Friday, January 30, 2009
Then a friend came to see me and asked if I was interested in a job working in her group. What? No! This was NOT the great career news I wanted. Sigh... but it was news. And I need positive developments for the day job if I'm going to keep eating and such waiting for my writing career to take off.
So, today is my last official day in my current job. In record time, I applied, interviewed, and was offered the new position on my program. Same company, building, etc., just a new office, boss, and title. And work. Lots more work. I am now officially a research analyst. Metrics. Spreadsheets. Graphs. Woo hoo! (Er... well, not so much, but the paycheck is niiiiice.)
I was iffy about taking it. The gig I had was pretty nice. I was good enough at what I did that I had free time to... whatever. I made great money. Couldn't complain. When the subject of the new job came up, I thought... why would I give this up? The new job didn't promise a lot more money, at least short term, but it definitely would mean more work. Lots more work. Well, I sucked it up and took the job, only to find out my old position was probably phasing out. Good timing.
But I'm not giving up. This is a good writing career year for me too. I can feel it. Just have to figure out when I'm going to get time to write and such with my pesky day job sucking up my time...
Have you ever made a big change like this? Was it nervewracking for you? How'd it turn out? If not, have you ever had a horoscope prediction come true, but not in the way you were hoping? I once had it tell me I would get news about a writing project on January 3rd. In excitement, I raced to the mailbox to find my rejection letter. Oh well. :)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I started this year with new resolve: start an exercise program, lose some weight, get healthier. If pressed, the Playfriends would probably admit that I tend to get a little...obsessive when I have a new goal in front of me. I'm not the most patient person on this planet and if I'm gonna do something I want some results for the efforts NOW!
I'm rather proud of myself that several weeks into this new routine I'm going strong. I've missed a couple of my gym days - for very good reasons - but I immediately got right back at it as soon as I could. Perhaps the 'right back at it' is where I went wrong. Or maybe it was buying that wii fit... Either way, I'm paying the price for my enthusiasm right now.
I can't walk. Well...I can but I make this really weird face that Zilla is delighting in imitating, groan like a dying frog and try not to move the muscles in my calves any more than absolutely necessary. And I want to point out right here and now - I have no idea what I did!
Monday I did an hour and 15 minutes on my wii fit. And I really enjoyed it! It was fun and I felt fantastic when I was done. I sat down in bed and pulled open my laptop...15 minutes later I got up to do something and nearly fell to my knees. The pain might not have been so bad if I'd expected it but my calves didn't burn once during my workout!
Tuesday, after spending the day walking on eggshells, I decided a very short workout to stretch the muscles a bit might be a good idea. Got on the wii fit, felt great. 15 minutes after I'd finished the pain was even worse than before.
Wednesday was a gym day and I didn't want to skip it completely so I went and did a circuit weight class. There are only a couple leg machines and they don't work your calves so I figured I was okay...until the instructor told us to do 10 minutes on the treadmill at the end of the class. By then I was stretched out and warmed up and didn't feel bad so I did it. I thought I was going to die by the time the ten minutes was over.
So...today is another gym day. I usually spend an hour there walking on the treadmill and doing the weight machines. I really hate to miss the day but I'm not sure my calves can take it. Yes, I do realize all of my pain is self inflicted...I just can't seem to stop. On the bright side, I'm losing weight. Although, my ass had better start to look amazing PDQ or I'm going to get really upset.
Do you have any funny workout stories to share? Ever push yourself too far and pay the price?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The water is clear and turquoise. I went snorkeling in the hotel's lagoon. It's shallow enough that I can stand up if panic starts to set in. But I saw coral and some purple fish and I'm a happy camper. The beach isn't your typical sandy shore. It's filled with washed up coral and were it not for my Crocs, I couldn't even get into the water.
So while the shore's a little rough, this island has one HUGE plus going for it. You can drink the water. You also don't have to scrutinize every bite you eat for fear it's been washed in contaminated water. Haven't needed the Immodium once. I know: TMI.
It's been nice and breezy and warm. We have had to battle rain every morning, but that's better than the snow and cold parts of the US are battling. The resort is all-inclusive, which means all I have to do is beckon Sandrik, the cabana boy and ask, "Will you please bring me another of those wonderful fruity drinks with a little paper umbrella stuck in it?" I took merengue lessons on Sunday afternoon and salsa lessons yesterday, and Georgio and Ramon are just the cutest instructors a gal could want to have. And what hip action! I also read Problem Child's book under the shade of a big palm umbrella. And I met a very nice woman from Finland who is reading a book called HOUKUTUS. Translation: TWILIGHT. The craze is worldwide.
