Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

The end of another year has come to a close -- and the question is -- am I sorry to see it go?


Now most of us on the blogs this morning are talking about what we did last year. I've never been a look-behind-me kind of gal. Whenever I left a job I never went back to hang out with friends. Whenever I broke up with a guy, I never thought about going back to him. Moved out of a house, never went back to the old neighborhood. Once it's done, it's over.

Same thing with the old year. It's done, it's over, it's past, it's behind me. (Well, technically at 12:01 a.m. E.S.T.)

So why would I want to look back at it? Okay, okay, I'll admit it, I did look. I'm very proud of all the accomplishments I've achieved. The biggest being I built a fence. Yeah, not about the writing, the queries, the requests -- it's all about the fence.

You see, that fence represented my new life here in North Carolina. Now mind you, I've been here 3 years. However, the first year I spent in bed. (Bad bad accident, nothing to be done about it, had to suffer through it). I promised my old dog I would build a fence so she could have the whole yard to roam around in. I started it, but didn't finish it until this year. And when I finished it, my old dog was so sick, she couldn't enjoy it and I had to put her down. (See now why I don't look back.)

That fence was my symbol, my lifeline, my guiding light. When that fence was complete, I felt my life would have come full circle. Both ends would be closed. The old life, my old life, would be outside the circle. Monster Baby (and the dogs) and I would live quietly within the circle. Like a great big mandala keeping out the bad stuff. And we have.

Believe me it hasn't been easy, but we've gotten to the end of the year. And that's that. It's over.

So what am I going to do now? Look forward. What else is there to do? I can't beat myself up over all the things I didn't do, accomplish, achieve. Serves no earthly purpose. So I'll look forward.

And that my dear ones, is what I wish for you this brand new year -- look forward. Don't look back. Sure, review it if it makes you feel better, but don't dwell on what you didn't do, look back on what you did. You may surprise yourself at all you've accomplished without even meaning to.

Happy New Year! May you all find joy, love, and lots of happiness!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Resolute or Not

With the new year fast approaching, we all somehow decide we need to make resolutions to carry us through the coming year. Lose weight, quit smoking, be nicer to people, write more, cook less...whatever they are, we always think about making them.

Now, I for one, make them sporadically. Not every year, but years I feel like I've been less than. Last year I had seven. Did I keep them? No, not one. Do I feel bad? No, I do not. Yeah, I'm a little disappointed but you know what -- who cares.

Most of us make unreasonable demands that we can't do, they just sound good on paper. One of my simpler resolutions last year was to write 500 words a day. Sounds easy-peasy right? Yeah, not so much. It was in the 90's and above for most of the summer here and I didn't write a word for most of it. (no air conditioning)

Some of us will take any excuse to fail. (see above paragraph) "It's too hot. It's too hard. I can't do it. It won't work. It hurts. I don't have the time. The kids, the husband, the dog..." the list of excuses is endless.

Does that mean we're failures? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Read those words carefully, my dear ones. You are NOT a failure. To me, it just means we've put that part of our lives on hold until we get a better grip on our reality.

Who in God's name can lose weight with all the leftover turkey and pie and ham and cookies hanging around the house after the holidays? Who can be nicer to people when Mother Nature is making life miserable for everyone? Who can write 500 words a day, every day, when a family member is in the hospital, your son's hamster dies, or the washing machine explodes?

My resolution then is NOT to make resolutions. They hurt. They take you out of your comfort zone. They really don't have any benefit unless you keep them. And most of us don't. So what's the point?

My solution -- Kindness. Just the one word, not too hard to decipher, easily attainable, and works miracles.

Instead of making all these crazy resolutions you know you won't keep (or think you might die trying) just be kind. To people you know and people you don't. To animals and the earth and old people and children. To your mother-in-law and the bitch in the office. To the old lady in the grocery store parking lot having trouble with her bags. To the man in the post office with all those packages. Hold a door for someone. Give the lady in the check-out line in front of you the 17 cents she owes because she can't find it in her change purse. Feed the birds your stale bread instead of throwing it away. Recycle, reduce, reuse as much as you can in this throw-away society. Mother Earth is the only home we have and if we're not kind to her, we're going to be up shit's creek without a paddle.

