I was casting around the other day for a blog subject when my friend and fellow romance writer Alice Duncan sent me a picture of herself walking seven wiener dogs. Eureka! After all, what’s cuter than seven wiener dogs? (Okay six wiener dogs and one wiener dog wannabe.)
But if we look beyond the undeniable cuteness of a pack of short-legged canines, there is a serious subject here. Animal rescue. You see, only three of these dogs belong to Alice. The other four are fosterlings. Alice is providing a loving foster home for these displaced pets while the folks at the New Mexico Dachshund Rescue try to find permanent homes for them.
I have long been a fan of adopting adult dogs from animal shelters. The puppies always seem to get snapped up, but the older dogs are a harder sell. My current dog Bandy was an adult rescue. He was a stocky 5-year-old mixed breed when we took him home, and he’s now a very full-figured 15-year-old. But it never occurred to me that I could foster a dog, sparing it from the stress of life in a crowded shelter while it awaits permanent placement. At this stage, my Bandy is too old and fragile to have a boisterous young companion around, but when he’s gone and I have a younger/hardier dog, I would definitely consider fostering other dogs.
If you think you might be interested in providing a foster home for a dog, check out this site. You can browse by breed (every purebred breed seems to have its own rescue league), or you can check out organizations that deal with all breeds/mixed breeds.
In the meantime, if you just want to check out more cute wiener dog pictures, check out the photos at Alice’s website. I’m trying to decide what’s cuter: wiener dogs in a pile on the couch or wiener dogs dressed up for Mardi Gras. What do you think?
For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently serving as president of Georgia Romance Writers. Yesterday I finished my July column for our award-winning newsletter The Galley, and I addressed our disappointed members who won’t be attending the RWA Conference at the end of July in Atlanta, which is our home turf. Some can’t afford to go or have other obligations that prevent them from attending. I thought some of you might enjoy reading the assignment I gave to our members not attending the conference. Some of these exercises, though geared to my chapter members who are writers, may work just as well for people who get passed over for a job promotion, people who’s air conditioner is on the fritz in ninety degree weather, and for parents of children on summer vacation who bicker every day.
To brighten your spirits, you must pick at least one item in the list that follows and perform it to your best ability. Let me know if it helped!
1. Wallow in a pint of your favorite full fat ice cream. If you’re really depressed, go for the half gallon. High wallow factor flavors include Mayfield Moose Tracks, Starbucks’ Coffee Almond Fudge, and Godiva White Chocolate Raspberry.
2. Turn your lemons into the proverbial lemonade. Or better yet, your limes into mojitos! If your particular disappointment is that you aren’t going to the RWA Conference, type up queries to the editors or agents you won’t be having an appointment with, affix stamps and mail them. If it’s your kids bickering, give them chores! They’ll be too busy to fight, and you’ll have a clean house at the end of the day.
3. Whine to your husband, best friend, and/or children as often as possible. You might as well spread the misery; it’s cathartic.
4. Throw yourself a romance pity party, I mean film fest. Pop some popcorn; Charge yourself $5 for a coke. Throw juju fruits at your husband.
5. See that stack of books in your “to be read” leaning tower of Pisa? Spread the books on the floor, blindfold yourself with a scarf and pick one. Read it. If you don’t have a stack to be read, go to the library or your favorite bookstore. I recommend books written by Noodlers. You can see our latest releases on the right side of the Blog.
6. Channel your favorite heroine. Well, fiddle dee dee, why not? Baffle your friends, family, and the people you work with.
7. Put on your favorite “poor pitiful me” song on the CD player and belt it out at the top of your lungs even if you’re tone deaf and the neighbor’s dog starts howling. Suggested song choices: “All by Myself” or “I Don’t Care Anymore.”
8. Write a limerick about the someone or someones who had a hand in your disappointment. “There was a boss named Belle, who brought me to this particular hell…”
Well, I'm just getting off a bad semester (bad as in too busy to write anything I want), a bad week (migraine-level headaches) and a bad day (PMSing). Tomorrow, Thursday, as of 11:30 am, however, I am free until Monday. No work for the office, no desperately needed errands, no health problems (I'm really, really hoping). I start writing again tomorrow, with a goal of adding very fast pages to my work in progress. To do that, I'm going to have to let go of all the doubts about whether I can get back into the groove. Doubts that the manuscript currently being shopped will be snapped up by an editor. Worries that I'm going to get to the RWA conference in July and feel like a fraud because I haven't been writing for months and months.
So, I'm taking a deep breath and letting it all go. Tomorrow at 11:30 I will become an amnesiac of all that has (not) happened in the last six months and just WRITE.
Do you want to sell a book in less than a decade? by Theresa Ragan
If so, don’t work on your first book for four years. Write something every day. Don’t work on the second book for three years. Learn to move on. Don’t send everything to contests and nothing to editors/agents. Don’t take everything your critique partner(s) and/or contest judge(s) say personally. After you’ve been writing for a few years make sure cp’s and judges and agents aren’t stopping you from moving on. Don’t show anyone your book until it’s finished. Believe in yourself. Spend more time writing than you do reading “how-to” books. Once you get an agent don’t assume that you can sit back and wait for him/her to sell something. Don’t write two dozen proposals and get in the habit of not finishing the books. Make sure you always have something sitting on an editor’s desk. Don’t give up. Don’t let rejections stop you from writing for months at a time. Believe in yourself. Turn off that internal editor when writing the first draft and just write...all the way to the end. Revise. Polish. Submit.
I've been so busy I entirely forgot it was my day to blog. (Heard that before, have you?) All right then, instead of a lot of words, I'm going to show you what's been keeping me so busy that I didn't even realize it was getting dark.
Back story here: In 2000 my first ebook, Fire Dance, was published. At that time, my publisher didn't do print copies, and ebooks were still struggling with gaining an audience. The original cover was done by a fabulous artist named Ron Chironna. Fire Dance is still selling well after six years, and even as recently as March this year was reviewed vbery favorably by one of Amazon's top reviewers. So we decided to bring the book out in print. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I won't be able to use the original cover art.
