Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Problem Being Me

Is that I don't have a clue how to use technology. I really want to blog here. I really want to be part of the gang. But I travel and I use strange internet cafes and little funky credit card computers at airports and I can't remember all my user ids and passwords and settings and urls and I really need a minder. Like a child minder. Someone to give me all the pieces of information I need, that I use at home, that my home computer remembers, that my mind does not.

I have tried to buy a lap top to take with me traveling but as soon as they start talking about hot spots I get itchy. I think about hot flashes. I think hives. I think I need to go to a different store. Someplace that sells coffee. Or ice cream. Or books.

Today I went shopping for a new phone. I've a two year old phone and according to my Verizon plan I can get a new phone now. I wanted one that could take photos. And maybe use internationally. Or more importantly, check my email when heading to Australia day after tomorrow because I'm going day after tomorrow. But the sales guy started talking about razors and blackberries and I started thinking that I did need to shave my legs and I'd actually love some cobbler right now. Warm cobbler. Ala mode. Yum.

I left the store.

I came home.

But I did not eat ice cream. (Then.)

And now tonight I've spent a long time trying to remember how to blog here since my computer didn't remember. Or I didn't remember what I needed to remind the computer.

So sad. I'm a dinosaur. Just leave me in a tar pit with a good book.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

RWA Excitement! by Diane Perkins

Next week, officially starting Wednesday July 26, is the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm so excited about the conference this year, I'm going to Atlanta early, arriving on Monday. I'm excited because my alter ego, the lovely and talented Diane Gaston who writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon, has A Reputable Rake up for a RITA award and her debut novel The Mysterious Miss M up for the Bookseller's Best and the National Readers Choice Award.

I'm not too jealous of her...In fact, it almost seems as if it is happening to me too!

But it is not only these awards that excite me about the conference. It is the fun I will have seeing old friends and attending the workshops and the parties!

I've attended RWA since 1998 (Anaheim?) and would not miss it for the world. I have such lovely memories. In 2001 I was a Golden Heart finalist for the first time and I had the most fun ever in my life in New Orleans. Here we are (L to R) Leisa O'Connor, Melissa James, me, Karen Anders, and Maryanne Capelluti: We called ourselves the "Cheap Tarts" and I treasure the fun we had, especially because Maryanne passed away this last year after a long illness.

Another of my favorite parts of the conference week is the Beau Monde Soiree, where I get to see my Regency friends. We like to dress the part of Regency ladies-- and gentlemen -- you can see Sir Reginald (Regina Scott/Regan Allen) in the back there.

2003 in New York City was another wonderful conference for me. I was a Golden Heart finalist again! And I sold my GH manuscript to Mills & Boon. And I won the Golden Heart!

Kathy Caskie awarded me the Golden Heart. If Gaston wins the RITA, Sophia Nash will award it to Here we all are, Kathy, me, and Sophia on that magical night in 2003. (I'm the short, non-blonde one)

2004 in Dallas was another exciting year. I had my first booksigning and it was so much fun.

2005 in Reno was hectic, but another first. This was my first publisher booksigning, where the conference attendees line up to get the books. Here I am with Kelley St. John

Here's another photo from 2005. This is the Wet Noodle Posse, the group of Golden Heart finalists from 2003 who have remained together as a support group. We are dressed for the Awards ceremony, and what a bunch of gorgeous babes we are! RWA is the only place I get to see some of these ladies.

That is what I like best about RWA--seeing friends I don't get to see anywhere else, some who come from halfway around the world.
I can hardly wait until next week!
Diane (for more about RWA see my blog on The Wet Noodle Posse. It's all about the clothes)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Did You Meet The Love of Your Life?

In the romances we write, one of the crucial parts of the story is always how the hero and heroine meet for the first time. I thought it might be fun if we all shared how we met the heroes in our lives.

I wish I could say the way I met my honey was romance-worthy and straight out of one of our novels, but the way I met my husband is as crazy as I am - which, now that I think about it, really shouldn't surprise me.

