Monday, December 31, 2012

Must Do - Want To Do in 2013

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of 2013. I told a friend at church that my hair is still blowing because of how fast 2012 flew by.  

I accomplished a few things that have kept me motivated and feeling like a real writer: interviewed authors Christa Allan, Terri Blackstock, Robin Carroll for Southern Writers Magazine. Even had the cover story with my interview with thriller writer Steven James; wrote a Christmas short story as part of an anthology, wrote a novella, sold and signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for the novella. And, most fun and lucrative of all—I spoke at the Bayou Writers’Conference.

I have to add that we moved to Oklahoma in March. That plays a large part in my accomplishments. I think getting out of my ordinary world, being plopped down in an area where I had no friends, forced me to write. I joined OKRWA, and I do have one Louisiana pal who lives in Norman and meets me at a library every other Tuesday for a day of writing. We encourage each other by listening to our pounding keys.

Those few achievements happened in quick succession and I wish I could have kept up the momentum, but I couldn’t—or didn’t. The holidays hit. My mother fell and broke her hip and is in rehab. Her mood has fluctuated tremendously, as has mine. One moment I think she might bounce back and at other times I wonder if she even wants to bounce back. My thoughts are continuously yanked from writing.

I don’t like the phrase New Year’s Resolutions so instead of making them, I think I’ll just have a Want To  Do List and a Must Do List.
I MUST finish the first revision of my novella. My editor pointed out a few places where the characters need more motivation, explanation, etc before she actually does line edits. I’ve completed it but need to do another pass or two, reading carefully. Editor wasn’t 100% happy with the title and I wasn’t either. Peace of Heart fit the story but it sounded more inspirational than romantic suspense. After brainstorming with my daughter and her reading friends, we’ve chosen The Last Daughter. I love it! The new title has been approved by the editor.

I MUST finish the paperwork for marketing for TWRP and get a handle on promotion. I’ve never been so overwhelmed in all my life. I was under the misconception that I knew all about promoting myself and my work. How difficult can it be? Well, believe me, I don’t have a clue. There’s a lot to learn and much to do.  I’ll be expected to blog with the Scrimshaw Doll authors. My turn comes up Wednesday. I’m a little nervous about ‘mandatory’ blogging even though it will be all about my story and my characters.
I’m sure there are other things I MUST do but let’s get on to the Wants—more fun.  And certainly easier to WANT something than actually DO it. Right?

I WANT to start my nonfiction book. I keep making notes but I can't get a handle on how I want to do it. I should probably just start writing instead of having fun with all the research.

I WANT to continue writing for Southern Writers Magazine in 2013.
I WANT to attend two conferences:  the OWFI in late May (to meet Jane Friedman). Check out this interesting post. And the Killer Nashville in August if I have a new romantic mystery to market.

I WANT to finish editing my published book, The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes. I got discouraged because it seemed outdated to me, but other authors have backlists that were published waaaaay before Groom was, and they’re not updating their books. What do you think of putting a disclaimer in the front letting the reader know it was published by Silhouette Romance in 1996. Is that done?  And then I have to actually learn how to publish it. Sometimes my brain hurts!
I WANT to make another couple of passes through my novel, A Bad Guy Forever. I think there are still scenes that need fleshing out.  It doesn't feel quite right yet. Then I want to submit it to a traditional publisher, if I can find one that doesn’t require an agent. I’m not sure I want another agent. And if I got one, would they submit to small presses and epubs? I can do that myself.  Publishing has become tricky. Sometimes I like the new direction; sometimes I think everything is all screwed up.

I WANT to write another novella. Maybe two.
I WANT to participate in the A to Z Challenge again this year. And continue to blog once a month for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Both of these groups are ‘heart-groups.’ I love them!

