Friday, February 27, 2009
Everyone seemed to have a good time, actually. I don't know how someone couldn't like it, to be honest. It's silly, yes, but a good silly. Sometimes I just need something like this to get my overanalyzing brain to rest for a while.
In the last post, I did this big goal oriented take based off of finding your "grail." Very motivational. This time... not so much. I'm going to talk about coconuts. Yes, coconuts. For those of you unfamiliar, they play a fairly large role in the movie and the play. At the show, they had a booth of items for sale. In NYC, I picked up a grail shirt and magnet, so this time, I wanted something different. I was tempted by the cow catapult set, but settled on coconuts. I paid $15 for two hollowed out coconut halves so I could click them together and dance around like I'm riding a horse. I know... but I did it in Scotland and I just needed them.
So now, my coconuts are going on my desk with all my other toys and motivational whatnot. (Are my coconuts a tax deduction if I use them to brainstorm?) My desk is covered with things. I have the "CREATE" sign Queen Rhonda bought me. The salt lamp and votives the Playfriends got me for my birthday. Picture frames and a motivational sign from Angel. My pirate ears from Disneyworld. A lava lamp. A chocolate RITA from the Reno conference that is probably very gross inside the silver foil. A vampire rubber duck. A couple plastic figures - Stewie from Family Guy, Pinky from Animaniacs, Strawberry Shortcake, Wish Bear... My office is a pop culture explosion. One day it will be clean enough for me to post a picture of it. Today is not that day.
So, do you keep special items on your desk? To motivate? To entertain? To procrastinate? I'm curious what you surround yourself with in your work or home office, if anything? Also interested in those of you who have to keep a clean desk to work. Baffling concept, but I hear some visual learners can't think with the clutter. As a kinestheic learner, I do better with toys...
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Refilling the well
PC reminded me that I was coming over to play today... and I was in panic mode. (Hey. This is an author who has revisions due and whose chocolate stash has been raided. Of course I was in panic mode.) What on earth was I going to talk about?
Well, I have two books out in March. I could talk about disability (the heroine of my Medical, The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal, is deaf – like me), but I’ve talked about that elsewhere. Or I could talk about gorgeous men (the hero of my Modern Heat, Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh, is Modern Heat’s very first Sheikh), but I did that last time I was here.
So I went to refill my chocolate stash. And that gave me an idea. What have I been doing, this last week? Refilling... not my chocolate stash, but my creative well.
This is an important lesson for writers – you need to take time out just to think and gather ideas, otherwise you’re heading for burnout, and that scary moment where the ‘girls in the basement’ (as I believe the fabulous Jennifer Crusie calls them) go on strike. Actually, I guess it’s like anything else: your income needs to match your outgoings. If you write a lot of books but don’t spend time doing things that inspire ideas, you’re going to end up with an empty ideas account. (And I speak as one who writes six books a year for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Rule one is to pace myself, and rule two is to take time out.)
It was half term, which I’d intended to spend with the kids anyway; and my husband took the week off with us, as he needed to use up his annual leave before the end of his holiday year. And we did things that we don’t normally get to do during the week.
We took the kids to London for the day and walked 27,000 steps (hey, I didn’t say this ‘refilling’ thing was restful, did I?) while exploring the British Museum in Bloomsbury and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. (This also involved people-watching, a fair bit of ‘what if?’ in the back of my head, and walking hand in hand with the love of my life: soppy, perhaps, but it keeps me grounded.) All the different sights and smells and sounds of a different city can be inspiring: not to mention touching a 4.5-billion-year-old meteor. How cool is that?
We also went to the beach and listened to the waves roaring onto the shore, walked along the pier and ate ice cream. (You have to eat ice cream on an English beach. Doesn’t matter if it’s winter and the wind blows straight from Siberia across the North Sea. You still have to eat ice cream.)
We went to the cinema. Admittedly, we saw a kids’ film rather than one of the dramas I’ve been itching to see since catching snippets from the Baftas, but it still left me with plenty of what-if moments.
We got up really late. (No sniggering at the back, there. I wasn’t asking my (ahem) research assistant to help me with plot points – two kids plus a dog means that THAT kind of research happens when they’re not going to walk in *g*.) So instead of getting up for the school run, I had time to read in the mornings before breakfast. Bliss. And, again, lots of lightbulb moments.
We visited bits of our home city that aren’t often open to the public, as part of the city’s first ever Dragon Festival. (I also write local history, so I admit that it was some very sneaky work. But it also gave me a few lightbulbs.)
And we played a lot of games, from Guitar Hero on the Wii through to Scrabble and Monopoly and Boggle: not competitive stuff, but spending time together, talking and laughing until our stomachs hurt.
And I’m ready to go back to work now, with the well refilled and my mind refreshed.
What’s your favourite way of refilling the well? I’m giving away a copy of The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal and Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh, and lovely Problem Child is going to select a winner from among those commenting...
Thanks for having me over to play today!
Kate’s website: http://www.katehardy.com/
Kate’s blog: http://katehardy.blogspot.com/
P.S. Playground Monitor's winner from yesterday is Claire. Send your snail mail info to PM to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed in 7 days will be re-awarded.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yesterday was Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday and today, all the good times have stopped rolling. I'm sure there was plenty of revelry in New Orleans and that some may have been just trying to forget the sad state of affairs that plagues the world today.
Stock prices have plummeted, retirees are having to return to work because their retirement accounts were stolen by fraudulent investment managers, neighborhoods are filled with foreclosed houses and newspapers have headlines every day about horrible people who do horrible things.
But today we're going to celebrate the good things that happen and I'm sharing a few good news stories I found on the web:
Susan Clancy said she is thankful to a homeless man who found and returned her wallet after it was lost on a busy Boston street on Wednesday afternoon. Clancy, 47, a labor and deliver nurse at South Shore Hospital, said she was in Boston Wednesday helping her daughter, Erin, 25, get ready for her upcoming wedding.
