Wednesday, April 30, 2008
A few weeks ago I decided the danger of frost was over and made the trek. I purchased nine small pots of purple fan flowers and a sweet basil plant. Six fan flowers went at the end of the driveway and three went in the backyard. I planted the basil where I used to plant tomatoes since I’ve given up the idea of raising tomatoes after two miserably failed attempts. My subdivision used to be a cotton field and despite tilling in peat moss, my tomatoes bore little fruit and what it did bear was tasteless.
The next morning I went out to check on my plants and discovered the fan flowers in the back and the basil plant had been eaten off level with the ground.
Wabbits! Wascally wabbits!
I’ve not had a rabbit problem before because I had a cat. But we had to get rid of our last cat around Thanksgiving and I’ve vowed not to get another one. I have no patience for kitten antics, and I’m afraid if I adopt an adult cat and move it to our house, I’ll end up with the same move-induced behavior problems I had with our old cat.
So what’s a gardener to do?
I hit the internet and researched the issue. I purchased a bottle of eco-friendly animal repellent and sprinkled it around the twelve new verbenas I planted to replace the fan flowers (they were cheaper) and the new basil plant, which has a cut-down milk jug around it for protection. The next morning, the verbenas showed signs of nibbling. I researched some more and purchased a large plastic owl, which I placed right in the middle of the verbenas. The owl is a natural predator and a plastic one is supposed to scare away rodents. The next morning the verbenas were chewed even more. Apparently I have very brave rabbits.
That afternoon I returned the eco-friendly repellent and plastic owl to the store and demanded a refund. I researched some more and pulled out my cauldron to concoct a homemade repellent of onions, garlic and cayenne pepper. I sprayed the verbenas heavily and waited.
Next morning, the verbena plants were level with the ground. The rabbits are not only brave, but they like their food heavily seasoned.
I escalated the conflict and visited the feed store Monday morning to purchase two rabbit traps. I figure we’ll trap them and relocate them waaaay out in the country. I know we have at least three rabbits because I’ve seen a baby. That means we must have a mama and a daddy too.
I baited the traps on Monday with carrots, broccoli and banana, and I set them in areas where I’ve seen the rabbit hanging out. Yesterday morning one trap’s bait had been nibbled upon, but the trap hadn’t sprung. The DH told me he'd seen the rascals frolicking around the trap, "doing what rabbits do." What gall!
Not only did they not spring the trap, they're copulating in public and conspiring to increase their numbers. I added apple slices to each trap and as I write this I’m still waiting for the wascally critters to get hungry for those juicy Granny Smiths and wander into the traps. Late yesterday afternoon I watched one hop close to one of the traps, nibble at the birdseed I'd sprinkled near the entrance, then turn and stare at me as I played voyeur with my binoculars. I sure hope my neighbors didn't think I was watching her give him a haircut on their back porch.
On the up side, one of my birdhouses has five house swallow eggs in it. The other birdhouse has already been home to a brood of baby bluebirds. The killdeer are back and I discovered a nest with four eggs Monday afternoon. My birdfeeders are a social gathering spot for the neighborhood birds. The redheaded woodpecker that nests in the trees at the end of the street visits my feeders daily. The hanging birdbath outside my kitchen window is a favorite with the house finches.
I’m encouraging animal repopulation on the one hand, and contemplating a gun purchase on the other. If the traps don’t work, I don’t know what I’ll do because rabbits breed like well… rabbits. And we could be overrun by cottontails if something isn’t done.
So to date I’ve lost sixteen plants – three fan flowers, twelve verbenas and a sweet basil.
Any suggestions? Trapping tips? Want a bunny?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
My name is Kimberly, and I’m a Grammar Geek.
I read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves simply for the laughs. I’m a member of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG), The Apostrophe Protection Society, and the Semicolon Appreciation Society (and I laughed my ass off at this). I’m firmly against text-messaging spelling anywhere outside of a text message, and loathe the lack of capitalization and punctuation that permeates the internet. I celebrate National Punctuation Day. I think this is a fabulous idea.
But somehow, my friends seem to think they should fear my red pen as well. Not so. There are only four instances when I will correct your grammar:
1) You are my student. (And you bet your ass grammar is a part of your grade. Spelling counts, too.)
3) It might embarrass you if I don’t. (This is the one instance where I give unsolicited grammar advice. I figure you want to know about the big honking misplaced apostrophe on your web site before someone important sees it and calls you on it.)
4) There’s no freaking excuse for the mistake. (Okay, so this one doesn’t apply to my friends, and I don’t actually do much except bitch and moan about it, but, Jumpin’ Gerunds, Big Business, hire a proofreader! I have no patience for signs, magazines, or professional web sites with poor grammar or incorrect punctuation. English majors are a dime a dozen, and we’re starving. We work for $9/hour, and we can save you tons of embarrassment. Hire us and quit abusing the language.)
(Notice how none of these situations are oral. I don’t correct spoken grammar—not even AC’s. Research shows there are two great ways to teach grammar to others: model correct grammar in your own speech and give them books to read. Take note, my seventh-grade English teacher, that neither of these involves hundreds of fill-in-the-blank worksheets or sentences to diagram. You killed a tree for nothing, Lady!)
Am I perfect? God, no. Y’all have been subjected to some pretty major typos on this blog (and I’ve been known to go back and correct them long after the fact just because it embarrasses me), but the English language as a whole is taking quite a beating these days. I don’t know who or what to blame, but I’m starting to feel like the Grumpy Grammarian. I feel tweed against my skin and taste the dust of library tomes. Get me some horn-rimmed glasses and sensible shoes.
Just don’t get me any shoe's.