At the time I met Blue (my husband's nickname) I was a single mom in my thirties living in Murphy, NC (population 2,000) where the only single men my age were: a) the gay mortician, b) a sweet guy with no front teeth who owned the local gas station,
c) a former football hero who was mentally still stuck in his glory high school days, and d) one of Murphy's two police officers who not only resembled Barney Fife, but actually acted liked like the character.

In other words - the pickings were slim.

Which actually suited me just fine. Any single mom will tell you that trying to work, keep the lights and the water on at the same time, and raise a sixteen-year-old daughter alone leaves little time for a social life. I was truly happy with my life, pleased that I was rasing my daughter in a wonderful small-town atmosphere, and totally relieved that I was safe from any messy relationship complications.

Until fate stepped in and shook things up.

It was October 1985, and one of the girls who worked at the dentist office with me decided to have a Halloween party. That sounded like fun to me, until she mentioned her husband (who worked out of town) was bringing a friend home for the weekend to go fishing in the abundant mountain streams our location provided. The guy was my age, divorced, AND he needed a date for the party.

BLIND DATE! No how, now way! I promptly told her. I'd never been on a blind date in my life. Heck, over the last five years I hadn't been on ANY kind of date.

Ironically, it was my daughter who finally persuaded me to go. "You don't have to marry the guy," she'd told me, "just go to the party and have fun." Of course, many years later my daughter admitted she was only trying to get me out of the house so her boyfriend and some other friends could come over - but I didn't know that at the time.

I went to the party - dressed as Gene Simmons from KISS (my daughter's favorite band at the time). My face was painted black and white, and I was dressed in jeans with leg warmers (also popular at the time) and my hair was teased out as far as we could get it. A pretty sight - I WASN'T. And poor Blue (not the dress-up for a Halloween party type) simply wore a cowboy hat and had a bandana tied around his neck - very conservative.

Blue admits he didn't quite know what to think of me at first, but the good news is that the conservative cowboy and the nutty punk rocker had a great time at the party. Two years later (the year my daughter graduated from high school) we were married.

Next year in 2007 will be twenty years for Blue and I.

I'm still, of course, nutty.

And thankfully, he still puts up with me. :)

So, how about you? How did you meet the love of your life?

Candy Halliday

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Where in the world ....?

I have to tell you about my new toy. It’s called a Clustrmap, and it’s so waaaaay cool!

Go to:

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a map of the world with several red dots on it. The dots represent visitors to my web site! If you click on the Zoom icon, you’ll see a larger map that gives a bit more detail.

Due to some coding thingy that I don’t understand (and don’t really want to) the program doesn’t record Every visitor to the site, but it records enough hits that I can cross off one fear from my list of many. You see, I have a counter on the web site, and I always suspected that the counter rose in direct proportion to the number of times I’m on the Internet because I use my web site as my home page. To my delight, I now know that people other than me actually visit my web site. Granted, I have friends and family scattered all over the US, but there are several lovely dots in states where I don’t know a soul. Honest!

As for the foreign countries, well, Australia is easy, and so is England. But now I have to get a really good world atlas to identify some of the others. And I suspect the dot in SE Wisconsin will grow larger (that will be me) with each daily update. And I’m really glad the map is updated only ONCE a day, or I would be checking it every five minutes and get nothing done.

Shari Anton, finding new, fun ways to procrastinate.


TWILIGHT MAGIC, December 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

From Sarah McKerrigan...