I'd post photos but I just can't get blogger to upload any. That's a shame because I have a wonderful photo I took on the beach today. I was walking in the surf and amidst the pieces of coral that resemble brains, sponges and part of the male anatomy that will remain nameless, I found a heart-shaped piece of coral -- El Corazon. It seemed appropos after the ride into town for shopping this morning. Drivers here are somewhat crazy and the only difference between my ride to Willemstad and Joan Wilder's trip away from Cartagena in "Romancing the Stone" was we had no pigs and chickens in the van.
We'll get back home on February 1st, and I'll post an account of the trip. Stay tuned. Same Playground time. Same Playground channel. And keep the Playfriends company for me while I'm gone.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
That's not the case in the US. If you don't like the politics, it's really hard to like the President. Even if he is there to open a hospital, you might still be grumbling about what he did that morning. There's no way to separate the two.
However, I think it's okay to like the First Family, even if you don't care for the President. And I really like our new First Family – especially Sasha and Malia.
The President's children have a tough row to hoe, and it's not their fault. Their dad took a job that put them in a giant fishbowl for the whole world to gawk at. They have nothing to do with the politics or what's going on in the White House; they're just trying to grow up under the harshest of spotlights. Sure, they live in a really cool house and they'll do and see things the rest of us can only dream about, but the trade-off for sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom is harsh.
I can't imagine trying to go through the awkward stages of puberty in public like Chelsea Clinton – only to be fodder for the late-night comics. It's bad enough to get caught trying to by beer underage, but the Bush twins had to deal with the Today show wondering if they're closet alcoholics. How do you date with a Secret Service detail on your heels? How do you handle hearing your dad bashed by every pundit on the planet? It's a lot of weight for kids to carry.
Maybe it's because I'm getting older and I understand things differently. Maybe it's because I know how I'd worry if AC were thrust into that kind of spotlight. In addition to everything else I worry about as a Mom, now I have to worry about security risks to my child? Listen to everyone and their brother criticize everything she does or, even worse, make fun of her on TV? Worry that life in the White House is going to turn her into an entitled brat or screw with her head so badly it will take years of therapy to sort back out? Mercy, that whole First Lady gig isn't sounding so great now – fabu clothes aside.
I'll reserve judgment on our new President for a while, but I'm lovin' our new First Family. I love the idea of young kids in the White House. It will certainly shake things up around there. After all, as any parent knows, life with small kids is a zoo where the animals roam free.
I wonder if the First Family is allowed to hang crayon drawings on the fridge door?
So, forget the President...how cute are those kids? Didn't they do amazingly well being on “show” all day Tuesday? (I think one of my favorite moments on Tuesday was during one of the prayers or the poem or something and the cameras were on the President. Behind his head, you could see these little orange gloves bouncing around. A moment later, the green glove came over and pressed the orange gloves gently into Sasha's lap. Every mom can relate, right?) Would you trust your kids to behave on world-wide TV?
Monday, January 26, 2009
I have a confession to make: I’m not the world’s best housekeeper. Shhh… don’t tell anyone. :)
Whenever life gets hectic, cleaning is one of the first things to get shoved off the priority list, right after exercise. So you can imagine what my house looks like after 3 wild and crazy weeks (not to mention my waistline). And I’ve had no company to speak of since New Year’s, which is usually how I force myself to get the house into shape. Not to mention that I’ve now had to start doing Drama Queen’s chores again too, just when I finally had her trained in a few things. FYI: I really hate unloading the dishwasher again.
There are a few constants I continue to do, even while the rest of the house goes to pot. 1. Laundry—because I can usually do this while I’m doing something else. It doesn’t require my full concentration. 2. Vacuuming—I’m really funny about the carpet. It drives me crazy for it to be dirty, and it gets dirty a lot when you have 2 kids. 3. Dishes—I hate doing dishes, but here there is no choice. Eventually the kitchen counters can no longer be seen and/or you run out of dishes to eat with. Usually spoons or glasses are the first to disappear around here.
So I spent yesterday attempting to disseminate the dirty dish population around here, but even after running the dishwasher, it took me several hours to finish. There was lots of soaking involved, besides the fact that I can think of many more fun things than standing at the sink all day. And it wasn’t like I hadn’t washed dishes 2 days before. (Yes, I know I should do them every day, but that just ain’t happenin’.)
So, what’s your most hated household chore? What's the one thing you accomplish, no matter how hectic life may be? Make this horrible housekeeper feel a little better about herself.
I have to give a quick shout out to my hubby, who was wonderful enough to keep the kids occupied for several hours over the weekend while I worked in the office. Thanks, baby!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Anyway, this week, we missed celebrating National Penguin Awareness Day, National Hugging Day and National Celebration of Life Day. I'm sure you all are fully aware of penguins and I'm not very touchy feely, so we'll just skip on to today's holiday - National Compliment Day.
