Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Just Write Challenge

Whatever your writing goal, you can meet it with the help of the Just Write Challenge. Your fellow challengers will offer you support and motivation on your writing journey.
For the new year friend Melissa came up with a plan to jump start her writing and she is inviting all to join her. For January, she is encouraging writers to set up their goals. The real challenge begins in February. If you are looking for a challenge or simply need to get back into the writing swing of things, check out the Just Write Challenge.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Girl of 100 Lists

Christmas is over, the decorations have been stored away and my two month hiatus from real life has come to an end. As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I am not sorry to see it go. I don't understand how people can continue to leave decorations up after the new year, it seems so depressing. Ah well, my house is pretty much Christmas clear and my thoughts move on to the new year.

Usually this is a time to think of changes I want to make in my life. I ponder my existence and come up with a list of goals I desperately wish to achieve during the coming year. My resolutions run from the mundane to the extordinary. Most of them are pretty common. Very few of them are ever completed. They are lofty and lack any forethought on how I plan to accomplish them.

My problem is that my goals come from my heart and not my head. They are as substantial to me as unicorns and sparkly fairy dust. If I were ambitous, I would sit down and devise a strategy for each of my goals, map out a plan and follow it. Unfortunately, I'm not that ambitious.

I'm a list maker. I like lists. I have all sorts of lists on my computer. I like to be told what to do, even if I'm the order-giver. I can follow my own instructions as long as they are simple and written out. Eventually I internalize my list and it becomes a good habit. For example, I can't leave the house if my bed isn't made. Making my bed was on my to do list for so long, I finally just did it without thought.

So I only have one resolution this year. I'm going to make lists. Before I got to bed I'm going to make sure my lists are made out and in order. While its not a sure-fire way of accomplishing everything, it doesn't take much thought or heart to get something done.

Oh, and bonus points if you know where the title of this post came from.

Currently Reading:

Monday, December 29, 2008

If You Are a Writer Living in the L.A. Area.....

This is from my local chapter. Thought it was pretty interesting...

We want to get you read

Now is the time to work on that story idea sitting in your head or in that file box.

East Valley Authors (EVA), the West Covina chapter of RWA is offering you a chance to complete your manuscript and have it read by an agent or editor.

We are sponsoring a “Book in a Year” campaign.

Staring January 3rd each monthly meeting will sequentially focus on the process of completing a book.

Any manuscript started in January or February 2009 and completed by January 2010 will be sent directly to an agent or editor without you having to do a query letter.

To participate you must
1. Be an active member of both RWA and EVA
2. Attend six of the monthly meetings and six of the critique groups that meet after the general meeting.
3. Have no more than one full chapter completed before the Jan. 3rd start date and have the story finished by January 31, 2010. (You may start in either January or February).

We are inviting you to participate.

EVA membership is Membership is $15.00 per year and $1.00 per meeting. The first meeting is free. EVA meets at the Barnes and Noble in the West Covina Mall the first Saturday of every month at 10:15.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad Reading Habits

I dogear books. I bend them until the spine cracks. I lose the jackets of my hardbacks. The pages of the books I read are usually sprinkled with cookie crumbs or blotched with spaghetti sauce. The tell-tale warp of the pages reveals my penchant for drinking beverages when I read. None of this really bothers me (if the book is borrowed, I'm far more careful...or I borrow books from people with the same habits). I do something worse.

When I was a kid I loved getting the T.V. Guide and reading ahead to find out what happened the next week on my favorite shows. I was never satisfied waiting until the next week to find out what was going to happen. What new fantasy would Mr. Rourke provide on Fantasy Island? Would Gopher get a date on Love Boat? And lets not get into the soaps. I remember sneaking peaks through the soap magazines at the grocery store to find out what was going to happen to Bo and Hope.

I'm just as bad with books. I always catch myself going to the last page. Usually it doesn't mean much. The hero and heroine have generally ironed out their differences and author rewards us with a light epilogue which gives us a glimpse at the love birds. But I take it a step further. I read random pages, trying to get a preview of what lies ahead. It's such a habit I don't notice it anymore. I love to be in the know. And I'm curious. With the "Twilight" series I was desperate to hear how it all ended, however, I didn't really care for the first book. The thought of plodding through all of them didn't appeal. Luckily my son got peer-pressured into reading them and he gave me the cliff notes version.

Am I the only what that does this? What bad reading habits do you have?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Most Busiest Time of the Year

Just when I thought I was out, the Toys R Us ad appears and pulls me back in.

If you have multiple children of sentient age, you understand the issue of balance in this gift-giving season. They know exactly how many gifts each has gotten and will claim "unfair" if those numbers differ. Quantity rather than quality is the issue. Doesn't matter what totally awesome toy they recieve, they will whine if their sibling gets more. So I've been running around with my list trying to make sure things are even without going into extreme debt. Of course, the days I have done this have been rainy and cold. Nothing like freeway driving in a icy rain storm with wind advisories, but my children are so worth it. Oops, better not roll my eyes too much or they might get stuck.

Anyway, yesterday was my crowning glory and, I think, the end of my shopping for the kids. Now I need to finish shopping for my husband. This is where I get irritated. I get coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond for 20% off of one item. Okay, there are three items I wanted so I have to keep going back to the store to get these items. Now there are other things I want there but I'm not going to waste my coupon on them. However, if the coupon extended to the entire purchase, I would spend a lot more. Heck, even 15%. So I will be making my third trip to BB&B today. And only buying one item.

I enjoy so much of the holiday season but too much of it is spent running. Yesterday I was carting Girl Scouts around in the rain to do Christmas caroling and while the girls had fun it was hectic. I've got teacher gifts to buy still and cookies to bake. Mind you, I love making cookies, but not when it is hurried.

But I'm taking a time out this evening. My hubby and I scored some free tickets to see "Australia." My folks are taking the kids and hubby and I get an evening to ourselves, a small break in the chaos of the next week. I'm not that interested in the movie, but the thought of down time without the bustle of everything else seems like Nirvana to me.

Have you found this season to be stressful? What do you do to relax?

Currently Reading:

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I can see my WIP, a minimized window on my computer, opened to the spot I last wrote. All I need to do is click and the pages will blossom before my eyes. And yet it doesn't move. I switch to email. I go to Facebook. I look up cookie recipes. Eventually I get out of my chair and do some laundry or dishes. I watch television or play a computer game. Anything but maximizing my document and writing.

Its avoidance. I know it, no reason to deny it. I have plenty of excuses as to why I can't write at the moment. Too many other things to do. Life is too busy to devote to my writing. I'm sure these concepts are familiar to most of you. The excuses may differ but avoidance is still the end result.

What am I avoiding? Well, my book is nearing its end. Truly, I could probably finish in a couple of weeks and take another week to edit and polish. In no time it would be ready to submit to my agent. But there's the rub.

Dark visions fill my head. I'm dream of sending it to my agent and hearing "gee, I didn't know your six year old could type. She does a pretty good job. Oh, I'm sorry, you wrote this? Easy mistake." Or maybe she loves it and can't wait to sell it and again I hear from editors that they just don't love it enough or they don't know where to put it in their lines, yada yada yada. And with the gloomy news about the economics of publishing, only people named Nora Roberts or Stephen King are going to get published.

Before I got an agent, I was pretty oblivious to things. I wrote the book I wanted without worrying whether someone was going to like it. The apple was so far up the tree I could only dream about it. Now I have an agent and I have a stepladder to get to that apple. The goal is within my grasp but darn if there isn't a stiff wind blowing the branch away from me. I think I'm more pessimistic about my writing than I was before. The dream isn't nearly so golden anymore.

Oh, I haven't quit writing. I will finish this book and I will submit it. Despite my bleak view, I still believe in dreams of publication. I'm a writer and I enjoy writing. I also believe in my work. And like the lottery, you can't win unless you play. I won't have any chance of publication if I don't submit. And in the scope of things, there are worse things in life than rejection.

How hard do you take rejection? Does it hinder your writing?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Shopping

Last Friday my son's jr. high had a fund raiser at the local B&N the other night. I came with list in hand. There were several romances I wanted to pick up along with a couple of fantasies and a mystery.

I was doomed to disappointment.

This is a big store, fairly new that serves an area of about 300K people. Its always busy and well-laid out. I like shopping there. However, the romance section was dismal, unless all you wanted to buy was Nora Roberts. I don't have anything against Nora but the shelves were full of nothing but her, as well as the other big time NYT-listers. The variety was so weak, I didn't find any of the authors I was looking for. The shelves were filled with multiple copies the big authors' books. Not even a full catalog of their works. I felt like I was in the book section of a grocery store. I've seen better variety at Wal-Mart. The fantasy section where I tend to spend more of my time of late, was filled with variety. Lots and lots of different authors shared space with the big names. The mystery aisle was the same. And the children and teens' sections boasted a cornucopia of books.