So what’s your pet peeve? It doesn’t have to be grammatical.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
As many of y'all know, we headed out to Nashville last week for a Bon Jovi concert. I haven't been to a concert since I was a teenager, and then only contemporary Christian music. Let me just say I wasn't prepared for this experience. It was AWESOME! I jammed out to both Daughtry and Bon Jovi, and discovered something terribly embarrassing about myself: with just the right look, Jon Bon Jovi can make me squeal like a teenage groupie. :)
I've talked before about how inspired I am by music. Each of my books has their own soundtracks. I don't listen to the music while I'm writing, only while I'm plotting. Well, I thought I'd pass along the bits of wisdom I picked up from a night of listening to Jon, Richie, and a host of other characters.
Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine
There ain't no doctor that can
Cure my disease
Is there anybody out there looking for a party? Yeah!!
Shake your money maker, Baby smoke it if you got it.
We just wanna have some fun, If you don't wanna, Kiss this
Everybody raise your hands, Come on I need a witness.
We got it goin' on
We'll be banging and singing just like the Rolling Stones
We're gonna shake up your souls, We're gonna rattle your bones
'Cause we got it goin' on.
Ah ha ha. Ah ha ha. Yeah yeah. Ah ha.
(We Got It) Goin' On (with Big and Rich)
Watching these Hot Guys on stage is totally addictive!!! As I admitted earlier, I squealed like a little girl when Jon gave the camera a "Come Here Woman!" look. I might have even drooled when he shook that tight, um, booty. :) Oh, yeah, they've got it going on, alright. We partied all night.
I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I'm wanted dead or alive
Wanted dead or alive
Sometimes I sleep, sometimes its not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that you drink
And times when you're all alone all you do is think
As a writer, I'm always thinking about the character behind the person in front of me. Watching these successful men on the stage, I had to think about where they came from and what it took to get there. The hardships they go through, and how wearing it must be that everyone wants a piece of you.
Let me be the first to shake a helping hand.
Anybody brave enough to take a stand,
I've knocked on every door, On every dead end street...
Ohhh, if there's one thing I hang onto,
That gets me through the night.
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to,
I'm gonna live my life...
When the world gets in my face,
I say, Have A Nice Day.
Have a Nice Day
Coming off a string of rejections for my own work, I have to admit I admired the perseverance and strength it took to come to this place and this stage. Their professional journey is a model of living for every artist. We have to find a way to live the life we want, the one that feeds our souls, even if the world tells us we can't.
I like the bed I'm sleeping in
Its just like me, its broken in
Its not old -- just older
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans
This skin I'm in its alright with me
It s not old -- just older
I can only hope someday to be this comfortable with who and what I am.
She says we've got to hold on to what we've got
Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - well give it a shot
Whooah, we're half way there
Livin' on a prayer
Take my hand and well make it - I swear
Livin' on a prayer
Livin' On A Prayer
I went to this concert with some good friends, friends who drag me out of my hermit shell to experience lots of fun and fabulous times. Without them and my husband, I'd definitely be a dull and drab girl. All work and no play. I've danced more since I've known them than I have my entire life (in public, no less!). I've smiled and laughed my way through hard times. Whether we make it in the publishing business or not, I've gained sisters for life.
Its my life
And its now or never
Cause I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(its my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I'm alive
Its My Life
Being a writer, you have to learn to go against what people expect of you. I daydream and make up characters, talk to people in my head. Spend time writing books that may or may not ever sell. Go to meetings instead of spending time with my family. Would choose a conference over a child's event or family occasion.
Not a popular choice, but that's who I am and what I may have to do to make it as a writer. I'm trying to learn to live my life the way I need to in order to feel alive, while balancing that with my family's needs and wants. A tightrope if ever there was one.
So there are my musings from the weekend. Hope I haven't totally taken all enjoyment out of Bon Jovi's music for you. What music/artist is totally inspiring you at the moment?
Kelley St. John joins us on the Playground Blog on Thursday, May 1st. Don't miss it!
The deadline to sign up for the current Playground contest is Wednesday, April 30th, at noon!
Friday, April 25, 2008
Circle of 5 Status:
1 Agent Partial Pending
2 Short Stories & 4 Short Features Submitted to Trues
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Of course, anytime we have a playfriend road trip chaos and calamity seem to follow. Meth labs, cut fingers, blown knees...hmmm, come to think of it chaos and calamity just seem to follow PC. I suppose we nicknamed her wisely. The question next week will be what catastrophe befell us. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.
A flurry of emails precede any roadtrip - whether we're leaving for 10 days in another country or going two hours away for a night. We must discuss clothing, accessories, suitcases, shoes...the list is endless. This would probably explain why I had a very strange dream last night. In the dream I was headed to Nashville (where the concert is tonight) to catch our plane to RWA national conference (where we're flying from in July). Only I was running late because I'd gotten stuck at work. My flight was at 3 PM and I'd just left my office (2 hours away) at 2:50PM. However, the plane was delayed when I arrived and hadn't left. But I couldn't get a guaranteed seat because I'd missed the window and they put me on standby instead which didn't look good because they'd bumped a flight before and all those passengers were ahead of me on the list.
As if this wasn't bad enough...I got to the airport only to realize that I hadn't packed my conference stuff...I'd packed my concert stuff. So I had 1 pair of jeans and a t-shirt, no pajamas, and my kick ass tiger print pants. No make-up. No fancy dresses for the parties. That was it. For the entire week of conference. Talk about a nightmare.
However, I think those pants are going to look fantastic when they call me up on stage for my very own serenade. Hey, if I'm dreaming, I'm dreaming big.
So, have you had any strange dreams/nightmares lately? Or are you looking forward to a roadtrip of your own?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Since today is the bard's birthday, I thought I'd entertain you with some Shakespeare humor. And who said literature couldn't be fun?
Green Eggs and Hamlet (Author Unknown)
I ask to be, or not to be.
That is the question, I ask of me.
This sullied life, it makes me shudder.
My uncle's boffing dear, sweet mother.