Back when Ron was working on the original cover, there was a change in deadlines, and he was concerned that he might not be able to finish in time for the book's release. So I discovered Photoshop, and through toil, sweat and tears managed to paint up an old engraving of Smailholm Hall in flames. Ron got his cover done and all my hard work went unneeded. But I was hooked on Photoshop. Since then, I've done all my own ebook covers and several for other authors as well.
Fast forward to 2006. New cover needed. I put together my old cover art, a photo of my daughter, who also served as Ron's model for the heroine, and one of my daughter's friend. The photos had to be re-positioned and turned into "paintings", complete with the right costumes, shading and lettering. The work is still very rough, but you can see where I'm heading. Here's my preliminary layout, and along with it, the elements thatr went into the design:
I was agonizing over what I should write about for my WNP blog, when one of my friends suggested I talk about the rejections I received before publishing.
There are a lot of an urban legends about the writer whose first book sold. They never got a rejection. Every agent wanted to represent her. Bidding wars from publishers. The final offer was so high Publishers Lunch had to coin a new term.
Yes, somewhere there is an author out there like her. That's not my story.
After joining Romance Writers of America, one of the first things I did was enter my very first manuscript into a contest. I remember the jolt of excitment I felt when I spotted my return envelope in the mailbox. I tore the top off so I could read the comments and see the scores.
In a word: AWFUL. In fact, one of the judges said I should spring for the Tylenol since my writing gave her a headache. That comment really hurt, and I actually didn't write for a while. (I'm sure this judge thinks that's a good thing.)
I also had another judge write B/S in the margins of my contest entry, but that's another story.
This is a business filled with rejections, and yes, hurtful comments.
Of course I want everyone to love my books. Logically, I know that's just not going to happen. And yes, that's a whole lot easier to say than to believe, feel and become active in your psyche.
Sadly, the world is just not ready for my first book called A Political Affair - and never will be. (Yeah, everyone wants to read a sweeping romance about political corruption with writing where even the dog has a point of view. Think Woodward and Bernstein and one of them is a woman. You choose.)
A fellow noodler posted a link to agent Kristen Nelson's blog. Nelson gives a lot of interesting persepctives few authors probably ever heard before blogs. She also makes me want to dash off and see what's playing on MY iPod (Which is the Foo Fighters).
Being an agent, Nelson has to dish out rejections. The correct response (if one is warranted) to an agent rejection is, "Thank you for your time." What I found amazing when reading Nelson's blog is that people will argue with her. Check out her post When You Feel The Response Urge—Don’t
So what is the correct response to a rejection?
The other correct response for me was to say (and I caution - this is in your head) "Oh yeah?" After the appropriate amount of chocolate (of course) you roll up your sleeves and write something even better. The best, most original thing you've ever done. Don't keep reworking the same old same old. Do something new. I have 9 manuscripts completed. Two are published. Three I've decided I should burn. The rest are in some stage in between.
(Also send out more queries, make a notes if the agent offered advice and keep a record of if you should query this agent again in the future - bookkeeping is also important.)
Call this a flaw in my personality - I can't accept a pass. After that first rejection from Harlequin, I wrote even more. If your writing gives someone a headache, vow the next book will give someone a smile.
Last Saturday I took a road trip with my brother, sister-in-law, and three nieces to attend my cousin’s graduation from the University of Santa Barbara. We left extra early to avoid the heavy traffic in Santa Barbara and still have time to make stops along the way.
The trip was the longest amount of time I’d spent in a car with my nieces, age 10, 7, and 4, (about three hours each way.) I have to admit it was a learning experience, filled with interesting snippets of conversation. The first part of the journey passed quietly. Christine, the eldest, had her headphones on, and Kelsey (middle) and Kimmie (littlest) drew in their coloring books.
When we reached the Hollywood freeway, my brother started pointing out landmarks. One tall building had Kelsey declaring, “When you get to the top, you’re close to the sun.”
Although the girls remained vigilant, they didn’t see any movie stars, which disappointed them. Christine, especially, wanted to stop and hunt some down. Although they did become excited when they spotted the Hollywood Sign. That’s when I realized that I’d driven this freeway many times, and never once looked for the sign. Never even thought to look for it. That saying about seeing things through the eyes of a child really is true.
Kimmie earnestly colored a picture of Cinderella. She’d hold two crayons up and ask me to pick which color she should use on each part. Sometimes her choices would have made the real Cinderella cringe. But I thought the princess looked nice with green hair. Purple just wouldn’t have worked with the orange dress.
Kimmie is fascinated by family relationships, especially the one between her father and myself. Earlier when I’d arrived at their house, she’d announced to Tim, “Your sister is here.” Then she’d said to me, “Say hello to your brother.” Then later on the road, she told me, “You used to be the big sister, then Daddy grew up, and now he’s your big brother.” (Which is true. He’s 6’3”.)
At one point Kimmie looked up from her drawing and asked, “Daddy, are you going to be alive forever?”
Tim, busy driving, didn’t hear her.
I wanted to be truthful with her, but I also didn’t want to give her any anxiety about the idea of Daddy dying. “No one is going to live forever,” I answered.
Kimmie seemed to accept that reply without showing signs of stress. Kelsey, who has a scientific mind, chimed in, “I know who lives forever ... rocks.”
“No, not even rocks.” I said. ”Eventually they wear down, too. Where do you think sand comes from?”
Kelsey thought some more. “The earth doesn’t die.” Then she reconsidered. “No, eventually the sun is going to explode. But it’s not going to happen for a long, long time.”
We arrived early in Santa Barbara and had lunch in a restaurant on the beach next to the campus. While we waited for our meal, Kelsey looked around the table and asked, “Dad, do you realize you are surrounded by girls?”
Tim, who once told me he lives in a world of pink, adroitly answered. “Yeah, I’m a lucky guy. I don’t know any other guys who are surrounded by such beautiful girls.”
After the graduation ceremony, we headed to a small park by the beach. We spread out a blanket, and the girls changed from dresses into shorts. They ran off to play in the sand, while Tim and I got drinks and popcorn from a nearby restaurant. When we returned, Kelsey summoned Tim to look at her architectural creation--a mound bristling with sticks and shells.
