Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup

Just wanted to let you all know, yes, it was decreed on last night's local news an EF1 tornado dropped down in my neck of the woods Wednesday night. From where it touched down to my house is about a half mile as the crow flies. Because I'm so smaht (and watch strange tv shows) I figured out the tornado didn't touch the ground when it hit my house, it stayed aloft but still, whirled through the trees and hit the corner of my house and split itself in two -- to run along the side of the house and do damage that way and to throw spears into the ground in the front yard. Some of the sticks in the front yard were buried, point down into the ground 4 inches. Scary stuff man. I worked about 5 hours in the yard yesterday. Scared a bunch of people when I whipped out the ax. Of course, I looked like I just escaped Bedlam -- work boots, hiking socks, grubby dirty shorts, and a tank top with bleach stains. Let's not forget the crazy hair-do. However, it is Halloween.

I've been working on revisions. Argh! 'Nuff said.

I've also decided I'm not going to do NaNo. Too much pressure. Even though I've outlined the new story and wrote about 6k in backstory, I just don't have the presence of mind to sign up. I know me. I won't be able to do it, then feel guilty about it, then try and get 10k a day done to stop feeling guilty, ruin Thanksgiving and beat myself up that I couldn't finish. It's a nice dream but not for me. But Good Luck to those of you who do.

Thanks to all my new followers/friends. I appreciate each and every one of you and although I probably haven't followed you back or commented yet, please note, I'm not a snob and I'm not snubbing you, it's the writing. The writing comes first.

And to all my old friends -- sorry I haven't been around much, I'm in revisions and trying to finish up the short story for the anthology. I'm sure you all know how it goes. Something has to give and unfortunately it's always blogging -- much as I'd like it to be showering. Or cooking. Or dealing with school vacations in October. Since when do kids get a break for Halloween???

Anyway, Happy Halloween. Happy NaNo. Have a great weekend. Hopefully I'll have revisions done by next week and I'll be able to play on the blogs again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sound of A Train -- PSA

You know how they say, when you hear the sound of a train in the middle of a storm, it's a tornado. Well, guess what, I heard my first train last night.

We're fine, the house is fine, the animals are fine. But man oh man you, should see my yard. Major tree damage in the back yard. All the wood (decking wood 20 lbs. each, fence posts (the big ones), and 2x6's 12ft. long (must weigh 30 lbs.) I had on the deck is on the ground. (And the only reason I'm telling you this, is that it takes two people to move each piece of wood.) I have all kinds of branches in my front yard. I don't have trees in my front yard...don't ask me how they got there.

I am lucky, I know. I have no idea if it was a tornado but man, they were some heavy duty winds. The tree at my neighbor's was split completely in half (poor tree). And I'm no expert, but no one else on the street has any visible damage (that I can see from my upstairs windows) so my theory is, the tornado (or whatever it was) got the neighbor's tree, hopped the fence, swirled across the back of my house and bounced around in my yard before it went somewhere else.

Now I don't know if you've ever been in a tornado. (I pray to God that you never are.) But what I want to tell you here is, the sound of the train... it's true. Only I blew it off. Because it didn't sound like one. Subconciously I said to myself, that's the sound of a train. But then I said, no, it can't be.

(Because yesterday when I picked up Monster Baby from school a train came by and we all heard it. The kids went crazy when the conductor blew his whistle.)

It's not a full blown train sound. More like the subtle nuance of a train sound. Which gave me pause thinking it wasn't really a tornado (which it might not have been) but I threw Monster Baby and the only dog in the house into the bathroom. Listen to your subconscious people. If you think it sounds like the slightest sound from a train, take heed.

I heard a live rattlesnake rattle its tail one day. It's a sound I'll never forget.
I don't know what the hell rumbled through my yard last night, but I'll never forget that sound.

I hope everyone is okay. Tara, Lois, Becky, if you can, drop me a line to let me know you're okay. If you need anything.

In other news, I'm still in revisions, still working on the Notes from Underground short story, and gearing up to query and NaNo in November.

But first and foremost, I wanted to tell you about the train sound. Don't take it lightly, don't blow it off (like I did). I've lived through hurricanes but you know when they're coming. I guess I lived through a tornado but was too stupid to realize it. DON'T BE ME. HEED THE TRAIN.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Small Funny & Congratulations

Congratulations to Alex J. Cavanaugh and his release of CassaStar today!

Congratulations to Theresa Milstein on getting a long-term permanant sub job! Woo-hoo! We'll miss you.

And Monster Baby asked me last night if knew what nocturnal meant.

I asked her where she learned that word.

She, of course, said, "School. Do you know what it means?"

I replied, "Yes, I know what it means. Do you?"

Very proudly she stood up from the kitchen table and said,

"Nocturnal means that animals can't turn around."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Funny.

I'm supposed to be in revisions. I have found out two things about myself during this process.

I have a muse. Who decided, just as I finished cleaning my office and desk to work on said revisions, wacked me upside the head with Ellis' story.

Chrystal clear in my head, words sprang forth on the new word doc. I'm in 5k. I, who never outlines, outlined in my pants. Twice. I'm not supposed to tell you, this is my secret NaNo project.