A lot of romance readers are cat people.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because romance fans are sensual creatures by nature.  Let's face it -- there's nothing more sensual than stroking the soft, luxurious fur of a feline.
I used to be a cat person.  Not the kind with a pride of 15 mincing around like they own the place.  Just one nice beast at a time.
When my daughter came along, she was hardwired for pets.  We raised rats, hamsters, goldfish, anoles, salamanders, toads, turtles, crayfish, scorpions, frogs, fighting fish, a garter snake, a tarantula, and even a Madagascar cockroach.  But no cats.
We talked about getting a dog.  I didn't want a dog.  I was a cat person.  Cat people despise dogs.  Dogs dig and scratch and lick and bark and jump on you.  Worst of all, they don't bury their poop.  Cats are far more dignified.
But after a lot of "please, Mommys" and "I promise I'll take care of its," I finally caved.  We went to Little Angels Pug Rescue and picked up our own furry monster to bring home.
He must have known at once I was a cat person and that he had his work cut out for him.  No sooner did he bound into the car than he chose my lap, where he settled as sedately as any Persian.  He didn't bark.  He didn't scratch.  He didn't lick my face.
When we got home, he trotted around the house, exploring, careful not to lift his leg until he was outdoors.  He didn't dig up my pansies.  He didn't put his muddy paws on my clean Levis.
He was, in short, as polite as a cat.
He's not catlike all the time, of course.  He growls at the mailman.  He has to make the requisite canine circles before he lies down.  And you don't dare breathe the words "go for a walk" unless you mean it.
But he's not your average dog.  He knows he's living with a feline fancier.  In fact, sometimes I suspect my beloved Worf may actually be a cat in a pug costume.
Be kind to your pets!
Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
Riding to the rescue April 2006

It's not just a job - it's an adventure!

Or maybe I should title this post - The Exciting Life of a Writer, Part Deux (reference my earlier post about my typical day).

I've just had the pleasure of experiencing serious crunch time - that period authors go through when the deadline is rapidly approaching and it's time to put up or shut up. For my particular situation, too many factors I either didn't or wasn't able to control put me in the position where, after a month of 18-hour work days, 7 days a week (writing and day job), I found myself in the nightmare situation of heading into the weekend before my Monday deadline being a good 100 pages short of finishing my manuscript. This had the potential of being 150 pages short if the last fifty (written months ago and out of sequence) turned out not to be any good.

I got up at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, determined to get into the zone and write the story that seemed so clear in my head. And if, as the day wore on, my head got fuzzy, I had a plot outline to refer to.

By noon, I was finding that instead of adding page count, I was actually reducing it. For every new page I wrote, I was having to delete two of the previously written ones. It was like that nightmare where you're running down the hallway and the harder and faster you run, the longer the hallway becomes.

Eighteen hours later, I'd taken one break for dinner (having taken the other two meals and mutliple stress snacks and coffee at my computer) and I'd written a whopping 40 pages. I still had 110 to go!

It doesn't take a business degree to do the math. If I worked at my same rate on Sunday that I did on Saturday, I wasn't going to finish. And here's the really good news. I was hating not just my life at that moment, I was hating my story and the act of writing. And the mental self-flagellations were coming hard and furious - how had I let things get so out of control? What made me think I could do so many books while working full-time and doing all the things parents of teenagers have to do? I'd hit the proverbial wall. I was the fly on the window AFTER the fly swatter hit it.

Sunday, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. again, brewed my coffee and sat down at the computer. I spent the morning writing, watching the page count rise and drop as I went. By noon, I'd revised 50 or 60 pages and had a net gain of 2! I looked at my outline. Up next was a one sentence description of the next chapter that had to be turned into 20 pages of story - and I couldn't do it. The creative well was thoroughly and completely tapped.

I got up from the computer, considered banging my head, literally, against a wall. I felt my eyes tear up, but knew I couldn't waste time on parties - especially pity-parties. I'm a competitive person - I hate to lose and I refuse to quit.

I grabbed a sticky note and stuck it on my computer screen, blocking out the page count data. That was my worst mental enemy, watching that damn thing tell me how well I WASN'T doing. Then I deleted the remaining previously written 20 pages. They weren't going to be any better than the thirty before them and I was wasting time trying to decide what to keep.

I looked at the four chapters I had to write, considered what needed to happen in the story and told myself that I wouldn't look at page count again until the story was written. For better or worse, the story would be done and either I hit my targeted page count or I didn't. I'd deal with it when the story was over.

For the rest of the day, I wrote, finally finishing the last chapter at 7:30 PM. I still had the epilogue to write and if I'd thought the creative well was tapped before, it was bone dry and dusty now. I didn't think "They all lived happily ever after." was going to cut it, but I'd deal with that after I got the good or bad news. I pulled off the sticky note and you know what???

Please, I write fiction; I don't live it. No - I didn't make my targeted page count, nor did I go over. I fell short. I blew a deadline. My story was finished but not complete. My career - I hoped it wasn't over. I'd never blown a deadline before - I didn't know what to expect.