My sister-in-law, Shannon, Christine, and I relaxed, until Shannon started to make trouble by tossing a piece of popcorn at a nearby seagull. At first the bird was vary of us, but a few more pieces took care of the fear. Tim came back and caught Christine throwing popcorn. “Christy, don’t feed the seagulls,” he chided. He joined us on the blanket, and Shannon winked at me and threw some more popcorn. Nothing like giving parental mixed messages. By this time a mob of birds had descended on us. We kept feeding them, while Tim muttered about “flying rats.” Once our food ran out, the girls had fun chasing the birds. Although the original gull kept returning, hoping for more handouts. I think he had a thing for Christine.
At another part of the day, Kimmie looked up at me and asked, “Aunt Deb, are you going to get married?”
(This is a question each girl in turn has asked when she was about four or five. They’d really like a chance to be bridesmaids.)
“But you have to have children.”
“No I don’t. I have nieces.”
Kimmie looked distressed. “But I already have a mommie and daddy. You need your own children.”
I laughed and gave her a hug. “But, I have you and your sisters. What more could I possible want?”
Last night I was reading a book where the hero and heroine were talking about seeing “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest.” It was a throwaway reference, not integral to the story, yet it yanked me right out of it.
I’m 8 years older than these characters, and I haven’t seen that movie. My dh, who is a year older than me (today – happy birthday, honey!) saw it, but on Showtime when he lived at home.
Over 20 years ago.
You may think I’m going on and on about this, and probably a lot of you out there who are younger than me HAVE seen this movie. Heaven knows, I’ve had a pretty boring and sheltered life.
I shouldn’t have had to stop to think about it.
I stop to think when characters younger than me mention June Cleaver. I know, I know, Nick at Nite. But a more appropriate reference to someone in that age group (30s) would be Marion Cunningham.
Have you seen Rumor Has It with Jennifer Aniston? Cute movie, but the whole time I was wondering, why does it take place in 1996? (I think that was the date, around there.) I got that we didn’t want Kevin Costner’s character to be, what, 60, if the story took place in 2006, but I kept looking for inconsistencies in the fashion and the technology because it was made today but set ten years ago….
I’m weird, I know.
So the question is, now that I’m growing older than most of my characters (though I’m exactly the same age as Gabe in Hot Shot – when I first started writing it, 40 seemed SOOO far away), how do I keep references appropriate to them? I mean, my first concert was Journey, my first R-rated movie was Werewolf of London, I lived to watch Dukes of Hazzard on Friday nights. Such a little thing such as a reference to a movie or TV show or song can have a reader questioning.
Or maybe I’m the only one who stops and does the math.
This past weekend my friend Barbara (see more of Barbara here) and I went to our high school reunion in Jacksonville Alabama --Jacksonville High School Class of 19??. Neither of us live anywhere near Alabama; we both moved the summer after our graduation and have only been back one time, for another reunion. We lived at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, an army post that was closed about five years ago, but it is undergoing a metamorphosis and is turning into a lovely, vibrant community.
Barbara's father and my father were both colonels in the Army and we lived in officer's housing. It was a surprise to discover that our neighborhood has now been designated an historic place - Historic Buckner Circle. The houses are in a big circle with a parade field and gazebo in the center. Barbara and I used to walk around the circle endlessly, talking and dreaming about the future. We used to stand inside the gazebo and sing Beatle songs.
Here are pictures: My house
The view from my house across the circle
Barbara and me. inside the gazebo once again
What we looked like then, this photo taken behind Barbara's house which bordered on the Officers Club and the swimming pool.
The reunion was lovely. What pleased me the most was that my fondness for old friends was undiminished, perhaps even enhanced by the pleasure of seeing them again. My old classmates were surprised to see that the shy and brainy quiet girl was now writing Romance! I gave away 25 copies of my books, and some of my old classmates who live near Atlanta might come to see me at the RWA Literacy Signing at the Hilton on July 26. Their excitement for my new writing life touched me.
Here's a photo of four old friends, happy to be together again. From Left to Right, Peanuts (Betty, but we never called her that), Eleshea, Barbara, me.
Here we are before, in the same order:
I miss them all terribly now that I'm home, all my old friends from JHS....
The Third Daughter -- a publishing fable by Kiki Clark
Once upon a time, there were three beautiful sisters who all wore glasses. They also all happened to be princesses in a country ruled by their mother, the Queen.
One day, the Queen gathered her daughters together, calling them away from their various hobbies of writing Firefly fan fiction, composing an e-zine on the benefits of raw foods, and editing a local coupon booklet. “The queendom needs cash,” she said. “I need one of you talented gals to write a book and become a best-selling author.”
The oldest daughter stepped forward and went down on one dainty knee. “I’ll do it. I’ve often thought of turning one of my short stories into a science-fiction novel.”
The Queen nodded and tapped her daughter’s shoulder with her sparkly wand of office, designed by Swarovski. “Rise and go on your quest. And make sure there’s a tiny talking dragon in it, because I love those.”
“That’s fantasy, Mom, not science fiction,” the daughter protested.
“Then make it a cyborg dragon. Never let it be said I’m not a fair ruler.”
So the eldest daughter toiled away and finished her novel. She printed out the final, polished version and went to see the Queen. “I’m ready for my quest to the publisher.”
The Queen nodded, well-pleased. “I like the title… Burning Bug.” She looked down at her daughter’s weary face. “How long have you been in that bathrobe, anyway? You’re a little whiffy. And for God’s sake, put some make up on.”
Her daughter bowed and went to get ready. When she was attired in her little black suit, her sisters stood at the gates of the castle and waved to her. “Have fun storming the conference!” they called.
The princess traveled far, enduring rude security guards, luggage limitations, and a three-hour layover. But at last she reached the conference. The next day, she had an editor appointment with the best in the land. After settling into her room, she went to the bar and ordered a drink to calm her nerves.
A little hag of a woman, poorly dressed and already drunk, hoisted herself into the chair next to the princess. “You here for the writer’s cornfr… conferush… thingie?” she slurred.
The princess smiled graciously, tilting her head away from the woman’s breath. “Yes.”
“Who you seein’ tomorrow?”
The princess named the editor she was going to see.
“Goo fer you.” The hag swayed on her stool. “Lemme tell you ‘bout my book idea.”
