Friday, September 30, 2005

Screw Tops

My new favorite thing is wine with screw tops.  No, these aren’t Thunderbird or Boone’s Farm but honest-to-goodness California wines that are aged and everything.  The process for bottling wine has advanced and corking really isn’t necessary anymore.  Many wineries have abandoned cork anyway because of the price and are using synthetic variations.  But I like the screw tops.  They are easy to open and easy to store if I don’t happen to finish the bottle.

When I mentioned my admiration for these wines to my oenophile friends, they looked askance at the very idea.  They are cork snobs.  Not that I can blame them, think of a screw top and images of Ripple come to mind.  But the world changes and that which we poo-poo’d before becomes something we like.  What bothers me is that these wine drinkers aren’t going to give these vintages a chance because of their belief that only one way of bottling a wine is acceptable.

I fine we tend to be that way about reading.  Romance readers quite often categorize themselves as “historical readers” or “category readers” or “paranormal readers” and rarely leave their chosen genre.  By limiting ourselves to only one genre, we are missing out on a great deal of wonderful fiction.  Even staying in the romance genre and never straying tends to make us stale.  I’ve been trying to broaden my reading horizons and try authors and sub-genres I never had much interest in.  It’s a difficult thing.  No one wants to waste time and money on a book they are unfamiliar with, but the gems are out there.  Sometimes we need to take a chance.  Yeah, you may run into the literary equivalent of cooking wine, but it will be worth it if you find a Dom Perignon.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sunday Night Television

The only night I watch television is Sunday night.  Tori has been talking about the new season and I have to admit I am lost.  But not on Sunday night.  

First, there is Rome on HBO.  I love this show.  I’ve always had an interest in ancient Rome, add some salacious soap opera-ish details and I’m hooked.

Next is Desperate Housewives.  When this show came on last year, I turned it on because there was nothing else on.  Boy, I was devoted after the first episode.  A total guilty pleasure.

Finally, Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I don’t know too many people who enjoy this show.  Larry David is so obnoxious.  And I love it because he is.

What do these shows have in common?  They are primarily character driven.  Their success counts on the characters and the conflicts they find themselves in.  The fate of the Roman Empire rests on the machinations of its characters.  Wisteria Lane’s world revolves around the conflicts the women place themselves in, twisting their lives and those around them by how they interact.  Larry David acts out on his impulses without caring what anyone thinks of him, making the audience cringe and laugh at the same time.

I love conflict as entertainment.  I’m not much interested in crime drama, story-driven shows don’t hold my attention as much.  And I think the same goes for my reading choices.  I tend to be interested in stories with solid character conflicts, which is probably why I like reading romance.  The crux of a romance is the two characters, their conflicts and how they resolve them.  Oddly enough, it is the weakness in my writing.  I can come up with great plots and subplots, but they tend to overshadow my characters.

So with that in mind, my latest WIP is more focused on the characters and the plot is Spartan as is the subplot, enough to move the characters along and to put them in situations which will bring them together and split them apart.    It is a slower pace for me.  I’m more apt to write big, violent scenes full of action.  Now I am trying to shift that energy into my characters,  using emotional conflict in the place of heavy action.   It is much tougher to write and I think it is why I am dragging my feet.  Whereas action and violence is easy, emotion and character takes some effort and I’ve been lazy.  

I’m hoping the new season of my favorite shows inspire me to get my folks in uncomfortable situations.  Does television influence your writing in any way?  Do you see a similarity in your writing to the things you watch on television?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"The Kids aren't hurt, everyone's fine..."

...but you need to come and pick us up."

This was the phone call I received from my husband last night from his cell phone. I knew immediately that:

A) They were in a car accident and there were no injuries and
B) My blue 2004 Mustang convertible GT with only 2500 miles on it was not fine.

Hubby took the kids last night in the convertible for a ride around the lake near our house. It's a pleasant ride they go on when the weather is nice at night. Before they could get there, they were plowed into on the side by another car. Talk about a fiasco. Their accident was the result of another accident that had happened just a few minutes before. Some do-gooder decided to direct traffic by standing in my dh's lane and forced him into the other lane. The other car didn't see dh's car and nailed him good.

By the time I got there the police wouldn't let me through because the other accident had a fatality. The officer explained in a fairly antagonistic tone, that since my family wasn't hurt, they weren't a priority. I was very tempted to grab him by the throat and explain to him about MY priorities. He finally realized he was being a jerk and directed me to a spot. Another officer came over and politely told me he would find my family for me.