But Clancy's happy afternoon came to an abrupt end when she realized on her way home that her wallet was gone. She immediately knew it had fallen off her lap when she got out of a cab to give her daughter a hug. Frantically, she called her daughter to go back to the intersection to look for it.
"I was hoping it was there. It had my license, my debit card, credit cards, but no cash," she said.
But when Erin Clancy got back to the intersection, the wallet wasn't there. She asked a homeless man if he had seen a wallet, and he said he had. The man pulled the small wallet from his pocket, but he wouldn't give it to the woman right away.
"He said he couldn't just give it to her, and she wouldn't want him to do that if it was her wallet. So he asked for the name on the ID, and she told him my name," Susan Clancy said.
The man said he planned to turn the wallet and its contents in to a local shelter.
Erin Clancy gave the man all the cash she had -- $8.
Susan Clancy regrets not knowing the man's name, but said his honesty has changed the way she perceives people living on the street.
Against all the odds, a golden retriever is back home in Washington State, USA, six months after going missing.
The dog, named Buck, fled from his owners last summer after being scared by a train whistle. The seven-year-old retriever survived despite apparently spending most of the winter exposed to heavy snow and temperatures well below zero.
He was finally found taking refuge under a collapsed building, by the kindly residents of rural north-central Montana. "I've never had a miracle happen to me," said owner Kim Halter, explaining that she, her husband and two of their sons were on a family trip to Montana in August when they stopped at a rest stop in the small town of Chester.
After two days of searching in vain, the brokenhearted family continued on their way. Other than put up posters appealing for information, there was little more they could do.It was about 27 degrees below zero the stray dog was spotted on a family farm just north of Chester. He was coaxed with food and kept safely until he could be returned to his owners.Recalling the appeal, the finders called Buck's owners and e-mailed them three pictures.
Confirmation that the dog had an underbite sent the Halters on a 750-mile trip through the night. "He ran right up to us and it was absolutely without a doubt him," Kim said. "It was a miracle. He looked at us and we looked at him and we were all crying. It was beyond amazing. I tell ya one thing, he hasn't stopped smiling since he got home and neither have we."
And in a follow-up to the story of Sam the koala...
From the devastating events of Australia's deadliest wildfires has emerged a heart-warming tale of two koalas who have formed a close bond after being rescued from the flames.
A bewildered female koala, since nicknamed Sam, was found by a firefighter cowering in a burned-out forest at Mirboo North, 90 miles southeast of Melbourne.
After reaching a wildlife shelter Sam met and befriended another koala, nicknamed Bob, who was saved by wildlife workers in Boolarra, about 110 miles from Melbourne.Sam was taken to the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson. Colleen Wood, who runs the shelter, said both koalas were doing well while other animals like possums, kangaroos, and wallabies were also starting to emerge from the debris.
Sam suffered second degree burns to her paws and will take seven to eight months to recover while Bob had three burned paws with third degree burns and should be well enough to return to the bush in about four months."They keep putting their arms around each other and giving each other hugs. They really have made friends and it is quite beautiful to see after all this," Caroline said.
Didn't all those stories make you smile? Good, because smiling makes you more attractive, changes your mood and is contagious. It relieves stress, boosts your immune system and lowers your blood pressure.
Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for the sense of well-being. A smile is a legal, natural and effective drug. Smiling makes your face look younger without the cost of a face lift.
Smiling people are perceived to be more successful, are considered more approachable and are more likely to be promoted at work.
Smiling also helps you stay positive. It's hard to think negative thoughts with a big smile on your face. When I worked in customer service, I attended a seminar on dealing with people. The instructor told us to keep a small mirror at our desks and smile into it before answering the telephone. A smile will translate through the phone lines to the person on the other end.
Heard any good news lately? Please share it with the Playground gang and I'll pick one commenter to win a book from my stash and some yummy Valentine candy I picked up for half price. That made me smile. **g**
P.S. If you glance at the sidebar you'll see that the last time I updated my progress meter I was at 50510 words. I've been writing the past two weeks and am proud to unveil my total as of last night. I'm getting ready to round third base and head into home.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Forget the porn; that place is a complete time suck. You click over to watch the video of your cousin’s kid singing in the church choir and an hour later, you’re watching videos of cats on record players spinning around.
You don’t mean to, but you do.
I’d managed to avoid YouTube for the most part. I never wandered over without a reason – a direct link to what I needed to watch. To be honest, I never thought to look there for the any of the hundred thousand “must watch” videos everyone was talking about.
Then, one day it happened. I clicked off a blog link to YouTube to see something I’d never heard of before: people mixing scenes from TV shows with music to make their own music videos.
Like this one:
Or this (Probably not safe for work):
Since then, I’ve killed hours on YouTube – hours I’ll never get back – watching these stupid music videos. They’re oddly addictive. I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I loved Buffy and Spike’s relationship, but why did I spend so much time watching it be rehashed over and over again to everything from “Addicted” to “Glory of Love”?
And, dear dog, the hours spent with Star Trek: Voyager videos..
Then there are the videos where the makers take scenes and manage to put them together to tell a completely different story line. Ever wanted to see Buffy and Xander fall in love, fight, break up and make up? There’s a video about that – even though it never happened on the show – thanks to the magic of clever editing. Really clever editing can put characters from two different TV shows together in torrid relationships.
I thought PhotoShop was bad at distorting reality – movie editing software is really scary stuff.
So I’ve wasted hours of my life watching these videos – and I’ve only seen a fraction of what’s out there. But what amazes me is the amount of time someone had to put into these videos. Three minutes of video – properly edited, synced to the music, lots of cool effects – must take hours and hours to produce. Just searching the DVDs for the perfect one second clip to put right there at the big cymbal crash could take hours. And some of these folks make dozens or hundreds of these videos.
Where do they find the time? Trust me, I don’t ask that question lightly. I’ve had too many people ask me that question about writing. I know the correct answer is “You make the time.” Call me a cynic or whatever, but there’s no way I’d spend that amount of time doing something (that dances on the edge of copyright infringement to begin with) and then post it on YouTube for free.