Next time I'm down there I'm going to ask the manager about the meager offerings in romance. I'd love to know the reason. Why is the biggest selling genre given the least presence? I could start on a rant about the fact it is a genre written by and for women, but I won't. Maybe this Barnes and Noble fancies itself a high-toned and above the smut of romance. However, considering the number of books they carry which are based on MMORPG video games, I don't think that's it either. Most romance readers I know are voracious and they are looking for variety. They are constantly in the search of new authors, eager to hear a new voice. Anyway, it made me happy for Amazon.

Currently Reading: Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab, Dhampir, Book 1)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Diva the Jock

Saturday was soccer, soccer, soccer. My daughter had a game at 10 a.m. then another at 3:45. My husband ref'd at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. then a 1 p.m. game for another division. My daughter's team won both games so we play again next week. If rumors are true, we could be playing through January.

As you can imagine, I have mixed feelings. I'm really thrilled my daughter's team is doing so well. They are a great group of girls and they play well as a team. Its fun to cheer her own and I get caught up in the excitement. On the other hand, I do miss my Saturdays.

This is my first experience with this level of kids' sports. I wasn't much of a jock as a kid. I played softball for a few years but it was always pretty limited. Once your season was over, it was over and I was never good enough to extend my play. By 5th grade I wasn't into sports at all. My stepson was in baseball briefly and Supernerd did baseball and soccer for a few years. He really wasn't into it but we made him do it to keep him active. He's glad now because he can at least swing a bat in p.e. and understands the basics of soccer. But like his mom, he's a book worm and far more content at home with his laptop.

Diva is the opposite. She is a jock. It's tough to get her to sit down and read. She can read just fine, but she doesn't enjoy it like I do. She gets impatient with her friends when they come over and want to play video games when she wants to go outside and ride bikes or skateboards. This weekend I caught her asking her dad about the football game on television. When he gets home from work she demands he take her to the batting cages. The motion is constant.

It is odd having a child like this. Its good, I enjoy it, but sometimes it makes me dizzy.

For those of you with kids, do you have a child who is the opposite of you in interest and skills? For those who don't have kids, are you the opposite of your parents?

Currently Reading: Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab, Dhampir, Book 1)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dead Mouse, Dead Rat

First, before plunging into a post I wanted to congratulate the NaNoWriMo winners. Awesome job. Kelly and Joely are true inspirations. For those of us who didn't win, hey, there is always next year. I got about 23K words before I totally lost focus. I was actually on pace to win but I couldn't keep up the momentum. But I was pleased with what I did. It felt nice to write something strictly for myself without any real eye to the market. However, it was frustrating to realize that if I had worked on my real WIP, I'd have been done in three weeks. I have less than 30K left to write on my book. Ah well...

So over the Thanksgiving weekend we decided to look for the Christmas decorations. We have a storage unit and thought they were there and that they had been mistakenly taken by someone using the space so it seemed prudent to search for what we did have. Hubby opened the attic and swearing immediately ensued. He found a monster dead rat in a rat trap. Since the remodel we have had rats in our attic. Not a bad infestation but certainly one I'm concerned about. Luckily the nights have been chilly and ratty hadn't decomposed to the point of absolute gore so he was pretty easy to dispose of. But we decided to empty the attic. It will be easier for the pest control guy to block up the access. We did find our missing decorations (oops!) an a lot of other stuff.

Oddly enough we emptied the attic last year for the remodel but I didn't have a chance to really look through the stuff. Found some real treasures. I forgot I had a postcard collection. I found a tee shirt from when I worked at Mervyns. It said "Mervyns Super Saturday" on the front and "Open, Open, Open" on the back. Does anyone remember that ad? Anyway, that's a keepsake. There were little mementos from when I got married and a time capsule I did back in jr. high. There was lots of stuff I felt very little connection to. I'm not one to get lost in sentimentality. But one thing I did find was my writing from high school. Ouch. Over 150 pages of handwritten schlock. It was a historical (I think) and just painful to read. It made me smile.

It reminded me of why I'm a writer. In those sloppy words, I found the roots of my madness. There is a certain rough beauty in the prose. I was so obviously determined in my writing yet oblivious in its content. But I could see why I was writing. I loved it with abandon. There was a poorly conceived world on those pages which pulled me in and set the course for the rest of my life. I'm glad I got a chance to revisit that moment in time. I didn't keep it out. It is the past and it belongs with the past. I boxed it back up with the other symbols of my faraway youth. But I do think it is important to take a look back from time to time and see where you've come from. Its a good reminder of why we are who we are today.

Speakings of memories, do you remember life without computer mice? I remember getting my first mouse for my 386 computer back in 1993. It was cheap, only about $10 with the little rubber ball that had to have a mouse pad. Now I have cordless mice for my laptop. The damn thing died. But I had another one, roughly the same age and that died too. I was sans mouse. I do have a touch pad on my laptop, but I can't stand it. I know some people are artists with a touch pad, but not me. Anyway, I found myself totally at a loss. I barely used my computer for almost a week. How could I become so dependent on such a puny little device? I have a sexy little red number made by Microsoft. I'm hoping this cordless mouse will last longer than my Logitechs.

Are you mouse-dependent?

Currently Reading: The Hunger Games

Friday, November 14, 2008

He's Back!!!

Bond, James Bond will once again grace the screen with his presence. This will only be the second movie I will have seen this year at the theater. I don't go to the movies too often, I don't like crowds or the costs or the fact there isn't a bathroom right next to me. But I make exceptions and Bond is one of those.

Quantum of Solace has been getting hit with some bad reviews. Apparently the critics feel there is too much action and not enough plot. Really? In a James Bond movie? Folks, I'm not looking for Atonement here. I'm looking for larger than life action. I'm looking for bombs exploding. I'm looking for adreline-pumping chases through exotic locales. I'm looking for Daniel Craig to do a significant amount of scenes shirtless. If I want plot and deep characters, I'll read a book.

I've pretty much liked most of the Bond movies with a few exceptions. Some I have loved and would consider my favorite movies all around. James Bond is a character we live through vicariously. I think that is why there is so much debate as to who was the best Bond. Bond is something different to each person. How the actor personifies those qualities we admire is what makes us a fan.

I really like Daniel Craig. Really, really like him. I think he is my favorite Bond. I like the hardness he brings to the character, a little rougher edge, hailing back to Connery's style only more tortured. And there is so much action, relying more on the character's own intuition rather than gadgets. The gadgets were fun back in the day, but really, in this world of technical marvels, it takes a lot to impress a modern audience.

What does keep me coming to Bond is the action. The movies give me an outlet where I don't have to think. For two hours I'm carried away to exotic locales and my eyes are assaulted with scenes of chaos. It's mindless which is just what I crave. I have enough to worry about these days as do we all. The Bond movies give me a well-needed break from thinking. So bring on the action, leave the plot out of it.

So do you like Bond movies? Want to share your favorite? Who's your favorite Bond?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When Worlds Collide

I'm very much a two-world person. My online life is very different from my real life. Not in an exciting way or anything. I'm a lot more vibrant online, far less inhibited and much more entertaining.

In real life, I'm a low-key soccer mom. I appear to be as imaginitive as a rutabaga. People know I can cook. They know my kids are involved in way too many activites. They know my husband is a sports volunteer and that I'm involved in Girl Scouts.

They don't know I write.

It isn't a big secret, I'm not trying to hide it from anyone. But it is something personal and something I care very much about. I don't want it exposed for people's polite and trite commentary. I don't mean that in a negative way. First, writing is not something everyone understands. When I used to be more open about it, the first question I was asked was if I wrote children's books. When I answered no, I could tell they were tuning out. Or when they ask if I have anything published and I answer in the negative, they lose interest. And that's okay, I'm not offended. Frankly, if someone comes up to me and talks about their scrapbooking or basket-weaving, I'm going to do the same thing. I'll make polite noises and show a shallow amount of interest, but those are activities I can't relate to so my interest is feigned.

Hence, I keep my writing life exposed online only. People who read my blog are genuinely interested in what's going on. I know not everyone is a writer who reads this blog, but they are aware that I am a writer and know it often influences the rest of my life. When I am harping on some writing issue, I know there a dozen others out there nodding their head and saying, yeah, I know what she means. I generally don't talk about the specifics of my writing, for the same reason I don't like writing synopsis, I'm no good at describing the particulars. Plus, I'm more interested in the general problems of writing that we all share rather than the minute details. Again, you may not relate to my particular genre and I don't want to give you the yawns. Anyway, the point is, my writing world is based primarily in cyberspace.