Kindness my friends is the only resolution I think we need to make. If everyone were just a little kinder to every one else, don't you think the world would be a little more shiny? A nicer place to live?

Pay It Forward.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Hangover

Good Monday Morning everyone. I hope you are not suffering from the apocolyptic snowfall. Stay warm, stay home. Unless, of course, you work for the DPW.

I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday. It snowed here on Christmas Day. Which was an 'event'. (Truth be told, anything weather related is an event.) The day was nice. Monster Baby is growing up to be a wonderful child. I thought for sure she was going to grouse about not getting what she really wanted (a remote controlled dog) but she was really sweet Christmas night when I asked if she had a good day.

"Oh, it was great."

"Did you get everything you wanted?"


"Are you sure there's nothing more you want?"

"No, Mommy, I got everything I wanted."

"What was your favorite present?"

"The dump truck." (Tonka T.S.4000 series - not a true dump truck but called a Haul-Pak in Nevada which are monumentally huge)

(Me, totally surprised, thought for sure it would be the Barbies) "Why is that your favorite?"

"Because I can help you out in the yard when you move all the dirt again."

Did I raise a great kid or what?

On another note -- Did anyone else rewrite their notes from Santa? I have always written a thank you note from Santa for the milk and cookies (helps to remind MB of writing thank you notes for her gifts). Anyway, I read the first draft and found a typo. Wrote a second draft and realized I used the word 'good' three times. Third draft the Sharpie laid a big fat black spot on the bottom of the page. Finally, four drafts later, I had the perfect letter from Santa.

Question -- Is there anyone out there as anal as I am?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Holidays Everyone!

Monster Baby and I would like to wish each and every one of you the most wonderful of weekends. May it be filled with laughter and love and here's to Santa giving you everything on your list....okay, maybe just the one 'big' present will do.

Happy Happy Holidays.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Mishmash and an Award

Good morning. I have to report, Christmas shopping went exceedingly well. There was no traffic, I was in and out of the stores well within the half hour each I had allotted myself. I spent less than I anticipated, and got everything on my list. I was on time for the holiday festivities at Monster Baby's school, and the day went relatively well. I even bought a Christmas tree. I know, that's big for me. Three feet tall and fake, it sits on the dining room table with MB's hand-made-from-school ornaments. It's beautiful.

I must say, the research is going well. Really well, as a matter of fact. I found the plot line for the last of my 'men' for the Regency series. Well, the inkling of a plotline -- spy, natch. I have a sailor, a horseman, and a politician. Now I have a spy. Who I might even put in America. Right before the war. Intrigue, gotta love it.

I received an award last week, both from Donna and Rula. Thank you ladies. It means a lot. If you don't know either of these Fair Dinkum women, stroll through their blogs, you won't be disappointed.

Now, Fair Dinkum was an award created by L'Aussie, Denise, who lives down under. She posed the question on her blog, "What does Fair Dinkum mean to you" and was met with all kinds of answers. I've personally always thought that phrase, geared specifically more to men, than women. But as always, mine is a subjective opinion. (Kind of like in French, le and la, masculine and feminine.)

Anyhoo -- the term fair dinkum is a compliment. A high one. Which got me thinking about the highest compliment I've ever received.

When my friend Mary Rose needed to enclose her porch, we had to hang sheetrock. We needed a man. I could do most of the work but we needed some brawn. She called her friend John, who drove over 300 miles to help. He was a big, bad, bear of a man, who barely spoke to me as we worked. "Hold this, nail that, get out of the way," kind of thing. We worked all day, John and I, hanging sheetrock, finally finishing with the ceiling. (Which the board gave way and hit me on top of the head while I was standing on the ladder. I saw stars.)

After John left, Mary Rose told me that John had been very impressed with my effort. "She works like a man," he said. And I thought that was pretty cool. (If you knew John, you would think this high praise indeed.)

So my Fair Dinkum Award is passed on to the men who I think are Fair Dinkum enough to hang sheetrock with...