I WANT to get more active about reading other blogs and visiting/posting to my yahoo groups. I’m a member of several wonderful writing loops and they don’t know I exist--or have forgotten. Should I visit them twice a week, every day or what?  The Wild Rose Press author's loop is overwhelming! I can’t believe how much other writers accomplish. How do they do it? I move at a snail’s pace.
I WANT to revise Reinventing Rita. I've retitled it and can't remember the new title. Guess that means it doesn't work, huh?

I WANT to write some more romantic short stories for various epublishers and anthologies.

I WANT a career plan.  This week I'll locate my new 2013 calendar (where did I put it?) and assign firm deadlines to some of these tasks. There are specific things I want to accomplish while here in Oklahoma and we'll be moving out in June. I have six months to . . .
I WANT to accomplish much more in 2013!
And I want you to, too!
Share your 2013 dreams.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas.
Be safe--be happy,
and enjoy your loved ones.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Procrastination and ... Broken Hips

Sorry I haven’t posted since … when? Last week? This should probably be a post on procrastination. Thank the Lord I got busy and wrote my article on Margaret Daley for Southern Writers Magazine.  It was an easy-write because MD is so inspiring. She’s written more than 80 books. BUT, if I’d put it off, I would have been in a fine pickle. My mother fell last weekend and broke her hip. Yeah, and she procrastinated about calling an ambulance. Fell on Saturday in the drive near the highway while trying to tug her garbage can to the road. I don't think it was even trash pick-up day. Thankfully, a couple saw her sprawled in the dirt and helped her inside. Don't ask how; they had to tote her up two levels of stone steps. Then, to make things worse, she suffered through the night until the next afternoon before calling someone. Go figure. She's a tough one. Always has been.

So, I’ve been in Texas sitting in a hospital and now a rehab facility. No Internet, and I’m certainly not feeling very creative.

If you have a To Do list you’re wagging around, just staring at, trying to get inspired—get busy doing and checking off. Don't suffer through it at the last minute. Look at me (and Mom). I have purchased TWO Christmas gifts. Oh my! Oh my!
Mom is doing much better. For awhile we were worried. She’s 88, a retired nurse, and you know those retired medical people are the worst patients. She got discouraged and weak the second day after surgery, but since then, she's been pretty positive and her old self. She's good at making her own rules, but I’m happy to say, so far, she’s followed directions, instructions and been a model patient. We’ll see what happens.

If you're ever in unfamiliar territory, and can’t get online anywhere—and that’s been my problem—McAlister’s Deli is an answer to a blogger’s prayers. Plus, they have really good tea and veggie meals.

For 2013, let’s all agree: no P.R.O.C.R.A.S.T.I.N.A.T.I.O.N. and absolutely NO broken hips.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Generosity Breeds ... Success?

 There’s a huge plus to living in Oklahoma and that is ... the Tulsa World. Every Sunday, there are so many interesting articles, we can hardly get through them. They keep us entertained and reading all during the week, until the next Sunday: Book reviews, author profiles, business articles, all kinds of columns.
The first issue of the Tulsa Daily World appeared on Sept. 14, 1905. The banner across the top of the front page declared: “Tulsa, Chosen Home of Prosperity and Opportunity, is a Busy City in a Busy Universe.” Back then, the paper cost 5 cents per copy. Read more about its history here.

One syndicated columnist hubby and I enjoy is Harvey Mackay . You might remember him for his best selling book, Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. I have that book at home somewhere; I’ll have to track it down and revisit. I enjoy reading books like this and applying words of wisdom to my writing life. 
Mackay's September 16th column titled Generosity Breeds Success spoke to my heart. It was about Brandon Steiner and his new book, You Gotta Have Balls. Okay, I agree book titles are getting a little out of hand, but this one accurately describes a guy who’s in the sports memorabilia business. This is one of those wonderful rags-to-riches books we all love. Don’t we? According to Mackay, Steiner has some wonderful quotes and philosophies like:

If you want more money, don’t pay attention to the money. Pay attention to the thing that makes the money.
Isn’t it true? If writing makes us money, shouldn’t we pay more attention to our writing?