Am I missing something? Am I too selfish? Too greedy? Too stingy with my time? If any of our blog readers does something like this – recut trailers, make music videos, heck, run an unofficial fan site (one of those big ones that are obviously labor-intensive) please let me know. I feel like I’m missing a piece of a puzzle.
Alternately, you could all confess your guilty pleasure internet time-sucks and make me feel a little bit better.
***Don't forget: The (Modern) Heat Up Your Winter Contest ends on Saturday. If you haven't entered, now's the time! Click on the icon in the sidebar --------over there----------->> for info on how to enter!
Monday, February 23, 2009
As I write this I’m in position at the local library, gearing up for a marathon effort of editing/revising/rewriting my draft into a workable, almost submittable beast. I have my barest writing essentials with me, I’ve a warm jersey on (because I get very cold sitting for so long), my hair is tied up out of the way and the file is open.
I always think of this moment as like being in the last hut, three quarters of the way up the mountain and about to make the final push for the summit.
The hardest part is to follow, it always takes longer than you think it will, but you know the view from the top is going to be worth it. I’m full of excitement, adrenalin and fear.
It’s the fear that sees me refilling my water bottle a couple of times, lining up my pen, mobile and mini thesaurus up perfectly next to me laptop on the otherwise clear table.
I’m at the point of no return – this book is going to be finished this weekend – sure it’ll have some more polish, but really, this is it.
There is nothing like the feeling of relief and achievement when you finish a book. And there is nothing like the sense of satisfaction when you’ve put in a seriously hard effort – a long stint of concentration on a solo creative endeavour. It is something that really makes me happy. It is one of the most rewarding things about writing and a reason why I’m so glad it has become my job.
It took me a long time to find a job that I get this sort of satisfaction from and finding a rewarding career is a theme that comes up in my books fairly often. Yes I want my heroine to get her man, but I want her to have a job that she loves as well. Both my current releases feature heroines still finding the path that they’re happiest on – and the heroes in each help (although sometimes it feel like hindering) them in that quest.
So what if he’s loaded and she maybe wouldn’t have to work? She still needs her creative outlet, her sense of self worth/dignity, her own achievement and satisfaction. There’s nothing like setting a challenge and then going for it and getting it – I want my heroines to have that feeling.
Of course, despite the big push, this book won’t really be finished. After some more polish I’ll have to send it to my editor who’ll probably say I went up the wrong face of the mountain, that she’ll give me a lift back to the hut and I’m to try it from another angle this time. But that’s ok. Because when I’ve conquered the mountain once, I know I can go back and do it again (unless there’s an avalanche – that’s when the lovely editor swings into action with a S&R team and a shovel – and maybe a St Bernard will come along with some seriously strong liquid in his barrel to see me through the worst!)
But enough of the mountain metaphor, you know what I mean anyway right? Is it the same for you? Does writing give you that sense of satisfaction? Do you get that kind of exhausted ‘high’ after fifty hours fierce concentration? Does losing yourself in your work and creating a whole other world fill you with joy?
I really hope so – because getting that feeling makes the other stuff (that fear and sweat and stuff) all worthwhile.
With very best wishes,
Visit Natalie at www.natalie-anderson.com
Friday, February 20, 2009
1. I'm all about instant gratification. I won't lie. I want it now. Now, now, now! I'm like a 2-year-old that way, sometimes, although I try to keep it to myself for the part. I don't get that whole 'sweeter with time' stuff. The only thing that gets better with time is wine. I just get grumpier with time.
2. I don't like to fail. Failure is usually not an option for me. It's one of my greatest fears (up there with clowns, puppets and insects/aliens that burrow under your skin). If there's any question about my ability to succeed (aka. a burning desire to be a ballerina), I simply don't do it. I'm very competitive and I don't like getting spanked at something. That's why I stick primarily to mental activities and not physical ones. I'll take calculus over softball anyday.
On their own, these things are managable. Together, they make certain parts of my life - those that require time, hard work and dedication - very difficult. Primarily they hit me the hardest in two big areas - my writing and my weight.
I am in a constant struggle with both. I want to sell now. I want to write quickly and well, the words flowing like water. I want to come up with the next great idea immediately and have it go to auction. Yeah, I know. It will never happen. This is a sllllloooooowwww business. And a hard one. If not for the adamant voices in my head that insist I continue despite the speed and potential for failure, I would happily return to engineering or open a catering business and let all this go.
And of course, those pesky pounds that snuck up on me while I wasn't looking. I want to diet and see results. Immediately. I want the pill or the magic food combinations that will have me dropping 5 pounds a week so I can finish this and return to my regularly scheduled programming. Of course, it doesn't really work that way. Its another long, slow process that requires dedication and this terrible thing called a 'lifestyle change.' Bleh.
So this is where I am. I've been forced to battle both issues at a pace I cannot set. All I can do is go one day at a time. I've been writing maybe five pages a day during the week. Knocking out a couple chapters every two weeks or so. Slow, but discernible progress. When I look at how many pages I've done, I'm actually quite pleased. Same with the diet. I've been eating well, exercising more than I ever have, and I'm seeing results. Good results. Steady, positive movement down.
The speed is killing me, but I'm sticking with it because eventually I will get where I want to go. I'm the tortoise, baby, with the soul of a hare. What are you impatient for? Are you battling with anything lately?
The winner from last week's post is Laurie. She picked up an autographed copy of Blazing Bedtime Stories, featuring Rhonda Nelson. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail info. Items not claimed after 7 days will be given away, or maybe kept, depending on how I feel. How's that for a disclaimer??
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Yes, he is rather cute, and he did have problems when he was born and was being bottle fed for a little while. But when the, grumble, grumble, grumble, did my house turn into the barn?!?
I laughed the situation off the first time I was sitting in my bed and heard a commotion in the hallway. I couldn't help but grin and groan when Zilla and Sweet Pea came tromping into the room behind this gangly, adorable thing. The most important people in my life were so excited and thought it was so funny. How could I not smile too? Until he peed on my carpet. But I nicely said, "The goat belongs outside."