Would I, could I, take my life?
Could I, should I, end this strife?
Should I jump out of a plane?
Or throw myself before a train?
Should I from a cliff just leap?
Could I put myself to sleep?
Shoot myself, or take some poison?
Maybe try self immolation?
To shudder of this mortal coil,
I could stab myself with a fencing foil.
Slash my wrists while in the bath?
Would it end my angst and wrath?
To sleep, to dream, now there's the rub.
I could drop a toaster in my tub.
Would all be glad, if I were dead?
Could I perhaps kill them instead?
This line of thought takes consideration-
For I'm the king of procrastination.
Later this summer, a friend and I are going to the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The production will be on the campus of The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, a town famous for its RC and Moon Pie Festival.
Actor-director Lane Davies brings this production to Bell Buckle and promises a "twist of scene and accent" and plenty of surprises. Davies is known for his roles on "General Hospital" and "Santa Barbara" and was voted the best villain for his role as Tempus (beating out Lex Luthor in the process) in several episodes of "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." This should be loads of fun, provided the mosquitoes don't carry us off first. Note to self: buy insect repellent.
Speaking of green, yesterday was Earth Day and I did my part by using my cloth shopping bags at the grocery and using a eco-friendly animal repellant to try and ward off the wascally wabbits that are eating my flowers and herbs. I also bought a large plastic owl to move from spot to spot in hopes the wabbits will think he's real.
It was in the 80's today and I loved it! I spent part of the day planting new flowers and basil to replace the ones the rabbits ate and soaking up that vitamin D. Of course, I'll be singing another tune in August when the humidity is 98% and we're sweltering.
Are you as excited as I am that spring is here?
Word of the day: non sequitur
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I could practically hear the normally unflappable, unshakable, unsurpriseable Counselor Shelley bracing herself at the thought of what question could have possibly been haunting me for twenty years, only to require an answer very early in the morning.
The question? “Do you want to go to the Bon Jovi concert with me?”
Let me explain. Twenty years ago, Bon Jovi was riding high on the success of Slippery When Wet and the tour was scheduled to stop in Birmingham. I wanted to go with a passion you wouldn’t believe me capable of. I didn’t have a ticket, but one only cost $12.50 and with General Admission seating still allowed, the morning of the concert dawned and I was still hopeful I’d get to go. Shelley (just Shelley back then—although she was my personal counselor even then) had worked out a sleep over with her parents for after the concert, and Mom was on board with the idea. We were set to go!
But it was a school day, and Mom dropped me off at the usual time. Shelley and another friend (who we’ll call Anne) were waiting for me before I even entered the building. My high school was only three blocks from the Civic Center and Anne and I were familiar with the backstage labyrinths due to our time performing with the ballet company. A plan had been hatched.
We’d enter through the side stage door—the one we used for rehearsals—because the security guard knew us and wouldn’t think twice. We’d use the tunnels that connected the ballet rehearsal halls to the Arena to sneak our way in and be there for the sound check. All we had to do was change clothes, skip class, and we’d be Jon and Richie’s newest groupies in no time.
Hey, we were 15—it seemed like a reasonable plan.
Except it wasn’t. Bon Jovi had good security and we were stopped long before we got anywhere close to Jon or Richie, and we were busted sneaking back onto campus.
What happened next was a farce of the highest order. Rather than going with the truth, I came up with an elaborate story that anyone not 15 would instantly recognize at pure BS. But I stood by my story. At least the principal was laughing as he suspended the three of us.
(And Mr. Wilson, dog love him, reminded me of this episode at an Alumni Party many years later—it was that good of a story.)
Needless to say, Mom was not amused when she heard of my actions (real or fictional) and subsequent suspension, so I found myself grounded. No Bon Jovi concert for me.
So, for twenty years, I’ve regretted the stupidity that kept me from seeing them in concert. When I heard they’d be in Nashville, I knew I had to be there. But not only did I have to be there, Counselor Shelley had to be there with me in order for it to be right. Hence the phone call bright and early the morning I found out tickets were on pre-sale.
So I paid a hell of a lot more than $12.50 for tickets, convinced the Playfriends, Counselor Shelley, and the Darling Geek to go on a road trip, and Thursday is the night. The night I’ve waited twenty freaking years for.
So pardon me if I can’t concentrate on much else this week other than this concert—a road trip with friends, a great dinner, and a show. I’m stoked.
Of course, it’s going to have to be an awesome show in order to live up to twenty years of waiting. But I think all Jon will have to do is flash that smile at me and I think it will be worth the wait. (Sorry DG, but old crushes die hard.)
So what have you waited a really long time for? Was it all you dreamed of in the end?
Monday, April 21, 2008
A friend of mine, who serves as a minister of music for a local church, began a 3 month sabbatical yesterday. She's put in 10 years of service and decided to take a break in order to spend time with her family, reconnect with God, and heal from the ups and downs of ministry.
This idea of a sabbatical intrigues me. Of course, I know what I'd do if I had 3 months away from the daily grind of my regular jobs. My goals wouldn't be nearly as lofty or spiritual, but they would include writing (of course), and probably getting this house of mine under control. This summer I hope to paint Little Man's room and my office. Like I said, not very spiritual, but I'm a bit of a practical person. If money were no object, I'd like to travel to several places I'd love to set books in, like Charleston, SC, and New Orleans.
If you could go on a 3 month sabbatical, what would you do? Where would you go?
Friday, April 18, 2008
So, I'm going to entertain you with pictures from last weekend that have nothing to do with writing. I'll preface these pictures by saying it was 90 and sunny and I very nearly sweat (or is it sweated?) to death. I was soaked at one point and I hadn't been on any water rides. I don't even want to know how I smelled. Ugh. Anyway, not the pictures I'd send in with my Miss Alabama submission...
