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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The WNP brings home the Gold!!

Tonight was the annual awards ceremony for RWA's prestigious Rita and Golden Heart Awards. Three members of the Wet Noodle Posse (http://www.wetnoodleposse.com) took home the gold (Rita's, that is). Congratulations, ladies!!!!!

Best First Book
Show Her The Money by Stephanie Feagan (0373513542) Silhouette Books - Natashya Wilson, editor

Best Long Contemporary Romance

Worth Every Risk by Dianna Love Snell (0-373-27426-2) Silhouette Books - Allison Lyons, editor

Best Regency Romance

A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston(0263843912) Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited - Linda Fildew, editor

We're so proud of each and every one of you.

A change is as good as a rest

By Norah Wilson

I write paranormal/romantic suspense hybrids. You know, vampires and women in jeopardy and lots of suspense/action/adventure. Very sensual, very intense stuff. But as the agent passes begin to pile up on my last vamp novel, I’ve found myself struggling with the next one. I mean, really struggling. Struggling to find the time to write. Struggling to find the words when I finally find the time. Struggling to stay motivated.

So when my friend Heather Doherty, who writes wonderful literary Oprah-type stuff, said, “Hey, wanna collaborate on a private detective novel with a protagonist who’s female, forty and funny?”, I said, “Omigod, yes!” Which is a testament to how eager I was to put the work-in-progress aside.

So I’m making the adjustment from third person to first person (harder than you might think) and trying to loosen up to the humor. I’m actually having lots of fun with it. But here’s the real kicker--I’m much more inclined now to sit down with my vamp WIP and write. Now that I have even less time for my own story, I’m being more productive. Go figure. I guess a change really is as good as a rest.

And here’s another change--I finally ditched my old rust-bucket for a new car! Mainly because the floorboards were rotting out of the old one and it needed new struts and springs. And brakes and tires. Essentially, it would have taken more money to fix it than it was worth. (Thirteen Canadian winters is more than you can ask of any car.) So my bare-bones-basic 1993 Ford Tempo inherited from my mother-in-law has now been replaced by a 2003 Ford Taurus SEL, fully loaded. Leather seats, cruise control, 6-disk CD player, A/C, moon roof, electronic everything. The Taurus, I’ve learned from my research, depreciates with alarmingly rapidity (there’s a glut of them on the market, thanks to their popularity as rental cars), but it is reputed to have great longevity. Which is fine by me, because when this family is finished with a car, it’s finished.

Now, if I could just change the numbers on my bathroom scales…

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Thousand Friends

They're off and running! Or if not, they will be within hours. Almost everyone I know is headed to Atlanta for the nationasl RWA conference. Special interest chapters like The Beau Monde will begin activities on Wednesday, and excitement will continue until late Saturday night, climaxing at the awards ceremony when we will finally know who this year's winners of the Golden Hearts and RITA are.

I've always loved the conference. Since 1995, I've only missed one, in 1997. True, they're huge and sometimes overwhelming, and there are times when I just have to go off to my room and be quiet for awhile just to survive. But from my first one in Hawaii, I've been hooked on going every year. Now, I believe I know a thousand writers, editors, agents and other publishing professionals from all over the world, most of whom I've met at national conferences. But this year I'm not going. Why?

For me, personally, the excitement was even greater, once being a Golden Heart finalist became a habit. I finalled first in 1998, then not again till 2001. I went through several cancellations of my category, and my favorite manuscript, His Majesty, the Prince of Toads, was twice disqualified when the Snail mistook my intentions and sent it to remote destinations elsewhere in the world. But from that point on in 2001, the real whirlwind began. I had two finals in 2002, then in 2003, 2004 and 2005, I won the Golden Heart in my category. A total of seven finals and three wins. Every time I finalled, I became part of a new and exciting group of people, the current year's finalists, many of whom have become dear friends I see only at conference. And every time I won, I looked out on the audience and wasn't the least bit nervous as I spoke, because I felt like I was talking to a thousand friends.

But this year I didn't even enter. Why? If I know a thousand people, and their freindships are dear to me, why am I staying home?

Well, I didn't enter the Golden Heart again because it was time to quit. Seven finals and three wins is an achievement no one else can claim. Let someone else break the record if she can.

Actually, I hadn't planned on entering last year, but, as had happened a number of times before, we feared we wouldn't have the minimum number of 25 entries in the Regency category. (Turns out, we had plenty.) But I had nothing to enter, since my previous winners and published E-Books weren't eligible. So when I returned from England in October, I took my only available manuscript, a Regency historical, and whacked it down to Regency size. Took all the sex out, since Regencies are traditionally sweet. Removed any viewpoints of secondary characters. Squeezed and trimmed and butchered, until my beloved story was cut down exactly to 85,000 words. I had a story nobody could love. Didn't matter. I already had two Golden Hearts.