The problem is that Winston now thinks he's a person. Or that Zilla is his mama (which is kinda funny in and of itself). The goat follows behind him, as in if Zilla takes on step backwards Winston would be crushed. And that's how the little devil got into my house, over and over and over again. No one could shut the door fast enough before he just bounded up the stairs and was in the kitchen. Sigh.
Being the mean and wicked woman that I am I finally had to make an edict. Barn animals stay in the barn! For the moment my house is goat free. We did just put him back outside with his mama and the other goats. However, in barely two days he's managed to get into the pasture with the donkey and almost get crushed twice. I'm a little worried that my peace and quite won't be lasting for long. We lost one baby already this year and we really don't want to lose another because he can't stay on his side of the fence.
I think maybe Winston has an adventurous streak that's going to repeatedly get him in trouble. Winston is definitely too staid a name for this goat. Got anything else we can call him?
P.S. The winner of Susan Gable's The Pregnancy Test Passalong from Monday is M. Contact Angel within 7 days with your snail mail address at email@example.com.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Friend – verb – to add someone to your Facebook community.
Facebook is a free website used to network people by various factors such as location, school or workplace among others. Members can add friends, send them messages, post about themselves and create photo albums to share. Facebook was founded in 2004 by a Harvard student. Membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but later expanded to include other Boston and Ivy League colleges as well as Stanford University. It later expanded again to include any university student, then brought in high school students and now is open pretty much worldwide to anyone over the age of 13. Today Facebook has 150 million active users.
It has been blocked from time to time in Syria and Iran, and is blocked by many workplaces to increase worker productivity. Duh. If I were the boss, I'd block it too.
I joined Facebook on September 8, 2008 and to date I have 284 friends. I have a few requests outstanding so maybe I'll hit 300 soon. I tried to find out who has the most friends on Facebook but couldn't find anything definitive. I mean, it's not like "He who has the most Facebook friends wins" or anything. I also belong to some groups including one for the elementary school I attended, I have a corkboard with some Flair and I enjoy playing 52 Pickup to help Save the Planet.
I started thinking about my Facebook friends and came up with ten kinds of friends on my list:
1. My husband
2. My boys and daughter-in-law
3. Family such as nieces and nephews and my daughter-in-law's mother and sister
4. People I went to school with in elementary and high school and in college
5. Writers and their friends -- we're a very friendly lot
6. Former business associates
7. People from message boards and Yahoo loops I belong to
8. Friends' spouses
9. Small world friends
10. Friends who are the result of keen detective work
I'll tell stories about 9 and 10. A while back I added the mother of one of the groomsmen in my son's wedding. Mostly we just see what's going on in each other's lives. But yesterday a woman with a very familiar name commented on groomsman's mother's site. I messaged her and asked if she was so and so, and she was. Our boys all attended the same elementary school and were in Cub Scouts together. She knows groomsman's mom through club work. And interestingly enough, the familiar name moved a number of years ago and lives within two miles of me now. Small world, huh?
In the keen detective work arena, one day I was just typing in surnames of people I'd known and got a hit on a woman I believed was the daughter of a high school chum. I messaged her and asked if she was so-and-so's daughter and if so, would she pass my email to her mother. A couple days later I got an email from the mother who just signed up for Facebook a day or so ago.
I typed in another name of a couple we were in Germany with. They had twin girls names X and Y. I got a hit on a young woman named X and in her friends list was a woman named Y. I messaged her, explained who I was and she emailed me back with her mother's email address but with the caveat her mother was out of the country for ten days. I honestly forgot about emailing her until I wrote this blog yesterday afternoon. I dashed off an email and two hours later she replied with "Hi Marilyn!!! How exciting to hear from you after all these years! I must get on Facebook, clearly it's THE thing to do." She filled me in on what has happened with her and her family in the 28 years since we've seen each other.
Sometimes you have to dig a little, but if you're lucky, you can find the daughter of someone from your childhood neighborhood, the girl who trimmed you hair in the dorm at college and catch up with the boy you took to the Sadie Hawkins dance in ninth grade who now owns a large pharmaceutical company and got an $8,000,000 salary package in 2007.
Of course, I should be working on the WIP, and I have been, but one particular chapter has been a real bear and while I'm sorting through plot points and POV in my head, I'm dabbling with Facebook. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Do you use Facebook? Have you had any small world or keen detective experiences?
P.S. I am nearly finished with chapter 10 of the WIP, which leaves one chapter to go. Yay!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
1) I will never understand the allure of Star Wars. Any of the Star Wars.
2) There's very little the Playfriends can't figure out, organize, or handle when we put our heads together.
3) First chapters suck.
4) There's always something else on the To Do list
5) It's not enough to read a contract – you actually need to understand it.
6) Platypuses are venomous.
7) The plural of platypus really is platypuses (not platypi).
8) Writers avoiding their WIPs will happily engage in spirited and complicated email exchanges for amusing purposes.
9) I will never be able to read all the books I want to.
10) I really need to lose ten pounds.
11) This time I mean it
12) I have no willpower.
13) My friend Jean makes awesome toffee.
14) School will always be canceled on the day you have to accomplish something.
15) There is way too much crap in my office.
16.) My groove thang just doesn't shake like it used to.
So, have you learned anything recently you'd like to share with the rest of us?
Monday, February 16, 2009
Yesterday, at our local chapter meeting, I got to hear our wonderful Mavens (Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones, and Beverly Barton) answer questions on anything and everything we wanted to know about writing and publishing.