Until Facebook. Boy, people can really find you on that network. Suddenly people I haven't heard from in 25 years are contacting me. People I know from my kids' schools are "friending" me. But like most things, my Facebook page is geared towards writing. One person I know in real life is my friend on Facebook and emailed me about my blog. Crud....I like the anonyminity of my blog. Another person said she had no idea I was a writer. Yeah, and that's kind of how I wanted it to stay.

For the most part, it is a non-issue. People are so busy with their own lives they don't have time to delve into mine. But I do feel like I have a secret identity which has been revealed and I wonder what people are going to think. Of course, if I sold a book and had a publication date, I'm sure I'd feel differently.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm not used to writing rubbish. When I get the feel of something and decide its garbage, I quit writing and move on to something else. I'm not into heavy repairs. Somethings just can't be edited.

But now I'm doing NaNo and I don't have that luxury. Part of me wants to give up. Its a small part luckily, and I'm trying to keep my mind firmly focused on my goals. I'm writing something I'm not used to. This is an urban fantasy romance written in third person. It has been a long time since I've written in the 3rd so its a little harder work. I haven't written a romance in years. Oh, there is always a strong romantic theme in my writing, but not enough for editors to consider it romance.

I don't have any illusions that this book will actually see the light of day. And I'm not trying to sound pessimistic or negate the purpose of this NaNo. I do have a book in mind which is a romance and in third person which I am enamored of. I don't want it to be rubbish. I specifically chose something else for my NaNo project, essentially giving myself permission to write junk.

I'm hoping this frantic writing pace will kick me into overdrive. By letting the instinctual writer in me lose without presure, I hope to work the kinks out of my writing and feel more compfortable writing the next book.

I guess that is what I hope to get out of NaNo. For those of you doing NaNo, what do you hope to get out of it? For the rest of you writers, do you ever give yourself permission to write rubbish?

Speakings of rubbish, my word count numbers were down yesterday. I decided to wash all the upstairs bedding. Heavens, it was a much larger task than I planned. There are four beds upstairs. I employed both of my washers and dryers and still took all day. Today my legs are sore from going up and down the stairs so much. And I'm not done. I'd like to sweep and mop the floors up there. I'm thinking of taking my laptop up with me and giving myself breaks in between.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Am So Damned Glad...

...the election is over. Please, everyone, take your signs down. They are like Christmas lights. Particularly since most people's signs have been hit with a continuous barage of sprinklers and weather and they look terrible.

Why Rene, aren't you a bit touchy? YES! I'm doing NaNo and it makes me cranky. It doesn't take much to set me off. I can feel that itchy feeling in my skin like I've had too much caffeinne. Only I haven't. Part of my brain is constatnly engaged in my novel so the rest of my brain has to compensate. It doesn't like it.

Not helping the situation is Thing. She has started Fall Frenzy. My kids go through a horrible phase that begins at Halloween and lasts through Christmas. We have way too much going on. Obviously Halloween is a big deal. Next is the soccer parties. Both girls have their birthdays in November. Thanksgiving is a huge deal. My son's birthday is in December and of course there is Christmas. For 3 months my kids are complete messes. They have no self-control and their emotions are raw. They grow out of it. My two olders are fine. But this is the year of the Vile Thing. This morning she asked her dad to fry her an egg for breakfast. He made it over easy and the yolk broke. OMG, she threw the biggest tantrum. She refused to eat the egg and wanted her dad to make her another one. THIS WENT ON FOR AN HOUR!!!!!

She's off at school now and I'm trying to regain my sense of calm so I can dive back into writing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

No No NaNo Weekend

Having NaNo start on a Saturday is not a good idea for me, particularly when Friday was Halloween and I have children running around on a methaphetimine-like candy high. Thing was totally out of control. None of them would listen and if they saw me on the computer they picked that time to demand something or chat about their lives.

My kids sense there is a new "baby" in the house and they don't like it. This new creature is taking Mom's attention away from them. And right now, the new kid is my favorite. I don't have to make it lunch or urge it to get dressed. I also don't have to yell at it to clean its room.

The NaNo website has been difficult to put it mildly. I can't get in to post my word count. Not that it is impressive. I've got some making up to do this week. I should have time.

I will give some kudos to my AlphaSmart and I'm starting to wonder why I haven't been using it more. I took it with me to the baseball game and did some writing while I waited for the game to start. Not a lot of words but any little bit helps.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy NaNoWriMo

I went back into ye olde archives to see if I had a nuggets of wisdom to pass on for this year's NaNoWriMo. I went back to November of 2006, the year I won and found this from an old "Thursday Thirteen:"

Thirteen Things I Learned About Myself and NaNoWriMo

1. That I can win. This was my first year trying and I'm flushed with triumph.
2. When I push myself in my writing, I can get it done.
3. I can do this and still have a life.
4. I waste a lot of time doing nothing. After seeing how many words I could produce in a day, I realized I do spend precious minutes doing nothing. A disconcerting discovery to be sure.
5. Oh, I do love to write. Being immersed in my writing takes me away.
6. The more I wrote, the easier it got. Except for the end. I finished my book yesterday but realized I had come up short for Nano. I spent two hours adding 500 words.
7. Instead of being exhausted creatively, I'm invigorated. I'd love to jump right back into it today but I don't think my back could take it.
8. The idea behind Nano is to turn off the internal editor. Discovered my internal editor is as much a part of my writing as anything else.
9. I need to go back to the gym. I devoted the time I would have been at the gym to writing.
10. My kids have a sixth sense. If they see I'm heavily involved in my writing, that's the time to totally misbehave and get into stuff. For example, Thing wandered out of the kitchen naked and covered with flour. I asked her what she'd been doing. "I peed in the flour." File that under "why I drink."
11. Non-writers think I'm insane, but they respect it.
12. Atmosphere is inconsequential when I write. If I can crank out 4K words while "Power Rangers" is blaring non-stop from the t.v., I can do anything.
13. I MISSED YOU GUYS AND THE BLOGOSPHERE IN GENERAL. I'm going to start catching up today

I'm glad I read this. It addresses some of the doubts I have. And since I made it through once, I know I can do it again.

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too Hot Halloween?

Friday is the big day, one of the highlights of my kids' lives. They have anticipated Halloween since summer. My son when he was little, would choose his costume the day after Halloween for the next year and stick with it. Back then I sewed his costumes. One year he was a skunk, a pumpkin, a dinosaur and an alien. Amazingly enough, his sisters were skunks, pumpkins and dinosaurs. But as they got older they fell under the spell of store bought costumes. I must admit, I didn't mind too much because the costumes aren't bad and they cost less than it would for me to make them. But I'm starting to notice a trend with girls' Halloween costumes. They're getting, well, sexy. Apparently this is a trend noted by professionals as this "Today" clips shows:

The L.A. Times also has an article about the trend:Sexy Halloween costumes . . . for little girls?

My daughters were drawn to many of these costumes. They are glamorous and shiny with spangles of all sorts attached. They are also ultra-short, bare-midriffed, exceptionally tight, off the shoulder and plunging in the neckline. I'm not a prude per se and I fully appreciate the fun of Halloween. Kids get to pretend to be something else for a night. But really, does my 8 year old need to dress like a French maid? Doesn't this just seem inappropriate? And what is this costume saying?Nothing good as far as I can see.

Is this acceptable? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Is this just Halloween fun or is there a more provocative message being sent?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Peer Pressure

My seventh grade son has buckled to peer pressure. Not drugs, alcohol, sex or any of those other parental nightmares. No, gave in to the need to read "Twilight." The series is quite the rage amongst the 6th-8th grade set. Both boys and girls are reading it. At school during SSR (sustained silent reading) both genders are reading the books. He finished the first one in a day and a half and now he is reading the next one. My neighbor has the other two so it saves me a trip to the store.

I asked him what he thought. I've read the book and to be honest didn't find it all that compelling. I didn't, however, share my opinion since I wanted him to form his own. He thought there was too much romance in the first. I had to explain to him that was the point. He thought Edward was creepy and Bella's clumsiness plain annoying. He likes the storyline and the pace and some of the other characters. I think he preferred "New Moon" over the first book. I think he'll finish the series just to see what happens.

I had some reservations about him reading the book. No, there wasn't anything objectionable in the contents and I thought it was appropriate to his maturity. What concerned me is that he would think relationships should work like Bella and Edward's. Without going into details, my biggest problem with "Twilight" was Bella's obsession with Edward. And once they begin their relationship, it overtakes everything she does. He becomes her world. It goes against the feminist grain in me and I really don't want my son thinking girls should be like that. I didn't have to worry, he perceived Bella's behavior as being overly needy and unattractive.