It won anyway. Unfortunately, in the meantime, both of the major publishers had dropped their lines. And nobody was interested in a historical that had no sex scenes, or was only 85,000 words long. (So, yes, I will revise once again, using the best of both the old and the new versions.)

That's discouraging, but it wouldn't have kept me from going to conference. Yet here I am, at home, while so many of my friends are headed for Atlanta, filled with breathless excitement. Why?

Well, frankly, I reached a point when I needed to re-evaluate. Everything about my life just seems to be on a brink, where it's been sitting far too long. And sometimes change can't happen if things keep going on in the same old ways. Time to stop, and look, and test new things. I'm looking at everything about my life, not just my writing profession. I'm wondering about going back to the old job (probably gave it at least twenty minutes' thought). I'm changing things about the house that I wouldn't have time to do if I were preparing for conference. Everything from renovating bathrooms down to moving the fruit basket in the kitchen. I'm traveling, and making more travel plans. I'm looking at my relationships with distant relatives, spending more time with close family, finding old friends I haven't seen since high school, strengthen relationships that have been weakened by the passing of time. And in my writing life, I'm trying new genres and combinations of genres. I've confirmed I don't have the right touch for writing contemporaries, but I'm finding great fun in moving more into paranormal, and combining it with the Medievals I've always loved, but haven't written in a long time. I'm even looking at the way I do research, and wondering if I might love it too much.

Not going to conference has given me a different perspective on my writing career as a whole. For a number of years, my writing year rotated around the yearly conference, and I wanted to put it into a different spin for a change. I've spent a lot more time actually writing, and sticking to a regular schedule that hasn't been set aside to shop for clothes, plan schedules and speeches, or print up business cards.

But more than that, looking at what I'm not going to have this year has given me a chance to understand just how much I value what I'm missing. And I've learned that some of the things I took as necessities, I don't need. I've decided I don't give a rotten rip about editor appointments, except for their social and networking value. I only rarely managed to make workshops, and haven't taken more than a few hours to listen to CDs of the workshops I've missed.

But I miss the people. I can see some of them at smaller conferences, but people like the wonderful Wet Noodle Posse from the 2003 Golden Heart finalists, the GHophers (Golden Heart '04 finalists), and the Wild Cards (2005 finalists, Reno), the Beau Monde (Regency Era writers). The Golden Network, a chapter consisting entirely of present and former Golden Heart finalists. There are people like Alicia Rasley and Judie Aitkin, who I almost never see any other time. My dear friend June Ulrich who writes as Sophia Johnson, one of the 2002 GH finalists. Deb Yates who writes as Jenna Stuart, a friendship that began through a contest entry, who I didn't meet face to face until the conference last year in Reno. Friends who come in from Australia, New Zealand, England and Germany. Many authors I've come to know and love because I read their books, then met at the Literacy Booksigning. It's a chance to see my terrific agent, Jenny Bent, although it seems almost impossible to actually do business. And editors and agents who I simply look forward to seeing again, just because we like each other. I need all those hugs and the kisses blown past cheeks. I need their support, and I need to be giving it out to them. It really is true, I have a thousand friends.

No, now I really understand. National conference means too much to me. I will be in Dallas next year. I need my thousand friends.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What I Figured Out Before Selling

by Jill Monroe

Last week I was stumped about what to write about for my Wet Noodle Posse blog, so my friend Kristen gave me a few ideas. Actually, she gave me several. (She also promised to give me some clothes, but that's a different story.)

She suggested I write about something I figured out before I sold. Shall I just mention now that the list is veryyyyyyyyy long?

There are a lot of things that add up to the nuts and bolts of producing a book that (fingers crossed) people will enjoy reading. Dynamic opening chapters. Hooks at the end of each chapter that makes the reader keep reading long after they said they would go to bed. Layering emotion. Going deep POV. Vivid descriptions.

But, the last thing that I think sunk in is actually one of the first things I ever head about writers. Writers always write.

Note that the saying isn't Writers always rewrite. Or Writers always rework the first three chapters. Over and over again.

I have three books that will never see the light of day. They are awful. Really, really bad. Here's proof. A Political Affair was my first book, and I learned a lot from writing that book. Looking back at it, I think I learned far more from writing The End than I ever did writing Prologue. What's more, I learned even more writing The End to Book #2 and Book #3. I gained more skills with those books than I ever would have if I kept rewriting and reworking Book #1.

I see a lot of people who have worked for years on their very first idea. Believe me when I say I totally understand this. Beginning that first book is like falling in love for the first time. The dialogue, the characters, the setting - you love everything about it. And because it's your first love...you're very loyal to that book. You want to keep making it better and better. You want THIS book to be THE ONE.

This is where the tough love interventions comes in. I had a professor in college who told her bright eyed first time author students we'd write a million words of crap before we'd ever write anything worth publishing. That first book falls into my million words of crap. So does the second. And the third.

