committed, thrown together by danger or tragedy, or simply giving into raging hormones. It could be sweet, gritty, hot, passionate, touching, even kinky. The locales and circumstances can differ widely. You never know how, when or how often, but as a reader, you can pretty much count on it showing up eventually.

Myself, I guess I’m sort of an old school romance kind of girl. There’s sex...oh yes, definitely sex, but it takes a while. They’ve got to work up to it. The reader and the characters have to agonize for nearly two hundred pages of near misses, almosts, and untimely interruptions. The characters have to grow and go through some sort of personal realization before they allow themselves to give into the temptation. Once they do, of course, the whole story goes to hell in a hand-basket. Usually they only get one sex scene because their world sweeps them up before they get another chance. I’ve gone so far as to have the black moment happen so soon after they’re still panting and sweaty.

Other Playfriends are targeting hotter lines than I am. They write in a world where sex can happen in the second chapter, sometimes even the first if the story can allow for it. Then it continues throughout the entire story. The relationships build along the way and aren’t required to be established beforehand. I listen to them talk sometimes about the situations and encounters they’ve crafted for their characters and I think...“no way could I write that.” It wouldn’t even occur to me to think of that.

I guess that’s just my writing and my style because it certainly can’t be said that I’m a prude. I’m not opposed to sex scenes. I love them. I really admire people who can create a really creative and fresh sex scene that makes me all squirmy. And it isn’t like my sex scenes are hard to write or awkward for me. (Although, if I say that I have to wait and write it when the characters are ready, do you promise not to laugh?) I actually would like to think my scenes are pretty darn good. They’d better be, if there’s only one in the whole book.

I’m writing this today because my characters, after 14 grueling chapters, are supposed to get it on today. And they aren’t ready. After 2500 years, you think she’d be ready, but she’s not. So I’m skipping the scene. Thank goodness my characters only do it a couple times. If I was targeting Blaze I’d have to skip every other chapter.

This is a loaded question, but I’m going to go ahead and ask...How do you like your sex? (In a BOOK, that is! As a reader, we’re not asking for personal info, ‘kay?)

SP

(PS. I am pleased to announce that after I wrote this blog, my characters had a breakthrough and have been happily at each other all day.)


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
54,000 / 70,000
(77.1%)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Next Thirty Years

Yes, today is my birthday and for the first time in my life I'm a thirty-something. So far this jump has brought mixed emotions. I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to be feeling. Everyone makes a big deal out of this one day when, so far, it's been quite like any other.

I don't feel different. And I'm seriously hoping that my mental attitude hasn't changed simply because my personal odometer flipped a digit. Although, I can't help but run that Tim McGraw song through my head, the one that talks about the next thirty years.

Oh, there've been plenty of days I'd like to forget - mainly centered around bad, youthful decisions, alcohol and frat parties. Hmm, I wonder if there's a connection.

But I have a husband I love, two amazing daughters and a happy life. I enjoy my job, and the fact that it allows me time with my family. I'm blessed. No doubt about it. And all in all, I wouldn't change a thing. But there's something about reaching this milestone that makes you look backwards and forwards, both with a bit of trepidation and excitement. What will the next thirty years hold? Who knows but I'm looking forward to finding out.

I did set one goal for myself - several years ago - to be published by the time I was thirty. Yes, before all you goal purists email me, I realize I set myself a goal that I had no control over. This is precisely why I've decided to extend the deadline until the end of my 30th year :-) Interpretation is everything.

But I did receive a wonderful early birthday present. On Tuesday I received a revision request from the editor that has my full. I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty, tearing my story apart and making it so much better. I love these characters and really want to give them a chance to shine. I know with the help of the people around me, and the fantastic guidance from this editor, I'm going to have that opportunity.

I'm planning an easy, enjoyable day including family, friends and cake. After that I'm hoping for an early night and a chance to catch up on the sleep I can't seem to quite get enough of. Tomorrow it's back to the grindstone. Nationals is around the corner and I've got a to do list a mile long.

