Sunday, August 29, 2010

Well, He's Not Hugh Jackman

Sometimes you just need to cut loose.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking Chances

Currently reading - Death's Excellent Vacation by CHarlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

After sending a whiny e-mail to the crit partners on Tuesday evening, Faye immediate response was "Get back on the horse."

Okay, that's really not a direct quote. I left out the more colorful language. But the gist of her comment is the same.

I pointed out to her that theoretically I'm still on the horse. I'm just hanging from a stirrup with my head bonking along the rough terrain.

And that's where the ever-lauded perserverence comes in handy. I pulled myself up, sent out another query for ZL and wrote a couple of thousand words on the current wip. If you want that publishing credit, you can't stop just because you got kicked in the head. (Ask Jody. She's been kicked in the head for real a few times.)

Next on the list--practice that pitch for the Lone Star Conference.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pitch Analysis

Currently reading - Death's Excellent Vacation, edite by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

For those of you who write romance and want a pitch analysis from a real editor, check out Casablanca Authors Blog. Sorry this is a little late since I just found out (too many errands to run before I had a chance to read/write blog stuff today).

About once a month, Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks takes a look at authors' work. Sometimes it's just the pitch, or maybe the first page depending on Deb's schedule. But it's definitely worth looking at the pitches to get some ideas of what works and what doesn't.

Deb's a straight shooter, doesn't put anyone down, and gives some valuble insight into the mind of an editor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And Then the Coyote Realizes She's Running in Mid-Air

Currently reading - Death's Excellent Vacation, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

After all my whining yesterday (which goes very well with Colby Jack cheese I might add), guess what awaited me in the Inbox when I arrived home from work?

Yep, the scores. *sigh* And yes, it was as bad as I feared. DH held me as we read over them, and then he said, "Put it away for tonight, glean what you can to tweak the book before you pitch it at the conference, and let's go kill something."

The conference he referred to is the Nortwest Houston RWA chapter's Lone Star Conference in October. If you can be in the Houston area, it's well worth the money.

The killing he referred to only involves the Xbox, I swear. Hey, did you know you can put Halo's Master Chief in pink armor?

On a positive note, one of the judges did get my Mel Brooks' tribute. If you haven't watched Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, and Cloris Leachman, go rent or buy it now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wrestling with Pigs

Currently reading - Death's Excellent Vacation, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

George Bernard Shaw had it right. Wrestling pigs is not a good thing.

I admit I spent the last two days wallowing. I entered AVT in a writing contest a few months ago. AVT did not final.

I'm very proud of it. It's the tighest book I've written so far. Other books have finaled. Heck, the second book I ever wrote missed finaling by one friggin' point. If I'm totally honest, it didn't deserve that high of score. But AVT? When the worst thing any of my critique partners said was I went a little gerund crazy? Then yes, it did deserve a high score.

Unfortunately, I've got a feeling why it didn't do so well. The subject's a little quirky. My heroine's an Amish vampire.

Well, technically Anne's not Amish. She was bitten before she was baptized in the church. And a lot of the internal conflict is Anne trying to reconcile her Amish upbringing with what she is now--an eighty-year-old virgin.

(Oops, wrong story!)

. . .trying to reconcile her Amish upbringing with what she is now--an Enforcer (the vampire equivalent to a cop).

So I'm sitting here for the last two days, fretting about the judges' comments I haven't even received yet. Do they matter? In the long run, probably not. I did my best. And wallowing about it only leaves me covered in a layer of mud.

Damn, I need a shower.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

And Now for Something You Really Enjoy. . .

If you're trying to break into publishing, just keep singing Gloria Gaynor's anthem and watch out for those disco balls. . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

If DH Is Confused, Where Does That Leave the Rest of Us?

Currently reading - Death's Excellent Vacation, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

DH has been keeping an eye on the business news in regards to the publishing industry. He asked my thoughts on the looming proxy fight within Barnes and Noble. His point being with the advent of our e-reader overlords, why are the shareholders fighting over a sinking ship?

First of all, I can't see print totally disappearing. Like vinyl in the music industry, I think it'll become a niche market.

Second of all, once I explained the actual manufacture and distribution of print media, his eyes bugged out, and he muttered something along the lines of "How quaint!" And yes, I agree with DH that a correction in the industry is long overdue. When most other businesses use just-in-time inventory and high-speed communications to faciliate their work, the publishing industry looks positively stegasaurian by comparison. It's only been in the last five years that the number of agents and editors taking e-mail queries has flipped from the miniscule minority to the majority.