I’d love for you to read Generosity Breeds Success. Read it now--it's short and I promise, you'll be inspired. You may even decide to purchase You Gotta Have Balls and learn all about good customer service. You could come up with an excellent answer to the question: What else could you be doing for your customer/reader? You could come up with an original plan that would brand you in ways you can't imagine.
I like that Steiner reminds us to focus on relationships, not transactions. To me, that's the key. I think we should all let relationships, relationships, relationships echo through our brain when we tweet our next tweet!
Have you read Harvey Mackay? Or Brandon Steiner?

As writers, how can we improve our customer/reader service? Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: A Save That Didn't Save

Today is Insecure Writers Support Group Day, the brain child of Alex J Cavanaugh where a whole lot of writers post about their insecurities (or encouragement), once a month, and get support from fellow participants.

Ever been kicked in the gut? Not really, physically kicked, of course, but sure hurts like a physical kick. Ever worked all day for nothing?
Yesterday was my write at the library day. I had planned to do the edits suggested by my TWRP editor. I arrived at nine with lunch in hand, planning to spend the day and make headway, if not complete the process.

Simply put, I was making slow, tedious progress, giving a lot of brain power to my revisions and feeling pretty good about them. It’s my custom to save every few minutes, just a habit I’ve developed over the years. Unfortunately, my so-called saves didn’t do their job. I have nothing of my edits. Not one well-thought-out, improved word. I’m so ticked. But worse, I feel defeated and I hate feeling that way.
A few weeks ago, I had computer problems. It's possible there's still a glitch. How do I find it?
Have any of you experienced a save that didn’t save? What causes it? Why? How can I avoid it?

Monday, December 3, 2012

CONTEST CRITIQUE: Read it and Learn!