But it does make me wonder. What impact does this book have on 11, 12 and 13 year-olds who are just beginning to explore romantic relationships. Are they going to be swept away by the story and long for that kind of romance? Or are they savvy enough to see it as the dramatic love story it is?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mother's Cookies

I was confronted this morning with devastating news. Mother's Cookies has closed it's doors. While this isn't as apocalyptic news as say, Nabisco discontinuing the Oreo, it still punches me in the gut.

As a child Circus Animal cookies were a rare treat. Those blah shortbread cookie deluged with greasy pink and white frosting and sprinkles really appealed to me. And every holiday they came out with special colors: red, white and blue for 4th of July, black and orange for Halloween and green and red for Christmas.

My favorite was Cookie Parade. It was my own special post-pregnancy food. I was sneak up to the drugstore as soon as I got home from the hospital, gray-faced with pain, just to get my fix. And I hid them. No one touched my cookies. I'd grab them my the handfuls and eat them in one huge cookie mess. Probably pretty disgusting to watch but for some reason it was the only way I could eat them.

I'm going to miss Mother's Cookies. They weren't the best tasting cookies although the soft pumpkin cookies I bought the other day are pretty good. But they were cheap and colorful. The packaging was familiar. While so many other cookie companies changed their products (how many different variety of Oreos are there?), Mother's pretty much stuck to its usual.

Good bye, Mother's Cookies, you will be missed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's Looming....

I've run out of excuses. My life is in order and now I need to focus on my writing. It is so hard to bring myself back into the writing mode. It isn't a question of motivation. My problem is discipline.

Self-discipline has always been issue for me. I'm not real good at it, hence the reason I'm always about 30 lbs. overweight. The things I am good about are tied to the expectations of others. I keep my house clean because I live with a neat freak. I understand a messy house grates on him. It grates on me too but if it were up to me only, I would have a hard time getting myself in gear to clean up. I'm good about having a planned menu for the week because we have so many activities during the week I don't have time to worry about it on the fly. And having three kids whine about what's for dinner keeps me disciplined about meal times. If it were up to me, it would be scavenging through the fridge.

But no one has any expectations about my writing but me. No one else in the house cares whether the book gets done or not. Only I do. I'm motivated to get the book done. The sooner its done, the sooner it gets to my agent and I can try and sell it. The sooner its done, the sooner I can move onto something else. I have good reason to sit down and write. Unfortunately getting myself to sit down and perform is another story. Oh, I'll get there. But I have to work at it. I need to ignore the distractions which surround me and focus on my book.

How good are you at self-discipline?

I'm burning with envy for Melissa. The lucky girl is enjoying a holiday in England. Talk about a distraction.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stay At Home Mom? I Wish...

I am never home. The times that I am at home are devoted to playing catch up in the house or making dinner. Lately, I've had to help my kids with school work and projects. Today is my first day home without any running around. I had all sorts of plans but my pantry has yet again been invaded by pantry moths. I hate these things. They are coming in on the food I buy and setting up shop. Along with traps, I am scrubbing my shelves and throwing away food to get rid of them.

It hasn't been a great week anyway. Monday night I sliced two fingers open skinning a butternut squash. I probably should have gotten stitches but frankly, I don't have the time. They seem to be healing okay on their own. I've stepped up my involvement in Girl Scouts and we are trying to plan an event. Oh my, I forgot how little common sense and courtesy people can have. Nuff said. If you've ever had to organize anything large for children, you know what I mean.

And to make my week even better, we file our taxes at the last possible moment. So Oct. 15 is looming and I spent most of last week and this week gathering data. What a pain. But that's done.

Anyway, I'm looking at smoother sailing for the next week. Right now I feel like one of those moms on the Hamburger Helper commercial who describes how busy her life is and how Hamburger Helper has eased the burden. Only they dress better, wear make up and I'd rather eat pantry moths than eat Hamburger Helper.

How's your week been?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Renaissance Girl

Diva started cello lessons this week and here she is practicing...with her soccer gear on.

Diva is in soccer, baseball, horseback, Girl Scouts and cello. It seems too much, doesn't it? I was really concerned she would burn out or something would falter. But it seems like the more she has to do, the happier she is. She loves school, dives into her homework and reads more than ever. There are no arguments over soccer practice, she is eager to go. Not so much with baseball, she likes baseball but she isn't big on practices, however she still goes and has a good attitude. She can't wait for horseback and she is interested in pursuing her badges. Why she picked the cello, I'll never understand, but she is very excited and was on it all afternoon and into the evening. After soccer practice she went back to playing on it.

I was never like this. EVER. I did horseback and baton. I played softball and played the flute. I was a Campfire Girl. But rarely did I do any of these things at the same time. And some of it was just because my mom made me. I much preferred to stay home and read. I still don't like getting involved in stuff because it takes me away from writing. I do it because I have to. Schools need volunteers. My kids need rides. Someone has to do the grocery shopping. I'd be happy living in a cave with an Internet connection.

Diva is the opposite. She thrives on attention. She loves being outdoors. Her circle of friends increases exponentially every week. Everything interests her and she loves to compete. Its funny when we start seeing how our children emerge into their own. My son emerged a long time ago and honestly I don't see him chaning much as an adult. Though he doubts it, I think he will become a writer someday. Diva will not. She is more like a heroine in an "American Girl" novel.

I think the big difference between us is that she grasps the vibrancy of life, plunges headlong into the experiences the world offers while I am content to observe it and translate it onto the page. I admire her self-confidence and her courage. But I wonder where it came from.

What kind of person are you? Do you grasp life by the horns or do you like to watch other people do it?

Pumpkin of the Day: I had two pumpkin muffin tops I made yesterday and pumpkin spice creamer in my coffee.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pumpkin Month

I'm very glad to see September pass us by. I felt horrible the whole month. Whatever this cold was, it settled in my chest and I've had a hard time catching my breath. But finally I seem to be getting better in time for my favorite season.

It's still quite hot here. We're knocking on the the triple digits today but we should cool off next week. However, I'm already going into Autumn mode which means one thing: Pumpkin.

I love pumpkin. I love pumpkin pie, muffins, pastries, lattes, pastas, soups, blah blah blah. So in honor of my favorite squash, my goal this month is to eat something pumpkin related every day. As goals go it is rather flip, but I suppose it is a good practice in goal-making.

My other goal is to finish my current book so I can start something fresh in November. I think the pumpkin goal will be tougher, I'm almost done with my WIP.

So if you have a pumpkin recipe you think I need to help me achieve my goal, let me know.

Today I made pumpkin muffins. It was my daughter's turn for snack at school so I thought it would make a nice kick off to October.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Now What Do I Do?

It is all very exciting. The kids are off to school, I've got dinner marinating and the bed made. The rest of the day until 2 p.m. is mine. There are so many things I want to do. There are plenty of cleaning projects I could work on. I have lots of organizing to do. And of course there is daytime television. I was going to go to the gym but I'm still coughing quite a bit.

All of these things would be great, but there is a word document open and ready on my computer. It simply needs its writer to get back into the swing of things and finish it.

Why is it so easy to lose the drive to write? I'm sure it doesn't happen to everyone, but I know I'm not alone. For me, the writing bug has to be constantly fed and coddled or it fades. I get it back, but damn, it's tough. It isn't a lack of motivation or a feeling of inadequacy. I just don't wanna. Maybe that is why I like NaNoWriMo so much. It doesn't give you the hem-haw choice of whether you feel like writing or not.

What do you think? How do you get yourself in the mood to write?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Fresh Start

I pretty much stole the idea of this post from Kelly. We both feel like September is the new year. For me, it is the start of so many things. School for the kids. The return of extracurricular activities and the social life which is a part of that. In Southern California it is a time of emerging from our air conditioned caves and enjoying the cooler temperatures. A lot of things are in bloom this time of year, a whole rebirth as it were.

When I'm trying to make changes in my life this is when I do it. October, November and December are incredibly hectic so I need to be set in my ways beforehand. I do fall cleaning. I pick a room and work on it for a day. Now that I don't have my kids around during the day, it doesn't take me much time. I get myself in the habit of planning menus for the week and getting a logical shopping list together. I try to make it as easy to transition into the busy months as possible. Except for dieting. I only try to maintain some control. To ask myself to lose weight this time of year is a guarantee for failure. Did you know they make pumpkin spice Hershey kisses? Ouch.