But I do want to take a second to say congratulations to my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. They welcomed a new baby boy into the family on Monday. He's adorable, with chubby cheeks and a head full of dark brown hair. My husband, God love him, walked into the hospital room and immediately asked to hold him, said it might be his only chance to hold a boy. I can tell you right now that the next thirty years had better not include another baby in Instigator's future.

Instigator

Word Count Meter: I've finished the rough draft. Yeah!! Now for revisions.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
63,000 / 70,000
(90.0%)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How to Be a Writer in 10 Easy Steps


Gertrude Stein wrote, “To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.” It makes perfect sense if you're a writer. Right?

Lots of people want to be a writer but have no idea how to do it. I'm going to give you ten easy steps to turn you into a writer. Please understand that being a writer and being published are two different animals. You may never have a word of your writing published, but that doesn't mean you aren't a writer.

So... how do you start? Simple. By writing. And how do you continue? That's simple too. By writing.

Actually, I wish it was that easy. Many writers, moi included, struggle with the beginning, middle and/or end of the process. Something will light a fire under us and we get all excited about becoming a writer. Then something happens to pour a little water on that fire and our enthusiasm wanes. We let ourselves become discouraged.

But we love to write, so even though we may quit for a day, a week or more, we'll soon be back in the chair, hands on the keyboard or with pen and paper in hand. And we swear that this time we'll finish the damn book.

If we do, that's great. If not, we beat ourselves up and start lisitng "Failure" as our occupation. This cycle repeats until just sitting at the keyboard is difficult. It's a classic Catch-22 situation: writing makes us miserable and not writing makes us feel out of sync with who we are.

Let's try to break the cycle with these ten easy steps.

  1. Call yourself a writer. Tell everyone who asks "What do you do?" that you are a writer. Put it on your business cards. Put a "Writer at Work" sign on your door. Affirm it daily and begin to believe you are what you claim.
  2. Create a place where you can create. If you can manage a whole room to yourself, that's wonderful. But that's not always possible. How about a corner of a room? Screen it off and make it your own. The kitchen table? Create an atmosphere for writing with something that changes it from the table to your creative palace. It may be an aromatherapy candle or a budvase with a single flower. You might use a special placemat that creates an energetic feel to that portion of the table. But now that space belongs to you, the writer.
  3. Gather your writing tools. A carpenter needs hammers and saws and nails. An auto mechanic needs wrenches. A writer has tools of his or her trade. They vary from writer to writer. Most writers will need a computer at some point, even if you do your first draft longhand. Try to get your own computer, not one you have to fight over each night with your husband and/or children. Computer prices are dropping daily. The PC my husband and I owned back in the early 80's cost us almost $3000 and had only 64K of memory with two 5 1/2 inch floppy drives. When we replaced one drive with a hard drive where you could actually load the software, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. If you write longhand, get yourself the best pen you can afford. Find one that feels just right in your hand. Make sure you have plenty of paper, notebooks, a journal for ideas, books on craft, a dictionary and thesaurus. You'll need a printer too once you begin submitting your work to publishers.
  4. Associate with like-minded individuals. People who are not creative don't understand the creative mind. They have no clue about the voices in your head and the stories that beg to be told. But if you join a writers' group, no one will give you funny looks when you talk about these things. My RWA chapter meeting each month is when I get refueled and where I receive encouragement and support. If you're serious about publication, you probably want to attend some workshops and conferences. Communicate with others who write. There are numerous online groups where you can discuss everything from craft to brainstorming ideas.
  5. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more, especially in the genre you write. You can learn as much about writing from a well-written book as anything else. And you might even want to send the author a fan letter (the nice kind, not the stalking, instill-fear-in-the-hearts-of-man type) and let him or her know how much you enjoyed the book and how much you learned. You never know when they'll answer back and a friendship will develop.
  6. Make a writing schedule and write every day. "I don't have time," you say? Do you watch television? Do you hit the mall three times a week to peruse the sale racks? Are you a regular at the Friday night ballgame? Surf the internet regularly? Then you have time to write. What you lack is discipline and that's something no one can give you but yourself. Make a decision to carve out a realistic amount of time every day and write. Of course, crap happens, and sometimes taking time out to watch a beautiful sunset may end up being more helpful than spending thirty minutes writing drivel. But overall, practice makes perfect and writing is no different. What if inspiration hasn't struck when you sit down to write? Write anyway. Success is only 20% inspiration; the remaining 80% is perspiration. Write garbage if you have to. Remember what Nora Roberts said "The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one."
  7. Believe. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church and founder of Guideposts magazine wrote "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy." But isn't that being egotistical? Nope! It's affirming to your brain that you can do it. After all, if you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?
  8. Submit something somewhere. This is where the rubber meets the road. Someone once likened it to stripping naked and standing on a busy street corner. Sending your work off puts it out there for all to see and that's a scary feeling. My very first submission was to the annual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. I'd always enjoyed her writing and as a young married woman had dreamed of one day being the next Erma. It didn't cost anything to enter and I didn't win, but the experience was quite rewarding even though I got no feedback. All I knew was that they'd received my submission. But I'd done it -- I'd stood naked on that street corner. A month or so later I applied to be a community columnist for my local newspaper. I had to submit several sample columns plus ideas for additional columns. I didn't get that position. But I tried and the experience of putting together the submission packet and planning columns was another notch in my keyboard. A year or so later, I entered a contest sponsored by an RWA chapter. I had to pay to enter this. I'd moved from the street corner to Broadway. :grin: And I got feedback too, which leads me to point #9.
  9. Develop thick skin. If you're going to enter a contest, work with a critique partner or submit to a publisher, you must be prepared for the inevitable rejection or criticism. It's part of the territory. Take the feedback and/or rejection and learn from it. Put what you learned into practice either revising the work or in creating a new one. And don't internalize the criticism. It's about your writing, not about you. The writer who takes negative feedback personally runs the risk of quitting. Be willing to take the heat and deal with it in a positive manner. You and your writing will benefit in the long run.
  10. Be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day. War and Peace wasn't written in a week. Writing careers don't happen overnight. Hang in there. An unknown author wrote, "The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground. " Be that mighty oak.