Finally, a lot of authors are using these new technologies to strike out on their own and self-publish. The jury's still out on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Some folks are smart enough to get the professional support they need, i.e. editors, cover designers, etc. Some aren't. Some have the savvy to build a platform and market to their audience. Some don't. I think in the short term, the public will have to wade through the slushpile. Word of mouth will become even more important as we look for the jewels we want to read.

So what's going to happen in the next five years? Hell if I know. But it's going to be a bumpy ride.

(And people wonder why I use the white water metaphore.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life Sucks and So Do Vampires

Currently reading - Soulless by Gail Carriger

If you haven't seen it and need a pick-me-up, take the afternoon off and go see Vampires Suck. Don't go expecting Citizen Kane or Ben Hur. It's stupid fun, it's meant to be stupid fun, and it's so worth it for what Becca (Bella) does to Buffy Summers (yeah, that Buffy Summers).

On that note, here's Rebelliouspixels' Buffy vs. Edward:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Censorship Sucks

Currently reading - Soulless by Gail Carriger

The following is a letter I sent to Guy Sconzo, superintendent of Humble ISD after YA author Ellen Hopkins was "disinvited" from the Humble ISD Teen Lit Fest. Several writers have withdrawn form the festival in protest of the censorship. For more information on the controversy, please see Ellen Hopkins blog or Tera Lynn Childs blog. If you live in the Houston area (heck, even if you don't), please let Mr. Sconzo know what you think of censorship. His e-mail address is

Dear Mr. Sconzo:

I want to say thank you for reinforcing my decision to withdraw my son from the Texas public school system and homeschool him. Your decision to sponsor censorship by "disinviting" Ellen Hopkins from the Humble ISD Teen Lit Fest proves to me that the Texas school system is moving backwards, not forwards, in educating our children.

I want my son exposed to a multitude of ideas, including one that I don't agee with, in order for him to develop his decision-making process. Ms. Hopkins writes honestly about the very real dangers our children face. By ignoring these same dangers, we adults set up our children to be sucked into the very things we want to protect them from. I want my son to know about these dangers, so I can help him prepare coping mechanisms. Many authors' books, including Ms. Hopkins, have been the gateway I've used to open up discussions about these issues with my son.

I hope you will reconsider your decision. Censorship does not protect our children at all.

Sincerely yours,
Suzan Harden

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Difficult Position

Currently reading - Soulless by Gail Carriger

Most unpublished writers know not to ask a published author for a referral. (You do know that's bad form, right?)

So what happens when a very successful author vigorously insists that you must send your work to her agent?

Let's just say the results aren't pretty. For anyone.

Lessons Learned:

1) Don't refer your unpublished friend if the work isn't ready.

2) Don't refer your unpublished friend if your agent doesn't represent the genre your friend writes.

3) And whatever you do, don't get on the phone with your agent after drinking a couple of martinis and chew her out for rejecting your friend.

Despite everything, the agent was a sweetheart to me and offered to look at my next project. Maybe someday I'll get over my embarrassment and look her in the eye again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Queries, Validation and Schrodinger's Cat

Currently reading - Soulless by Gail Carriger

I've been on a roll with the concept of validation this week.

Sunday, we talked about Pat and the Golden Heart, where an award only validates a certain level has been achieved but does not guarantee success down the road.

Yesterday, the writer I mentioned was seeking validation for the advice an attorney gave her young relative. Granted, she went about it incorrectly.

Today, we going to talk about queries, and why writers get so upset when they don't get an answer from an agent.

The request for a partial or a full creates its own sense of validation. "My story is good enough for someone in the publishing industry to read it!"

Even if the writer receives a rejection, his/her work has been acknowledged as existing.

However, when no answer is received, writers have this tendency to turn into a state of quantum superposition. For those without a physics background, quantum superposition postulates that a subatomic particle (in our case, a query) exists in all states (both accepted and rejected) until the moment of definite measurement (the opening of the e-mail or snail mail), at which point the subatomic particle falls into a definite state.

The most famous example of this quantum superposition theory is Schrodinger's cat, where the poor kitty could be both alive and dead until the moment the experimenter opened the special box the cat was in. Then the cat would either alive or dead.