DL Hammonds @ Cruising Altitude.
Roland Yeomans @ Writing in the Crosshairs
Matthew Rush @ The QQQE
Terry Towery @ A Writer of Wrongs
Stephen Tremp @ Breakthrough Blogs
R. Mac Wheeler
Ted Cross
Alex Cavanaugh
Butch Edgerton>
Elliot Grace
Al Russell

Happy Wednesday everyone, I hope you have a Fair Dinkum day!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Lucy

Good Monday morning everyone. As usual, I am late -- as in a day late and a dollar short -- for my Christmas shopping. I am doing mine today. Actually, I'm doing pretty well this year, most forays into Christmas shopping usually start on Christmas Eve, so I'm gaining this year.

Ran into a road block the size of Houston over the weekend on my WIP. I'm in the middle of my Regency, why I decided to write them I'll never know. I had some naggly details last week I had to do a timeline for and thought I fixed them. Guess what? Not in a bazillion years.

It seems my MC, Ellis, could not be where he was supposed to be because he had to sit in Parliament. This was crucial to the plot. Guess what? The Lords did not sit in Parliament the whole of 1816! Not once.

Soooo...what did I do, you may ask? Give Ellis somewhere else to be? Allow the plot to unfold without that information? Throw that scene out and write another?

Nooooo....I decided to change the whole timeline for the book. Actually all the books in the series. Because even though all the books can be read as stand-alone, they are also interconnected in small ways, hence the timeline. Prince George, as Regent or not, is crucial to all the plots. (Hence the name Regency. Don't you just love that word -- hence.)

So, instead of setting the books in and around 1816 as I originally wanted, I've changed them to 1811. Some of you may say, well, that's not so bad, which, it's not. But it is. Sort of. I thought I wouldn't have to do any more research into the Napoleonic Wars, (kind of hate old Boney at this point), but I'm finding I need to look into Admiral Nelson's action at Trafalgar. Ugh! I hate researching war, it's so ugly. But there it is.

Question -- Have any of you ever faced this task -- Finding out your research was way off and now you have to do something drastic? What did you do?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On the Menu today -- Copious amounts of hot chocolate, with a side of introspection.

Can I just say, it's freezing here. And I'm sure there are a lot of you who want to throw something at me right now. Duh! The whole freaking country is COLD. And most of you have snow. I pray the electric doesn't go out. And if it has, I'm sorry. I'll pray they get it turned back on very quickly.

I used to love snow days home from school when I was little. (Of course, living here, any kind of anomoly in the atmosphere is call for a 'weather day'.) We would stay in our pj's all day, watch PBS (because there were only 5 channels when I was a kid). My mother would make cocoa with marshmallows. My brothers and I built forts with blankets in their room because they had bunkbeds. Laying on the floor and coloring would be big as well. Or reading my 'horse' books.

When we moved to our first house, we all had snowsuits and would play with our friends down the street. We built colossal snowmen, (to the top of the porch once). Not to mention all manner of igloo and snow fort for snowball fights. We'd come home soaking wringing wet, legs sticking to our pants, mittens just sopping.
I can still hear my mother's voice,

"It's a wonder you haven't caught your death of cold."

(Looks funny to see it written out that way. I want to fix it even though it's true and factual dialogue.)

Then my mother would change our clothes, we'd have lunch and go right back out again until it was dark. Because we lived on a dead end street, the plows would stack it all at the end so we had a ready made hill for sledding. Talk about sweet.

We did have snow here, two weeks ago. Monster Baby and I went out and made a snowman. (Pretty good one too, for an old lady.) Living here however, proved a disappointment. Our man melted within 6 hours.

I mean really, if it's going to snow, let it snow at least six inches. And let it hang out for awhile. I don't mind being home if there's a reason for it. Today's reason was ice, and yes, there is nothing worse than black ice. But there's nothing to look at. Everything is brown. And ucky. And everytime I look out my window I see I still have to pick up that pile of leaves.