Being the generous women and professionals they are, they answered over fifty questions about this crazy pursuit of passion called Being an Author. But at the end of the day, I came away with only 2 words written on my notepad. I can’t remember which one even said it, maybe Beverly, but the 2 words I took home with me were:
There were many other lessons that I soaked up like a sponge, but this is what resonated with me in that moment, mostly because the ticking clock in my head has turned up its volume exponentially. I’m not sure why, but I think it is because:
1. I turn 35 this year. Though I’ve never had any qualms about birthdays before this, for some reason 35 is bothering me, making me realize there are several things in my life I had wanted to accomplish by now that don’t seem any closer than they did 2 or 3 years ago. Establishing a career writing romance is one of those things. I seem no closer now than I have in the past, despite years of hard work.
2. All those “years” of hard work are adding up. I started my first book when Drama Queen was almost 3. Soon, she’ll be 9. I’ve been submitting for publication for 4 years and have completed 5 books. Less time than some people had to put in, but more than others.
I’m admitting here that I’ve been discouraged. After all, writing is hard, no matter how much you love it. It takes time away from my family and money out of pocket for dues, submissions, and conferences. But after listening to the discussions going on around me at our meeting, I know I’m where I belong. Despite the seeming lack of forward progress lately, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my spare time but creating stories. Okay, on the occasional bad day, even cleaning house tempts me to walk away from the book, but…
So no more wallowing in discouragement! Let’s talk today about perseverance and keeping the motivation high. What are your secrets to going the distance, whether your goal is publishing your first book, losing those last ten pounds, or getting that dream job?
P.S. When author Susan Gable visited us on the blog, she graciously chose me as the winner of her book. Upon receiving it, I realized I’d already read (and loved) it. So today I’m going to pass it along to introduce someone else to this wonderful story, The Pregnancy Test. Simply comment to enter!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Whenever tragedy strikes, we need stories of hope and survival to counteract the loss.
For many, the story was the koala named Sam:
But you know where else you can find stories of hope and survival?
Yep. In books. Me, I'm partial to romance to help escape bad news and find a little rest for my brain when it's about to overload. But any book will do.
So I'm very happy to announce that the *other* RWA -- Romance Writers of Australia -- is organizing a book drive to serve the communities destroyed by fire.
Now, granted, books aren't the first and foremost need right this very second. If you want to help feed and shelter people who have lost their homes, the Australian Red Cross will take your donation online and put your money to work. The Australian RSPCA will also take online donations to help care for the animals who were injured and displaced by the fires.
But we're all readers here, and we know there are plenty of people who could use an escape from the reality of the situation by losing themselves in a book. Plenty of people who want to curl up with their children and just read to them. But with libraries destroyed and purchasing books low on anyone's list of priorities, there's only one good way to get books back into the hands of the people.
And that's a book drive.
So hurrah to the RWA for stepping in. They're collecting new and like-new books -- romance (of course), children's, all genre fiction ... anything, basically. RWA will collect, sort and box up the books, and see that they're delivered to community/neighborhood centers and libraries where they're needed. (Feel free to include a note, or, if you wrote the book, sign it!)
Mail your books to:
RWA Bushfire Book Appeal
c/-89 Rennie St.
Thornbury, VIC 3071
And here's a Valentine treat for everyone: Harlequin is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, and they're giving away ebooks to celebrate -- 16 ebooks! Just visit www.harlequincelebrates.com and click on the titles you want. They'll download immediately.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of my favorite movies. Right up there with Monty Python and the Playfriends know how giddy that makes me. And I don't like it because its a good movie. Its terrible, really. But it has that cult staying power, which is what I really enjoy. Funny lines you can repeat, silly songs, dances, costumes! Love it all. I've seen it at least thirty times, so I didn't feel like a virgin. I'd just only ever seen it in the relative safety of my own home. No place ever did it in the theater when I could go. If they had, like PC, I would've been out there in my Magenta costume having elbow sex every weekend.
And yet, they never did. So here I was... almost 30. And still a virgin. Sigh...
Before the movie starts, there's typically a costume contest and other activities including... The Sacrifice. All the virgins are turned in by their former friends and marched to the front of the theater to be initiated. What happens next is a closely guarded secret. Closely guarded enough that I worked very hard to get drunk in advance. I'd heard rumors from various virgins. No way I was going through that sober.
So, I overimbibed and my sacrifice was relatively painless. At that point, brain surgery without anesthesia would've been pretty painless, too. I really need to buy one of those pony and jigger things. Just pouring tequila into my little drink container was a bad idea. I started drinking about 45 minutes before the movie started and by the time rice started flying... and that was 5 minutes into it... I was high as a kite.
I figured, well, I'll be sober in 2 hours when this is over. Usually works that way. Not this time. I had gone beyond my normal intake. I remember watching the movie. Throwing cards and toast. Snapping gloves. Ringing bells. But its a surreal blur otherwise. I'm glad PC said I wasn't annoying because I wouldn't know if I was. Actually had no idea my flashlight was out for too long. Everyone just yells and sings and I had no clue what was going on. I was hiding under my newspaper shooting people with my watergun.
Then, it was all over. Riff Raff and Magenta blasted the house off to Transylvania and it was time for me to stand up. Whoa. Let's try that again. Hmm... still drunk. Way drunk. Can't find my shoe drunk. PC got to drive my car home. We considered a late night run to Denny's, but I was too far gone. There was no amount of waffles going to save me at this point. I was just a late night restaurant scene waiting to happen (and crazy drunks always end up at the Denny's) and needed to just pass out somewhere and sleep it off. Besides, even drunk, I was concerned about using too many WW points - my tequila was even mixed with sugar free Hawaiian punch. Sick, I know.
So we just went back to her place. PC gave me water, fed me toast and (apparently) took a picture of me, which I did not seem to mind at the time. Then the ultimate shame - sleeping on her couch. I just know DG got up early for church that morning and caught me passed out, mouth wide open in tequila induced snoring. (Hopefully he will be polite enough not to comment either way.)
Oh, the horror! Oh, the racoon-eyed shame of it all! When my eyes pried open, AC was watching me, a grin on her face and a (*gasp*) microphone in her hand from her Hannah Montana karaoke game. Thank the heavens PC took it from her and shooed her away. I wasn't outright hung over, but I didn't want to find out the hard way if I was. I quickly gathered my things and shuffled home as though I'd woken up in some guy's apartment after a one night stand I didn't remember.