Obviously the holidays are the biggest sources of activity. I host Thanksgiving and my three kids all celebrate their birthdays in November and December. While I'm trying to plan parties, I'm also dealing with the regular school activities along with sports. But if I put myself in the mode to be organized, it really isn't too bad.

As for writing...

This is writing season for me. I tend to really crank out the words. And November is NaNoWriMo. I really want to win it this year. I won two years ago but did miserably last year. For some reason, it really gives me a creative jolt. I enjoy the pressure and I think some of my best writing has come out of it.

Do you get a feeling of renewel this time of year or does another season call to you?

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'd Like to Cancel this Week and Start Over

I had such lovely plans for the week. I was organized, had my time scheduled and looked forward to a great week filled with accomplishments.

Then Thing brings home the cold from hell. This is not unusual. The start of the school year introduces a new set of viruses into the home. My daughter, my hubby and Thing were all sick. Hubby and Diva stayed home sick and in bed. I did all the work figuring I'd have time to recover when hubby went back to work. By Monday night he was feeling much better. Tueaday morning I was awakened by his groans of agony. He had a pain in his side which wouldn't go away. We had no idea what it was so I called my mom and she headed over to take the kids to school. Mind you, I'm feeling like death warmed over, but I still had to drive my husband to the emergency room. I had visions of something serious which would require surgery and *shudder* at-home recovery time. Luckily, we got right in. They took some blood, ran him through the CT scan and pumped him full of pain meds. He had a kidney stone. It was small enough the doctor figured it would pass on its own. So by that afternoon my dh felt pretty perky, even went to work.

So Wednesday I finally got to stay home but was running a fever and felt lousy. But I had to get better because I had volunteered to go to the L.A. County Fair with Diva's class. I tried to weasel out of it but the teacher was desperate. Fortunately, I was feeling a little better and drugs did the rest and I made it through the day. So today is all about catching up. I'm tackling the mountains of laundry and all the little things on my to do list and hoping for a better week next week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scooter Girl

I'm sick today courtesy of Thing. I love the first part of school because the kids seem to pick up everything and bring them home. Hence a less than detailed post. I liked these pictures, though, so I thought I'd share.
Diva got a new scooter. I swear, we keep the Razor company in the black. This one is an early birthday present and she has been riding it to death. Anything with wheels has her going. The faster, the better. Think I'll need to lock up the keys to the mustangs when she turns 16?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pathetic, Isn't It?

I was so tired of my blog I messed around with it until it was unusable. Frusterated, I went for a regular blogger template until I can decide what to do. I found myself with lots of blog posts in my head but too caught up in the blogskin to do anything. Until I can figure out what I want to do, I'm stuck with this blah thing. How long do you think it will be before I tinker with it? I give it 24 hours myself.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Ah, the first day of school. It rates with Christmas on my favorite day scale. I know it sounds like I don't like my kids. That isn't the case, but after a summer of the constant tension of having them around, I can't wait to get rid of them.

Yesterday I went out for a two hour breakfast with a friend then came home and sat in a stupor of euphoria for an hour before it was time to pick them up. This year is extra-special because Thing is now in school full day. I can actually hear myself think. Today I'm catching up on laundry and trying to get over the shock of being in a quiet house. I'm celebrating by cranking up the stereo and listening to the New Wave channel on XM radio.

But it is too easy to fall into a habit of doing nothing. I'm hoping I can appreciate the time I have now and use it wisely. However, I think that can wait until Monday.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

One Day More!

Did you see the musical "Les Miserables?" Remember the "One Day More!" scene where the people are euphoric for the next day? The song is a stirring anthem that pulses through your veins making you want to jump up on the stage with them and march around with a big flag. I feel like that right now. The joy of a new beginning fills my soul, the promise of brand new day free from tyranny beckons.

Yes, tomorrow is the first day of school!

Today promises to be busy. There are mountains of laundry to do and menus to plan. But I can assure you, I will skip, sashay, dance down the aisles of the grocery store today. I will smile as I'm folding clothes. The sun is shining just a little bit brighter in my world today.

So, anything you are looking forward to?

BTW, anyone have a good link for free web graphics. I'm really freakin' tired of these flip flops but it isn't really time for fall graphics yet. I need a change.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gems from the Great Magazine Purge

I've taken a break from reading and have dived into my stacks of magazines. Since some of them have Halloween covers, I figure its about time to go through them. Can't justify buying this year's when I still have last years.

Anyway, I have a variety. Real Simple is a big one. I don't have a subscription but I'm going to have to correct that situation. Martha Stewart's "Everyday Food" and "Living" are well-represented and there's a few of Rachel Ray's magazine (I like her magazine, don't like the recipes). I also get one called Family Fun that I get from Disney. Not sure why. My kids had a couple of subcriptions to their online games and I've been on the list ever since. It has some great stuff.

But today's gem comes from the Romance Writer's Report (RWR), the magazine of the RWA. In the July issue Virgina Kantra has an excellent article on developing the romance in your novel. She talks about physical awareness and how people are hardwired for physical attraction. Even if your characters aren't breathtakingly gorgeous, their needs to be physical triggers which hook the reader into seeing why the characters are attracted to one another. The emotional conflict needs to make the romance seem impossible or at least a very bad idea. Gender typing is not a bad thing in romance. The hero should be able to take care of the heroine, whether it be with a gun or a check book. For the heroine, she needs to show her ability to nurture. No matter how tough she is, we need to see her give a damn about something. Gender typing is a universal concept that will resonate with readers and trigger their own responses. The writer also needs to show why the hero/heroine are attracted to and falling in love with each other. She goes on to talk about showing the couple in society and how that can build the relationship and that the end needs to be satisfying. Readers long to experience the moments of surrender with the characters. And more, the reader needs to believe that these two characters are going to make it.

Anyway, if you RWA members still have this issue, I'd read that article. Kantra also has several other interesting articles on her website. I just remembered I took a class from her online. She's a sharp cookie.

Speakings of sweet things, I just ran into an awesome set of recipes. I'll share those tomorrow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Hate Backstory

I hate reading it, I hate writing it even more. When an author does an info dump, I'm pretty quick to put the book down. However, backstory is a necessary evil.

When I was a kid I'd try to hide my green beans and peas in the mashed potatoes so when I had to eat them, the taste would be hidden. I try to do the samething with my writing.

My usual method is dialogue. I break the information down and spread it out. Kind of like one of those innumerable glasses of water Weight Watchers says I must drink everyday. If I drink two glasses of water, I can have a Diet Coke. Or if I fold a load of laundry, I get to play a video game. Such is my motivation for getting those pieces of backstory in.

But I'm at a point in my story where most of those tricks aren't going to work. I need get the info out in a hurry or the story isn't going to move along. Ughh.... However, I'm a writer and therefore think I have some developed imagination. It's my world, as long as I keep within confines of that world, I can do whatever I want. And since I write a fantasy type setting, the rules are pretty broad.

I came up with something clever and turned my info dump into an action scene. I do have to do some quick research on 1920's kitchens, but hey, better than long tracts of narration.

What do you think about backstory? Does it bother you? How do you fit it into your writing?

Monday, August 18, 2008


My writing, which was going like a gangbusters has dropped off sharply. The words have slowed to a trickle, each sentence more torturous than the last to write. I'm in the last third of the novel, past that ponderous middle so I should be on easy street with regards to writing. I know my characters, my plot and my ending, its really a matter of connecting the dots. But I am really struggling.

One problem I have when I write is I let the world around me fall into chaos. Oh, I get dinner on the table, but it is last minute and hardly worthy of my kitchen. The bed is made and you won't trip on anything walking through the house. I operate on minimum effort. I know it isn't unusual for writers to let things go to hell in a handbasket when they are enmeshed in a book, but I can't survive in a chaotic environment. I suffer from mild depression and I find one of the triggers for an episode is disorder.

I'm naturally disorganized (except for my dishwasher)and it is very easy for me to let it all go. However, I don't like living like that hence it is a constant battle. So since I've been working on this WIP, I've let my natural tendencies free rein. Until Friday....

I have a cleaning lady who comes every other Friday. It is one of my big indulgences. She only does my bathrooms and kitchen but as I have four bathrooms, its an all day thing. The point in having her come in is to free me to get other chores done. My housekeeper arrived the other morning and I decided to make the best of the time and went upstairs to my kids' room. They have a dress up drawer so I decided we needed to go through it and toss the things that had outlived their usefulness. After we finished I realized we might as well clean up their room. After that, I walked into their toy room.