The princess listened at the hag rambled on and on, losing the thread of the story, repeating herself, and mixing up the names of her characters. “Excuse me,” the princess said when the hag paused for breath, “but I need to get a full night’s sleep.”
The hag grabbed her sleeve. “Not finished…”
The princess listened some more, getting angrier and more desperate by the second.
Finally, the hag finished. “Tell me if that’s not the besht idea you’ve never heard anything like it.” She took a gulp of her drink, spilling some down the front of her blouse.
“I think it’s terrible,” the princess said.
The hag blinked at her. “Wha?”
“I’m sorry, but you did ask what I thought, and I’m a very honest person. I don’t think you should pitch that book idea to anyone. It rambles too much, the ending isn’t satisfying, and the main characters are completely unlikeable.”
The hag drew herself up very slowly, gave the princess the finger, and fell off her stool.
The next morning, the princess waited in line for her appointment with the best editor in the land. She could see the editor in the conference room, looking over her notes. At that moment, someone brushed by the princess, almost knocking her over. She looked up to see the hag, transformed into a respectable-looking woman in a beautiful dress. The hag went straight into the conference room and bent over the editor, whispering in her ear. The editor looked up and her eyes met those of the princess in a cold stare. The hag giggled and left by another door as one of the conference volunteers showed the princess in.
The princess sank into the guest chair. Being royalty, she took the bull by the horns. “The woman you were just speaking to looked familiar. Should I know her?”
The editor smiled thinly. “She’s one of my best clients. Not only that, but she’s an expert on recognizing talent, and has sent a lot of good writers my way. Shall we get started?”
Back in the queendom and a week later, the Queen called her other two daughters together. “Your oldest sister is going away to rest for a while,” she said sadly. “Which of you feels like a best-seller?”
The middle princess stepped forward. “Me! I do!”
The Queen tapped her on the shoulders with her sparkly staff. It was missing a lot of crystals, because she was making and selling earrings to pay the castle rent. “Rise and go on your quest. And forget dragons. I hear you can’t make money off sci-fi. Why don’t you try a romance?”
The middle princess toiled day and night. Finally she appeared before the queen and plopped a manuscript at her feet. “It’s about an Olympic discus thrower who loses an arm, and the woman who cracks his shell of grief and teaches him to love life, and her.”
“What’s the title?” asked the Queen.
“Love’s Labors Tossed.”
The Queen nodded thoughtfully. “Not bad.” She held out a sheet of paper. “I can’t afford to send you to a conference, so here’s a bunch of agents who accept email queries. If none of them bite, I’ll see if I can rustle up some money for postage.”
The princess took the list. “I thought we had to cancel our DSL.”
“Is there a Starbucks down the road or what?” the Queen snapped. “Now get on it.”
So the middle princess sent off her queries and behold, a very good agent requested the full and then offered to represent the princess.
“Finally,” the Queen said, smearing glue on her staff and sprinkling glitter on it. “Any day now, you’ll be a best-selling author.”
The agent called the princess the very next week. “We have someone who’s interested. The only thing is, you need to alpha up your hero. They especially don’t like the fact that he’s a vegan.”
“I can’t do that,” the middle princess said. The Queen, who had her head pressed against her daughter so she could hear, smacked her on the back of the head.
“What do you mean you can’t do it?” asked the agent.
“I mean that the story demands that the hero be sensitive, or it falls apart.”
“This is your first book! How do you know what the story demands?”
“I know myself as an artist,” the princess said, with some dignity. “Hello? Hello?” She sadly replaced the phone. “I’ve failed you, mother.”
The Queen was already stomping out of the room. “Get me my youngest daughter!” she yelled at a nearby guard, who was trying to make a fabric-covered picture frame to sell at the neighboring kingdom’s flea market.
The youngest daughter was hauled in front of her mother. “I still have ten ads to edit for the coupon book, and there are fewer days in February!”
“I happen to know you have a book hiding under your bed,” the Queen said.
“Yes, but it’s not very commercial.”
“I don’t care. I had the cook read it to me while I was making earrings, and she cried at the end.”
“Did you cry?” asked her daughter.
“Royalty doesn’t cry.” The Queen drummed her fingers on the threadbare velvet of the throne’s arm. “I’ve managed to call in a few favors and have J.K. Rowling introduce you to her agent.”
The youngest princess gasped. “In that case, I’ll be happy to pitch my story.”
The Queen started to reach for her staff, but gave her daughter a limp salute instead. “Good luck, kid.”
And so the youngest princess met with the agent, who was very impressed with her work. The princess called her mother on the queendom’s last cell phone, pushing the loose battery sideways so the connection wouldn’t fail. “She wants to sell it to a small press.”
“What?” her mother screeched. “You won’t get rich and famous that way!”
“I know, but she says the story is so unusual, none of the big houses would know where to put it. She thinks that maybe after book three, if my numbers are good, I might be able to get someone else to take me on.”
The Queen made a noise like a broken kazoo. “Don’t bother coming home.”
And so the youngest daughter found a cheap apartment and a job editing a complimentary real-estate magazine. Over the years, she made enough money on her publishing career to buy a good used car and take the occasional nice vacation. She enjoyed writing and lived reasonably happily ever after.
The RWA national conference is rapidly approaching and once again I am need of a dress and a pair of shoes for the awards ceremony.
The way I see it, Cinderella had it made. She had a fairy godmother, who could whip up the perfect pair of shoes to go with her fabulous prince-catching dress. The rest of us have to trudge through the malls to find the perfect shoe. Malls, as in many, if you live in a large city in Southern California. It’s grueling work, but being a practical Virgo who doesn’t want to waste precious gas or time, I’ve worked out a plan to kill two birds with one stone.
It also happens that I’m teaching my oldest daughter to drive. Next to potty training, this is the mom duty that puts the most gray hair on my head, but like the former, can’t be avoided. So, for the last two weeks, we have been taking driving lessons to the various malls so I can search for the perfect shoes to match, what has turned out to be, the not so perfect rust-colored dress. Rust is not the hot color for shoes this year. Lots of pewter and gold. And lime green. What’s with that? If only the shoe designers and the dress designers could get together for coffee once a year . . .