I struggle with every one of these ten steps. But this nut isn't about to give up my ground. I tackle each one a step at a time.

What do you struggle with? And how have you overcome it?

When I am a published author...

Someone else will clean the toilets.

Someone else will run clothes to the cleaners, take packages to the post office, sort out the problem with the bank, take the car to get the oil changed, pick up the medicine, kill the giant spider, skim the pine needles out of the pool and fix dinner.

Someone else will call the insurance company and plan the fish’s funeral. Someone else will make dentist appointments, stay on hold with the cable company for half an hour, and find Barbie’s other shoe. Someone else will pick up my skirts from the tailor, print contest entries, change the toner in the printer, finish printing contest entries, sort out the problems in that pesky paid job I have, and call the RWA office to see why my account still says my membership is due.

Someone else will do all of that because I will be busy writing a book.

(Okay, Rhonda, you can quit laughing at me any time now…)

Maybe the published life isn’t as glamorous as Jackie Collins would lead us to believe. From what I’m told, after I’m published, I’ll get to do all of that AND write books*.

It’s a nice dream, though. It rates right up there with the one where I swing gently in a hammock and read a book while handsome shirtless men in kilts fan me with palm fronds and bring me icy margaritas.

So now you know how my Monday went. Nope, I didn’t get a lot written.

But there’s always today, right?

After I take AC to the doctor and call the hotel about the luncheon and…

Tomorrow. I promise.

PC

*Except for the part about the toilets. I’m serious about that. DG and I have a deal.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Winner of the Cover Girl Contest


We have a winner!

KimW correctly guessed that my story is "Wedding Bell Blues."

I'll be sending her an autographed copy of the magazine so she can see how a girl's wicked stepmother turned her nuptials into a nightmare.



No one referred a friend. :-( So that prize remains unclaimed.