(NOTE: Before the ASPCA or the Humane Society gets their panties in a twist, this is thought experiment. Erwin Schrodinger exchanged a series of letters with Albert Einstein over a 1935 paper Einstein co-wrote on the theory of quantum superpositions. No cats were harmed by either physicist to the best of my knowledge.)

Now, quantum physics is a fun subject for science geeks (or if you're really, really drunk), but if you try to apply it to the querying process you're going to drive yourself bonkers.

That's not to say don't resend a query if you reasonably believe your query has been misdirected. Goddess knows, several of mine have been deposited in spam filters even though I followed the agent's website to the letter.

But stop opening the box praying that any old cat's alive. You want the right cat to come out of your box.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Piss Off Your Expert

Currently reading - Soulless by Gail Carriger

Experts in a particular field can help us add a sense of realism to our works. I'd add that a writer should be mindful of who they're asking and what they are asking. And never, EVER take advantage of an expert for personal use.

Yes, this comes from personal experience. For a long time, I didn't mind other writers asking me legal questions. Unfortunately, I almost got my butt burned once.

A particular writer asked a particular question pertaining to a particular criminal charge against her character. Now I can talk theory with the best of them, but I've never been either a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney. I gave this person a rough outline of what the character could expect, and if she had any further questions, I could refer her to a friend from law school who practiced criminal defense law.

A few weeks passed, then I got an odd call from Lanelle. Yeah, my criminal defense friend.

Another attorney had complained to her about a client's relative going behind his back and seeking legal advice on his client's case. He'd checked on this alleged wrongdoer poaching on his territory and found out she was some probate attorney named Suzan Harden. Even worse, he planned to file a bar grievance against me.

Luckily, Lanelle defended me to her fellow criminal defense attorney and told him she'd call me to find out what was going on. Once she explained the details, I knew the relative in question had been the writer. I thanked her profusely for letting me know and called the other attorney to apologize.

And refused to answer to any more legal questions from writers beyond my immediate critique group.

It sucks to have to be this way, but I can't afford a lawsuit for malpractice, much less defend myself against a charge of unauthorized practice of law since I let my law license expire a couple of years ago.

So keep this in mind when you ask someone for help. Someone is giving you their time and experience to make your writing the best it can be. Don't stab them in the back trying to get a freebie.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Winner in Any Book

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

I want to give a HUGE shout-out to one of my regular readers--YEAH, PAT!

Two weeks ago, Pat Rosen won the 2010 Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. For those of you who don't know, the Golden Heart is the Romance Writers of America contest for unpublished authors.

So at the West Houston RWA chapter meeting yesterday, Pat received a standing ovation. (Which is much better than the Gatorade shower she would have received at Northwest Houston.) She showed off her award, a gorgeous gold heart pendant. But it was her impromptu speech that really struck my soul.

She compared winning the award with reaching the top of hill she'd been climbing forever, only to realize there were bigger hills beyond where she stood. And mountains beyond those hills. While the award was nice, she couldn't stop on her current hill. She had to keep climbing.

With Pat's realistic but persistent qualities, I know she'll reach her dream.

But in the meantime, sweetie, a little jewelry validation doesn't hurt.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Panic Attack!

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

My heart's slamming so hard in my chest it may break a rib. I can't believe I did it! I really, really did it! I let my babies go.

Today, I managed to part with over a hundred books. Lovely books. Books with pristine covers, colors as bright as they day they came off the presses. Books with interiors never despoiled by human eyes or grubby fingers. Books that waited on my shelves, my credenza, my dining room table for years, longing for the day when they would have my sole, undivided attention.

Yesterday, I touched each one lovingly, promising them I would find them a good home as they were placed in boxes. Now, I leave them in the care of Jerre, one of my RWA chaptermates, and her Friends of the Library.

Good-bye my pretties! Jerre will take good care of you.

Oh God, I think I'm going to die.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Love It When the Writing Comes Together**

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

In the midst of lunch and business gossip with Christie and typing several pages on the new manuscript yesterday, I, um, well...

Let's be honest here. I forgot to write an effing post. Ironically, I love that feeling though. When I get so lost in the story that GK stands next to me with a pathetic Oliver Twist look at 7 PM and says, "Mom, are you making dinner soon or can I have some chocolate?"

(See? Chocolate. Proof that there was no switching at birth.)

Before anyone thinks I starve my kid, I'll have you know that a family council was held. The mutual decision was s'mores, then Next Gen, followed by chicken pesto pasta.