I emailed my agent - she told me not to worry. I tried not to. I wrote an epilogue. It was okay.

I went to bed, analyzing the weekend and I have to tell you that my take away from it - though it was a brutal, horrible, agonizingly long weekend - wasn't that bad. These are the little life experiences that define our character. They teach us the most about ourselves. Some of what we learn isn't pretty, but it's reality. In the end, you either like the way you handled yourself or you don't.

I wasn't dealing with the loss of a loved one, a sick family member, losing a job or house, my family wasn't starving - it's important to keep these things in perspective, but in terms of my writing, when push came to shove, I learned something about myself that I hadn't previously known. I think that's a good thing. Now, I just hope I'm smart eough to use it to avoid being in that position again.

Oh - and how many pages did I write? By the end of the weekend, I'd written 120 pages. For me, that was a new record. And my agent was right - my carreer didn't end and I now have time to finish the story.

When life gives us lemons, I say blend 'em with tequila and lime juice and drink it over the rocks with salt!

My best to you all,


Monday, July 10, 2006

Rejection, Reviews, And The Writer

I recently had my first phone interview (with the lovely Christina Radish, who was a pleasure to speak to as well as being wonderfully supportive when I got nervous) and the question came up: how do you react to negative reviews/positive reviews? Which is harder?

Go figure, I had to think about that one. Granted, one gets published and the first thing one wants to do is check Amazon obsessively for consumer reviews. Which is, really, the very last thing one should do. There's also the obsessive Googling of one's own name, and the obsessive scanning of review sites for one's books...

Writers are a neurotic bunch. No, it's true. We wouldn't be able to spend this kind of effort running after imaginary people if we weren't. We pour so much time, effort, and energy into our work, we naturally want to see people's reactions. I've even heard other writers say that bad reviews help them, or that the good ones are why they keep writing.

To which I say, dear God, don't look.

There's a fine line between peeking at reviews to get feedback and being sent into a tailspin by the least hint of criticism. Writers get it from both ends--the rejection at the beginning of the submission process, and the critics after the work is in print. Neither is particularly comfortable. It's hard to develop a thick skin about either form of criticism, constructive or otherwise. When you spend so much effort on a piece of art, to have it rejected or panned does hurt. It never gets any easier, not that I've found.

The hardest rejection letter I ever experienced was the first one I had to write to a fellow author while I was working for a small press. It tore my heart out to think I was stamping on someone's dreams. It didn't help that the manuscript needed too much work for us to publish--it still hurt me physically to send the rejection. Seeing the process from that side, and doing reviews myself, helped me understand the process of giving feedback. A reviewer's first allegiance must lie with the reader--but so does the author's. Otherwise, why write? Both are trying to give the reader what they want.

Unfortunately, plenty of reviewers* use reviews as a reason to sharpen their own animus (animuses?) instead of giving thoughtful, incisive critique. Feuds are common between writers and reviewers, especially in the digital age. It shouldn't be that way...but it is. The sooner a writer learns to live with that fact, the better. Feuds with reviewers are counterproductive. They make the writer look like an idiot, and they take away from writing time.

I think I'm lucky to have started out in small presses. My experience with was wonderful, in that I got to try out a lot of things I normally wouldn't have; and I also started receiving letters from readers. Whether positive or negative, I enjoyed reading and responding to them. Then Dark Watcher came out, and I was able to ease into the process of dealing with both positive and negative reviews--something that has stood me in good stead in the wake of Working For The Devil.

I don't recommend completely ignoring one's reviews. That's foolhardy--if more than two reviewers mention something that really bugged them, it's valuable information. But I don't recommend Googling yourself every day or reading all your Amazon reviews obsessively, either. Set a kitchen timer. Do twenty minutes a week max of looking at reviews, and no more. It's for your own sanity. Believe me on this one.

The trouble with getting caught up in the reviews spiral is that you can so easily start defending yourself instead of writing, which is good for nobody. The writer's job is to write; it's hard enough without the added pressure of brooding over reviews, whether positive or negative. Writers are very good at finding things to do other than write, the creative process is so fraught with self-disclosure that avoidance is almost as common as writing itself.