Earlier this year I entered the first 50 pages of a romantic suspense in a contest. I didn't win or place, but I was given a critique by others who write and read mysteries. I got that critique back over the weekend and thought I'd share it with you. Before I received the following critique, I tweaked, changed the title, did a little revision and submitted the first chapter and a synopsis to Love Inspired Suspense. You can read their rejection at the end of this post.
Hopefully, you can learn something from the judges comments as well as the rejection. Mainly, how interesting it is that several people can read the same thing and come away with vastly different opinions.
For those of you who have never entered your manuscripts in contests, this is pretty much what you receive. Sometimes less. Read it and weep, or get your first chapter ready for a contest. One way or another, they can lead you to publication.
Please note that, even among publishing professionals, preferences in style and content are subjective. These notes are only suggestions and reflect the opinions of the judges. We hope you’ll find them helpful.
Title: Death Makes it Right
Author: Jessica Ferguson
 Because the judges were divided, a third judge was asked to look at the manuscript.
Strong Beginning:
 The first two judges were divided on the opening.
 The first said: “This feels so rushed that I feel like it's a synopsis of a longer novel.  The first section, we're introduced to P.K., she threatens Sheridan, yells at a reporter, beats the crap out of his son, and finds out Sheridan's been murdered.  This is five or six chapter's worth, but it feels jammed into too tight a section.  Give me more detail, setting, everything.”
 The second said:  Immediately hooked with sensory and character details. Action begins immediately.
 The third said: This is an interesting setup, lots going on. It does seem a little rushed but is, overall, effective. It’s not clear why both P.K. and Randolph are here, especially in light of the receptionist’s immediate assumption that she’s a trucker. I think we need a little more information so we can understand why they are both in the same place at the same time. It seems intentional, but what does this have to do with her being a trucker? Watch POV. For example, when PK pulls her hair back in the opening scene, there are a few sentences about her flawless complexion and haunted appearance. We’ve been in PK’s head until now, and this takes the reader out of the story, since she can’t see herself (and even if she could, it’s unlikely she would think of herself that way).
 Judge 1: There's no time to get to know P.K., so I have no idea whether I should believe that she's innocent or guilty.  The reader needs to get to know your protagonist, have ideas about how she would react.
 Judge 2: Excellent job of presenting the characters: " "His dark, penetrating eyes never failed to disconcert her. He had the air of a big, important man. He was quick, perceptive, and he was waiting for her to acknowledge him." "His tick eyebrows were clipped and when he brushed a large hand across his face, she noticed his manicured nails." "Her hair was a frizzed bob, giving her a wind-blown look, and her faded red blouse was belted loosely at the waist of her khaki pants. She wore too much make-up, too much jewelry and reeked of self-confidence."
 Judge 3: Rudd and PK both seem like interesting characters. I was more drawn to Rudd than to PK. He seems well-intentioned and honorable, as well as likable. She has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Maybe understandable since her dad was just murdered, so I’d give her the benefit of the doubt for a while longer. The reporter doesn’t seem very well fleshed out. The story would be stronger if she were depicted in more depth and complexity.
 Judge 1: Where is this set? Why is it there? I get a sense of the hotel, but not the region, and as truck drivers, geography would be paramount for these characters.
 Judge 2: The sights and smells of New Orleans come to life. "P.K. Everett wrinkled her nose as the fishy smell assaulted her nostrils." Great sentence. "The convoluted mixture of colognes and aftershaves mingled with the smell of crawfish." The picture painted of his ransacked apartment was vivid.
 Judge 3: There hasn’t been much opportunity to experience the setting, other than the hotel. A few more strategically place, specific sensory details would help create a stronger sense of place. Also (not a criticism, just an observation), I associate New Orleans with good food, whereas a “fishy” smell connotes anything but. Was that intentional?
 Judge 1: There was no difference between the way P.K. spoke and the way Lori spoke. Characters can best show their individuality through their dialogue, so take advantage of that and show their distinct personality.
Judge 2: The scene where Rudd barged in on P.J. and Lori was a good example of this authors command of dialogue.
 Judge 3: The dialogue was generally good. Could have been a bit crisper in places.
Judge 1: I like the idea, but it was so rushed that I didn't have time to appreciate any particular aspect.  I'm guessing you have some passing familiarity if not expertise with the trucking industry, so I would encourage you to incorporate more of that into the plot.  As it is, it's fairly standard fare, and nothing about it really grabs my attention.
Judge 2: Started fast and continued to move. The scene where Rudd and PK embrace at the reporter's apartment seemed contrived. Also, it was hard to imagine the protagonist allowing the reporter to follow her into her hotel room. Other than that the plot flowed well and worked.
Judge 3: An interesting premise. I’m interested to learn who killed PK’s dad and Randolph, interested in what will happen between Rudd and PK. (I can guess, but I’m still interested.)
Judge 1: Again, too rushed.  There's no time for me to become apprehensive about something before you bull onto the next section.  Slow it down, let me wonder about things for a bit.
Judge 2: Building suspense and creating tension is one of this writer's strengths.
Judge 3: Tension/suspense were handled well. In a few places, it might be heightened by slowing down a bit.

 Judge 1: Give us more background early on about P.K. and why she's so angry.  Her conflicts with others are coming across as petty and childish, primarily because we don't have any backing.
Judge 2:  Plenty of conflict.
Judge 3: Plenty of conflict, which arises naturally from the situation. Telling us a little more about the situation would engage the reader more; we understand that she’s mad about her father’s murder, but it would help to know why she thinks Randolph is behind it. There’s plenty of information that can be legitimately withheld from the reader, but we need some of this background in order to understand what’s happening.