Anyway, I've finally hit the roll. The characters are established, the plot is rising and dipping like a proper rollercoaster should, and I'm having fun because the writing process feels like I'm reading a brand-new story for the first time.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

**With all due respect to various incarnations of Col. Hannibal Smith

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Necessity for Rhino Hides

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

Do you have what it takes to survive the publishing industry as a writer? Do you? Are you sure?

If you're easily offended by stuff like #queryfail or Slushpile Hell, you might want to rethink entering into the publishing business. 'Cause guess what? The critcism won't stop at your query letters.

Wait until the book reviewers get a hold of your magnus opum. Have you read Smart Bitches, Trashy Books or RT Bookreviews? The Smart Bitches reveiwers are notorious for their skewers. What makes you think you'll get a free pass from these gals?

What about the readers themselves? Think everyone will love you? Think again. An award-winning published friend was at her book signing in a major chain store. A woman walked up to her and said, "I hate your book. I read it four times to make sure."

Heck, there will be times when not even your family will love your work. The other night DH read the first ten chapters for my current wip. After he said the heroine was a lot like me, he then proceeded to tell me how stupid she was.

More than once.

Yes, we're still married.

For now.

Like I said, we all need rhino hide in this business. It's the only way to succeed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Next Contest

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

I know a lot of you may be checking in, wondering when the next interview and contest is coming.

Unfortunately, not until after Labor Day. To be specific Susan Helene Gottfried will be here on September 14th.

August is already a third over, and I still have to get a new backdoor installed, clean out the family room, paint the family room, deal with GK getting braces (weekly appointments), draft GK's fall school curriculum (Yes, I homeschool. Our school district has no provisions for children with genius IQs.), and try to get a first draft of the current wip done in addition to the two part-time jobs.

All before school starts on August 30th.

This hamster is really tired. Can I get off the wheel now?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Aagh! The Pain! The Pain!

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P.N. Elrod

Yes, the title means I've been thinking too much (now you know why this post is late). Angie Benedetti makes me think. Which really is a good thing, and someday I'll meet her and thank her in person.

I'm really, really grateful I'm not published right now. That sounds weird, doesn't it? A wannabe writer thankful she's not in the trenches yet?

As Angie said in her comment last Friday, she doesn't have the time to sit and think through a problem. Those pesky deadlines!

And I've seen the same issue with Christie. Poor girl had a Aug. 2nd deadline for her latest book. The editor mailed the galleys for the previous book on July 17th, and wanted them back by the 27th. And she and Faye were doing a workshop at the RWA National Convention, which was July 28-30.


I appreciate my relatively stress-free environment now more than ever.

Now I need to figure out how to get my hero and heroine all hot and heavy while they're towing around a pregnant chick and the ghost of the pregnant chick's husband.

Yeah, I really like my problems.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Guild Rocks

Can you believe The Guild's video 'Game On' kicked Katy Perry out of the iTunes top spot this week?

Geek Power!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nimoy Sunset Pie

Currently reading - Dark and Stormy Knights, edited P. N. Elrod

I'm showing my geekdom, but this strip cracks me up. Check out the rest of the author's visions at Nimoy Sunset Pie. (I believe the creator in George Dunkley. If I'm wrong, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.)

Friday, August 6, 2010


Currently reading - Undead and Unfinished by MaryJanice Davidson

Yesterday was fairly productive. Not a lot of new pages, but at least I hit the 100-page mark on the new wip. What I'm mainly doing is re-reading for cohesiveness and editing for clarity.

DGW was my 2009 NaNoWriMo project. Needless to say, between homeschooling GK and working the Day Job, I didn't make the 50K goal. Going back to work on it, I realized the pacing was rushed, so most of the last thirty-five pages I've written put the story back on a managable roller coaster ride instead of the Saturn V with no parachutes it was originally on.

Now, I'm not saying my story-telling is perfect, but I think it shows growth that I can go back to a work months after I had to put it aside and see exactly where I went wrong.

So what about the rest of you? Met any goals this week? Learned something new?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

First They Came. . .

Yesterday, California's Propostion 8 was struck down by a federal district judge. When this proposition went to the voters, the situation reminded me too much of a poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller I'd read years ago.

There are several versions running around, and honestly it doesn't matter which one is the "correct" one. There's a certain inherent truth in all versions--that we must watch out for our brothers and sisters. In doing so, we protect our own rights.

This version is the one I read as a child:

"In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What a Morning!