I guess to celebrate, I should pay you all a compliment! I think our blog readers are some of the smartest, funniest and most wonderful blog readers around. :)
Myself, I'm too self conscious to take compliments well. At least when it comes to my appearance. You can tell me I'm brilliant or funny all day and I'll just nod and thank you, but tell me I look thinner or you like my hair and I start to squirm. I think its in a lot of people's nature to be modest and find some way to deflect it instead of accepting it. If someone compliments my dress, I feel the need to tell them its old or I got it for $10 at Ross instead of just saying "thank you." I'm too cynical, I think. My one co-worker showers me with compliments, but he's usually trying to grease me up for something, so I can't trust anything he says.
So, now its your turn to compliment me! Just kidding. Unless you want to. :) How about we share stories instead? What was the best compliment you've ever received? Ever gotten a weird compliment? I get those a lot. Are you a fan of any other random holidays? I know I'm always up for celebrating strawberry shortcake day. :)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I always worry a little - not that I've ever had reason! My editor and our Art Department are AMAZING and they always do a good job but... we all know I stress over anything and everything. If I didn't worry about whether the hero and/or heroine would have the wrong hair color or show up with a seventies mustache we know I'd just angst over something else. I think they did a fantastic job with Afterburn!
Here's the back cover copy to go along with the yummy man on the front:
Subject: Air Force Major Chase Carden
Current Status: Reluctant Iraq war hero
Mission: Keep his job
Obstacle: Captain Sabrina McAllister – his secret wife!
Before Chase shipped out, he and Rina enjoyed a sizzling night in Vegas, topping it off with a tacky mock wedding. It was a one-shot deal for both of them. Or so they thought….Because when Chase comes home, he learns that he’s very legally hitched to the feisty captain. And, funnily enough, it’s not bothering him at all…
Their mistaken union is strictly against air force rules. There’ll be hell to pay if it’s discovered. But the sex is so very, very good…
Career-driven Chase knows he has to give Rina up, for both their sakes. And he’ll think about it – once he has the willpower to leave her bed
May is going to be an amazing and jam-packed month. I can't wait!! The culmination of a project ever make you giddy? Hard work pay off in a way you didn't expect? Anything happen this week that put a grin on your face that just wouldn't leave? We'd love to hear about it!
P.S. Our own Problem Child is guest blogging today at I (heart) Presents. Stop by and say hi! http://www.iheartpresents.com/
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Registration for the 2009 RWA national conference began yesterday, and between the registration fee, transportation costs and a hotel room, it adds up to a significant amount.
Wouldn't it be nice if we all had one of these in the backyard? When you needed a new pair of shoes, you'd just pluck a few bills from a lower limb. And if it's like a regular tree, it'll grow new bills to replace them. Need a new car? Climb a little higher on the tree and cut off part of a branch. A house? Cut out the top and go shopping.
Sadly, they don’t exist. Remember the old John Houseman commercials where he talked about making money the old fashioned way? That's pretty much the way most of us have to do it.
These tips may be too late for you to raise the money for this year's conference, but start now and you can make it to Nashville in 2010. Here are some of my favorite ways to save money. Before you start, though, set some rules for which items are untouchable (i.e. your child’s piano lessons or the gym membership that keeps you fit).
1. Brown bag your lunch. The average restaurant lunch costs $10. That's about $2400 a year less the cost of the groceries to make your lunch at home.
2. Make your own coffee. A Starbucks tall latte runs about $3. If you have one every day, you've spent $1095 in a year.
3. Cook at home. Plan your weekly menu according to what the grocery store has on sale. Buy in bulk and buy generic when practical. Use coupons (and put what you save from them into a jar at home). Never shop on an empty stomach and always shop with a list. If possible, shop for groceries when you're in a hurry because you're less likely to linger over the cookie aisle. I can't give you a dollar figure because there are so many variables. But if lunch costs $10 in a restaurant, imagine what dinner for 4 costs?
4. Shop at off-price, discount and thrift stores. I have several formal gowns I've purchased over the last few years for the conference. The most I've ever spent was $45, and that dress doubled for both conference and my son's wedding. I found a $125 cocktail dress at a national chain discount store for $25. My favorite coat is a Land's End polartec that I bought about twelve years ago at a thrift store for $15 (at the time they were about $50 new). I think my best bargain ever was $20 jeans for $1 a pair, and I bought my son 7 pairs of them a year before he needed them. Or maybe it was the Nike shoes marked down to $5 a pair. I bought a pair in every size and just stored them in the top of #1 son's closet til he outgrew a pair and needed the next size.