But I’ve got the daughter trained. When the clock tolls 6, she grabs her keys and eagerly asks, “Where am I taking you tonight?” I groan and she smiles, knowing she’ll end up with something and I’ll come away empty-handed—because rust is not the in-color for shoes this year! Before you ask, yes, I have also been looking for another dress that might actually go with the available shoe supply. But even that seems beyond my reach. It’s prom dress leftover time. That probably explains the surplus of lime green shoes. The younger generation has a practical streak the shoe designers didn’t predict, it seems.
In any event, I am gaining a new understanding for heroines who are shoe obsessed. I’ve come to realize that shoes are more than just a fashion statement. They announce to the world who you are. They are a reflection of your personality and your view of the world. Flats are for the times you want to feel grounded and secure and comfortable in your surroundings. Heels are for those adventurous moments when we want to tower over others and draw attention to ourselves. The one that puzzles me is the high-heeled boot. The heel says sexy, yes? The boot aspect says hidden and mysterious, I’m guessing. The whole boot thing makes me claustrophobic. But then again, I live in Southern California where shoes are optional most of the year. But writers of women’s fiction have to consider such things. Shoes reveal character. So on July 29th, I’ll be revealing mine in front of two thousand people, in the perfect shoes . . . I hope.
Last Christmas, Scott gave me Dragon Naturally Speaking soft wear. (He thought if I could write faster, he could retire all the sooner. Ha!) Thinking I might as well give it a whirl as I start my new manuscript, I hooked up the head set and software. I did the tutorial so the computer would recognize my voice, the way I phrased things. I then studied the Quick Reference Card. With all systems go, I open the document and set my font, etc. I’m ready! Me: “Capital--Please—comma--I beg ye—comma—Cameron—comma--dinna go--exclamation point.” Dragon types: “Capital peas common I bag yeast common camera on common dinner go!” Me: “Ugh!” Dragon: ought Me: “Cr*p.” Dragon: crap Ah, it can’t understand me worth a damn, but it can curse. Great. This time--with teeth clenched--I backspace and try again only to get the same results, so I type in what I want. To myself, I mutter, “Let’s try this again, shall we?” Dragon: “Lettuce tie this again shall we” I count to ten, backspace, and check the quick reference card. “CAPITAL--Her son put down the wet stone and claymore--period.” Dragon: “Capital her sun put down the wet stone and clay more period” Me: “Ughhhhh!” Dragon: ahaahah Laugh at me, will you! I jerked the headset cord out of the computer and start to type. Scott’s just going to have to come up with an alternative retirement plan.
Three years ago, this group was a giddy bunch of wanna-be, hope-to-be writers getting ready for one of the biggest events of our lives--the 2003 Golden Heart Awards program at the RWA National Convention in New York City. A couple of lucky girls sold between the time they entered the contest and the convention, but most of us were still teetering on the edge. Now look at us! Look to the right, at that long row of book covers. Pop over to the Wet Noodle Posse ezine (www.wetnoodleposse.com) and check out the new releases. Cruise some of the author websites. It's amazing how much difference three years can make.
We've had Noodle babies born, we've lost one member to a devastating disease. We've had successes, and some failures. Through it all, we've held together. We celebrate those successes, we console and mourn the failures (then kick them in the rear and tell them to get back in the game). We buy Noodler books and place them front and center in book stores. We contribute to literacy baskets, send cards where needed, share houses during trips, help with booksignings, meet at conferences, see each other at any available opportunity.
I'm truly proud to be a part of this group. I hope you'll stop by the WNP ezine and help us celebrate its 2nd anniversary next month. But most of all, I hope you'll buy, and read, the Noodlers books, because I think we have the most talented group of writers on the planet right here in this wonderful group.
Today in the United States it is Flag Day. It's a day set aside to honor the flag that represents our country. You can go to this link to learn more about the history of the United States flag and this day.
Since it's flag day, I'm going to put on my patriotic hat. I love the USA. What a great country! When I see the flag and sing our national anthem, tears often come to my eyes. I'm truly troubled by people who denigrate my country, saying it is evil. I just want to tell them to go live somewhere else if they think the USA is so awful. I wonder if these people consider the fact that if we shipped them off to Cuba, they could find themselves in prison if they were so bold as to criticize the Cuban government.
No country is perfect, but the USA has so much to offer. Why do people risk their lives to come here? Why do hundreds of people come here illegally every day? (And we won't get into the argument over illegal immigrants.) They know this country is a wonderful place to live, full of opportunities that they didn't have where they came from. And I'm more grateful than I can ever explain that I was born in the USA.
I'm an American child. If you've ever heard the song Phil Vassar sings entitled "An American Child," you'll understand what I mean. The line in the song about dreams being born inside an American child speaks right to me. I wasn't born into wealth or privilege, but I was born in the USA where I could pursue my dreams. I had a dream to be a published author. I've realized that dream. I really believe there are opportunities for anyone who has the willingness to work and sacrifice to make his or her dreams come true.
In some circles it's not politically correct to be patriotic. But I'm going to stand up today and say I'm proud to be an American. Merrillee
It's a beautiful day today. The sun is shining. There's a mild breeze. The sky is airbrushed with wispy clouds. Or so it all was when I drove to work this morning. Since arriving around 9, I've been holed up in my closet-of-a-windowless office.
However, it's nearing lunch time, and guess what I plan to do.
I'm headed outside to enjoy my salad and diet coke. And while I may be dressed in work clothes and the clock may be ticking away my lunch break, inside my mind, I'll be a million other places.
I'll drift off to that beautiful beach in the Bahamas. The sound of the waves soothing my soul. The feel of warm sand streaming through my fingers.
I'll venture to a karaoke club with my family. There's my dad and my girls picking out their songs. My hubby enjoying his drink. My mom smiling at us all. The music will play. We'll get up and dance. We'll laugh together.
I'll return to the Reno Hilton, site of last year's RWA conference, to enjoy a margarita and tasty mexican food with my sister Posse members. Can you say, great photo op?