No matter how many times I rewrote and reworked passages in Book #1, nothing I did equalled the million word milestone. I had to start a new idea. I think the book I ended up selling first, Never Naughty Enough, was my 7th.

So, for me, the thing I figured out was to write write write. Type The End, then move onto the next project.

Friday, July 21, 2006

And I'd Like to Thank....

One more week till National. My third time as a Golden Heart finalist. I won’t probably be nervous till Lorelle goes up on stage and starts announcing the single title nominees.

And…just in case…I’ve written a speech. Since you probably won’t hear it Saturday, here it is.

OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!

Okay, no, not really.

I only have a minute, right, so, better get it all in. Who cares if anyone understands me.

First, I have to thank my husband and my son, who put up with so much, glazed eyes, zombie-like behavior, plotting over Sunday breakfasts, hogging of the computer, yelling when the TV is too loud and I’m working on revisions.

My grandmother, Gigi, who died when I was coming home from National in Dallas, who read all my books except this one and told me I’d be the next Nora.

My agent Emily, for being my enthusiastic cheerleader, and wanting me to get the very best story out there.

My dear friends Trish and JoAnn who believe in me so absolutely.

The Adventure Girls, my critique group, who got this story off on the right start.

The Wet Noodle Posse, who always listen when I cry, who celebrate when I celebrate, who are truly my sisters of the heart.

Sub Care, for being amazingly supportive to me for YEARS of rejections.

The Hive, who kicks my butt regularly. I love them to death, and I know I can always go to them for the truth.

My chapter SARA, for their endless support of me, the oldest SARA virgin (Not you anymore, Mara!)

My blogosphere buddies, always there when I need to vent. Which is a lot.

Susan Litman. Even though I’m not targeting Silhouette anymore, there are days when the only thing that kept me going was your encouraging words.

And Gerard Butler for inspiring such a sexy damn hero.

(I forgot someone, didn't I? Please tell me if I forgot someone.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Going to RWA - It is about the clothes by Diane Perkins

I love RWA’s National Conference. I’ve been attending since about 1998 (Anaheim) and have enjoyed every single one. Before I was published, I soaked up the workshops like syrup on pancakes. For the last three years, though, my time has been taken up mostly in networking, which is a different kind of hectic fun. This year it is beginning to look as if I may never eat one of the conference lunches I’ve paid for.

But published or not, for me the conference is really about the clothes.

The Awards Ceremony is the only opportunity I ever have to wear a formal gown and it is always important that it be just right. This year my dress is even more important. A Reputable Rake is up for a RITA for Best Regency Romance and if I win I want to look fabulous. If I lose I want to look even more fabulous.

I went out early and found a good basic black dress much like this one.











It seemed too austere so I went about looking on ebay for glittery jewelry and accessories to jazz it up.












I found silver shoes, too.









But it wasn’t just right, so I went out shopping again with my sister-in-law Rosemarie. We found a formal pants outfit that looked terrific on me. You have to use your imagination, but it is a bit like this dress.


Take away the bolero and replace the skirt with wide flowy pants.





This outfit needed toned-down jewelry so the ebay purchases were no longer appropriate, but we found the perfect necklace, earrings, bracelet set when we went to NYC.

After my NYC weekend, I met my friends Julie Halperson and Mary Blayney (“Poppy’s Coin” in Bump In The Night, with JD Robb) for lunch. Mary was helping Julie pick out some conference clothes so I tagged along to Lord & Taylor, which was having a fabulous sale. Among way too many other items of clothing for the conference, Mary found me a darling black dress sort of like this.


It fit me perfectly and was only $45! This was the dress I originally envisioned for the Awards Ceremony. I bought it. (If you can ever entice Mary away from writing really wonderful Regency stories and books, she makes a great personal shopper.)





Then when I had my hair cut later in the week, I stopped in Macy’s—just to look. I found a perfect pair of shoes for only $18, much like these.









Now I have two outfits I love for the ceremony and a perfect pair of shoes and great jewelry. I returned the first dress and have an assortment of rhinestone jewelry from ebay that I probably won’t ever use. I’m leaving the silver shoes at home because they now don’t go with anything.

And I don’t dare tell you about the other outfits I bought…….

Big cyberhugs to everyone who cannot attend the conference this year. I know I'm going to miss the Noodlers who won't be attending. For the rest of you, see you in Atlanta!

Diane, aka the fashionista

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Long, Clumsy Arm of the Law -- Kiki Clark

Recently, my husband stood up in a New Mexico courtroom and listened to a judge intone, “You are charged with criminal trespass. How do you plead?” There was something about “willful” in there, as well.

“Not guilty,” Joe said, sounding nervous and guilty as hell.

My parents and I sat in the peanut gallery, among the folks summoned for drunk driving, driving without a license, and who knows what all. We watched the proceedings with the look of stunned baby seals. We were all charged with criminal trespass. I had two counts, although that was probably a clerical error. Or maybe it was because I had taken the pictures.