5. Take a hard look at your cell phone service, your land line service and your cable/satellite TV. Decide if you really need or are using all the services you’re paying for. When we moved 4 years ago, we got satellite TV instead of cable and they gave us 3 months of all the premium channels for free. We enjoyed the movies and after the three months, we signed up for one of the packages. Then we realized they showed the same movies over and over again and we dropped the premium service. We still get a couple hundred channels and have plenty to watch. If we want to watch a new release, we either get it via Pay Per View or visit the movie rental place; the cost is about the same either way. We pop our own popcorn, drink our own sodas and pause the movie for potty breaks without missing the crucial climactic scene. ;-)
6. Sell your clutter. I made several hundred dollars at my last garage sale. Even if you don't want to mess with a sale, itemize what you need to get rid off, donate it to charity and take the tax deduction.
7. Avoid going out with high-roller friends because you'll be tempted to spend just like they do. There is a huge difference between the high cost of living and the cost of high living.
8. Analyze the expenses your credit card or checking account statement and look at where you spend the most money. Then try to avoid those stores. I'm bad about going to Walmart for a loaf of bread and coming out with $50 worth of stuff I don't really need. But oh, they had these cute placemats on sale or they had Christmas cards for 75% off. A sale is only a bargain if it's something you really need. The 75% off cards aren't really a good deal if you already have a dozen other boxes in the closet back home. It's very easy to bargain yourself right out of money.
9. Sign up for free rewards programs wherever you shop. I have one at the drugstore where I get my prescriptions filled. Last week they gave me a coupon worth $7.50 in free merchandise plus one worth $3 off my next prescription. The prescriptions are money I’d have spent anyway; the coupons are an added bonus. Lots of stores have programs like this.
10. And a final group of various and sundry tips: Comparison shop for big items, avoid impulse buying, use cloth cleaning rags and napkins instead of paper towels and napkins, cancel magazine, newspaper and other subscriptions that you don't read or use, turn down your thermostat, weatherize your house, change the furnace filters monthly, map out your errands to use less gasoline, bottle your own water, carpool and/or use public transportation when possible and plan ahead (like the $1 jeans and $5 shoes). Keep a list of gift-giving occasions in your purse and when you see the perfect birthday gift for your August-born sister on sale for 80% off after Christmas, go ahead and purchase it instead of waiting until the first of August and paying full price for something.
I realize you may not be able to do all these. You may not work outside the home, so brown bag lunch savings don't apply. Or like me, your area may not have public transportation and you have to drive. But I'd be willing to bet you could squeeze the cost of the national conference somewhere out of this list.
Got a tip I didn't mention? Share it with us please. One lucky commenter will win a book from my stash.
The Playfriends are participating in an online auction to aid a homeless teen and her mom. You can get more info about the auction here and see what we've donated here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
It's a quandary, I tell ya. One I've struggled with all day, and I've started and deleted many possible topics. While what follows is a huge departure from what y'all have probably come to expect from me on this blog, it's something I really want to say.
In fourth grade, I was bussed 45-minutes across town in an attempt to bring a Louisiana school into line with integration requirements. I was the only white child in my class, and one of only a dozen overall in the school. I went to junior and senior high in downtown Birmingham, just a stone's throw from Kelly Ingram Park (where Bull Conner turned dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators) and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I was hired by United Negro College Fund during their fundraiser one year, and I taught at a Historically Black College. I know how those experiences make me feel about what's happening in DC today.
Monday, January 19, 2009
FYI: For those interested, Drama Queen now has one pink cast and one black splint and is doing much better! Thanks for everyone’s well wishes.
I thought we could talk books today, so I could rave about some of my recent keepers additions. I stumbled across 2 new paranormal authors at the bookstore on one of those rare days when I actually got to browse. Both of the covers caught my eye and the back cover blurbs sealed the deal. Luckily for me, they both lived up to expectations.
This series is about a group of vampires called the “Breed.” I found it very emotionally stirring and different from the common vampire lore. BTW, I’m seeing a lot of the split color covers at the bookstore and love them! Can't wait to read more in this series, of which I believe there are 5 now.
Frank is a new-to-me author, and her writing reminds me a lot of historical authors, though these books are contemporaries. Lots of narrative, description and internal dialogue. She isn’t afraid to let her characters think, which I love. This is part of her first series, which I’m now working my way through, about Demons. But they aren’t what we consider demons, they are actually elementals. I’d never encountered this term until I read a friend’s paranormal story and enjoyed this dip into something different. After finishing NOAH, I’m now reading the first in this series, JACOB.
Anna Campbell is our featured interview on the Playground this month, and you might recall we had her on the blog not too long ago. This is her third book and just as emotionally satisfying as the first two. Her characters go way beyond the stereotypical, and I love watching her peel back the layers as we get to know them. Loved this one too!
So that’s what I’ve been reading lately. What books are you totally engrossed in at the moment? What are you loving about them? Found any new authors lately?
PS. Our own Problem Child is blogging over at the Pink Hearts Society today. If you have time, head over there and give her a shout out.