Maybe I'll be back in Forest Park enjoying a delicious picnic with my husband and kids, waiting for the start of "Julius Ceasar" during St. Louis's annual Shakespeare in the Park. The sky darkens, the stage lights flicker to life. My youngest snuggles on my lap. I can't decide whether I want another glass of wine or another chocolate chunk cookie. Decisions, decisions. What the heck, I'll have both. :-)
Or maybe I'll be running. Sweat streaming down my face. My three girls and a good friend of mine alongside me. We're engulfed by the rest of the 63,000 plus people taking part in the Race for the Cure this past Saturday. The crowd is energized and ready to go. I raced in memory of a high school girlfriend who died much too young. I raced with my girls, hoping they realized that yes, we can make a difference. I raced because I've been blessed with the ability to do so.
Wherever you are... sitting in an office, alone at your desk, watching the kids play in the back yard. Take a moment to recall a happy time, a fun, cherished memory. Take a moment to smile, and consider the possibilities, the memories you're still going to make, and how much fun it'll be to look back on those, too.
When I was putting my six-year-old son Richard to sleep tonight, he turned into his ardent alter-ego, Romance-Man. He gushed the sort of stuff my husband wouldn't be caught dead saying: "Mom, my world would be nothing without you. I can't stop thinking about you. You're prettier than all the other mothers." Once, Romance-Man was trying to think of the most superlative compliment ever, and said I was like God to him. I hastily broke the news that I had no claim to divinity, and so he thought about it for a few seconds and decided, "Well, then, you're God's Princess."
Just so you all know.
But sadly, in the past few months, Richard's been Romance-Man less, and Screenplay-Pitching-Man more. He's constantly interrupting me to deliver punchy three-line hooks about the current scenario he's dreamed up for his Lego figures. "Mom, Spider Man and Mary Jane are lost in Harry Potter's castle. They were looking for a magic goblet. Now things have gone horribly wrong." (I'm not kidding, "horribly wrong" is one of his favorite phrases.) Poor Mary Jane--this little Lego figurine from the Spider Man collection gets into all kinds of heinous situations. If she were a romance heroine, she'd definitely fall under the "too stupid to live" category. When we bought Richard the "Dinosaur Attack" Lego set for his birthday, he ripped the giftwrap from the box, goggled at the towering T. Rex and commented in awe, "Mary Jane's in *big* trouble now…"
I think the fading of Romance-Man and the ascendancy of Screenplay-Pitching-Man means that my little guy is starting to grow up.
I got some back-up for this theory when we were attending an amateur performance of "101 Dalmations", which my older son Peter had gone to theater camp for a week to prepare for-- his being the taxing technical role of pushing a button to dim the lights at the beginning and pushing a button to bring up the lights at the end. Anyhow, Richard watched the play with rapt attention, horrified at Cruella de Vil's evil quest for dalmation puppies…and then one of the characters spoke the brilliant line, "Oh, no! Whatever can we do to stop that wicked Cruella de Vil?"
Interpreting this as a bona fide request for advice, Richard spoke decisively into the hush of the darkened theater: "Fighter jets."
That’s a lot of reading programs. But I appreciate the effort. One of those programs might just hold the key to a summer’s worth of reading. And one of them I’m happy to share with everyone, or at least kids in first through sixth grade.
Barnes and Noble is sponsoring a Summer of Unfortunate Events reading program. And if you (or rather, your child in first - sixth grade) read eight books, you get one for free. This worries my son Andrew. He’s afraid kids will skip reading the books and simply fill in the form to get a free one. So don’t, okay?
Right now he’s reading football books and books on fossils/rocks/minerals. I’m reading young adult titles, my daughter Kyra is all about the princesses.
Real/fake? Jade Ferraro is a cosmetic surgeon at an elite Beverly Hills clinic. But to Loukas Demakis she's a fraud.
Revenge/pleasure? Loukas plans to seduce top secret information from Jade, and then discard her when he's done.
Money/truth… Loukas buys Jade dinner — for a donation of one million dollars! But will the cost of the truth be worth the price of his heart?
What Others Are Saying...
"Trish Morey's newest release from Harlequin Presents, FOR REVENGE... OR PLEASURE? carries a lot of heart. This is a story with a strong 'wow!' factor and a compelling plot that is hard to forget even after the book is finished. Ms. Morey has crafted an intensely sexy novel with unforgettable characters who tug at every emotion in the reader's heart. Laced with gripping narration and plenty of passion, this book is a winner from start to finish. Don't miss it." ~ Leena Hyat, Senior Editor, The Best Reviews
For a while now I’ve had an idea for a children’s mid-grade fantasy rattling around in my head and I can’t let it go. Problem is, I know nothing about writing for children, or about writing fantasy. Of course the same could be said when I started to write romance, and I didn’t let that stop me.
This spring I decided to check out the writing programs being offered at The Banff Centre, which is in Canada so it’s spelled with an -re. Their Writing with Style program this fall has a children’s writing component that provides "a unique opportunity for writers of all levels to participate in a week-long workshop . . . " Only eight participants will be selected, and those lucky individuals will work with award-winning author, Tim Wynne-Jones.
As part of the application process I had to submit the story premise and up to the first twenty pages of the children’s work-in-progress that I plan work on during the workshop, if accepted. Which means I had to actually start writing the book. The application deadline has passed and the submissions are being adjudicated.
The workshop takes place in Banff in the beautiful Canadian Rockies—think Brokeback Mountain with fall colour. I’m needing lots of vibes and crossed fingers, and hoping the adjudicators are able to find some potential in the work of a rank beginner. Or maybe I’m a diamond in the rough? Yes, I definitely like the sound of that.
I should know the results by the end of June, so stay tuned for my July blog . . .
As I anticipate a second baby, it occurs to me that I learned some things the first time around that may make me better prepared.
#1 MYTH (at least for me): Busty-R-Us.
As everyone knows, pregnancy is that time in life when even less-endowed gals turn into voluptuous sex-kitten goddesses! I could hardly wait to look like one of the waitresses at Hooters.
Bit of a mistake there. Unfortunately, I looked like one of the malecustomers at Hooters, small breasts and a big belly. Even after I gained 50 pounds and wore a pregnancy size XL, I could still comfortably fit into my pre-pregnancy bra. What happened to looking like Pamela Anderson? Where is the justice?? Who can I write to about this to register a formal complaint???
