Friday, July 29, 2011

Status Check 2011 Goals

Back in January I made a list of goals for the year. Goals, not Resolutions: Many of us do that in January, but how often are we keeping track of them by late July? Let's see how I'm doing.

1.) Get the first two books in my BRIDES OF PROPHECY series polished enough for my agent and then ready for her to submit to publishers.

Well, I don't have the agent anymore, but I do have both novels nearly polished to my satisfaction. A few more touches (Razvan isn't smoking his pipe in book 1) and it'll be ready to go.

2.) Complete another manuscript.

W00T I did this! So far, I've completed a short story and a novella and I'm now working on book 3 of my BRIDES OF PROPHECY series.

3.)Blog at least twice a week
So far I'm doing pretty good with this. I think there was a week or 2 in there with only one post, but life happens.

4.) Have at least one awesome guest author every month

Damn, I'm not doing too well with this one. I think because my writing is interrupting with my networking but I do have a week slated in September for some awesome authors. :)

5.) Become more regular on Twitter and Facebook

I'm doing better with FB, but twitter...I'm slacking. Again, the writing...

6.) Get up to 3000 followers on Twitter

Not doing too well there either, Since January I've gone from 1370 to 1600. I'm slacking.

7.) Keep the house clean and organized.

Utter and complete FAIL! But that's just how I am. Maybe when the kids move out...

8.) Lose 20 pounds...and get my tummy looking good again

Ehhh, I think I've lost about 10's hard to tell. Don't marry an Italian, especially one who cooks. That is all.

9.) Learn how to use a sewing machine to make/ repair clothes.

Nope, nothing there. It was my husband's idea, but since he's now moved on to making bamboo fishing rods, I think it's a lost cause.

10.) Keep my marriage healthy, happy, and full of passion.

I think we're doing good there!

11.) Become a better mother.

I dunno...but at least I haven't become a worse one.

12.) Get a tattoo...or 2.

LOOK! Isn't it lovely?

It's almost done healing and it itches like crazy.

How are you doing on your goals for the year? Successes, failures?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monster Project

As you can see, the progress bar for the loosely titled: Queen of Prophecy is already at 50%. That's not completely accurate since the thing only shows word count.

Allow me to explain:

This novel was actually the 1st one I ever wrote. I started it at 15 and finished it at 18. At 20, I finally got a computer and typed it up. I queried it a little and earned some well-deserved rejections. At 21, my 1st marriage ended (No surprise there) and I stashed away the floppy discs, forgetting about it for the most part while I dealt with that crisis. Eventually, that story and many others came back to me, and I realized 2 things about my 1st novel.

1.) That story was not the beginning. A bunch of other stuff happened first...2 books worth, to be exact.

2.) That story was to "BIG" for a beginning writer. To achieve the level of awesome it's capable of, I needed way more knowledge and writing experience. Ironically, I ran into the same issue with what is now Book 1, WRENCHING FATE. But now I think I have it solved.

Now that the 1st two books in the series are completed, I'm finally ready to tackle this monster of a project. I'd tinkered with it 2 years back (Hence the 40K already complete) Out of a 100K original draft, only 40K was worth salvaging. I can only chuckle, knowing I shall likely cut a bunch more before I'm finished.

Most of it will likely have to be started over from scratch, yet instead of dismay, I am excited...and a little daunted.

Have any of you had a "Monster Project" like this? How did you handle the situation? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Writer's Work Week

Much of the world begins their work week on Monday. I try to do the same. It works easier during the school year. The kids leave in the morning and I crack my knuckles and attack the keyboard. In the summer, it's a little more difficult. I have children underfoot and twice as much housework. Still, a writer needs stability.

Some Mondays I manage to get an impressive outpouring of productivity. I manage to get my blog post in, meet my writing or editing goal for the day and even slip in some valuable social networking.

Other times, however, I'm overwhelmed with errands and other "real world" drama and get nothing done. Or there's the times where I'm either sucked into a good book or distracted by the usual plethora of diversions on the web.

This seems to ruin my week. It seems if I don't accomplish something on Monday, it sets a pattern for the rest of the week. I then find myself working on the weekends and generally bumming people out with my grumpy determination to ignore the fun and keep my nose to the grindstone.

On the other hand, if I do too much on Monday, I get tempted to slack off on other days, thus falling into the same trap.

How about you? When do you start your work week and what are the benefits or pitfalls?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recipe: Japanese Pickled Cucumbers


Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds

Peel and half cucumbers.
Using a spoon, scoop out seeds then slice the cucumber halves.
Place cucumber slices in a bowl.
Pour in enough rice vinegar to reach halfway to the top of the cucumbers
Sprinkle a bit of sugar and salt
Drizzle w' sesame oil
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Adjust oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt, to taste.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Awwww Factor.