Did we creep over chain link in the dead of night, cutting razor wire as we went? Nope. We went for a walk in the park.

The park was the Rio Grande nature reserve. It was July 3rd, and Joe and I were visiting my parents in Albuquerque. We drove to the park with the idea of checking out the ducks and turtles, then strolling down to the Rio Grande before having lunch and leaving town. My Dad drove to the park, and he was the only one who noticed the sign at the park’s entrance: Bosque Closure. Levees and Paved Trails Remain Open. Some trails were still open, he figured, so we’d go ahead.

We were gabbing up a storm as we took our usual route, crossed the road, and entered the trailhead. I’m not sure I even noticed the yellow tape.

If I did notice it, I probably assumed that it was to keep cars from turning into the trail, which is wide enough to be a road. Anyway, there was plenty of open trail to the right of the tape, and we walked right in. We had stood by the river, admired a bunny, pointed at fleeing lizards, and were almost done with our loop when a police officer/park ranger walked toward us. “Hey there!” we cheerfully greeted him. He was not quite as friendly.

“You crossed the police line. I’m going to have to write you up.”

“What police line?”

“The yellow tape back there.”

“But we didn’t cross it.” Etc., etc., etc.

Apparently, fire danger was so high that the mayor had declared particular trails closed, so people couldn’t walk on them and light stuff on fire, perhaps with carelessly thrown cigarettes.

“We absolutely approve of that,” I said. “And we would never have walked here, but your signage was insufficient.” Signage is one of my favorite words.

None of that made any difference. The mayor had stressed “zero tolerance,” and there wasn’t a fine we could pay – we actually had to go to court, where we might be convicted of a misdemeanor.

While we were alternating between pleas and angry disbelief, Officer X called for back up. Maybe my dad’s sneakers appeared threatening, or my mom looked at him funny out of her big blue eyes. Another officer came, and also ignored our pleas. Officer X doggedly made out citations for each of us.

“How many people have you ticketed for this?” my father asked.

“Fifteen.”

I had my digital camera with me. As they walked us out, I scurried ahead and took pictures of the offending tape.

It was strung between two posts that looked like they might have supported a gate at one time. The post beside the six-foot stretch of unblocked path, where we had walked, had a big, red-and-black No Smoking sign, plus four park glyphs: No dogs, no bikes, no horseback riding…hikers okay. The yellow tape, when uncurled, said “Fire Line, do not cross.” Well, we hadn’t crossed it. The trail itself wasn’t labeled as the Bosque trail. There was a small repeat of the sign by the front gate, but it was perhaps thirty-five feet away from the trailhead, on a post with three other small signs, and we hadn’t had to pass it.

We were due to have lunch and then head back to Colorado. Instead, we had lunch and went to the courthouse, where we were given four different judges and four different arraignment dates. Joe was the only one we managed to get arraigned that day. If we pled guilty, we were each subject to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail. Officer X would be prosecuting, although I distinctly recall him saying, “It’s not up to me.”

When I got back to Colorado, I called the DA and the public defender. “Sorry. Can’t help you.” I called the head of the parks department, Lt. Y. “Sorry. If he drops the charges, there might be a question of…impropriety.”

I called my judge’s secretary. “At the very least, can I get us all with the same judge, on the same date? Right now, my husband has to come back to New Mexico once, for his trial, and I have to come back twice.”

“I’m sorry. You could maybe file a motion.”

“How do I do that?”

“Telling you would be giving legal advice. I can’t do that.”

So we were looking at three trips back to New Mexico, missed work for Joe, possible airfare because I fall asleep on the highway, $2000 in fines, and misdemeanors for each of us. My parents felt terrible. I called Dad. “I want you to look in the yellow pages and talk to five law offices that do criminal trials. Find out what they charge an hour and pick one in the middle range, as long as the secretary is friendly.” It’s my belief that personality comes from the top down.

He found us an associate who charged $190/hour. Her father was a partner in the office. We loved her name -- Alexandra Freedman. I sent her all the pictures I had taken and an explanation, and she charged a $3,000 retainer fee to my credit card. I wondered what poor people did.

A lawyer makes all the difference in the world. For one thing, you’re no longer alone and ignorant. Ms. Freedman was reassuring, and a champion communicator. She over-nighted forms, we over-nighted them back, and my mother and I were arraigned without having to return to New Mexico. We were all put with the same judge and given one court date. My father was the only one whose tough-as-nails judge was unwilling to arraign him via mail. He is waiting in the courthouse as I write this. Ms. Freedman is with him, because he is so freaked out by this experience, he’s willing to pay for her presence.

And after we’re all firmly in the system, Ms. Freedman will haul us back out. She’s already spoken to Officer X, and he said he would dismiss the charges. Apparently there’s no question of a lawyer bribing him -- just us criminal trespassers. I’m guessing the cost for this little adventure will run about a thousand dollars.