I'm also not supposed to tell you about the muse. He thinks, you think, I've already lost my mind for talking to my characters. He fears for my sanity if I tell you about him. He's brand new and shiny, right out of the box. I've never met him before this weekend. He's very nice. Handsome. Dresses a little too grundge for me, but the kilt and work boots looked very nice.

He's brilliant. Utterly brilliant. Has a mind like a steel trap. He presented Ellis to me in such a way, I was, quite literally, taken aback. I had to write it down. I had to write the story down.

And in so doing, pushed off revisions. Has this ever happened to you?

All set and ready to go on one project and then, BLAM, out of nowhere comes this freaking magic and you say to yourself, "let me just get a pen and jot that down." One word becomes three, then five, now 5000.

I'm like, wtf. I've got to get the revisions started and finished. But Ellis, man, Ellis is a character that's been stewing for awhile. He's got angst. Oh my God, this poor man. Tortured. He's going to be such a pleasure to write.

The second thing I found out about myself -- I can amuse myself with a pen. Please, get your mind out of the gutter. I shall share my hilarity.

I mentioned in a letter to a friend I had found the Obi-Wan of crit partners.
He was a master beta.

I didn't, of course, mean it it to come out that way, but you gotta admit, that's funny.

Do any of you have an good one-liners?

Have a great weekend. Get some writing done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Conversation with my Inner Editor

Good Morning everyone, I told you it wouldn't be long before I missed you all. I've been working steadily on revisions, taking in all the feedback received from my dear beta/critters. It's truly overwhelming to believe I've forgotten everything I learned in 6th grade about sentence structure.

Anyway, as I was in the throes the other night, I found myself arguing with -- myself. Here is the conversation.

Writer Me: Hey, that first act was pretty good.

Editor Me: Are you nuts? Four out of six people were "horrified". Don't you know any other words? How about frightened, or scared, or even slightly surprised?

Writer Me: Hey, it's a shitty first draft. I'll change it when I get to it.

Editor Me: Well, what about all those 'as's'? No other word up your sleeve for that either?

Writer Me: It's how I think. I write like I think. Whatever spills from the brain gets written on the page.

Editor Me: Well, that certainly explains a lot.

Writer Me: Hey, I beg to differ. And who was the one who said my settings were "bucolic" and "picturesque" to quote from Dear Richard.

Editor Me: And they were. Which surprised me. I didn't think you had it in you. You're such a dialogue whore.

Writer Me: I do what I know best. I like dialogue. It gets to the heart and soul of the character.

Editor Me: Well, you could use a lot of help with your POV's. They're disgraceful. And you call yourself a writer.

Writer Me: Yes, I am a W-R-I-T-E-R. I'm not published yet, I'm allowed to make a few mistakes.

Editor Me: A FEW mistakes, did you see that red pen slashing through the first scene from the lovely critter?

Writer Me: I saw it. What about it?

Editor Me: Well, obviously you need to go back to grade school to learn the basics of English grammar and composition.

Writer Me: Oh yeah, and where the hell were you when I was writing this in the first place? You just come out of hiding to point to all my mistakes?

Editor Me: Don't be ridiculous, you know where I was. You know I was there right behind you egging you on when you were struggling. You know I stood by your side when the shit hit the fan and Genna didn't want to meet Pete. You know I passed you the Kleenex when you wrote the scene when Sally had his heart attack. I'm always with you, that's the trouble. When you write your shitty first drafts you don't want to listen to me. That's why it's going to take you four years to revise this.

Writer Me: Oh shut up and get me the pretzels. I've got to work on Act Two.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deep Into the Abyss

Well my darlings, I believe it's time for me to take a short break and dive into the revisional abyss. (is that even a word?)

All of my series for REMEMBERING YOU are done, I've bored you all with my query, I have nothing else to procrastinate over and now I think it's time I went deep, deep into the heart of the unknown. Revisions.

I sorta' kinda' like revisions. Why you may ask, well I'll tell you.

The book is already written. The shitty first draft is already down. I don't have to think about it anymore. (Truthfully, I still have those last 4 scenes to write but I'm not thinking about them.) So really, all I have to do is go back in and make it all better. I know, easier said than done but... I've already taken a stab at act one, and it wasn't so bad. Well, not yet anyway.

So, with that said, I'm diving in. I don't know when I'll be back. Well, you know me, I can't stay away, but I figured I would just give you the head's up, let you know what's going on. Write on everyone!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Blogoversary

I just want to say Thank you so much to all the Ladies (and Alex) who stopped by yesterday. I so appreciate your own battles and stories and comments. I know we all know someone who has passed from the disease so please please please, eat right, exercise, quit smoking, get your mammograms, do self-check (or have hubs do it). IT's so important to be able to say in this lifetime -- "We found a cure." Every little bit helps.

Anyway, yesterday was also my blogoversary. Yup, one whole year. 278 posts, 211 followers. Still can't believe it. You guys totally rock and I love each and every one of you.

Anniversaries make me think. Kind of like New Year's without the resolutions. How did I do over the last year? Would I have done anything differently? How do I think I'm going to do next year?