So that's it... the story of losing my RHPS virginity. If it ever pops up in town again, I'm there, sans tequila, ready to sacrifice other virgins with ghoulish glee. Now, for suffering through my story, there is a reward! Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! In celebration, I'm giving away a copy of Blazing Bedtime Stories autographed by Rhonda Nelson. To enter, comment! Wish us a Happy Valentine's Day, share a RHPS experience, a too-much-tequila experience... It's all good. :)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It's entirely possible that I should let Smarty Pants (who I want to thank from the bottom of my heart) tell you guys about the...err joys of working with me on this project. But, she's liable to gloss over a few of my more obstinate moments so I'll do it.
I think, and I'm just guessing, that I was probably one of her most difficult clients. And actually - I probably shouldn't admit this - this is the 2nd site she's designed for me. The first one was never loaded into the Internet because I corrupted the files and couldn't figure out how to get it uploaded. And by the time I admitted that to her I was bored with the theme. But she graciously agreed to start from scratch with me.
And we started from scratch...two, three times? I can't even remember now. I made her do a swoopy thing at the top of the header - something that apparently is very difficult to do - and then decided I didn't like it. She had precisely placed all of the words perfectly but I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would. There was a picture I wanted...and it wouldn't fit with the swoop. So I asked her to start again and she did without saying a word about all the hard work she'd done going straight down the drain.
Then there was the night we spent, an hour maybe, sending files back and forth trying to find just the right shade of brown. I'm sure she thought the first two or three would have worked fine. In fact, I think maybe I went back to one of those colors after making her put a whole bunch more onto the site. And I just would not let the rose petals across the bottom of the page die even though it was over a month before we found a graphic that trail correctly across the bottom.
And through it all, Smarty Pants didn't even roll her eyes at me. Well...I don't think she did (as I couldn't actually see her while we were talking by email and msn). At the end of the day, I love my site. And I hope you guys like it to. And now I need ideas for making Smarty Pants forgive me for my stubbornness...anyone got a good one they'd like to share?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
You may remember that I participated in National Novel Writing Month back in November. And on November 29, I hit the 50,000 word mark. NaNoWriMo was one of the most rewarding things I've ever taken part in (I think labor and delivery rates a little higher). It was also intense and exhausting (kinda like L&D too).
After I hit that 50K mark, I shut down my laptop, put it in my car and walked through the shopping center where the Barnes and Noble was. They'd decorated for Christmas and the air was clean and crisp. I looked down and my feet were on the ground but it sure felt like I was floating.
Then came December 1st and I woke up sick with a cold. It took me a good ten days to recuperate from that. And then of course I had to do some serious Christmas shopping, wrapping and mailing. The house needed to be decorated and I had a couple parties to attend. And somewhere along the way, the WIP fell by the wayside.
"I'll get back to it in January," I said. But first I had to un-deck the halls. Then I had my yearly physical. My hair needed a cut and I made a visit to the orthopedic surgeon who operated on my foot last year. And because the DH and I were taking a vacation the last week of the month, I had to get ready for that. And there went January.
"February 1st," I said. "I'm going back into NaNo mode on February 1st. Well, on the 1st we were still flying back from Curacao because the airline changed their schedule. And on February 2nd I woke up with another cold. With my head and chest full of congestion, I could barely think, much less create.
But on Monday of this week, I pulled out the manuscript, opened the files on my computer and made all the corrections my sister had noted when she read the chapters back in November. That got me back into the story and I'm happy to say I'm back in the NaNo saddle again. It's not always smooth riding. Sometimes the characters buck like the horse in the photo above. I hang on for dear life and see where they take me. Sometimes I end up on my arse in the dust, but other times I hear the eight-second buzzer and know I've survived the ride.
This writing rodeo is not a moment too soon because eHarlequin is having an editor pitch session for the line I'd planned to submit this book to. I have to have a finished manuscript by March 4th. That's the deadline for sending in my one-page single-spaced synopsis to enter the contest. On March 9th they'll announce five finalists, and those five will chat with the editor in the eHarlequin chat room on March 12. Keep your fingers crossed for me, pardners.
Motivation -- that's what drove me to write 50,000 words during November and that's what's driving me to finish the damn book. Lord only knows how many other folks I'll be competing against, but I know one thing for sure: if I don't enter, I stand absolutely no chance of finaling.
I'll keep you posted on my progress, and y'all keep nagging me to write. You, our readers, will be my accountability partners. I certainly don't want to disappoint you, and I know you'll be wonderful with your
What motivates you to do whatever it is you do? In case I get tired of being thrown on my fanny, I could use some good ideas.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In my youth, I was a “regular Frankie fan”; I've seen the movie 40+ times, only giving it up when I moved to Knoxville for college and no one showed it (can you believe in a college town no one showed RHPS? How crazy is that?). After my initial withdrawal pangs, I settled into a grown-up life where I didn't hurl rice at strangers and shout the word “a**hole” every time someone said the name Brad. I also reached the age where the thought of something beginning at midnight was insane.
But when Smarty Pants announced she'd seen an advert for a midnight showing of Rocky in town, I was more than willing to go with her. See, SP was a Rocky virgin, and I got a little kick out of the idea of initiating her into something that would be right up her weird alley.
We even dressed up for the event – I'd say we did a pretty good job, considering how I only gave SP 24 hours notice she'd need a costume. Unconventional Conventionists, at your service, ready to Time Warp again.