We’re innocent until proven guilty, but innocence doesn’t come cheap.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Missing Out

For some reason, a lot of people I know are suffering from depression this summer. I blogged about this on my personal blog, so I'll skip the possible reasons for this except for one: Missing National. For those of us who are writers, missing the RWA National Conference is a BIG DEAL. Not only because we miss the networking opportunities, the chance to pitch our mss face to face, but most of all because we'll miss getting together with our friends. And yes, I'm one of those who will be missing out again this year.

Missing the conference in Reno nearly killed me. Of all the places RWA has had Nationals, Reno was the one I wanted to go to (well, aside from NYC, where I was a Golden Heart finalist and the memories will live forever). Atlanta wasn't a big draw for me, and next year in Dallas even less so, but the conference itself, wherever it's held, is something I do NOT want to miss. But with 2 kids in college and a dh being forced into retirement with no income, the money just isn't there to go.

So for you lucky dogs who do get to go, here are some things I've learned from past conferences.

1. Pack light. There's nothing worse than schlepping through a huge airport with 2 suitcases (that don't roll) and a garment bag (holding 4 dresses and a heavy-assed ball gown). Pack everything you think you'll need, then take half of it out. You won't need it.

2. Dress professionally. Yes, it will be hot as blue blazes outside, but that's no excuse for wearing shorts to workshops. You're being observed, whether you know it or not. What if you get on the elevator with your dream agent? If she sees you dressed in shorts, she'll assume you either aren't part of the conference, or you're the type who'd show up for a book signing dressed like a 60's reject. She's not too likely to ask you what you write.

3. Make the most of opportunities, but don't be an ass. If an agent or editor asks you what you write, make it short and sweet. "I write romantic suspense with a sexy twist." If she wants to know about your current project, she'll ask. If she does, again, make it short and sweet. "My just-finished book is Murder She Wrote meets Die Hard, about a grandmother who gets drawn into fighting drug gangs when her grandson is killed during a drug war." Again, if she wants to know more, she'll ask. She might even invite you to the bar for a drink. Go.

4. Don't get drunk. This might seem like a great chance to go for broke, be the wild woman away from the kids and hubby. But unless you're going to do it in your room away from the gossips, Don't Do It. It's amazing how many people forget themselves under the influence of alcohol. I've done it (NYC, will never forget it, but fortunately I was among friends in a pretty much empty bar at 4 in the morning).

5. Invite an agent and editor to lunch. Okay, so this won't work if everyone does it, but in Denver a group of friends and I got together and invited some agents and editors to lunch. Two agents and three editors took us up on the invitation. We got a full hour with each of them. Some didn't want pitches during that time, but just a chance to get to know us. I still have a casual relationship with a couple of them. (And don't forget to pay for their meal.)

6. Relax and enjoy. You lucky dog, you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Time for Reading

In the past few weeks members of the Posse have been sharing with each other the titles of the books that they have finished reading. During that time I have managed to read one book, and I'm feeling sad that I've only read one while others have read several. I used to be a prolific reader, but now my time is tied up in writing deadlines. I have a stack of books on my desk as high as my computer monitor that are waiting to be read. I have books on shelves throughout the house that I want to read. I keep a book in my car for those times when I get stuck somewhere and need something to do. I even have a book in the chest in my bathroom that gets read on occasion. The car book is a series of short stories, and the bathroom is a non-fiction book. I chose these books specifically for those places because it is easy to pick them up and continue reading even though many days have passed since the last time I looked at them.

I miss having time to read. I want to know how others find time to read. I've considered carving out an hour of time each day for reading, but I never stick to it. At this time in my life, it's reading or excercise. I can't seem to fit in both. I don't watch television except the news while I eat my breakfast and lunch each day. I'm a slow reader even though I took one of those speed reading courses before I went to college. It didn't make me a faster reader. As I've always said, I like to savor the words because I know an author spent time picking just the right word to use in that sentence.

Maybe someone will give me some suggestions on how to lower that pile of books that keeps getting higher other than giving them away. In the meantime, I'll keep reading when I can steal a few minutes in the car or the bathroom or more likely in an airport or airplane when I make a trip. I have a lot of Noodler books to read not to mention the other authors I love.

Merrillee

Character Markers--Who we are and the things we collect

There is nothing like packing your life treasures into a box for THE BIG MOVE to give you an up close and personal look at who you are. The old saying, that you are what you eat, might be more acccurate if it said, you are what you collect. As a writer we choose specfic items in our characters' lives which define their personalities. My heroine Gracie, in my manuscript WALTZING WITH ALLIGATORS, has a lucky World Series baseball she which keeps between the mattresses of her bed. It makes for humorous romantic conversation when the hero discovers her treasure. But most of all, it reveals to the reader her naivety about the world outside the small town where she lives.