Oh. My. It was out of control and I knew I had to address it. I have to admit, I wanted to drop to the floor in a swoon, it seemed insurmountable. But I divided it into areas and went in for the attack. My one daughter helped (her sister is more trouble than she's worth when it comes to something serious). We started with the closet, tossing out things they have no use for, setting aside toys for charity and reorganizing the shelves to make it easier for them to get and replace things. It was amazing how much room we had. Next we tackled the bookshelves. Ughh....It was time to get rid of the Little Golden Books. Most of ours were Muppet related so I didn't feel too bad putting them in the charity box. Same goes for board books and those annoying books that are huge and have the push buttons on the side. We'd pick them up at Costco for $10 and they'd entertain the kids while we shopped. The Barney Christmas one was particualrly annoying. I was amazed at how may really cool books they have. The variety of children's books is so much greater than when I was a kid.

On Saturday we tackled the Barbies and the Polly Pockets. It took almost all day. They have some very cool Polly Pocket stuff. I wish they had those when I was a kid. On Sunday I made two loaves of bread and chicken souvlaki. And by today, I felt refreshed and able to write.

I guess my point is that when you have writer's block or no movtivation to write, it might be time to take stock of your situation. I know I've talked about this before but I think it bears repeating. At least I need the reminder. And maybe it isn't disorder. Maybe you haven't gone to the gym lately. Or maybe its time to take an afternoon or evening and go out with a friend for a meal and window shoppping. It could be a hobby is sitting there neglected and needing help. Bake some cookies or try a new recipe. We need to be reminded we are more than just writers. What makes us writers is everything else we are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Three Weeks.....

Summer is winding down in one sense. School begins in three weeks and I couldn't be more excited.

I feel bad, the summer didn't quite go as planned. My children have the misfortune of having a writer for a mother who gets focused on her WIP and can't switch gears too easily. On the other hand, I have three children who find entertaining themselves nigh on impossible.

One thing I really despise is the images of motherhood on television and in magazines. They make me feel bad. I watch and read about moms who devote their days to their spawn, coming up with cute and clever craft projects for them to do. Or creative parties for the neighborhood kids. These moms turn every day into an adventure. Yuck.

I start out with the best of intentions every summer. I come up with some ideas, make plans, but they fall apart almost immediately. I live in southern California, its not like there nothing to do. There are plenty of project kits for the kids to do. I haven't been inclined to involve myself too much. Because as much as I'm not like the moms on tv and magazines, my kids aren't like those children either.

I think like all moms I feel underappreciated. I don't ask much. I want their rooms to be somewhat clean. I want them to pick up the toys they've left downstairs. I want them to stay out of the pantry. But most of all I want them to stop fighting.

Oh my goodness. I'm an only child, so there was no one to fight with. My kids seem to be elevating it to an artform. Its never physical but some of the vileness they come up with floors me. They insult each other for no apparent reason. I just want to smack them. I don't feel too inclined to do anything nice for them when they act like this.

Also, they don't want to go anywhere. When we told my son we'd take him to San Francisco with us, he didn't want to go. When I've broached the subject of going to a museum, they shrug, not really interested. Last year we bought passes to a water park and I couldn't get them interested in going. GRRRRR! And when we do go somewhere, it is a fiasco. Going to the grocery store becomes a major trauma.

Anyway, this is my summer ending vent. By June of next year I will be making plans again for the summer, conveniently blanking out this summer.

Am I alone in this? Do you find summer frusterating with your kids?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Workshop- Creating Web Presence

This is the last workshop I'm going to talk about. There were others but this one made a big impression on me. It was presented by Emma Clair and Michelle McGinnis who were very thorough and and spoke in a language most people could understand. They also had the best handouts. Very organized.

I have to admit the workshop also scared the crud out of me. When I went into labor with my son, my husband ran through the checklist the Lamaze instructor gave us. I remember sitting there watching as he went through page after page. Finally, he looks up and he's on the next to the last page and says "we should have been at the hospital a long time ago."

I kind of felt that same level of panic. Obviously not quite as extreme. But you get the analogy. I'm reading through their handout and seeing where I am at in my writing career and where I should be in cyberspace. ACKKKK!!!

I don't have much of a web presence. I have this blog and I horse around on Myspace and Facebook, but that's about it. I couldn't think of anything I would actually put on a web site. I'm not published. I have an agent, so I'm not really trying to impress them. I'm not sure how much editors actually look at sites unless they've already signed the author.

However, I do need to give it more thought, hence my interest in the class. Michelle and Emma stressed the need to register a domain name. I did that. I went with I'd have preferred a .com name but the variations on my name were too clunky. The ladies recommended getting a Wordpress site since they are free. Yeah, they're nice but I'm not sure that's the rout I want to go. I have to give it some thought. I really don't want to give up this blog. I've had it so long. But I think my focus for a site would be different than my focus for here. Since I'm coming to the end of my latest opus and expect it will be in my agent's hands before the end of September, I would like to get my cyber presence a bit more developed.

Something else I thought was interesting that Emma and Michelle pointed out was cleaning up after yourself. They pointed out that those bad reviews on Amazon could come back to haunt you. Or that flame war over on another blog from years ago might resurface. These are things to be aware of. Somethings can be deleted, others can't and sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut or just walk away.

They also talked about "egosurfing." Yeah, we've all googled ourselves at least once. It can be taken a step further by signing up for "google alerts." I can't really explain how it works but it "tracks" you in cyberspace.

Emma's website has more stuff on it about web presence so check it out.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Query Contest

My Chapter (East Valley Authors) is having our 2nd query contest, so if you've got an extra $5 and a polished query letter, give it a shot.

2nd Annual EVA Query Contest
Romance Writers of America - East Valley Authors
Official Rules

1. Contest is limited to the first 100 entries.

2. Contest deadline is September 1, 2008.

3. Entry fees ($5) and submissions received with postal datestamp after September 1, 2008 will not be accepted. Fees ($5) will be accepted at the EVA website through PayPal or send check, entry form and submission to:

East Valley Authors
P.O.Box 84
West Covina, CA 91793-9000

4. Contest is open to any writer.

5. All genres of fiction are welcome.

6. Entries shall consist of:

A one to two-page query letter.
Standard business letter format -- see below
Addressed to:

Kevan Anne Lyon and Jill Marsal
Sandra Dijkstra Agency

7. If submitting as a hard copy:
THREE copies of your query letter
A standard self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage for return of submissions and scores

8. If submitting an electronic copy:
Please provide a valid email address
Send entry as an attachment

Email entry to: Contest Coordinator

9. Entries must be formatted as follows:
MINIMUM 1-inch margins, readable font of 12 pt, Time New Roman, Courier, or Arial preferred.
Justiy left but do NOT justify right margins
It is a business letter to be addressed to the above agency with the salutation to the agents even though the query letters will be pre-read by EVA, the final judges will be the agents.

10. Multiple entries will be considered but a separate entry fee must be paid for each.

11. Each separate entry must be accompanied by an official entry form, a signed release, and an entry fee.

12. Preliminary judging will be done on a point basis, with all manuscripts judged by two trained judges, highest score will be used. In the case where a submission receives larger than a 10=point spread, a third judge will be used and that final score taken.

13. Finalists are chosen by their overall score and must be among the top five.

14. Finalists will be judged by Kevan Anne Lyon and Jill Marsal of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency.

15. Finalist will be announced at the October 2008 EVA monthly meeting. Winner announcements will be made to the RWA. All finalists and the winner will be notified by phone or email.

16. The winner will receive a gift certificate worth $50.00.

17. Failure to comply with any of the above rules will result in disqualificaiton. The EVA Board of Directors will resolve any disputes that may arise. Their decision will be final.

18. The contest cannot be held liable for any failure of the delivery of entries due to the USPS, or your chosen method of delivery.

19. Contact Contest Coordinator with any questions.

DISCLAIMER: Winning the contest does not guarantee a request for your manuscript from the Sandra Dijkstra Agency.

Click Score Sheet to see our scoring.

Click Online Form for contest.

FEE per entry: $5

Friday, August 08, 2008

Workshops-Sex and the Single Title

As I said, the best part of conference was the enthusiasm I felt for writing. So I came home and plunged back into my WIP. I've cranked out a few thousand words and now I'm to a scene where I have to make a choice: does she or doesn't she. I'm talking about a love scene of course. Is this the right time for the hero and the heroine to engage in an intimate act? Fortunately, I attended a workshop about that topic and it has proved a real help at this point.

The workshop was presented by authors Roxanne St. Claire, CJ Lyons, Toni McGee Causey and St. Martin's Press editor Matthew Shear. The biggest point I got from this workshop was the point of the love scene. It should make things worse. Now, I have three kids so I can attest to the fact sex can make everything worse, but I don't think that's what they meant *snort*. Sex should complicate a conflict and make it worse. I never thought of it that way. Too often I think of sex as a way of easing a conflict. Kind of dull, really. The love scenes should change the characters, make them react differently to the situations they find themselves in.