If there were snow here, it wouldn't look so bad. And maybe I wouldn't feel so bad. I just feel so blah. I don't even care it's Christmas next week. Maybe if there were snow, I would want to go outside and play. Or sled. Or hell, even shovel the driveway.

Now I know most of you want to kill me, you've been freezing and shoveling for hours. I have to do it here too when it sticks. And I have to do my parents' house as well, so I get double duty. And I hate when it turns to slush and mush and it looks ugly and dirty. I want it to go away again.

But when it falls, or late at night when it's quiet, and everything is just so wonderlandy, don't you just love it? Somehow snow makes everything okay. It spreads itself out like a blanket of goodness. It makes you want to believe in Santa Claus again. Even if it's only for just a little while.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Does It End?

Last Monday I posted a snippet from Grahame Greene --

A story has no beginning or end;
arbitrarily one chooses that moment of
experience from which to look back
or from which to look ahead.

The End of the Affair 1951

We had a discussion on where we begin a story. Roland had a fabulous counter-question after reading my post -- where do we end the story?

Do we linger too long, milking the afterglow of the story. Or do we end too abruptly once the crisis is averted or overcome?

Many teachers of creative writing stress not to begin writing until you have the ending clearly in mind

so that you can head to it with skillful foreshadowing and firm precision, not meandering until the end just comes to you.

I think that approach also helps you to know when to begin.

If you know the ending with its transformation of the main character, then you know where to start your story ...

and you get a sense of how to bring your protagonist to his destination.

So my question to you -- Do you know the ending before your beginning? Or Do you let it just come to you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You HAVE to read this

I followed my nose yesterday afternoon and found this guy, J.M. Tohline, and he wrote this unbelievable post on the BIGGEST MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE WHEN THEY QUERY.

You need to read this whether you've queried before or not. He polled 100 agents and got their responses to what makes and breaks a query letter.

Go here now.

And then, when you're done there, go to his follow up post at the end. It's definitely worth the read.

That is all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christine's Holiday Blogfest

I know I'm not much for blogfests but since I saw Christine's invitation, I knew I had to participate. It's also a little longer than the requisite 250 words but...

In my latest WIP, a Regency romance, the main characters do share a Christmas together. Unexpectedly. Here goes. Hope you like it.


Sorry the author has removed this excerpt.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- custard pie with whipped cream, real Quaker Oats, chocolate chip cookies, BLT's, home-made chicken soup -- comfort food for sure.

Good morning my darlings. Sorry I haven't been around all week. I received my answer from the full request Tuesday night. Rejection. Form rejection.

I needed to cry for a few days and wallow in some really crazy indulgent self-pity. And I did. It wasn't pretty. (A stranger in the supermarket even stopped me and asked if I was all right.) But Terry held my hand and talked me down. (Thanks Ter-Ber) Helped me to get a grip. And I did. But I'm still a little shaky.

See, it was my very first ever, full request. Off a query mind you. So I was little overwhelmed because that's almost never done. And, she's one of the top ten literary agents, so I was a little scared. However, I guess now, all I know how to do is write a really great query. (The agent even said so. It's what she said after that threw me into the pit of despair.)

Nevertheless, I remain, a writer. Nothing to be done about it.

Not to be maudlin, as it is the weekend, so I'll leave you with this.

Monster Baby got a game for her birthday. Instead of numbered dice, they have pictures of the characters on the dice.

I set up the game, we played a non-count round to get the feel for it. The cowboy is a free character so for every one you get, he counts toward whichever characters you need.

I almost died laughing when, on the first roll,
Monster Baby yelled,
(wait for it)

"I got a cowboy!"

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where do you start your story?

A story has no beginning or end;

arbitarily one chooses that moment of experience

from which to look back or

from which to look ahead.

Grahame Greene
The End of the Affair 1951

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Grilled Pastrami on rye with mustard and just a smidge of horseradish. And soup. I don't care what kind, as long as it's hot so I can wrap my hands around the bowl.