I have a flying frog with a three-foot wing span. My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas one year . . . I'd spotted the frog in one of my favorite antique malls. Last year my family decided to give him a buddy, so now I have a flying pig as well. Then there's the sacred cow's head from India which hung over my telephone for years. Save your gasp--it's carved out of wood, like the frog and the pig, and looks sort of like the head of a carousel horse. There's a large carved red goose too. Oh, and a three-foot tall rabbit which stoically guards my front door.

Each one is a marker of a period in my life. I can remember the moment I received or purchased each item. They even evoke an emotional response from the time gone by. Pretty powerful stuff, as well as good reminder that the characters we create in our stories have markers and that we writers can get emotional mileage out their cool collectibles.

When our life is in flux or crisis, we need the markers we've collected to give us reassurance of who we are. Despite the changes from one house to another, our markers go with us and add a sort of continunity to our lives. When I can't find the pair of shoes I need amongst the moving chaos, my flying frog is there reminding me that everything is going to be okay. Lucky for both of us, he doesn't fit in a box.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Organic Plotting

By Charity Tahmaseb

If you asked me a few months back whether I’m a plotter or a pantzer, I would’ve have answered like Terry. I don’t plot. Then I joined a group of writers for discussions on craft and the topic came up of how we prepare to write.

Now, I definitely dive in and write a few scenes. It’s like flirting and dating. And since I’m currently not being paid to write novels, I need to look at the long term. Do I love these characters enough that the journey is worth the effort, even if the destination ultimately doesn’t end in a contract?

Once I get I yes, I’m off and running.

Sort of.

Because there are the character bios. And then the major plot points. After that? Well, then I do scene cards for every scene I can think of. And then I never look at them again. Somewhere in there, I’ll make a collage, a soundtrack, and maybe take a stab at a working outline.

Have I mentioned yet that I don’t think of any of this as plotting? But apparently others do. So much so, that I was hesitant about mentioning how I take my characters shopping at Target.

I have a friend who outlines in an Excel spreadsheet, both on-stage scenes and behind-the-scenes activities. I think he color codes and uses a white board and Post-it notes. He doesn’t move on until all the activities in a single, designated step are complete to his satisfaction.

Now that’s plotting. None of what I do is very linear. For me, it’s more like a giant puzzle and if I get stuck on one part, I’ll work on something else. I’ll write a scene or make a playlist for the prom my YA characters are attending.

For me, there isn’t a story problem I can’t solve without a little time and a little compost.

Organic plotting. I like it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Musings

I don't plot. Not only does it rub against my nature as a writer, but plotting before I start a story would be a scary proposition. Facing the fact that I have no story to tell, not really, and proving that fact to myself in outline form, would likely prevent me from ever writing again. So I type "Chapter One" and dive in with hopes high and illusions intact.

But there do come times (several of them, each day) when I'd love to have more control over meeting up with whichever muse it is who waves her musey-wand or sprinkles her musey-dust--or whatever it is that muses do--and to arrange for her to hand over the answers to the questions what happens next? and what does it mean? with a little more regularity.

I've discovered that my muse tends to visit me in the shower. There must be something about the isolation and sensory deprivation, or the white noise of water splashing on tile and gurgling down the drain, or maybe it's massaging the brain case that does it--whatever it is, my hair is much cleaner since I've started writing than it's ever been before.

Another place I often get muse-type inspiration is in the car. Which is handier than in the shower, because I can usually pull over to the side of the road and jot down some notes. (My husband has grown quite accustomed to pulling over to the side of the road. I think he enjoys humoring my eccentricities. And my eccentricities probably give him something interesting to discuss with his golfing buddies out on the course.)

Where and when does your muse visit you? I'd really like to know, so I can see if I can catch up with mine there, too.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

How to Gain Fifty Pounds (Without Really Trying)

By Jenna Ness

A few months ago, I posted Stupid Diet Tricks, explaining how I lost 55 pounds. But now that I’m pregnant again, I can’t seem to stop myself from doing everything in reverse. So as a public service, here are my tips on how to easily gain about a pound a week. You know, in case anyone needs to bulk up for a movie role, or wants a nice permanent coat for winter.

1. First of all, don’t just eat three meals a day. Like the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings say, there are seven proper mealtimes: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. Make the most of each one. Eat standing up, sitting down, wherever you go. Not hungry? Not a problem. You might be hungry some time in the future. Be proactive. You alone can prevent yourself from ever being hungry again!

2. It’s fine to fret over how long it will take you to lose the weight later. Go ahead and wish you weren't gaining so much so fast. Ponder the idea of self-control. Just make sure you consume a big bag of BBQ chips while you’re thinking it all over.

3. At the movies, get the biggest bucket of popcorn. Heck, you deserve it after your light, healthy dinner of chicken and cabbage and potatoes, with blackberries and watermelon on the side. After you gobble down the popcorn, realize it’s actually your second bucket of the day, since the chicken and cabbage and potatoes all came Original Recipe, coleslawed and mashed with gravy. Way to go!