With the availability of review sites on the internet these days, it's easy to get a quick "hit" of emotion, positive or negative, by trolling for reviews of one's own work. It's instant gratification either way, which also seduces one away from the whole point of being a writer: writing. The gratification isn't instant, but it's longer-lasting and healthier than chewing one's own tail about reviews. At least, in my humble opinion.

What do you think?

* Yes, I said plenty of reviewers, but not a majority by any means. There are tons of great reviewers out there.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

That Little Narcolepsy Problem

It doesn't matter how much sleep I get.
It doesn't matter how loud the music is.
It doesn't matter if my shoes are so tight I'm getting blisters and foot cramps.

If I am trying to make myself do something I don't want to do, I fall asleep.

This little problem first surfaced when I was in law school. I'd be reading one of those deliciously juicy tomes with lots of big words that I had no clue what they meant, and my eyes would start to close and my head would start to nod, and the next thing I knew, the page would be covered in drool and two or three hours would have passed.

I tried chocolate.
I tried caffiene (it's amazing how quickly you can build up a tolerance to that chemical).
I tried suger of all kinds.

Nothing worked.

I read. I got bored. I fell asleep.

Then it got even worse when I got an actual job in a law firm and had to spend hours doing research. It's so not cool to pass out in a drool puddle in the middle of the library. So I started doing research in my office so I could close the door and take naps without anyone noticing... and then I realized that the lines on my cheek from the wrinkled pages was a dead giveaway, so I had to learn how to adjust my position so that only my forehead was pressed against the book while I was snoozing. Then my bangs covered it, and no one was any wiser.

I gotta tell you, though, there were some stressful moments when I was sound asleep at my desk, only to hear a knock on my door. Jerking myself to consciousness in an instant while wiping off drool took some serious talent.

Needless to say, I finally quit the law gig. Somehow, I was getting the vibe that it wasn't a good fit for me.

Since then, I've pretty much managed to handle my narcolepsy problem, mainly becuase I have a job I like. But there's two times it still comes up:

1) The final read thru of my ms before I send it in. At this point, I've seen it so many times and I'm just looking for typos, so I'm not really thinking, more like reading on a superficial level... bonk. Head on the keyboard.
2) The brainstorming process when I am trying to come up with a new story. I don't know why this is so hard for me, but invariably, I can't do it for more than a couple hours at a time, or I wind up sliding off my chair and curling up on the nearby dog beds for a good long nap.

I'm brainstorming now. Music is blasting. I'm eating cookies. I have the heat low so I'm cold. But I'm on hour three and still not making progress, so frustration is beginning to kick in and the ol' aversion defense tactics are kicking in, and I can feel my brain starting to shut down. Want to sleep. Just gotta put my head down for one minute. Please...

What brings on your little narcolepsy problem?

Stephanie Rowe
DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME, available now!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Elizabeth Discovers a Deal Breaker

So, the other day my critique partner and I were watching the first season of LOST—as research of course. We needed to see just how many times the male leads were compelled to take off their shirts on a tropical island. We marked these episodes by flinging popcorn at the screen. Sometimes it’s tough to be a professional writer.

“He’s the one everyone thinks is so hot,” my CP commented as she dug for more popcorn.

“Him?” I looked incredulously at the screen. True, the bare chest in question was impeccably beautiful—if suspiciously free of hair—but the character was . . . kind of scuzzy. “He’s okay, I guess.”

“He’s got that bad boy thing going,” my CP said judiciously as she threw kernels at the TV. “But he doesn’t do anything for me.”

“Huh. Me neither.” I meditatively crunched popcorn. “Why do you suppose that is? I mean, he is good looking.”

“Yeah, but he’s not intelligent enough.”

And, as always, my CP was correct. No matter how good looking this guy was, he just wasn’t smart enough. It was a deal breaker.

So, here’s my question for you. What is YOUR deal breaker? What’s the one thing (or things) that will make you dismiss an otherwise drool-worthy man? Is it height? Profession? Bad teeth? No sense of humor? Come on, tell!

In the meantime, I need to get back to the my study of bare nekkid chests.