PPS. The Playfriends are participating in an online auction in aid of a homeless teen and her mother. It begins today. We’re offering a bag of books and some chick bath goodies. Check it out here.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Then there are a couple of items that just stay on the list. Things I just want to do more of all the time. One of those items is to see more concerts. There's just something about seeing a live performance, feeling the energy of the crowd... its nothing like watching it on TV or listening to the CD. There is a short list of people I'd like to see in concert. These aren't just casual whims - these are groups I've followed for years. Worshipped. Adored. Must sees. The list includes R.E.M., Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, Bryan Adams, Metallica, and Simon & Garfunkel.
I've had the good fortune to be able to cross Duran Duran (although when I saw them, John Taylor was not a member, so I may need to see them again) and Bon Jovi off the list. I missed the boat on Simon & Garfunkel when they toured about 5 or 6 years ago. Tickets were ungodly expensive - and rightfully so. Hell will probably freeze over before I get the chance to see them.
That leaves R.E.M., Aerosmith, Bryan Adams and Metallica. R.E.M. was in Atlanta last year on Little Sister's birthday. I missed her birthday the year before to go to Scotland, so my guilt got the best of me. I went to Chuck E. Cheese instead. I'll have to watch for them to tour again soon. Aerosmith isn't touring right now. Metallica isn't coming anywhere close by this year and I refused to camp three days without showering to see them at Bonnaroo, even though its an hour from my house.
Ahh...but that leaves Bryan. My wonderful Bryan who hardly ever tours in the US. I fell in love with him in 1987 (yeah, I was 8) back when he did tour here, but by the time I was old enough, he'd abandoned me for the UK. Oh, he'd do the occasional Madison Square Gardens concert, but a 17 yr old girl in Vegas couldn't get there. Years I've waited! More recently he's started touring more, but still never anywhere near me. This last summer, he was in Memphis and I was tempted, but the schedule didn't work out. (Why did every act I wanted to see tour last summer after I'd already coughed up the change to see Bon Jovi?)
Then on Christmas Day, DB gave me a gift. Well, actually, he flung a page of the newspaper at me across my mom's living room while I napped on the floor and said "here." (That's my baby.) On the page was information about a Bryan Adams concert in Atlanta and Nashville. Jackpot!
After much whining and complaining and coercing, I got tickets and friends to go with me! Tonight, at 8PM EST, I will be ten rows back from the stage watching Bryan Adams play his acoustic guitar and sing to me. Yes, me. And only me, by damn. One more item checked off the list!
Do you have a list of things you want to do in your lifetime? Care to share a few choice items? Any concerts or performances you just have to see before you (or they) get too old to enjoy it?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Worst Writing Advice EVAH!
Thanks for the invite to the playground! I promise to play nice (mostly) and share my toys. And advice. I will dispense that freely, both good and bad. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.
I have been writing since the dawn of time. (By that I mean, pre-Internet, which is much the same thing.) So without going into my whole pathetic road to publishing story, suffice it to say when I started writing, information and networking weren’t as easily achieved as they are now. Especially since I belonged to no writing groups and knew no one else who was writing.
So if you’re picturing me stumbling around in the dark, archaic keyboard in one hand and blindfold in the other, you’re pretty close. Being absolutely ignorant of publishing and the writing process in general, I was a sponge when it came to soaking up whatever writing advice I did happen across. Trouble was, so much of it was bad.
1) Write what you know.
Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? And rather sage. How can you write what you don’t know? Start with what you’re most familiar with. There’s just one problem.
I don’t know anything.
At least nothing others would find interesting. Now if you’re looking for tidbits on how to make dinner for seven with a chicken breast, six carrots and a box of Cheerios, I’m your gal. Or if you’re wondering how long the dog can survive in the dryer when it’s turned on, I have some experience in that area. (Don’t worry, it was on air fluff. And the culprit got dog doo-doo duty for a month.) But something interesting enough to fill a book and catch the attention of an editor? Not so much.
So I started out writing my first manuscript with this huge albatross around my neck. I wasn’t writing about what I know. I must be doomed to failure. But a funny thing happened in the course of writing that book. And the next twenty-seven. I discovered that whoever came up with that clever maxim had it backward. What’s most important is knowing what you write. And luckily in this time of the Internet, research has never been easier.
I read a lot of research books for my stories, but my best information comes from experts in the area I’m writing about. Whatever the area of interest, chances are yahoogroups has a group for it. Add message boards, chat rooms, professional online organizations and you have a wide spectrum of places to ask for expertise in various areas. My current trilogy from Silhouette Romantic Suspense involves a SWAT squad. Other than experience with my kids (tactical techniques may differ only slightly) my knowledge in that area was zilch. So I sent an email to a closed group for hostage negotiators, explained to the moderator I only needed him to post my plea for help, and received four offers from SWAT personnel around the country to answer my questions. You just have to be creative.