4. Eat ice cream not once, but two or three times a day. And remember all ice cream is not created equal. Fat-free, sugar-free ice cream is only about 110 calories a half cup and regular ice cream from the supermarket is only 180 calories or so. Go for Ben & Jerry’s, which through the miracle of modern food processing has a calorie count of about 300 per half cup. That can add up fast, particularly if you eat a pint a day (technically 4 servings).

5. Replace all your diet sodas with fruit juice, Sprite and milkshakes. Just don’t forget to glug down water, too, if only to wash down all those french fries.

6. A little exercise is a good thing. It stimulates the appetite. So go ahead, take your toddler on a twenty-minute walk. Just make sure you end up at the donut shop.

7. Fruit and vegetables are okay, too. Take vitamins and drink lots of water. After all, you want to be healthy! Variety is the name of the game. Scientists have found that the more types of food are available, the more you're likely to eat. So steam those veggies and toss them in pasta primavera. Get fresh blueberries from your local farmer’s market and bake them in a pie served a la mode. Add a side Caesar salad, and guess what – you’ve just made yourself a 1500-calorie dinner! Pat yourself on the back. You’ll be gaining that weight in no time!

Whew, I’m tired, aren’t you? After all that work, take a long afternoon nap with your toddler. You deserve it! And congratulations – in nine months or so, you’ll finally have that nice round figure you’ve always wanted. Easy as pie!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Come on, baby! Let's collage!

by Colleen Gleason

In my Writer's Life article for July's WNP, I wrote about how while we writers often have a gaggle of idea germs, it's often hard to get those "germs" to explode into full-blown plots.

(Sure, I'd like to write about a deck of haunted Tarot cards...but where do I go from there? And, oh, about a female ghostbuster during World War I...but now what?)

For some of us, creative therapy begins with a 3D effort in the form of collaging. Since I submitted the article, a few of the other Posse members have sent me copies of their own collages, and I share them with you now. (See, Kiki and I aren't the only ones who procrastinate writing by doing artsy-fartsy things!)

This first piece of artwork is for Trish Milburn's book called The Wedding Dress. Maybe she'll pop into the comments section and tell us a little about it...
















For those of you who protest: "But I flunked cutting and pasting in kindergarten!", check out Charity Tahmaseb's collage for a young adult book called The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath.

She approaches collaging in a less expensive, unique way: "I do mine all online, since I'm not very 'crafty'. No glue or cutting stuff from magazines."

So you see...there really isn't an excuse not to do it if you don't consider yourself crafty.

If you have a collage you'd like to share, make a comment and let us know. I'll get in touch and get it posted! I'd love to hear about your experiences with collaging as a writer's block cure.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Looking for a Quiet Moment

It’s been a couple of wild weeks at MPOW (My Place of Work, for the uninitiated). We’re working on our budget and presentations to the city council, to be given next week. Prior to the holiday I worked eight days in a row, and wow, was I tired when I finally got a day off!

Back to work this morning and we’ve decided to do a Power Point presentation for council. Since I don’t know beans about Power Point, my crack (no, not cracked) Public Services and Systems librarians have agreed to put the photos and text together for me. Unfortunately, both of them have been crazy busy working on more immediate things—the presentation is Monday, and that is a whole five days away—and it looks like we won’t really get cooking on it until tomorrow at the earliest.

After lunch I took a few minutes to catch up on some of the library blogs I frequently read. Feel-Good Librarian hasn’t posted lately, because, as she says, “when nothing happens there’s nothing to write about.” Maybe they're having a slow summer. Believe me, they're the only ones! The Free Range Librarian just got back from the American Library Association conference in New Orleans (no one went from MPOW—a result of this year’s budget crunch). RickLibrarian, also back from ALA, has discovered he has a staff opening. Any librarians out there who live near Downer’s Grove, Illinois?

I was beginning to feel that my blog time was being wasted when there, below WebJunction (brought to you by OCLC, of monumental WorldCat fame [now with one BILLION holdings]) when what should I spy, hidden there at the bottom of my favorites list but some of my favorite romance blogs. I try to keep up with Romancing the Blog, and SquawkRadio when I can, but those slow days with bits and pieces of time to read online are growing fewer and farther between. Some evenings before bed I pull out my laptop and visit with my favorite Noodler bloggers. It’s the next best thing to being there (with them).

How do you read your favorite blogs? Do you nibble away at them bite by bite, or gobble them whole in a single session?

Yes, I'm looking for a quiet moment--to goof off.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Why don't we do it in the road?"

by Stephanie Feagan

I love to write. Take away the hype, the promo, the business side of things, boil it all down to just me, the computer, a cup o' Folgers, and iTunes, and I'm at my absolute happiest. Before I sold my first book, I remember reading complaint posts by published authors on various lists about how they were bogged down in a book from hell, that finishing it was killing them, and they wondered if their career would be over because of the damn book that gave them heartburn. I always thought - rather smugly, I admit - oh get over yourself. How dare you gripe about a book you've already sold? I'd kill to be in your shoes!