Well, I have over two hundred friends; not one gained nefariously or that I had to pay off. I wrote two books and two short stories. I QUERIED. I wrote an article for the Guide to Literary Agents. I built a fence and filled a hole. (Someday Sarah I will put up pictures.)

And I've met all of you. Each of you so different and unique yet all of us the same -- we are writers. Some published, some not, some doing this for fun and relaxation, some of us egotistical and maniacal and opinionated on what we write and when we're going to be published *cough cough*. (meaning ME)

And then I look to next year and wonder if the career arc I wrote up the other night will hold up. I wonder if I'll be able to get a short story in Glimmer Train. I wonder if I'll be able to finish NaNo this year. I wonder if my angel agent will swoop down and scoop me up.

Mostly I don't think it matters much what happens as long as I continue to write and I have you. Without you, (and I mean this most sincerely) I wouldn't be where I am today.

So Happy Anniversary to all of you!!!! Thanks for coming by.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October Is...

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please please please get your mammograms Ladies.

Since September 20 I have been waiting to have an unltrasound on my left breast. The mammogram showed a "mass". (Well, there was a technical term for it but it has left my brain.)

I finally went this morning to get the ultrasound. I am cancer free. The "mass" was -- they don't know what it was. An anomoly.

For the last 14 days I have been a wreck, wondering, worrying, waiting. I wrote out my will, I planned my career arc, I wrote a short story, I worked on revisions, I worked in the yard. I did everything I could to put this out of my mind.

But it remained, stuck, until this morning and after the ultrasound, they did another mammogram to make extra sure. There was nothing.

So, I'm cancer free. Yay. But it lingers, in the back of my mind. If not now, when? My father had lung cancer (5 years cancer free knock on wood) my mother has a melanoma they're treating. My aunt had her lymph nodes removed. It scares the shit out of me that I may eventually get the disease. I don't know whether to want it now when Monster Baby is young and I'll get over it, or wait until later, when she is older when it will be harder to fight. Truthfully I don't want it at all.

So get your mammograms ladies. Please. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your kids. The earlier they catch it, the better off you'll be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Final Query

My sincerest heartfelt thanks go out to Rick here because he commented on my struggles and I got up the nerve to email him (because we are friends from another dimension) and he just basically wrote my query the way HE thought it should have been written. I took his template and tweaked it and here it is. And sometimes that's just all it takes.

This is my final query and what I will be sending out shortly.

When Genna goes home to Rhode Island to spend a long-awaited vacation, she finds that her family is falling apart and she has only twenty-one days to put them back together.

Her new promotion as Executive Chef at the posh Littlefield Country Club in Delaware is a dream job. It’s more than the pay and benefits, she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after her Fourth of July holiday.

However, her vacation is far from relaxing. Two men are vying for her attention, an ex-fiancĂ© who wants to fix the mistakes of the past, and an old school chum who finds her irresistible…and inspires mutual feelings in Genna. Her aunt is also clearly showing signs of mental illness. The family is in denial; her cousins are unable to cope with their mother’s changing behavior and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack.

Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or her family. The clock runs out and Genna finds she is needed at her new job, she is needed by her family, and she is needed by lovers old and new. Now Genna must search her soul to find out what she needs.

My Hook -- We know who (Genna), where (Rhode Island), what is happening (vacation and her family falling apart) and what she faces (twenty-one days to put them back together). I liked that "21 days" line from the last query and so stuck it in here. Truthfully I still liked my "hell in a handbasket" line better but I couldn't justify it.

First Paragraph -- This is the set-up for the main conflict Genna faces. Her job or her family.

Second Paragraph -- This is what happens to Genna on her vacation. These are all the external and internal conflicts without the fat. Two men, her aunt, her cousins and her uncle. Oh my. Notice I didn't use any names. Also notice I didn't use Alzheimer's. I don't know why I changed that, but it seems to flow better, also makes you ask the question -- which mental illness, could it be alzheimer's, could it be dementia, could it be she's just crazy?

Final Paragraph -- And this is what Genna does when all that stuff happens to her. She keeps the diner open and the family together. And yes, I do have the one cliche -- break the glass ceiling -- because it says so much to what she's feeling and what she's been through to get there. It's not ambiguous. We also have a question but in the form of a sentence (Thanks Rick!) And hopefully this will do the trick in allowing the agent to ask "Oh, what does Genna do about all this, I need to know."

Did you notice I used conflict in both my first and second paragraphs?
Did you notice I combined the
motivation and goal in the last paragraph?
With only 250 words (more or less -- this version is 238) to lure an agent to request, sometimes you must combine the four -- Hook Conflict Motivation Goal -- to get the killer query.

I also want to say this. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help. The Slushpile is great to get you going but ultimately what you want with the final draft is to get one or two people to look at it, preferably someone who doesn't know anything about your book. They'll have an unbiased opinion, (like Rick did for me) and just basically tell the story they think needs to be told.

So there we go, an anatomy lesson in my query process. I hope this has helped you, at least a little bit.

Next week, I'll do a post about the rest of the letter, the author bio -- as an answer to a question in the comments.

Any questions, comments, let me know what you think. If you were an agent would you want to read this book?