I hit Animal Kingdom first. You can tell by the energy and hygiene level in this picture. All downhill from here. This was my first time to this park and it was very cool. Elephants, tigers, gorillas, giant fruit bats, hippos, rhinos...all in a very natural environment. I also got to ride Expedition Everest. My friends ended up working a half day and met me at the park because her husband was a coaster freak and she wouldn't ride with him. So, I ended up on every thrill ride I was certain I wouldn't go on.
This includes a horrible ride at Disney Hollywood Studios called the Tower of Terror. Bad. Bad. Bad. I don't know what I was thinking. I hate rides with big drops. This one dropped me 14 stories six times. My friend's husband told me that was the most he'd ever dropped. (The ride is random and you never know how many times you'll fall or when.) I rediscovered religion as I plowed to the ground the 4th or 5th time. Fortunately I got to follow this up with the Aerosmith Rockin Roller Coaster which was the best ride all weekend. I loved it.
Late Saturday morning we got up and hit Magic Kingdom. I was in awe by the castle. We went straight to Pirates of the Carribbean since I'd never ridden it and now it has 3 animatronic Captain Jack's. Didn't get to meet the impersonator, though. :( Instead I got some pirate mouse ears. That was pretty cool. I resisted the urge to pay $35 for an "I love Jack" shirt in the gift shop. My friend and I covered Adventure and Frontier Land, hitting the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise before we took the Monorail to Epcot. When it's 90 degrees, I have to say the Mickey Mouse ice cream bars are the best tasting things on Earth.
Epcot closed at 9 that night, so we headed over there to the Flower and Garden Festival they were having. My favorite part were the character topiaries. They had Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, Snow White and all 7 Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp...more even. Very cool. We also met up with some other friends for what they consider to be the Epcot highlight - drinking around the world. I had cider in England, Champagne in France, some tangerine drink in Morocco. By the time they got beer in Germany, I had to grab a pretzel and cut myself off.
My friend who doesn't ride roller coasters got a surge of confidence fueled by alcohol, so when Epcot closed, we went back to Magic Kingdom until it closed at 12. We went on Big Thunder Railroad and Space Mountain. My favorite, however, was the teacups. Would you believe there wasn't a line for it at 11:30? There was a line for Peter Pan and the others, though, so we went through It's a Small World and made our way out for the night. The castle looked even cooler lit up.
I walked so much last weekend, I wore holes in my socks.
I don't know if I'm going to be able to take a week there with Little Sister. That might be more than any one human can stand, even if there are fewer crowds and lower temperatures. We'll have to see. Maybe 4 days.
What's your favorite ride? Are you a teacups girl or a coaster freak? Have you ever ridden the Tower of Terror? Ugh.
Last week's blog winner is lauraJ. She picks up a book and a giant Mickey Mouse lollipop I bought at the Main Street Confectionary Shop. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your sweets within 7 days.
Circle of 5 Status:
1 Agent Partial that has vanished into the 7th circle of hell, never to return
1 Novella pending with Nocturne Bites
2 Laurie Entries Pending
2 Short Stories & 4 Short Features Submitted to Trues
This was a sad week for the Circle. It seems like a good idea to send out 20 queries, until you get back 20 rejections all at once. My circle is shrinking to nothing. I didn't win a Nocturne pitch appointment, I got an R back on one of my short stories, my full and partial agent requests were rejected, as was my last of 5 agent queries. Writing this, the Laurie finalists haven't been announced yet, but who knows how that will turn out.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
A couple weeks ago I asked for inspiration ideas for my hero. I thought I'd share what I came up with.
I think he looks like an intense Air Force pilot. What do y'all think?
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Some things are as reliable as the sun rising every morning. Then there are things you never expect, like me suddenly going over to the dark side and developing an interest in vampire romance.
While you are picking yourselves up off the floor and/or laughing hysterically, let me explain. Several years ago I wrote a scene about a TV reporter who receives a DVD from her ex-husband. She views the DVD and on it he alludes to having information that would destroy her career. And he's going to turn it over to her competition if she doesn't find it first. Then she watches as he puts a gun to his head and blows his brains out. The scene was for an online contest and went nowhere.
Great opening for a romantic suspense, but as you may or may not know, plotting is not a strong point of mine. And a good romantic suspense requires as many twists and turns as an unpaved, one-lane mountain road.
After reading Smarty Pants's submission for the new Nocturne Bites line, I remembered the scene and wondered if it might be re-written with some sort of woo-woo element. I was thinking maybe the hero or heroine could be psychic. Then I ran the idea past a friend who emailed me back and said "...how about once she composes herself, she realizes that her ex's little brain splattering is just for show, because the secret he holds--the secret that's both terrorized her and kept her alive--is that he can't die. He's either a demon or a vampire or an immortal or something evil. Maybe she is a vampire or shapeshifter or witch or something."
My first reaction was not only no, but hell no. But the idea just wouldn't go away and the more I thought about it, I realized it might could work. The only problem is that I know squat about anything to do with vampires. Last winter I read two Christmas vamp novellas and shuddered at every mention of blood. Beyond that, I knew nothing.
So I've been immersing myself into all things vampire. Well, maybe not ALL things, but some things. I read a vamp romance by Caridad Pineiro from the Silhouette Nocturne line and now I'm reading one of Kerrelyn Sparks's single titles. I watched an MSNBC special from a few years ago about a teenage vampire cult that murdered a couple in Florida (nothing valuable there) and Sunday afternoon I drooled over Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing (which I call "Frankenstein and Dracula meet James Bond and Indiana Jones).
I've done research online and learned that while there are some things that most vamp romances have in common, there are basically no rules. I can create my own world and as long as I explain it well and have things make sense, I can be in charge and run things my way. Oh, if the real world were only that way.