Well, I didn't have to kill anyone, but hell if I didn't wind up in their shoes. A little over a week ago, I turned in the book from hell. It was over two weeks past deadline, and after I dropped it in Fed-Ex, I wanted to go home and cry. Instead, I went to a bakery and bought a ginormous chocolate chip cookie and ate it in the car and pondered my fleeting career as a writer.

A bit of history....

I wanted to write a Bombshell that was different than my first three, all of which had the same heroine. I gave it a lot of thought and came up with a petroleum engineer who fights oil well fires. When someone intentionally sets a string of blowouts, she's caught up in the villain's evil plot and - because she's a kickass Bombshell babe - it's up to her to find out who he is and stop him before he sparks World War III. The hero is a southern boy with an attitude who clues in pretty quickly to what's going on - and helps her. Bear in mind, Bombshells are all about the heroine saving the day, so I wrote the proposal with that in mind. I did some preliminary research, wrote 3 chapters and a synopsis and shot it off to New York. My editor, Natashya Wilson, who rocks my world, loved the premise and she bought it. Yay me!

Ahem....

Then I had to actually write the book. I contacted a blowout specialist, spoke to at least 7 different petroleum engineers here in my hometown - where they are plentiful! - got some information from a cargo pilot, spoke at length to a man who builds gas compressors and has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and trolled the Internet for hours and hours, reading up on all things Saudi Arabian. It's still blowing my mind, how much research this book required.

You see, the heroine goes to Saudi Arabia on page 153 - she spends half the book in Saudi Arabia. The plot demanded Saudi Arabia and no other Middle Eastern country would do.

That's when this turned into the Book From Hell.

Let's review:

Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Women can't go out of their home without a male escort - and not just any old male. It's got to be someone in their immediate family.
Women must wear an abaya, a long, black robe, over their clothes, and a black scarf must cover their head. Veils are optional.
Women can't sit in a restaurant, even with their escort, unless the restaurant offers a family dining room, which means everyone in the room is married.
Women can't speak to a man not in their family, nor stand close to him. If he looks at her longer than a nanosecond he can be in serious trouble with the religious police.

Are you getting a picture of why this was a killer book to write? Remember, it's a Bombshell, where the heroine saves the day. "Gosh, hon, would you mind going with me as my escort while I go out there and kick some ass and save the world? Thanks!"

One night, at about 2 a.m., I seriously considered looking for the contract, to find out what I'd have to do to pull the book. Just send their money back and say, never mind.

Yeah, it was a killer to write this book, but I'm trying very hard to look at the positive. I certainly had to stretch myself to finish, and in all humbleness, I don't think it turned out too bad. I got to a point where I turned her liabilities to her favor - I used the draconian restrictions the Saudi government places on women as a plot point. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Nevertheless, I told my agent, if I ever again consider setting a Bombshell in a Muslim country, she should kick my ass and remind me about Blowout - the book from hell.

I should mention that another published author said she went through a very similar experience, that one of her books gave her nightmares. But she plodded through to the finish - and that book wound up being nominated for a Rita.

Let me just say, right now, if Blowout is nominated for a Rita, I'll buy everyone a ginormous cookie!

In the meantime, I'm watching my inbox for revisions. Whoo damn - that's going to be interesting.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

America's crown jewels

In this month's issue of the Wet Noodle Posse e-zine, online now, I wrote a travel article about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a truly beautiful area straddling the Appalachian mountain chain in Tennessee and North Carolina. It's the most visited park in the nation, seeing as how it's within a day's drive of a huge part of the population. People are familiar with Great Smoky Mountains as well as other large parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But did you know that the National Park Service manages nearly 400 units? Not all are national parks. In fact, only between 50 and 60 are designated national parks. The rest of the units are national monuments, historical parks, national memorials, historic trails, outdoor recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, lakeshores, seashores and battlefields. The sites vary in size from the huge Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska which encompasses more than 13 million acres to tiny Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania at .02 acre.

Whenever I travel, I make a point of visiting any national park units that are nearby. Entire vacations have been planned around visits to parks such as Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho; and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. I've seen prairie dogs play in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota's Badlands, elk battle it out in Yellowstone during the fall rut, the gorgeous wildflowers beside snow at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, important sites along the Oregon Trail such as Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming, the undeveloped beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida, and the site where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, D.C.

To date, I've visited 48 National Park Service units and plan to visit many more, as many as I can. I love the natural beauty and slice of history they offer, and the NPS does a great job of presenting these to the public while protecting the resources.

Since it's summer, the height of vacation season, why not plan a visit to a national park? At the NPS Web site, you can search for units by name, by geographic area or by topic of interest such as Civil War, human rights, wildflowers, snow skiing, auto touring, westward expansion and many other areas.

Happy Traveling!











Photos:

~Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
~Elk in Yellowstone National Park
~Mt. Rainier National Park