Anyway, my family is fine, a little shaken up but no injuries. The other car hit where my two-year-old was sitting but she was strapped into her uber-carseat and she didn't feel a thing. My car is not totaled but is definitely out of commission for a long time. It can't be driven and had to be towed. The other accident was a guy on a bicycle who decided to cross the four lane boulevard (which happens to be a part of Route 66) at 9 p.m. Not a wise choice for him, unfortunately.

It really does make you realize how fragile we are and how quickly a life can change and I just thank God my family is fine.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

But Who's Going to Read It?

Kelly talked about lacking confidence in writing today. I suffer from it, but in a different way. I'm a good writer, I feel no lack of confidence in my writing abilities, but what I worry about is whether anyone else wants to read what I've written.

The book that I've got out in submissions right now is pretty universal in appeal. It's a vampire-save the world type of story, easy to understand and the kind of story I know others enjoy. But my historical I'm not so sure.

The writing is good, but the concept is different. I know the idea is to write something new and unique, but I don't think historicals fall in the same category. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded, but I haven't read a historical lately that veered too far off a traditional plot line. My fear is my target audience isn't going to like my story.

I'm sure this is a feeling many writers feel. Is anyone but me going to enjoy this story? Am I totally in left field with this plot? Are these characters ones readers can fall for?

I guess it goes back to writing the book of your heart and hope others appreciate your vision. It is a fine line we walk as writers, trying to gauge the market and yet not compromise the soul of the story we wish to tell. I wish had an answer. I'm almost halfway through my novel and I feel committed to it. I guess I will finish it, throw it to the wolves and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Some people get Spring Fever, I get Autumn Fever. My attention wanders from the usual routine of my life and looks for other outlets, most of which are timewasters. I have no interest in writing at all. I think there are two things going on. One, this is my favorite time of year. I really enjoy fall and its accoutrements. I love the food, the holidays, the leaves changing color and the clothes. Second, after being down in the dumps for so long, I feel like I have a new lease on life and am making up for lost time. I dunno. I do know I haven't written for a week and even sitting her working on my blog is difficult. I swear, it has taken me an hour just to write this!

Anyway, I think the answer is to exercise some self-discipline and assign myself some time to write. But probably not today....

Congrats, Melissa

Melissa finaled in the Romance Junkies contest. Way to go, girlfriend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's A Good Thing

Yesterday was the premier of Martha Stewart's new t.v. show. I have to admit, I am a shameless Martha-holic. I love her magazines, her shows, etc. etc. It isn't Martha herself that captivates me although I do admire her survival skills. It is what she represents.

Martha's world is one of domestic perfection. She takes the ordinary and makes it special. Give the woman a trashbag, paperclip and a length of grosgrain ribbon and she'll make you a formal tablecloth. She sells graceful elegance, assuring me I can be a domestic goddess if I read her magazines and follow her lead. I buy it hook, line and sinker.

Mainly because it is what I want. I buy into the vision of perfection Martha is selling. My head understands that like the cover model on Vogue, it is an unattainable ideal. Have you noticed on Martha's shows they are shot through a soft lens? It hides the imperfections of both the hostess and everything else on the set. Not necessarily a bad thing, I'd love to look through life with a soft lens.

But my heart craves the lifestyle Martha has created in the glossy pages of her magazine. Funny, I think my chances of publication are higher than ever achieving the nirvana that is Marthaness.

I do what I can. Martha's tips have helped in my home, believe it or not. While I'm not going to go out there and create a spice garden or harvest rare heirloom tomatoes, I did tear out the page with tips on getting rid of stains and followed her suggestions for stocking a pantry.

As we know, even Martha's life is not perfect. She seems to be accepting of that and has used it to her advantage. Perhaps that is the true essence of Marthaness, to take what you have and use it to your advantage to make a better life.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ninja Butter

I should have known when the carseat broke yesterday morning what kind of day it was going to be.

Allison’s carseat broke when I put her back in the car after taking the kids to class.  I was so ticked.  I already dislike the carseat, this kicked it up to fatal loathing.

But not being a superstitious kind of gal, I didn’t take it as any kind of omen.  

I had the brilliant idea of cooking a turkey.  Yep, a Butterball turkey.  The grocery store had them on sale, so I thought it might be a nice change of pace.  So I put it into the oven and decided to print out my full.  Set the printer to print, did my other tasks, came back and added more paper, then went back to working on dinner.  I came back to check on my ms only to find it covering my floor like snow.  I had neglected to remove the first 200 pages off the printer and it couldn’t hold all 401, so it gave up and drop kicked my ms like a soccer ball.  I got to spend another 45 minutes putting the damned thing back into order.  

Still, saw no evil eye or bad luck.