I think SP will blog on Friday about her experience (aided and muddied by tequila as it was...), but I had a BLAST. Granted, the last time I saw Rocky I wasn't old enough to drink, so it's been a while. I was worried I wouldn't remember any of the lines – the remarks you shout at the screen – but most of them came back to me once the music started. It wasn't my old crowd, so some folks had different call-backs at different times, but it nice to hear other lines from other places. Probably half of the audience in attendance were virgins, so there were some etiquette problems that annoyed me, but I tried to shrug it off. After all, we were all virgins once, and enthusiasm shouldn't be squashed unmercifully. (Even if they were terribly annoying.) Plus, without a large group of regulars, it's difficult for the virgins to learn how to behave :-)
I will say that SP was not an annoying virgin. She did very well, even if she wouldn't turn off her flashlight when we told her too, and hearing her giggle at some of the lines warmed the cockles of my heart. (Ask any Playfriend – getting SP giddy enough to giggle is something we all aim for and relish when it happens.) And I think if Rocky had a regular showing around here, she'd be willing to aim for a Rocky “Slut” status.
There would be a small problem with that for me though – the whole “midnight showing” thing. Honestly, I'm too freaking old to Time Warp until 3 am. I was worthless most of the day Sunday. On most nights, 11 pm is my bedtime – I'm sound asleep by midnight, and 3 am is only something I see if AC has a nightmare. Regular Rocky showings would kill me, and I'd be torn between the doing the Time Warp and being a functioning human being.
But, gosh, it was fun. Talk about a time warp – I felt underage again. Thinner, less wrinkly, too. It was a nice stress-reliever as well – shouting profanity at a movie screen is oddly cathartic. Go figure.
Any other Rocky fans on the Playground? Could you do midnight showings? Anything from your youth you revisited recently?
Monday, February 09, 2009
I hate the change that comes with any kind of electronic shake-up, so I’d been dreading our proposed transfer to a new internet and cable provider last week. I had a good reason to want to put it off. When we moved last year, I found myself without internet service for over a week. My personal idea of h*ll, as you can well imagine.
Dreading a repeat of the week-long outage (because we know nothing ever goes smoothly with these situations), we planned ahead. We didn’t cut off our old service until the changeover occurred, which helped a lot, but there was still an abundance of things to deal with.
For instance, I’m amazed at how many accounts I have with my email address on them. All my Yahoo groups had to be changed over individually (“You have HOW MANY?” my husband asked.). Then there are the accounts I made for my children, using my email address so I could police them. I still haven't gotten around to changing those over. Sigh…
And before the advice starts flowing in, yes, I changed everything over to a gmail account so I don’t have to do this again. Then I had to wait for my husband to help me integrate gmail with my Outlook program. Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!
It’s just all so tedious and takes up copious amounts of time I could be doing something important, like, say, writing. And like with most computer troubles—if it works right the first time, great. If something goes wrong, well, heaven help us. I’ve spent time on the phone several times with the Help Line and the hubby has yet to figure out why the wireless network won’t connect. Thank heaven for him, though, because I would have given up relatively quickly. He’s an electronics nut, so he isn’t going to stop until his Xbox is properly downloading from the wireless network. Heaven bless him.
So, tell me about your latest or greatest electronic troubles. And don’t even get me started on Mercury Retrograde… something always goes wrong around here then.
Friday, February 06, 2009
One thing I haven't managed to come up with is a lucky charm. I just don't have one. I'm not much on writing supersitions, or at least, I haven't been able to connect any thin threads that tell me X = success. I have tried. PM gave us all magic mojo beads for NaNoWriMo. They're hanging from the book light on my desk at home. Not sure if they worked or not. I write at work a lot of the time, for one thing, and two, I never wore them. Maybe I had to wear them. I don't know. I did okay, hit my goal even if I didn't hit the 50k.
But I don't have an actual lucky charm. No pink polka dot underwear that I have to wear to agent appointments. No little troll figure I have to rub after I mail off a manuscript. No special candle I have to light in order to write. Some people have charms built into their process. I'd say Instigators conference table might be considered lucky since she has to lay on it in order to write.
So the question is... how do you go about geting a lucky charm? Is there a store in the mall where I can pick up one? Do you have a lucky charm of your own? How did it come about? I'm exceedingly curious. I need all the luck I can get and will stoop to ridiculous levels to get it at this point...
Thursday, February 05, 2009
It probably wouldn't be so bad except that I've been dealing with quarterly tax reports, year end tax reports, W-2s, 1099s....all for my day job as well. I think if I see another report containing a string of numbers my eyes are going to permanently cross. I am going to be so happy when April 15th rolls around and I can put this behind me until next year.
The question then becomes, what do taxes and the Superbowl have in common? Nothing really...except a commercial. One that I kinda liked. While seeing death make an accountant sweat was a little funny, that commercial wasn't my favorite. The Doritos crystal ball commercial was. It was brilliant - and apparently the winner of a contest. The spot - reportedly produced for around $2000 - has earned the brothers who made the commercial one million dollars. But they weren't the only ones to win, Doritos sure scored big with one of the most talked about spots from the game.
Always a staple of the big game, Budweiser didn't disappoint either. Their spot featuring a Clydesdale fetching a tree branch in order to earn a treat was a close second for me. But what was really amusing was the separation at my sister's house during the game. The boys were upstairs watching the game while the girls stayed downstairs hushing the children every time the commercials came on. The game was dang good! And I really did enjoy watching it. But the commercials are the highlight of the game for me.
Do you have any tax stories to share? Are you neck deep in numbers? Or did you watch the Superbowl? Do you have a favorite commercial?
P.S. Susan picked Angel as the winner of her book. Please contact her with your snail mail info to claim your book.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Fight for What You Love
"Never Give up, Never Surrender!"
That's a quote from one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest. (I'm a Star Trek fan from way back, so I find Galaxy Quest to be hysterical.)
But it's sound advice for any writer. This is a crazy business we're in. The road is not just long and winding, but it goes up and down like a roller coaster.
Everybody pays their dues at some point. And just because you're selling today doesn't mean you'll be selling tomorrow.
I sold pretty quickly. The second manuscript I wrote, the first submission I made to Superromance, sold. People hate you for stuff like that.
People hate you for that kind of stuff, too.
But, we all find our speedbumps. Our walls. Our stop signs. We all do fall on our face at some point.