Vampires have appeared in books and movies for a long time. We've had Dracula on the silver screen for ages and in various incarnations. Kids have Sesame Street's Count to help them learn numbers (One bat hanging in the steeple. One bat flies in through the door. That makes two bats in my belfry, but wait. There's more. Two bats hanging... well, you get the picture).
There's even been a cereal named for a vampire.
And where there's a vampire, there's a vampire slayer such as Buffy. I never watched the show but PC has offered her Buffy DVD collection. Despite PC's warnings, I tried to watch the Buffy movie and promptly fell asleep. It's no longer using up space on my Tivo. My Tivo "To Do" list includes a History channel special on vampires and "Queen of the Damned" as well as something else I can't remember at the moment. And I have a couple more vampire romances to read.
I'm beginning to get a feel for my hero and heroine, and have some ideas for the villain (Mr. SplatterBrains). But there's more that I don't know. Isn't this guy superbly hawt for a hero?
So my question to you is, if you're a fan of vampire romance, what are your favorite story elements? Do you like the vamp to have all the traditional weaknesses, or are you willing to compromise on some for the sake of the story?
What are some of your favorite parts of vampire mythos? Do you think the hero and heroine have to both be mortal or immortal by the end of the book for them to have a HEA? Can a woman live happily ever after knowing her husband will live for centuries after she's gone? Or knowing she'll turn into an old crone while he still looks like Mr. Hawt Guy above?
What's your favorite vampire romance and movie? These are research questions, you know. I have a good excuse to pile up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and read or watch a movie.
I know -- I'm just full of questions, but I'm trying to build a world here and well... it's hard work. Help me build it.
P.S. The Spoil Me Silly contest is still open. Be sure to enter!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Step Two: Practice sounding cool, yet excited, when “The Call” comes. Visualize cover. Write RITA acceptance speech. Fax revision letter to critique partner.
Step Three: Brainstorm exciting wardrobe possibilities for RITA award ceremony. Re-read revision letter and start to panic. Call CP instead to deconstruct editor’s word choices and obsess over possible underlying messages.
Step Four: Open computer file. Re-read deathless prose and wonder how you’ll be able to improve upon it. Close file. Re-write RITA speech and practice signature for first book signing.
Step Five: Open file. Begin slashing everything the editor said had to go. Realize you’re left with 45 usable pages. Go lie down in dark room until nausea passes.
Step Six: Brainstorm ideas for revisions. Realize they all suck. Call emergency meeting at Starbuck’s with writing friends to brainstorm other ideas. After coming down from sugar/caffeine high, realize those all suck too. Decide you need new group of friends, ahem…fresh perspective.
Step Seven: Begin work on pages 1-45. Replace all weak verbs with stronger, more colorful, choices. Give hero ability to cock one eyebrow. Give heroine a cat.
Step Eight: Realize that only netted three new pages and that you’re now totally screwed. Wonder if you can get old day job back.
Step Nine: Begin writing—something, anything, just do something other than stare at that stupid blinking cursor. You’re not getting any younger, you know.
Step Ten: Realize that you may just be on to something. These new pages aren’t so bad after all. Begin to take chances. Discover characters’ true motivations. Find your groove.
Step Eleven: Get giddy and excited. Decide to wear red to RITA ceremony.
Step Twelve: Realize pages 1-48 are now totally wrong and have to be rewritten.
Step Thirteen: Realize that’s not the end of the world. Sometimes you have to know the ending to write the beginning anyway, right?
Step Fourteen: Polish, proof, print, post. Panic. Obsess with CP over whether you’ve done the right things. Whether you’ve done enough. Decide she’s probably lying to you, but try believe her anyway. Cross fingers.
Step Fifteen: Stalk the mailman. Check caller ID for tell-tale area codes. Wonder if the cat was a bad idea after all…
Step Sixteen: It’s hard to say what step sixteen might be this time. Rejection? More revisions? A contract? But y’all will be one of the first to know—if I ever get there, of course. I’m finishing up 13 and closing in on early parts of 14 right now. But I’m hopeful. Happy. Cautiously optimistic about the quality of what’s happening with this rewrite.
And that's what's important, right?
Monday, April 14, 2008
I always enjoy my time at our local Romance Writers of America chapter meetings. Once a month I get to join the Playfriends, Mavens, and various other wonderful friends I've met there to talk about writing (a dear subject to us all), life in general, and more writing (because we can never get enough).
Talking about this fascinating occupation allows us to share the joys, sorrows, and challenges associated with writing as a career. But one of my most favorite things to do is brainstorm our stories.
Whether we are talking about my book or someone else's, the process is just as exciting. Discussing plot points (whether abundant or lack thereof), characters, motivations, conflicts, or how to twist the knife just right to see our hero or heroine squirm. Everyone jumps in feet first, respectfully tossing out suggestions and running after tangents.
The best part is the Aha moments, where the light just dings on and you know you've come up with the perfect solution. I've never found a feeling similar to it. And that enthusiasm continues when you find yourself all alone BICHOK (writers' speak for butt in chair, hands on keyboard).
When we first started doing this, I was totally intimidated. Wasn't I supposed to be able to come up with everything on my own? Nope. Even New York Times Bestsellers have critique partners and brainstorming buddies. I don't have to feel guilty about tossing ideas back and forth with other people. It is still my basic storyline and I can take or leave anything that doesn't work for me.
What kind of trouble, I mean fun, did you get into this weekend? :)
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As always, any prizes not claimed within 7 days will be reawarded.
Thanks everyone for making our guest bloggers welcome this past week!
Friday, April 11, 2008
Turns out I'm just a big kid that grew up on the Disney Channel and VHS craze of the 80s. This was back before it was ruined by the likes of Hannah Montana and the Cheetah Girls. Don't even get me started on High School Musical. Anyway, I have pretty much every full-length animated feature on tape or DVD. I can whoop some serious butt on any Disney trivia game. I have the ability to sing random Disney songs DB has never heard before and make him crazy. I even have a friend who used to work at Disney World as Prince Charming. LS doesn't believe me when I tell her I actually know Prince Charming. I may have to track one down while I'm there and get a picture with him since my friend didn't get to keep the costume when he left, of course.