Turkey’s cooking fine.  Gotta have mashed potatoes to go with the turkey.  So I made mashed potatoes.  I put the potatoes in the Kitchen Aid and fired it up.  I decided it needed a little butter, so I took a stick out of the freezer and plopped it into my mixer which was running at the speed of light.  HOLY CRAP!!!  That stick of butter, instead of melting into creamy buttery goodness, flew out of the mixer with the force of a comet and slammed into my head.  I swear, I had a big red splotch on my head where it hit.  It brought a bunch of potatoes with it.  I’m still cleaning up mashed potatoes.  I guess it could have been worse.  Could you imagine if I had been injured enough to go to the doctor?  Yes sir, I was assaulted by butter.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

And They're Off!!

Sent the little darlings off to school today. They were pretty excited. My daughter ended up in the same classroom this year as she did last year. Her teacher from kindergarten was given a k-1 class and she handpicked Katie to be in it. I was very happy. Her teacher is so wonderful. The teacher doesn't get her kindergarteners until the afternoon so she can spend a lot more time with her first graders in the morning (she only has 9). Katie didn't say good-bye, she ran off as soon as she got out of the car. Daniel was a bit more apprehensive. But his teacher is a new teacher. One of the moms stopped me in the hall and said she was a wonderful teacher and we are lucky to have her. That made me feel better. He has a bunch of friends in the class too so he won't feel so alone. It's very odd being home with just the toddler. Thank goodness for television. It has kept her occupied while I cleaned my kitchen floor.

A Woman of Strong Resolve...

Remember how I said I was not going to submit anymore? Yeah, that lasted a couple of hours. Querying by email is so easy and therefore so tempting. So I sent out 3 queries and got a request for a full already.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'm sorry, ms, I'm with WIP now

Got another rejection today. Not a bad one, just a form rejection (a little annoying since it was on a full. Four hundred pages and that’s all the agent can say?). Anyway, didn’t really bother me too much. At this point, I am so tired of looking and thinking about this book, my feelings were rather ambivalent. I have one more submission out there and when it gets rejected, I think I will retire the darn thing.

What are we told over and over about the time spent during submissions? Write, write, write. And that is what I have been doing. I’ve written one complete ms, nearly finished another and started a new one. While that is productive, the side affect is that my enthusiasm is for the WIP I’m currently working on, a “love the one you’re with” kind of deal. As time goes by, I find it harder and harder to focus on the other ms. I’ve been submitting it for well over a year now and like a favorite song that has been played to death, I’m tired of it. Miss Snark says a writer should give an ms a 100 rejections before giving up.

Ughhh….. I’m at maybe thirty. To get to one hundred, well, I don’t want to contemplate it.

So I’m keeping my focus on my WIP. Which brings me to a whole new dilemma. This poor story has a couple of strikes against it. One, it’s a historical, and we all know the phrases agents love to throw out about those, and two, it takes place in the mid-18th century, not a particularly vogue time period in romance these days. Jo Beverly did it a few years ago with the Malloren books, but she already was well established before she published those.

But this is the era I enjoy writing about and I like my book. Mentally, I’ve prepared myself for the flood of rejections, but the writing is good and hopefully someone will give it a shot.

Melissa made some great points in her post yesterday. She talked about taking a chance on something new and different, that perhaps this is what the historical market needs. I hope so. I remember when I first started reading romances the historicals were all over the place with regards to place and era. The tide has to turn soon, doesn’t it?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How Little I Have to Whine About

It’s another sunny day in California. Life is going on pretty much as it has all summer. I complain about the kids, the husband, the house and then I read Larissa's blog and nearly fell apart. How trite and inane my problems seem today. How totally fortunate I am to be where I am with my biggest problem being my lack of a/c today.

I’ve been in the situation where I had to evacuate and leave my home behind, wondering if I would come back to find it standing or a pile of ashes. I’ve had to decide which items could be left behind and which couldn’t. I remember sitting in my SIL’s living room realizing what treasured items I’d left behind. My eyes were glued to the television as I saw neighborhood after neighborhood go up in flames in my town and hoping mine wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, because of the courage of one of my neighbors, our neighborhood lost a tree and that was about it.

But this scenario is so much worse. I can’t even fathom the level of despair these people hit by Katrina must feel. I am at a loss as how to comprehend it. But human beings are amazingly adaptable and generous. People across the country are banding together to bring aid to the survivors. I think everyone in this country feels the loss to a certain degree. Perhaps through this tragedy the country can find a common ground and focus on the innocent lives so affected by the hurricane rather than the animosity that has plagued the nation as of late.

Anyway, to help Larissa, please head over to WriteMinded for information. Also, the American Red Cross has a simple donation form. The opportunities to help are limitless. Even the smallest donation can help.