Currently reading - Undead and Unfinished by MaryJanice Davidson

So much for my day off. *sigh*

We spent the morning at the orthodontist going over treatment plans for GK. He's only ten, but his freakin' adult canines are lying on top of his upper incisors. The poor kid may be looking at oral surgery if the orthodontist can't coax them down by shoving the other teeth out of the way. I'll give Dr. A a lot of credit. He's trying to avoid pulling any teeth, something both DH and I went through.

We got home. DH and I had a long talk about how we were going to finance the steel cemented to GK's teeth. Then GK went to his best bud's across the street, and I thought, "Whoopee! Finally! Quality writing time." Only to have Isabella's screen go black. (Okay, I admit my shame. I name inanimate objects, including my little Inspiron 710m.)

Dang it! I just got her back from the shop. The tech had replaced her power ballast, and that seemed to fix the screen blacking out five seconds after she booted up. Until today. At least Isabella waited until I turned in this month's column before her lights went dark.

So I borrowed Irvin (the spare 700m) from DH, dropped off Isabella at the repair shop, and am now sitting in the cafe' cursing myself for forgetting my hot pink iPod (courtesy of the fabulous Carly Phillips and her contribution to the Brenda Novak auction) because Irvin does not contain my music library like Isabella does.

Thank you for listening to me vent. Please feel free to add your own vents in the comments below.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled writing program already in progress. . .

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Currently reading - Undead and Unfinished by MaryJanice Davidson

Bob Mayer has been blogging excerpts from his book, Warrior Writer, over at Genreality.

(Sidenote: Bob will be the education speaker November 13th at the West Houston RWA meeting. See the WHRWA website for more info.)

Recently, he wrote an interesting piece on self-sabotage, on how we writers allow our fears to become our greatest enemy to our goals. That's right. It's not the agents who don't get our work, the editors who only give assignments to their friends, or the other writer who got the contract that should have been ours.

99.99% of the time, we are our own worst enemy.

Think of the times you got a request from an editor and didn't send in the manuscript. Think of the times you could have finished that short story and decided to watch American Idol instead. Think of the times you could have dropped the query in the mail or pressed 'Send' and the little voice in the back of your head said, "This sucks. They're just going to laugh at you."

No one said writing was easy (and if they did, they probably aren't writers). What's even harder is taking a flashlight to the deep, dark crevices of your psyche and figuring out what's holding you back.

I'll be perfectly blunt. My problem is fear of success. I had a mother who constantly told me I couldn't outshine other people or they wouldn't like me. I had a guidance counselor who said the problem with me was that I was too smart for my own good after I scored a near perfect score on a state aptitude test. In the farming community where I grew up, I was mocked by my peers for simply wanting to learn something besides the best combination of pig breeds to produce the leanest pork. Getting the old recordings out of my brain is even harder than the writing.

What about the rest of you? Anyone care to admit their greatest fear when it comes to writing?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why Do I Blog?

Currently reading - Undead and Unfinished by MaryJanice Davidson

First of all, a BIG CYBER WAVE to all the new folks following me.

The title's a rhetorical question. As I close in on the first anniversary of this blog, I realize my reasons for blogging have changed multiple times in the last eleven months.

It started as an experiment in building a platform. But my posting was erratic at best as I juggled two jobs and a writing schedule with homeschooling GK for the first time. (For the new folks, GK refers to Genius Kid, my ten-year-old son. And believe me, I wish I was joking about the genius part.

One of my secular New Year resolutions was to commit to blogging on a regular basis. I'd use my morning posts as a warm-up for slogging through my wip for two hours while GK worked on reading and spelling. This exercise was good for keeping me focused.

But over the summer, things have changed yet again. Maybe because I'm taking more chances (like approaching NYT Best-Selling authors to guest star on my blog). Maybe because my terminal reticence in dealing with other humans isn't so terminal when there's a layer of cyberspace to cushion the interaction (lMeeting some cool people I would never have met otherwise helps). Maybe it's just nice to talk with other writers and book lovers who understand the joy of a good story.

I think the primary goal of any blogger is to keep their readers informed and entertained, and I hope I'm doing that for y'all. (God, I've lived in Texas too long.)

So, out of curiosity, what do you folks expect from a good blog?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Geek Girl With Power Tools

I knew there was a reason I loved Felicia Day. My mother-in-law never understood why power tools were on my bridal shower registry.