For some reason, I've been in Alabama 7 years and I haven't managed to get down to Disney World yet. I had a friend recently move to Orlando and a local airline has insanely cheap flights (that they've recently cancelled after May, dangit) so I'm going to visit this weekend. She has a season pass to Disney, so we're going to make an event of it. Epcot is having a spring flower festival, so that should be interesting. My friend has to work Friday, so I'm going to do some of the parks on my own, then we're going together Saturday. We're meeting some more friends in Mexico for dinner (that's Epcot Mexico, by the way.)
I sliced open a vein and bought a two day park hopper pass, so I can skip from one park to the other. I'm going to try to cram $200 worth of sight-seeing into these two days. The whirl-wind tour, you could say. I've never been to Animal Kingdom or the MGM Studios park. I went to Epcot briefly a few years ago for a conference but most the exhibits were closed. I haven't been to the Magic Kingdom since I was four. I lived on the west coast, so I was a Disney Land girl growing up.
I guess its kind of odd that a late 20-something woman traveling alone would go to a Disney park. It doesn't bother me too much. I spent several days at Sea World alone once. (Its better that way, really, because I get entraced by the simplest things there.) I probably won't do a lot of rides because I don't care for that as much on my own, but walking around seeing things, shopping, etc., is fine by me. I can go at my own pace. I can stare at the animals for an hour and not worry about dragging down the group. I can rush through something that seems boring. There are advantages. Of course, there will be no one there to appreciate my sarcastic mutterings but its only for one day.
Do you enjoy traveling alone or do you prefer going in a couple or group? One commenter will get something from Disney. I won't know what until I check out the gift shops. Maybe it will have Johnny Depp on it. Or Mickey. For msyelf, I think I might have to compromise and get one of the Mickey ears with the Pirates of the Carribbean dreds.
Circle of 5 Status:
1 Agent Query, 1 Agent Partial, & 1 Agent Full Pending
1 Novella pending with Nocturne Bites
2 Blurb Entries for Eharlquin Nocturne Pitch Contest
2 Contest Entries Submitted to Lauries (final round status announcement next Thursday!)
2 Short Stories & 4 Short Features Submitted to Trues
Check out the May Issue of True Romance for my first sale - Fearless: A Pregnant Woman in Peril!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Lori Borrill is a long time friend and a very welcome guest on the playground! She and I have been critique partners for several years and have 'grown up' as writers together. I know from first hand experience that her books are wonderful, her writing amazing and her characters to die for. Everyone, please welcome Lori to the Playground.
As a writer, one of the things people often ask is where I get my story ideas. I have to admit, plotting was one of my big learning curves when I first started on this venture. In the beginning I had dozens of great ideas, but without the understanding of all the fundamentals that go into crafting a story, like conflict and tension and motivation and black moments, my "great idea" always seemed to fall apart around chapter four. Getting those basics down was a big step toward publication. Unfortunately, the side effect was that my pool of awesome story ideas dried up to a small puddle.
And it's been trickling ever since.
I have author friends who have a seemingly endless well of plots. Me? I'm lucky to come up with two or three working ones a year. Well, let me rephrase that. I can come up with a hundred good plots, they've just already been done by somebody somewhere. So once I come up with an idea that can sustain 280 pages, run it through all the plausibility filters, make sure it has the hook that makes it a Blaze, then confirm it's not an exact replica of a plot Nora Roberts wrote five years ago, I'm left with about two or three to work with in any given year.
The idea for my latest, "Putting It To The Test", came straight from those eHarmony commercials on TV. For over a year, I watched them thinking, "There's a story in there." From the start, I knew it had to be about a woman who cheats on the test then is forced to pretend to be the perfect match for a guy she hates. Those are what I call the "I Love Lucy" plots--the ones where a woman gets herself in trouble because she hadn't quite thought her little plan all the way through. They're my favorites, and that idea had Lucy and Ethel written all over it. I could see all kinds of possibilities and deliciously horrid ramifications from a move like that. It was perfect.
But for a year I couldn't get past one little word: Why? As in, why would a woman take the test in the first place and then cheat?
Arrrgggh. I can't tell you how many great story ideas are sitting in a mental trash can because of that one pesky word. For me, plotting is entirely love/hate. It's the ultimate emotional roller coaster. An idea springs up and I'm grinning, thinking the world is a beautiful place to be. The idea is hot, it's fun, it's funky and fresh, and I can't wait to dig in and start writing. But then somewhere in the middle of my celebration, a sniper comes out of the woods and shoots a big hole right in the middle, stopping me dead in my tracks. Sometimes I can solve the problem and ultimately make a book out of it. Other times it's the fatal shot that kills all my fun and a half-written synopsis along with it.
With "Putting It To The Test" I was able to work up an angle, and the result was a book that was a lot of fun to write. Other ideas aren't so lucky. I had plots about game shows, ghosts, stolen heirlooms and earthquakes--you name it--all thrown in the tank because something couldn't be worked out. They aren't gone forever, mind you. After all, I never gave up on the eHarmony idea and a year later, I was able to turn it into a selling proposal. But I have way more half-answered plot lines than I do selling proposals. And the farther I get into this business, the more admiration I have for authors who come up with really clever ideas--especially those pantsters who start with a grain of an idea and just start writing from there.
I have enough half-written manuscripts to forever remind me that I'm a plotter, not a pantster. Before I sit down to write those first lines, I need at least a two or three page outline of the basic plot points as an assurance that my idea can flesh through from beginning to end. I may not always follow it to the tee, but at least I know there's one way to make it work if all else fails. Without that, I'm either rewriting into infinity or tossing it out of frustration.