Challenge of Learning

Well, we're five weeks into this writing challenge (at least, Instigator and I are) and I'm finding this to be an incredible learning experience. Most of it good, some of it not so good. Seeing my story come together in such a short amount of time is incredible and exciting. For that reason alone, I recommend some form of this challenge to any writer out there.

But some nights the words would break free and fall down like a landslide. Other nights they wouldn't come, even if I tried to chip them with a chisel. So this hasn't been all fun.

I've learned so much! Amazingly enough, not a lot of it has been about writing. Just in case you'd like to do a challenge of your own, let me offer some of the tidbits I've learned for your perusal:

1. Repeat after me: "I can fix that later."

This is my mantra during this time when I'm trying to just get the bare bones of the story on the page. Sure, there is some descriptions in there, elaboration on what a room looks like, tons of stage direction, but mostly it's just internal and external dialogue. That's what comes to me first. There are some days when I look at it and think, "This is crap." Yes, the essentials are there, but how will I ever turn this into a publishable manuscript?

That's when I say "I can fix that later." And I can. I love, love, love to revise. The doubts continue to come, but I'm able to move along only through the use of this phrase.

2. You simply have to lower your standards.

For everything, not just the writing. Don't plan on doing this during a time when you are planning a big event or anything that will require your full attention, because you can't serve both masters and do it well. Translation: I'm getting behind on laundry, the meals aren't always what they should be, the floors could use some vacuuming and the kitchen is a little sticky in places. We won't even talk about the flowers wilting in my front flower bed. Unless you have a husband like Instigator's that does all the cooking and cleaning, this WILL happen. That's okay. You can fix it later. :)

3. Quick and Easy Meals

Now, I've never been one to fix a three course dinner every night. Heck, getting one course on the table that everyone will eat is enough of a challenge for me. But there are several nights a week now that we have sandwiches or chicken tenders from the freezer. And no one has died yet.

One thing I don't recommend is eating out a great deal during this time. Yes, it is convenient, but it can really pack on the pounds. I should know, I put on 4 during the first 3 weeks of this challenge. Now I'm trying to choose lower calorie quickies or have a salad when I order pizza in for my family.

And don't forget to exercise!!!

4. Accept all the help you can

Even some that isn't offered. Set up some babysitters or pawn your kids off on the grandparents more often than you normally do. Force your husband to fold some laundry while he's watching television. Insist the kids pick up their own toys and put their own clothes away. Teenagers can easily could dinner one night each week. (I'm saying all this as if it is new. Quite honestly, they should be doing this stuff already. So no time like the present to enforce it.)

5. Know when enough is enough.

There are some days when your brain is going to hold up a big stop sign. Let's face it. No one can write every single day for 6 weeks. I suggest you build some leeway into your goal to allow for these days. I simply rounded up. I needed 9.2 handwritten pages per day to hit my goal and I rounded up to 10. That worked for a while. When it didn't, I upped my goal to get back on track.

Sometimes the issue isn't you, your story, or your characters. Sometimes it is simply life or those in it. Yes, during this time writing should be a top priority. But children don't understand that. On some days, they simply need you to focus on them for a little while. Husbands fit into this category ocassionally too. There have been times when I've had to put them first, then write whatever I could eek out really late at night. I'd quit when I woke up to find I'd fallen asleep on top of my paper.

6. Reward yourself.

You deserve it. This is a stressful and exhilirating journey. When you've had a particularly good week, do something special for yourself. Get a pedicure, read a book, go window shopping. Give yourself permission to relax. Your brain will reward you for it.

And don't forget to reward those around you too. When you husband has been particularly patient, work hard to get your pages done early in the day so you can spend the evening hanging out together without having to say "I've got to go write." When your children have been patient and not interrupted you very much, take 30 minutes to do something fun with them. They'll be that much more patient for it. (I say as I yell at mine for talking to me for the 5th time in a row since I started typing this. Oh well, we're none of us perfect.)

So, there you have it. Take what works for you and dump the rest. If you do decide to set up your own challenge, let us know. We'd love to know what is working for y'all and what you find doesn't work at all.

Angel



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