Love scenes are also a great way of showing vulnerability in your characters. Lyons suggested looking at the vulnerable spots of the human body for added texture to a love scene. Again, something I hadn't thought of. But as a paranormal author and reader where vulnerability is so key, I can't believe I hadn't scene it before. The throat, the soft part of the belly, etc. are very vulnerable to attack. Is there anything more intimate than baring that part of the body to a lover trusting they won't hurt you? Very primal.

As far as sex goes, the panel did say mainstream romance could get pretty explicit. The rise of erotic has spilled into the mainstream and hot scenes are, well, hot. However the panel did stress that intimacy is just as important. Without intimacy, the scenes are just sex scenes. The panel did say there is a lot more sex in their novels now than a few years ago. But CJ Lyons made the point is that while her books are sexy, there is actually very little sex. The sexual tension is far more important in her stories.

Anyway, it was an excellent workshop and definitely one you might want to think of purchasing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Workshops- Dialogue

My main interest in conference this year was the workshops. For as much as I was spending, I wanted to go to as many as I could. It also means you have to make some choices because of course there are always two workshops going on you want to go to. Fortunately, you can buy the cd's with the workshops taped. In fact, I believe they will be selling the individual workshops on a download basis.

As I said earlier, I did go to the dialogue workshop with Elizabeth Hoyt. I like the cadence of her dialogue in her writing and I had a copy of her handout before the conference so I thought it would be interesting. And it was. But please, when the presenter says there are no stupid questions, don't believe her. THERE ARE!

I'm probably not being fair since I'm sure many of the participants were new to writing, BUT (and I know Olivia backs me on this one) a question can be beat to death as can a topic. And I felt that was what happened in that particular workshop. Still, I did get some tips I hadn't thought about and learned about beats and tags. Tags are "she said's" after a piece of dialogue. A beat is when the character does something in the midst of the dialogue as in
"I'm going to choke that person if they ask anymore questions." Rene beat her head with her binder, "I could really use a drink right now."

Ms. Hoyt explained that beats and tags shouldn't be combined. I'm guilty of that one so now I'm more aware of it. The other really good point she made was that men don't speak as much as women. When we are trying to portray men in our books, remember that simple fact when writing dialogue. Keep their dialogue short. Also (and this I knew) don't avoid contractions in your dialogue. People have always spoken in contractions. Historical writers are quite often guilty of making their characters speak in formal language. But most contractions in the English language have been around for a very long time. She was a good presenter, very funny and eager to share her knowledge.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Best Thing About Conference

So I've had a couple of days to reflect about conference.

First, it is exhausting, emotionally, mentally and physically. There is certainly a lot of excitement at conference. For me, it was tough because I'm not particularly outgoing. Oddly enough, you could put me on a dais and I could speak without a problem. But plunk me in the middle of 2000 strangers and ask me to network and I freeze up. I was better in the smaller areas where there were small seating areas. It was far easier to sit down and chat with someone than mingle. For the most part, people are friendly but it is cliquey. I wish I had had more of a network before I went. I didn't know a whole lot of people going in. But I did meet a few. Most of the published authors I met were very friendly and supportive. I didn't approach any agents although I did get into an odd conversation about chocolate with Mary Sue Seymour. My pinnacle of bravery was introducing myself to an editor and having a brief conversation with him. He was quite nice but I was so panicked I don't remember much. Those of you who pitched to editors and agents have my eternal admiration. I don't think I could do it.

I was trying to get the most out of the workshops so I focused pretty hard. Mentally draining, I tell you. And by the end of the day, I was wiped out. I don't think I made it to a session after 4:30. Physically, it was tough trying to get where I was going and figuring out where it was. I hate elevators so I was going up and down stairs a lot. Wish I'd worn better shoes.

But conference is exhilirating. Even though I was overwhelmed, I felt the enthusiasm of the writers. Although the goal in our careers is to get published, that isn't actually the vibe I got at conference. It was more a celebration of our love of writing. So many of us will not get our books in print and when we are at home behind our keyboards, those dark thoughts have a chance to hold and thrive in our minds. We tend to care for them like tender flowers, nurturing them with our own pessimism and self-doubt. But conference clears so much of that away because writing is what it is. As writers, we love words and it is easy to forget that. Sometimes we don't see the forest for the trees. Words are the trees, individual and strong, gathered together to create a magical place.

For me conference was a way of getting back in touch with the reason I write. Yeah, yeah, I want to get published. But if I don't love to write, it ain't going to happen. Readers can feel the love you pour into a book and without the love, it will never get published.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We made the long drive home today from San Francisco. It was a long day, about a 7 hour drive. But at least I got to come home and make dinner.

I went to a couple of spotlights and went to Susan Mallery's workshop about doing a triology. Unfortunately, it was held a too-small room and I could feel claustraphobia kicking in. So I headed down to the Avon spotlight. I'll get into more depth on these later. I did make it to a workshop with Heather Graham and Alexandra Sokoloff about vampires, ghosts and other paranormal stuff. It was pretty interesting.

Okay, here's my complaint. There were only two paranormal type workshops. Two and a half if you count the genre bending workshop (I went to the Kensington spotlight instead). Considering how hot that particular market is, it wasn't well represented in the workshops. And the one I went to was full.

By the last workshop I was exhausted. Since there was nothing I was dying to go to, I headed back to my hotel. My hubby, son and I took part of the 49 mile drive. It's a beautiful drive and was about all I saw of the city my whole trip. I didn't go to the award ceremony. I hate dressing up and in my non-writing life, I get stuck doing it more than I like.

Tomorrow I'll start getting into more details tomorrow about conference. But I'm tired and dinner's on the stove.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Who Is Barbara Cartland?

Yesterday's luncheon was great. Connie Brockway spoke and she was funny and inspiring. However, when she mentioned Barbara Cartland, several people at my table didn't know who she was. Wow. I felt very old. But maybe that would be a good workshop, the history of the genre. I couldn't blame them for not knowing about Dame Barbara, but I think it is important that we learn the roots of the genre.

Anyway, yesterday was very full with workshops and spotlights. I went to several workshops and a couple of publisher spotlights. When I get home, I'll go into more detail about them. My head's a little dizzy with all the info. I went to another workshop this morning and another spotlight. Right now I'm taking a break. They don't provide lunch today so we're on our own. That's okay, I could go without a few meals right now. I found a Ben & Jerry's on the bottom floor of Macy's. Very bad for me. Plus, since we've been walking to dinner, the wine consumption has been high. I'm going to live at the gym next week.

I did run into Kelly a couple of times. It's fun to put a face to the blog. I've met a bunch of great new people, that's been a lot of fun. Glad I brought business cards. The only complaint I have is that twice I've gone to a workshop and there hasn't been any room. In that case I've found other workshops or its late enough I've gone back to my hotel room. There is a bunch of stuff going on this afternoon. I won't be attending the evening festivities, I'm not into the dress up thing. I'm leaving first thing in the morning tomorrow and to be frank, I'll be glad to go home. I actually miss my girls.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

...And You Thought The Line for Nora was Long

This photo was from the literacy signing. You can tell from the panicked look on my face how I feel about crowds. It got worse this afternoon. I nearly bolted. I was in the main lobby waiting for lunch and it was filled in by inch with romance writers. My stomach clenched and I clung to a column for dear life. Agent Steven Axelrod was standing across from me in deep conversation with someone Very Important I'm sure. He was wearing a seersucker suit. So my focus turned to seersucker, then I thought about who wore seersucker. Of course that was Matlock. But Steven Axelrod doesn't look anything like Matlock. My husband wants a seersucker suit but I won't let him get one because he would look like Matlock. Anyway, by the time that train of thought ended, it was time to go down for lunch. While waiting to go in, I did nearly knock down a sign. Only one person saw me. Things were better inside. They already had the salads on the tables and they were pretty good. Lunch was rubber chicken with sauce and the only coffee available at our table was decaf *shudder*. I chatted with two other ladies and then it was time for Victoria Alexander to speak. She was great, I really enjoyed her speech. She's very funny.

After lunch it was time for workshops. I put my stuff down and decided to head to the bathroom. OMG, the line for the bathroom was longer than anything from the literacy signing. I decided to hold it.

The first workshop I went to was a dialogue one presented by historical author Elizabeth Hoyt.
It was pretty good and she is funny and very knowledgeable. My only problem was the people who harped on the same question over and over and over again. It made her rush through the rest of the program.