So what about you? To the writers in the group, how do you typically come at your story ideas? And how much do you need to have plotted before you sit down and write?
And to the readers here, what are some of your favorite types of plots? Are there any tried-and-true story lines that you keep going after even though authors have come at them from practically every angle possible?
And as bonus incentive, I'll select one person who comments today to receive a free copy of "Putting It To The Test" so you can find out how I answered this particular plot dilemma.
Wha--?? You thought I was going to tell you here? Now what fun would that be?
I know Lori would love for you to visit her at her website www.loriborrill.com or her blog www.sizzlingpens.blogspot.com. And don't forget, Putting It To The Test is available now.
P.S. We want to wish our very own Playground Monitor a very Happy Birthday! We hope you have a wonderful day, PM.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
On April 5 I had an office visit and the nurse practitioner told me she'd be surprised if I lasted another week. The next week, on April 12, the doctor checked me, told me to go on to the hospital and we'd have a baby. I was fully effaced and five centimeters dilated without being in labor.
After a four-hour labor, #2 son came into the world weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces. Then the unexpected happened. He began having breathing troubles and was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. If you remember when I blogged about #1 son, he was a preemie. I was excited I'd made it to 38 weeks, which the doc considered full term. Then this. So we had a week of NICU before we could bring him home.
There's a rumor that parents don't take as many photos of the second child. That rumor is true. Heck, you have an older child to take care of, and in my case, the DH had to go out of town when the baby was three weeks old. I used my time to sleep and eat, not take photos.
He thinned out a little as he got older, but he was still short and solid as you can see in this photo. I'm not sure of the date but he's probably about three years old. That red thing around his neck is his Superman cape. Until I made it for him, he wore my apron around his neck. The cape should have been a sign that one day he'd be faster than a speeding bullet.
His older brother had started running in cross country races for kids and some local road races. #2 son wanted to run too. We never told him he wasn't built like a runner. We just let him run and darned if he didn't start winning races. Here he is at 5 1/2 years old with his first place trophy from the Turkey Trot One Mile Run. At age six he set an Alabama state record for the 5K distance that stood until a year or so ago. And when he set that record, he broke the old one by more than ten minutes.
Here he is in 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. As a thirteen-year-old, he was showing real promise as a runner and had already been called up by the high school cross country coach to run with the varsity team. We were blessed to have a friend who worked for the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee and gave us tickets to track and field events.
Fast forward to the summer before his senior year in high school and our trip to Alaska. I spent a small fortune hiring a fishing guide and buying a fishing license with a salmon stamp. But it was worth every penny (and every mosquito bite) to watch him grin after he hauled in this forty-pound salmon. It was good eating too.
He graduated from high school and accepted a track scholarship to mine and the DH's alma mater. Isn't he a cutie?
And while he was in college he racked up an impressive number of wins including several conference titles. Here he is, front and center, running in the Penn Relays. What I wouldn't give for thighs like that. Neither the DH nor I run; we've always claimed the boys' running ability was a genetic mutation.
This, however, is my all-time favorite photo of him. It was snapped as he crossed the finish line at the Alabama High School Outdoor Track Meet on the campus of the University of Alabama. You can see his time in the background. His arms are raised in victory because was the Alabama 6A one mile champion. He'd chased that goal for four years of high school and his determination led him to the victory stand.
He started graduate school in January and is working toward a Master's Degree in Physical Education. This fall he will officially be an assistant coach working under his old college track coach, and his goal is to one day have a college team of his own to guide toward a conference championship. I have no doubt he'll be one heck of a coach.
His birthday isn't until Saturday, but happy birthday #2 son. You've always had the eye of the tiger and you've made us so proud.
P.S. Lori's winner from yesterday is catslady! Email Lori to claim your prize.
P.P.S. I got an advance birthday present yesterday in the form of two contracts from True Romance. Both stories will be in the July issue. That makes four stories and three short articles I've sold to the Trues this year. I still have four short features and three stories in their slush piles. Additionally, I had a scene on my hard drive that I wrote for a contest a few years ago and after reading Smarty Pants's submission to Nocturne Bites, I thought maybe if I expanded the scene and added a woo-woo element, it might work for Nocturne Bites too. So I've jumped into the world of vampire romance and have been doing online research along with picking up a couple vampire romances at the store yesterday. I may be asking for vampire advice before long.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
But some are truly curious. They can’t understand how anyone could “make all that up.” It’s always interesting to me that people would rather believe that I actually know a few werewolves than that I could construct such a disturbing set of circumstances out of my boring, Midwestern, sports mom life.
However, when I look back on the forty odd novels, novellas and short stories, I’ve written, I can find quite a few instances where a few truths crept into the fiction.
The majority of my novels take place where I’ve lived or visited. Many of the characters impressions of those places are my own.
Sometimes a character is based on someone I met in my travels. For instance, when I decided to set the second trilogy of my Nightcreature Novels in New Orleans, my husband and I took a three day tour. I’d been there twice before, but I needed more specific knowledge.
The first day we were there, we ended up in an Irish bar off of Bourbon Street. The place had a terrific juke box that played Patsy Cline. The bartender was a gorgeous red head from Boston whose name was Diana.
The bar appears in Crescent Moon as Kelly’s, where Patsy Cline sings “Crazy” while the heroine, a red head named Diana, asks pertinent questions of the bartender and the patrons.
Several other incidents on that trip to New Orleans, and the one I took after Katrina, made their way into Crescent Moon, Midnight Moon, Rising Moon (check out the jazz clubs on Frenchmen; they might seem familiar) and the novella Voodoo Moon.
As for my Harlequin Superromances, there are parts of my life there, too. For instance, the dogs in Doctor, Doctor are named Jake and Elwood after the Blues Brothers. So are mine. The gun shy hound dog, Clint, in A Sheriff in Tennessee gets his behavior from my pathetic excuse for a hunting dog.