Judge 1: The rushed quality is absolutely burying the good aspects of this book.
Judge 2: For the most part the pace flows well. It bogs down a little after they leave the reporters house on their way to his apartment.
Judge 3: Generally good. A little rushed in the beginning, a little slow with reporter. I’m sure she’ll play an important role, but right now, it’s not clear what that is.
Voice/Writing style:
Judge 1: There's definitely a passion in your writing about the topic.  I believe you genuinely are enthusiastic about the characters, and that shines through.  You have a streamlined writing style very similar to Elmore Leonard, and it's excellent.  Work on pacing and plot, and your style will carry you far.
Judge 2: The voice was sharp and crisp. "His breath fanned her face." "His eyelids were tortured by unshed tears." "The oppressive humidity was like a blanket covering his face." Sometimes things were overstated: "He acted dazed." The reader can see that.
Judge 3: The voice is good, fresh but not intrusive.
Judge 1: Generally fine. It should be “All right,” not “alright.” Also, watch your verb-noun agreement.
Judge 2: Some words are misused, but probably editing oversights: grown for groan; on for own Directional words (up, down, over, etc.), unneeded prepositions and words like "that" are overused. Also used adverbs when not needed: nervously looked,  A few missed punctuation marks (periods, commas) but overall, ok.
Judge 3: Generally good. Needs another pass for typos and tightening.
Additional Notes:
Judge 1: Rewrite this, and take your time with each section.  You have a strong voice and good writing style, but that's being washed away with your rush to get to the next scene.
Judge 2: Could be a contender.
Judge 3: No additional notes.
And here is a rejection I got on the same manuscript, revised BEFORE I got the above critique, and retitled:
Dear Jessica,
Thank you for participating in the Love Inspired Suspense Fast Track and submitting BETRAYED, but I don’t feel like this project is right for LIS. While I think the idea of setting this story in the trucking world is interesting, your heroine came off as unlikeable. Our readers want a heroine they can relate too, and P.K. is much too combative. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. I recommend reading some of our books to get a better feel for the Love Inspired tone. We appreciate your submission and wish you the best of luck in your writing.
All the best,
Emily Brown
Editorial Assistant
Love Inspired Suspense

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Deaths

I always feel sad about deaths during the holidays. My dad passed away on Dec, 2, 2000, and of course, it affected our Christmas--especially since his birthday was Dec. 23rd. Even though I think of him every day, every holiday season I especially remember him. I always tried to buy him more gifts than he really needed just because I thought, since he was a Christmas baby, he got cheated on birthday gifts.

This Thanksgiving, three of my favorites passed away. I've always been a Zig Ziglar fan. I have a few of his books and admired his words of wisdom, his positive way of looking at life, and his encouragement.

As Ziglar put it, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

He challenged people to think creatively and outside the box.

I've blogged before about my favorite bad guy--Larry Hagman. I watched him in the popular TV sitcom I Dream of Jeannie long before he became J.R. Ewing. Daughter and I were stunned to hear of his death during Thanksgiving. We watched the new Dallas and we were looking forward to the next season. We marveled at how J.R. Ewing never changed; he was just as mean and conniving as always. I guess we thought J.R. would live forever. We often form opinions about movie stars based on what we see on TV or read in the newspapers. I think Hagman was pretty quirky in real life, but he was married to the same woman for 59 years. As far as I'm concerned, that man deserves a gold star! Dallas won't be the same without J.R. Ewing and they sure better not try to replace him--the way they did Ms. Ellie!

Deborah Raffin became a fav of mine when I watched her in Once is Not Enough, a movie based on the best selling book by Jacqueline Susann. She played January Wayne, a young woman who goes from poor-little-rich-girl to tragic heroine, as she searches New York and Los Angeles for a man just like her father, Mike Wayne, a glamorous movie producer. Love, love, love the drama! What I didn't know about Deborah Raffin was that she and her husband launched Dove Books-on-Tape in the mid-1980s. The company's first best-seller was Stephen Hawking's opus on the cosmos entitle d "A Brief History of Time." 

Are you familiar with any of these people? Did they influence you in some way? When you think about it, TV personalities are a study in characterization. Comments?

Thought for the Day:

"Even in tragedy, God through His word offers hope for those who seek and believe. It starts with the promise of a better tomorrow, of life everlasting, of eternal peace. It’s called faith, and it offers hope where none existed.” – Zig Ziglar