First I'd like to give a big shout out Welcome and Thank You to my new friends. (Not followers, I am not a cult.) Leigh, Carolyn, Melissa, PK, Tracy, Jennifer, Amie, Debra Ann, Hanny, Theresa, Bryan, Amy, Brenda, The Happy Whisk, Kimber, Melissa, Emy, Len, Perri and Ann. I have coffee and something to gnosh on in the dining room so feel free to grab a cup and hang out. We get a little crazy from time to time but it's all good.

Monster Baby's birthday party went well. Her favorite gift -- the fly swatter. Who knew? She said, "Oh Mommy this is what I've wanted for so long." Even the Silly Bands were pushed aside for the swatter. Crazy kid, but what did I expect with me being a crazy mother.

Any-hoo, I've been working on the premise of the second book in my Regency series. (Now that REMEMBERING YOU is out to query I decided I needed to work on something new.) Not that this story is new, but I've totally revamped the plot and think it's stronger.

I even wrote an outline. Something I do not usually do. And I didn't write it in my pants either, this is a true story outline, with chapter headings and scenes and chapter breaks and everything. (Hey Sarah, I even broke out my index cards.)

This is what the first index card looks like (Now don't steal my ideas lol)

Chapter One
Scene one Violet's POV

Violet saves Jane. Violet meets Ellis. Lady Rose > up to the carriage. On the way home in the carriage.

Pgs. 1 - 8

So what does this outline mean? What does the four days I spent working on this bring to the table?

Well, it means I won't be head-hopping anymore. Now that I know which scenes belong to who(m) [I can never get that right] I won't have to go on such a long search and destroy mission later. It also means I can write whatever scenes I want, whenever I want, and then insert them later. It means I won't get lost when the characters start screaming at me pulling me in 15 different directions. Now I can tell them, "We can't go there, we have to follow the outline." (Something I really wish I had done with Genna and Pete.)

Now the question is (for me) do I really think having an outline will help me write this book any faster? (Not fast in the sense I can bang it out in a NaNo month but fast in the sense that the words will flow.) The answer is -- I don't know.

The question for you is -- do you think having an outline (instead of being a panster) allows the work to progress at a faster pace? Does having an outline REALLY help you stay on track? (Or are your characters like mine and balk at having things so laid out for them?)

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Quickie

Well, for those of you who are interested, Monster Baby did NOT get an electric pencil sharpener. Who knew they would be $29.99? Yeah, that's what I said.

And she didn't get her movie either, both Target and Wal-mart were sold out. (It was obviously not my day to shop yesterday.) So I got her a fly swatter instead. (There's a story behind it.) And a new game for her Leap Frog. ($5- marked down from $25-, score one for Mommy.) And some Silly Bands. And a new lunch box. Puppa and Yo-Yo are getting her new boots and a remote controlled dog. (So much for the real ones.)

So that's the birthday. I get to go to school today at lunch time and eat cardboard pizza. How much fun is that???

Just one little piece of writing business for you -- and it's not for or from me --

Shannon is hosting another Anonymous Critique over at her blog today and would appreciate if you would stop by. The last one (she said) went very well, and she'd like to keep it up. So if you have a few minutes, that would be swell.

See you at the Grille tomorrow. I hope. If the birthday party doesn't kill me tonight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Birthday Weather

Good Morning everyone. Another short and sweet post today.

I hope and pray that everyone is okay with that stupid storm that ran through the whole east coast last night. I've been up since midnight waiting for the tornadoes our lovely weather caster threatened us with at dinner last night. I even found my old hurricane (NOAA) radio and turned it on.

Nothing happened. Just lots of rain, thankfully. But my lack of sleep is killing me. I just hope you are all safe and sound.

I won't be around for the next few days. It's Monster Baby's birthday tomorrow so I need to do some shopping. Wait til the last minute much? You will probably think this is mean but I'm getting her an electric pencil sharpener. Why, you may ask? Because she has so many pencils and has so much trouble with the little hand-held sharpeners I think she'll get a kick out of it. My warped sense of Mommy humor. I suppose she'll also get another Barbie, a few books and maybe a movie -- she's wanted The Incredibles forever, so I'm on the hunt.

And if you can, make a big splash for our lovely Talli who's HATING GAME comes out on Amazon today.

Have fun. I'll see you Friday.