2) First you need an agent.
(Insert rude noise here.) Wrong! It’s all about knowing your market. Can an agent get you read faster once your manuscript hits an editor’s desk? Perhaps. But is having an agent going to make the editor predisposed to buy your work? Not so much.
I sold twenty-five books to Silhouette without an agent. For category, agents are not necessary. And if you’re writing single title, there are many sources of information to discover whether the house you’re targeting limits material to agented authors only. Many of them do, but there are several that don’t. I received six invitations to submit my single title project before I signed with an agent. I needed her to negotiate my eventual contract. And I worship her for the lucrative deal she got me by selling my foreign rights to Germany. But I didn’t need an agent to get my manuscript in front of an editor.
3) You can’t do that in xxxx genre.
Most of those rules and regulations others tell you about don’t exist. Voice is important. Mechanics are a must. But take it from someone who has had heroines who are assassins, heroes who are criminals, foreign heroes, characters who are artists and musicians, a lot of the no-no’s you hear about for storyline are not true. As Silhouette’s Leslie Wainger is found of saying, it’s all in the execution. Now there are a few no-brainers. If it’s a romance, there has to be a happily-ever-after. You can’t throw your hero/heroine under a bus. Or if you do, they have to survive with most of their body parts intact.
4) You need (insert phrase of your choice) notecards, story boards, outlines, story maps, character charts—or else you’ll never get from point A to point B in your story.
The first writing conference I ever attended was the most terrifying experience of my life. I came out of every workshop feeling like a failure. Worse than that--a fraud. Somehow I’d managed to sell two books by fooling the editor into thinking I knew how to write an outline prior to beginning a story. What if they found out I didn’t have a clue? Surely they’d never buy anything from me again!
So I dutifully went home and started charting. And outlining. And I made some forms. Sometimes I even filled them out. The most liberating experience in my writing career was when I stopped trying to fool myself.
I am not a plotter.
I will never be a plotter. I no longer aspire to be a plotter, the way I no longer aspire to walk on five-inch heels. When something is painful for you, it feels great to give it up.
But don’t call me a pantser. I’m an ‘organic writer’. Don’t you love that term? It means--that’s right--I have no idea what’s going to happen between chapters four through eighteen and you know what? I’m okay with that.
There’s nothing wrong with going to those workshops and learning about other writers’ processes, as long as you remember each process is individual to the writer. Feel free to take the ideas home. Try them on. Adapt them. See if they fit. And if they don’t, toss them aside. Keep trying until you find what works for you.
So let’s dish. What was the worst advice you ever received? Or the best? I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of Terms of Engagement, book two in my Alpha Squad trilogy to one lucky commenter today!
P.S. I forgot to include earlier that Kylie has a website and also blogs on the fabulous Riding with the Top Down blog.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
We spent a week in Paris. Granted, we were on a starving student budget – youth hostel accommodations, no five-star restaurants – and there was a language barrier to overcome, but we caught a ferry from Dover with high levels of excitement.
We hated Paris. With a passion you wouldn't believe. It held the record as worst trip ever for a long time (our 30th birthday trip to New Orleans finally displaced it). I know many people think it's equivalent to heresy to hate Paris, but by day three we were on the phone home begging our parents to change our plane tickets and get us the hell out of there. (They wouldn't.) The other kids at the Youth Hostel were begging their folks for more money, claiming they were never coming home while we were at the airport six hours early for our flight just so we wouldn't miss it.
(A tangent – there's a reason the word “Hostel” and “hostile” are pronounced the same way. Staying in the one is guaranteed to make you the other.)
We haven't been back, and at this point, we don't plan to.
However, if you've ever been in my office, your confusion at my feelings for Paris would be understandable. Most people think I must have loved Paris and end up with furrowed brow when I tell them otherwise.
My collection of Eiffel Towers confuses them. It's an odd collection of Towers, and every last one of them was given to me by Counselor Shelley.
That's what friends are for, right?
Shelley, of course, has an equally as impressive collection.
It's a tradition, now, in a way. A private joke, if you will. Dog knows if anyone else gave me an Eiffel Tower anything, it would be in the Goodwill box before I even got the Thank You note written.
Last year, I gave her a four-inch, rhinestone encrusted Eiffel Tower paperweight. It was fabulously tacky. This year, though, Shelley hit a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it) with these:
Yes, Playfriends, those are hot pink toe socks with an Eiffel Tower and “Oo la la” on them. That's also a chicken you see on them, but I'm confused as to why anyone would tie a chicken to the Eiffel Tower. They're hideous, but I must wear them with proper reverence. Hey, at least they are warm (even if the toe things drive me a bit batty).
Nothing like opening a box with a beautiful cashmere sweater and horrific toe socks in it and trying to keep a straight face at the incongruity of the set.
We only torture the ones we love, right?