I had some issues selling my fourth book, but after I sold my fourth book, I hit that wall. We had some editor changes at the line. And I could not sell another book to save my life.
Talk about disheartening. Discouraging. Talk about completely losing faith in my own abilities as a writer. We writers all struggle with doubt demons, but getting into a situation like that – or like not managing to sell your first book, for that matter – will bring those demons out in force.
I reached a point where I told people that I'd had way more faith in myself before I'd sold my first book than I did then. I actually wrestle with the doubt demons to this day.
This business is so subjective. That's what I want you to understand. That's what *I* need to remember and understand. What one person (reader, agent, editor) hates, another loves. Proof of this point is my new book that's coming out this month, A Kid to the Rescue.
You see, this book was rejected back when I was in my "can't sell to save my life" ditch. This very same book. After it was rejected, we had another change of staff at my line. Friends asked me if I was going to submit something to the new senior. Well...I was in a ditch. I thought I had given up writing for good, to tell you the truth. (Waving the white flag of surrender!
And in the end, she bought it. Same author, same EXACT proposal, for the same exact line, that had been previously rejected.
It seems fitting that the hero's motto in this new book is "Fight for what you love," and that's the lesson the heroine had to learn. And so did I. In this business, you have to fight for what you love. That doesn't mean being obnoxious when you get a rejection. You have to be professional at all times. But it does mean never giving up. It means going on even when you think the battle is lost. Giving up because we're afraid we're going to get hurt again is the easy way out.
Never give up. Never surrender. Fight the good fight. Or as another of my characters, the heroine from my Golden Heart ms was fond of saying, "Lace up your boots tighter and carry on." If you fall on your face, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in it.
Believe in yourself. In your talent. In your ability to tell a story.
Because the next one, the next (agent, editor, story) could be "The One."
Have you ever hit that wall? How do you keep going? Do you have any stories about the subjectivity of the business? Share them! How about questions? I used to be an elementary teacher, so I love questions.
Susan Gable has sold five books to Harlequin's Superromance line. Her books have been Rita and Golden Heart Finalists, she's been a Waldenbooks Bestseller, been twice nominated for Romantic Time's Best Superromance of the Year, and she's won numerous other awards, including the National Readers' Choice Award. Her next book, A Kid to the Rescue, got 4.5 Stars and a Top Pick from RT. It hits shelves on Feb. 10th, and is the story of a heroine who assumes custody of her nephew after the little boy witnesses his father murder his mother. The hero, a comic book artist who's also an art therapist, brings hope and laughter to their lives, along with love. And he teaches both aunt and child to fight for what they love. Visit Susan's website: http://www.susangable.com/
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
I have Caller ID, and I don't answer unless I recognize the number. (Which, as we all know, is how I missed my Call from my editor..sigh). Recently, I started seeing a number appear repeatedly on the Caller ID, but they never left a message. Out of curiosity, I Googled the number and found that it belongs to a debt collection agency – one with a whole lot of complaints about them.
Debt collectors have a job to do – I do understand that – but this company seems to be one of those companies that collect “Zombie Debt” – debt that has long been dropped from your credit report or that was cleared under bankruptcy proceedings. The company buys up the rights to those old debts for pennies on the dollar then sets out to harass people into repaying the money.
Now, I'm not going to get into the argument about people paying their debts, etc, etc. What's important here is that I know I don't have any outstanding debts. My credit report is clean, thankyouverymuch. But I'm tired of hearing the phone ring, the answering machine picking up, and then a dial tone all day long. It really breaks my concentration. It was time to put a stop to this. I figured once they knew they had the wrong number, it would be over.
I was wrong. Very wrong. The conversation went something like this:
Zombie Debt Collector: “May I speak to John Doe”
Problem Child: “You have the wrong number.” (I've never even heard of John Doe.)
ZDC: “Are you sure.”
PC: “Very.” (Unless there's someone living in my house I'm unaware of...)
ZDC: “Well, he gave us this number as a contact number.”
PC: “I can't help you. Sorry.”
ZDC: “Can you give him a message?”
PC: “No, because I don't know who he is.”
ZDC: “Well, who is this?”
PC: (Starting to lose patience.) “The person who actually owns this number.”
ZDC: “It's very important we speak to him about a private legal matter.”
PC: “There's no one here by that name. I don't know anyone by that name. I can't help you. Please stop calling here.”
ZDC: “Tell John to call ...”
PC: “I can't give a message to a person I don't know. Please don't call here again. Good bye.”
Although I was irritated, I tried to remain polite. But as the ZDC kept talking I finally just hung up the phone. It was over, so I went back to the WIP.
They called three more times. I finally blocked the number.
But it didn't end there. I started getting calls from another number, but this time they left messages. Now, my answering machine very clearly says, “You've reached PC, DG, and AC. Please leave a message.” (Notice how it does not mention the name John Doe.)
The messages start like this: “This message is for John Doe. By continuing to listen to this message you acknowledge you are John Doe.”
Excuse me? By pressing PLAY on my answering machine, I'm agreeing I'm someone I'm not? How exactly does *that* work? It's the equivalent to the Spam in my inbox saying “By receiving this message, you acknowledge you are in need of penis enlargement supplies.”
Sigh. I know there's a form someplace online I can probably file a complaint against this company, but from the huge amount of complaints I've found, that would be a total waste of time. So, I've taken to turning off the ringer in my office. Anyone I really want to talk to has my cell phone number anyway.
(But then so do the people who want to sell me a warranty policy for a car I don't own and the people who want to lower my credit card rates. Don't get me started on what I'd like to do to companies who call me with a recorded message...)
DG often talks about the Zombie Apocalypse. I'm thinking it's here. Where can I buy a flamethrower?
Go ahead. Vent. Share your annoying phone solicitor call stories...
P.S. Playground Monitor realized she didn't pick a winner from her January 21st blog and will rectify that right now. Robertsonreads is the winner. Please email Playground Monitor with your name and mailing address and she'll get your prize to you.