#1 FEAR: Childbirth.
Childbirth hurt, but at least it was brief. What I really should have worried about was the six weeks (six months?) afterwards, when sleep was a feeble memory and days and nights were spent in zombie-like exhaustion. There’s no epidural for this. On the plus side, I did get to catch up with the morning news shows. And And
I remember nearly having a screaming breakdown at a well-meaning landscaper who was trying to talk to me about our overgrown trees during a precious half hour when my baby was sleeping. I wanted to yank the trees out of the ground and smash them on his head. Here’s a piece of advice: don’t bug a new mother about anything. Just bring food or, if you’re a true pal, send a housecleaning service.
#1 CONCERN: Am I doing this right?
The first time, I read all the pregnancy books. I tried to follow them. Lots of sleep? Check. Prenatal yoga? Check. But their pregnancy diet plans were outrageous – the kind of draconian regimen I might have tried in my cabbage soup days.
I’m ordered to eat broccoli in my first trimester, when just the thought of it makes me want to hurl? But I’m not allowed to eat the turkey-and-Swiss on whole wheat with sprouts and mustard that I can’t stop thinking about? Crazy! And worst of all, even though we all *know* I’m gonna be gaining like 35 pounds, I’m supposed to avoid the comfort foods that appeal to me in my nausea – just because, heaven forbid, I might gain a little more weight? A MAN must have written this stupid diet!
My wonderful ob-gyn helped me put the advice in perspective. She explained the risks I should take seriously (e.g. no alcohol, no early trimester hot tubs), vs. the stuff that was really just being overcautious (like the .001% chance the deli turkey or sprouts might make me sick). After that, I ate everything I wanted – the turkey and sprouts on whole wheat topped off with french fries and apple pie a la mode. Okay, I gained 50 pounds, instead of 35, by eating everything I wanted. But so what? I lost it all afterwards. Now that’s what I call a sensible eating plan.
#1 NEW QUESTION: How will I manage to do it all?
While there are things I now know to expect, a second pregnancy brings some entirely new worries. For instance, how on earth will I manage to get through the first six weeks of postnatal sleep deprivation when I have a toddler who still wants to play in the park like usual? How will I go grocery shopping when I’m dragging two toddlers who are crying for candy? How will I even manage to leave the house with them both dressed, fed, changed, and ready at the same time? Will I ever write again? Will I ever *sleep* again?
I just have to take a deep breath. Other women have managed to do it and coped just fine. And even if it’s hard, really hard, at first, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. Motherhood is the best, most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Just thinking of my daughter makes my heart expand two sizes in my chest (just like the Grinch!). And now we’ll have another child to love. I can hardly wait for that.
#1 REQUEST: Who’s willing to belly up to the bar?
I’ll need a designated drinker for the Wet Noodle bar get-together in Atlanta. Who’s willing to drink mojitos for two? I might even be prevailed on to treat you to that minty goodness, you lucky duck! So look for me – I’ll be the one sweating in the air-conditioned bar, wearing an extra ten pounds, a grumpy expression and an “I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant” t-shirt.
I love summer! Outdoor meals, pick-up sports and water, water, water! The beach, the lake, the pool...bring it on! I also love ice cream, and you just can't beat a good ice cream on a warm summer day. The Noodlers shared their favorite ice cream flavors this month over on the e-zine and we'd love to hear yours too!
And when you need to work off that ice cream, check out Merrillee's article on staying active when you get older!
Great tips to enjoy summer and keep fit! My latest quicky summer shaper is doing 250 bicycle crunches a day to keep the core and tummy in decent shape. What are some of yours?
We’re five days into hurricane season and I’m proud to say that I haven’t panicked yet.
Last night I watched an informational program on disaster planning on the local government channel that provided some very interesting information. It was companion to a book from FEMA called “Are you Ready?
It answered some questions, yet overlooked others.
I now know I need to acquire my own blue roof tarp—I hate to think about buying one (they’re not cheap) but I hate to think about needing one and not having it, too. I learned how to sanitize soda and milk bottles for use as water containers and that a moderately active person needs one-half a gallon of water each day for drinking. Plan on putting one gallon per person per day in your disaster preparedness kit. Non-perishable food? Got it. Two extra weeks of medications? Try getting that out of your insurance company. Got a pet? Better pack for them, too. In past years I’ve never worried about myself as much as I worried about the cats. This year I’m getting Max a harness and leash (he’s eighteen and never had either) just in case we need to go to a pet-friendly shelter.
The two things I always wonder about, that no one ever discusses, is what to do with the worn out batteries (you’re not supposed to send them to the landfill, but what the heck else are you supposed to do with them???)
The other is the matter of the loo. If the electricity goes out and your friendly local lift station goes off line, your toilet won’t flush. They never talk about that! Or is that what the other half gallon of water is for? Is that what they meant when they talked about being prepared to bury your garbage? Ick!
The 2006 forecast calls for: 17 named tropical storms; an average season has 9.6. ; 9 hurricanes compared to the average of 5.9. ; 5 major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph; average is 2.3.
If you don’t live in a hurricane-prone area you can help your family by offering to be a telephone contact person. If family members are separated, they can call you, and you can assist them in getting back together. Or you can invite everyone to your house to ride out the storm. I’m sure they’d be happy to bring their disaster kits!
So, I read Steph's post & adored it & got all mushy & for my post today I typed this eloquent and, a bit weepy, post. Then I deleted it. Why? Because that's not the kind of post I want to make today.
Why? Because I had a fabulous book signing today that I wasn't expecting to be fabulous because let's face it, it's been 7 months since my book came out & most of the people who are going to buy a copy of my book probably already have. Oh, & when I got there, I discovered I was supposed to give a talk prior to the booksigning---a talk that I sure hadn't prepared for since I must have mentally blocked that little piece of info out of my head. BUT I had my first library signing and it was WONDERFUL. The library itself was fabulous & a place I'd happily move into and likely never be bored, but it was the people there. The librarians and the workers were so gracious that they made the event for me. They'd advertized the event in several local papers and the turnout was good. & the talk, well, it went okay with a minimal of uhms & ands (yes, I mentally winced & heard my Toastmaster trained husband fuss every time I heard one come out). The group asked lots of questions & I actually enjoyed it.