Then it was on to the next workshop. And there was a line for the bathroom. I was going to go to a program presented by Cherry Adair about writing a blockbuster or something like that. But the room was filled to capacity and I didn't want to get stuck in the crush. I went to another workshop mainly because they still had seats. It was put on by a group of authors who do the Debutante Ball group blog. Wow, it was pretty good and made me start thinking about things. They discussed the trouble with promotion and how they use their "grog" to promote each other. Group blogs are great but they need organization to be successful and I really liked their approach to managing their web. They seemed very focus on what they were doing.

There weren't any workshops after that I was interested in so I headed back to my hotel to my unoccupied bathroom. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I've got some leftover chocolate mouse torte which I need to finish from dinner (we went to a nice Italian place called Kuleto's) then its off to bed for an early morning.

Quick Update

I've got a break in between the opening session and lunch. I should be networking, but as gregarious as I am online, I'm quite introverted in public.

The opening session was okay. The speaker was good, I found her entertaining but not particularly motivational. I did meet a fellow writer from SoCal and we chatted a bit after the meeting. I forced one of my business cards on her.

Lunch is at 12:15 so I had a couple of hours to kill. Did a little window shopping but decided to head back to the hotel and check my email. My husband and son went off to Alcatraz this morning so I'm by myself. Hence, the reason I'm back at the hotel. I enjoy my solitude.

One of my big problems is that I'm a suburbanite. Being out amongst humanity makes me nervous. Plus they smell. I've also discovered cable cars run late at night. I can hear them right outside my window. It was so loud during the night that when it finally got quiet, it woke me up.

Workshops start later this afternoon. I'm not sure how long I'm going to last. I'm tired. Two days of driving wore me out. And trying to navigate with your husband driving is even more exhausting, am I right?

I was going to post pictures then remembered hubby took the camera. I do have my camera phone so I'll see what I can do this afternoon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First Night in SFO

I've got a few pictures but frankly, I'm too tired to hunt down my stick adapter and load them up. Maybe tomorrow. Hope so.

Okay, so I'm in my hotel in S.F. It is probably the loudest location ever. The cable car runs right outside my room (I'm staying at the Villa Florence) which has a great location, so its probably worth it. We pulled in around five, unpacked and headed to the big literacy event. Oh, and I registered. My bag had a several books in it. Way cool.

Oh my! The number of people was beyond belief. Let me re-phrase that, the number of women was beyond belief. Several of them very attractive, according to my husband. I think he might have been trying to hit on Nora Roberts, he seemed awfully interested when I pointed her out. She could by him more cars, I'm sure. I met Kelly and Michelle. That was fun. I met a few authors and reaquainted with some others. These poor girls were so excited to see la Nora so I offered to take a picture of them by the RWA sign. Freakin' shots were all blurry. They didn't care, they were too excited.

Tomorrow will be the real challenge. I have to walk by an DSW Shoe(hubby refers to it as hell) and a Sephora along with the mall. Down the street is Macy's. It's going to be difficult walking to conference without getting distracted.

Well, its almost 11 p.m. and I need to take a shower. Tomorrow should be full of more news, if I can survive the siren song of the shops.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On

So I'm packing for conference when it hits. The ground starts to shake then my house rolls back an forth as if on roller skates. All I can think is "please don't be centered near San Francisco." However, having been through an earthquake or two, I realized by the length of the quake it was pretty nearby (about 10 miles). No damage. Didn't lose power, phones or (thank heavens) Internet. The true earthquake hit an hour later when I went upstairs to put laundry away and exploded at the mess my kids had made upstairs. I took away all game consoles and computers. Barbies are gone too. Course they won't be home the rest of the week, but I think everything will remain gone for awhile.

Haven't finished packing. Realized my hubby was out of socks. Searched the laundry and couldn't find any. Someone must be eating them. Had to run down to Target and pick up some more. Now I'm waiting for them to dry.

We are supposed to be leaving in an hour, I'm guessing it will be more like two. My laptop is already packed up so I'm using another machine. Well, I will be back online tomorrow night. My cell phone has email, so I can still check that out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The San Francisco Post: Part II

I pondered back and forth about business cards. I couldn't decide if I really needed them or not. But since I was at Wal Mart anyway, I picked up some printable cards and came up with this little number. A little gaudy, I suppose, but I had fun. My email and phone number are on the back. I figure I'll print up 20 or so, force them on my friends. They make nice bookmarks.

One thing is bothering me. Usually we have some wild and obnoxious RWA controversy going right before conference. The blogs and the boards light up with flaming posts full of hurtful words and virtual hair pulling. Sometimes they happen during conference (remember when they did video montage and everyone got upset?). Someone says something insensitive about another genre or RWA hints at a new policy which gets people up in arms, etc. But this year I can only really think of one. This year, they are not supplying the handouts. We are supposed to print them ourselves. This is supposedly in an attempt to be more green. Others feel like it is cost-cutting move on RWA's part. Could be both. The handouts come out to be 279 pages. Multiply that by a couple of thousand people and you've got well over half a million pieces of paper. I didn't care one way or the other. Actually, I probably lean on the print on demand side. I went through the workshops and checked off the ones I definitely wasn't going to then printed those I knew I was going to or thought there might be a chance I'd go to. I didn't count the pages, but it came out far below 200 pieces of paper. I'm going to punch them and stick them in a binder with a matching little notebook for notes (or doodles, I'm not a note taker, I'm a doodler). It didn't take me all that long, I was cleaning my floor in between printings, but it was a bit inconvenient.

But what is worrying attendees is the cost cutting. Conference is becoming less bang for your buck. There is no Saturday luncheon, the one day where a provided lunch would be welcome considering the schedule for the day. However, they are doing the RITA/GH thing that night, so maybe that takes the place. No matter how you look at it, conference is expensive. Perhaps if it were at a different time of the year and at less rockin' cities, it would likely be cheaper. But attendance would drop. Or maybe not. San Francisco is expensive and with the state of the economy, its going to hurt even more. I suppose you have to consider why you are going and weigh it against the price. Part of the reason I'm going is because it is in San Francisco. So it is worth it to me.

I haven't started packing yet. Lucky me, I'm packing for four people, my girls are staying with my folks. My son can pack for himself. The girls are pretty easy, they will spend most of the time in my parents' pool. My husband, sigh, I'm not sure. The San Fran weather is so variable. He may end up with more clothes than me. Luckily we are driving although we are taking the Shelby, so trunk space is at a minimum.

If I don't get to post tomorrow, I will post on Wednesday. Hopefully some good gossip will come my way. I will blog every night that I'm there to pass on any great tidbits I get.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The San Francisco Post

I'm leaving Tuesday for the RWA Conference in San Francisco. We are driving up Tuesday evening, stopping for the night along the way and making our way up there by Wednesday afternoon. I didn't get into the Marriott. It sold out pretty quickly although I wasn't all that wild about staying there anyway. Crowds make me nervous and I prefer to be somewhere a little less busy. I'll be staying at the Villa Florence. It's only a few blocks from the Marriott and I'll get to walk by all those shops. Hope I make it to Conference!

My husband and son are going as well. My hubby wanted a chance to take his Shelby Mustang out on a major spin. We decided to take my son because he and his dad don't get to do a whole lot of things together. Supernerd is old enough to appreciate the city and hopefully have some fun. As he is entering jr. high this year, I suspect this is the last summer for him to be human until he graduates from high school. He wasn't too thrilled to go until I told him about all the food and that the hotel has wireless Internet access. I did make it clear I wouldn't be around to entertain them. They are going to have to fend for themselves. I did book them a trip to Alcatraz and have mapped it out on public transportation. But that's about it. There is plenty to do in the city, they should be fine.

So I'm planning my wardrobe, which of course means I need to go shopping. I'm not a "business casual" kind of gal. I'm not going to get too excited about my fashion sense since I'm not pitching and none of the editors I aim for are going to be attending. I'm not planning on going to any parties. I'm not going to the awards ceremony on Saturday night. I'm going to the workshops and maybe the luncheons and that's about it. Or hang out in the hotel bar. Or go to the mall.

I got my hair colored and trimmed yesterday. I have a nail appointment on Monday. I'll pull my suitcases this weekend from the attic. I'm going to print out the handouts and organize them in a binder. I gotta figure out which workshops I'm going to. Of course, there are periods where none of the workshops interest me and some periods where three or four are going on at the same time that I'd like to go to. That's what the cd's are for I guess.

I'm going to be fully wired. I'm taking my laptop so I can blog from conference. My cell phone is ready with email and Yahoo messenger. Plus, it takes decent pictures and video.

It should be fun. Heck, I'd go to a sanitation workers convention if it were in San Francisco.

Those of you going to conference, how ready are you?