Last night I posted this on Facebook: "I realized Eloisa James has surpassed Judith McNaught as my other favorite historical author. She's still a tie with Virginia Henley. Not only because McNaught quit writing historical and gone to corporate guys (eww) but like Henley, James sneaks in bitchin' history lessons & she's daring.
Still, McNaught was queen of the "Aww" factor. But now I've discovered Julie Garwood for that."

The next morning, both Eloisa James and Virginia Henley responded to my post! After I was done doing the happy fan-girl dance, I realized that it would be great to do a blog post about the "Awww" Factor. I still maintain that McNaught reigned supreme with it...then again, Garwood wields that weapon formidably. 

The Awww factor is, well, anything in a story that literally makes the reader melt a little and go, "Awwwww!" It is a very difficult thing to achieve. There is a fine line between cheesy and Awww. Witness the many epic failures of dozens of romantic comedies. I have failed in at least 80% of my attempts. "This seems forced" "A farce" "Cliche" or "Flat out corny, please cut" my readers will declare. 

But every once in awhile, I succeed. There was the scene in which my autocratic rock star hero (who had just met the heroine) soothed her from a nightmare by singing her to sleep. "Awwww!" my readers responded, and I melted even more than I did during writing that scene. And there was the one in my Brides of Prophecy series...but I don't know how to describe it without revealing spoilers. 

Really, that's all I can think of off the top of my head. The "Awww" factor is THAT hard to nail. What are some of your favorite "Awww" moments, either in books or movies? What do you think makes or breaks an attempt at an "Awww" factor? Is it magic? Or is there a science to it?

Btw, I still adore Judith McNaught, hell, I named a character after her. But she did something else that really bugged me. After one of her novels is an excerpt of an awesome time-travel that I would have pawned something so I could buy and read it right away. Turns out, that book never came to be. Do you have any idea how frustrating that was?!! Oh yeah, we're all readers here. I know you do. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Since I've Found "My People."

My first years of writing seriously were incredibly lonely. Not just because I am by nature a reclusive person, but also I felt like I was cast adrift. The workings of my imagination were constantly at odds with what I knew were the rules..and worse, details I was unsure of such as whether to end certain bits of dialogue with a comma or a period or did I veer too far from the MC's POV?

When I first (and wrongly) began querying, I was even more at odds. Which agents would be a good fit? Was my query right? What was wrong with my 1st chapter? (Besides having a prologue?)

But then I found "my people:" other writers. I found them on twitter, on Querytracker, facebook, and finally in my town.

Since I've found my people, not only has my writing improved by leaps and bounds, I have gotten further than ever in my quest for publication.

Since I've found my people,

I now have a support system. With my people to cheer me on, I write ten times more than I did as a loner.

I don't feel like such a freak for my reclusive ways. Apparently, many writers are like that. When I drop off the face of the internet, they understand and welcome me back with open arms.

I now have a small fan base. Two of my best are a fellow writer who fairly drools over one of my heroes, and a reader another writer hooked me up with and now wants to read everything I write.

Since I've found my people,

I am no longer alone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Those "in-between" times.

Argh, my internet was down all day yesterday and though it was kinda nice to have a break, it felt really weird. Then again, I've been feeling weird all week. I'm now stuck in the "in between."

As you can see by my progress bars all those projects are complete. I can't start on the 2nd draft of HIS SOLO PROJECT until I hear back from my crit buddies, same deal with the 3rd draft of WRENCHING FATE only for that one I need to find people to crit it.

So now I have nothing to work on. I have 3 stories floating in my head but I'm struggling to decide whether I should start on one, or wait until summer vacation's over. The kids have been making even blogging difficult...and I am behind on my fishing.

Yet, without the writing or revising, I've felt out of touch with everything and have had trouble sleeping. I always do during the "in-between."

I know I waxed big about not agonizing over these things in my Summer Resolutions post. But I've already totally bombed #1 and # 5. :)

What do you do during the "In Between" times? Do they drive you crazy too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Romance Resource: The 5 Love Languages

So, not only did I miss yesterday's blog post, I also didn't meet my goal in completing my overhaul of BITE ME, YOUR GRACE. :( My friends and family had enough of me being Ms. Reclusive Writer and wanted me to be social this weekend, which was fine. I could get back to work on my WIP on Monday.

...But then I got heatstroke. Heatstroke! ME! I'm the one who turns blue under 70 degrees! I'm a lot better today, but I still have a splitting headache.

Anyway, on to the post.

My latest crit buddy pointed out a big issue in my MS: The hero seems to only express lust for the heroine. There was little to indicate any deep emotional connection. To deal with this, I found an awesome resource: The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman People express love in many different ways and this book breaks it down with convenient simplicity.

Here are the 5:

1.) Words of Affirmation: We all know that in most romances, the hero is often reluctant to say "I love you" until near the end of the story. Still, he could compliment her, not only on her beauty, but on her actions: i.e. "Your paintings are exquisite." "I can trust your reasoning in this matter," "Etc."