I also went to the writers group that meets there twice a month. What a great resource that I had no clue existed until plans for the booksigning were being made.
The part that struck me most was that prior to my book coming out I never would have thought about going to a library for a booksigning. I made the rounds & introduced myself to bookstores, but not libraries. Ladies, libraries are our friends and they love books! I've done a few bookstore signings and they were fun, but there was no comparison to the one at the library today. If, as authors, you aren't going by your libraries, do so now.
My mom used to say, "All things are with greater spirit pursued than enjoyed." I'm pretty sure someone famous said that, and I'm also sure I got it wrong, but you get the idea. How many times in your life have you thought, if I could just get this certain thing, or if this particular event would happen, all would be well. If I could lose 20 pounds, life would be great. If I could get this credit card paid off, everything would be okay. If I can marry Tom, Dick, or Harry, my life will be complete. If I could just have a baby, I'd have nirvana. A car. A house. A dream.
We all have them. Some call them goals, some call them dreams. But we all think our life will drastically change once we get there.
It's not until we're older that we realize, it's all bullshit. Not that we shouldn't strive for what we want, what we need, but to think we, as human beings, will be any different for having achieved something, is total bullshit. We are who we are, and no matter how much money we make, or how many pounds we lose, or how much success we gain, we're still the same person, with the same hang-ups and fears and longings.
I used to think, if I could just sell a book, I'll be there. It consumed me, the dream of becoming published. I imagined that I'd be admired and liked. I'd be able to walk away from my CPA practice, never to have to wrangle with the IRS or pain in the ass clients again. I'd be respected by my friends and family. And I'd gain respect and admiration from my fellow writers, published and unpublished, big names and midlists and newbies. I'd be somebody. I'd have money. I'd be doing what I love most in the world - writing. Ah yes, my life would be perfect.
Fast forward to now, with 3 books published, 1 under contract, and here's the skinny on what it's really like.
I'm admired and liked pretty much the same as I was before. If anything, maybe a little less, because people I thought were friends couldn't get past anger and jealousy that I sold, and they didn't. Never saw that coming.
I'm still wrangling with the IRS and pain in the ass clients because I have 2 daughters in college and I'm not making enough money from the books to support them. If I sell a great many more books for lots more money, I can still maybe lose the CPA thing, but that's a long, long way off. Now, instead of just worrying about tax deadlines, I have to worry about book deadlines. My whole damn life is ruled by deadlines.
My nonwriting friends and my family admire and respect me exactly as much as they admired and respected me before - with all the same expectations. Have lunch with me - whatdya mean you can't? Oh, you can write any time - come to lunch. You need to eat, after all. Mom, I need you to help me fill out this job application. Stef, we're supposed to have dinner with my family. Stef, would you come to Dallas and help me redecorate the house? Could you go with me on a road trip to Nova Scotia? Mom, could you look after the dog while I run an errand? Mom, will you look over this apartment lease? Stef, we really need to look into consolidating the school loans - the rates are going up. Oh, sure, we know you have a deadline, but this is important!
As for all those other authors, I'm still about as important, liked and respected as I was before I published three books. In other words, I'm still a nobody. But I've discovered that this isn't something that means diddly squat to me any longer. Women I admired, who I thought would be so great to get to know, aren't. Imagine my disappointment to find out the people at the top of the mountain are pretty much like the ones at the bottom. Some are nice, some aren't. This was brought home to me in a very painful way at the NINC conference in New Orleans. It was a life-altering moment when I realized my company wasn't wanted. Yes, I was ditched, sending me back to junior high, with all the same feelings of self-consciousness and sadness that I wasn't included. I sat in my hotel room and cried, and ordered a cheeseburger from room service and swore to myself I'd never, ever feel like that again. I came home and went nomail on almost all of my lists and concentrated on the writing. I decided I have enough writer friends - women who liked and respected me before I sold, who'll still like and respect me whether I become rich and famous, or never sell another book. Because friendship isn't about what we are so much as who we are. I like to think I'm a good friend, supportive and compassionate and there for my friends when they need me.
At the end of it all, nothing matters so much as love and friendship. I had that long before I sold my first book, and I'll have it as long as I live, come what may.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not much of a flyer, so I travel by car most of the time, occassionally by train. But here's the thing -- for me, it's not a sacrifice. I love car trips, the lure of the open road and all I might see along it. Sure, we can get from coast to coast in a handful of hours now, but what do you see along the way other than clouds, glimpses of landscape below and a bunch of harried people at the airports? You're not going to see the world's largest ball of twine from the air. :)
Some of my friends are amazed that I take off across the country by myself, but to me it's a grand adventure. I've driven from my home to Washington state, Texas, Oklahoma, the D.C. area, Florida and various points in between. This week, I've driven to Wisconsin and because I took backroads instead of interstates for part of the journey, I got to see a lot of beautiful countryside, quaint little towns, the interesting Swiss heritage of New Glarus, Wisconsin, gorgeous purple wildflowers blooming alongside the winding hills of Northwestern Illinois and Southwestern Wisconsin. I soak up the scenery like a sponge soaking up water. If I've not been there before, I find it exciting.
I've heard tales of lament from people whose parents loaded them up and forced them to endure long car trips when they were kids. I just stare at them. I would have loved to visit the exotic locales of Panama City or the Grand Canyon. Our family never went anywhere. I figure maybe that's why I love the car trips now -- I'm making up for lost time. And when you travel by car, you really appreciate how incredibly large and diverse the United States is. To me, North Dakota is as beautiful as California; Kentucky as interesting as Texas. Every state has its own beauty, its own interesting sights, its own backroads to be discovered. With summer upon us, why not plan a car trip for your family? You just might see me at the World's Largest Ball of Twine or Carhenge or gaping at the huge sculptures along the Enchanted Highway. For a guide to more fun but goofy roadside attractions, check out roadsideamerica.com. And if you're not into the goofy, America's backroads still offer treats in gorgeous scenery, unique shopping, tasty eateries and a leisurely drive that is a throwback to years long gone. I hope you enjoy your time on the open road.
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