The little boy in Leave it to Max is very similar to a little boy who used to live at my house (he grew into a young man when I wasn’t looking). A lot of his best lines ended up coming out of Max’s mouth. This little guy always opened all the doors and cabinets in every room he was in. You never knew what might be in there. He was accident prone big time.
Do you like books with a touch of reality or do you prefer complete and utter fantasy? If you write, do you put little tidbits of your life into your books? And as a reader how much reality is too much?
**Not only did Lori let me hold her RITA, she even posed with it (And Maven Linda Winstead Jones) in a special "Guest Foot" appearance in our Yearbook.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
This month's MoanDay hunk is a combination bad boy, intellectual, and sensitive guy all rolled into one. And who can resist a hero on a motorcycle? I'd say he was all lean muscle, and looks best when scruffy. Very kick *ss in the Matrix movies, all mysterious hiding behind his glasses.
Definitely able to handle a gun. And anything else the heroine might throw at him.
A little inspiration to get you through your day. :)
BTW, I need more suggestions for who you'd like to see on MoanDay. Now, I'm not looking for the usual Hollywood hunk. I've already posted George Clooney and you will never see a post from me featuring Brad Pit. Find me the attractive--but not cliche--actors, models, etc. We're looking for new inspiration here! Let me know, so I can tailor the inspiration to fit the audience.
PS. It's LORI week on the blog! Tune in tomorrow for paranormal author Lori Handeland and Thursday for Blaze author Lori Borrill. We want to offer them a rousing Playground play date!
Friday, April 04, 2008
First, the full manuscript of Ghost of a Chance got fully polished and mailed to NYC. They've had it since March 25th. The clock ticking begins now. I guess I'll enter this into the Golden Heart next year if I *cough* don't sell and become ineligible before November.
Second, I finished off the novella for Nocturne Bites and emailed it. The entire novella had to be submitted, no query, via email. One more checked box, one more ball up in the air.
Now I'm back to working on the MS that got pushed aside for items one and two. My paranormal Blaze. I've rallied the troops and gotten to 81 pages. My goal is to have it written and polished by the end of May. (I'm pitching it in June, so here's to hoping.)
As you can tell from my circle below I've got quite a few things circulating that could change my schedule. The Lauries get announced next week. I'm hoping to final and maybe get a request out of it. I have two books entered in different categories with final round judges from Berkley and Dorchester. If I win the Nocturne blurb on eharlequin and get a virtual pitch appointment, I might need to polish up my two vamp books to send out. Maybe I'll get a revision request on something else that's out there. Maybe I'll hear back from the agent that requested my stuff in July. Anything can happen.
In the meantime, I watch my mailbox daily for a response from my Trues submissions. That quick high is addictive. I'm sure if I get an R, the new will wear off quick, but right now, I'm 2 for 2 with 7 still hanging out there. I actually got my courtesy copy of the May True Romance with my story in it - Fearless: A Pregnant Woman in Peril! That made me a little giddy. I'll be even giddier when the check comes.
I'm also pleased that I've caught up with all my Playground duties including writing this month's article (ever so timely) entitled - The Waiting Game - with my top ten suggestions for things to do while you wait to hear back on your submissions. Right now, I'm doing focusing on number 1, although I might squeeze in a little number 2 and 7 sometime soon. I'm avoiding 8. :)
What do you do to pass the time while your "baby" is out there?
Circle of 5 Status:
1 Agent Query, 1 Agent Partial, & 1 Agent Full Pending
1 Novella pending with Nocturne Bites
2 Blurb Entries for Eharlequin Nocturne Pitch Contest
2 Contest Entries Submitted to Lauries (final round status announcement delayed to April 12th)
3 Short Stories & 4 Short Features Submitted to Trues
Check out the May Issue of True Romance for my first sale - Fearless: A Pregnant Woman in Peril!
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Hans Christian Andersen,that is. Andersen, (1805-1875) was a Danish author best known for his fairy tales. Some of his most famous titles are The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor's New Clothes. Today is also International Children's Book Day. It's no coincidence it coincides with HCA's birthday. This event is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. Their goal is to bring books and children together.
I simply cannot imagine a childhood without books. My favorite wasn't actually A book, but rather a set of sixteen books called The Children's Hour. I can't remember what all the volumes contained, but one was stories for young children, another was stories for older kids with characters like Beezus and Ramona and Henry Huggins (Gallons of Guppies anyone?).
One volume was all poetry from the simples A.A. Milne rhyme up to the words of Longfellow and Poe. I spent many an afternoon with my nose in those books. I was also partial to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and books about a family called The Happy Hollisters. I remember one Christmas when my uncle gave my sister and me a book by an author with a funny name -- Dr. Seuss. That book was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and many years later I bought a copy for my own children.
They also had books like Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Pat the Bunny along with many, many others. Now I'm buying books for my granddaughter (she LOVES books, which makes her Grammy very happy) and I've bought -- you guessed it -- Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Pat the Bunny. Last Christmas I discovered the Sandra Boynton books. I especially like Barnyard Dance.
How can you not love a book with text like this?
STOMP YOUR FEET! CLAP YOUR HANDS! EVERYBODY READY FOR A BARNYARD DANCE!
Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how.
Bounce with the Bunny. Strut with the duck. Spin with the chickens now CLUCK CLUCK CLUCK!
With a BAA and a MOO and a COCKADOODLEDOO everybody promenade two by two! *
What books do you remember from your childhood? And which books did you buy your children? Do you have any good recommendations? I'm always looking for new titles for the grandbaby.
A big P.S. -- Remember to enter the Spoil Me Silly contest on our website. It's filled with stuff to pamper yourself along with a dozen books. Contest entries will be accepted through noon Central time on April 30, 2008.
*copyright Sandra Boynton 1993