So are Shelley and I just weird? Anyone else give gifts just to annoy the snot out of the recipient – even if it's done with love? I think some families have traditional “bad” presents – like a fruitcake from 1984 that gets passed around. But this is different somehow. I don't get to give these socks back. I must accept them with the love and joy (and evil glee) in which they were given. I must appreciate the (evil) thought behind the gift. I must remember the (evil) shared experience.
I must start shopping for next Christmas's Eiffel Tower horror now.
Can't let Counselor Shelley think I don't love her anymore, you know.
*No offense to any French readers. I also spent a week in the Trois Vallees – Courchevel, specifically – and adored it. The fabulous food, the great people, the amazing scenery. I'd go back in a heartbeat, even though my skiing skills have not improved. It was just Paris... I didn't particularly care for Minneapolis either – but at least no one put egg on my pizza...
Monday, January 12, 2009
Needless to say, we’ve had quite a few adjustments over the weekend, not the least of which is her having to revert to baby status on all her accomplishments. The poor thing can’t eat, brush her teeth, or even scratch her nose, because the temporary casts run from mid-finger to the middle of her biceps. I’m hoping to meet with her teachers and/or principal today to discuss school options and develop a plan for that. And attempting to bathe her yesterday was not a lot of fun, let me tell you.
But even with some of the practical issues now on the To Do list, I admit to my heart catching and tears filling my eyes every time I see those casts. Deep down, I wish I could kiss it and make it all go away. Intellectually, I know this is part of life and she is handling it with a positive attitude and grace. The pride I feel in that is warming. I can’t help but think about my own mother standing by my bedside after one of several miscarriages. How much more her sadness and helplessness must have been than mine at this moment. Sniff… Uh oh, I might start crying…
So today I’m trying to make the necessary arrangements while taking care of my 8-year-old baby. Plus work that’s been waiting for me. And let’s not forget those revisions I told myself I’d tackle.
Quick, take my mind off of all of this today and tell me about your own childhood accident experiences (either yours or your child’s). Or just say anything so I will be distracted from my worry and obsessive checking on my baby.
PJ is the winner of Julia Harper's For the Love of Pete. Email Smarty Pants at firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed within 7 days may be given to someone else.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Today, the Playground is pleased to welcome author Julia Harper. We met her at a book signing at nationals this year and knew we just had to invite her to come play. Give her a warm playground welcome!
JULIA’S MOTIVATIONAL TIPS FOR THE UNMOTIVATED WRITER
OMG, it’s a new year with new deadlines and manuscripts to be written—presumably by me. I don’t know about you all, but getting my butt in the chair can be somewhat . . . problematic at times. Now, don’t get me wrong, having an actual contracted deadline does sharpen the mind wonderfully, but even that doesn’t always seem to matter on a gray January day at six o’clock in the morning. Sadly, part of being a professional writer is self-motivation, which even more sadly means you have to do it All By Yourself.
So here forthwith is a short list of Helpful Hints for Getting Your Butt in the Chair:
1. Goals: Always have a goal and—more importantly—a reward for meeting the goal. Turning in the manuscript is not a reward, it’s an obligation. A new iPhone is a reward!
2. Small Goals: Some of us have trouble thinking about writing a whole 400 page manuscript, causing us to stare at the ceiling and wonder how long it takes to get a plumbing license these days. This is the reason for Small Goals of, say, X amount of pages a day.
3. Mini Goals: Some of us have trouble thinking about even Small Goals, involving as it does an Entire Day of Writing. No TV. No internet. No going outside to play in the snow. Thus we must make Mini Goals and employ not only Rewards but Sticks as well. Such as: When I finish this page I can get a banana muffin, but until I finish this page I can’t eat anything at all and I can’t even get up to go to the bathroom so I’d better finish it before my bladder bursts. Childish, but effective.
4. Woowoo: Now I’m the most pragmatic person in the world, but even I can’t discount the Woowoo. Woowoo are the things writers use to get them in the writing groove. Like the special music you play for writing about vampires. The cardamom-scented candle that must sit exactly two inches from the upper right corner of your keyboard. It can even be the spreadsheet you created in which you detail how many hours you worked and how many pages you wrote for each day. You might think this last is high efficiency, but let’s face it: it’s Woowoo.
And there are many, many more ways of placing your butt in the chair (you can list your own in the comment section,) but I still have 1,000 words to write today and I just drank two cups of tea.
Julia is also giving away an autographed copy of her book to one lucky commenter!
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
We undecked the halls over the weekend while I still had #2 son at home to help the DH wrangle down the tree. All the ornaments, garland, candles and reindeer are packed in their storage boxes, ready to be stored away. I even managed to disassemble the lighted reindeer and put them back in the boxes they came in. It was kinda like re-folding a road map.