2.) Quality Time: Aside from romantic walks on the beach and sensual candlelit dinners, the hero and heroine could do some activity that is new to the other. In one of my favorite books, the heroine gets the hero to get up at the crack of dawn to go fishing. At first, he's all grumbly about it, but eventually they have a wonderful time.

3.) Receiving Gifts: To quote the book, "A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look, he was thinking of me," or "She remembered me." Flowers and jewelry are often in romance novels, but it's the unique ones that resonate more. I got all melty when a hero from one of my stories presents the heroine with her favorite book.

4.) Acts of Service: In WRENCHING FATE, my heroine repairs the hero's car. Her justification is that she likes working on cars, but the pleasure she gets from his gratitude leads me to believe her intentions went deeper. Later, the hero gets her mentor a lawyer so he can get out on parole a little sooner than expected.

5.) Physical Touch: This is usually the most prominent Love Language in the romance genre, I know it's one in mine. But think how many non-sexual touches convey love. Anything from a friendly hug to holding hands can strengthen your characters' bond.

This book can be a priceless resource in your work.

What is your hero's "Love Language?" What is your heroine's. How do these conflict and how can they blend?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Rerun: On Genre Bending

If the TV stations can get away with reruns in the summer, I can too. :) I'm buried in revisions at the moment, so I hope you enjoy this older post. 

For years I have been working on and off on a series that breaks so many genre rules that it isn't even funny. In the first book, most of the characters are between ages 17 and 19, which apparently is a no-no for adult romance, but I can't make it YA because they are older in subsequent books. So far I'm gonna call it an urban fantasy, though I don't know how well that'll end up working because eventually the series really begins to lean towards straight fantasy. Either way, there is a love story within every one.

This got me to thinking of other authors that broke the genre rules and made new genres. Laurell K. Hamilton, Lillith Saint Crow, and others pioneered Urban Fantasy. Amanda Ashley, Maggie Shayne, and more started paranormal romance.

Right now I'm reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and damn, it breaks a lot of rules. I love that it is similar to mine in that it blends urban fantasy with straight fantasy. Not only that, but the fourth novel, WIZARD AND GLASS, completely interrupts the storyline and is all back story. (I have mixed feelings about that one.) All over the place are connections to his other books, as if every story he wrote is part of an interlinked web.

Once you ignore that King is labelled a horror author, it is hard to nail down the genres of some of his stories. The Shawshank Redemption and The Body, to name a few are literary fiction, in my opinion. Really, where would The Dark Tower novels fit if they weren't written by a horror author? Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? Science Fiction? Is it a dystopian? How the hell would one query such an oddball series?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I no longer have an agent, but maybe that's okay.

For those of you who haven't yet heard, Tribe Literary Agency is no more. The agent closed shop due to family obligations. For a few of the clients, this was an unpleasant surprise, but for others, like myself, it was a good thing because we'd already sent out "intent to terminate" letters and thus no longer have to wait 30 days to get back in the game.

Instead of launching into a vitriolic rant about my experience with this agency, I've decided to share the positive things I got out of it.

1.) I'm cured of the "I MUST HAVE AN AGENT NOW" fever. There seems to be a persisting attitude online that you're nothing without an agent. Those who have one seem to be held in higher esteem. They often have more followers on Twitter, their blogs get more traffic, etc. It seems they have it all, and the thrill when their book sells is vicariously exciting.

Once I had an agent, it seemed there was a huge empty spot in my life that had been taken up by querying and stalking my inbox. I dedicated that time to what should have been priority #1: focusing on my writing and perfecting my craft. I ended up fixing a previously broken novel and completing another, along with 2 short stories and a novella.

2.) I made a lot of new friends. Part of what drew me to the agent in the first place was the awesome bond she helped form between her authors. When she quit, that closeness remained and we were able to comfort each other.

3.) The manuscript being "shopped" was not the best way to launch my career with a big house. BITE ME, YOUR GRACE is a historical paranormal. It's a really fun book, but the problem is, I don't have any more historicals at the moment. That would have been awkward, had I landed a multi-book deal.

4.) My manuscript wasn't really ready. I recently won a critique from the awesome Ashley March and she pointed out a bunch of stuff that needed fixed. On the bright side, there was nothing wrong with the story or the flow, so it'll be an easy fix.

So, what am I going to do now?

For starters, I am NOT going to rush straight into hunting for an agent. I am going to step back and really do my homework.

While I polish up my urban fantasy romance series, I am going to shop my novella and short stories to get more credentials. I may even find a home for BITE ME, YOUR GRACE. It's such a fun book and a lot of people loved it. It feels wrong to let it die because of my poor decisions.

In the end, I think I'm going to be okay. I think I came out of this experience stronger than ever. I would like to give special thanks to those who were with me through all my doubts and turmoil. I wouldn't have made it out as well without you.