We shop and wrap and decorate for weeks prior to Christmas and then poof! It's all over in a day and it's time to undo it all. I enjoy decorating even if I complain about it. I put on the Christmas music and sing along as I make the house look festive.
The week after Christmas I have to figure out why the stuff I pulled out of boxes has grown and doesn't want to go back in those same boxes. I have to put away my gifts and write thank-you notes (note to self: DO THIS). The bottom line is I'm undecking the halls, putting jingle bells and good tidings back in the closet and returning to ordinary life. And while I'm doing that, I see all sorts of things that need to be done like cleaning baseboards, dusting behind large pieces of furniture and washing a door with grandbaby fingerprints all over it.
The big problem is, I have a book to finish -- a book I'm having a difficult time getting back into. It's terrible when dust seems more attractive than writing. Add in that I had doctor's appointments on Monday and yesterday (got a clean bill of health!), a haircut appointment this morning, have a coffee date with a chapter member tomorrow morning and I need to get prepared for a presentation at our RWA meeting on Saturday. It's tax time and my DH-the-accountant will want my financial records soon.
My mother's birthday is next weekend and I still haven't bought a gift for her. And the DH and I are going to the Caribbean at the end of the month and I'll need to start getting ready for that soon. I have to find where I stored the sundresses I bought in August when the stores put them on sale. I know where my passport is, thank goodness, but I need to buy sunscreen. I have a Red Hat lunch next Thursday and a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon next Friday to check the foot he operated on almost a year ago. A proofreading job landed in my lap with a deadline of January 14th. Oh... and my Golden Heart entries arrived on Monday and need to be read and judged.
How is it that the most wonderful time of the year suddenly morphs into a glittery mess that's booked solid on my calendar?
Is anyone else having trouble getting back into the swing of things?
P.S. eHarlequin has been nominated for the Best Community Blog on Weblog. We're quite partial to eHarlequin on the Playground. Once every twenty-four hours you can vote here through 4 PM CST on January 13.
P.P.S. If you've been with us for a while, you may remember the post I made in July 2007 about a remarkable baby story. Well, this family welcomed another member last night. Romance writers just love baby stories. :-)
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Don't ask me about my resolutions or goals or anything like that. I'm too focused on one thing...
The Secret Mistress Arrangement IS ON THE SHELVES!!!
Alas, my book is only on the shelves in the UK – which is very exciting to think about and contemplate, but lacks the joy of being able to go to the bookstore and see it myself (and I just can't justify a trip over right now, even if my book is on the shelves...).
Still, though, the thought of people wandering into a bookstore and picking up my book sends little giddy shivers down my spine. People are actually reading it! Paying money for it! Possibly recommending it to their friends! Okay, so the reading part does make me worry... what if they hate it?
Nope, not going there. I'm sticking with the SQUEEE-ness of it.
Because I can't be there in person to see my ink-and-paper baby, I need our overseas Honorary Playfriends to help me out. And I'm not above bribing people to do so.
I'm running a Spot the Book contest all through January – just go to your local bookstore, snap a picture of my book on the shelf (you holding my book is optional :-)) and send the photo to me at email@example.com. Be sure you tell me where you found it. On February 2, I'll randomly draw a name from all the photos submitted to receive an Amazon gift certificate. (Check my website for full details/rules.)
I've already received a couple of photos:
Spotted at Eason's bookstore in Ballymena, N. Ireland.
And at WH Smith in Norwich
Pardon me while I go squee!
P.S. I'm guest blogging today at The Wedding Belles. Please come by and say hi!
Monday, January 05, 2009
*fans self* Yummy!
Speaking of hot heroes, I’ve been immersed in the Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark Hunter series over the Christmas holidays and yesterday picked up DawnKeepers by Jessica Andersen. What sexy heroes have you been sampling recently? :)
Friday, January 02, 2009
Recently, I also played a song game on Facebook where you were supposed to set your iPod to random and type out the first lines of the first 20 songs that randomly come up. Then people are supposed to guess what song it is. It was pretty fun. Couple songs went without answers, which just goes to show I don't hang out with a Dr. Dre kind of crowd. :)
My playlist of the moment would have to include (in no particular order):
1. Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine
2. Losing My Religion by REM
3. Wakin Up in Vegas by Katy Perry
4. Stronger by Kayne West
5. Thnks fr th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy
6. Baby Got Back by Sir Mix a Lot
7. Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode
8. Brand New Lover by Dead or Alive
9. Full Moon by The Black Ghosts
10. Feel Good, Inc by The Gorillaz
Kinda schizophrenic list, I have to say. So... what's on your playlist at the moment? Say, top 5 songs? Even you don't have an iPod, just share your favorite five songs of the moment?
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Wishing you and yours a very
Happy New Year!
Love, The Playfriends
Glitter Graphics - Topglittergraphics